How can I gain and keep the hearts of my children?
Before we can keep the hearts of our children, we must win their hearts. For a parent to have won a child’s heart is to have openness with him in which he feels secure in sharing his thoughts, ideas, and dreams, and is confident that he will be valued and accepted.
The actions and attitudes involved in winning a child’s heart will be unique to each child, but it often begins with the parents’ decision to invest whatever is necessary to build this close, God-honoring relationship with the child. Once established, the relationship needs to be cultivated, just like any close friendship. The following ideas give insights into building and maintaining these relationships.
Resolve Anger Problems
Disciplining in anger can severely damage our relationship with our children. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).
Keep in mind that discipline is a correction for the future good of the child, not a punishment for a past transgression. Think of how God disciplines each one of us. He does it out of a heart filled with genuine love, not anger. He never gives us the punishment that we justly deserve, but He is merciful. In disciplining our children, it is the loving relationship that will make it effective.
Do Not Discourage Your Children
”Provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). Even though we have good intentions, sometimes we alienate our children because our expectations for them are so high. We make unrealistic demands on them and expect them to be perfect in every area. When they fail, we are too harsh and critical of them.
Recently, our son lovingly said that we expect him to be perfect in every area. It is important for us as parents to yield our personal rights and expectations of perfection to God. We need to constantly be reminded that we are all on a journey, moving one step at a time. We can encourage our children to do right without making it seem overwhelming or impossible.
Share Your Struggles
It is helpful for children to know that their parents have struggles as well. We need to admit when we are wrong, share our failures with them, and ask for their prayers. As we admit our failures and ask for forgiveness, we will influence our children to do the same. As parents, we are to be the mature ones, and taking responsibility for shortcomings has to begin with us.
Use the “courageous conversation” techniques to settle family conflicts. This allows each party to share the most pressing issue on his heart with an attitude of meekness and self-control. It also provides a peaceful way to work through the situation so that there are changed attitudes and actions in the future.
Restore Broken Relationships
If the parent/child relationship has been damaged, it can be restored. The first step would be to regain the child’s heart. There must be a willingness to do whatever it takes to get it back—whether it requires money, a change in a job, relocation, taking time off, making major changes in our own lives, or days of prayer and fasting.
Children often give their hearts to their friends, because their friends will take the time to listen to them. Make it a priority to hear what they have to say. Whatever is important to our children should be important to us. We have to give them our time—there is no shortcut, no quick fix. It simply takes time.
When a relationship seems strained, it is time to draw closer together rather than farther apart. Although the tendency is to send a child to his room, it would be better to spend time together in an environment that is not stressful. Have him come along on errands, read a book together, take a walk, go for ride, or spend time talking about his interests.
Damaged relationships are very fragile and must be handled with gentleness and sensitivity. It is wise to limit corrections to those that are absolutely necessary. Do not constantly remind them about things that need to change in their lives, but love them unconditionally.
- Do I have an angry spirit?
- Do I take the first step to humble myself and ask forgiveness?
- Am I willing to do whatever it takes to win the heart of my child?