Questions Reveal a Conscience
Accusations Harden a Will
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.
A home with pre-teen and adolescent children buzzes with the activity of school, church, sports, and family. The pressures of the day compound and overwhelm us when we get derailed from our daily tasks. So, it’s no surprise that parents frequently respond to their children’s problems or failures with a “fix it as fast so we can get on with life” response. “You did wrong. Here’s your punishment. Don’t do it again.”
The problem with this kind of fast paced parenting is twofold. First, it fails because it places the on external behavior rather than obeying and trusting God from the heart. Second, it fails because it does not equip the child to know why or how to change. While ensuring that a teen has clean clothes, healthy lunches, mowed lawns, and completed math homework are important parts of a parent’s job, they are not the parent’s primary job.
A parent’s primary responsibility is to help the child understand their need for the gospel of Christ. Before you can offer any truly helpful advice or correction you need to understand the problem. That’s not a high-speed operation. Don’t sacrifice the important on the altar of the urgent. Talk through your child’s problems and discipline issues with them. Begin by asking questions. Don’t offer evaluations or solutions yet. Just listen. You need to understand both the behavior and the heart behind it. Thoughtful, interested questions communicate genuine concern and tend to cause more conversation. Quick accusations and blunt evaluations usually stunt openness.
When your child reveals their heart, now you have the chance to really help them. Most problems that pre-teens and teens encounter are failures to follow core biblical truths. Peer pressure must be confronted with fearing God. Unkindness and conflict require Christians to love others, even our enemies. Problems with authority may require us to submit to God’s Lordship in faith. Out of control living reveals a failure to walk in the Spirit. The gospel fixes all of these behaviors by transforming us through grace, but kids won’t usually know why they need that grace or how to use it unless you take time to show them how the gospel applies to everyday life.
It takes time and wisdom to draw out the purposes of their heart. Don’t neglect your most important job by getting distracted by the less important details of life.