Part two of an article on discerning Your Child’s Needs and Responding Biblically. You can read part one here.
We’re discussing “reading” your children—understanding and interpreting their behavior and needs in the light of biblical wisdom. In our last article we said it begins with understanding God’s Word and asking God for wisdom. Then praying with your children allows the Holy Spirit to soften the heart and connect you on a more spiritual level. From there it’s a matter of obeying God’s promptings regarding your children’s needs and responding to His leading. The fifth point was on working together with your spouse and sharing your insights. Let’s move on…
6. Spend Quantity Time with Your Children—Discernment takes study, and study takes time. The more time you spend with your children, the better you will understand their ups and downs, their growth, and their behavior. Time with them will help you be able to sort through what is a normal part of their personality, what is a spiritual struggle, and what is the expression of a heart need. This time should be connected time when you are communicating—not TV or movie time, and not time shared with other friends. Try to spend one on one time with each child each week. You may miss some weeks, but if every week is your goal, you stand a good chance of staying on course.
7. Choose to Look Beyond the Surface—Don’t focus merely on behavior. Ask where the behavior is coming from. Consider the reasoning, the logic, and the emotions that produce the decisions and behavior of your child. This is discernment in action—seeing beneath the surface. For instance, when your child is misbehaving, obviously it’s a sin problem, but ask the Lord, “What’s the trigger?”
8. Respond with Biblical Principles—Target the heart and pursue the transformation of the heart. Teach and transfer biblical principles and constantly be sensitive to whether the heart is open to those principles or whether there is merely outward conformity. Always point them to the highest authority—the Heavenly Father. If you’re not sure what to say or how to say it, then get help and seek advice. At all costs, point your child to God’s truth as the answer for every life problem. Always show them how your discipline connects to God and His ultimate authority in life.
9. Respond with Appropriate Authority—A variety of behaviors require a variety of responses. As parents, we can’t answer everything with a heavy hammer. Strong discipline should be but one of many tools in your parental toolbox. It’s doesn’t make sense to kill a mosquito with an atomic bomb, but many parents use the atomic bomb for everything. That’s unwise. Ask the Lord to guide your responses and to make them appropriate to the need. Sometimes our children need reproof, other times rebuke, and other times exhortation. (2 Timothy 4:2, “…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”)
10. Respond with Compassion—No matter how firmly you deal with a situation, always rest your parenting on the firm foundation of compassion. Begin and end with compassionate nurture, even if firmness is needed in between. If your child will hug you, pray with you, or respond to you, then the heart is open. If not, then the heart is closed. Whatever you do, don’t rest until your child’s heart is open to you.
Other than the Holy Spirit, my best teacher on becoming an insightful parent has been my wife. Dana is the most discerning parent I know. God has given her a tremendous sense of our children’s needs and the direction of their hearts. Thousands of times over the years, she has been my best parenting counselor. She has seen needs that I was blind to. She has suggested a course of action that proved effective. It has been our constant commitment to stay united as a parenting team.
We’re still in the middle of our parenting journey, and we’re loving every moment of it. One thing is for sure—every child is uniquely special by God’s design. That uniqueness should compel us to constantly rely upon the leading of the Holy Spirit in the moment by moment details of parenting.
Give your best effort to becoming an insightful parent, by God’s grace and power. Constantly ask Him for wisdom and guidance. He will answer, and your kids will thank you one day! I love parenting! What life work could we possibly do of any greater value?