Here's some great advice on getting to the heart of your children's behavior from Turansky and Miller of the National Center for Biblical Parenting.
And I know I sound like a broken record on this, but they (and about 20 other amazing presenters) will be with us at Johnson Ferry for the Parenting Vision and Strategy Conference on March 11-12. If you have children under the age of 18, this thing is for you.
Here's what they have to say about getting to the heart issues...
Parents who only focus on behavior change are devastated when their children reveal unresolved issues of the heart as they grow older. The child who steals the family car, the unmarried girl who gets pregnant, or the teenage boy who starts using drugs have one thing in common: a heart problem that's developed over a long period of time.
The heart consists of thoughts, intentions, motivations, desires, and fantasies. Children play out foolishness in their heart long before it comes out in their actions. Many parents discipline with a two-step process. First, they see wrong behavior and second, they use a number of techniques to get their child to do what's right. Behavior is changed, but the heart isn't addressed. A better discipline process requires two more steps, making four altogether.
First, identify the wrong behavior. For example, your daughter begins to complain when you ask her to help with the dishes. Second, identify the dishonoring heart issue. Maybe she has a problem with anger or doesn't handle instructions well. Third, identify the honoring heart issue needed. She could develop flexibility, giving a few minutes to be helpful. Then, fourth, the right behavior grows out of the honoring heart issue. She could help with the dishes without complaining, or respectfully discuss an alternative. With these four steps, instead of two, you can address what's going on below the surface—a more complete discipline that teaches children about their hearts.
Giving a consequence isn't the end of the parent's responsibility. Sometimes a consequence just gets the child's attention, allowing the parent then to address deeper heart-related issues. Talk about the underlying motivations and the deeper issues. Helping children change their hearts is harder, but that's where the lasting change takes place.