When my kids were very young, most of my parenting was focused on getting them to simply obey. Behavior modification was my goal – like not throwing groceries out of the shopping cart because they didn’t like carrots, or apologizing to a friend when they spoke rudely. I was content if my sons did the right thing and didn’t embarrass me. I see you shaking your head in agreement.
When they became teenagers I realized behavior modification is a terrible goal in parenting – if that’s the most important thing we desire for our children. For years I was skilled in the art of “correcting their wrongdoings” and could impose enough punishment on them when they misbehaved to force compliance with my rules. The problem was, the only thing that changed was their behavior, not their hearts.
Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled when my kids’ behavior changes and I no longer have to verify their weekend whereabouts, comb through text messages to be sure they’re being wise, or test them for substance abuse on Monday morning. I want more for them. If the only return I see on my parenting investment is a kid who knows how to behave well enough to stay out of trouble, then I’ve missed the mark.
So what do I want? As a mom, I desire to see the heart of my child aligned with the heart of God. That is the most important parenting goal. What good is it if I can raise kids who follow the rules but have no real relationship with Christ? It’s no good at all. A well behaved kid who doesn’t know Christ will never experience the Kingdom of Heaven.
How can we raise children who love Jesus? We can’t choose for them, but there are a few things we can do to lead them in the right direction.
- Pray for them. Pray God’s Truth would be written on their hearts.
- Teach them scripture. If we do the hard work of teaching them God’s Word when they are young, they’ll be more likely to hear it when they are older.
- Lead by example. Let them see your commitment to Jesus every day.
- Parent to the heart. In times of discipline, point them to God’s forgiveness.
- Share the goal. Tell your children what your most important parenting goal is. Remind them everything you do (or don’t do) is because you’re working toward one purpose.
- Speak life. Make the word of God common and familiar in your home. Talk about spiritual things frequently without being “pushy.”
- Accept God’s timing. Only God can change a heart and mold it into His likeness. Allow His perfect timing to accomplish His purpose in your child’s heart.
Moms, we have many jobs. In your day to day life between cooking dinner, checking homework, watching sporting events and coercing them to obey in public, never lose site of the most important objective – lead them to know God. When your perspective changes about the purpose of parenting, you’ll find many other things naturally fall into place.
Psalm 127:3 “Children are a heritage from the Lord.”
About Kim Heinecke
Kim Heinecke wants to live in a world where children listen to the advice of their mothers without question. As a former single mom she’s been encouraging women using her life experiences in parenting, growing in the Word of God and everything in between. When she’s not negotiating with a teenager or wrestling a pre-schooler, you can find her camping in the family RV or pretending to understand sports with her husband and four sons. Read more from Kim at www.TheMomExperiment.com.