How Moms Can Help Shape Their Kids' Character


Lisa Pulliam shares why it is important to exert effort in shaping your child's heart, rather than focusing on what they should do with their lives.

We’re exploring how moms can be visionaries for their children and help plot their future, as well as their present. We are joined by Lisa Pulliam as she discusses how moms can help shape their kids character.

I remember the exact moment our first-born daughter rebelled against the infamous “look“ that previously had the power to deter her from disobeying. She looked right at my husband, and back to the outlet on the wall, then back at him.  He cleared his throat and said, “Leah, NO. Don’t touch.”  She touched the outlet.

In that moment, we knew we had a problem to solve. How exactly were we going to parent our children? Coming from extremely different family upbringings, both with their own flavor of dysfunction, we were at a total loss for knowing what was the “right” way to train up our children.

I was a rather immature believer, which made taking Biblical principles and translating them into parenting application beyond my abilities. So I turned to friends for advice, and in return we were handed a copy of Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. As soon as we saw the Foreword written by David Powlison, we were sold. David’s daughters were teenage girls at the time and happened to be students in our boarding school community. We loved the Powlison girls and often said we’d like to see our children turn out like them.

Our vision for our children began with Shepherding a Child’s Heart as we embraced Tripp’s instructions to think about behavior in the context of shaping their hearts and lives. Our discipline, decisions and training moments were never just about the moment.  We were always thinking about how “this behavior” would develop into a habit that would work for them or against them as adults.

Of course, working with teens gave us eyes to see how a two-year-old temper tantrum would look when they were thirteen. In case you don’t know — the older ones are a lot harder to handle if the heart issues aren’t addressed young.

Learning principles from others

So while we were focusing on training up the hearts of our tots, we were also taking in the lives lived before us. When we saw character traits and godly attributes in the young men and women in our community, we’d find a way to ask them or their parents what it took to shape them in that direction. It’s amazing how each story had overlapping principles:

  • consistency in expectations
  • fair disciplining from both parents
  • affirming words relating to character
  • time spent talking and interacting together
  • encouraging unique gifts and talents
  • listening to what was going on in the heart, not simply reacting to their behavior
  • a clear sense parents were sacrificing their time and agenda for the family
  • faith lived out by parents in a way that was caught and not taught
  • biblical principles communicated with grace and truth
  • family relationships marked by love, respect, forgiveness, and humility

Our vision for our children has never been about what they’ll do when they grow up but rather about who they will become.

Preparing them for God’s plan

There is no way for us to know how God would like to use their gifts and talents in light of the opportunities He’ll bring their way, so we’ve never focused on casting a vision for a particular college or career focus. Yes, we cheer them on toward being good students, urge them daily to study well, and support their athletic and musical pursuits knowing that what they are doing now will impact their opportunities later on.

We use these everyday moments to train their character as we cast a vision for who they will become as an adult — as a spouse, parent, employee, employer, community neighbor, church member, club organizer.  

We’re committed to challenging our children to live in such a way that they will not have any regrets for how they’ve lived while preparing them to lead godly lives both behind the scenes and publicly in big roles and small roles.

Proverbs 16:9 NIV In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

We all know that what we plan, especially in terms of careers and relationships, isn’t always the course God plots for us. Rather than spending the time we have focusing on what they should do with their lives, we’re putting our time into shaping their hearts.

We want them to see a vision of who they can become, wherever God chooses to take them in their future.

Written by Lisa Pulliam


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