Most people think kids are being good when they're not doing anything bad, but that's only half of what it means to be good.
It doesn't take much effort to stop bad behavior in kids. All you need is a strong presence and all mischief should cease. For how long it stops depends on how long that presence is focused on them. Kids can tell when your presence drifts away from them and that's when old habits resurface.
If, on the other side, you don't have a strong presence, you will expel much effort trying to discipline them and get nowhere.
A strong presence may eliminate mischief, but it has no power to create action. It can't force kids to work harder or faster or with the right attitude. You will have to expel effort to get these results, but as soon as your energy is depleted, they will slow down once again.
This motivation to work harder and move quicker must come from within if it is to sustain itself. In the long run, it's the role-model and love of parents and superheroes in their life that bring about lasting motivation to do what's right.
Perhaps when they see these role-models, it connects with something within themselves that tells them, "Yes, this is right. This is what being good looks like."
Kids will start doing what's right because they believe it's the right thing to do. They want to be good to their parents, they want to be like their role-models, and they want to fulfill what they know to be true within themselves.
Maybe when they get older they finally see all the inconsistencies in our superheroes and parents and give up. They admit to being bad and find it easier to give in. Those seeds of truth planted early on will speak to them in strange times, though, and it will be their road back home.
Our spiritual life is much the same.
That strong presence is like fear, which may temporarily stop any ill-conceived behavior we're in, but as soon as we're alone or feel alone, we're free to engage in negative and harmful thought patterns again.
We may know the consequences and agree that they're wrong, but we still engage them willingly. Spiritual role models and love from others will give us the motivation to not only stop what is wrong momentarily, but also do what is good. We move from staying neutral to doing something positive.
Role-models and healthy relationships will motivate us into action, but there is still something missing. This model is based on the conditions that we must be disciplined, loved, and motivated to stop harmful thoughts and behaviors and engage in positive ones.
What this shows is that even though we still know what is wrong and right, we don't actually have the natural desire to do what is good and right, and while the motivation and love from others is necessary, it won't allow us to be free to both live out of our natural selves and be good. If we do what's natural, we will get stuck over and over again.
The answer is something we can't control, predict, or buy. It's the transformation of the Holy Spirit. It's the renewed mind. It's a new creation, being born again a second time. It's the grace of a second birth that changes us into people who want to do what is good, holy, and right from the core of who we are.
It's the secret weapon the parent can never possess. It's a child transformed, not grown, but born again, and that into the likeness of God. It's our second birth, the full assurance that seeds of truth have been planted and they will bring us back home, over and over again.