Help Children Change Their Hearts

Too often parents focus only on behavior, getting the right actions down, but they don't address the heart. Jesus criticized the Pharisees, saying that they looked good on the outside but their hearts were still not changed. He said, "First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."

Focusing on behavior change is not enough. Many parents work hard to help their children look good on the outside. Inadvertently, these parents teach their children "image management" the ability to appear good, clean, and nice. A change of heart is what children really need though.

Unfortunately, you can't force children to change their hearts. But we can do a lot to motivate them to make the necessary changes. We've identified several tools that, when used properly, address the heart. First, use sorrow instead of anger in the discipline process. Parents who misuse this technique often lay a guilt trip on their children. The key is to be genuine. If you, as a parent, look past your anger for a moment you will see that you truly are sad about what your child has done because you know the long-term consequences of such behavior. Reflect it in a gentle way. It's amazing to see how children will respond.

Another way to influence a child's heart is to use the scriptures. The Bible has an amazing quality, the ability to pierce through to the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Don't use the Bible in a harsh way. Instead reveal what the Bible has to say about being kind or respectful or obedient. There's a lot of wisdom and conviction that comes through the scriptures.

Be sure to talk about the heart during times of correction. "I can see you're angry because I said no, I'd like you to take a break for a bit and settle your heart down and when you're ready, come back and we'll talk about it." It will take work and a child may need some long times to settle down at first, but a change of heart is worth it in the end. Resolve the tension by having a Positive Conclusion together. Talk about what went wrong and why it was wrong. Address heart issues, not just behavior and help children see things from a deeper perspective.

You may think of some other ideas but whatever you do, don't rely on simple behavior modification techniques. They don't go deep enough and often don't address the real issues.

How have you been successful at addressing heart issues in your family?

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. I work in a residential facility and one girl has been showing an attitude of disrespect because I was pointing out to her that her room needs more work. I calmly told her in a genuine tone that I want her to have better character and cooperating with directions is a sign of a person with good character. She softened her demeanor and tone. I tell my kids that they need to become better persons if they are to function in the outside world.

  2. I like this thinking, and am curious as to how it relates with the "spare the rod" type of talk the bible mentions.

    This is the first page of your site I've looked at, so maybe you've already written about it, but I'm curious as to your opinion.

    Looking forward to your response.

    I also see how this connects up with some of the research John Gottman has done with how being a better "Emotion Coach" is really turning out to crate much better children.

    Looking forward to more of your thoughts.

  3. It seems that there are two extremes when it comes to the question of spanking. Some believe that spanking is an essential element of Christian parenting. Others believe that spanking kids raises emotionally cripples and violent children. We disagree with both of those extremes.

    Many in the first group are Christians and often appeal to the book of Proverbs where it talks about using the rod with kids five times. Interestingly enough Proverbs talks about using the rod with adults three times but people rarely talk about those instances. Furthermore an honest study of the book of Proverbs reveals over 90 times that correction has different approaches like warning, rebuking, discipline, correction, and so on. This leads us to the conclusion that spanking may be one tool in a toolbox but it isn't the only one nor can it be the primary one.

    The goal of discipline is a changed heart. Sometimes a spanking is a great way to help that happen. Unfortunately many people spank as just a form of behavior modification. They miss the heart altogether. It's sad that they think they're doing biblical parenting but missing what God intended in the first place.

    We discourage parents to spank if they have a problem with anger and if spanking isn't working to touch the heart. We offer six other consequence alternatives to spanking that we see in the scriptures as we looked at the way God or Jesus disciplined people.

    We do, however, believe that spanking often works well with children. It's best used with younger children, without anger, and wrapped in a calm, firm approach.

    Hopefully that will give you a little understanding about our perspective on spanking. We don't talk about spanking in any of our four books. It is discussed in a workbook dealing with seven categories of consequences. You can learn more about that workbook and its series at and type in "consequences" at the resource search.

  4. Thanks, I'll check out the workbook.

  5. I am by no means a perfect parent, but I try to follow the Bible. I think that if you are spanking a child out of anger than you are wrong. You may need to send your child to their room until you have calmed down, then go in and spank them and calmly explain why. It doesn't make God happy to discapline us. We shouldn't feel good about doing it to our children. Communication with your child is key. After saying all of this I have to tell you that many times I have spanked my child in anger and at the moment it relieves some of that anger, but then later I feel horrible about it. I now try to go and appologize to my kids when that happens and then also communicate with them what they did wrong. The more I practice doing it the right way the better it will get.

  6. I am father of two kids. I would like you to know that I am so blessed by your article.

    Friend, I humbly ask your permission to allow me to post your article in my blog:Parenting University 101.

    Hoping for your positive response.


  7. Moses, we would be honored if you'd post this article on your site. We simply ask that you include a link directing back to for people to find out more information. You also might want to sign up for our free email parenting tips to receive weekly articles like this one that you can also post. Just please include the link back to us for reference. I wish you the best on your blog. --Scott Turansky