Parents: Do You Have Your Child's Heart?

JT Waresak

"Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her rejoice who gave birth in you.
Give me your heart, my son,
And let your eyes delight in my ways."
-Proverbs 23:25-26

To whom much is given, much is required. No where is this biblical truism more profound than placed within the parental blessing of stewarding the hearts of our children. Not only must we know God's truth to teach God's truth, we must purpose to live God's truth.

To have your child's heart is both a blessing and a huge responsibility. It is a God-given stewardship calling for every parent. To think that God affords us this role as parents is truly an amazing thing. To hold your child's heart means that your child is trusting you to guard and nourish their hearts as God grows them into the young man or woman He wants them to be. Yet, how prepared am I as a dad to have my child's heart? If you think about it, this entrustment to lead our children's hearts is, without a doubt, our greatest life challenge as a parent.  

The book of Proverbs shares with great exhortation the need to protect our hearts and not fall prey to the adulterous ways of the world. Over and over again within these wisdom verses echoes the fatherly pleads for his children to listen to his instructions. As fathers and mothers we must fully realize that every day the world is seeking to court the hearts of our children. If we're not "holding" onto their hearts, it is very likely that the world is.

"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."
-Proverbs 4:23

Let's be honest. For most dads out there, we've not asked for our kids' hearts and our kids have not given them to us. We've been taught by a prevailing parenting model to do just the opposite. We've been told by well-intentioned people to let go of their hearts and to allow our children to experience the world on their own.  

"You need to let you kids find out for themselves."

"You can't live their lives for them."

While there is definite truth within these words, in no way does it mean we should let our kids fend for themselves. I would no more send my eight year-old son into a den of wolves then let him walk in this world without me by his side. I'm reminded of numerous conversations with mature Christian men who confided with me that they struggle with temptations when they're away on business trips. The Christian life is not about growing our independence. Rather, it is just the opposite. Our Christian life is all about growing our dependence upon God and supporting one another along our life journey (Ephesians 4-6).

This is the truth of the matter. God designed us to be dependent upon Him and one another. The family, as God designed, is to reflect the larger family of God. As a father I aim to be that man in Proverbs asking my children to give me their hearts. Just as in the book of Proverbs, I am called as a father to teach my children both what to think—God's Word (Joshua 1:8/Phil. 4:8) and how to think in a way that honors God (Proverbs 1:7/Col. 3:1-3/Phil. 2:3-8).

Seeking my child's heart is a relentless courtship of the heart that starts from birth and ends when God calls me home. Yet, as my child matures it is vital that my fatherly relationship matures with them. While there is definite overlap at times, there is a defined progression of heart engagement that takes place within my role as a dad.

During their younger years...

• As instructor
• As mentor 

As they progress in their adult years...

• As coach
• As counselor

My number one goal as their dad is to see their hearts anchored to their Heavenly Father in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ. A close second goal is to help them grow into the godly man or woman God is calling them to be. When it is all said and done, it's not about raising my kids to be "successful" in this world. It's about raising my kids in a manner that points their hearts to Jesus Christ. In Christ, He will define their greatest success and lead them down the paths He wants them to take (Matthew 6:33). Yes, practically speaking, this will entail vocational skills that contribute to their community and allows them to earn a living.

However, these objectives are secondary to the primary goal to lead them toward Christ. I know that these goals are not ultimately dependent upon me. Thank goodness for that. Yet, God calls me and positions me along with my wife to have arguably the greatest influence on our children's hearts over their lifetimes.  

"And let your eyes delight in my ways."
-Proverbs 23:26

Like Paul, as dads, we must look to Christ and then look back to our kids and pronounce, "Follow me as I follow Christ." This is our all-consuming greater purpose that compels us as fathers: To pursue Christ in our own lives in a manner that overflows into the lives and hearts of our kids. Without question, my children have learned more from my life than the countless words I have spoken to them (and they'll tell you that's a lot of words). Yet, I've learned over the years that the more my life mirrors my words, the more my children listen to those words.

As a married man, my wife and I share in this monumental life mission. We are under-shepherds with the divine calling to steward the hearts of our kids for God. As a dad, I know there will always be ups and downs along this Fatherhood adventure. This is where prayer and God's Word provides the solid pathway when the road gets rocky. I also hold onto the promise that if I trust in God with all of my heart, He will direct my path and this includes my journey as a father (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Related Resources

How to Discipline Without Breaking a Child's Spirit

Why Won’t Children Obey The Rules?

Raise Your Kids With Jesus

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