How To Wage War For The Heart Of Your Family.

A couple of years ago we found ourselves at a crossroad in our family. We came face to face with the reality that change was needed. It has been extremely difficult to institute, but the payoff is worth it.

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It’s that breaking moment you’ve always heard happens in other people’s lives, but you never expect will arrive at your doorstep. After all, your children won’t ever make bad choices like other people’s kids, right? The infrastructure of your family will never be weakened or compromised like so and so’s family down the street. And then it happens to you.  Suddenly, your breath is taken away.

When this happens you find yourself standing at a fork in the road and you’re faced with a decision. Continue on the route we’ve been traveling, or move in a new direction and change.

We were there as a family not that long ago. Kristin and I had to take a hard look at our family. We surveyed our children’s behavior and asked ourselves a lot of why questions when it came to their choices and attitudes. We re-evaluated our priorities personally, and as a family, and contrasted them to what we said our values were.

Truth is, we didn’t liked what we saw. We didn’t like the apathy in our children, or us. We found ourselves unsatisfied with the direction our family was moving. The mis-guided priorities that permeated our family made us sick, to be honest. Through the pain of these realizations, we decided it was time to get up and fight. We drew a line in the sand and decided to reclaim our family. A year and a half later I can safely say that it has been one of the hardest battles we’ve ever fought. It’s unending. It’s taken a lot of desperation and intentionality. We had to get desperate and choose to intentionally engage in the fight for our family’s heart!

Get mad.

We got mad. Really mad at our apathy, staunchness, and lack of direction. We became so ticked off at our situation that we couldn’t rest until we were moving in a different direction. We discovered that when you get mad at your predicament or situation, it leads to change. We refused to allow bad choices to go unchecked. We no longer accepted apathy as a mode of operation amongst us or our children. Our anger toward it brought an end to it!

Change direction.

We realized pretty quickly that getting mad does absolutely no good unless you’re willing to change direction. If you become angry over your situation but continue to walk the same direction, all you do is waste emotion. We’ve been guilty of this so much in the past. We’ve talked about changing our direction. We’ve even intended to walk a new direction. But intentions mean nothing unless they’re backed up with action.

Andy Stanley, senior pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, says this: “Your direction, not your intention, determines your destination.”

For our family, it meant changing the way we carried out our days. We realized that we were permitting our children to spend a lot of time online or watching TV. This had to change. New boundaries needed to be established. We discovered that we were not dialed in as parents to some of the smaller, easily missed, needs of some of our children. We had to change direction.

Charge the hill of your family’s heart.

Once we were made enough and moving in a new direction, it was time to storm the hill and reclaim our family’s heart. We looked our children square in the face and told them, “I love you enough to put a stop to this!” “I love you so much that I am not giving up on you and I am going to be there for you no matter what!”

“I’m going to do whatever it takes to fight for your heart!” These moments were gut-wrenching at times. In fact, they nearly took the life out of us. Some of our children resisted or complained but we kept fighting. Again, we’re still fighting. Choosing to fight for the heart of your family is not a one-time event. It’s a lifetime event.

Personally change.

This was the hardest thing to do, but we had to. We realized that it was easy to expect our children to change, but a whole different thing for us to change. For our children to change direction, however, we had to change direction and model what we were expecting for our children.

We learned a lot from this experience. At the end of the day, this is about growth and growth is hard. It’s never easy to go to the gym and begin getting in shape for the first time after years of no exercise. It’s painful. Truth is, changing the course of our family was extremely painful. It still is. But it’s the healthiest thing we could do for them.

I promise that if you choose to do this in your own family, consistently for a long period of time, you will see powerful results. It will not be an overnight fix but, in time, it will be worth it. What are you waiting for?

Question: What areas do you need to change in your family? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • No Matter What Mom

    You are not alone! I expected that we might very well have some big issues, but it still feels like a punch to the gut when it happens. We went through this a couple of years ago when we had children in sixth and seventh grade. Both of them started acting out in ways that told us that they were in over their heads. Each of them suffers from PTSD, due to the instability and trauma of their early lives. Middle school, with its multiple teachers, in different classrooms, with different kids in each period, and its ever-treacherous social system, was causing them to spend most of their time in threat-assessment/survival mode. They weren’t learning academically and didn’t have the social skills and strengths they needed to make good choices about “friends” and other relationships. They gravitated to those they thought were strong–usually evidenced by the ease with which those people flouted authority–or those who would take advantage of their need to feel accepted (read “safe”).

    We determined that we could not meet our children’s needs at that time at any of the available public or charter school alternatives and decided to school them at home. After a fast search of the available resources, we did find a tuition-free charter school that had a home-based program. That allowed us to hit the ground running in giving our kids a good education at home, despite that it was the middle of a semester. It also gave us all the gift of being able to set our family’s priorities without having to take the school’s schedule into account. We were able to spend lots of quality time together and, because we could set our own school hours each day, we were able to utilize the therapeutic services that our children needed without having to compete with others for those after-school and evening hours. We eventually brought our youngest child home to school, as well. Those 18 months made a huge difference for all of us in terms of filling in developmental gaps, bonding and attaching without a lot of external pressures from other systems, and the kids all did far better academically and actually retained what they learned.

    All of our kids are back in typical public school, now, because they want to be and because we think we are on solid ground. They know that we will do the radical, if necessary. Because of the intensive work we were able to do as a family during that time when we took a different course from the typical (and believe me when I say that we took a lot of flack about that decision), our children and our whole family is functioning a lot better and we have far stronger relationships. We have seen big changes in our children’s hearts.

    I don’t know what form your radical change will take, but our children’s hearts are worth whatever it takes to meet their needs. I find that their hearts turn so much more readily when they feel safe and secure. What they need specifically is not always easy to discern, but it is always worth the hunt to figure it out. Your willingness to examine and make big changes speaks volumes about your love for and commitment to your children.

    • Our change is pretty radical when you compare it to the American norm. We are huge believers in the worth of children’s hearts as well. Thanks for your comment!

      • No Matter What Mom

        The question isn’t how far off of our culture’s norms we are, but how radically right for our own family our chosen course is. I never imagined doing most of the things we’ve done as parents until it became plain that each of them was necessary for our children and our family. Like most aspects of parenting, you don’t know what it’s going to be like or what it is going to take until you get there. I wish you all well as you do what you know is best for your family.

    • Jill Ann Morehead

      I know our family is there.

      • Jill, I am so sorry to hear this. We are lifting you all up.

  • Love your emphasis on personally changing if you want to see changes in your family. Needed that challenge today.

    • Brad, thanks! Glad this hit home. I find myself needing this reminder all the time as well! 🙂

  • Jeff

    This hits home for me. Last year, as I reviewed the year and what we accomplished as a family, I discovered that I missed a lot of the goals I had. Why? Simply because I was not intentional about going after those goals. Other things got in the way.
    This year is the year of intentionality. If we are to become the family we want to become, I need to lead us intentionally toward those goals. It won’t just “happen.”
    Great article!

    • Jeff, thanks so much. What a powerful realization. I’ve been there. Intentionality goes so far to steer your family in the right direction. Thanks for sharing.