For years, I’ve been opening my home once a month to teach women. Most often the topic is on some aspect of “parenting to the heart” of our children.

“Parenting to the heart” means focusing on the heart not the outward appearance.

Parenting to the heart involves dealing with the root of the sin in our children’s hearts. It also includes grace, discipline, and nurturing just as Christ lovingly addresses our hearts.

Parenting for the sake of OUR image or reputation is not parenting to the heart; its focus is on the external.

“…For the Lord does not see as man sees;  for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

A Pivotal Lesson Learned:

I clearly recall the day it hit me that at least some of my decision-making in parenting was about me… my image, my reputation, and what others thought of my children. I mean, after all… I did want to be known as a “good mom.”

I’d read many books on parenting, heard many speak on parenting, and even attended seminars. I had a great head knowledge of what the ideal, obedient child and his parents looked like.

  • I knew the importance of “first time obedience.”
  • I knew that counting “1,2,3” while waiting for obedience was actually teaching delayed obedience and of course,
  • “Delayed obedience is disobedience.”
  • I knew to give a few minute’s notice to prepare the child for departure if playing at a friend’s house.
  • I also had “trained ahead” (that’s a good blog post to read), teaching my child to respond with “Yes, Ma’am” when I called.
  • And, I even knew how good it looked to leave someone’s house as if we hadn’t been there along with this neat little tip: “John, we’re leaving in five minutes. Go ahead and clean up everything you’re not playing with now. Then you can have a few more minutes to play before we leave.”

Isn’t that lovely.  (But seriously, those are all important principles, but that’s not my point.)

However, on this particular day, my oldest (a toddler at the time) and I were at a friend’s home. He was playing and having a grand time. I gave him the five-minute heads up, but when it was time to go, he kept on playing. I called him again, and he… get this… disobeyed. (say what what?)

I don’t recall a meltdown or anything of the sorts. I just recall that my friend also had been in the same parenting type courses and read the same books, and so when my son disobeyed, my (wrong) thoughts were…

She knows he’s disobeying. She’s watching to see what I do. What’s she going to think of me? What should I do?

I was concerned about ME… MY IMAGE… MY REPUTATION. My kid should be obedient! This is making me look bad.

For crying out loud- I don’t think my friend actually thought any of those things. (And if YOU do about others, you may be adding pressure to the friendships you have. People feel the judgment, honey.)

My self-focus thought-process was the basis of how I handled his disobedience.

When really, I could have lightened up.

Don’t get me wrong. We should be consistently teaching obedience to our children. After all, “obedience is right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart.” And he didn’t come right away. His disobedience did indeed need to be addressed, but…

my motive should have been, “What’s the best way to address his heart?” not “How can I handle this to look like a good parent?”

It’s important we realize our kids are a work in progress and to gently, patiently continue to train to their hearts.

No attention should have been brought to me (to make me look like a good parent) or to him. Discipline in private.

When parenting is about me, my motive is wrong.

When parenting is to the outward appearance, my motive is wrong.


This photo’s from right around the time of me learning the lesson on parenting to the heart vs parenting for my reputation

Search your heart. Do you see any ways that you are parenting for your desired image or reputation?

Ask the Lord to show you wrong motives in your parenting so that you can begin to parent to the heart.

Share your thoughts.

Rhonda ourchildren,justlikeus,areaworkinprogress ellis