After I graduated from college with my accounting degree, I went to work with a worldwide firm. As part of my job, I consulted with many large companies to give them a great evaluation of their businesses. I would look at their inputs, their processes, and their outputs. When things aren’t working right and you aren’t getting the output you desire, you go back and look at the inputs and say, “Are we inputting the right things?” If we are inputting the right things, then we look to see how those things are processed. Are we processing them well, correctly, and efficiently? If we are doing that, then we should have the projected outcome. Many times, clients would have losses or insurance issues. These were the results they were getting. We just went back and tried to figure out where the process was broken.
This theory can be used in every single area of your life. Let us start with children. Their behavior is an output. If you don’t like the behavior of your children, go back and look at their inputs. Are they watching TV that has a bad influence on them? Are they listening to music that is giving them ideas and embedding thoughts in their minds and imaginations? Are they playing video games too much? Do they have friends who corrupt their character? Are you setting a bad example for your children? Are you seeing your own behavior toward your husband in your children?
Look at your inputs. Whatever your inputs are, that is going to be what they process in their minds. It’s going to be what they think about, what they imagine, and probably what they dream of. All of those inputs go into a pot. They are stirred up, stewed, processed, and thought on until they produce an output or an outcome. You can examine the outcome, your children’s outward behavior, to determine whether or not something was broken with the input.
Many times, as parents, we lose our cool and try to correct the output without correcting the inputs. We have to go back and correct the inputs. But you know what? Correcting the input is hard work for the parent. That is true parenting—true discipling, discipleship, or discipline of your children. It means starting with the input and carefully making sure the inputs are something you would eventually like to see as an output.
Secondly, we should be shepherding the hearts of our children by feeding them good, positive encouragement. What are they hearing from you? What is coming out of your mouth that is being inputted into their minds? Is it encouraging or discouraging? Is it building up or tearing down? Does it align with God’s truth? Or are you just looking at the output and criticizing it? It is so easy to do. It’s easy to say, “You’re selfish. You’re bratty. You’re a complainer.” But those words just become new input that is processed and creates the same behavior.
What you want to do is make sure you are shepherding their hearts and listening to them or asking deeper questions than their behavior. What is going on in the processing part? How are they filtering what they are saying? Sometimes, we may have hurt our children somewhere along the way, and then they filter everything we say through that hurt every single time.
Is there something broken in the processing of their minds or in the processing of their hearts? Are they beginning to build up walls against you as their parent? Are they holding a fit? Are they bitter? Is there something going on in their hearts that’s causing them to process the input you are trying to give them negatively, which then produces this poor output? Everything comes back to input-process-output.
That is how we should parent. We should really be looking at the inputs we have allowed our children to have, the boundaries, the room to grow, and the processing. How are they processing the things in their hearts? How do they filter things in their minds? How do they spend their time using their imagination? At the end of the day, that should produce good fruit, a fruitful outcome, and a fruitful output. When we don’t see that, we must continually go back to the inputs, processes, and outputs.
If we constantly beat our children because they have bad output or bad outcomes, it doesn’t correct the problem. It changes their behavior, but it doesn’t change their input. It doesn’t change the way they process. We are called to disciple and discipline our children, which does not imply beating them into submission. It means to shepherd them into great outputs by caring about everything that goes in and how everything is processed. Then you will yield great results.