The One Parenting Mistake You Cannot Afford to Make


nurturing childs heart

Although I had substantially more energy as a young mom, these days as a more … mature mom {ahem} have been graced by just a tad more wisdom that, in my humble opinion, more than makes up for my diminishing physical strength.

As a young mom fresh out of college and well read in the parenting genre, I had a certain sense of confidence, even superiority in my, as yet,  completely untested parenting skills.

My kids would eat the healthiest foods.  No canned  baby food in our house!

My kids would be well-read.  No trashy TV over here.

My kids would be polite, obedient, cheerful, articulate, conservatively dressed…

And on, and on, and on…

Unfortunately, there was one variable missing from my parenting equation:  nurturing my kids’ hearts.

I was giving my kids the best of everything I could imagine but I was neglecting their hearts!

Follow the rules and mom is happy.  Break the rules and mom isn’t happy.  You’ve heard it said, “Ain’t mom happy, ain’t no one happy.”  Uh huh, that was me.

Just as no one would clean and polish the outside of a cup and neglect the inside, the part whose cleanliness has the most importance, no parent should polish and clean their children’s outward appearance at the expense of tending to their hearts.

How to nurture the heart of your child

Tell them you love them.  When they behave and when they don’t.

Respect them.  Relax when they don’t get excited about the same things as you.  God has given us all different talents and gifts  Hair gel and earrings are not a moral issue.  Most things in modern culture (hair and clothing styles, jewelry and music) can be redeemed for the good, drawing others to the light, even if they are not your style.  How is their heart?

Curb your anger.  There is no disputing the fact that kids can push their parents’ buttons.  They open things that should not be opened, eat things that should not be eaten, are noisy when you just. want. some. peace.  Did I mention attitudes?  Oh the attitudes!  If you struggle with anger, find some help.  Anger destroys families.

Speak kindly.  Make a habit of speaking kindly to your kids.  It is a habit, can be formed with practice, and can transform a home.  Ask me how I know.

Listen well.   As parents dedicated to forming character in our kids, it can be tempting to turn every conversation into a lecture lesson.  Put down your phone, shut your lap top and hear what is on your kids’ hearts.  If you don’t listen, they’ll find someone else who will.

Be affectionate.  Hug them.  Smile at them.  Kiss them – while they’ll still let you!  There is great power in physical touch.

Appreciate them.  Catch them being good.  There will inevitably be times that you will need to discipline your kids.  These times can be hard on a relationship.  Make sure that  you are building your relationship up and not just giving attention to your kids when they are naughty or annoying.  Appreciate the good days and those hard times won’t seem so bad.

Forgive them when they disappoint you.  Your happiness is not their responsibility.  Your happiness shouldn’t be based on your circumstances anyway.

So how did I come to learn the importance of nurturing my kids’ hearts?  No doubt you have noticed that kids have this uncanny way of mirroring their parents as they get older.  Without any effort at all, they seem to pick up our negative character traits while the good ones, well, we’re still trying to get those ones to stick!  Somehow my older kids managed, with no extra effort on my part, to pick up a critical spirit and a lack of joy in their day to day lives.

My kids were the kids that everyone raved about.  They were all the things I had set out for them to become.  But they behaved, in large part, out of fear of disappointing mom and dad rather than love.   We are working on repairing that damage but now, while I still have little ones at home, I endeavor to capture their hearts – and keep them.

How has nurturing your kids’ hearts blessed your family?  

To read how parenting with grace radically changed our strong-willed child, click here.

For encouragement for the parents of prodigals, click here.

Marianne Sunderland

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. I clearly remember making a conscious decision to be a nurturing parent after observing a friend and her mother when I was in high school. As a result I have a kind, compassionate, thoughtful kid that feels safe talking to me, asking me questions, or telling me when he’s made a mistake.

    I actually get teased about my nurturing parenting style by some family members, but I feel very confident and secure that the decision I made so many years ago was the right one.

  2. Such words of wisdom! Well, spoken. I will print this out as a reminder. Praying God will repair the breeches in our parenting, and to Him be the glory. God bless!

  3. I have been trying like crazy to listen to my children more; to hear what they have to say. It has been a difficult road however, since they went through the first decade of their lives doing what I told them to do, no questions asked. Currently, as a parent in transition from authoritarian to peaceful parenting styles, the children are having difficulty warming up to me and opening up the way they need to. I’m going to keep hanging in there and pushing for their growth in a peaceful manner, no matter how many challenges I face.

  4. This really was a blessing and full of good reminders for me 🙂 It was a very difficult day in our house. I am thankful for the pointers you gave; as I can not change others, but I have no excuse not to carry on loving as best I can. No matter the critical spirit another has towards me and my kids. It is hard to fight a critical spirit in one’s self, with God it is doable. It is so much harder for me to not listen to a critical spirit (in another) when I feel there is no where to run from the speaker (my husband)…focusing on the things I can do and running to Jesus (in prayer) is enough though-I must remember 🙂 Yes, he is the repairer of all hearts) Thanks again! Merry Christmas 🙂

Speak Your Mind