Discerning Your Child’s Needs and Responding Biblically
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Do you understand your children? Do you know how to interpret their behavior? Do you see and understand early warning signs of future problem? Do you connect their outward behavior with the condition and direction of their heart? In this article I want to challenge you to becoming a discerning parent and give some practical steps on “how.”
In Hebrews 5:12-13 we read a challenge to believers to be skillful in the Word and discernment, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
The word discern speaks of judicial estimation—it’s wisdom, insight, and accurate perspective. This ability is something we should desire in every area of life, but especially with nurturing our children. Too many parents only care if their kids are “staying out of trouble.” But discerning parents see beneath the surface and seek to understand what’s going on in the heart. Why?
The heart is where Biblical values are formed—this is the only way to know if their faith is representative of an authentic relationships with God or merely an outward, temporary show.
The heart is where questions are contemplated—every child has questions, and when parents are out of touch, Satan is good at exploiting these questions and providing false answers. Parents who get into the heart, unearth those questions so they can provide biblical answers. (John 8:23, “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”)
The heart is where real relationships are cultivated—like the root system of a tree or healthy plant, it’s beneath the surface, face to face, eye to eye, and heart to heart, that a strong relationship and authentic closeness is built.
The heart is where spiritual battle is fought—the Devil is going after our kids hearts. He wants their emotions, their beliefs, and their attitudes. If we’re going to with the spiritual battle, it must be fought for the heart.
A discerning parent is constantly on a sacred pursuit of their child’s heart. Let’s examine ten keys to developing parental discernment with our children:
1. Understand God’s Word—The primary way that any of us grow in discernment is the Word of God. The principles of God’s Word provide a foundation for all parental decision making. If you will become a discerning parent, you must become a student of God’s Word and of good parenting books that expound God’s Word.
2. Ask for God’s Wisdom—This is one of God’s great promises given to us in James 1—that He will give wisdom to anyone who will ask in faith. Wisdom is the ability to see the real needs and know how to respond. It is the ability to see your child as God sees and to respond as He would.
3. Pray with and for Your Children—Nothing will help you understand where the heart is like prayer. Make it your priority to pray with them each night before bed. Sense their heart toward you, toward the Lord, and toward the challenges of life. So few parents actually do this, but it’s so powerful and so simple! This brief time of prayer will accomplish spiritually what weeks and weeks of human effort could never accomplish.
4. Accept and Obey the Holy Spirit’s Promptings—God gives every Christian parent an internal warning system. We can choose to accept or deny those warnings. They are easily reasoned away or ignored, but they are a most vital aspect of parenting. The times I have neglected these warnings, I have eventually come to regret it. The times I have heeded them, I have always discovered something that needed parental intervention. Wise parents accept God’s internal promptings, even if they don’t fully understand them or can’t explain them. You don’t need to explain what God is putting on your heart. You just need to heed and obey it.
5. Be a Team Player with Your Spouse—Think and talk about your children together with your spouse. Pray for them together. When talking together, God will give you collective insight and the wisdom to create a biblical approach to dealing with the situations your children face. In these talks, Dad and Mom can mutually benefit from each other’s perspective. When parents are a team, they heed each other’s cautions, listen to each others insight, and respond with unified hearts. This is a great gift to any child!
Click here for part two of this article, as we examine five more tips for developing parental discernment.