Lately, we have been really asking God for wisdom to focus and discern what is going on in our children’s hearts. I am more and more convinced as I read the Bible that my husband and my goal should not be so much to change their actions as much as it is to change their heart.
Let me share a few Bible verses on this subject and then we can dissect it and see how it can be used to apply to not just our children but ourselves as well.
A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Luke 6:45
How can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Matthew 12:34
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. James 1:26
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
We are striving to help teach them how important it is to fill their minds with good things — to be intentional about “feeding” themselves good stuff. We have a catchy saying “Gigo” — garbage in garbage out. If what they watch on television or listen to in music is not saying things that are good, then they will begin to think things that are not good. Sooner or later, the things they think will become the things they say and do. That is basic psychology.
We could just focus on changing their behaviour with effective discipline techniques.
However, if at the core they are still prideful or rebellious, then what we are teaching them is to “act” right in front of us for fear of punishment.
This means that if they don’t fear punishment, they might still do the action when we aren’t watching.
We are potentially breeding hypocrisy — the ability to act one way in front of one person and another in front of another person based on who we are trying to please at that moment.
On the contrary, if we can put more energy into developing their character — teaching them why they do what they do.
And getting them to analyse their behaviours and ultimately depend on God and seek to love others, then we don’t have to put so much work into disciplining their behaviour. Their behaviour will change because the root has changed.
As someone who is a major supplier of fruit trees on a commercial level, I know all too well that an apple tree can’t produce oranges.
Following that analogy, we sell extremely high-quality grafted fruit trees by the thousands.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is what does grafted mean. I won’t take too much of this article to explain the technicalities.
But, at a basic level, we sell a fruit tree which is a beautiful commercial level fruit tree of say an orange, but at the base is a traditional tree which is not so beautiful or desirable. The “desired” tree is grafted in.
We are trying to teach our children that sadly, in their natural self, they are selfish. But, God is offering the opportunity to be “grafted in”.
He is saying: “Hey, I know on your own you are selfish, prideful, prone to fits of rage, and desiring things that aren’t good for you. However, if you allow me, I can be ‘grafted in’ and then when you allow me to become a part of you, I can help bring desirable fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.”
Let me give an example of how this plays out. The kids are fighting over who gets a bigger piece of cake. We point out that the fight is really caused because both think that they are more special and both deserve to get the bigger piece.
Instead of thinking how others feel, they are only thinking of themselves. We then point out that Jesus thought of us when He died on the cross to save us — he certainly didn’t think of how to please himself.
He chose to be selfless not selfish and here is the cool thing — he says it was for the joy set before Him.
So we ask the girls, “would you like to choose joy by choosing to consider someone else’s feelings instead of your own. Would you like to be selfless not selfish?” When they choose kindness and selflessness, the fight automatically stops.
Today, I want to challenge you next time you get angry to examine your motives. Fix the root and the fruit will follow. Change your heart’s and mind’s attention and your actions will change.
Ashley Thaba is a life-coach, team-building facilitator and motivational speaker.