“Just wait till their teenagers!”
This was the common refrain we heard every weekend at the ballpark while cheering on our six year old athlete and chasing her three younger siblings around the bleachers.
I often think back at how I felt when I would hear those words: overwhelmed, fearful, confused, even sad. It was as if people were communicating to me, “One day you’ll be sorry for having all those kids!”
Here’s a newsflash
It is 15 years later….and
I’m not sorry
Recently, my husband was asked to give his #1 parenting advice. If he could tell young parents one thing, what would it be? How does he raise such great kids? Without a second thought he spoke the most profound words…
Wait for it…
“NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES
YOU MUST WIN THEIR HEARTS.”
He went on to say that one reason why our family is working, was that when we first were married and starting a family, we made an intentional decision to win their hearts at a very young age. We would hold them as long as they needed to be held, never worrying about “spoiling” them. We would look them in the eye and listen to their side of the story, even if we already knew our answer. Our discipline would be swift and fair, always working to have the punishment fit the crime, followed by a sweet time of love and reconciliation.
We decided to make every effort to be involved in their lives, ask questions, find out how they were processing situations, love them with our lives, and introduce them one day to the source of all love. We decided to love each other in front of them first, always reminding them that daddy and mommy were here first, and love them in such a way, that no matter what they did, or where they went, they would always know the height and depth and width and breadth of our love for them.
Just like the Lord.
My husband said to me that it didn’t really matter if they followed all the rules of the home, obeyed us at home and in public, performed great in school, used nice manners, were star athletes and musicians, or even led worship with their youth group. Raising kids who ONLY follow the rules for the sake of outward appearance means that we are raising them for how they will make US look, how WE are perceived by society.
“OH look at that beautiful family!”
If parents are only concerned with how their kids behave, they may win the early battles, but by the time they turn 18 and are ready to leave on their own,
You will have lost the war.
In our home, we did not want to raise a bunch of rule followers, keepers of the law…Pharisees.
We knew that if we didn’t have their hearts, we didn’t have a thing. If they obeyed outwardly but inwardly resented or even hated us, we would have failed.
What does it LOOK like to win a child’s heart?
THE OPEN DOOR POLICY
As parents, we’ve always communicated to our kids that we have an open door policy. It’s not just the standard, “You can tell us anything” policy, it’s more like, when they have an issue that they are processing, or a conflict with a sibling, they need to know that they can come to us and we will help them sort it out, without over-reacting. Keeping an open door policy means that we are always asking them questions.
How am I doing as a mother or father? What things do I do that makes you feel the most loved? How would you have handled that particular situation? What do you think God is teaching our family right now? Asking questions is a great way to keep those doors of communication wide open, and will keep their tender hearts coming back for more.
Teaching our kids how to resolve conflict with one another has been one of the most effective ways to winning their hearts. In a home where ten different personality types live, conflict is unavoidable. We call our home, the laboratory for life and teach our sons that the way they treat their mother and sisters is the way they will one day treat their wives and daughters. Likewise to our daughters, the way they speak to their father and brothers is the way they will one day speak to their husbands and sons.
That is a sobering thought, but it’s true.
God in His grace has given us His WORD to teach us how to treat people and given us the FAMILY to practice on a daily basis. Parents have the unique opportunity while their children live under their roof to teach, train, and mentor them in conflict resolution.
THE HOT SEAT
There are times when a child sins, and we have found out about it, Joey and I bring them to what we call, “The hot seat”. The hot seat is where the offender sits, faced by both parents, and the sin is addressed. This is not the norm, we don’t implement the hot seat every time sometime disobeys, but rather, when a child reaches the age of around 12 to 16, and we believe that they need us both in order to “come clean”. The secret to the success of the hot seat is simple.
- Maintain a united front
- Use scripture as your guide
- Take all the time you need
The goal of the hot seat is confession and repentance.
Sometimes the hot seat lasts for hours, with layers upon layers of deceit and offenses needing to be uprooted. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes. The end result has always been, that we win their hearts and build another brick in the wall of their character.
God has given us His word to show us how to love others. Seek to win your child’s heart and the actions will follow.