My sweet little Baby Bear is a pretty good sleeper. He likes to lay down at night and roll onto his tummy, bury his head down like a hedgehog, and snuggle with Pappy and Snuggie. He prefers to lay in the bed instead of being rocked to sleep. A little white noise and he’s out.
Unless it is 2 a.m. Then he wants his Pappy, Snuggie, and his mama. In the rocker, please.
Several months ago, Mama had enough snuggle time. At least the 2 a.m. kind. I thought about his bedtime routine and what I could do to give him more independence with it at 2 a.m. Eureka! A night light! You would think this was a given in a child’s room, but I somehow neglected to think of it when setting up his nursery. I blame it on my third child brain–it’s a little slow at times.
Plug in a dollar store night light. Throw an extra Pappy in there. That night he cried for a few minutes, found his Pappy (thank you, night light!) and Baby Bear resumed his nightly hibernation.
The heart of a child is much like Baby Bear’s dark room. They are born into sin and darkness. That isn’t your first thought when you see a sweet, squishy baby. They seem so innocent. About a year later, you begin to see that sin nature creeping up. Before you know it, you have a sassy 10 year old on your hands and you know without a doubt that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15).
Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. John 3:19-21
One of my duties as a parent is to provide a night light for my child’s dark heart. That is an overwhelming responsibility. I really want to stop writing at this very moment and hit the “trash” button. I am struggling to live this truth out, to guide my children’s heart from darkness into light. Honestly, most days I feel like a complete failure.
There is a truth in the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus that translate into parenting. Nicodemus was a Pharisee; he was an expert at following the rules. His behavior was right. Yet, he was not righteous. He needed a heart change. His spirit needed to be born again.
The aim of discipline is not to force a change in behavior, but to encourage a heart change. Changed behavior is a costume, a facade. It does not last and is only skin deep. A changed heart is eternal. It brings your child into the Light. That Light becomes the Truth by which they live.
Guiding Your Child’s Heart From Darkness Into Light
1. Remove and Review. Take your child to a quiet, private place if possible. The point is not to shame them, but teach them. Remove distractions. Remove the temptation–for both of you–to put on a show. Review the broken rule and the consequence for breaking that rule. This is a black and white issue; there is no room for argument or justification. Connect that broken rule back to scripture. Which one of God’s rules were broken?
2. Turn the Light On. Ask questions to shed light on why they did what they did. Was it selfishness that caused them to jerk a toy away from brother? Have they made themselves an idol and, therefore, chose to do what they want instead of what you ask? It may take several questions to get to the bottom of their dark heart. Keep probing until you find the source of the sin.
3. Relate to Their Battle with sin through a personal story or a story from God’s Word. Jacob dealt with the power of jealousy so much that he lied to his father and stole the birthright from his brother. I sometimes struggle to put my iPhone down so I can do what I am supposed to do. I know the conflict you feel is real and hard.
4. Go to God Together. End your talk with prayer. Pray for your child to see their heart in the Light. Ask God to help them have a changed heart through the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray for yourself if you have a similar struggle. Pray for wisdom to guide your child’s heart as they grow.
5. Carry Out the Consequence. After the amen and the hug, it is time for the consequence. Timing is crucial; we want the punishment to connect to the crime. Prayerfully, a light will come on in their little hearts as they experience the discomfort of sin.
Lord, grant us wisdom to draw our children into the Light. Help us to stay consistent and humble with our children so that they might see your Light in our lives. Reveal your truths to us so that we can teach our children. Thank you for the privilege of parenting.