We all have our days.
Targeting our children’s hearts is a very important goal in gospel-centered parenting. Ultimately, I want my children to understand that their hearts are sinful and that they need a Savior. I also want to help my children discern the motives of their hearts—why they do what they do.
To this end, my husband and I provide regular instruction about the true state of their souls before a holy God. We also seek to teach them, primarily in more structured family times, about how sin works. Recently my husband, gave them a little Lying 101 lesson over breakfast: “We often lie because we want to look good, make others look bad, or stay out of trouble” he explained.
And in order to shepherd our children’s hearts, we watch them closely. We seek to discover and discern what motivates them, what makes them tick, what are their characteristic temptations and tendencies so we can parent them wisely.
But targeting the heart looks different, depending on the age and maturity each individual child. With our sons, Jack and Jude, who are 9 and 8 respectively, we are just beginning to spend more time talking about their hearts when they disobey or when an opportunity arises.
With our daughters Tori and Sophie (5 and 3) however, I don’t often spend a ton of time dialoguing and discussing their heart in moments of disobedience. Mostly that’s because when a fight breaks out and one of them is involved, there is lots of crying and wailing and I could ask penetrating questions about heart issues, but nobody would hear me.
But I also don’t expect them to always grasp “heart issues” at this young age. After all, as Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” I’m in my thirties and I still don’t always know why I do certain things! I can hardly expect my three-year-old to have it figured out by now.
A good long chat about heart issues may be wise parenting for a teenager or an older child, but what a three-year-old needs is consistent training and discipline. First they need to learn to obey. Heart issues, those will come in time.
So don’t become discouraged if your toddler doesn’t understand why he grabbed the toy or your five-year-old still doesn’t “obey from the heart.” This doesn’t mean you are failing as a mom. As long as you are lovingly and consistently training your little ones to obey and respect parental authority, you are fulfilling God’s commands.
It’s been so exciting to have so many of you join us for the 5 O’Clock Club! I especially love it when you post a picture or a verse you read that morning. It’s great to have friends all over the world waking up early, and I love that everyone’s goal is different. As we’ve said all along, the 5 O’Clock Club is not about waking up at 5:00 a.m. but about rising early to meet with God and care for your family. So if that is 7:30 a.m., great!
Whether you feel like you are making progress in establishing a daily habit or struggling to wake up early, we thought it might be helpful to post a few quick tips about the club:
Several people have asked how early we go to bed at night. This varies, depending on the person, day, etc. but typically each of us are in bed or asleep between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. The point is, to get up early you have to go to bed early the night before. For me, I can sometimes manage to stay up late one or two nights a week and still get up early, but more than two late nights and I am seriously tired and seriously grumpy! And experiment with naps. If I get a 20 minute power nap (or two!) each day, it helps a lot.
If you keep trying and failing, keep trying. That’s how the alarm clock outside our kid’s rooms idea came up. My husband and I were frustrated because we kept oversleeping, so we decided to take more drastic action. But I know many of you still have babies waking up at night or getting sick. After nights like this, I always sleep in, guilt-free! Just try again when your child gets better or set a more realistic goal. But seeking God is worth it, so don’t give up.
It often takes several weeks of consistently waking up at a new time before your body starts to adjust. And it helps to remember this. Just give it time. Keep pushing through. This doesn’t mean you won’t ever stop feeling like pressing snooze, but after a time, you will find yourself more alert and awake in the early hours of the morning.
That’s all for now. More testimonies and Q&A in our blog archives.
See you in the morning!
Minus the dog, this is a pretty accurate diagram of my bed!
One of the most powerful illustrations is from the relationship of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. You may know the story. Helen was a young girl who, at the age of nineteen months, became deaf and blind as the result of an unknown illness. Her parents, at a loss as to how to help their suffering daughter, provided little restraint or discipline. So when Annie was hired to teach Helen, she made no progress at first, due to Helen’s wild and violent behavior. “It was useless to teach her language or anything else until she learned to obey me” Annie reasoned. So Annie began at the beginning. She insisted that Helen obey.
After an extended battle of wills, Annie won. Helen became calm and submissive, able to listen, and able to learn. And oh what she learned! This little girl, whose life was up until now a dark and lonely place, learned to communicate. She learned to “speak” and to “listen” through her hands. She learned to read. And so, Annie wisely concluded: “Obedience is the gateway for knowledge to enter the mind.”
So it is with our children. We have this all-precious gift to give to them—the good news of the gospel. We have much to teach them about God, who He is, what He has done, what His Word has to say about the world and about their lives. And yet to truly practice effective gospel-centered mothering we must first teach them to obey.
“Training must come before teaching” insisted Katherine Howard, Elisabeth Elliot’s mother. “[Teaching] is impossible unless the children cooperate. And they don’t cooperate unless they are disciplined from their earliest days. This discipline lays the groundwork for teaching.”
This is why Scripture equates a parents love with discipline and hatred with a lack of love (Prov. 13:24). Counterintuitive to the post-modern mind, but as true as ever. “Train up a child in the way he should go” Proverbs exhorts us, “even when he is old he will not depart from it” (22:6).
This is both an exhortation and encouragement to mothers. It is an exhortation to moms when we are tempted to neglect loving discipline and training—whether from laziness, busyness, fear of our children’s rejection, or biblical ignorance. We must not neglect this most important biblical mothering priority.
It is also an encouragement to moms who are “in the trenches.” You are faithfully—not perfectly, but consistently—training your young children to obey. You may see very little in the way of results so far. You may be worn out and discouraged. You may wonder if you are on the right track. You may worry because your mothering doesn’t “feel” very gospel-centered at the moment. But your child’s obedience isn’t opposed to the gospel. It is the gateway through which you can bring the gospel message.
So persevere. Be faithful. And I promise—better yet, God has promised!—that you will reap a harvest if you do not give up (Gal 6:9).
~Found this one in the archives the other day. From a grown up daughter of a mom who rose early to seek God. Hope it encourages all of you in the 5 O’Clock Club!
For almost thirty years now, my dear friend Nancy has inspired me by her passionate, faithful, practice of meeting with God each morning. So I wasn’t surprised when, last week, her daughter Anna sent us this testimony to encourage moms with young kids.
I keep seeing these posts with emails of moms of young children who are hoping that their children see their example of rising early to seek the Lord in his word—I want to say, keep it up, your example really can be pressed onto the hearts of your children.
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t get up every morning and find my mom reading her Bible, praying. Not only did I see the habit, but I also remember that she was always filled with joy when she was done. Some of my earliest memories was getting up before all my siblings (I was an early riser when I was really little…it’s a little harder now!) and my mom making an extra cup of tea for me, and playing on the floor while she read her Bible. (I was a talker, so she also had to train me that Bible time was No Talking time)
One of the biggest ways that I was motivated to read my Bible was seeing this example—and my mom always encouraging me that it was a friendship, a delight, and not a task. Because of this, I had an interest to know Jesus through his word at a young age. I have journals of consistent reading and prayer from age 10 on. I cannot tell you, now as an (semi-)adult, how much of a blessing this has been. It has given me a history of love for God’s word and a confidence in prayer. It has taught me the habit, and the value for God’s word. So, if you are seeking to set this example, don’t give up! You might not see fruit now, but Jesus has promised that we will reap (Gal 6:9).
Your example makes a difference—but if you feel like you have failed as an example, take heart. If you have fears for your children’s souls, fears that they will not come to be satisfied in Jesus, let your heart take courage. Remember the promises of our Lord:
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25) and “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:3-6)
Moms: May the faithfulness of God strengthen you as you strive to faithfully seek Him. I pray that the little ones who watch you sit at Jesus’ feet will one day seek Him too!