Four years ago when I was on a fifth grade field trip with my son, I was talking to another mom who had older kids (teenagers – eek!) and we were talking about our kids making wise choices. Our fifth grade boys were starting to transition to having a little freedom and were going to have to make choices with their actions. She talked about the concept of training their hearts rather than controlling their action. That concept resounded in my heart and was supported by scripture.
|Pro 22:6||Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Four years later I now have boys is middle and high school. They are both having to make choices; choices about work ethic with school, friend choices, peer pressure, their relationship with Christ, what they will look at on the internet, and the list goes on and on. Although as parents we set boundaries and as they grow in responsibility those boundaries get broader, we never stop training our children’s hearts. How do we do that?
- Lead By Example – If we want our kids to lean on God and his Word to help them make choices then we better be doing it ourselves. Are we looking to God’s Word when we are having to make tough choices? When life is tough are we standing on God or are we being tossed around in the midst of our storm? Are our kids seeing us be real? If we are having a tough time with a situation do we share it with them or act like we have it all under control? Although we want to protect our kids from many of the tough stuff in life, them never seeing us struggle and seeing how God pulls us through makes them feel like something is wrong when they struggle themselves.
- Help Them Learn God’s Character – One of my favorite things about God’s Word is that it shows us his character. We see time and time again that God has abundant grace and mercy for when we blow it, but also has huge blessings when we are obedient. He abounds in love. He is concerned about the details in our lives. He has a plan for us. He will walk through every situation with us. We need to not only tell them these things but show it to them in His Word. They are smart and want to know the why. Let’s make sure we are giving them the why found in God’s Word. This is training their hearts.
- Love Them Through Failure – Growing up I never wanted to disappoint my parents, but I always knew that even if I did, they would love me. They would be hurt and disappointed and I would be grounded, but I would always be loved. I remind my kids often that there is nothing that could ever make me love them more or less. My youngest once asked me, “Even if I become a mass murderer, you won’t love me less?” Nothing can change my love for those boys, and I am pretty sure my youngest is not on the path to be a mass murderer.
The word “way” literally means a path or journey. Our kids are on a journey to adulthood. They will have some tough spots and some great spots on that Journey. Our job is to teach them how to react to the spots on their journey not to control the journey.