Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to Change a Child's Heart

It has been a very difficult three months with Little Man.  Completely absorbed in himself, he battles lies, lacks self-control, and struggles with defiance.  He wants what he wants and no consequence is going to cause him to think twice.

Every time Little Man bows up, my demeanor falls as I know it will be yet another battle that I have to win.  And quite frankly, I am tired of having to battle.

A friend told me about a Christian counselor who works with troubled teens at a long-term residential program.  He counsels boys with disorders like ADHD and who have chosen very destructive lifestyles.  Praying he could shed some light on our situation, I called to schedule a session. 

The appointment finally came and I found myself sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of Little Man.  The counselor shared some good ideas, but I left discouraged.  I wanted an ABC answer to produce an XYZ result. I longed for a magic solution to turn Little Man into a compliant, fun, mature eight-year-old. This was not what I received.

Instead I received the following tips.  See if you would have been discouraged too.

1.   Pray for Conviction

An idea from a radio program I heard, I pray that our children will always get caught in their sin.  I never want our children to "get away" with stealing or lying.  In explaining this, the counselor told me to change my prayer from my children getting caught to my children being convicted of their sin.

2.  Children Need Purpose

One of my fears with Little Man is his obsession over random things.  Rocks, computer games, pencil sharpeners.  Obsessions that can quickly turn into addictions.  I discussed this common ADHD character trait with the counselor.  He told me that youth who become addicted to drugs, pornography, gambling and alcohol are lacking purpose.  Children who understand their purpose in life don't go looking for it. 

3.  The Holy Spirit will Guide You

There are times in parenting that I have absolutely no idea how to handle the situation.  Not even an inkling. Many times the situation centers around lying.  I know that someone is lying to me but I can't figure out the exact truth.   In situations like this, the counselor told me, "That is when you have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you."

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4.  Don't Give Up

In a nutshell, parenting is loving the child and logically disciplining them.  But what do you do when consistency and firm boundaries aren't working?  The counselor quoted to me Galatians 6:9.

5.  You Can't Fix the Issue Until You Fix the Heart 

Since Little Man was very young I have been unable to keep things high enough, locked securely enough, and out of his reach.  If he wants it, he will find a way to get it.  Upon describing this, the counselor explained that you have to fix the heart issue before you can see the behavior improve.

How to Change a Child's Heart

Not receiving from the counselor the magic ABC/XYZ equation to fix Little Man's behavior issues left me discouraged.  But what I failed to realize is that I don't need ideas to change his behavior.  That is temporal.  I need Biblical wisdom to change his heart.  And I praise God that He sent me to a wise counselor who realized this.

Let's look at those points one more time...

1.  Getting caught changes the behavior of children.  Being convicted of sin in their life changes the heart.  

2.  Children who understand their purpose in life don't go looking for it. They know who they are in Christ.

3.  If we daily spend time in the Word and in prayer, the Holy Spirit will guide us to know exactly what our children need.  

4.  We can't lose heart in wise, Biblical parenting.

5.  It all comes down to shepherding a child's heart.

Further resources:

Basic Discipline and Setting Boundaries - Love and Logic
  Ideas for Establishing a Child's Attitude, Behavior, and Character - Have a New Kid By Friday

  The best book that I have read to understand ADHD - Taking Charge of ADHD
This post may contain affiliate links. Without any cost to you, when clicking on these links you are helping to support the further development of this blog and the ABCJLM website.  Images by Pixaby


  1. Thank you so much for your confirming and encouraging post. I have a son who is 9 and sounds very similar to what you have described. I am too realizing that prayer is going to be the biggest way we impact out child's lives.

  2. Thank you very much for this article. While I subscribed for information for my granddaughter who is one. This article hits home for my prodigal sons who are 24, 22 and 20. I will use the information to change how I pray for my adult sons . Thank you again.

    1. Oh Kerlita. I am so sorry. Praying wisdom and grace during this time.

  3. Thank you for the article! I have five children, ages 17, 9, 7, 5, and 3. I definitely need to improve my Biblical wisdom and make my prayers intentional! I need to spend more time praying and striving to see my children as Jesus would see them and improving my behavior with them. Thank you so much Heidi for all you do! God bless you and keep you and your family.

  4. Thank you for this post! I'm really struggling with my 3 yr old. I feel that we are consistent with her and yet she continues to fight us and be disobedient. I get very weary when everything seems to turn into a battle. I appreciated the verse you shared, I do often feel like giving up because no profess is being made. It's also encouraging to know I'm not alone and other parents feel the struggle as well! Thanks again!!

  5. Thank you. I needed new direction for my teen. I am beginning to get frustrated/angry and apathetic to the antics/repeated crazy choices. I have been convicted several times in the last few weeks that I need to pray more consistently, but I wasn't sure how. This is a good place to start.

  6. Yes...I would have left feeling discouraged. I know I can't get a guarantee but goodness give me some tools!!! Help me teach my child some tools!! Something. I get to a point where it is pure desperation that I have come to you to help me...so I would of appreciated some help. This is a book that I am re reading. "Easy To Love, Difficult To Discipline" by Becky A. Bailey I would love to start a discussion group to see how to apply this.
    Becky Bailey gives you tools to teach you to be assertive and loving and kind but still teaching you how to establish boundaries. I'm at the beginning of the book but she is teaching me about my parenting style or lack of. I think you are wonderful.... check out the book in all your free time! (*^)!

    1. Thank you for the suggestion, Diana. That title is perfect. :)

      I encourage you to also check out Love and Logic for Early Childhood. This is the bases of discipline that we do and I am very thankful to hear that it is what our children need. http://amzn.to/2cHsewO (affiliate)


The Our Out-of-Sync Life blog focuses on encouraging women to deepen their spiritual life, simplify daily tasks, and impress Jesus on the children around them.