Children are unique.
Parents have different parenting styles and passions, but when it comes to helping children grow out of some of their most difficult problems, there’s nothing that does a better job than addressing the heart and building internal motivation in kids.
Parents who incorporate the conscience into their parenting actually do things differently on a day-to-day basis. We’re not just talking about having one conversation with your child about the conscience and then going on as before. New tools develop that take the place of much of the intensity that can drain a family’s emotional resources.
One of the greatest strategies you can use to foster conscience development has to do with the power of your voice, because what you say and how you say it impacts your child’s heart.
In fact, if you think back to your own childhood, you can likely hear the words of your dad or your mom. “Turn off the lights when you leave a room.” “Eat your vegetables. They’re good for you.” “Money just burns a hole in your pocket.” One mom said, “Sometimes I’m talking to my kids and say something profound or important, and I’m shocked. I realize that I sound just like my mother.”
What parents say leaves a marked impression on their children’s hearts.
Unfortunately, many parents spend too much time talking about what children are doing wrong and not what they need to do right instead. They say things like, “Would you cut it out!” “Stop it!” “When are you going to get it right?” “You’re making me upset here.” “I can’t believe you keep doing this.”
Rather, parents would do much better thinking about what they want their children to say in their hearts, and then using their own statements to their children to coach them to that end.
One dad told of his challenge with his son who has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As you might imagine, these children can be magnets for correction. Dad realized that his words to his son were strategic as he coached him in life every day, many times a day.
He and his wife developed a list of things they would say to their son to help him stay on track. The list was made up of statements they wanted him to say to himself, and included things such as, “Slow motion.” “Quiet voice.” “Think before you speak.” “Maybe you need to take a break.” “Manage your energy.” Their approach provided a positive way to keep their son moving toward the goal of developing self-control in his life.
The Bible reveals that people meditate on things in their hearts. Psalm 19:14 says,
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Notice where the meditation takes place — in the heart. When parents choose their words carefully, they’re contributing to the right kind of meditation for their children. Too many kids say unhelpful things in their hearts.
Parents can write the script of things that are more appropriate.
As moms and dads correct, instruct, remind, and coach their children throughout the day, they can go back to the predetermined list and use it for ideas of what to say.
Writing the script for your children molds their thinking and helps develop the right beliefs in their hearts. It’s one of the significant ways that parents can influence what children believe about life.
The conscience is on a hunt for right and wrong, looking for promptings to provide to the heart. A parent’s words are important in a child’s life. They linger in the heart and become food for the conscience.
Although the conscience isn’t the ultimate authority in a person’s life, it is a tool that helps keep the heart moving in the right direction. It needs training and is only as reliable as it is nurtured and equipped.
Parents ultimately contribute to conscience development by carefully choosing their words and teaching their children that their words have value.
Watch the Motivate Your Child Video
Excerpted with permission from Motivate Your Child by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, copyright Nelson Books, 2015.
What parenting strategy have you been implementing that you couldn’t imagine parenting without? How do you help teach your children that they have value? Join the conversation on our blog!