Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

It’s all about the heart March 12, 2009

Filed under: Bible,Books,Communication and speech — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 11:00 pm

u172880094As we raise our children, we must keep our eye ever focused on their hearts – the “wellspring of their lives.”  Everything they say and do emerges from that source, and while it’s easy for us to focus on our kids’ actions (i.e. their misbehavior), that’s ultimately the wrong target.  Even if we succeed in teaching them to act well, if they have wrong motives and impur hearts, we will only have trained them to become hypocrites.  Clearly not our goal.

The role of communication is vital here.  I’ve been impressed by Ginger Plowmans’s focus on our need as moms to draw out the cause of our children’s behvaior by asking them heart-related questions.  If, when I ask my son why he was naughty, he responds with “I don’t know,” he really might not know.  “Due to his age and inexperience with discerning matters of his own heart, he doesn’t fully and completely understand why he hit his sister, ” Plowman writes.  She advocates helping him dig deper into his heart to find the answer by using some probing questions.  “Each answered question enables the child to better understand his own heart and his need for Christ’s grace and redemption. And each gives me the opporunity to use God’s Word to train him according to his struggle.”

The role of the Bible is central here, and we must use Scripture to teach, instruct, and train in righteousness.  A friend’s recent parenting incident beautifully illustrates the effectiveness of honing in on pertinent verses for the purpose of training her 6-year old daughter in righteousness.  “Telling her what to do or not do was not bringing about heart or behavior changes.  So we posted a pertinent verse on the wall and memorized it together, and when she’d start to misbehave, I’d remind her of the verse and she would quickly stop.”  (My friend used Phil 2:3-4 in this case, but different scenarios would call for different verses.)

As my friend pointed out, for us to expose our kids to the Word and help them grow in understanding their hearts, we “need to be very intentional about picking an issue to be addressed or a principal to be taught and then looking up related verses,” arming ourselves in advance to best address the issue.  I’m realizing that as I pray for my children, I need to be diligent about lifting up specific character issues and asking for God to provide wisdom and direction in how best to to biblically address the issues they’re grappling with.  (Helps in this are available, Ginger Plowman’s book being one, and a specific verse-driven and more extensive pamphlet being another, which I’ve yet not seen or read).

At the end of the day, my prayer for my kids is that their hearts would grow to be like that of King David when he prayed: “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.'”


9 Responses to “It’s all about the heart”

  1. Molly Says:

    The transition from age 2-3 and the opportunity (and challenge) of being more verbal has been a tricky one for us. The overview of forms of communication in Shepherding A Child’s Heart is something that has been helpful and I keep saying I’m going to post the list on the fridge to help me remember that I’m not just supposed to rebuke all the time! Instead I can determine in each situation whether to: encourage, entreat, correct, instruct, warn, teach or pray (probably should pray with all of them, right?) 🙂
    Thanks again for sharing in this way Susan!

  2. kari Says:

    you are so right susan, when referring to the heart. i know for me, that i need to check my motives when i’m disciplining my children. is it because I want them to act a certain way or is it for their well-being….. like you said to correct, and instruct. so often in public situations, it’s easy for me to go to the place of is everyone watching me, what will they say, etc… that’s why for me it’s best to take a quick second and check my heart, before i follow through. i hold tight to Psalm139:23-24 how awesome to have a manual that we can live our lives by!

  3. Sarae Martin Says:

    The heart is so hard to get at. I have one that is VERY compliant. A great kid…but to get to her heart is difficult. How often I place her in the Lord’s hands to melt her heart towards his. Yet I have another that is just like his daddy and has the softest heart for the Lord. He melts me with apologies from days before; things that he has been pondering in his heart and the Lord has prompted him to ask for forgiveness.

    Love the list that Molly posted. You are right…hang it up where it can be seen. I just may do that!

    Any other resources that give advice about getting to the heart of obedience?

  4. heartpondering Says:

    Great comments girls – thanks!
    Plowman offers an interesting set of questions to get at the heart issues. She writes:
    “For probing their hearts, teaching them how to think like Christians, and helping them discern the matters of their hearts, there are three issues to walk them through:
    1 – What was the nature of the temptation? Was it anger, idolatry, envy? Was it selfish or contentious?
    2 – How did he respond to the temptation? Did he respond in such a way that God was pleased? What was wrong with the way he responded?
    3 – What other ways could he have responded that would have been better?”
    This may be more than young children can understand, and even if they can, it may not work to walk them through all of it every time there are behavior and heart problems. But I did find it to be a good set of guidelines for us to keep in mind as parents…

  5. Sarae Martin Says:

    One parenting “system” that I have read, uses a great phrase for preschoolers to grasp.

    They are expected to obey with a Happy Heart. Simple, to the point. If they choose not to obey with a happy heart, then they go sit on their bed until they are ready for a happy heart attitude. If they come back out and the heart is not happy, back to the bed they go.

    I think there are times that I also need to have a happy heart check…usually at 6 A.M. trying to get everyone off to school!!:)

  6. Joellawme Says:

    Thanks for the post. I need to think on the subject more. It is so easy to desire well behaved children who are pleasant to be around, rather than kind, generous, truthful, self-controlled, gracious, righteous children. The latter generally produces the former, but not necessarily the other way around.

    For helping my 3 year old son reflect and understand his behavior, my best help comes through referring to stories that we know together, some Biblical, some not. I have witnessed a few of my mothering mentors use this with their children from toddlerhood even into adulthood, and I’ve been amazed at its good effect. As Gladys Hunt writes, stories provide a larger common vocabulary that we can share with our children and great stuff for character/heart formation.

    Examples from this week: We love a story about a birthday party where the birthday boy is out of control and acting selfish. At one point, the birthday boy pops a little girl’s bubble in a game and makes her cry. When my son can see how his selfish behavior at playgroup was like this boys’, I witness God working in his heart. The story has already given him a picture (literally) of selfish toddler behavior and given him sympathy for the child who was hurt. Connecting that to his own action allows him to see how his selfishness affects his neighbor, who God commands him to love. I also find that good stories produce discussion of these things apart from a given incident, which is very helpful. Last week, when we read about Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny receiving a switch (old book, heh?) for being in Mr. McGregor’s garden, we discussed why its important for boys and bunnies to obey.

  7. heartpondering Says:

    Very helpful and insightful comment, and I’d love to hear more specifically what stories and books you are finding most useful and instructive in your homes. We use stories too but could use more/better. (I often find myself thinking “can’t wait till the kids are older so I can read Little House, or the like” – but I know I’m missing great stuff that’s good for now.) I’m compiling a list of these for my own reference and perhaps will include such a list for general reference here as it grows.
    I also really like the idea of using BOTH biblical and other moral stories and can see the value and fruit in that.
    So let’s connect on this…

  8. Joellawme Says:

    A few authors I would highly recommend for preschoolers:
    1. Shirley Hughes– phenomenal British children’s author. Our favorites are: Bathwaters Hot, the Alfie stories, The Trotter Street stories, and Dogger (a beautiful story of sacrificial grace for all ages). She has an incredible ability to teach morals without preaching them. They make a great parental reference point later.
    2. Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen– particularly the Stories Jesus Told and Animal Tales. They put a helpful Bible verse at the beginning of each story.
    3. Ethel Barrett– Quacky and Wacky, Gregory Grub, Blister Lamb, Cracker. The audio of the author reading these ones is really great!
    4. W. R. Awdry: Thomas and Friends in their original versions.
    5. Beatrix Potter: Original versions.

    Also, two great books on the role of books in growing children:
    Honey for the Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt (1/2 the book is an annotated bibliography of age appropriate literature)
    Babies Need Books by Dorothy Butler: her introduction is wonderful stuff on books providing a common experience and framework for you and your child which then becomes a wonderful common reference point. Because of this, she encourages reading aloud with children into adolescence.

  9. Sarae Martin Says:

    My Mom…mentioned in previous comment…elementary school librarian…lover of books helped me create this list of books that might be helpful:

    1. “Fancy Nancy:” I was hesitant to get these, but I really like them because Nancy is not an obnoxious spoiled princess type. She has some interesting situations and she uses lots of fun big words!

    2. “Alexandar and the horrible, no good, very bad day.”

    3. Horton Hatches an egg: a book about a friend that sticks closer than a brother

    4. The Little Engine that Could: perseverence

    5. The Dinosaur Series (Jane Yolen): How does a dinosaur go to the doctor; clean up his room, eat his food etc. They are fun to read and great for how to act. They give that common language thing!

    6. Please and Thank You (Richard Scarey)

    7. Bearnstein Bears Series

    8. Value Tales by Ann Johnson

    9. Family Book of Christian Values: Jill and Stuart Briscoe

    For Parents:
    1. Parenting with Scripture (Kara Durbin)-Great Resource

    Check out this website for great suggestions (I have not read all but it might be a place to start)


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