The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
Your primary parenting target is always your child’s heart if you have any hope of helping him live well in God’s world. Though God initiates all change through the instrumentation of His grace, you must cooperate with the Lord in parenting your children. You can do this if you give your kids fewer rules and more attitudes.
When your child is older, he will pick and choose the behaviors that will be part of his life. Those practices will come from his heart—the person he is at the core of his being. So while he is under your roof, you want to help him mature in the right heart attitudes, the things that will give shape to his future behaviors. Four of those heart attitudes are affection, honor, gentleness, and gratitude. Let me illustrate them for you.
Galatians 5:22-23 provides you with more heart attitudes that you can use in your parenting. The fundamental idea is that if your child is learning the “rules that Christians obey” but is not maturing from the heart in things like affection for Jesus, respect for others, a gentleness within relationships, and spontaneous gratitude, you need to rethink how you’re parenting your child.
A word of caution is that you want to make sure your training is not dedicated to “Bible instruction times” only. Though teaching is good, modeling is better. You can teach your child each morning at 7 AM—or whatever time best fits your schedule—but your most effective training are those “pneumatic moments” throughout your day as you “keep in step with the Spirit of God,” responding to what He is permitting into your life. Spontaneous life moments are the times that reveal your authentic heart.
Rules can be good because you can predetermine your responses, but life is not that neat, controlled, or scripted. It would be best to be pneumatic (Spirit-led) because that is how life comes at you. You can be Spirit-led if He has previously shaped your heart. This kind of attitude is what you’re looking for in yourself, and it is what you want to model before your child.
The first thing to do is examine your last disappointment, especially a relational one. How did you respond? What did your disappointment reveal about your heart? How do you need to change?
Do not overlook this step. If your heart is not trained and managed by God, you will not be an effective teacher to your child. You must identify your sinful heart attitudes and change them. As you do this, you will position yourself to provide your child with those better attitudes.