Dr. Mike Higgins, Executive Director, Hope Children’s Home
With over 30 years of ministering to children and teens and working as a Licensed Clinical Therapist, I have discovered how crucial it is for a parent to have the heart of their child for the child to properly respond to the parent’s authority.
If your young person is non-responsive or has gone wayward, then there is a good chance you have lost their heart. Here are eight simple ideas of how to gain and keep the heart of your children.
How to win your child’s heart?
1. Show your children that you love them for who they are and not because of how they behave or how they treat you.
The Bible teaches us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. He loved us unconditionally and for who we were. So it is with parenting. It is imperative that our children know we love them because they were created by God and given to us as a gift from God. We may not like their behavior at times, but we must show them we always love them for who they are.
And one of the greatest ways of showing your love is to give your child your time. So find ways to give your child your undivided attention throughout each week.
2. Be fair, consistent, and reasonable across the board with all of your children. Treat ALL of your children the same.
My wife and I have had the privilege of raising two children and currently raising two more at over 20 years apart! First two boys and now two girls. They are all different. God created them that way. Our oldest son was very quiet while our youngest son never stopped talking. Our oldest daughter is brilliantly smart, starting college at age 14. Our youngest daughter loves to sing and tell stories with all the drama.
As a parent, whether through encouragement or discipline, it’s vital to measure and purpose to treat all of your children the same. It is so important to lift them up, encourage them, and never negatively compare one child to another.
3. Show honor to your children.
I believe one of the greatest ways we can honor our children is exemplified in how we speak to them and treat them especially in front of others. The book of James teaches much about how we should speak with others and our children should not be an exception. It teaches that our speech should be filled with wisdom and that wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
Think about these adjectives when speaking with your children and determine whether your conversation passes the “James” test.
4. Show your children affection.
Any normal parent loves their children more than life itself but that is different than showing affection to them. I have worked with a lot of children over the years who believe their parents love them but do not like them. How distressing it is to a child to think their parent doesn’t like them! I think the greatest reason for this is that, at times, we just get too busy as parents. One way to remedy this is to take the time to hold your child in your lap and speak softly to them. Or read them a bedtime story yourself instead of having Alexa do it.
Since we tend to live by our schedules, if you have an older child, schedule special time with them by going out to dinner and a movie or pick up a hobby that they would like. And remember, nothing can replace a big hug and kiss once in a while!
5. Talk to your children… and LISTEN to them when they talk to you.
Most parents have the talking side of this equation down pat but many times lack the listening aspect. James 1:19 teaches us, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.” Someone once said this is the reason God created us with two ears and only one mouth.
Ask probing questions from your children and allow them to explain themselves and their feelings even when you feel they are misguided. Only through listening can you understand them and ultimately help them.
6. Be crazy and have fun with your children.
In other words, let your hair down! I remember when our boys were younger that my wife and I were doing dishes one evening and one of us purposely splashed water on the other. This simple incident turned into an all-out water fight amongst us and our two boys to the point of running with water jugs and pots full of water through house soaking each other. This memory is still talked about now 30 years later. Your children need to know that you are real and that you can relate even through simple fun.
7. No one is perfect. Apologize when you need to.
Will all the perfect parents please raise your hands? The simple fact is that as parents we make mistakes and plenty of them. When you lose your temper or say something totally off base, be willing to circle back, look your child in the eye, and admit that you were wrong. Be careful not to shift blame or use words like “but” or “if” to explain away your behavior.
A true apology is not steeped in excuses but rather forgiveness. These types of humble actions are what it takes to successfully win the heart of your child.
8. Pray for your children daily.
It seems like a total given to pray for our children, but I can honestly think of times that in my prayer time there seemed to be so many pressing and demanding needs of the ministry that my children didn’t make the list that day. As parents we must pray daily for God’s wisdom and discernment on how to raise our children and pray for their continual spiritual growth.
Mistakes to Avoid
Striving to have your children behave correctly on the outside, but failing to emphasize the heart issues
I remember when we first began the children’s home in Honduras and decided to start a garden. It seemed simple enough. I brought a bunch of seeds from the States, planted them, and anxiously awaited the harvest. To my surprise every plant came up wonderfully, looked great, and then quickly died. What a disappointment! You see, the problem wasn’t with the soil, the water, or the fertilizer—it was the seeds. Those particular seeds did not produce plants that were tolerant to the extreme heat.
The “seed” of our children is their heart. We can put much effort into making sure our children behave on the outside, but if their heart is not dealt with it will be to no avail. Proverbs 4:23 teaches us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” In other words, any issues that your child may be having come from the heart. Therefore, you must deal with the heart of the issue. Don’t just correct your child when needed, but use that time to teach them biblical principles related to their misbehavior. By doing this you will actually be getting to the root of the issue… their heart.
Striving for compliance rather than working on a relationship with your children
Discipline without a relationship always yields rebellion. So if you are struggling in your relationship with your children, I can’t encourage you enough to work on it!
There are several types of parenting styles we could discuss that directly affect the relationship a parent has with their child. For example, the parenting style that only strives for compliance is a “dictatorship” style. This is the style that says, “It’s my way or the highway” or “I brought you into this world and I can take you out.” Now as a parent we have all felt this way at one time or another and maybe even uttered these words, but if this is our true and only parenting style it won’t foster a strong relationship with your child and will end in disaster.
There is a big difference between our children just being obedient and being obedient with the right heart attitude. We often time even see this in the workplace where one employee will do exactly what is required yet another will go the extra mile. Many times the difference is whether their heart is in it or not.
Where does this start for your children? It’s when your children see your relationship with the Lord and realize that you love Him and want to serve Him because of your love for Him. When your children see this, it becomes a living picture of how your children’s relationship should be to you.
Investing into your relationship with your child will pay huge dividends. By establishing a good relationship with your children and striking that delicate balance between parent and friend you will see your children flourish and your relationship continue for a lifetime.
You can download this resource as a PDF here.