Your Child’s Heart

I get a lot of questions about child training (here’s how we handle sibling squabbles) and while a lot of them have some simple “do this” solutions, a lot of the time the answer is a lot more complicated.  The answer to nearly all child training questions is, you must have your child’s heart.  What exactly does this mean and how do we gain our child’s heart?

Proverbs 23:26 says it most like I’ve worded it,

My son, give me thy heart; And let thine eyes delight in my ways.

but Proverbs has a lot to say about parents and their children’s hearts.

My son, if you  will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you,  Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding….Then you  will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God.  Proverbs 2:1-2,5

My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; Proverbs 3:1

Proverbs 4 is speaking about the instruction of a father to a son and says in verse 4

Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; Keep my commandments and live;”

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight;  Keep them in the midst of your heart.

If you notice in all the passages, the purpose of gaining your children’s hearts, of teaching them to listen to their father’s instruction is to teach them the fear of the Lord.  You teach them to have a relationship with you so that you can teach them to have a relationship God.

This concept of having your children’s heart is vast and complex and I don’t pretend to have or know all the answers.  It is something that Mark and I have been aware of and have focused on in our home since we were married.  I believe the rewards of faithfulness in this area are most evident as your children get older and become more independent, but there are signs of success or failure early on.  A parent who is paying attention will know if they have their child’s heart.

Gaining our children’s hearts is one of the main goals in our homeschool and one of the main reasons that our homeschool looks so very, very different from most other homeschools.  Our focus is not primarily on education, it’s on relationship (with God and others) and character building.  (We have typically called gaining our children’s hearts, relationship building, so we’ll use both terms for the time being.)

This is a huge issue to tackle and I’m praying that as we look at this we will all learn to be better at loving our children.  In the near future I hope to talk about what having your child’s heart means or what it looks like.

In the meantime, I’d love to learn from you, to hear what you  think it is to have your child’s heart.  I’d also love to hear from those of you with older children.  What have you learned?  What did you do right and what would you change?

Other posts in “Your Child’s Heart” series:


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36 Responses to Your Child’s Heart
  1. Kaycee
    January 5, 2010 | 11:09 am

    You know this is something I am working on with my children. They are entering their tweens and I am hoping and praying that I can make this last few years with them really last in their hearts.

    I have not always been the best mom to them. I am bipolar and didn’t know it when until a couple of years ago. I pretty much shut down when I had them and had to go into survival mode. Now I am well medicated and trying to help us all thrive.

    Wow. I can’t believe I just wrote that on a public forum. But I typed it so I am going to leave it up there. Hopefully this will help someone else who is out there strugling.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thanks Kaycee. I’m so thankful that God is gracious to our children despite our mistakes. That’s one thing I’ve noticed during the 90 Day Challenge. God poured out amazing blessing on men who, in many ways, failed miserably. God is so good.

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  2. Rachel
    January 5, 2010 | 12:20 pm

    I have much younger kids (only 2 of them at the moment, ages 4 and 2) so I am very interested in seeing what others have to say about this. I try very hard to have my childrens’ hearts, but I’m not sure it’s working. I pray for that daily, and strive for it, but I’m not sure how to know if we’re having success.

    Thanks, Kimberly, for all the help and encouragement for younger moms who don’t have all the experience you do! I love reading your blog.

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  3. Jama
    January 5, 2010 | 12:21 pm

    Amen and amen. I totally agree that keeping our children’s hearts is one of our primary responsibilities. If my children can gain the highest score possible on the ACT but Brian and I don’t have their hearts then I think we have failed as parents. To me having their hearts means although they may not like our decisions/choices they know that we have their best interest in mind. It means they come to us with questions and problems instead of turning to their peers. I think we have to “tie the heartstrings” early to reap the fruit later. I’m not saying damage can’t be repaired, if your children are older but like most things it is SO much easier to start when they are young. We had to make a difficult decision regarding our oldest daughter a year or so ago. There was an activity she wanted to participate in which we did not feel was for her good. After telling her no and offering some explanation I asked her if she was angry or bitter. With a smile she said no. You can tell when someone is just saying what they think you want to hear. I could tell from her tone and body language that she was willing to graciously submit to our decision. I’ll never forget that moment. It was the first sign to me that she trusts us completely and that we have made significant gains in keeping her heart. What a delight. I know there will be more situations like this in the years to come. I don’t expect them to all be easy, but I do think they will be different from what most of the world experiences with teenage children. This is a topic that is dear to me. I look forward to reading what you have to say as I think this is an area that you excel in. I don’t know many people who do this better than you and Mark. Your wisdom always makes me a better parent.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thank you Jama.

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  4. Becky
    January 5, 2010 | 12:54 pm

    Yes..always striving with this as a goal. Better days than other but with Gods help we can do anything. I read a good book this past summer by the Maxwells (Titus 2) ..Keeping our Children’s hearts. It was eye opening! I love this blog!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    The Maxwell’s books are very good at making me think much deeper about many issues. I don’t think I’ve read that one, but it’s probably one that I would enjoy.

    Thanks.

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  5. Andrea Maddiex
    January 5, 2010 | 12:56 pm

    I am really glad your doing this. We are currently having some anger issues with our 13 yr old daughter. I know most of it is the changes she is currently going thru, but I have been searching for some direction on how to handle this. She is our first “teenager”.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Our oldest is only 13 also, so I’m hoping for more input from moms with older kids. :) I am not sure where this topic will lead because while we have ideas and thoughts, we’re still learning and growing and waiting to see how we’ve done.

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    Autumn Beck Reply:

    A few months ago a friend recommended a book on her blog about angry children. Her recommendation left me wanting to read it for myself but I had forgotten about it until now. Here is the link: http://gratefulforgrace.blogspot.com/2009/10/heart.html

    The book is called The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I have not read this book, but have heard wonderful things about it. Our family loves Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp.

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  6. Roan
    January 5, 2010 | 1:28 pm

    You are so right! It is all about the heart. We are to have a whole heart for God, and we need our children’s hearts to lead them to giving their whole heart to God. Does that make sense? I often remind myself when I am overwhelmed by things that are not important in the big picture….if we miss heaven, we have missed it all!
    Thank you so much for your posts. You are inspiring us all to be better mothers! :)

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Yes, that makes perfect sense. I also remind myself of the big picture when I’m overwhelmed. Most of what I’m overwhelmed with is the unimportant parts.

    Thank you Roan for your friendship!

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  7. Michelle
    January 5, 2010 | 2:35 pm

    Looking forward to this! We’re just starting out with a 2 yr old and 8 mo old. Somedays I feel so lost in training them up. I know it must start now; not coming from a Christian family makes me feel like I’m climbing mountains trying to find proper directions sometimes!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Blessing to you as you walk this road of parenthood. Remember that God will thoroughly equip you for what He has called you to do. He is good.

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  8. kim
    January 5, 2010 | 2:46 pm

    I am also interested to hear what you have to say. Can’t wait!

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  9. Jenny
    January 5, 2010 | 3:23 pm

    Thank you! You have put a finger (and a name) on the burden of my heart in recent days. Our children are young (4 and 2) with another on the way, but I’ve been seeing/sensing some things which tell me some of the fundamentals are getting missed. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for this truth in my own study and reading, but I’ll be very much looking forward to reading your insight in this area.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    God gives parents who seek Him the wisdom that they need. Blessings to your family.

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  10. Hannah
    January 5, 2010 | 3:37 pm

    I can’t wait till we get to the point where hearts are healed enough to be “got”. Right now, things are in such a survival mode that we are just trying to train up basic behaviors. Both of our boys have very tender hearts for the Lord, it’s just a matter of making things relevant to what they need at that moment…such as addressing the fear or anger behind behaviors.

    This comment doesn’t seem very coherent to me. Oh well. :)

    Blessings!

    Hannah

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Your comment made good sense. You are digging out of a hole right now, but in time…. Keep up the good work.

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  11. tara
    January 5, 2010 | 3:49 pm

    I love this post! Something very dear to our hearts as well. And our reason too for why we do things differently! We want our children to “own” their convictions! We do not want them to merely be something that momma and daddy want or believe! and as such, we make an effort to show and explain. We must be what we want our children to become! Their greatest example is us! More is caught than taught! If we are more attentive to our children’s hearts, praising them for good character, then they will more likely want to do the good. And then, when they mess up, they are willing to accept correction! Because they know we love them and want what is best for them. It is not always easy though. it is a commitment to gaining their hearts even when they are not acting nice. I am so excited to hear what you and others have to say on this! Blessings to you!

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  12. Esther
    January 5, 2010 | 8:18 pm

    I am a Hungaryian momma. I have 4 boys so far, from ages 1 to 7. We started homeschooling last fall so this is our first ‘schoolyear’. These days, I struggle with obedience-issues with all of them, and that was not the case always: their behaviour was much better some months ago. Readind this post I realized that it is so much to do with our relationships. I know, that me and my husband have missed so many opportunities nowadays to really listen to them, to show them how much we love them, to show them we understand them and we feel them. I am ashamed, and I want to make it better. I know God is forgiving, and He cares for my weakness, and guides me through. I love your blog. It inspires me so much.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I’m actually posting on this topic because I’ve been recognizing many of my missed opportunities with our children. Yes, God is forgiving and He gives us so much more than we deserve and for that I’m grateful. Now I pray that I can be faithful in raising these children that He has blessed me with.

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  13. Esther
    January 5, 2010 | 8:18 pm

    Hungarian, not Hungaryian. Mis-typing…:)

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    :)

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  14. Christine
    January 5, 2010 | 9:54 pm

    Thank you for writing this. My oldest is 2-1/2, and she is very quickly developing her (sometimes strong-willed) own personality. I love her with all of my heart and I hope I’ll be able to teach her and show her how to be the person God wants her to be, and also I hope to have a close relationship with her. I love your blog- I am inspired by you and your family!

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  15. GapGirl
    January 5, 2010 | 10:56 pm

    Off topic, you and your family have been on my mind alot lately and close to my heart.( I just mentioned you in my blog without actually naming names if thats ok) That 90 day challenge has intrigued me to the fullest and won’t leave my thoughts. As I read my “one year” challenge, I often think of the great quest you and your family are on. I hope to one day join you. You have 9+ kids…”I don’t have the time…” doesn’t stand a chance as an excuse. I will continue to pray for you all as you continue on your journey and I really look forward to updates as to how its going, how you manage to find the time…quiet time!!! To read so much. And the wonderful blessings God has bestowed on you because of it
    xoxoGapGirl

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thank you for your prayers. Our reading through in 90 Days is no more important or special than you reading through in a year or someone else going through and studying slowing. You are being faithful in what God has called you to and we are being faithful in what God has called us to. This challenge is just different than the year challenge.

    Thank you for taking the time to encourage me!

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  16. The Redhead Riter
    January 5, 2010 | 10:56 pm

    Sometimes you just need to hear it… You are a beautiful woman, inside & out. You are an exquisite mother, who can make a way out of no way. YOU ARE A GREAT MOM !!! You are doing a fantastic job and are very loved!!!♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ post this on the blog of moms…Mom’s who always put their kids first and who balance it all. I just did!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thank you for your sweet encouragement!

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  17. Rachel
    January 6, 2010 | 12:15 pm

    Wowsers! We have a ton in common! That’s one of the primary Reasons my hubby and I have decided to homeschool as well!

    Have you read the book “Shepherding the Child’s Heart” by Tripp? Love it! And Everyday Talk and Wise Words for Moms. They are all great books to remind me to correct their heart (or rather point them to Christ the Heart Healer) rather than just effect behavior.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Shepherding a Child’s Heart is the only parenting book that Mark and I have read that we can whole heartedly recommend. I haven’t read the others, but should probably looked into them.

    Anytime you want to come over for coffee, your invited. :)

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  18. celee
    January 7, 2010 | 9:31 am

    This is so important to us, as well, but I have to remind myself almost daily that the goal is NOT behavior modification, but changed hearts. We’re also aware that we can’t change their hearts, but the Lord can. This is why, as you said, our time in the Bible and with Scripture memorization is more important than math or language arts. God’s Word will not return void and the Lord through His Word and His Spirit is able to do what we are not. I praise God for my precious children and pray that we will always be as close as we are now.

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  19. Shannon
    July 15, 2010 | 9:32 am

    I know this post is 6 months old, but I’m just now finding it. I love this series that you’ve done, Kimberly (Kim?) :) I think Jama (3rd commenter) said it well. We’ve been working on this with our young daughters (ages 2 and 4). I think I pretty much have my son’s heart – he’s 5 months old. lol.

    With my 4-year-old I notice when I need to work on re-capturing her heart during times when she’d rather hold a friend’s hand than mine, when going for a walk, or when she’s upset to sit in church with us, rather than go to her 4-year-old class. Or when we pull in the driveway and she’s upset to come home, rather than being with other people, doing something else.

    With her being the oldest, I think we’re often harder on her, expecting more of her than her sister, and I have to guard against that. I think part of capturing/keeping her heart is helping her believe that we are 100% FOR her, no matter what.

    This past weekend, I had the privilege of hearing Michelle Duggar speak at the Baby Conference. She talked about using praise when they train their children. And she said this one thing that I’ve been pondering on ever since: “The person who praises your children has their heart.” Words of wisdom from a fine example.

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  20. joyfulmamma
    November 17, 2012 | 5:33 pm

    I tried to contact you through your website, but it is not working. Is there another way to email you?

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  21. Anne
    July 8, 2013 | 10:23 am

    Hello I have never even heard of this or contemplated it before like this but it makes sense to me. I have a 19month old son and I have drawn towards Attachment Parenting… this kind of sounds similar to me. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I found this link from your ebook.

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