While it is important to watch for outward acts of Godly character in our children, it is vital to remember that building Godly character starts with a focus on the heart!
Character training does include managing behavior and training in what is right, but it is NOT enough. We want to do more than change the behavior or our children — we want to change their hearts.
I love this quote by Cary Schmidt in his book Passionate Parenting:
“A portion of our parental efforts need to be focused on managing behavior, but we shouldn’t stop there. Behavior should never be our only gauge of success. Good behavior can be the product of one of two things — either it’s the product of a right heart or the product of a stealthy heart. Good behavior can be feigned or unfeigned (II Timothy 1:5). we must get below the surface and work to establish right beliefs which will ultimately drive right behavior.
Short-view parenting builds behavior. Long-view parenting builds belief. If you wish to grow real faith in young lives for the long term, you must focus on nurturing the heart.” (Passionate Parenting)
Building Godly character starts with a focus on the heart , so our goal should be to help our kids make changes on the inside, not just the outside. We must remember that while man looks at how our kids appear outwardly, God looks at their hearts. (I Samuel 16:7)
If you focus only on the right actions in your children, they will get the idea that behavior is what’s important, and will conform outwardly (for at least a time), but their heart hasn’t changed.
You need to always address the heart issues that their bad character or wrong behavior stems from.
For example when teaching the character quality of humility, you should be sure to also address the heart issue of pride. When teaching obedience, be sure and address the heart issue of disobedience or rebellion.
The book Parenting is Heart Work says it well:
“It’s time for a heart revolution in parenting. Behavior modification often works for the short term, but it does little to mold a child’s heart for the future.
There’s much at stake in raising children. When we take a heart approach to parenting, we partner with God in raising a future generation. Children learn to make changes on the inside, not just outwardly. Those changes last and become the basis for conviction and values that our children will carry with them for the rest of their lives.” (Parenting Is Heart Work)
I LOVE that last sentence, as it is really talking about character — the conviction and values our children will carry with them for the rest of their lives!
Decide today to focus character training on your child’s heart, as you partner with God in raising your child for Him!
1. Think of three character issues you have been working on recently with your children.
2. Write them down, and then write down the corresponding heart issue that it relates to.
3. Find a Bible verse or two that addresses that heart issue and use the verses the next time the behavior occurs.
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