Training Your Kids’ Hearts

By Joey and Carla Link
January 26, 2022

Your kids are not always going to be kind to each other. They are not always going to be patient and let one of their siblings go first. One kid will do his/her chores while singing at the top of his lungs while one of your other kids whines and complains the entire time he is doing his chores. Your teen is mad at her preteen sister because she told her friend something the teen had asked her to keep private. 

Parenting is work and often hard work. When it comes to parenting the first thing we have talked about many times is getting a high level of obedience from them. Do you call your child’s name and expect the response of “Yes Mommy”? Do they come to you? Do they do what you tell them to do? If not, it is time to step up your obedience training. In our minds and experience this is a non-negotiable for a successful life.

If your obedience training is going well, working on training your kids’ hearts is up next. What do we mean by training their hearts? You are preparing their heart to belong to God (when they choose to follow Him for life) and to know how to serve Him. 

Looking back at the 1st paragraph of this blog, the root of the issues mentioned is a lack of kindness, patience, cheerfulness and loyalty. Root issues are moral character values listed in the Bible. So, how do you train your child’s heart?

First, keep your training “to-do” list narrowed down to working on one thing at a time. We cannot say this enough. I would make a list of four things I wanted to work on with each of my children. We would actively work on the first one and give reminders for the next one. The next two I didn’t do anything about unless I had to, there were on my list as a reminder to me we would get around to it eventually! And we always did. 

Do you have a plan to train your children? Do you have a firm idea in your mind of what training looks like?

There are 3 Steps when Training Children:1.You have to share knowledge – Your kids need to know why this character trait is important to you and God and why it needs to be important to them. Come up with creative ways to teach them the moral character traits that Godly hearts need. 

I (Carla) scheduled an hour each week to meet with each of my girls to work on training their hearts. The girls and I put together a notebook for each of them. I used a binder and had a section for Character Grades sheetsBible Story Activities and for Memory Verses. 2 weeks a month I picked Bible stories that talked about the positive side of the character trait, like being honest and the other 2 weeks about the negative side, which in this case would be lying.

Each week I asked them to give me examples of how they had been working on it and examples of when they didn’t. Then I shared examples both positive and negative that I had noticed. I asked them to grade themselves on how well they were honest that week when they wanted to lie. I kept copies of their grade sheets on my computer and graded them too. If our grades were really different, I would ask them why they thought I didn’t come up with the same grade they did. They had to come up with one way they were going to work on that character quality that week and I praised them when I saw them doing it. Want to know more? It is all explained in the Mom’s Notes presentationUsing the Bible in the Instruction and Training of Your Children. Both my girls are adults now and have kept these binders. 

2.Knowledge alone will not motivate children to work on a character trait. They need the practical application that goes with the knowledge. In other words, they need to know how to do what you are teaching them. You tell your 3-yr old to be kind to her brother. Do you think she really knows what “be kind” looks like? Instead, ask her to tell you how she could show kindness to her brother. These types of questions will show you if your kids know what you mean when you say a certain word or phrase. 

3.Children will need motivation to follow through with putting what you are teaching them into practice. Another word for “motivation” is consequences. Before you start working on a character trait with your child, have in mind what appropriate consequences can be applied when necessary that are agreeable to both you and your spouse. 

Positive forms of motivation are praise and encouragement. When you encourage your kids you are telling them you know they can do it. Praise them when they do it the right way.

Knowledge, practical application and consequences are the three steps to effectively training your children, and all three are required to do the job successfully. Get together with your spouse and evaluate the level of obedience each one of your children has. If it is not better than 75%, then put that at the top of your list.

  • Sit down with your spouse and come up with a list of three things for each of your children that need work.
  • Think in terms of character traits. Don’t put down you want to teach them to remember to do their chores. Put down you want to teach them responsibility instead. That is thinking in terms of character traits. Now you might use following through with chores as the tool to accomplish this, and that’s okay.
  • Take your spouse on a kid date (because you are going to talk about the kids) and come up with goals and a plan of action and get to work!

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”Proverbs 22:6