Note: You may want to read the full blog post on this topic called How to Cultivate a Heart That Obeys: Strategies for Dealing with a Whiny, Insolent Child first.
Proverbs 6:23 says, “Correction and instruction are the way to life….”
Did you know that spending time correcting our children the right way doesn’t just lead to the shallow, short-term effects of behavior modification? It actually leads to LIFE, according to the Bible. The kind of soul-satisfying, abundant life that God intends for them. Do you believe that? I know I do…but easier said than done, right?
Recently, I had a chance to attend a heart-based parenting conference put on by the National Center for Biblical Parenting that had some practical suggestions for how to correct children. The focus is on building a child’s character and not just “whipping the kid into shape.” Here are some pointers I learned and am putting into practice around our house.
First, as parents, we need a plan for correction. The three heart-targeted questions below will help parents and caretakers correct children in a way that is more than just behavior modification. These questions get to the core issues in a child’s heart and prepare him/her to deal with sin rightly before God and others for a lifetime.
Secondly, we must allow time for correction. It takes time to have conversations, and we must make space in our day for this by not packing our schedules. How hard is this for American families? When we have to rush from one thing to the next, it’s hard to have substantive conversations that can produce the fruit in a child’s life that God wants for them.
Lastly, we need to deal with each child separately, if there is more than one involved in the offense. Each child usually has a part in a conflict, even if they are only 10% to blame. Remind each child that “how you respond is your own responsibility.”
As part of the correction plan, the speakers at the conference suggested asking three heart-targeted questions to kids when they do wrong. I’ve found these to be very helpful! Note: Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for a free printable of these questions that you can post on the fridge or have handy.
3 Questions to Ask a Child Who Has Done Wrong
1 – What did you do wrong?
- Help child identify his part in the offense and have him say it.
- This act of saying the wrong teaches him the biblical act of confession.
- Send back into “break time” to think about what happened until he/she is ready to talk.
2 – Why was that wrong?
- Note the question is NOT: “Why did you do it?” That question allows kids to shift blame.
- This question gives a chance to discuss the heart issue (i.e. selfishness, disobedience, etc) behind the behavior.
- Provides an opportunity for teaching about what God says is wrong about it.
- Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Plowman is a resource I use that’s full of ideas of Bible verses or more questions dealing with specific sins kids struggle with.
3 – What are you going to do differently next time?
- Help your child think of practical ways to deal rightly with the situation next time.
- Remind the child to ask for forgiveness from those he/she offended.
End the correction time with forgiveness and affirmation.
- Pray together, asking God for forgiveness and help.
- Remind the child of God’s forgiveness and perhaps share 1 John 1:9 (or the idea behind it), “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
- Affirm (and hug!) your child before leaving the time together. Some ideas of phrases to say:
- “I love you and you are forgiven.”
- “Time for a new start now!”
- “Go try again. I know you can do what we talked about.”
Imagine the life-long impact we can have on the little hearts that God has entrusted to us if we take the time to have a conversation like the one above regularly. I’ll be praying for each parent or caretaker who reads this post, as you strive to deal with correction in a heart-targeted way. May God bless you as you lead your child to the way of LIFE.
Here is the free PDF download for you to use: 3 Questions to Ask a Child Who Has Done Wrong.