Updated: Apr 14, 2021
“And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” - Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NLT)
Want your children to be obedient, kind, and respectful? Then train their heart. The goal is to get our kids to be good and virtuous, not because we threaten them with punishment, but because they know in their heart it’s the right thing to do.
Training your child’s heart means to instill a strong foundation of what is right and what is wrong, according to God’s Word. It’s about instilling virtues such as kindness, unselfishness, and self-control. Training the heart is also referred to as moral training or character development.
By training your children’s hearts, you’ll improve their overall behavior. Because once you've instilled a strong foundation of what is right and what is wrong, children will begin to do what is right on their own. For instance, once your children know in their heart that the right thing to do is to obey their parents, you won't have to spend as much time on outward compliance.
Training their hearts will also improve children’s intellectual, social, and psychological development. For instance, without moral conduct, intellectual development will be delayed. Why? Who do you suppose is going to learn more? A child with self-control who patiently listens to his teacher and does what is expected? Or the child who has no self-control, cannot sit still, and has never been taught to listen and obey? The same goes for social development. Children don't like the kids who are selfish and unkind. These unlikable kids become social outcasts. And for those parents who are concerned with their children's psychological development, children will be far healthier emotionally if they have virtues like thankfulness, unselfishness, and empathy.
However, realize this: Children are not born with a set of good morals or virtues. The Bible tells us that man by nature is sinful and that children are born with a natural inclination toward selfish, wrong behavior.
"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT)
“. . . the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Genesis 8:21 NASB)
“. . . the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, …” (Ecclesiastes 9:3 NASB)
A child's heart has a tendency to do wrong, . . .” (Proverbs 22:15 ISV)