3 Ways to Shape the Heart Not the Behavior of Your Child

Today’s guest post is from Heather Riggleman. Heather is a wife and mother to three, one with special needs . You can find her chugging coffee and sharing her latest in the trenches of motherhood at her website or Facebook; She has more to share with her book, Mama Needs A Time-Out, now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com.

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159159014 (2)Raising spirited children is like having an army of toddlers in your home. These iron-willed babes will test every boundary and challenge any directive given. Please tell me you know what I’m talking about! Do you have a stubborn kiddo that you love so much, but she makes you want to pull your hair out?

I’m hoping y’all can relate to the limit testing sessions my youngest has been devising since she entered the terrible threes (Twos were a breeze mamas; it’s the threes we need to prepare for!)

The final straw was the stunt she pulled on Wednesday Night church. She threw a fit because she didn’t want to sit at the table and color.

So I warned her, “Tori, if you continue your tantrum, I will take you home right now and you can go to bed, this is your last chance!” Haven’t we all uttered these words before? So did your child call your bluff?

Tori replied with authority, “YES, take me home, I want to go to bed!”

What parent can win when the child has figured out the logic of the game? Frustrated, I left her there screaming, while other parents gave me the, ‘Oh-you’re-that-kind-of-parent’ look.

This past Sunday my pastor opened my eyes to what I had forgotten about parenting. Because these past few months had been so trying, I had lost site of what really matters as a mother. I had focused on remedying the behavior, not shaping their hearts.

If I wanted my children to trust and obey me, I need to be mold their hearts like God was molding mine. God doesn’t focus on our behaviors, He focuses on shaping our hearts.
In the midst of motherhood, appealing to our child’s heart causes him/her to want to do the right thing and shapes his/her heart for the future.

God molds, grips, and shapes our hearts through everyday trials. We can do the same with our children.  There are so many opportunities for heart-shaping.

Besides, who wants kids that only obey in our presence? I’d much rather be able to trust they can the right choices when I’m not around. That’s why tending to the heart is so important.

The next time your child is challenging your authority, ask God to give you the wisdom to handle the escapade through His perspective. Ask Him to help you appeal to her heart. Give in to the moment and think of creative ways to handle the situation and consequences. Here are some practical tools to add to your heart-shaping tool box:

H.A.L.T

Use the acronym H.A.L.T. before heading back in. Ask yourself if the reason why your child is being a challenge is because she is Hungry, Agitated, Lonely or Tired. Then move forward with what works for you and her. Take a time out with her, lay her down for a nap, grab a snack.

S.T.O.P.

If your child is being especially challenging, remember to STOP before going toe to toe with her. Step away from the situation, even if this means mentally taking a step back. Look for what Triggered the situation, then consider your Objective before jumping back in to parent. Is it best to apply discipline or allow grace? Pray, asking God for wisdom and patience.

Redeem It

Chances are you’ve blown your top more than once, the kids are imperfect and so are you. Redeem the day. Find something you all enjoy and ask your kids for a do over. For example, after an especially challenging morning, I blew my lid and I knew it. After going to God for a much needed mommy time out, I set up the living room chairs in rows, then added my kids’ favorite toys like Handy Manny and Dora. Next came the torn pieces of construction paper. I called my children out of their rooms, informing them the flight to Newcastle, Wyoming is now taking passengers.  Smiles reappears and we had fun again!

God will provide the insight you need as a parent to seize the opportunity to shape your child’s heart, not just the behavior.

What about you?  What strategies have you found helpful to shape the heart and not the behavior? 

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5 Responses to 3 Ways to Shape the Heart Not the Behavior of Your Child

  1. robbi says:

    Yeah Heather!! Its awesome to see ur post here!! And I LOVED it!! Thanks.

  2. Star says:

    Wow, thank you for this post. I am struggling with my 3 year old right now and have thrown up my hands in defeat too many times. I hope I can remember these tips next time we come to head. God bless!

  3. Julie says:

    Thank you, Heather! I needed this advice for my strong-willed (almost) 3 year old….well actually I needed it more for me! It is now on my fridge so I can be reminded of it daily.

  4. Erin says:

    This reminds me of another post I read once where I learned to tell myself “I’m not giving in, I’m giving grace.” With my three boys who are fiercly independent and willful, I find myself picking battles and doing all I can to teach them to be godly men in spite of having to learn from an imperfect mom.

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