10 Days of Heart Parenting – Transfer the Responsibility For Change to the Child


I have found that when I need my children to change a behavior that it is best if involved them in strategizing a plan to make things better.  A quiet discussion using simple age appropriate language can work wonders.  Sometimes I discover the solution is an easy one.  Other times I realize that it is going to take much more time and effort.

I liked this quote from The Christian Parenting Handbook  

If you find yourself nagging your child for the same thing over and over again, or yelling out of sheer exasperation because the same problem continually surfaces, it’s definitely time for a different plan. One of the best ways to promote change is to transfer responsibility for change to the child.

We noticed a problem with my 7 year old Noah.  He is homeschooled and though I actually limit his “seat work” every day I noticed some very inconsistent work in him.  I noticed 3 things.  He would either race through everything, barely paying attention to what needed to be done, resulting in LOTS of errors and work that Mommy insisted be redone.  Other days he would dawdle FOREVER making a simple page of math problems that should take him 10 minutes at most go on for HOURS.  We also saw days where he did things just right.  Work went smoothly and he completed everything with excellence.

So what’s the heart issue here?  It’s work ethic in my opinion. I am reminded of Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

I want my children putting forth their best effort NO MATTER WHAT?  I’ve told them this a million times too, or so I feel.  Ha! I probably nag them right?  And apparently that strategy isn’t working.  They should know that Mommy expects their best all of the time.  Even if they get lots wrong but they did their best then I won’t be angry.  What does make me angry is sloppy work or ridiculous mistakes.

Over the last year I’ve made Noah redo his work countless times.  Sometimes this lead to meltdowns and stand-offs with one child huddling under a table and a mother wishing she could too!  We have a reward system too.  If school work is done appropriately, without grief, and with good effort he can earn tickets.  Tickets can be redeemed for screen time (TV shows, computer games, etc.) I’ve tried changing his schedule putting less desirable subjects first or last or in between.  I’ve built in breaks.  I’ve praised and scolded.  We’ve done timeouts and I’ve even piled on EXTRA work when I saw the work was sloppy.  Yes I’ve even begged and pleaded.

I discussed the issue with my husband and we decided that the only way to get our son to always put out his best is if HE wants to.  We needed to change his heart.  The only way to change a person’s heart, in my opinion, is to get THEM on board with the change.  So one afternoon we sat him down and Mommy laid out the problem as I saw it.  He agreed with me that he doesn’t always do his best work even when the work is pretty easy.  Together we set out a plan.

We sat Noah down and we discussed the scripture verse I shared above and what that means in terms of HIS work… in this case his school work.. our discussion included talk about what happens on days that go well.  We had had a successful day just a couple of days before so we thought about that a lot.  It turns out he was up earlier that day and was able to get some play time in before we got school things going.  As a part of our plan Noah asked me to make sure he was out of bed by 7:30 so that he’d always get that time.  I agreed.  It turns out, as I suspected, he will often rush through work to get to playtime.  If he gets some playtime in earlier he says he’ll be less likely to rush.  Sometime when he is older I’ll have him set an alarm clock.  For now, I’ll be happy to get him up.  We also noticed that on his more successful days Mommy was on-hand and in the room to answer questions.  So I agreed to make sure I do make myself more available.  I admit, there are times when I try to get him rolling on his work while I get laundry started or dishes done.  I also made it clear that if I’m not right there that he CAN come find me to ask a question.  He told me he hadn’t thought of that!  I also asked Noah if he ever looks back at the top of the paper, looking at each problem or question to make sure he answered as best he could.  No, he had never done that and he thought that was a good idea.

After our little brainstorm session we wrote down everything we had agreed to do.  As a family we prayed over that plan as well.  The next day we set the plan into motion.  Has it been perfect?  No, absolutely not.  Have things improved?  Yes they most certainly have.  He isn’t rushing through work as much now because, as he pointed out, he is getting play time in before we start.  I do my best to be available and present which helps me nip issues before they escalate.  He doesn’t always remember to check his work but will do so if I remind.  Overall the quality of the work he is handing me has become much more consistent.  Even more important to me is the number of stand-offs we have over schoolwork has greatly decreased.  I’m so glad because my relationship with my son can suffer when we go through periods of time with too many battles over just this issue.

Over all… I’d call this a success.

I like the way The Christian Parenting Handbook describes it.  They say:

One of the benefits is that it moves the parent more toward a coaching mentality with kids.

I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.  That’s exactly the role I now play with my son’s school work and for that I’m glad.  Noah still earns tickets for screen time when he has good days.  He will also lose privileges if we do have a rough day.  I like how the authors of the book close up the chapter because I find it to be absolutely true…

The ability to approach a problem in multiple ways often pays off with more change than one single technique.

We definitely had to tackle this issue in multiple ways.  Once we finally did we saw much faster change than at any time before.  I’m proud of my son and the effort he now puts forth.  It’s his plan and that made a tremendous amount of difference.

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