The first two posts in this series talk about what it means to have your child’s heart. Now, let’s look at what responsibilities we have as parents to accomplish that goal.
I believe that normally the process of gaining or keeping your child’s heart begins at birth and does not finish until our kids leave home (and probably not even then). It is an ongoing process and while normally parents and children who consistently follow God’s Word, seek His wisdom and conscientiously work on this relationship from the very beginning will be blessed with stronger and easier relationships, it is also never too late to win your child’s heart and your circumstances are never too difficult. This is true because we serve a merciful, kind and all powerful God and He can accomplish all He desires.
I want to make this extremely clear. While we’ll be talking about things parents should do to gain and keep their child’s heart, we can not, by our actions alone, win our child’s heart. That ultimately is God’s gift. However, just like with their physical safety, parents do have responsibilities. God promises blessing for faithful obedience and curses for disobedience. So while keeping our child’s heart is not completely dependent on our actions, it is also not completely separate.
To keep or gain our child’s heart, we must love our children and our love must be defined by God’s Word.
I believe that there are two main ways that we must show our love to our children and both are found in this verse.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Discipline and instruction. If you desire a healthy relationship with your child these two things must be present. You can not choose one without the other and expect health any more than you can choose to only give your child food OR water and expect health. Each must be present and balanced.
We must discipline our children.
The fifth commandment is “Honor your father and mother so that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God gives you.” This is repeated often and in many different ways throughout the Bible. Yet, if you go to any public place you will see children out of control. This is common in our society.
I have been having regular chiropractic appointments and since I don’t have a cell phone, I take all of the children with me. Yesterday we walked into the office and sat down in the waiting room with 3 other ladies. One looked at me just 2-3 minutes after we walked in and said, “These are the best behaved children I have ever seen. Thank you.” The other two looked up and one nodded and the other verbalized another compliment.
This is a horrible indictment on our culture and I relate this because it is one of the most common comments that we get when we are out in public and it is indicative of a major problem in our society. It should be the norm in a “Christian” nation like our own, for children to be obedient and to show basic honor to their parents. After all “this is the first commandment with a promise.”
(Please do not misunderstand my use of this example, Mark and I fail daily to Biblically discipline and disciple our children. And our children are not perfect. They regularly disobey and are disrespectful at times. My point is that Biblical discipline is so uncommon in our culture that strangers are surprised to see children who respond to their parents with basic obedience.)
It is our God-given responsibility to teach our children to honor and obey us and to use Biblical correction to accomplish that goal. If we fail to do this, our children will not know or understand how to obey and honor their heavenly Father.
Children are much smarter than most adults give them credit for and when you see a child that is out of control (stomping, screaming, hitting, thrashing and yelling because they don’t get their way), you must realize that that child is dramatically unhappy. Way down within themselves, they know that something is missing. That child, by those very actions, is stomping, screaming, hitting, yelling and begging for someone to control him, for someone to love him. He is asking, begging, pleading, storming for an adult to show him Biblical love.
God’s Word clearly teaches.
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; Hebrew 12:7-9
He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. Proverbs 13:24
Our children know that if they are loved they will be disciplined and taught. If they are not lovingly disciplined they know that they are not being treated as a beloved child. They are being treated as illegitimate children and are receiving a message of hatred from their parents. Think about it.
As Christians, our goal should be Biblical discipline that seeks for the good of our children and their right relationship with God. However, we all fail. Each and every one of us fail daily in our responsibility of disciplining our children. This is where we come back to the beginning of this post. God is the only one who is able to ensure that we have our children’s hearts. He is a merciful and loving God who blesses us, His children in spite of our failings. Just as we love and care for our children, in a much more full and glorious way, God loves and cares for us and gave His only Son for us.
This does not relieve us of our responsibility, but it gives us hope that we are not too late, it gives us encouragement that our efforts our not in vain and it gives us motivation to daily ask for God’s strength and wisdom to fulfill our God-given responsibility to our children.
Do you think Biblical discipline strengthens the relationship between parents and children? How?
Remember this is just half of the equation. If you give only discipline to your children you should not expect a healthy relationship. Next week I hope to post about the second aspect, instruction.
Other posts in “Your Child’s Heart” series: