Several years ago, I was part of a Bible School that had this demonstration: A man walked across the stage holding a cup of water and someone ran into him, bumping his elbow, resulting in water spilling out of the cup. The audience was then asked the question, “Why did the water spill?” What answer would you give?
If you are like most people, you would respond, “Because someone bumped his elbow.” That is the incorrect answer. All that was explained by that answer is when the water spilled. The why is really quite different. Let me explain.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” A wellspring gushes out what is under the ground: water. The heart gushes out what is inside. Jesus says it this way in Luke 6:45: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” The point is that what is inside will come out. (The reason for water spilling out of the cup is because water is inside.) When we see our children being unkind toward their siblings, it is because that unkindness is rooted in their hearts as self-interest. If our children are not diligent with their work due to laziness, it is because that is rooted in their hearts as self-indulgence. If our children are careless with their possessions, it is because that indifference is stuck in their hearts as carelessness toward their world.
So we are left with seeing the effects of what goes on inside our children as it spills out. That then, needs to become the main emphasis of our dealing with them. We desire to see righteousness. We see the opposite. We desire to see them become other-oriented. They (like ourselves) are caught by self-interests. Any manipulation of those behaviors never touches the wellspring. Legislating, “Thou shalt not...” does not begin to deal with the heart.
So what is a parent to do? First, we should be tutoring our children in the Word of God. This should be the “walk by the way, sit down at the table” kind of discussion. Communicating a radical worldview that says, “There is a King on the throne,” is a full time job. (The enemy is “full time” declaring that they are on the throne!) Then, secondly, we need to walk with them, not pointing fingers, but identifying with them in their desires, wants, hopes and dreams—no matter how crazy or wrong. They are just like us. Lastly, we must show them Jesus in us. Pray that God will help you do that. We are praying for you too!