I moved a lot during my twenties. Packing boxes is a pain. Then you either have to tape them closed or struggle to get them to do that criss-cross fold that keeps them shut. Imagine my excitement the other day when a store gave me this box! Some genius (worthy of a major prize or patent in my mind) came up with the idea of notching one flap. That’s it. Something really simple, but it makes a world of difference if you need to temporarily close a lot of boxes.
Christian parenting is the same way. We can get overwhelmed with the weight of the task and basically give up on even putting any effort into it. I can’t tell you how many blogs and posts I see from people who don’t want anyone to suggest a better way of doing anything – especially parenting. Those who have tips to make our job easier and the results better are obviously just judging us. Evidently, it is now even “cool” to be mediocre – those putting a lot of effort into almost anything are portrayed as uptight or neurotic and definitely worthy of scorn from those of us who are “average” and are happy to stay that way. Better to continue just taking our kids to church from time to time and hope it “sticks” like it seems to have with us than to put in extra effort and appear prudish, nerdy or judgmental.
Unfortunately, God makes it absolutely clear that is not at all what He expects from parents. Check out Deuteronomy 6:7 and Deuteronomy 11:19 if you don’t believe me. The sad part is many children will walk away from God because their parents didn’t put in that extra effort. And the good news is that it really isn’t all that hard. Just making a few tiny changes, can make a huge difference in the spiritual development of your child.
So what are some quick, simple things you can do to start your child in life with a well grounded faith? There are probably hundreds of things you can do, but try a few of these for starters:
- Stop right now and pray for your child, his spiritual development, your part in it and his future role in the church. You can even throw in a word or two about a future spouse. Now find a visual trigger to remind you to pray for your child every day or even multiple times a day. It may be his shoes he always forgets to put away or her toothbrush on your bathroom sink. Make it something you will see at least once a day. I think it is a secret most of us don’t want to admit, but it is very easy to get so distracted and busy we forget to pray every day and especially for the future of our children. We can change that, but we will need to focus on it.
- Tell your children every time you see God working. It can be a rainbow, a magnificent beach or mountain view. It might be how God made things work out in ways you could never have imagined, how God has blessed you or how God provided healing for someone. Your children will see God first through your eyes. The earlier you start sharing, the better. I have met children who were not exposed to God until their elementary years and it is often difficult for them to see God.
- Take advantage of every teachable moment. Don’t just lecture when something happens or sigh and roll your eyes. Share your thoughts and hopes. Let them know God commands us to obey, because His commands are what will lead us to the most fulfilling life on earth and to eternal life with Him in Heaven. Give examples from the Bible of people who did and did not listen to God and what happened to them. Share examples from your own life or that you have seen in the lives of others. Most importantly share why you think it is in their best interest to obey God’s commands (Note: avoiding Hell is not the only reason to obey God).
- Do whatever you can to make sure your child knows the Bible really well. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Just think of it as today, even right this minute how can you share what is in the Bible with your child? Maybe you want to read a verse. Perhaps you want to tell a story. If your children are old enough, you may focus on encouraging them to read the Bible regularly on their own. If you struggle in this area yourself, make it a family/team effort. Come up with fun ways to encourage each other to get into the scriptures.
- Make sure your children under the age of eighteen are getting 10-12 hours of sleep a night. Yes, I realize the Bible doesn’t command a minimum amount of sleep. I have learned from years of working with children and teens. If you want them to have the best possible disposition, make good decisions and be capable of higher brain functions like learning and application, they need to be well rested. I am convinced many of the problems of the world could be solved if everyone got plenty of sleep and a weekly massage. I can’t afford that massage yet, but I can make sure my child and I are well rested at least 95% of the time.
- Attend worship services and Bible classes every week unless there is an emergency like an illness. We even attend worship when we are on vacation if at all possible and have house church when we can’t. This gives your child two gifts. One, it firmly implants in your child that God comes first. Baseball, sleep or vacations do not take priority over worshipping God. It teaches our children God is the number one priority in our lives. It also gives your child an opportunity to accomplish the next “little thing” on our list.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for your child to develop strong relationships with other Christians in every age group. Okay, I’ll admit, this one may take a little more effort, but you can start small. Ask an older Christian your child admires to have lunch with your family or go out with you for an ice cream. If your child and the person seem to click, ask the adult if she will consider mentoring your child. It is amazing how much difference it makes in the life of the child to know an adult will seek him out at every service and check on him. Bonus points if the person is willing to go to your child’s activities from time to time or celebrates birthdays, etc. Many of us seek out Christian friends for our kids, but don’t forget the value of having slightly and much older Christian mentors, too.
- Find a way this week your family can serve someone and/or show hospitality. It can be as simple as taking your neighbor’s paper to the door they normally use in the morning or as big as volunteering for a day of service. The point is to be intentional in your service and hospitality with your children.
- Make sure your children understand obeying God is who your family “is”. I learned this from a much older grandpa type who just recently passed. That comment really stuck with me. His exact words were even more impactful on me. “Our children understood that just like our last name is _____, we are believers and followers of God. It is not an activity our family pursues, rather it is who we are at our very core. To reject God is to also reject the very core of our family and our being.” That blew me away at age 26 and I kept that concept in the back of my mind as we parented our daughter. Being a Christian is not an activity I choose whether or not to participate in at any given time, it is who I am, who are family is and who we have raised our daughter to be. Tell your child repeatedly, “Christianity is not an activity. It is a lifestyle, but even more than that, it is who we are in the very core of our being. It is our identity!” Make it a “tape” your children will hear in their brains every time they think of you.
Okay, enough ideas for today! I will admit, I didn’t do all of these things perfectly or as consistently as I should have done. Because we made them goals and strove to achieve them though, I think we were largely successful. We are just at the brink of knowing for sure as she heads off to college in a few weeks, but I feel pretty confident we gave her a solid spiritual foundation on which to continue building. I beg you to ignore Satan’s lie that advice is criticism or striving is for over-achievers who are too uptight to be fun. Doing little things every day can absolutely mean the difference in the life of your children and in where they spend eternity.