I hold my little child's heart in the palm of my hand. God designed me as a parent to have the unique privilege of molding and shaping my child. The spiritual, emotional, moral, and intellectual core of my child belongs to me. No small matter!
"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!
But we must watch out, because assuming we already won at this parenting race is foolish. "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.
I recently heard a message on "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)
"My child, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart," this parent says in Proverbs, 3:1. I long for that as I raise my children. That my amazing parenting won't be lost to angry words, false expectations, sighs of displeasure, criticism, and rules that exasperate. There is hope in parenting. The book I mentioned above is full of godly advice and I highly recommend it (invite me to your baby shower and I'll give it to you as a gift!). 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."