It’s one thing to say, ‘hey let’s work on training out kids hearts,’ but it’s another to actually actively practice it, and yet another to know where to start.
(The following information is from the first session of the Growing Families course, ‘Child Wise.’ If you are interested in participating in a GFA course, you can contact them via their website, or alternatively, let me know, and I’ll find your local representative.)
As I’ve said before, heart training is about training a child’s heart so that they will be able to make good decisions, based on the morals they hold dear. As parents it is our job to place those morals into their wee little hearts. Now, I’ve said this before as well, but as adults, our actions are dictated by what we believe, but young children develop beliefs based on their actions. So this means that not only do we need to give them morals, but those morals need to be in line with the actions that we require of them.
From the time a child is about three, they are ready for you to start placing morals in their hearts; this is as simple as giving them a reason why.
Children at this age are naturally inquisitive anyway, and will quite often ask you the reason for an action, so it makes sense to provide them with the theory before they ask. This also stops them from challenging your authority, and demanding ‘why?!’ when you have asked them to do something.
‘Don’t hit you brother; it’s important to be kind.’
‘Don’t pick the flowers, otherwise there will be none left for everyone else to appreciate.’
‘Don’t run in the shops. You may bump into someone and hurt them.’
The beautiful thing about giving your kids the moral reason, is that it helps them transfer principles, and learn to think independently in situations once they get older. For example, the child that is told not to run in the shops, may obey in that situation, but will run in the bank, the post office or maybe at church, whereas the child who understands the reason why running is forbidden won’t, because he knows that the concern is for others. Placing moral values next to actions helps our children learn the value of context in situations, and enables them to choose right behaviors without the need for our immediate presence.
Of course there will be times when we need to say, ‘because mummy said so,’ and our children need to learn that that answer is sufficient. The child who is being taught the value of respecting others, will learn that this is ok when needed; the importance of listening and trusting their parents is not a new concept to them.
(A word to the wise; a major part of training a child’s heart, is developing a healthy level of respect for you the parent, or others in authority over them. If your child will not do what they are asked without a reason why, you first need to work on that. Providing a why is not an excuse for your child to decide if your point is valid; it is a tool to help you, as a parent, instruct them in the morals and beliefs of your family.)
Providing the moral reason why is a process, like I said, that starts from about the age of three. Some children are more aware and will be ready for more instruction earlier, and some a little later. As a parent, you know your child’s capabilities and what they are ready for. I personally, have gotten into the habit of explaining the reason why from a young age. Even though Ava is only 16 months, I often give her the extra instruction. This is in part habit from telling the older kids, but also a decision to get into the mind frame of instructing my children, and not just dictating random orders.
Did your parents instruct you as a child?
Can you think of how your decisions as a child or teen might have been different if your parents had?