I heard a scuffle so I headed to the back yard. There I found my son and his friend arguing over a toy.
As soon as I passed through the door, Bryce said, “I told him it belonged to me.”
I knew that sounded suspicious, so I asked Bryce’s friend what happened. He explained that Bryce had given him a Power Ranger action figure to play with and then took it back a few minutes later. Apparently, Bryce had become jealous of the fun that his friend was having with the borrowed toy.
I pulled Bryce aside and had the “sharing means releasing” talk.
Then, I asked Bryce, “What should you say to your friend?” He answered, “I’m sorry.”
Something didn’t sound quite right about his tone. “Bryce, are you just saying words, or do you really mean it in your heart?”
That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? It admits that I cannot judge anyone’s heart with complete accuracy -not even the heart of my own child!
At the same time, the question suggests that a person’s actions and attitudes can be strong indicators of what is happening inside.
Living between these two truths is a constant responsibility of parenting. While back-yard disputes over toys are to be taken seriously, they are not nearly as important as shepherding a child’s heart in the midst of understanding, confessing, and professing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Often, after a child responds to the gospel, a parent or pastor will ask, “did you mean it in your heart?” I think this is a healthy question because it recognizes that faith in Christ is more than a recitation of words.
While this question is a great start, it should not be the end of the matter. After all, how many children have you ever heard say “no?” Most kids want to please their parent, guardian, pastor, or leader. Further, it is ambitious to expect a child to discern his/her own heart completely.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that a child cannot place faith in Christ for salvation. All I am saying is that if a parent truly cares about their child’s soul, they will not quit observing and guiding their child. Eternity is too important to take a child’s word for it. So why do some parents spend less energy evaluating their child’s profession of faith than they do settling a Power Ranger toy dispute?
That’s why I agree with those who take a longer approach by saying, “I’m so happy that you have taken this step toward Christ! Let’s keep talking about this every day and watch how God changes your life.”
I would never advocate anyone saying to a professing child, “You aren’t old enough to trust Christ,” or “You don’t understand.” Instead, I am a believer in encouraging, not discouraging, the faith of children. I’m simply saying, we must be responsible.
A responsible approach allows parents to watch for indicators of heart transformation displayed in attitudes and actions. Of course nobody is perfect, but if the seed of the gospel has truly taken root, fruit should begin to grow.
This doesn’t mean that as a parent you will ever know your child’s heart perfectly. That is reserved for God alone. But, if you take your responsibility to raise your children in the admonition of the Lord, you will want to keep a finger on the pulse of your child’s life direction.
Parenting a child’s heart, particularly in light of the gospel, is not a light task. It drives us to intense prayer and a greater sensitivity to our children’s attitudes and actions.
May God give us all wisdom and discernment. Parenting, after all, is more than childs play!