Remember the command in Matthew 5:41? You know – the one when if someone asks you for one piece of clothing or to walk a mile, you give them twice what they asked from you? I think if I ever heard any sermons on it, they revolved around helping others or being nice to our enemies. How often though do we teach our children to actually go the extra mile in everything they are asked to do?
Unfortunately, it has become politically incorrect and “uncool” to do your best. Anyone expecting the best from us is judgmental, demanding, and even divisive. If we go the extra mile and give more than is asked from us – whether it is in church, service, work or school – we can be labeled “teacher’s pet” or much uglier things. Yet, I don’t find Jesus putting any limitations on his commands in those surrounding verses. Clearly, God expects us and our children to go that “extra mile”.
So how can you encourage your children to do their best without turning them into anxious perfectionists or rebellious slackers in the process? I think we can train our children to go the extra mile while also teaching them how to set healthy boundaries. There are probably a lot of ways to do it, but here are a few we tried:
If you have ever broken something that was precious to you, you know how horrible a mistake can make you feel. On the other hand, Satan can make sins feel fun and delay consequences until we are in so deep it feels impossible to get out of the mess our sins have created. If our children are going to be faithful Christians, it is so vitally important they understand the difference between sins and mistakes.
So what do our kids need to understand about sin and mistakes?
I am a card carrying conflict avoider. Don’t get me wrong – I can stand up for myself with the best of them. Conflict just exhausts me though and I try to avoid it until I just can’t stand it any more.
If you find yourself in constant conflict with one of your children, it can wear you out. You may even find yourself almost avoiding that child or having any sort of meaningful conversations just to avoid the inevitable disagreements.
One of the things I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he saw past the actions of people and understood what was in their hearts. Their actions might have been sinful, but if they had a tender heart towards God, He forgave them. If their actions appeared godly, but their hearts were full of ugliness, Jesus would rebuke them.
We will never totally know the hearts of anyone other than our own. In Fighting for Your Child’s Heart, I gave you several ways to attempt to assess the heart of your child. Whether or not you feel you know your child’s heart, there are specific characteristics you want to do everything possible to firmly plant in the heart of your child. I am sure if you asked twenty Christians, you would get twenty slightly different lists, but here are the ones we worked very hard to grow in the heart of our daughter:
Much has been written and discussed about when to intervene on behalf of your children and how much a parent should be involved. The truth is, every situation is a little different and it is difficult to make blanket statements about those sorts of things. There is one time though, every parent should intervene quickly and that is in the battle for your child’s heart.
As parents, we often become so focused on our child’s behavior we don’t even really consider how their hearts are developing. We just assume if they are obedient, they have obedient and humble hearts. We just know if they say “Yes, Sir” their hearts are respectful and considerate. Yet, as I have worked with hundreds of children and teens over the years, I have seen many obedient, polite children who had some of the most disrespectful, prideful hearts I have ever seen.