Only a mother can understand how much one little human can steal all of our love and affection…and sometimes our sanity. We love our littles with everything in us! We really do! But it’s no surprise that our kids can sometimes misbehave.
We are born into this world as selfish little beings. Infants only want what they want when they want it! Baby wants to eat? Baby cries. Baby doesn’t like his bath? Baby cries. Baby needs a clean bum? Baby cries.
How about when you walk down the cereal aisle and your two-year-old throws a fit because you tell him he can’t buy his favorite cereal? “But I WANT it!” He might scream, cry, flail his arms and legs while he convulses on the floor. Never mind that it’s not in the budget to get an extra box of cereal every time you go to the store. Never mind that the particular cereal he wants is loaded with sugars. All that matters to him in that moment is that he WANTS it, and he wants it NOW.
When your kids get a little older, their “fits” might evolve from temper tantrums as a toddler to sibling rivalry, talking back to adults, playground drama, conflicts with friends and issues with grades at school.
In our home, one of the most meaningful methods I use to fix behavior issues in my girls is to have them memorize a scripture that will help them with whatever they are dealing with. I’ve found that most behavior issues aren’t really a matter of what they should or should not be doing. They are really a symptom of an underlying bigger issue.
They are really issues of the heart!
Fighting over toys? Really a heart issue of being selfish.
Not cleaning their rooms? Really a heart issue of having a disobedient heart.
Talking back to adults? Really a heart issue of not being submissive to the authority figures in charge of them.
Over the years, I’ve recognized different heart issues with my girls, and we’ve memorized verses together to remind us how Christ calls us to live. These verses have spoken life and love and mercy and grace into one (or all!) of us at some time or another.
Here are three verses I’ve found that are my go-to Scriptures that help deal with many behavior issues in our home. My girls have them memorized, we have them hanging as art work around our house, and we talk about them when we are having some – ahem – disciplinary issues.
1. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
When sibling squabbles are on the rise, when one sister ruins the others’ artwork, when we are having a hard time obeying the FIRST time Mommy asks, I stop my girls from whatever they are doing. Getting on their level, I look them in the eye, have them recite this verse, and then we talk about which “fruit” they need to work on that day. Nine times out of ten, they know exactly what their weakness has been! Then together we say a quick prayer, thanking God for revealing to us the things we should be fixing in our hearts, and giving us an opportunity to practice showing others patience. Or self-control. Or whatever other issue it might be.
Now this is something I started when my youngest was only two! They are never too young to learn that God is the Ultimate Authority, and He commands us to live in a way that will bring glory to Him. When we first started we spent time talking about each “fruit,” what it means, what it looks like in real life, examples of how people in the Bible showed that “fruit.” This really helped my girls understand these traits I was trying to teach them.
When I see them growing in their patience or modeling self-control, I praise them for their actions and give them a little positive reinforcement! “Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for helping your sister clean up her mess. Jesus is just so happy when we choose to be kind to others.” “I am so proud of you for using gentleness even when your sister knocked down the tower you have been building. Thank you for choosing to show love and grace instead of anger.”
2. “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole heart, as if you are doing it for God, not for man.” (Colossians 3:23)
This one comes up a lot when we are getting slack in our chores or homework. One of my girls was really struggling with a particular math unit in class. Her grades were dropping, she was bombing the quizzes, and the test was a doozy!! When we looked at her work together, she broke down, saying how hard it was for her to understand and she just doesn’t get it. She sheepishly admitted that she hadn’t been doing her homework as regularly as she should have because her teacher wasn’t checking it anyways. “She doesn’t care if we do it or not. She’s not even looking!”
This is just one example of when this verse came into play in our home! I reminded her of this verse, that we aren’t really doing our homework only for the teacher. We are doing it for God. We should be giving it our all no matter what we do.
Do your best at homework and studying. You don’t really do it for your teacher; you are doing it for God. Do your best at your chores. You don’t really clean for Mom; you are really doing it for God. Do your best in showing grace to your siblings even when they don’t deserve it – and even when Mom is downstairs and can’t hear! You aren’t obeying just Mom; you are really obeying God.
3. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
Are we arguing because we aren’t putting others’ needs before our own? Think of others before yourself. Are we treating others the way we want them to treat us? Or are we fighting over the Barbie because we are being selfish? By showing others selflessness, we are obeying God. And hopefully they will one day return the favor.
Spend some time thinking of the meaning of these words until your kids really know what this scripture is saying. We talked about “selfish” and “humility” and what those words mean. We also talked about what it means to put others before ourselves. That’s a hard concept for kids to really grasp, especially the younger ones. Be patient! It takes some repetition and patience before this really sinks in.
Share examples of how these verses are modeled in the Bible, especially through the gospel. By teaching our children that every action, every word, can bring honor (or dishonor!) to God, it will highlight the areas of weakness that they should be working on. And it gives them a reason to work on them! They learn they weren’t put on this earth to only live for themselves. They are a part of a much higher purpose.
What are some common “heart issues” that are springing up in your kids? Can you find a verse the family can learn together and dwell on and talk about to point out those heart issues? Hopefully, it will help solve many behaviors in your home like it has in mine!
Do you already have a verse you use in your home that you can share with others?