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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