Training the Heart of Your Child

Darlene Lewis

 Why do our children disobey?

  “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” Pro  22:15   John Wesley’s definition of bound is “fixed and settled, rooted in their nature.”  “It would be unnatural if your child did not sin.”

 Sin is a broad term defined in the dictionary as: “an offense against moral law; an act regarded as serious or regrettable fault, offense or omission;”  (examples: lying, stealing, disobeying, selfishness, blame shifting, complaining, defiant attitude, arguing, whining, etc...)


 What is the source of our children’s behavior?

  “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”   Behavior is the alert to what is going on in the heart.

 If we teach a child to change only their outward behavior by attempting to control children’s behavior without focusing on their hearts, we are teaching them to be manipulators.  We are not after outward actions, but our children’s hearts.  If we reach their heart = behavior changes.  Think right = act right.  How?  Train in righteousness. Ginger Plowman says, “When we focus on our children’s outside behavior and neglect what is on the inside, we will cause our children to become maniuplators.”

 JC Ryle warned parents Beware of letting small faults pass unnoticed under the idea it is a little on e.  There are no little things in training children; all are important.  Little weeds need plucking up as much as any.  Leave them alone and they will soon be great.

 Getting to the Heart of the Problem

  “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Eph 6:4

  “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” Pro 29:15

 If we do not use a balance of discipline and instruction, rod & reproof we will provoke our children to anger.  Provide a way of escape by teaching/practicing how to act differently next time.  Lead toward self-identification of sin.

 Ginger Plowman in Dont Make Me Count to Three says We should be joyful and thankful every time that we are provided with an opportunity to point our children to  their need... If we could view all of their sinful behaviors as precious opportunities to teach them then we would be far more righteous in our training.  We would be joyful and eager all the time rather than angry and frustrated.

 “All behaviors are linked to a particular attitude of the heart.  In this case [two children fighting over a toy] selfishness is bound up on the heart, and this sin leads to the outward behavior.”

 Effective Listening & Questions

  “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.” Pro 18:13

  “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep water, but a man of understanding draws them out.” Pro 20:5

 Effective communication is drawing out thoughts of another and draw out the cause of the behavior.  Asking leading thought-provoking questions and helping them evaluate themselves… to take focus off of situation to their own hearts.   Then you can help your children evaluate their own motives and train them to think rightly.  Help them by discussing God’s viewpoint in all situations.  If we tell them the answer to their behavior they aren’t learning how to discern their own hearts, which helps themthinking rightly will help them grow in wisdom and prepare them to govern their own behavior.


Our #1 objective is to draw out the cause of the behavior, by asking heart related questions. Ask questions that take focus off circumstances around them and put onto the sin in their own hearts.

 Starter Questions to Help Children Discerning their Own Hearts:


1. What was the nature of the temptation?  Was it anger, idolatry, envy, selfishness, contentiousness?

Q. What were you feeling when you...   Q. What did they do that you felt mad about...

 2. How did he respond to the temptation?  Did he respond in a way that pleased God?  What was wrong with the way he responded?

Q. Did your response seem to make things better or worse between the two of you?  Q. What was the problem with what they said or did to you?

 3. What other, better ways could he have responded?

Q. Yes, ___ was sinning against you, but in what other ways could you have responded?


 Avoid Traps:

1. Repeating yourself                           2. Raising  your voice,

3. Tolerating small acts of disobedience              4. Waiting until the teapot boils

5. Manipulating (bribing, threatening, appealing to emotions, manipulating environment, reasoning with small child, 1-2-3)

Ginger Plowman says, Children will rise to the standards that the parents set.   If you dont expect your child to obey until the count of three, then he will not obey until you count.

 Law of Harvest: You reap what you sow, later than you sow, more than you sow

Heb 12:11  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

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