4 Ways to Cultivate a Teachable Heart in Your Children
A teachable heart enables a Christian to respond to God’s authority with a big “Yes!” while a stubborn heart rejects his Word and does things their own way.
As homeschooling parents, we can raise children with teachable hearts who follow after God and His ways.
“Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
A child with a teachable heart will be a joy to raise. A rebellious child (even if compliant in outward behavior) will be a trial to live with.
A teachable heart is completely devoted and submitted to God. The child with a teachable heart will be respectful, obedient, cheerful, humble, trusting, and submissive to God’s will for their life.
A rebellious child is not submitted to God. The child with a rebellious spirit will complain, be indifferent, be angry, be sarcastic, be self-absorbed, be selfish, sigh in disgust, roll his eyes, slam doors, and stomp feet.
If we want to see our children’s heart changed, training must be directed toward our children’s thoughts, attitudes, and desires which the Bible refers to as the “heart.” Our goal is not outward obedience only but a heart that longs to do good.
Let’s start with God’s Word.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17).
The Word of God is powerful! It changes lives! Our little ones need to hear it, read it, study it, memorize it, and meditate on (or discuss) it. Time spent in the Bible every day is a necessary part of cultivating a teachable heart in our children (and us parents too!).
The Bible is full of stories to captivate our children’s hearts. And these stories are true!
Children learn right and wrong from the Bible. The Ten Commandments are a starting place. Your sons and daughters need to realize that it is wrong to steal because God says so! They are to obey your authority because the Bible makes it clear that this is the Lord’s desire. God has authority over us whether we admit it or not. Your children need to know that.
But studying the Word together does more! It cultivates in us the desire to love and serve God, to show compassion to others, and to be thankful in all situations. The Scriptures show us that salvation comes through Christ alone. They reveal the glorious Good News of the Gospel.
For more on the Bible, read my blog post What’s So Special about the Bible.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).
When parents model a teachable heart, it helps to cultivate one in their children. I try to do this by asking God to teach me every day to be the woman He wants me to be. Then I search for His instruction: in the Bible, through godly counsel and example, and in unexpected ways.
When God shows me I need to make changes in my life, I try to respond humbly and ask forgiveness where needed.
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).
Rules without relationship breeds rebellion. Unlike deists of old and many modern theologians would have us believe, our God is a relational God. He loved us before we loved Him! He died for us when we were His enemies! We respond to His love for us! We trust and obey God because we know that He loves us and His rules are for our good. We respond to His love with trust and obedience.
In the same way, as loving parents, we can imitate God’s parenting style by building a lifelong friendship with each child. When we communicate love, express affection, sacrifice cheerfully, and go the extra mile joyfully for our children, they will feel secure in our love for them. They will know that our rules are planned carefully with love for their good so they will grow up to walk intimately with Jesus.
Avoid harsh words, anger, or yelling. Screaming should be reserved for emergency situations only–a fire, falling building, or warning to avoid a traffic accident. Yelling communicates rejection. It also sends a message that a parent is out of control.
If I yell or am harsh with my children, I ask them to forgive me and pray for me. I pray too–asking God’s forgiveness and grace to change.
If I am angry at a child who needs correction, I send them to a quiet place to wait for me. Then I take time to pray and wait for God to change my heart. Only then do I proceed.
Be on your guard for a wounded spirit or a broken relationship between you and your children. Anger at or belittling of children can cause them to pull away emotionally. When Mommy or Daddy is too busy for days on end to nurture her little ones, problems can arise too! When this happens in our house, we ask my children’s forgiveness for any wrongs on our part and then we talk it through (even with a toddler!). “Mommy has been so busy and grumpy this morning. Whenever you have wanted my attention, I have snapped at you. I am very sorry. Will you please forgive me?”
Can relationships with our children be difficult? Yes! Here is some encouragement the Lord gave me one day in my Quiet Time. You can read my blog post 6 Things I Learned about Parenting & Homeschooling from Jesus in Luke 8 & 9.
“Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. Ears that hear and eyes that see–the LORD has made them both” (Proverbs 20:11-12).
Vigilance is an important aspect of cultivating a teachable spirit in our children. It is very difficult to keep a constant watch on your children, but it is necessary to monitor behavior, speech, and attitudes. I don’t sit and stare at them all day. But while I work throughout the day, I keep my ears open and touch base with them often. That is why I prefer to have other children play at our house.
Vigilance in essence means the constant awareness on my part of my children’s behavior, both good and bad. It allows me to bring consistent positive reinforcement for praiseworthy conduct and attitudes and correction for unacceptable behavior. A word of caution, however, needs to be mentioned here. Vigilance should never be equated with or interpreted as nagging. Children certainly need correction as Proverbs 22:15 says “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,” but they need even more the encouragement of praise. Nagging crushes the spirit. Praise and proper discipline with love builds up the spirit, giving necessary direction and boundaries for behavior.
The heart of our children is more important than anything else. If they have a heart after God, it will keep them inside His loving plan. They will trust Him and love Him all the days of their lives.
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling.
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Celebrate Thanksgiving, Travel God’s World Geography, Travel God’s World Cookbook, and HIS Story of the 20th Century. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Read her blogs at PowerlineProd.com and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.