Helping Our Kids with Their Hearts

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: ‘Like father, like son’ or ‘Like mother, like daughter’. This maxim is meant to communicate the reality that children usually come to reflect their parents, for good or for ill. I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve either recognised yourself in your child or your parents in yourself. And of course, this is true not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. As Andy Stanley says: “Home environments mirror the hearts of those who head the home.” You may need to re-read that statement to truly feel its impact.

In his book, ‘Enemies of the Heart’, which I’ve been dipping into as part of my study for our current sermon series, Andy Stanley talks about this reality. He says, “Kids raise their voices because they hear us do it. Kids will open up if they see us opening up, even if it means we’re opening fire. But our kids will be less defensive if they see us dropping our defences. They learn to manage their hearts by watching us.” I’ve got to be honest, that last sentence scares me. But it also motivates me. It reminds me of the precious privilege God has given me to teach and guide my kids, especially in matters of the heart.

As Stanley says, “We cannot control everything our children experience, but we can influence how they process what life sends their way. We can teach them how to guard their hearts against the inevitable firestorms of life. No one impacts the health of a child’s heart like Mum and Dad. Intentionally or unintentionally, on purpose or by accident, we build into our children or take away. This may be our greatest responsibility as parents.”

Indeed. So, what do we do? Other than keeping our own hearts in shape and attending to all of the other usual practices we should model and teach our kids (confession, forgiveness, generosity, prayer, being in church, empathy, etc.), what will help them with the health of their hearts?

Andy Stanley suggests the answer is found in asking a question. Not just any question.  The truth is, we ask our kids questions all day. And usually they revolve around behaviour or performance. “Did you brush your teeth?” “Did you do your homework?” “Did you clean your room?” “How did you do on your exam?” “Did you say thank you?” Of course, there is nothing wrong with these questions. But if they are the only type of questions we ask our kids, we’re not going far enough.

Our questions should also extend to matters of the heart. “Is everything okay in your heart?” “Are you mad at anybody?” “Did anybody hurt your feelings today?” “Did anybody break a promise to you today?” “Is there anything you need to tell me?” “Are you worried about anything?” It may seem foreign to you, even scary to do this, but imagine the benefits it could yield in the life of your child and in your relationship with them if you teach them to be attuned to what is happening not just around them but inside of them as well.

With you on the journey,