To be an effective Christian parent, you really need to understand your children’s hearts. You need to know their priorities, what they love and what gets them excited about life. Those insights can help better guide you as you dedicate your kids to God. Unfortunately, no matter how well you know your kids, you can ultimately only see the parts of their hearts they allow you to see.
If your child is quiet, very private or going through a tough time, those glimpses of his or her heart can be hard to find. There are some fun things you can do though, that will give you sneak peeks into the hearts of even the quietest child. Some of these you may already be doing with your kids, but didn’t realize the important information the results of those activities was giving you about their hearts.
Here are a few of my favorites and how to start interpreting them.
- Bulletin Boards: Give each of your kids a small cork bulletin board they can put in their bedroom and plenty of push pins. Watch what they choose to display – or don’t display. Often the items they choose show what is important to them and also often who is important to them. If something doesn’t make sense to you say something like, “That’s a really interesting “whatever” you tacked up! What’s it from (or other appropriate question)?” Remember, you aren’t grilling them – merely showing interest and giving them an opportunity to share their hearts. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t push.
- Books: Take your kids to the library or give them the money to buy a book at the bookstore. You may have to do this more than once to see trends. Often the books kids choose will reflect an interest or merely that they like to laugh or be scared. Teens will often choose books where characters are experiencing something with which they are currently struggling. It’s not foolproof, so ask. Or ask your child or teen to suggest a book they enjoyed so you can read it – and then read it. This will give you an opportunity to talk about specifics of the book and give your kids opportunities to share their thoughts on those topics.
- Music: Get your kids to put some of their favorite tunes on your phone or connect their devices with music to the car stereo system. Sometimes the songs they choose will reflect their moods more than any belief system. Young children are especially naive about lyrics or have the same issue I have always had with making up my own lyrics (which I thought were actually THE lyrics!). If they are listening to a lot of sad, mournful music though, look for other signs of sadness or depression.
- Mirror Scriptures: It’s great to surround your kids with scriptures anyway. Grab some index cards and a pen. Ask them for some of their favorite verses or for a topic you could find scriptures on to display and encourage them. Their answers may reflect current concerns in their lives.
- Service Projects: Have your kids plan your next family service project or make suggestions for places your family could donate money. This can give you a great insight into the people and issues that touch their hearts. At times, it may also give you glimpses into their gifts and passions which they can use to serve God.
- Decorative Art Work: We had a deal in our house that our daughter was allowed three major room decorations – at ages 5, 10 and 14 or 15. She couldn’t change the furniture, but could change the color of her room, bedding and artwork. Those are great years for developmental changes. The artwork they choose can often give you a lot of insight – even if it’s merely your child is a happy teen aged young woman, who loves the color yellow! (Not a bad thing to discover.)
- Personal Art Work: Keep inexpensive paper, markers, paints and other items in your home where your kids can easily access them. Encourage them to do original art work of their choice. My art teacher in college taught us that many of the official “interpretations” of a child’s art can be a bit misleading (Did he make the entire drawing black because he was upset or because that was the only color crayon he could find?). Asking them to tell you about the finished work of art though can often give you a more accurate peek at what is going on in their hearts and minds.
- Time and Money: Hopefully your kids receive an allowance or have some way they can earn money. The way they spend their free time and personal money can give you great incite into their hearts. It can also point to potential stumbling blocks to their faith – like spending hours every day playing online games. Be aware that if your kids only have access to money after requesting it from you for a specific purpose or if every minute of their day is scheduled, the conclusions you draw may not be entirely accurate.
Taking the time to learn about your kids’ hearts can make you much more effective in your efforts to dedicate them to God. Plus. it’s a great way to strengthen your relationship as you get to know each other in deeper more meaningful ways than, “Go brush your teeth!” It’s definitely worth your time and effort.