It seems that many parents are concerned about winning their child’s heart, yet great measures need to be taken not to lose your child’s heart in the first place. A child is born with the natural instinct to see his parents as “good” and to trust them. I am sure you have noticed that when a baby is in unfamiliar or uncomfortable surroundings, his instinct is to find his parents – or to cry until he is safely in their arms. In a young child’s mind, his parents are his entire world.
Of course, as he gets older he begins to realize that his parents aren’t perfect. They actually make mistakes sometimes! Then you have popular culture doing everything within its power to destroy healthy parent/child relationships. Parents have a difficult task ahead of them to be sure, and yet I’m afraid that so many parents complicate it by doing things that absolutely destroy their child’s trust and respect. Here are five surefire ways to alienate and lose your child’s heart:
- Act as though he were unwanted. Have you ever heard parents talk about their child as though he were more of a curse than a blessing? I am sure you have heard parents offer to give you their child or ask you to take him off their hands. It is usually said in a joking manner but I wonder how much the child enjoys the joke? How would you feel if your parents, the people you want to love and respect more than anyone, made comments that led you to believe they didn’t want you, or you were too much trouble for them? Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” and too many parents have thrown their child’s heart out the window with their “jokes” about the child being more trouble than he’s worth.
- Lead (or leave) him to believe that other things or people are more important. In this high-pressure, fast-paced, technological world in which we live, it can be all too easy for a child to feel as though his parents value other things more than himself. You have perhaps seen the touching scene on War Room when the little girl breaks down crying as she expresses why she feels that her parents are more concerned about their careers than caring for her. There are far too many children who are left to raise themselves while their parents chase careers, hobbies, friendships, etc. Even among homeschooling, “stay-at-home mom” families, children’s hearts are often neglected while parents rush them to the next co-op, ball game, music lesson or even just spend too much time on the Internet. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with activities but finding balance is essential. A child with parents who will not spend quality time with him will certainly go looking for acceptance elsewhere.
- Lie to him. I apologize if I step on some toes with this one but I can’t think of anything that will destroy your child’s trust more than discovering that he has been deceived. Many people feel that it is fine to lie to their children, as long as it is for the child’s good or amusement. Yet how many children have discovered that Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are not real and had to struggle with the idea that God may not be real? Too many.
- Be too busy to listen to what he has to say. I love this quote from Catherine M Wallace: “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” Children often feel wary of sharing their personal feelings and impressions and parents sometimes need to draw it out of them. This can be done through gentle questioning, sometimes very specific questioning.
- Ridicule or laugh at his ideas, mistakes or idiosyncrasies, especially in front of other people. Have you ever seen the look on a child’s face when he is expressing amusement at something, only to be told by his parent that it is dumb? It may very well be! But that needs to be gently explained in a way that does not make the child feel dumb. When a person is being ridiculed, he usually clams up. He’s not going to waste his time expressing himself. If children feel that they are being made fun of or scorned, they are going to stop expressing their feelings.
If you are a parent who has made some of these mistakes (and who hasn’t at some point?), I want to add that children are more than willing to forgive, usually much more quickly and fully than adults. If you have already lost your child’s heart, I encourage you to try these in reverse to win him back. Deep down inside, a child wants to respect, trust and honor his parents. Please don’t make it difficult for him to do so!
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Hannah Washburn is a homeschool graduate and the oldest of seven children. She currently lives with her family on a beautiful farm in middle Tennessee where she helps manage their family-run business Happy Hill Pups. She is also the founder and editress of Shining Stars Magazine (a publication designed to encourage ladies of all ages in femininity and Biblical womanhood) and a consultant for Lilla Rose hair accessories. In her spare time (ha!) she enjoys walks in the woods with her Labradors, working with her Arabian, reading, fresh coffee, dark chocolate and blogging at Radical Femininity.