Sometimes we, as parents, can get very focused on behavior. What is our child doing? How do we correct or improve the behavior? Well, we have to remember that Scripture says it is the heart that produces behavior. So changing behavior can sometimes leave the heart unaffected, which can be disastrous in the long run. What we really want in our children is heart change; we want their hearts directed toward God. If their heart is pointed in the right direction, the right behavior will come. Here are some behaviors or actions that if seen in a teenager, may reveal their heart is directed toward the Lord.
First, does your teenager have a time of personal worship to the Lord? I’m talking about a private devotional time. Does your child have his/her Bible near the bed? Do you see them reading? Or, is the only time they pick up their Bible is when parents make them go to church?
Second, is closely related to what I just said. Does the teenager desire church, fellowship, and instruction? Is it a fight every Sunday morning to get up and go to church? Does your teen enjoy spending time with other like minded teens, or do they prefer to run with the ‘wrong crowd?’ Is the teen trying everything in his/her power to get out of hearing a sermon? If you can see evidence of a desire for church, fellowship with other Christians, and hearing instruction then your teen is on the right track toward developing a heart for God.
Third, is the teenager willing and open to talk about spiritual things? Or, every time you open your mouth about God or the Bible, does the teen start rolling his/her eyes and storming out of the room? A teen who has a heart for God is not opposed to such discussions. Does your teen ask you to pray for him/her? Do they ever ask what God’s will is or what God thinks they should do? If so, be encouraged because God is working on the heart.
Fourth, do they take into account the Bible, when making decisions? We do not want our teens to be impulsive, or driven by their emotions, or self-centered in their decisions. We want them to consider what God has to say, or what God wants them to do. If they are concerned about those things when making decisions, then we see evidence that the heart is moving in the right direction.
Now, as a parent, these are things to look for in your teen. But you can also work to try and encourage a heart for God. First, you must model personal devotion time and make church a priority. Don’t be surprised if you have no devotional time, that your teen doesn’t as well. If you like skipping church, of course they will learn that as well. Second, refer to God often. When your teen is venting about life and school, point the conversation towards the Lord. What does the Lord want, think, or say about this situation? In this you will train them to think Biblically. Third, be positive with your use of Scripture. Don’t beat them over the head with the Bible and cause them to hate Scripture. Use Scripture to give hope to them and show them that God always has an answer. Lastly, be willing to admit and ask forgiveness when you mess up. You will mess up sometimes because parenting is a learning process. But teens will grow leaps and bounds in their respect for you when they see you humble and willing to admit wrong. Maybe that will rub off on them as well. To the teenagers I would ask: do you have a heart for God or are you simply trying to behave in a certain way? Spend time with God, and with people who love God, and ask the Lord to shape and mold you into a person who has a heart devoted to Him.
Pastor Mark Scialabba