If you think about it, Christianity is about choices. When God gave us freedom to make choices, He also gave us the freedom to make good choices and bad choices. Sadly, most of us make more bad choices than good ones. It’s the reason Jesus had to die on the cross – for those bad choices that are sins.
Sins are bad choices that can eventually separate your kids from God and prevent them from entering Heaven one day. Your primary goal as a Christian parent is to do whatever you can so your kids make the choices that will lead them to living a Christian life and spending eternity in Heaven.
Unfortunately, like most things in parenting, children are often left to figure out how to make choices on their own. Nobody takes the time and effort to teach them how to make a good, godly choice. The results of this lack of instruction means your kids will be making a lot of unnecessary bad choices – in large part because they are experimenting with the process of making a choice. For many young people, this lack of training means they often default to choices that “feel good or right”. Feelings are often the worst thing to trust when making a choice in life – what we want isn’t always what is best for us.
The good news is the process for teaching kids how to make good choices isn’t really that difficult. The down side is that it can take you quite a bit of time to guide them through this process before it becomes a habit for them at decision making time.
So what do you need to do to teach your kids how to make good choices and make them more consistently? Here are a few of my favorites:
- When your child has a choice, help him/her practice the steps for making good choices.
- Ask your child to state the question or problem that is creating the choice.
- Have your child list all of the possible choices. At first this will take a lot of time and you may have to help your child think of additional creative options. Often people will only think of two options, when usually a third unstated option is actually the best. You can even make it fun and be a bit silly. Eventually, the process will be quicker, indicating your child has a better grasp of how to do this independently.
- Have your child cross out any choice that would not make God happy.
- Have your child cross out any ungodly choices he/she missed and explain why that choice would also make God unhappy.
- Tell your child that although all of the choices that are left may be fine with God, there still may be a choice that is better than the others.
- Pray with your child about the choices that are still on the list. Ask God to help your child make the best choice.
- For each choice left on the list, have your child think of all of the good things and all of the bad things that could happen from making that choice. Once again, this will be easier as your child moves towards more independent godly decision making.
- Encourage your child to make the best choice, but do not make the choice for him/her. This is tough, but important. Assuming you have given your godly input in the other parts of the process, you need to allow your child to make an independent choice and suffer any negative consequences from that choice (of course this doesn’t apply to choices that would put your child in any real danger). Negative consequences may help your child learn a valuable life lesson about trusting the advice of godly, more experienced people.
- If needed, talk with your child about what happened after the choice was put into action. Don’t forget to celebrate wise choices – especially if they struggled to do the right thing. There’s also probably no need to lecture extensively about poor choices – the consequences are probably enough in most cases.
- Continue practicing these steps with your child until he/she is able to go through the steps quickly if necessary and without your help.
Teaching your child how to make good choices takes a lot of time and effort on your part in the beginning. The good news is that if your kids learn and apply this knowledge fairly consistently, your parenting job in the teen years will be so much easier! It’s an essential Christian Life Skill you absolutely must teach your kids.
Here’s a link to a free printable copy of Tips for Helping Kids Make Great Choices. (It’s also available in Spanish and Russian should be available soon.)