How to really change your child’s behaviors and heart


Change their heart

When all my boys were little, their hearts seemed to be naturally tender and soft. They easily obeyed (for the most part) simply because we told them to. My boys are getting older. Obedience is now about more than following rules simply because they are told.

I’m beginning to rely more on scripture to direct them towards obedience than I have in the past. And the cool thing is that it works WAY better than anything else I’ve tried.

Really, at the end of the day, they need to desire to obey because of a deep love for God. They don’t need to obey because I tell them they should. They should love God enough to honor Him.

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

When we have God’s Word memorized, we are more likely to obey. First, when we read His Word, we know Him better. When we know Him, we can’t help but love Him. Second, it makes us aware. Sometimes we are sinning and unaware of our sin. This is especially true for our kids. When they memorize God’s Word, His instruction is on their hearts.

I’m powerless to change their hearts. It is one of the areas of parenting where I’m seeing more and more each day how desperate I am for Christ. Only God has the power to truly change a heart, not just a behavior pattern.

I can change their behavior, but I can’t change their heart. God can change their heart, which changes their behavior.

One of my sons is in a pattern of negative thinking and critical speech. I cringe when some of his words leave his mouth, and I want to stuff them back in immediately and have him try again. But they come out, they cause damage, and the cycle continues.

It finally hit me. I can’t change him. I can’t change his thoughts or his heart. But while he is under my care, I can point him to Christ. So after about 5 ugly slips, I pulled out an index card and wrote at the top Psalm 19:14 and said, “Go look up this verse. Write it front and back on this card then copy it on blank paper. Then come see me.”

Psalm 19:14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I can’t conclude by saying he came back an angel, truly repentant, and a whole hearted shift. But he came back with God’s word tucked away. Now the Holy Spirit can use the Word of God to convict and guide him.

I’ve written before how I struggle to not be the Holy Spirit to my children. I often try to take God’s job from him. I fail miserably every time.

My primary mission field is the one I live in day in and day out. My greatest desire is that my children love God and serve him their whole lives. I can do everything “right” and still have children that follow their own path. The only thing I can do is point them daily to their Creator and their Savior.

Kids need to understand the why. My kids have reached an age where they want to know why I insist on a certain behavior or give a certain instruction. “Because I said so” infuriates my boys. They want to know why.

God’s Word is full of the why’s.

“Why do we have to memorize scripture?”

“Because God’s Word tells us when we hide His Word in our hearts we are less likely to sin against Him.”

“Why can’t I use that language?”

“Because God desires the words of our mouth and the thoughts in our hearts be pleasing to Him.”

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

I’m not writing this post from a position of having parented through this with a supply of verses ready to give you. But I would love you to join me on this road.

As I find verses that help me instruct my kids, I will share with you. Will you share yours with us too? They say it takes a village right? We have an online village of readers here. So let’s get busy building a toolbox of verses as we parent daily.

Feel free to download these graphics and use with your children!


Psalm 1914


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Challenged by the faith of a child

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2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”

For once he wasn’t the one being disciplined.  He lingered in the doorway listening to the serious tones used on his brothers as Steve and I were deep in the middle of some serious business.  Turning towards his room, he bolted, only to return moments later ready to intercede.  Quietly, he approached me while I continued speaking to his brothers.  Matter-of-factly, he placed his adult Bible, his treasured possession, on my lap announcing confidently, “I know what we need.  We need God’s Word to help us.”

Well, yes.  Umm, yes we do.  How do you respond to that?  Of course we do.  Of course we need the Bible to teach us and guide us.  It’s usually my job to remember that.  However, in the heat of the moment, I forgot what I most needed.  Instead, I had turned to myself, my wisdom, my words.  Until a 5-year-old gently reminded me I had help available right in that very moment that I wasn’t utilizing.

“Here, start here,”  his raspy voice instructed as he opened the Bible, which fell naturally open to Proverbs.  The wisdom book.  So, I read.  A peace transcended him, yet he wasn’t even the one in need of instruction in that moment.  Reading God’s Word out loud changed the tone, channeled the emotions, brought tenderness and gentleness to replace sharp tongues and deflated spirits.

Andrew embodies something I desire for myself.  The deepest hunger for God’s Word.  Like we see so often in children, faith seems effortless, as natural as breathing.  Jesus is life in the truest sense to him.  I’ve always seen a sensitivity in his spirit towards God’s Word.  At the beginning of K-4, his teacher commented to me how when she opens the Bible to read, he is captivated, soaking in every word.  Fears of his failure to learn letters and numbers quiet as I see he grasps what truly matters.  At least for this time period in his life.

Where Andrew challenges me the most is his courage to boldly proclaim his love of the Word.  The world hasn’t lied to him yet.  The world hasn’t influenced him to care more what others think yet.  Last Saturday this had never been more evident.

Saturdays are usually spent at the baseball fields hopping back and forth between games. After Andrew’s game, we piled in the car for Jacob’s game.  It’s always a mad dash, and this time was no different.  Lunch was inhaled in 20 minutes, then we loaded up.  As seat belts clicked, Andrew said, “Wait, I forgot something.  Hold on, mommy, I’ll be right back.  I need my Bible.”

“Andrew, it’s fine here.  We will be home in a few hours.”

“No, I need to take it.”

He returned with his giant, adult Bible.  The one he loves.  The one he can’t read.  The one that he sits in bed at night staring at the words.  And when I turn his light out, I find him curled up with that giant Bible.  I can only imagine the smile on God’s face at that sight.  It’s precious beyond words.

20 minutes later, we are pulling into the ball field, unloading again.  He grabs his giant Bible and his baseball hat.  “Honey, you can leave that in the car.  It will be fine.”

“No, mommy, I want it with me.”

Honestly, I felt so embarrassed.  I just knew every parent thought I was a Pharisee walking around proclaiming my holiness.  I imagined them saying, “Oh, look at her, thinking she is so holy, she even has her kids carrying Bibles to baseball games.”  I was so embarrassed that I was quick to tell every single person that Andrew insisted on bringing it.

He sat with his little friend at the fence to the field, Bible open, watching the game. Eventually, he went to play with his friends and brought me the Bible for safe keeping.  I quickly hid it under my purse.  I mean it’s one thing when people know I write about everyday faith, but it’s another thing completely when they see me carrying around a Bible. I’m not proud of this, but it’s the truth.  I care what people think.  Though, I will tell you I don’t.  We know the truth.

The clearest picture I have of a soul that can’t get enough I captured last week.  The day had been long, hard, and cruel to a 5-year-old.  So he fought back hard, until there was no fight left in him.  When I entered his room, I stopped in the doorway speechless.  A little boy who had cried for 2 hours and had the roughest evening lay as peaceful as I’ve ever seen.  His head rested on that giant Bible, his treasured possession.  He may only be 5, but his soul knows Who it longs for.

His little life speaks to me, challenges me.  I want to boldly proclaim my faith.  I want to run hard to God’s word before lashing back with my tongue.  I want to lay my head down at night soaking in His Word into the empty corners longing to be filled.

andrew bible


Psalm 4:8 “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe”