Mothering, Relationship

Heart: 4 Tips For Guiding Our Kids’ Hearts

Rock in waves

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

We are in a battle.

Our boys are growing older—both in their pre-teen years. Hubby’s and my role as their main influencers is closing. They say children’s characters are mostly formed by the time they are twelve. Twelve! Our oldest is there.

I see him pulling away. I expected it. I knew it was coming. At the same time, I wonder how well we’ve equipped him for handling the lures the world will throw his way. Have we helped him learn how to set his heart upon Jesus? Honestly, some days I feel like I’m losing the battle for their souls.
Feet in water
Both of our boys have “asked Jesus into their hearts.” But I fear that’s where they stopped on their journey of learning to walk with Him. We are working to train them. But life gets busy. Some days the waves toss each of us in different directions on its vast ocean.

Big waves

Have we taught our boys how to fall in love with Jesus? This I know. If they don’t learn how to make Him first in their lives—first in Who they turn to when their lives get rocky . . .

. . . first in Who they rely on for strength and comfort (let’s face it, the teen years are hard) . . .

. . . the first in Who they turn to when they need answers to the questions their friends toss at them . . .

—how will they survive? How will their fledgling faith not only weather these coming years, but thrive in the midst of them?

Father son kayak on ocean

I fear we haven’t done enough to equip them. We pray with them. We pray for them. We spend some time doing devotions with them and, (hangs her head here), even less time reading and talking about God’s word with them.

They will come to an age where their faith will—or won’t—become their own. Have we enabled them, encouraged them to choose Jesus over the world?
Breaking Waves Sharks Cove
The world offers so many tangible pleasures. Electronics, movies that entice them to worldly behaviors, appealing music, friends who don’t know or walk with Jesus. So many things for the eyes to enjoy and absorb. So many things that will rub into the men they will become.

Following Jesus is hard sometimes. He calls us to walk a different path. A path that leads away from tangible pleasures and toward real joy. But, how do we help them to choose joy over pleasure?

Young man and waves

When their hearts belong to God, and they’re seeking after Him, they can trust where their hearts lead them.

But if their hearts seek after the things the world offers—I fear for what will become of them.

Hubby and I are praying for our guys. Daily. Many times each day.

I’ve begun praying more for the wisdom to help them navigate the pulls of the world. But most of all, I’m praying for their hearts. I can’t control those. God has to quicken our boys’ spirits to want to know Him and walk closely with Him. That’s His job, not mine.

Big-small feet in sand

How I am trying to encourage our boys to seek Jesus:

1. Being there when they need to talk. Now, while they still crave cuddle time and talking time with Hubby and me . . . this is our opportunity to be Jesus with skin on. To share His truths with them. To challenge them to follow His ways. Not that they won’t listen as they grow older. But right now, we still share a certain intimacy with them that will change as they grow older.

2. Pray for them. Pray with them. We pray together each morning on the way to school. I pray for them during their days. And my hubby and I beg God for wisdom, discernment, and guidance as we parent them. My three guys beach silhouette

3. Be more proactive about spending time in the Word with them. I’ve been weak in this area.

4. Share the things God is teaching me in His word. I can’t force them to read and receive from God’s word. But maybe, if I share what He’s showing me, they’ll listen and engage in conversation.

Waves wash onto shore

I know there’s more we should be doing. But I don’t want to make this a list of “Do this. Do that. And your child will walk with God all his days.” This parenting thing is a step-by-step, often walking-blind journey. And the older our boys grow, the more I find myself praying.

What about you? What are you doing to help your children seek a vibrant relationship with Jesus? If your children are grown, what did you do that helped them grow in their relationship with Jesus?

17 thoughts on “Heart: 4 Tips For Guiding Our Kids’ Hearts”

  1. I understand your concerns and share them. As your children continue to grow, keep them in youth group and in a Bible teaching church. As a teacher, I’ve seen what can happen if young people miss church due to a job every now and then. It’s easy for them to then avoid like-minded social time with church friends and then temptations are harder to resist. I’ve seen that as a stepparent also. Time away from our lifestyle did not bring good results. I’m not encouraging only socialize with fellow believers, but to keep these unofficial accountability partners in your children’s lives as long as possible–even when they come home from college in a few years. I’m not a fan of debt, but attending a Christian college, at least for the first year after high school, is something I wish I would have insisted upon for my family. I know it grounded me to continue on in my faith and follow Christ.


    1. Melodie, I so appreciate your advice here. It does help this mom who’s trying not to bite her nails at the prospect of having a teen in the house next year. 🙂 I’m taking notes. Thank you!


  2. Thanks for this honesty. I’d add that I so appreciated my parents allowing and giving me space to doubt. (This was later in my teenage years.) When I struggled with church or grappled with aspects of a pastor’s message, they listened and asked open-ended questions and did not judge. Because they allowed me to find my own path, I believe it’s what kept me close to my faith. Prayers for you guys as you find the rhythm of raising older kids to walk in faith!


    1. Annie, this makes so much sense. A few years ago, I heard Dennis Rainey (Family Life Today) talking about how their kids needed to own their faith. And this ownership came through their kids being able to question what they’d been taught and come to terms with the truths Jesus shares with us in His words. It sounds like you are blessed to have very wise parents. Thank you so much for sharing what worked for you. 🙂


  3. Sweet, Jeanne. As always. One thing I work hard at is … being approachable. I fail so often though. When you are pulling a pan out of the oven … typing that last sentence … it’s so tempting to say, “Wait.” Constant struggle.


    1. Shelli, being approachable, especially to my boys, is my goal. But, yes, I fall short, especially if they’re wanting to talk at the same time I’m trying to prepare dinner so we can get out the door to an evening activity. Trying to be more intentional about reflecting Jesus—there are times when talking is more important than being on time to karate. 🙂


  4. Goodness, me…if we could save them ourselves, we would, wouldn’t we?! It feels like such a fine balance between wanting them to mimic our faith and pursue their own. I’ve felt compelled to teach our son to defend his faith, to stand up for God, and to not be ashamed of truth. There is always more to do and I struggle and worry about the same things you do. I ask God to go after my son’s heart, to pursue Him vigorously…because when I still wonder, doubt, and clamor to understand the depths of His love, then I know my 12 year old most certainly will!


    1. Yes, Tiffany! I’d love to be in charge of the decision for my boys to walk closely with Jesus. It sounds like you’re teaching your son valuable skills and worldview. Kudos! We’ll continue to pray for our boys together. I love your last sentence. Thanks for sharing that thought. It’s so true.

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  5. Great suggestions. One thing I would add is to find positive examples, in books and film, of duty, honour, and fair play. Give them a world in which being a gentleman stands for something.


    1. Andrew, I love your suggestions. There is such power in story—both in written word and in movies. I so appreciate your thoughts. And you’re coming by to share them. Thank you!


  6. I feel as if I missed out on doing a lot I should have done when our kids were little. We had good intentions, but carrying through was harder. I think some of the biggest lessons our kids learned from us is that our faith is real, our relationships with Jesus are real and that we don’t react as the world expects when people sin against us.


    1. Anita, I suspect almost all parents have good intentions. But sometimes, when good intentions meet the realities of life, they get tossed under the wheels, so to speak. 🙂

      I love that your kids learned that your faith is real. That’s my hope for our boys. And yes, that not reacting as the world expects? Not always easy to live, and certainly not easy to instill in our kids. Thank you for giving me something to ponder–how to make sure we live our faith real. 🙂


  7. I’m leaving your post open to digest properly later, with a cup of tea, but just wanted to say that your line “I feel like I’m losing the battle for the souls” struck such a chord with me…’s exactly how I feel about my son growing up….but then I see him, sometimes, being so genuinely kind, so genuinely concerned and compassionate and selfless, and I smile inside….


    1. Helen, like you, I see those glimpses in our boys that show us they are listening—at least sometimes, and they are absorbing—on occasion, those lessons we’re trying to instill in them. Those kindnesses they live out, the thinking of others that I spy sometimes, those give me hope that they are still receptive to the things my husband and I are trying to share with them.

      Saying a prayer for you and your son today.


      1. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I think we need to learn to trust that all we’ve done (or, rather, shown them, as they learn more through their observations of us than from the things we try to teach them) is sufficient and that we have equipped them with the tools they need to grow in to the beautiful men we so desperately want them to be. It’s scary but I’ve been thinking that it’s another gift to them: the gift of trust, that we trust them sufficiently to let them be, to let them work things out themselves and grow and develop fully as a result. It’s a beautiful thing, really. Thank you for your prayers: I feel God so, so close to us at the moment.


      2. Yes . . . trust. My hubby and I are looking for ways to let them be trusted. Sometimes they fail, but that’s also how they learn. Being given second chances and making better choices that second time around. And, yes, trusting them to work things out for themselves. It’s so hard as a mom to do that sometimes! But, again, that’s how they grow into men of integrity. I appreciate you and your wisdom, Helen!


      3. Jeanne….beautiful wise words…..(this parenting lark isn’t easy….and as a (single) Mama of a son and a daughter, I can see that I’m having (and going to have) most difficulties parenting my boy….he’s desperate for a male role model (keeps mentioning it)…..I’m looking for some male teachers (music/dance/art) so at least he sees some adult men each week…..have a lovely day! Helen


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