A mother called our local radio station. She wanted to know whether or not she should punish her child for a specific incident. It seems she had told her child to do several chores in their yard. The mom had promised she would give her daughter $10 upon completion. A day later her child asked for the money, saying she had completed the list. Later the mom discovered her daughter had paid her sister half of the money to do all of the work for her.
What would you tell this mom the root issue was? The radio hosts waffled between congratulating the child for her shrewdness to correcting her for taking advantage of her sister. All of them missed the more serious problem. The child was lying, either by omission or directly. She was attempting to deceive her mother and perhaps her sister.
As a Christian parent, I would be even more concerned about the possible heart issues the incident revealed. Does she care too much about money? Is she willing to take advantage of others to get what she wants? Is she tempted to steal if she wants something badly enough? Is she greedy? Is she lazy?
Often parents correct the wrong behaviors and attitudes because they act too quickly. While I question the wisdom of getting parenting advice from radio hosts, the mother was at least taking some time to consider what was the wisest course of action. It’s okay to tell your kids you are upset about something that happened, but that you need a moment to ponder the best course of action.
When you are taking those moments to reflect, don’t just focus on the most obvious problem. Are there deeper, perhaps more concerning behaviors that also occurred during the incident? What possible heart problems were revealed? If this incident goes unaddressed and uncorrected, what more serious things could happen later?
One of the things that often perplexed people about Jesus was that he focused on the hearts of people even more than their behaviors. He corrected people for their sinful choices, but Jesus also realized you can behave appropriately and still have an extremely ungodly heart.
Your parenting should reflect the same principles. You have the disadvantage of not being able to fully understand the hearts of your kids, but you can make some educated guesses if you take the time to analyze their behaviors, words and attitudes. So, the next time your kids misbehave, take a few minutes to really analyze what happened. Then deal with those less obvious character issues and heart problems. It will help your child more.