Christian Parenting and Family Resources with Biblical Principles

What Lies Beneath: Getting to the Heart of Behavior, Part II

  • Ginger Plowman Proverbs 31 Ministries
  • Published Jun 02, 2004
What Lies Beneath: Getting to the Heart of Behavior, Part II

Scenario #1
Dealing with Tattling

Emily and Michael are playing in Emily's room. Suddenly, Emily comes charging down the hall. Glancing back at Michael, who is hot on her trail, she yells, "I'm tellin' momma!"

"What is it, honey?" Her mother kindly asks through gritted teeth. After all, nothing is more annoying than a tattletale, especially one who has been at it all day. "Well," the little informer begins, "you said that we aren't allowed to jump on our beds." Emily pauses long enough to fold her arms and throw a sassy grin at her brother. "And guess who's been jumping?"

Michael begins to defend himself, mumbling something about a bug on the ceiling. They both begin to argue. "Tattle-tale! Tattle-tale!" yells Michael. "There wasn't a bug on the ceiling and you know it! Liar, liar, pants on fire!" cries Emily.

Sound familiar? What a golden opportunity to use the Scriptures to teach Emily why tattling is wrong and how she could have handled the situation in a way that pleases God!

Probe her heart. "Honey, could it be that you are delighting in getting your brother in trouble?" If she ponders that question and seems to be leaning toward the "yes" end of it, then move on to the reproof.

Penetrate her heart. "Emily, if you are trying to get your brother in trouble, you will get in trouble. God's Word says, 'Whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.'" (Proverbs 17:5b)

Provide a means of escape. "God says that we are to 'spur one another on towards love and good deeds.' (Hebrews 10:24) Rather than tattling, what could you have said to encourage your brother?" Have her think through this and verbalize how she could have encouraged her brother to do what is right. If this is a new concept for your child, you may have to make some suggestions such as: "Mom says we aren't supposed to jump on the bed. I don't want you to get in trouble, Michael, so please get down."

Practice by role-playing. This is the most important step. Have the children go back to the scene of the crime, the bedroom. Have them re-enact the whole ordeal, guiding them through the biblical way to handle it. First, allow Michael to jump on the bed (or pretend to jump). Then require Emily to encourage her brother to do what is right. Require Michael to respond with an affirmative reply.

Scenario #2
Dealing with Disobedience

Three-year old Sam is playing with his blocks. When he is called to come to you, he ignores your instructions and continues to play. Here's another opportunity to use the Scriptures to teach little Sam why disobeying is wrong and how he could have responded in a way that pleases God!

Probe his heart. Giving Sam your full attention, kneel down, make eye-to-eye contact and say, "Sam, I instructed you to come to me. Did you obey or disobey?" Wait for him to verbally acknowledge the wrong he has done. Then ask him, "Sweetheart, how did you disobey?" Requiring him to identify exactly how he has disobeyed helps him to take ownership of the sin in his heart.

Penetrate his heart. "Sam, God's Word says, 'Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.' (Colossians 3:20) When you disobey me, you are disobeying God and it will not go well with you. (Ephesians 6:1-3) Honey, I love you too much to allow you to disobey."

Provide a means of escape. "How does God want you to obey?" Small children can learn to answer this question by saying, "All the way, right away, and with a joyful heart." A helpful tool is to teach children that obedience is complete, instant, and joyful.

Practice by role-playing. "Let's practice obeying all the way, right away, and with a joyful heart." Have the child play with his blocks again. When you call for Sam and he immediately comes to you, be sure to offer a lot of praise. "Jesus is so happy when you obey Mommy (or Daddy)!"

Scenario #3
Dealing with Complaining

It's that time of year again. The seasons are changing, and with Andrew's annual growth spurt, his clothes from last year are bursting at the seams. It's time to make that agonizing shopping trip for new clothes - the one that typically results in a battle of wills, a disgruntled attitude, and an annoying twitch in your left eye. How you dread even mentioning that four-letter word (s-h-o-p) to your little man! The torture of listening to his complaining makes it a gut-wrenching fiasco every year. Ah, but this year will be different. No longer will you view it as something you must endure. This year you will see it as a valuable occasion to use the Scriptures to show Andrew why complaining is wrong and how he can adjust his attitude to please God.

Probe his heart. "Honey, is your attitude showing thankfulness and contentment? Do you think the things you are saying will make this shopping trip pleasant or miserable?"

Penetrate his heart. "Your attitude is not showing respect for me nor is it pleasing to God. The Bible says, 'Do everything without complaining or arguing.'" (Philippians 2:14) Remind Andrew that his attitude is a choice. He can chose to have a good attitude even when he doesn't feel like it.

Provide a means of escape. "It is God's will that you be thankful and joyful in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Rather than complaining, what can you be thankful for in this situation?"

Practice by role-playing. Whenever he starts to complain, have him stop and consider one way that he can be thankful for the shopping trip. Require him to verbally replace each complaint with a statement of thankfulness.

Resources for Biblical Parenting

Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Plowman
Don't Make Me Count to Three! by Ginger Plowman

Ginger Plowman, author of Don't Make Me Count to Three! and Wise Words for Moms, is an Assistant Director for Proverbs 31 Ministries, for which she speaks at women's events across the country. You can visit her website at