So pleased to introduce you to a like-minded parent today: Kelly Smith. I first read her thoughts on The Glorious Table, and I immediately started following her. She speaks from the heart here, along the lines of Tedd Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart (one of the best parenting books around!); I know you'll be blessed and challenged. Read more about Kelly (and connect with her yourself) at the end of the post.
The same scene keeps playing over and over again at my house. The child breaks a rule. The parent punishes. The child complies. The parent relaxes. The child breaks the rule again.
I live in perpetual frustration over this madness. My kid can’t be the only one repeatedly falling down. I am not the only parent on the verge of a hissy fit. I know you feel it, too.
Why is it we work so hard to make our kids do right only for them to turn around and commit the same offense all over again? It comes down to the heart. Parenting is about heart change, not behavior modification. We press down with consequences but there will be no real, lasting change in their outward behavior until there is an inward change.
Moses learned this important lesson when he faced Pharaoh. God sent him to Egypt to free the Children of Israel. Moses went before Pharaoh eleven times with the same request: “Let my people go.”
Initially, Pharaoh resisted. God sent plagues to show Pharaoh who was in charge. He turned the Nile to blood—no change of heart. Then, He brought frogs out of the water. This one made Pharaoh uncomfortable enough to relent. “Plead with the Lord to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord” (Ex 8:8 ESV).
Once the dastardly frogs were gone, Pharaoh hardened his heart again. He went right back to his stubborn ways. Through gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness, Pharaoh waffled between obeying God and standing his prideful ground.
Pharaoh never experienced an inward change. He wanted a way out of the discomfort of the consequences of sin while holding tight to that very same sin.
Matthew Henry says:
When Pharaoh saw there was respite, he hardened his heart. Till the heart is renewed by the grace of God, the thoughts made by affliction do not abide; the convictions wear off, and the promises that were given are forgotten. Till the state of the air is changed, what thaws in the sun will freeze again in the shade.
I see the same pattern in my children. My kids change their behavior when met with consequences but, without that inward change, they return to their foolish ways. The same is true for me. For example, I do not like the morning misery after a late night, but I find myself staying up too late over and over again.
The highest calling of parenting is the shaping of hearts.
This does not eliminate the need for consequences. It is through consequences our children see and experience the effects of their misbehavior. Shaping a child’s heart requires a connection of correction with instruction. Ephesians 6:4 tells us to, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV). John MacArthur points out:
[Instruction] refers to the type of instruction found in the book of Proverbs, where, as we’ve seen, a primary focus is on the training and teaching of children. Such training and teaching doesn’t have as much to do with factual information as with right attitudes and principles of behavior.
This type of instruction takes time, effort, and persistence.
A heart-shaping parent explains how the child’s behavior contradicts God’s word, instead of simply removing privileges
A heart-shaping parent uses the ordinary moments of the day to point their child to God and His plan for their lives.
A heart-shaping parent pushes through the Pharaoh-like stubbornness to free their child from slavery to sin.
A heart-shaping parent points out the need for God’s grace and mercy found through Jesus’ death on the cross.
A heart-shaping parent becomes an agent of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their children.
Will you stand with me as a heart-shaping parent? Will you declare freedom over your children? Say it with me, “Let my people go!”
Kelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man 17 years ago. She has three energetic blessings, ages 1 to 11. Her favorite indulgences are coffee, reading, writing, and running. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.