One of the most effective ways to teach your children God’s principles and concepts is through casual, but planned conversations. Some parents call them teachable moments. A teachable moment is when another child almost darts into the street and then a car whizzes by. The parent uses what just happened to reinforce or introduce the concept of “that is why you don’t run into the street without looking, because he could have been killed!”
Teachable moments are different than lectures. There is almost a “we are in this together” tone to the conversation. The conversation mentions the rule or the principle but focuses more on the natural consequences of not obeying the rule or principle. (As opposed to the more lecture oriented “If I ever catch you, I will ____” consequence!)
Jesus used parables and circumstances like the widow and her two mites as teachable moments. He used concrete, real world examples to reinforce principles he had already taught them. Teachable moments allow your children to lower their defenses. You are not punishing them or threatening to punish them. You are making an observation about a bad choice (or a good choice) and the natural consequences that happened because of the choice. In fact, the “I told you so”version puts you and your child back into lecture mode.
The trick to being effective in teachable moments is to do your own quiet reflection ahead of time. What are some godly principles your child has trouble putting into practice or understanding? What are some of God’s commands you feel are particularly important to reinforce for various reasons? What are sins which are particularly common for children, teens and young adults to commit? What tricks have you seen Satan use that you want your child to avoid?
Make your list and then think of Bible stories that also reinforce those principles. If sin is involved, list all of the possible negative consequences of committing that sin. If it is a positive principle, list reasons why that trait or habit is important to God and how it will make a difference in the life of your child. Pray over the list and commit the gist of it to memory.
Then hang out with your child doing fun things. Watch television together. Play in the park. Get an ice cream. Go to the mall. Volunteer for a service project. If you hang out for very long around people, you will soon find a chance to have a teachable moment. Casually make your observations and tie in some of the items on the list you made previously. If you forget something, don’t worry. You can always come back to your child later and tell him you thought of something else you wanted to share on the subject. (If you are a slightly older parent like me, your child is used to you remembering things at odd times anyway!)
So take a lesson from Jesus and start looking for those teachable moments with your child. It will take some of your time, but frankly I would rather eat ice cream than vacuum the house anyway! What teachable moments have you shared with your child? Have you found it difficult to stay out of lecture mode? Please share your thoughts with me in a comment below.