A Heart Approach is Different

Many parents use a simple behavior modification approach to raise their children. “If you get your homework done, then you can go out and play.” “If you clean your room, then you can watch a video.”

Unfortunately children trained this way often develop a “What's in it for me?” mentality. “If I don't get something out of it, why should I obey?”

God is concerned with more than behavior. He's interested in the heart. The heart contains motivations, emotions, convictions, and values. A heart-based approach to parenting looks deeper. Parents still require children to finish their homework and clean up their rooms but the way they give the instructions is different.

Instead of just getting things done, parents look for long-term change in their kids. Sometimes children aren't ready to change on a heart level and parents must work to address the heart. That may mean more relationship to open the heart or it may involve more boundaries to show kids that they way they're living just isn't going to work.

A heart-based approach shares values and reasons behind rules. It requires more dialogue, helping children understand how their hearts are resistant and need to develop cooperation. A heart-based approach is firm but also relational. It's a mindset on the part of parents that looks to develop heart qualities that then bring about significant change.

As you consider your kids remember the words that God said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16, “Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.”

What are some ways you've been able to apply a heart-based approach to parenting?

Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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  1. Hi there,

    I wholeheartedly support this way of parenting and would like to read examples of what you would say to a child to heartfully finish their homework or clean up their room. I feel that parents need concrete examples to work from so that they are not floundering. THEN, they can begin to use their own ideas from there.

    Thanks for your time and efforts!

  2. Here's a suggestion for a heart based approach for a child to finish homework or clean up his room. Since you didn't give me an age, we'll choose 10 years old. We'd obviously change this approach for different ages and for different families, but this is an example of how to get started. "Son, I appreciate a number of heart qualities I see in you. For example you apparently feel good about being responsible with the dog and I've enjoyed watching you be compassionate with your baby brother. One of the things that you'll want to work on in your life as you're growing up is thoroughness and self discipline. Those are two heart qualities that will help you to be an excellent employee someday or a great dad in the future. So, we're going to be working on that around here with you. We're going to start with two areas of your life to increase those qualities. One is working on homework and the other is cleaning your room. Then we'd engage in some questions that further address the heart. For example, "What are some things that make having thoroughness and self discipline difficult?" "What makes it easy?" "What are some ways to develop these qualities in our lives?"

    That's what we would say to start. Next we develop a plan, because children need to know what these qualities look like in practical terms. Then we put the plan into action. That's going to take coaching, firmness, prayer, teaching, and visioning.

    A heart based approach is a lifestyle and isn't focused primarily on behavior. The behavior just leads us to identify the heart quality and develop a plan to move forward.


  3. Ok, so you've opened dialog. I love my daughter whole heartedly (my daughter is 15. I'm divorcing her abusive step-father & her real father uses her for 'slave' labor when she's with him & I'm physically disabled). Now what? It's been cause & effect for so long, how do I help to open her heart, to want to keep her room clean, to want to help keep our home neat, to want to walk the dogs, etc. ?
    Please help. We've been going through a lot & have lost our way.

  4. I'm not that the goal is that she wants to keep her room clean or home neat or walk the dog. After all, most of us don't want to do those kinds of chores either. The goal is to have her internally motivated to do them in spite of the feelings that she doesn't want to. That's the goal. Furthermore, we're not opposed to the cause and effect techniques We're just saying they're incomplete. So, what makes a heart based approach different is that you're talking about maturity, responsibility and neatness in ways that motivate her to take initiative on her own. So, you might say, "You can't go out until you're room is clean." (That's a behavior modification technique). But you keep tying it back to the quality of neatness and require that she take initiative in this area instead of relying on parental prompters to get things done. "Remember that we're working on neatness. How can you make some wise choices here for yourself instead of relying on me? Consequences may be necessary. Firmness most definitely will be required but the goal isn't a clean room. It's overcoming laziness and taking initiative to do what's hard to do when it has to get done.