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The Most Important Principle of Child Raising

What is the single most important principle of child raising? Is it loving your child, keeping discipline in the home or teaching biblical principles? While those are all important, my answer is “no”. In my 13 years of fatherhood I have come to the conclusion that there is one principle that is more significant and when properly understood changes the way we parent.

The Suko family with both sets of grandparents

So what principle am I referring to? The principle of the heart! I firmly believe that this is one of the most vital concepts for parents to understand.

  • Simply stated it looks like this: The job of a parent is to mold and shape the heart of his child, not just control his behavior.
2 ways to change behavior
  • We can change another person’s behavior through discipline and control. Certainly we must use this method, especially when the child is young, however the problem with this method is that it is usually very temporary. Once the external discipline is lifted any change in behavior is lost.
  • We can also change behavior by influencing the heart through a combination of teaching and example. Unfortunately this is much more difficult but worth the effort in the long run.

Have you ever noticed that often when we begin talking about parenting we focus on the outward problems of our children and not the inward source? We ask questions like, “how can I get my child to do his homework?” or “Why do I have to tell him 20 times before he responds?” What we often don’t realize is that these bad behaviors are simply the result of the child’s heart.

2 truths for parents
  • We need to recognize that our children inherited from us a bent towards evil. This means that without our guidance, influence and teaching our children will always tend towards evil just as we did! “And Jehovah saw that the evil of man was great on the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the day long.” Genesis 6:5
  • We also need to realize that our main job is to influence and shape the heart. This means that we need to look beyond the behavior to find the real root of the problem and that is where we begin our work. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Question: What can you change in your parenting methods to more effectively reach your child’s heart?

 For further reading on how to effectively guide your child’s heart I highly recommend Tedd Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children!

My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • Susie Leavitt

    Wonderful, Caleb! Heather Pancho and I were just talking about this this week! Good behavior is important (outside) but good behavior that comes from a changed heart is the answer. We must not as parents train our kids to appear good while ignoring their sin nature and their desperate need for a Savior in order for them to have changed hearts. Only God can clean the inside of the cup. Thank you for this important blog about works versus salvation and following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    • Susie, I’m glad you agree with me! It seems like when the kids are younger we tend to focus more on the outward behaviors but as my children grow I am increasingly aware of the fact that they need a change of heart!

  • Nancy Suko

    Thanks, Caleb. This is right on.

    • I learned from the best!

  • What a essential principle Caleb. Guarding our hearts and training our family to do the same thing is so important for a parent to do. It’s something I’m going to be setting the example for and teaching my son when he goes older(He’s 1 now). Great post.

    • Dan, That’s a really fun age! Enjoy your little boy and guard his heart for all your worth! In the end it will be all worth it! Blessings!

  • Julie Scott

    I was looking at the missions blog when I clicked here.. I was thinking as a mom my mission field was the home. My children’s heart was/is the mot important thing to me. I was raising up 3 future missionary’s to send out into this world. They were and are my mission 🙂 This is also why I liked teaching the children at church. Although the time was limited it may have been the only time they heard the Truth as many “Christian” homes play dress up and go to church. Do not hinder the little children. Thanks Caleb

    • Julie, great thoughts! I agree, missions starts in the home. I appreciate your example as a mother to your children. I’ve got five kids now and it is such a challenge to consistently communicate the gospel to them with my life and my words. However, I know that if I am successful at home it will make it much easier to be successful outside of the home!

  • I know that the first thing that stands out to me when I think of relating to our daughter is her behavior. This topic is very interesting and will require further contemplation and prayer in not letting her behavior be the end all of our relationship with her, but other things may need to be taken into consideration.

    But I’m wondering if, after 10 years (she’s 10 years old), do you think it’s too late to reach her heart? Or is there some saving grace in this?