Training Your Children’s Hearts

By Joey and Carla Link
May 5, 2021

Your kids are squabbling at the breakfast table. Again. With a deep sigh you go in to intervene, not really caring who started it as they are all guilty. You long for a day that starts in peace and quiet. Is it really too hard for your kids to sit there and eat their cereal without going into battle with each other? Do you need to catch up on the moral character training of your children? If so, we want to give you a boost of encouragement to get back on track before more time gets away from you. First, keep your training ‘to-do’ list narrowed down to working on one thing at a time. I (Carla) used to make a list of four things I wanted to work on with each of our children. Joey and I would have one date a month we called our “Kid-Date”. We discussed the things on my list and Joey added things he had noticed need our attention too. Then we pared it down to four things for each child. We would actively work on the first one or two items and give reminders for the third. The fourth was just there as a reminder to us we would get around to it eventually! I am often asked “What do you do about the other things when you are working on one thing at a time?” Seeing that 4th item on the list was a great reminder to us we would get to it, and we always did when we saw victory in the things that were listed in #1-3. As the others were taken off the list because they weren’t a problem anymore, #4 kept moving up with others added below it. Do you have a plan to train your children? Do you have a firm idea in your mind of what “training” looks like? When we say you need to work on something with your kids, “Training” them is what we mean. There are three steps to training:1.   Sharingknowledge – Your kids need to know why this is important to you and God and why it needs to be important to them. Kids don’t listen to lectures. Come up with creative ways (I know, this takes time!) to teach them the moral character traits that will please God and others too.
2.   Showing your kids how it works – Knowledge alone will not motivate children to work on a character trait. 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 one way 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.   Giving them motivation to do their best. How can you motivate your kids to do the right thing? Motivation has two sides. The first side of motivating your kids to do their best ispraise and encouragement. When your child is working on improving in a certain area, make sure you praise him/her for it. If he is struggling to get himself to do the right thing, encourage him by letting him know in a positive way you think he can do it. Praise and encouragement go a long way to motivating a child to right behavior.The 2nd side of motivating your kids to do their best is consequencesBefore 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. Knowledge, practical application and praise and encouragement or consequences are the three steps to effectively training your children, and all three are required to do the job successfully. It is a process, not a one-time event. Step back and evaluate the level of obedience each one of your children has.

  • If they don’t come to you when you call their name 75% of the time or better, then put that at the top of your list.
  • For review: The 4 levels of obedience training are coming to you when you call their name immediately, they say “Yes Mom/Dad” as they are coming and look you in the eye when they get to you, they don’t argue with you or whine and complain  as they come.

If they are doing well in all 4 of these areas, sit down with your spouse and come up with a list of 3-4 things for each of your children that need work and think about what the root character trait is behind them. Is it a lack of patience, kindness, self-control or thinking of others first? Put them in order of most urgent and decide how you will work on it.If they aren’t doing well in any of the 4 levels of obedience training, come up with a plan for how you can get them to step it up in the areas they need to improve. When thinking in terms of character traits, don’t put down that 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 doing their 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 and get to work! “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23 Note: We learned about the 4 aspects of obedience training in the parenting resource Growing Kids God’s Way.