“Share.” “Be nice.” “Tell your sister you’re sorry.”
These are things we often say to kids when we wish they’d just behave. But why do kids refuse to share? Why aren’t they nice? Why do they say mean things to their siblings?
Well, if they’re not a believer, the Bible says it’s because they’re “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). They are enemies of God (Rom 5:10), hostile to Him, and unable to please Him (Rom 8:7-8). Ultimately, they have a heart problem. A little boy or girl says and does mean things out of the overflow of their heart (Matt 12:34).
So while “share” and “be nice” may change a child’s behavior for a time, it doesn’t get at their real problem. It’s like cutting the leaves off a weed in your garden. The garden may look better for a time, but everyone knows the problem is still there. The weed will spring up time and time again until you get at the roots.
Likewise, when we tell kids to “be nice,” they might do it for a while, but as soon as you turn your back, they’ll be throwing rocks at their brothers and sisters again. Why do they do this? Because the heart of their problem is the problem with their heart.
So what’s the application? Am I suggesting we never correct our children because it’s no use? Of course not. What I’m suggesting is that as we correct them we should keep in mind that our goal for them is not right behavior, but a right a heart. And we know there’s only one who can change hearts, that’s the Lord, and he does it when we proclaim the gospel of his grace in Jesus.