Getting to the Heart of Behavior

Posted on July 31, 2014 · Posted in Ruling Desires

Getting to the Heart of Behavior

Tedd Tripp

Ask good questions to help your children understand their attitudes of heart.

Think, for example, of the young man who has humiliated his younger brother in the presence of his older friends. You must correct his rude and hurtful behavior, but the wise parent will also help him understand what motivated him. You might have a conversation like this:

“Do you think your brother was embarrassed by the ways you spoke to him?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Why do you think he felt so hurt?”

“I guess he thought I was making fun of him.”

“I think you’re right, he did. This is a hard question, but what do you think was going on in your heart when you made fun of him? I know you love your brother, but why do you think you made him feel so bad?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll accept that. I don’t know either, but let me help you think it through. Are you willing to work on this with me?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Well, it seems like there are several possibilities. It could be pride, or perhaps love of self, or maybe the fear of man (he is an embarrassment to you), or maybe you just desire the approval of your friends so much that you wanted to look cool to them. What do you think?”

Let’s make some notes on this conversation. Note first that I am not making accusations. I am only trying to get my son to analyze what happened. Secondly, I am not making assessments. I am not telling him what his motives are. I cannot know his heart, and while I might have my suspicions, I am not able to declare his motives. Thirdly, all I want to accomplish at this moment is to encourage self-assessment. I am facilitating the conversation. I am using my greater awareness of heart issues to expand his understanding of the things that motivate his behavior.

From Instructing a Child’s Heart.


Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.