Becoming an Insightful Parent

Becoming an Insightful Parent
By Cary Schmidt (published by permission)
Becoming an Insightful ParentDiscerning Your Child’s Needs and Responding Biblically

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Do you understand your children? Do you know how to interpret their behavior? Do you understand warning signs and know how to respond? Do you connect their outward behavior with the condition of their heart?

 In Hebrews 5:12-13 we read a challenge to believers to be skillful in the Word and discerning, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

The word discerning speaks of judicial estimation—the wisdom and ability to see what’s really doing on in a circumstance. This ability is something we should all desire in every area of life, but especially with nurturing of our own children. Frankly, the primary thing many parents care about is if their kids are “staying out of trouble.” But discerning parents desire to get beneath the surface and to understand what’s going on in they heart. Why?

The heart is where Biblical values are formed—only when we understand their heart can we understand where they stand with God, and if their faith is authentic or merely an outward, temporary show.

The heart is where questions are contemplated—every child has questions, and Satan is good at exploiting these questions and providing false answers. Parents who get into the heart, unearth those questions so they can provide biblical answers.

The heart is where real relationships are cultivated—like the root system of a tree or healthy plant, it’s beneath the surface, face to face, eye to eye, and heart to heart, that a strong relationship and authentic closeness is built.

The heart is where spiritual battle is fought—the Devil is going after our kids hearts. He wants their emotions, their beliefs, and their attitudes. If we’re going to with the spiritual battle, it must be fought for the heart.

A discerning parent is constantly on a sacred pursuit of their child’s heart. Let’s examine ten keys to developing a discerning spirit with our children:

1. Understand God’s Word - the primary way that any of us grow in discernment is the Word of God. The principles of God’s Word provide a foundation of understanding. If you will become a discerning parent, you must become a student of God’s Word and of good parenting books that expound God’s Word.

2. Ask for God’s Wisdom - This is one of God’s great promises to us in James 1—that He will give wisdom to anyone who will ask in faith. Wisdom is the ability to see the real needs and know how to respond. It is the ability to see your child as God sees and to respond as He would have you to respond. Wisdom will help you know when they need to be sent to their room, taken out to lunch, or put to bed.

3. Pray with and for Your Children - nothing will help you understand where the heart is like prayer with someone. Make it a priority to pray with them each night before bed. Sense their heart toward you, toward the Lord, and toward the challenges of life through their response—physically, in prayer. So few parents actually do this, but it’s so powerful and so simple! This brief time of prayer will accomplish spiritually what weeks and weeks of human effort could never accomplish.

4. Accept and Obey God Given Promptings - God gives every parent an internal warning system. We can either choose to accept or deny those warnings. These promptings from the Holy Spirit are easily reasoned away or ignored, but they are a most vital aspect of parenting. The times I have neglected these warnings, I have eventually come to regret it. The times I have heeded them, I have always discovered something that needed parental intervention. Wise parents accept God’s internal promptings, even if they don’t fully understand them or can’t explain them. You don’t need to explain what God is putting on your heart. You just need to heed and obey it.

5. Be a Team Player with Your Spouse - think and talk about your children together with your spouse. Pray for them together. When talking together, God will give you collective thought and wisdom to create a biblical approach to dealing with the situations your children face. In these talks, Dad and Mom can mutually benefit from each other’s insight. When parents are a team, they heed each other’s cautions, listen to each others perspectives, and respond with unified hearts. This is a great gift to any child!

6. Spend Quantity Time with Your Children - Discernment takes study, and study takes time. The more time you spend with your children, the better you will understand their ups and downs, their growth, and their behavior. Time with them will help you be able to sort through what is a normal part of their personality, what is a spiritual struggle, and what is the expression of a heart need. This should be connected time when you are talking and enjoying each other—not TV or movie time, and not time shared with other friends. Try to spend one on one time with each child each week. You may miss some weeks, but if every week is your goal, you stand a good chance of staying on course.

7. Choose to Look Beyond the Surface - don’t focus merely on behavior. Ask where the behavior is coming from. Consider the reasoning, the logic, the thought processes, and the emotions that produce the decisions and behavior of your child. This is discernment in action—seeing beneath the surface. For instance, when your child is misbehaving, obviously it’s a sin problem, but ask the Lord, “What’s the trigger?”

8. Respond with Biblical Principles -  Target the heart and pursue the transformation of the heart. Teach and transfer Biblical principles and constantly be sensitive to whether the heart is open to those principles or whether there is merely outward conformity. Always point them to the highest authority—the Heavenly Father. If you’re not sure what to say or how to say it, then get help and seek advice. At all costs, point your child to God’s truth as the answer for every life problem. Always show them how your discipline connects to God and His authority in life.

9. Respond with Appropriate Authority - A variety of behaviors require a variety of responses. As parents, we can’t answer everything with a heavy hammer. Strong discipline should be only one of many tools in your parental toolbox. It’s doesn’t make sense to kill a mosquito with an atomic bomb, but many parents use the atomic bomb for everything. That’s unwise. Ask the Lord to guide your responses and to make them appropriate to the need. Sometimes our children need reproof, other times rebuke, and other times exhortation. (2 Timothy 4:2, “…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”)

10. Respond with Compassion - No matter how hard you deal with a situation, always let that hard response rest on the firm foundation of compassion. Begin and end with compassionate nurture, even if hardness is needed in between. If your child will hug you, pray with you, or respond to you, then the heart is open. If not, then the heart is closed. Whatever you do, don’t rest until your child’s heart is open to you.

Other than the Holy Spirit, my best teacher on becoming an insightful parent has been my wife. Dana is the most discerning parent I know. God has given her a tremendous sense of our children’s needs and the direction of their hearts. Thousands of times over the years, she has been my best parenting counselor. She has seen needs that I was blind to. She has suggested a course of action that proved effective. It has been our constant commitment to stay united as a parenting team.

We’re still in the middle of our parenting journey, and we’re loving every moment of it. One thing is for sure—every child is uniquely special by God’s design. That uniqueness should compel us to constantly rely upon the leading of the Holy Spirit in the moment by moment details of parenting.

Give your best effort to becoming an insightful parent, by God’s grace and power. Constantly ask Him for wisdom and guidance. He will answer, and your kids will thank you one day! I love parenting! What life work could we possibly do of any greater value?

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