“Mom, do you want to know what my teacher told us yesterday about George Washington?” My third-grader piped up from the backseat as I shifted into reverse, ready to back the minivan out of the garage.
“I do!” I replied, but then suddenly my kindergartener gasped.
“Mom! Did you bring my dinosaur book??”
Oops. I did promise I’d carry the book since her hands were full of other school gear when we walked out the door. Bugger.
“Hold that thought,” I told my older daughter as I shifted back into park, ran inside the house to grab the book, then settled again in the driver’s seat.
“Okay, lovey, now tell me, what’s the news about George Washington?”
“Grrr . . . Now I forgot what I was going to say!” She growled into the rear-view mirror. “All because of her stupid dinosaur book!!”
Whoa. Wait a second. Violation flags came flying at me from all directions. First of all, we do not allow the word “stupid” in our house (or in the minivan)—and my daughter knows that. Second, little sister was not trying to ruin a conversation; she was saving her forgetful mother from having to backtrack all the way home ten minutes later because one way or another, that darn book had to make it to school. It was dinosaur week in kindergarten, people. Important stuff. And third, what’s with the sudden attitude?
I could’ve reprimanded my daughter for multiple offenses at that moment. But instead, I said this:
“Check your heart.”
“About all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).
Check your heart—three simple words that carry a powerful message. I talk to my kids often about what’s happening inside their hearts—what they’re feeling and focusing on—because I want them to realize how their feelings affect their actions, which then affect the people around them. And with Jesus living in their hearts, they can make a choice—to let their feelings boss them around, or to clean out the junk that’s causing the nasty behavior.
So when Mom tells them, “check your heart,” they know that means they need to stop and talk with Jesus. I want them to ask Him—Right now, Jesus, is my heart holding:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV).
Love (or lack of it)?
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14).
Maybe in your family, the checkpoints will be different. While for my kids the root of misbehavior usually lies in selfishness or forgetting we’re on the same team, for yours maybe it’s pride, anger, worry, or some other crud. Customize your heart-checks according to your child’s needs. No matter how we apply it, though, telling our children to “check their hearts” not only trains them to recognize their sin, it also empowers them to conquer it—all without Mom or Dad having to tear into every detail of the wrongdoing.
This is especially handy when you have only two miles to go before school.
“Mom, can I tell you about George Washington now?” My third-grader spoke again after a few minutes of silence. Her tone of voice told me she was a changed girl. Praise the Lord.
“Yes, sweetheart,” I nodded. “I’d love to hear.”