Tedd Tripp on the When, What and Why of Behavior

Instructing a Child's HeartThe When, What and Why of Behavior
by Tedd Tripp

The heart is the seat of motivation. Think about it in this way. Behavior has a when, a what, and a why. The when of behavior is the circumstance for the behavior. The what of behavior are things that one does or says. The why of behavior is the motive.

Imagine that I arrive home and find a bike in the driveway. I have to get out of the car and move the bike. Irritated, I go inside to find the child who belongs to the bike.

Imagine at this moment that you, the reader, come along and ask, “Tedd, why are you so angry?” I will probably say, “I am angry because he left his bike in the driveway. This child never listens to me.”

But the bike in the driveway is not why I am angry, it is when. The when of my behavior is the circumstance. The what of my behavior is my angry outburst. The why of my anger is the internal motivation—my attitude of heart. I hate inconvenience. The why of my behavior is that I want my will to be done on earth as God’s will is done in heaven!

James 4 gives us a wonderful example of all this, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it” (Jas. 4:1–2). Fights and quarrels don’t come from lack of skill in conflict resolution. They don’t come from people who are irritating. They come from desires that battle within. My desires are occupying the place of command and control inside my heart.

Our desires are not necessarily bad. It is not bad for a father to want his son to park his bike away from the driveway. But that can become an inordinate desire. If I am unkind and unloving because of my desires, then they are inordinate desires

The Bible gives us many descriptive terms to capture the motives of the heart. Formative instruction helps our children understand that behavior comes from heart attitudes. Teach your children that ungodly behavior begins with ungodly attitudes of heart, but godly behavior begins with godly attitudes of heart.

—from Instructing a Child’s Heart


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