Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution? How long were you able to keep it? If you are like me, I’m good for a few days or a few weeks at most. Here’s the critical question. Once you broke that resolution, what happened? Most people find when they break the resolution, they give themselves a free pass until the end of the year. Why? Because no matter how badly we say we want to change, it’s hard work. We often have developed bad habits because even though they are bad for us, there was a pay out of some sort in them – usually a make-me-feel-good-in-the-moment one.
Your kids are no different. How many times have you nagged them to change a bad habit? How successful were you? Did they ever agree they wanted to change it, but still were unsuccessful? How can your kids grow spiritually and become more godly in their thoughts and actions if change is impossible?
Change really isn’t impossible. In Matthew 19:26, Jesus tells us “with God everything is possible.” So what do you need to do to help your kids learn how to make necessary changes in their lives? There are probably a lot of little things, but here are three basic concepts for them to learn:
- True change is possible with God’s help. Teach your kids when they need or want to make a change in how they think, speak or act, they need to immediately ask God for His help. Why try it alone when they can tap into the ultimate power source? Show them how to pray to God for help. For your older children, who have become Christians, remind them about the gift of the Holy Spirit. Teach them how to heed the Holy Spirit’s warnings to move away from the things that will tempt them to fall back into old, bad habits. Remind them change is not just about actions, but God wants their hearts to change and grow as well. Many if not most bad habits are a form of selfishness. The true cure is not just breaking the selfish habit, but changing the selfish heart.
- Think about change one minute at a time if necessary. If you know very much about addiction recovery, one of the tricks they teach, is to avoid thinking of it as a lifetime of avoiding the substance. It is just too overwhelming. Instead, they counsel them to focus on not using the substance today or this hour or just this minute. Change is a lot less scary and overwhelming, when you just have to focus on changing this minute. Teach your kids to focus on making that change for just today or just this hour or just for the next five minutes. Then tackle the change for the next small block of time. Before long, they will look up and realize they have made the change for a significant amount of time and it has become their new habit.
- Grace, resiliency and change are inseparable. Even with God’s help and taking it step by step, your kids are probably going to slip from time to time. Teach them a mistake and even a sin are forgivable. They need to ask God to forgive them and accept His grace. They can’t stop there though. Your kids need to learn resilience. Resilience is the ability to fall down, but then stand back up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. If not, your kids will become locked in a cycle of accepting their bad habit as inevitable, and periodically asking God for forgiveness or a relief from the guilt or pain caused by the bad habit. Resilience is key because it takes them back to our first concept and makes true change possible. Impress upon your kids that when they sin, asking God for His grace and forgiveness is mandatory, but so is resilience. That is what true repentance is – asking for forgiveness, but also striving to not repeat the sin again by turning away from it. To do that, they have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and turn and walk away from the sin. (Actually teaching your kids that visual is a great way to help them see in their minds what they need to do when they sin.)
Help your kids learn how to make the changes they will need to make in their lives to be more godly. It’s a crucial faith building block.