I’ve always been moved by the truth we often miss in the midst of evangelism amongst the poor.
Empty stomachs have no ears.
Hungry bellies can’t focus on our lessons about God’s provision like the moment we give them a warm roll to chew on. It’s a hard balance for the church today. Thankfully, by His mercy, we learned that gospel truth plants more deeply in the warm soil of love in action.
We nourish their physical hunger and the spiritual antenna goes up. Love can soften the hardest heart.
It’s the same, I’m learning, with the children we raise up.
My son doesn’t really hear my frustrated words about treating his sister with kindness after I made him feel less important than the book I was reading twenty minutes earlier.
My daughter will nod to please because she wants to be liked but her heart will wonder where my priorities are when I say “in a minute” one more time to her request for playing with her.
I pray they are passionate and courageous and sold out for God. I think most days of how and in what ways I will try to teach them the better ways of life. But the truth here in the home where world changers are meant to be nurtured, is that needy hearts have no ears.
Children need to feel loved first.
When any relationship is based solely on duty, behaviors may adapt short term while the heart only hardens or breaks.
Forced obedience is one route, but it won’t follow them out the door. Or bring them back. Souls return to grace over law every time.
If I want my influence to go deep and long, it must be rooted in something other than my authority.
Authority is a gift to be stewarded well. All Moms know it’s a daily struggle to balance law and grace. Lately, in our home, grace has just been needed much more.
I don’t want perfect behavior; even I can’t pull that off. I’m praying for molded hearts. Here are five ways I’m working to earn the ears and mold the hearts of my children:
My promises are “Yes”
All of God’s promises are yes in Christ. As a bearer of His goodness, I want to keep my promises. We are careful in our home about using the word, and when we do, we consider it important to follow through. We will all fall short of God’s faithfulness, but we can then point our children to the One who keeps every promise. When I forget, I try to apologize quickly and tell my kids I need their grace. When I do keep my word, I build credibility with my kids. So when the day comes that they have hard questions, they come to me as trustworthy. Words only go so far when the actions don’t match. How can I focus mostly on their actions but ask them to focus on my word alone? I’m paying attention to see that my actions match my words.
We don’t need to wait for the hard teen years or the various school challenges to arise for our prayers to truly matter. Only parents know the most specific emotional, physical and spiritual needs of our families. Every single need can be targeted in prayer with scripture. We can even pray for their hearts to be receptive before we teach them a principle we value. For the things you see in your children, have you tried prayer as a first approach? It is powerful and provides a peace in our home and heart as Moms. One important note: let them hear you praying. The seeds may not be visible, but the fruit will follow.
If quick obedience is requested, will our children have ever seen us respond as quickly to them? How long do they wait on us to give them our full attention? What priority do they hold in our day? How long do we really have to capture their hearts? I’m working on dropping what I’m doing the moment they ask me to hold them or play for five minutes. We can’t always do this. What if we responded quickly when we can? It trickles over to their quick obedience. Children need to know they are a priority to us. They need to see it, feel it, experience it first hand.
For all the days of discipline, praise can go a long way. Kids are as hungry for praise as we are. Some are just plain starving for it. When my days are heavy with “No’s” (and that’s often in the younger years) – the house can start to feel heavy with frustration. How often are we looking for opportunities to encourage with our words? Positive affirmations often work much better than constant correction. I’ve found the more I praise, the more often my kids want to obey. We talk about praise in our home. Praising God and sharing His love with others. We invite the kids to think about how they can encourage others. We can’t make their choices for them, but we can lead their hearts. We start by praising them.
There is just nothing like the breaking of laughter in the midst of stress. It is absolutely healing. For grief, frustration….and even anger. For our kids, it just helps break the ice. Tickling is quite common here. When awkward comes in, the tickle monster comes out. Parents need laughter too. Sometimes the family just needs to remember that we are on the same team. That not every issue is worth fighting over. That we can even laugh at ourselves. When children struggle to communicate, they understand touch – whether it’s through tickling hands or loving hugs. It’s about a return to joy and the bigger perspective. Perhaps the issue is not as important as us loving each other in the moment.
We live with needy hearts. Little or all grown up, all anyone needs to know is that they are loved. It’s a daily goal to capture those little hearts with grace so they will desire the law of the Lord. Perhaps, along the way, we will learn more about grace ourselves.