One of the topics that we speak on at home school conferences across America is "Focusing on the Heart of Your Child."  This workshop session is always full. There is no question to us as to why this is so.  We as parents feel inadequate in being able to develop Christian character in our children.  This is natural.  It is quite easy to instruct our children in physical laws, like the law of gravity, or the laws of heat and pressure.  When we show our children that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit by placing a pot on the stove, we have confidence that it will do so every time, because God's physical laws are predictable.  But to train in moral laws, where there is a contingency involved is not so easy.  The outcome is not as predictable.  We are not dealing with cause and effect any longer, but rather with influence.  There is that added dimension of individual self-determination.  We need an additional dose of wisdom to see that this is being addressed.

These are ideas that we must keep constantly in mind as we train our children.  There are no pat answers here.  We are attempting to train moral beings.  People make choices.  We need to train using influence and persuasion as our children grow.  This is why we must ask God for His wisdom as we teach and instruct in the older years.

When our children are young, we can usually control their behavior through external means.  Some parents use corporal means, such as "a board of education being applied to the seat of understanding."  Others will use tools such as "time outs" or removal of privileges.  But as they enter the teenage years, some of these tools become less and less effective.  Many parents, even of home-schooled students, come to a place of real struggle on how to deal with a wayward adolescent.  Depending on our own level of inconsistency, this can be a very difficult time.  How do we minimize the difficulty?  We think there are some things that can be done.  But keep in mind; there are no magic wands here -- no secret solutions; only means to an end that might be more effective.

Remember, even God wasn't very successful in raising children.  This might at first glance seem sacrilegious, but nevertheless we think it is arguably true.  His first children rebelled.  Was this God's fault?  We don't think so.  What caused Adam to sin?  Not his sinful nature.  He didn't have one.  Not his environment.  He was in a perfect one, with God as his only Father.  So we believe that God understands exactly what we are going through with our children when they are less than submissive, too.  This should be a tremendous comfort to us as we work through this issue with our own children.  If we aren't being very successful, remember that it's not necessarily because we are bad parents.

What can you do as parents to create an environment that is conducive to Christian character in your children?  We think there are a few simple things to set the stage:

1. Work together.  Be consistent as a couple.  Make sure you are trying to be of one mind.  Communicate with one another about giving a single message to your children.  (This of course assumes you are not a single parent; if you are, maintain your personal consistency as well.)

2. Maintain an attitude of repentance and reconciliation.  Practice what you preach.  If you are prone to buck up and not admit you are wrong when you blow it, your children will follow suit.  If you are open and honest about your own difficulties, they will see it and respond in like manner.

3. Pray.  Pray alone.  Pray for your children regularly.  Pray together, as a couple and a family.  Ask for God's mercy and grace to be extended to you in your particular circumstances.  This is a simple acknowledgement that God is active in your lives.  If you act as if God is distant, He will be.  "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."