"My child, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways."
When a child is small, it is easy to assume the concept in that verse is normal and will always come naturally. My little baby made eye contact with me, as her mother, first after birth. I am LIFE to her. Her smiles and giggles, cuddles, and love are all mine. I take for granted that she runs to me for help, comfort, excitement, and love. Woohoo! Mission accomplishes, she delights in my ways!
My job isn't done (and it isn't easy!). "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). A child grows and matures and his/her heart is fragile. My husband and I strive to bring up Godly children and we are in competition with the enemy for our child's spiritual, emotional, moral, and intellectual core.
I can easily lose my child's heart. If her heart doesn't belong to me and my husband, it belongs to someone else. Is there anyone worthy of possessing my child's heart? A friend, neighbor, teacher, Sponge Bob Square Pants? No, God gave the responsibility of molding a child's heart directly to his/her parents.
Jeff and I attended the OCEAN conference on Saturday. It was great and the first time Jeff and I have spent a sunny, summer, Saturday together in about 9 years! Our friend Jenni watched the kids in Portland and we were able to hear encouraging speakers all day about family values and home discipleship.
One of the sessions was titled "Winning and Keeping the Heart of Your Child." I enjoyed it because it reinforced the same thing as my favorite (all time!) parenting book, Shepherding a Child's Heart. I love practical parenting advice, something I can take home and do, or NOT do as the case may be. The following list is from my notes.
How can we lose the heart of a child?
- Discipline out of anger. A child's heart hardens against a parent who can't be trusted to discipline in love. "Do not aggravate your children or they will become discouraged." (Colossians 3:21) (James 1:20).
- Require a child to do more than they are capable or you have trained them for. I'm guilty of this when I expect my child to do things "perfectly" and give her a job too big for her maturity and skill.
- Talking down to him/her. A sigh of displeasure, rolling eyes, shake of the head in disgust, all count as "talking down" -- anything that makes a child feel less significant than he/she is as created by God ("fearfully and wonderfully made", Psalm 139:14).
- Criticize instead of encourage. The person who praises a child, holds a child's heart. "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:13)
- Rules for the sake of rules. All rules should be enforced with love and for a child's health and safety (and for the well-being of the family). Don't we want God to give the same respect to us as his children? (Matthew 7:8)
The Bible is absolutely our best source of counsel and encouragement. We can keep our children's hearts right where they belong!
"Know that wisdom is sweet to your soul.
If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off."