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Do You Have The Heart Of Your Special Needs Child?

By Dr. S.M. Davis


Dr. Davis can be located at "This article first appeared in HOME SCHOOL DIGEST as a two-part series in V12#2 & V12#3."

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(Editor's note: This article is outstanding and one of a kind. We are thankful to be able to reprint it here for you to read and ponder over. There is also an additional article that will be helpful if you are interested in pursuing the information in greater detail here. It is "Freedom from the Spirit of Anger" by Dr. S.M. Davis

    Our family has personally experienced winning the hearts of our children, all diverse in mental ability. Capturing the hearts of our special needs, developmentally delayed children is the same as capturing the hearts of our normally developing children. It starts with us, as parents. The souls of our children are more precious than anything to us. Our success as parents is not whether our children can read or write, hold a good job, even speak or walk. It is whether or not our blessings from the Lord are an honor and glory to their Savior and Maker, Jesus Christ.

    We have successfully used these principles starting 7 years ago. The results are outstanding. As you read this article, you will see that the stories are about older children, who are not necessarily disabled. The same principles apply. The Bible does not have a handicapped section. God's word does not change. Is your disabled or normal child a rebel? With God's help, it is entirely possible to help our children change from a distant, Godless son or daughter to one who loves you and loves the Lord. This article is also great preventive maintenance for younger families. Why become entrapped in the world's idea of childhood? Instead of just "getting through the terrible twos or the rebellious teen years", life can be full of love, joy, peace, patience and self-control. Some families are content if their children do not do drugs, don't steal, keep away from rock music and do not hop into bed with the opposite sex before marriage. We want you to know that there is much more to life as a Christian family than this. A wonderful, relationship, free from fighting, rebellion, back talking, bitterness and anger is totally possible.

    Granted, our family has not arrived at perfection. We still sin and have hard feelings. We still get angry and have to repent. But we can assure you that the "normal teenager of the world" does not live in our home. Our closest friends are our older sons. We share our lives, the good and bad. (When they are young men and woman, it is hard to hide anything from them anyway!)

    We almost lost the hearts of our two older sons about 7 years ago. They had become distant and surly. We were oblivious to what was causing this change in our sons. The Lord led us to similar information as in this article from another source back then. We implemented the principles in our lives as parents and in our children. It took about 6 months until we could finally heave a sigh of happy relief and say, "We have the hearts of our sons back." We have consistently kept up with the principles here and have reaped wonderful rewards for our efforts. At first it seemed a sacrifice to give up our selfish attitudes and entertainment. Are you curious yet? Read on and see what you think. End of editor's note.)


    One of the greatest gifts God has given us is our children. They are also a great responsibility.

Raising children is a challenge. Raising good children is a big challenge.

Raising Godly children is an incredible, but possible, challenge!

There are several important ingredients needed to raise Godly children. One is teaching children to obey. Another is teaching them to show respect and honor. Then, too, parents must protect children from evil. It is a false philosophy that says you produce better children by exposing them to the filth of this world. Romans 16:19 says, "I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple [or ignorant] concerning evil."

Many parents in our day are accused of over-protecting their children. Could I give you my observation of that? We don't lose our children because of being over-protective; we lose our children because of being harsh and critical or from being inconsistent in our own lives.

By far the majority of families I know are not protective enough of their children.

Teaching obedience and respect and protecting children from evil are key ingredients necessary to raise Godly children. But they are not the key ingredients. In fact, you may have those ingredients and still not succeed in raising a wise, Godly child without the key ingredient.

In Proverbs 23:26 we read, "My son, give me thine heart."

Malachi 4:6 is a prophecy concerning the ministry of John the Baptist: "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers..."

But that's not the end of the verse.

The verse ends with a warning of what God does if fathers don't turn their hearts to their children: "lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

We are witnessing the fulfillment of that verse all around us when kids shoot kids, and when schools have to have armed guards and metal detectors, and when people are afraid to walk city streets alone.

Luke 1:17 is a further exposition of Malachi 4:6: "And he [John the Baptist] shall go before Him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient [that's the children] to the wisdom of the just [that's what parents are supposed to be]."

The number one characteristic of wisdom is justice. When children see parents as just, rather than unjust, then children are more likely to cease their disobedience and rebellion and give their hearts to their parents.

The last phrase of the verse says: " make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Young people are not prepared for God to work in their lives until their hearts are turned from themselves or from others to their parents.

I've given you the passages where the truth is stated. Now let me tell you where the truth is illustrated.


Second Samuel 13 and 14 are the chapters that tell how King David lost his son Absalom's heart.

Absalom and Tamar were full-blooded brother and sister. But David wasn't as protective of Tamar as he should have been. David allowed Tamar's half-brother Amnon to be alone with Tamar and Amnon raped his own half sister.

David was angry when he heard what happened, but he took no action.

TWO YEARS LATER Absalom had his half-brother Amnon executed to revenge his sister's rape. Then Absalom fled to Geshur.

David's general Joab noticed how badly David missed Absalom. So he got the king to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.

But for 2 more years David refused to talk to his son.

Absalom, provoked to wrath by SEVEN YEARS of his father's failure to act and failure to communicate, sent for General Joab. When Joab didn't come, he had Joab's barley fields set on fire. Those fields on fire were a picture of Absalom's heart burning with anger and rejection and distress because of being cut off from his father David.

Finally Joab came and Absalom said, "I want to see my Father. If he wants to kill me, then let him kill me, but I want to see my father!"

So Joab talked to David and David sent for Absalom. But the reception Absalom received was not the warm reception of a father. It was the cold reception of a monarch on a throne.

When a man is a father, his children must see him first and foremost as a father! Children don't mind a father being something else, but he must primarily be a father to his children. It's alright to be a Factory Worker or a Pastor or a Businessman, but a father must first be a father to his children.

Absalom was treated like a subject, when he should have been treated like a son!

To those who understand the principles involved, it is no surprise that in the very next verse, 2 Samuel 15:1, Absalom had become a rebel. And he had plotted and was carrying out his plan to usurp his father's throne.

Verse 6 of chapter 15 is an enlightening verse. Absalom did to the men of Israel what he apparently wished David his father would have done for him.

By listening and talking and touching, "Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel."

Before the chapter ends, David is running for his life, and Absalom the rebel has taken the throne of Israel.


Now please listen carefully as I make one of the most important statements you will ever hear any preacher make in your life. The key ingredient in raising good children is to get their hearts early, keep their hearts, and be extremely vigilant to not lose their hearts.

If you do lose your child's heart, then quickly find out where and when you lost it and put into action a plan to get the heart back NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES TO DO IT. No matter how much time or trouble or money it takes to get back your child's heart, you must decide you will be willing to pay the price.

Proverbs 22:6 says "Train up a child in the way he should go." The Hebrew word for "train up" means "pay the price to dedicate him fully to the Lord." The word is only used a few times in the Old Testament. It is usually translated "dedicate." It occurs in I Kings 8:63 "So King Solomon and all Israel dedicated the house of the Lord." What price did Solomon pay to dedicate the house of the Lord? It was not cheap. It cost Solomon 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. The message is this: Whatever it costs you to dedicate and train your children to follow God, then you must be willing to pay the price.

Listen to all of Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." YOU CAN'T CLAIM THE PROMISE OF THE LAST HALF OF THAT VERSE UNLESS UNLESS YOU'RE WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE REQUIRED IN THE FIRST HALF!

It may cost you financially -- $1,000 or $10,000. You must be willing to pay the price.

It may cost you your job. You must be willing to pay the price.

It may require you selling your home and relocating elsewhere. You must be willing to pay the price.

It may require you taking several weeks off work to travel one on one with your child. You must be willing to pay the price.

It may require radical changes in your own personal life. You must be willing to pay the price.

It may require days of fasting and praying. You must be willing to pay the price.

There have been times when Iíve dealt even with Pastors who had rebellious children but they were not willing to pay the price to reach them. A Pastor is not disqualified from being a Pastor because he has a rebellious child. But according to 1 Samuel 3:13 his continued qualification is questionable if he has a rebellious child and he will not take whatever steps he is able to take to deal with the child. Eli did not loose the priesthood because his sons became vile. Eli lost the priesthood because "his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not."

Be sure of this right now: God knows your heart. And God already knows whether or not you love your child enough to be willing to pay the price to deal with his disobedience and rebellion. I've seen many rebels change, but seldom ever have I seen a rebel change where his parents were not willing to pay the price.

Before I finish this message, you may feel that I'm somewhat intense. It's because I've lived through the learning of what I'm speaking.


On December 21, 1992 my telephone rang. A very distraught Mother was on the other end of the line.

For a year and a half they had had problems with their now 17 1/2 year old son Michael.

It all seemed to have started about age 16 when they got Michael his own car and let him get a job at a restaurant.

Michael became close friends with a 19 year old fellow who had attended the same Christian School where Michael was a student.

But why don't I allow Michael's Mother to tell you their story in her own words?

"Our son running around with a friend from church seemed fine. Boy, were we wrong.

"Michael soon started staying out late. He was working later and later. On his days off he went with his friends to their homes to play pool or ping pong. 'Mr. 19's' girlfriend wasn't allowed to go out with him unless her parents went, so that wasn't a problem. So as far as we knew, Mike and 'Mr. 19' were just a couple of Christian guys having fun.

"We totally trusted Mike. We watched him. He seemed to still be having devotions. He was still in church most of the time. His mouth was a little "smarter" than usual, but we chalked it up to being 16. [Remember that phrase.] We also noticed him stretching the rules a little. Some things weren't adding up, but nothing major.

"Then in November, 4 months after Mike turned 16, we got up one morning and the car was gone. It was 4 A.M. and Mike wasn't home. We were both up and suddenly noticed a note on the dining room table. I still remember every word on it, even though it has been three years now. It said, 'Someone said I couldn't do it. I love you Mom and Dad. Bye, Mike.' We weren't sure what 'it' meant, but we were horrified.

"First we ran over to 'Mr. 19's' apartment. No one was there. We checked the garage but no one was there. About that time I checked my purse and realized $300 was gone. It was a relief to realize he had taken the money and probably run away.

"We started searching through Mike's stuff. Boy were we shocked. We found lots of awful, hard rock tapes. Mike set those out for us before he left. We found cigarettes and found out he'd been drinking. We also found pictures he had drawn of evil, wicked skulls. They gave me chills! Mike had a side we knew nothing about.

"Mike was found in Florida 5 days later. Broke. We had him put in a detention home and went to get him. [This family lived in Illinois.] Mr. 19 who had gone with Mike was just left in the street. We had the car impounded so he had nowhere to go or stay. His parents sent him nothing, so he was left on the streets of Tampa, Florida with only his clothes. He was scared. He stayed at a police station in a chair.

"We got there two days later. God had started the work and we brought back both boys. Mike confessed to us 'everything' and asked our forgiveness. We blindly gave it to him. [For an explanation of that statement you may want to listen to the message "When Forgiveness Wonít Work."]

"From this point on, 'Mr. 19' was gone.

"One part Mike held back was that 'Mr. 19' had introduced him to pornography. They had started renting X-rated movies."

Let me interject here that Mike's parents later told me that they were humbled to find out that Mike's first exposure to bad movies was in their own home when Mike was about 10 years old. His parents had tried cable TV with HBO for about six months. Mike would watch it when they didn't know about it. Mike also had another friend while growing up whom his parents didn't know about, who provided him access to MTV, rock music tapes, cigarettes, alcohol, dirty movies, etc. whenever he wanted them.

The Mother continues: "Mike was fine until the next summer when a girl came into the picture. She seemed like a nice girl...went to 'A' student...worked hard...we liked her. Again we trusted blindly. Mike was smart mouthed with us. By this time we were home schooling but I still worked 35 hours a week and my husband 50 hours a week. The children were home alone a lot.

"There were small things that weren't adding up, but the hard rock music wasn't seen around the house. He wasn't smoking. He never talked mean or ugly to us. His hair was short, neat, and clean. He was always in church. He loved his family. So to us he was just a struggling good kid.

"On December 20, 1992 Mike's sister came into our room about 11:00 crying. She said she had to talk to us. She told us Mike and a friend had been bringing X rated movies into the house. She had walked in on them one night. He had a VCR in his bed room. They threw her out and told her to keep quiet. They didn't care what we or anyone else thought. They were going to do what they wanted.

"Our daughter also told us he had ruined her birthday slumber party 2 weeks earlier. He had taken one of the girls to the car and was kissing her. He had also been sexually aggressive with all her other 14-year-old friends."


It was the morning of the next day, December 21st, that Michael's folks made contact with me.

They desperately wanted to know if there was anything they could do to change their 17 and 1/2 year old son.

Allow me to ask you right here: What would you tell these parents? What can this Mom and Dad do that would straighten out a 17 and 1/2 year old son who has now tried about everything the world has to offer, has become deceitful, and shows little or no inclination towards changing?

Before I tell you the end of the story, let me first point out to you that:


The heart of every problem is a problem in the heart. And that includes rebellion. Rebellion is more a heart problem than a life problem.

Hebrews 3:10 says, "They do alway err in their heart."

The problem David had was that he had lost Absalom's heart. Absalom's life wandered because his heart wandered.

Many months before Michael ran away from home, Michael's parents lost Michael's heart. Michael's life wandered because his heart wandered.

How easy it would've been for Michael's parents to focus on his running away from home, or on his bad friends, or on his pornography addiction, or on his beer drinking, or on his rock music, etc.

But all those things were symptoms. They were surface. The root cause of all those problems was this: without even knowing how, when, or where it happened, Michael's parents lost their son's heart.


I cannot emphasize this too strongly, because this "heart" that I'm talking about controls everything else in a person's life.

Your heart keeps everything else in your life living and functioning.

A parent who has his child's heart will have access to everything else in his child's life.

When Michael's Mother said he had a side they knew nothing about, she was stating plainly that they didn't have his heart.

A parent who has his child's heart will know what is going on in his child's life; he can direct his child's feet to go in the right direction; he can protect his child's eyes and ears from wrong pictures or wrong music; and he can determine who his child's friends will be.

I remember talking to the parents of a boy I'll call "Henry." For 15 years Henry's parents had never had serious problems with their son. But with tears they told me something was wrong. When I quizzed them concerning their home it seemed they had the perfect home. Both parents were sincere, humble Christians with good standards. They were in a good Church. They had no TV. They were careful with newspapers, magazines, and music. Their son was being home schooled. But something was wrong.

I'll tell you later what was wrong with "Henry."

Did you know that it is better, in the long run, to have a child who occasionally disobeys you, but you have his heart, than to have a child who is continually, compliantly obedient, but you don't have his or her heart?

Not every child whose parents lose his heart becomes wild or rebellious. But the potential for rebellion is present, regardless of how outwardly obedient a child is, if you don't have his heart. That means this: Any parent who does not have his child's heart has a child who has the potential to become a terrible rebel who does horrible things and breaks his parents' hearts.

Are you thinking? Do you have your child's heart?

What would be your child's response to you if you were to ask him or her right now: "Do I have your heart?"

Don't forget: The heart of every problem is a problem in the heart.


This "heart" I'm talking about was not made to be kept. It was made to be given away.

Whoever the person is to whom your child gives his heart is also the person who will eventually have his life and loyalty.

How could Michael run away from a safe, secure, love-filled home with his 19 year old friend?

It wasn't hard at all. His friend had his heart!

Whoever has the heart will eventually have the child!

That's the reason the world is continually pressing upon us and trying to tie children's hearts with everyone and everything (good and bad) except their parents - from babysitters, to TV stars, to school teachers, to cartoon figures, to basketball stars, to football stars, to rock 'n roll musicians, to boyfriends and girlfriends.

I've seen children whose hearts were more with some cartoon figure or sports team than with their parents. Sometimes you can tell just by looking at a child's bedroom walls who has his heart!

May I ask you, "Do you right now have your child's heart?"

*Would your child rather spend time with you than almost anyone else?

*Does your child listen respectfully when you speak?

*Does your child have a genuine desire to please you?

*Does it hurt him to displease you?

*Is he loyal to you in your presence as well as behind your back?

*Do you know what is going on inside your child?

Remember Henry? The reason Henry's parents were having problems with him was because Henry had gotten a . . . girlfriend.

One of Satan's biggest ways of getting young people's hearts from their parents prematurely is by getting them to play the boyfriend/girlfriend game.

Is there no other alternative to this approach that is so common in our day and yet is destroying so many young people? I believe there is an outstanding Biblical alternative whereby a young person plans to give his heart to one other person in life. Then he guards his heart against coveting anyone else before he finds that person and after he marries that person.

Where do I find this in the Bible? Let me ask a simple question to answer that. question. How many "Eve's" did God make for Adam? And how many "Adam's" did God make for Eve?

Let me describe to you what is happening in our day. Johnny likes Susie. But then they break up. Then he likes Christina. But they break up. Then he likes Kate. But they break up. Then he likes Anna. But they break up. Then he likes Kelly. And he marries Kelly! Then they break up.

By going from girlfriend to girlfriend to girlfriend, our young people are not learning how to be committed. They are learning how to break up!

Young people who guard their hearts against covetousness are then able to seek first the kingdom of God while being graciously friendly (not flirty!) with everyone.

A fellow is then able to keep his heart with his parents and let them help him find his mate after he's old enough and mature enough for marriage.

Michael's parents brought him back from Florida. But they didn't really get his heart back even though they brought him back.

It was a really easy thing for Mike to give his heart to a girl so that problems started up all over again.


We're all born with the desire to please our parents, to be close to them, to share things with them, and to get their praise and approval.

Hear Esau as he cries: "Bless me, even me also, O my father."

See David hungering to see Absalom and Absalom hungering to see David.

And there was Michael, before he ran away to Florida, setting everything out so his parents could find it! He was crying out to his parents to get his heart back and help him get his life straightened out!

Please listen to me carefully here. I'm about to tell you ONE OF SATAN'S BIGGEST LIES TO PARENTS IN OUR DAY. If the destructive impact of lies could be compared to bombs, this one lie must have the destructive capability of a nuclear warhead. Yet this lie is believed and even joked about by many people. Here is the lie: "Some adolescent rebellion is normal and to be expected out of every teenager." Since rebellion is normal and to be expected, then you don't feel like you have to deal with it.

Rebellion is not normal! According to I Samuel 15:23, rebellion is sin and exposes a child to the realm and power and control of Satan.

Just a little bit of rebellion should be a sign to a parent that the heart is wandering and is troubled and is hungry for love and attention and acceptance.

When a child has a "smart mouth" like Michael had, it must not simply be "chalked up to him being 16!"

A "little bit" of rebellion is like a fast-growing cancer that swiftly multiplies exponentially into a whole mass of life-destroying rebellion!


Who provides that ideal picture for us anyway? Well, I donít think it was Abraham and Isaac. Nor was it Isaac and Joseph. It certainly wasn't David and his sons.

This may surprise you, but the ideal example of the hearts of parents and children being knit together is that of the heavenly Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in John 5:19 - "Verily, verily I say unto you. The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."

And in John 5:30 Jesus said, "I can of mine own self do nothing...I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."

And consider Jesus' statement in John 10:30 in this context: "I and my Father are one."

5 - THERE ARE THREE BIG DANGERS FOR THE HEART. They take place in this order: the heart can be lost; then hardened; then stolen.

(1) The heart can be lost.

Perhaps the number one way a father loses his child's heart is by expressing anger at the child.

Contrary to what many fathers think, anger does not break a child's will. Thatís not a proper goal anyway. God made strong willed children because he needs them to accomplish things for Him. You donít want to break the will. You want to turn it in the proper direction.

What does anger do? Anger crushes a child's spirit, and causes the child to harden his heart.

Over and over when I deal with a rebellious child, I find that his father has had a problem with anger. Michael's Dad was not angry all the time, but occasionally he would "explode, then back off."

Fear of explosions of anger can cause a child to retreat into a shell. And when he goes into that shell, he takes his heart with him.

I've dealt so much with the problems created by men's anger that I'm continually recommending to men that they ask God to cleanse their lives completely of anger.

Psalm 37:8 says, "Cease from anger and forsake wrath." Proverbs 19: 19 says, "A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again." Proverbs 27: 4 says, "wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous." "Outrageous" means "like a downpour or a flood."

Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, "Anger resteth in the bosom of fools."

Galatians 5: 19-20 says, "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, etc."

There are some things in life you get victory over because you know you just canít do them. The consequences are far too great. There are some things you just donít do at your house.

You donít bring X rated movies into your house and watch them as a family.

You donít bring an idol into your living room and bow down before it.

You donít have a witch come into your house and hold a seance.

And you donít get angry in your house.

Ephesians 4: 31 says, "let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger... be put away from you."

You say, "But what if someone breaks into my house in the middle of the night and I need to be angry?"

You won't need anger even then. You'll need courage and discernment then. PLEASE LET THIS SINK IN! You and I NEVER NEED human wrath. "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." (James 1:20)

Ephesians 4:26 that says "Be ye angry and sin not," doesn't mean that you can scream and holler and throw dishes and slam the door and knock a hole in the wall . . . but don't sin while you're at it! Ephesians 4:26 means when you feel anger starting to rise, WATCH OUT . . . YOU'RE ABOUT TO SIN!

One father said to me, "I only get angry once every couple of months." How would you like to live next door to a volcano that only erupts once every couple of months?

The heart is much too delicate to survive the catastrophic explosions of a father or mother's anger.

Sometimes parents lose their child's heart when they break the most serious command given to parents in the Bible: "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath." (Eph. 6:4) For a good article on anger please click and read "FREEDOM FROM THE SPIRIT OF ANGER" written by S. M. Davis.

I refer to that command as the most serious command because it is the only negative command I know of given directly to parents in relation to their children. The most devastating consequences occur not from breaking positive commands, but from breaking negative commands.

The Bible commands us to love our neighbor. It also says, "Thou shalt not kill." It's bad to break the positive command. It's horrendous to break the negative command!

You may provoke your child to wrath by criticizing him unjustly, by speaking to him harshly, by teasing him excessively, or by insulting him publicly.

You may provoke your child to wrath by raising the standard required to get your praise and approval so high that he or she can't reach it. It's entirely possible for a parent to have expectations for his child that are higher than what God expects from the child. Those expectations can easily ruin your relationship.

An inexperienced, immature child should not be expected to do a job as well as an experienced, mature, perfectionist parent. When a child has done his best, he should be praised whether he has performed as well as someone else or not. Children also should not be compared to others so as to make them feel inferior.

You may provoke your child to wrath by making them do something they are terribly afraid to do.

You may provoke your child to wrath by not communicating enough with them, or by spending too much time outside the home, or by being glued to TV or other personal pleasures too much.

(2) The child, to accommodate the hurt of you losing his heart, hardens his heart.

(3) After the heart is hardened, someone else can easily steal the heart.

When King David didn't listen to the needs of the men of Israel, then they hardened their hearts toward him. Then Absalom came along and saw the weak area and provided a listening ear, just like wrong friends in our day see the weak areas and provide listening ears.

Absalom listened to them and talked to them and touched them and stole their hearts away. (II Sam. 15:5-6)

The things Absalom did to steal the hearts of the men of Israel are the very same things that are used in our day to steal the hearts of young people from their parents.

But here's the good news: Those same things will also work for parents to "steal back" the hearts of their sons or daughters from those who stole them away in the first place! Thank God that is true. I've seen it work over and over.

Dad and Mom! Listen to your child! Then speak kindly with concern to your child while touching them.

If you'll listen closely enough to your children you'll find out where they're hurting and what's bothering them. Proverbs 24:3 says that a house is established by understanding.

Say tenderly to your child: "I want to understand."

It may be bothering your child that he's starting to have complexion problems. Maybe some friends are making fun of him because of it. Look him in the eyes and listen to him with genuine concern!

Don't foolishly say, "It's no big deal." Say, "Thank you for telling me how you feel. I know it hurts when people laugh at you. I remember how I felt. Tell me more about it."

Your child may feel fat, or skinny, or ugly, or too tall, or too short. Listen to them!

Some parents say, "My children don't want to talk." That's not true. Children want to talk. But they want to talk about things that parents often think are unimportant. You and I need to learn that if it's important to our children, then it's important!

What I see as my child's needs and what she sees as her needs may be two different things. I have to meet her needs not only as I perceive them, but as she perceives them as well.

Do you know what this means? (This is my favorite sentence in this entire message.) It means that your taking time to kiss your little girl's dolly because it has a sore toe is more important for your happiness 20 years from now than your taking time to listen to your boss offer you a $20,000 a year raise! It means you better care that your little boy got his toy truck stuck in the mud today.

It means youíd better care about your little boyís dog and your little girlís cat.

This "cat business" is tough on me. We now have a yard full of immoral, prolific cats. We have one mother cat who has given birth to 54 kittens. You should see her strutting around on Motherís Day! She thinks Godís command to "be fruitful and multiply" was given just to her!

You say, "Do you love cats?" It doesnít matter whether I love cats or not. I love my girls, and they love cats.

I was in my office one day busily occupied doing "church work" - important stuff! But when my telephone rang and my daughter was weeping because one of her kittens had been accidentally killed, I left behind all that important stuff and drove 14 miles home.

When I got there, I hugged and loved and spoke comforting words to my girl. Then I went out and buried her kitty. Then I hung around for a couple hours more to make sure she was all right. Then every day for several days I continued to ask her how she was doing.

Why did I do that? Because it was an opportunity for me to let my girl know that she had a Daddy who was a Daddy first and foremost and then a Pastor.

I know every father couldn't drop everything like I did and go home. But I could, so I did.

I don't have to be a cat-lover to be happy in my old age, but I do have to be a child-lover.

Why do children give their hearts to their friends? Because their friends listen to them!

You're not going to raise good children based on how they look on the outside--whether they are conforming or not conforming to your rules. Remember that Michael's parents thought he looked pretty good outwardly just before he ran away.

You have to reach deeper than the surface: "Son, what have you been thinking about? How do you feel about this? Does this bother you? What are you saying to yourself? What did the message at church say to you? Are you reading your Bible? Are you getting answers to your prayers? What can we do together today? What can I explain to you about why we believe the things that we believe?

Questions, questions, questions.

Read through the Gospels and notice how Jesus was continually asking His disciples questions in order to "stay on top" of where they were in their spiritual growth and understanding.


There is a philosophy about youth work that prevails in many Churches. The philosophy is: Hire a youth director to whom the young people give their hearts and let him do lots of things with the youth.

That philosophy is not all bad. There are some young people without parents, or with parents who refuse to be what God wants them to be. Those young people won't make it unless some Godly adult is able to get their hearts and give them some direction.

But God's best is not for a youth pastor to spend time with young people. God's best is for parents to spend time with their young people.


The hand alone cannot keep the heart. Neither is a rod in the hand of a parent giving the youth a spanking likely to turn around a rebellious teen. Can you imagine Michael's parents spanking that 17 1/2 year old young man and it doing any good?! I'm not sure they could've gotten it done if they had wanted to!

The first thing to do at any sign of rebellion is not to get exasperated and shove away. The thing to do is to draw closer to the child.

A home with a rebellious youth is often filled with a negative, critical atmosphere. That has to be changed. Praise creates an atmosphere of love and joy and acceptance whether it's in a home or a church. You wouldn't want to attend a church where there's a harsh, critical atmosphere. But it's just as bad in a home as it is in a church.

Even a rebel hungers for the praise and acceptance of his father. And if a Parent will look diligently, they can find something for which they can praise even the most rebellious child.

Praise is like a powerful magnet drawing the heart of a child in the direction of the one who is giving the praise. Criticism is like a magnet working in reverse and repelling instead of attracting. And to praise or criticize in the presence of others multiplies the power of the praise or criticism.

If I sincerely praise my daughter in the presence of a dozen people, then I multiply the effectiveness and power of the praise a dozen times. And if I criticize my daughter in the presence of a dozen people, I can easily sever every string that ties our hearts together.


Several months ago I came across a phenomenal statement. Here it is: "Every year children are schooled at home they become less peer dependent."

Then a well known preacher said to me: "I've noticed that children who are home schooled are more mature at a younger age."

Those statements caught my attention because, even though our church has a wonderful Christian school, we've been teaching our children at home for several years. I've also had the opportunity to observe the results of socialization in the lives of thousands of Public School students, Christian School students, and Home School students.

My observation is this: Children are better socialized in the family setting of a home school environment because they learn to relate to both adults AND other youth.

I've seen a shy, withdrawn 7 year old girl pull out of her shell and start walking up to adults and talking to them at Church after three months of Home School.

I saw my two oldest daughters choose older, Godly ladies in their 50's and 60's to be bridesmaids in their weddings along with girls their own age.

Think for a moment. We talk about the benefits of socialization. And I'm not totally against a child being with those his own age. But what good thing does a 10 year old learn from another 10 year old?!

I know everyone can't do Home School. But if you want to get your child's heart or keep your child's heart there are very few other things you can do that are as effective as having your children with you all the time.

You say, "But do the children get a good education?"

Statistics show that they get a better than average education.

But we also need to be careful that we don't elevate knowledge to a pinnacle that even the Bible doesn't give it.


Second Peter 1:5 gives God's order in this area: "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue knowledge."

God was not guessing when He gave that order.

The top priority is faith - a person's relationship with God.

The very next priority is virtue, which is character or moral excellence.

After "virtue" is "knowledge". In other words, God sees virtue and character as being more important than knowledge.

When God's priorities are not recognized, then we wind up turning out educated fools - people with lots of knowledge but very little wisdom.

Only an educated fool believes man came from monkeys. Wisdom says, "Great design demands a Great Designer."

Have you ever heard the evolutionist professorís poem? It goes like this:

"Once I was a tadpole, long and thin.

Then I was a toadfrog with my tail tucked in.

Then I was a monkey, swinging through a tree.

Now I am a professor with a PHD!"

More and more in our day we hear: "Trust us. We're scientists. Something comes from nothing." OR

"Trust us. We're doctors. We're highly educated. It has a heartbeat, eyes, and brain waves. It may even suck it's thumb. But it's not a baby."

An abortionist doctor is an educated fool. I would rather have a child who cannot read or write his own name than to have a child who becomes a doctor and doesn't have the wisdom to not kill babies!

Better a little knowledge with a lot of wisdom than a little wisdom with a lot of knowledge.

Proverbs 18:15 says, "The ear of the wise seeketh knowledge."

There may be a time when you have to choose between wisdom and knowledge. If you have to choose, choose attentiveness over algebra, compassion over chemistry, forgiveness over foreign languages, generosity over geography, humility over the humanities, obedience over opthamology, self-control over sociology, and truthfulness over trigonometry.

As one math professor told his class just before they took their final exam: "There are many good people who can not pass an exam in trigonometry, but there are no charactered people who can not pass an exam in honesty."


(1) - The parents must first acknowledge to God and their child that they have lost their child's heart and sincerely seek forgiveness from both God and the child.

Most parents try to first change the child. But God's order is very significant: "Turn the heart of the fathers to the children" comes before its reverse.

Once the parent is seen as "just," then he is ready to reach the one who is "disobedient." (Luke 1:17) Justice usually requires humility on the part of a parent before grace is given to reach the child. This is the reason that counseling with a rebellious teen often accomplishes little or nothing.

I remember counseling with a rebellious teen and him coming to the point of apologizing to his parents. But when I brought him in the room and gave him the opportunity to speak, he said nothing. Then I remembered: God's order requires the father to apologize first to the child.

After the Father apologized with tears, then his son did the same.

(2) - The parents must examine their own lives to make sure they are dedicated fully to God and cleansed of all evil.

A parent with sin in his life will find it difficult if not impossible to deal with sin in his child's life.

Any parent who is not positive that he is a born again Christian should concentrate first on establishing his own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

(3) - The rebellious child must be completely separated from ALL negative PERSONAL influences. Proverbs 13:20 says, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."

This would include all friends (especially any boyfriend or girlfriend), as well as any family members not totally in agreement with the parents' spiritual objectives. This usually means that Home School is essential, not an option.

The parent must be so thorough in this area that the child would not even be allowed to attend a Sunday School Class with young people his own age without the parent present. It may even be necessary to sleep in the same room with the child.

Sadly, there are times when the child must even be separated from grandparents if they are not supportive of the parents.

(4) - The young person must also be completely separated from ALL negative IMPERSONAL Influences.

The home should be cleansed of television, radios, bad music tapes, questionable magazines, sale catalogs, etc. Satan will keep ground in a rebel's life if there is anything left whereby he can hold the ground.

As one changed rebel said to me: "Starving sin works!"

(5) - Everything bad removed must be replaced with something good. The child can not become a spiritual vacuum.

(6) - The parents should earnestly pray that God would bind any evil powers that may be influencing their child. Any time you deal with rebellion, you can be pretty sure you are dealing with Satanic powers. You must not forget that you are not fighting your child. You are fighting the Devil FOR your child.

(7) - Each parent must not follow his natural inclination to push away from the child, but must instead draw closer to the child. Both parents must spend hours and hours with the young person. They should talk and walk and work and teach and play and pray and study and share Scriptures, etc. Much conversation should include why the parents believe what they believe.


Sometimes the best way to do this is for the parent & child to take an extended trip together. It works even better if they can go to a third world type country together.

Incidentally, once you get your child's heart, you need to have a "heart check" every day. Spend a little or a lot of time every day talking and touching and listening to each child to make sure there is no bitterness and no barriers between you and him. You should also try to do something every day to tie new heart strings between you and your child.

(8) - The child must be continually praised for even the smallest display of any character quality. EVEN A REBELLIOUS CHILD HUNGERS FOR THE PRAISE AND ACCEPTANCE OF HIS FATHER. Praise is like a magnet pulling a child's heart to you.

Remember Absalom crying out for his father's attention!

(9) - Parents (especially the Father) must continually humble themselves to ask the child's forgiveness for anger, criticism, inconsistencies, etc. and for failure to communicate, love, praise, care, etc. as God reveals such failures.

The Parent must especially try to recall where he has broken God's key negative command to Parents to "provoke not your children to wrath."

(10) - The parent must help the child deal with bitterness and accept and forgive the child as the child begins to open up and share previously hidden sins and failures.

Rebels often disclose very shocking things. A parent must decide ahead of time that he will forgive anything.

(11) - Parents should find and encourage some other Godly man or woman to spend time with their child.

(12) - The parents must be committed to following God's principles and refuse to yield to the pressures that very likely WILL COME both from outside the home as well as from the child himself when these principles are first instituted.

I told one set of parents that for the first several days after they instituted these principles they would think they had climbed on a wild roller coaster and were riding without safety harnesses or lap bars.

In some cases the rebellious child's grandparents may not support the parents in their decision to change the child. Those parents will then need to find some older couple, along with their pastor, who will encourage them, counsel them, and support them as they apply these principles.

(13) - The parents would be wise to take their child with them to a week long meeting such as takes place at a Camp or Bible Teaching Seminar so the child can be exposed to an extra heavy dose of the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. If the parents go to a remote area, there are also a series of videos they may take with them.

(14) - If the child is adopted or is a stepchild, the approach must be different. You need to listen with the child to my message entitled "How to Help Rebellious Adopted or Stepchildren." The child needs to be helped to ask and then answer the question, "Why did God let this happen in my life?" He also needs to be helped to look 5 to 10 years down the road to see the long-range consequences of his rebellion.

(15) - The Parent must be committed to long-range change and not simply a "quick-fix."

The amazing thing about these principles is how quickly they work. Almost any rebel will turn around in about two weeks. The danger at that point is the parent "letting up" and the child winding up even worse than they were before. Matthew 12:43-45 tells about an unclean spirit leaving a fellow for a short period of time. The spirit returned later and found a clean house. So he left again and found seven other spirits more wicked than himself and moved back in.

I believe the worst rebels you will ever find are rebels who were changed temporarily by parents who themselves refused to permanently change.

I would also warn parents not to decide to experiment with two-thirds of these principles and see if things improve. Most of the principles I've given are interconnected and are dependent on one another to work effectively.

These principles will even work with a "runaway," but the parent must first find a definite way to keep them at home. (Other principles must be used to reach runaways who refuse to return home.)

Sometimes parents listen to this message and ask: "But what about the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Didn't the father just let him go?" My answer to that is this: If you want to follow the principles of Luke 15 as soon as you have a problem, then you may certainly do so. But don't be surprised when your child winds up in the hog pen. Ecclesiastes 10:10 is clear in teaching that there are different principles that may be used with different problems. But wisdom seeks to use the sharpest axe possible to deal with any particular problem of life.

(NATHHAN Editor note: The above steps work with special needs children. From the beginning or early years, if we have the heart of our child with Down syndrome, blindness or other mental or physical disability, we can save ourselves grief. As we well know, the presence of disability does not make our child sinless! We feel that the above steps would work even more effectively with children who are limited in ability and resources. We can help our child with special needs to turn their hearts toward pleasing God and dad and mom instead of worldly entertainment, a dynamic music star, or some other person or thing that has captured their heart instead of us parents. It's especially not too late with disabled young adults. They are younger in mind. Younger minds turn toward the Lord with simplicity. Do not give up. Our children's souls are precious in the sight of the Lord. A foul mouth can be erased. An ungrateful heart can be turned into a habit of thankfulness. A young man's mind seared with porn can be trained not to touch. With God's grace all things are possible and here are some tools.)


Michael's parents had called me on December 21st. Here's the rest of their story from Michael's Mother:

"On December 22nd Mike left after 11:00 P.M. We waited till 3 A.M. till he came home. We searched though his room. We found many things we were not ready for. It became obvious that he was totally out of control.

"That was the worst night of our lives. We were sure that, as we were told, Mike was now to only talk to us. We were now his best and only friends.

"Christmas was hard. At the family get together he sat between us and never left our sight. He wasn't allowed to talk to anyone at Church.

"Then we got Mike under a week of preaching at a camp and by the end of the week God got a hold of him. By the time Mike came home from camp we were ready to do what God wanted from us. We learned a new love for our family. Here's what else we did:

"(1) Got rid of Mike's TV and VCR and Tape player and radio. [Let me insert here: I believe one of the most dangerous things a parent can do is allow his child to have a TV or radio in his room. I think you are almost guaranteeing that you will lose your child.]

"(2) Went to all Video stores and refused to allow our name or our children's names on any list.

"(3) No car.

"(4) No friends.

"(5) No phone calls.

"(6) We chose some Godly men that we knew and trusted to start spending time with Mike.

"(7) Dad started spending lots more time with Michael.

"(8) There was no trust but lots of love.

"(9) We encouraged reading about Godly men.

"We all became best friends. If Mike wanted to see a friend it was only done if we were around.

"God truly did the work in Michael's heart and in ours.

"Only the 1st month or so was hard. After that things changed.

Michael's parents asked him if there were things he wanted to add to the story. Michael's said: "My parents' determination to fight me is what changed my heart. Things would never have changed had my parents not done the things they said and had I not seen they were not giving up. If parents say, 'My child is 16, 17, 18 or whatever and they are old enough that there's nothing I can do,' they have lost the war."

Michael's mother continued, "We never gave up, if we weren't just fighting for our son, we were fighting for the very soul of his future generations. I kept thinking about Michael's children and grandchildren. If our love had driven him away, so be it. But if we'd done nothing there would have been no hope.

"Everybody tells you that when they turn 16 there's nothing you can do. Boy were they wrong.

"Our second child has been a real joy. We are now doing things to prevent problems. I work at home and part-time from 4:30 A.M. to 8:30 A.M. so I can be home. God has blessed us so much it's unbelievable. My daughter is my best friend. We as a family have adopted new standards for not dating that all of us are happy with. I am so thankful for God's love toward our family."


The end of Absalomís story is not so pleasant.

Absalom's men fought against David's men, and 20,000 of them died. Rebels often sweep others up in their own destruction!

Then Absalom fled on a mule. And his long hair caught in the boughs of an oak tree and he found himself dangling helplessly between heaven and earth.

David had pled for his soldiers to deal gently with Absalom. But Joab went straight to helpless Absalom and shot three arrows in his chest while he was yet alive. Then ten other soldiers drew their swords and hacked Absalom's body to pieces.

When the messenger came to tell David of the death of his son, David was "much moved." He walked weeping up to the chamber over the gate on the wall of the city. And the people heard him crying out as he went: "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

Parents do not have to live with disobedience and rebellion. God has given us His Word. The principles are here to tell us how to solve our problems, IF we as parents are willing to pay the price.

I close with these personal, probing questions: Do you love your children enough to personally change where you need to change? Are you willing to pay whatever price you have to pay to get your children's hearts, to keep their hearts, or to "steal back" their hearts? Are you willing to pay the price to raise Godly children?

Heavenly Father, please help us parents to see that you are offering us the grace to win and keep our childrenís hearts. May we receive that grace, so that our extended family, community, country and all nations all may enjoy the potential of the second generation. In Jesusí strong name we pray, Amen.