Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Keeping Our Child's Heart

I received this email over the Christmas holiday. It is from a reader, who asks,

Not too long ago I read your entry called, "Don't Bend the Wire" on your blog. For some reason, it really made an impression on me. Why do you think you have your son's heart, as he said in that entry? How does that happen? What does that entail?When I was a teenager, my mom did not have my heart - I was as rebellious as they come and I just didn't care what my mom said.

This is such a difficult question. One I am hesitant to answer because it involves so many different aspects. This is a situation that can happen to any child despite how they were educated. I don't have all the answers and if others would like to offer their thoughts, please do. Here are some of the things that I think are worth considering as we raise our children.

Is your relationship with God growing?
A dynamic and life giving relationship with the Lord is necessary to be a parent. We often rely too heavily on the words that come from others without first going to the Lord. As we rely on our heavenly Father, we find the strength and encouragement to face the daunting challenges of parenting in the culture we have today. When you encounter a challenging situation, the Word of God should be the primary source for wisdom and instruction.

How is your relationship to your own parents?
Children are very observant. If they see that you treat your own parents with indifference or resentment they will learn to do so as well. The commandment to "Honor your father and mother." was given to the adults. If your relationship with your parents is not good then take steps to make it better. Let them know that they are important in your life. It doesn't have to mean that you agree with them or them with you. But don't let the disagreements become more important than the relationship itself. Seek their counsel and advice. As an adult you may not always follow it but the honor and respect you demonstrate to your parents will be the best teacher to your children.

Admitting we are wrong is not an easy task. But it is probably the most necessary in developing a right relationship first with the Lord and then with others. When we come to Christ it is with the knowledge that we have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. Our humble repentance restores the relationship. The same is true in our relationship to our parents and with our children. When we have made a mistake we must be willing to own up to it and acknowledge our error. Our children want to know that we need a Savior as much as they do.

Enjoy your children
Let your children know that you enjoy their company and that you want them around. Children naturally want to be with their parents. But a child that is consistently told to go away will eventually do just that. Slowly, they will find other companions and other ways to spend their time - without you. Make sure they know that they are always welcome in "your world". Whether that be taking them to the grocery store or visiting with a neighbor. Make your world their world. The more comfortable they feel around you the less likely they are to wander off and create a separate life.

Develop family friendships. Get to know the parents of the children and gather together as families. When our children were little, we avoided most situations where only one of our children went off to play at another's home. That's not to say that it didn't happen. But in general we looked for opportunities to meet as families.

Know who the real enemy is.
Let your children know from an early age that there is an enemy who is seeking to destroy the family. This enemy is vigilant and will stop at nothing to break apart a home. Let them know that they are on your side of this battle. If our children perceive us as the enemy then we are on track to losing their heart and possibly their soul.

A choice.
Ultimately, gaining our children's heart is a choice they must make. We can take all the right actions but in the end the scripture allows our children the choice in who to serve. They must know that they are to give their heart to the Lord. We can encourage as best we can but in the end it comes down to who they want to serve -themselves or God.

I have other thoughts on this but I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this most important aspect of parenting.

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