Help Your Child Understand His Heart, Feelings, and Actions

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There are some days when parenting is just HARD. There’s no question about it. The days get long and the kids get cranky. But what if I told you that the times your kids are difficult are really just opportunities TO DO ‘HEART SURGERY’ ON YOUR KIDS. I’m CRAZY, right?? (Well, I already knew that, but nonetheless…)

What if I told you NOT to fear the difficult and trying times of parenting but to EMBRACE them? Once you learn how, you can ask ‘heart probing questions’ and actually take the ‘not so pleasant times’ and turn them around into learning opportunities for both (or all) of you.

The process is really pretty simple, actually, and like anything, it will take time.

You will be doing heart surgery, but not the kind you may have been thinking. This is a surgery of the soul (heart)!

Don’t expect your child to respond immediately, and definitely give yourself a break. You won’t do this perfectly every time (really never) but if you’re like me, a little practice makes progress.

The following are questions you can use to help your child understand his heart.

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1. What Did You Do?

This is the first question that you should ask after your child has done something to disobey.

(Be sure not to use a condescending tone! This is an information gathering question and should be asked in a calm voice, not an accusatory one.)

She needs to understand what she did in order to be able to know how to deal with it.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that your kids do not always have a clear picture of what they have done and why it is wrong. Especially if you find yourself frustrated in the middle of the battle.

Have you ever seen red after your child made a bad choice? Knowing how to ask the right questions to help her make the connection between her thoughts and her behavior will help you to calm you both down and help you know what to do.

Training kids is a process and it takes time.

It is a good idea to ask,What did you do,” so that you are not just telling your child what they did that was wrong but she is identifying it for herself.

When you draw this question out of your child’s heart, she can more easily own up to whatever it was she did to disobey. And you can start the process of correction by both agreeing on whatever it was that she did.

(Just a side note: I have found that there have been many times that I have been sure that my child knew exactly what he did that was so offensive. BUT…..after sitting down and asking this question, I have found that neither he nor I fully understood what actually happened.) 

2. What Does the Bible Say About What You Did?

It is so important to take your child back to Scripture!

If you aren’t sure yourself what the Bible says about whatever particular sin your child committed, then it is okay to admit that and search the Scriptures together.

One great resource that I love is the Child Training Bible.

If you find yourself unable to find the right places for the Scripture that you want to use to train your child, you will love the Child Training Bible. Everything is laid out in an indexed way so that you can find things quickly and easily.

This is gold when you are in the middle of trying to teach your child! You don’t want to have to bring out a huge Concordance!

Once you are able to identify what the Bible has to say about whatever your child did, then you can begin to help her see her sin through a Biblical worldview.

If you teach your child from an early age how do identify her sin through the lens of Scripture, you will be giving her an amazing tool.

Let’s face it, we are all going to struggle with obedience for the rest of our lives. But when we know what Scripture has to say about our sin, we can also easily come up with a plan for our own obedience. In this way, you are teaching your child how to become a responsible, God-honoring adult!

3. What Should You Have Done Instead?

Ask this question in order to get your child to think through what other response they could have had instead.

Kids oftentimes react in the situation without giving much thought to how to control their emotions.

When you ask this question, (and talk through the answers) you give her the tools she will need to think through her response the next time she is put in a situation where she is tempted to react.

This is a great time to train your child.

With the right training, next time, she can respond correctly, instead of reacting the way that she did.

4. What Will You Do Next Time?

Teach your child how to have a plan for what to do next time.

Talk about how she should react in the future. Develop a plan for her response. Help her to think of an ‘out’ (for whatever the situation it!)

Then go over the plan and practice, practice, practice! Role play. Encourage her to think through her hypothetical responses in the future.

Teach her that she can have a choice and control over her emotions and doesn’t have to respond to the way that she did.

If she has a plan for what she will do next time, she will be much more prepared and can act in an obedient way.

It will do so much for her to know HOW to respond the next time she encounters difficulty. And you know she will!

Encourage Your Child

Always be sure to encourage her! Your child needs to know that you love her despite her mistakes. She is a work in progress! (Aren’t we all?!)

Remind her that we all make mistakes and not to be discouraged when that happens. Remember that the mistakes are just an opportunity for you both to grow.

Wrapping it All Up

These questions can be used at just about any age. I have used them with my kids as little as two years old. Just be sure to modify the questions for a younger age and speak at an age appropriate level.

If she is older, you might consider having her write down her answers in a notebook. Have your child take the time to go over each question and then write down her answers.

Then make sure to go over the questions and her answers with her when you are both calm. I have found that when your child writes it down, it seems to stick more in her mind.

There just something about seeing your feelings in black and white and it will help you to identify exactly what is going on in her heart.

Doing this kind of ‘heart surgery’ takes time. It is a process that when done correctly over time, will help your child to grow into a strong and loving adult. Don’t ever be discouraged if you don’t see a lot of progress at first. Just be patient!

By asking these questions, you are taking the time to help your child connect his actions to his heart. There is something very valuable in having her know the motivation behind what she did.

How about you? Have you ever used this method to teach your kids? What other questions might you add? Comment below and let me know how it has worked for you!

(This post was inspired by my very most favorite parenting book of all time. I HIGHLY recommend it. ‘The Heart of Anger,’ by Lou Priolo really changed the way I parent! You can find it below.)


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As a parent, you want discipline that connects to your kids hearts. Parenting the heart of your child takes patience and love. Read this article to learn about the heart of parenting.

How to Help Your Child Understand His Own Heart