What is the goal of parenting?

"Please just eat the apple sauce.”

I wanted to shout that as I was opening the second food item from the shelf at the store while I was shopping with my children.  My hope was that the apple sauce could just get them to behave for five minutes.  I had already tried the fruit snacks and they just led to more tears.  It was suppose to be a simple trip to the store.  However, it turned into chaos quickly as both of my kids would not stay in the cart, nor walk beside me, nor stop grabbing things off the shelves nor stop crying or screaming.  

It’s in moments like that and many other times that I need to be reminded of the goal of parenting.  At that moment in the store I had one goal: get the kids to be quiet.  However, that goal doesn’t solve any problems and actually just makes it so I will have to deal with it again at home.  I have been challenged and reminded recently through a book that our goal as parents is not behavior modification, but something much larger that will change behavior in the end. 

What is the goal of parenting? 

The author of the book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, says the following:

“The heart is the wellspring of life.  Therefore, parenting is concerned with shepherding the heart.”  

In other words, the goal of parenting is to help our children have hearts that are honoring to God.  The author bases his thoughts off teaching from the Bible that talk about how our behavior is a reflection of what is in our hearts as parents.  The Bible is clear that God is concerned with our hearts.  If we modify our behavior, but have not changed within us, we basically become like the religious leaders who Jesus mocked for being hypocrites.  Jesus teaches that our words and actions flow from our hearts, therefore author Tedd Tripp teaches in his book that we are to be concerned with our child’s heart.

Parenting is not easy.

Many times I slide into behavior modification, but most of those times my motives are not pure.  I am concerned with how I appear to those noticing the behaviors.  I know the thoughts that have creeped into my mind before when watching out of control children. “Get their act together.” “Why are they letting a three year old control them?”  Oftentimes I am worried if others are having those thoughts about me.  My other motive is oftentimes simply wanting the easiest and fastest approach as I may not have the energy to do what is needed.  Heart work is long and tedious work as it involves lots of listening and patience through turmoil.  I have been asking God to purify my motives and move to a place where my heart’s desire is to see the heart of my children molded by their God.  

I’m sure you have had an experience like mine at a store in Sioux Falls, at church, or while out for a walk in your neighborhood.  Those experiences can be exhausting and frustrating. There are a lot of pressure on parents: whether it be financial, work, time management, etc. Those pressures can force us to focus on the immediate, rather than take the long-term view.  Oftentimes I find myself focusing on the wrong things as a parent and not the overarching goal.  I have really been challenged recently from the book I mentioned that, “behavior is not the basic issue.”

No matter what age your children are, you have an opportunity to do the most important work which is caring for their heart.  Please join me on a journey over the next sixty days of trying to understand how to shepherd our children’s hearts.  I will be posting thoughts or lessons that I am learning from the book.  You can also read the book as we are giving it to you for free!  This is our gift to you.  There are no strings attached. We simply want to be a blessing to families and see them pursue a life of honoring Jesus in their homes.