How Dad and Mom Helped Lucy Develop Thoughtfulness


By Dr Scott Turansky, cofounder of the National Center for Biblical Parenting

Lucy is ten years old and is quite disorganized, often leaving messes around the house. Mom is frustrated because of the tension in the relationship that’s often demonstrated through nagging on Mom’s part and a bad attitude on Lucy’s. It’s time for a change and Dad andMom determined to use a heart-based approach.

First, they identified the positive heart quality they wanted their daughter to work on. They decided to call it “thoughtfulness,” and defined thoughtfulness for Lucy in these ways:

Thoughtfulness is cleaning up when you’re finished with an activity.
Thoughtfulness means turning around at the door of the kitchen or bathroom to see if there’s something that you forgot.
Thoughtfulness is making sure that the space I used is ready for the next person.

Sometimes simply sharing a new idea is all kids need. They’re able to take the new ideas and incorporate it into their lives. But Lucy needed more than an idea and a positive discussion. She needed some vision to get her going in the right direction.

Dad and Mom had a meeting with Lucy to talk about thoughtfulness and how it’s an important quality for the rest of her life. Adults too need thoughtfulness, and organization is a way of demonstrating it to others. They talked about the benefits of thinking about others: it increases friendships, helps others feel cared for, and even assists her in finding her own things and keeping herself organized. Some kids just need some visioning to take the idea and run with it and make some changes, but Lucy needed more. She needed some firmness.

Dad and Mom began to hold Lucy accountable. Instead of telling her to clean up her messes, they asked her, “How are you doing with thoughtfulness?” They would try to catch her leaving the kitchen or bathroom and say, “Did you check?” Their coaching attitude with Lucy changed the negative harsh nagging to a positive encouraging attitude. And that seemed to be the key for Lucy. She started to make some changes.

If that wouldn’t have worked, Dad and Mom could have added consequences to their plan. Since Lucy enjoys playing on her iPad, they might remove the privilege of iPad use until thoughtfulness is demonstrated. The iPad could be parked until released by approval from a parent who takes the time to do some inspections of Lucy’s spaces.

And, if Lucy were to continue to have a bad attitude in the process, it might be helpful for Dad and Mom to have Lucy take a break until she’s ready to come back and work on the problem with a good attitude. Those further acts of firmness can help develop new patterns for Lucy.

But Lucy did make changes. Dad and Mom encouraged her maturity and helped her see that she was enjoying life more and others were enjoying her as well. Lucy still needed reminders at times, but those because less and less and Dad and Mom were pleased with the results of their work.

Remember that the goal isn’t just behavior change. The heart contains tendencies. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” In other words, the things that come out of the mouth start in the heart. The thoughtfulness that Lucy needs to develop must come in the heart and the continual work of Dad and Mom are helping their daughter change the internal dialogue. Raising the awareness of the need to change, and the way to do it helps Lucy make changes now that will help her for the rest of her life.

Lucy’s story is just one practical example of how a heart-based approach to parenting changes a child. The focus isn’t on rewards and punishment, as most parenting approaches take today. Rather children need a heart-based approach that motivates them to live life differently.


The new book “Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told,” provides parents with a biblical, practical approach to reaching their children’s hearts. You can learn more at biblicalparenting.org
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