3 Crucial Kindness Principles for Christian Kids

Popular culture is fascinating. Sometimes the things it supports can be absolutely horrifying. At times, they actually have a good idea. Unfortunately, the secular nature of culture often means this good idea is twisted away from God’s wisdom and can actually cause problems.

Christian kids are susceptible to accepting the world’s view of these seemingly Christian concepts. Unfortunately, when they don’t compare it to God’s complete wisdom on the topic, they accept the diluted or changed wisdom the world is promoting as truth.

The latest example is the emphasis on kindness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being kind to others. In fact the Bible even tells us to love our enemies.

The problem is how kindness is often interpreted by the secular society in which we live. To many, kindness means we can never share God’s truths with someone because it may hurt their feelings. Once our children believe those sorts of things, they will not grow up to share their faith for fear it isn’t being kind.

There are three key principles Christian parents need to repeatedly teach their children about kindness.

  • Kind and nice are two different things. Kindness is doing what is in the best interest of the other person. Niceness is more focused on the feelings of the other person – causing the one being nice to avoid saying or doing the things the person may most need.
  • Being kind is learning to speak truth in loving ways. It may be in the best interest of a friend to know they have garlic breath before walking into a job interview. Telling them is the kind thing to do. Often though, we forget there is also a loving way to share these difficult truths with others.
  • The ultimate kindness is helping people get to Heaven. Christian young people often believe it is unkind and unloving to tell someone they need to be a Christian to go to Heaven or to hold someone accountable for their sin. Teach your kids that making someone believe they are going to Heaven when they have not become a Christian or are living a life enmeshed in sin, is actually the ultimate unkind act. They are placing someone’s possible hurt feelings over teaching them God’s truths. This should be done in kind, loving ways, but don’t allow your kids to grow up believing withholding God’s truths from others is kind.

The world will probably continue to equate kindness with niceness. Teach your kids about what God considers kindness. It can make a huge difference for everyone your kids encounter during their lifetimes.

Words Matter – 5 “Positive” Things to Stop Saying to Your Children

The positive self esteem movement has created parents who build up their children constantly. Not just in the relatively benign, “Great job!” way, but more along the lines of “You are the most perfect child who has ever lived!” Now studies are finding these types of statements can actually do more harm than good.

We don’t think of the positive statements we make to our kids as capable of causing any damage to them. Yet, the wrong positive words can create inflated egos, a sense of entitlement and even extreme disappointment when they compare reality to their parents’ proclamations.

So what are some positive things parents should avoid saying to their kids?

  • That is the best ….. ever! All kids are great. Realistically though, less than 5% are going to be outstanding at any given thing. Making them believe they are going to be in that 5%, when it is obvious they are no where even close to that, sets up all sorts of issues for the future. It’s fine to encourage your kids. Look for specific things to complement like, “I love how you used so much color in your painting.” Or compliment them on their growth and improvement. You don’t have to pretend they are the best at something in order to encourage them.
  • You can do anything you put your mind to. I understand the intention of that statement. Hard work and persistence can sometimes help you achieve your goals. But there is also some realism involved. I never did learn how to swim well at all. Trying to make me believe I could be in the Olympics would have been borderline cruel (if I had believed it) and set me up for disappointment as I continued to struggle. Christian parents also need to make their kids very aware that God has a plan for their lives and they need to follow that. Even though they may be able to do something, doesn’t mean that it is best for them spiritually or in God’s plans for their lives.
  • You are better than him, her or them. Once again, as an adult I understand the message is to not engage in poor behaviors just because others have chosen to do so. What young people often hear though is that they are literally better than other people for some reason. If you do believe some people are more worthy of God’s love and your love than others, please do some serious soul searching. Don’t pass on those attitudes to your children.
  • They are just jealous of you. This is often said to comfort a child who has had a peer treat them badly. While sometimes it may be true, it isn’t always the case. This statement can backfire in any number of ways, if the real reason is something different. It’s better to have discussions about how God wants us to treat people who would consider themselves to be our enemies.
  • It doesn’t really matter if you… Fill in the blank – read their Bible, go to Church every week, pray, have Christian friends, participate in things that will help them grow spiritually… the list goes on and on. Downplaying the importance of working on their spiritual health and growth can cause young people to stop growing spiritually altogether. Some will even reject God as being unnecessary in their lives. Your kids should always hear you reinforce them when they want to do something to grow spiritually – even if it can’t logistically happen for some reason.

What parents consider positive words can cause damage to your kids, too. Think carefully before you speak positive words. They need your encouragement. They don’t need hyperbole or downplaying things that can help them grow.

Words Matter – 5 Types to Avoid in Parenting

He is a Hollywood star and author. The type you would easily recognize if you saw him out in public. He has been successful in multiple entertainment fields. Yet even now, in his mid 70’s, the words his parents said to him as a child still obviously haunt him.

Sadly, this Hollywood star isn’t alone. Untold numbers of adults are walking around deeply wounded by the things their parents regularly said to them as children. No matter how hard they try, they can’t seem to erase those hurtful tapes.

I’m sure most parents don’t sit down when they have a child and think of all of the things they can say to their child that will break him or her. They don’t look into their child’s teary eyes and think, “Awesome! I really hurt my kid’s feelings this time.” Yet, many parents repeatedly say things that are slowly breaking their kids into tiny little pieces emotionally.

This brokenness can negatively impact their self image, their relationships and even their spiritual lives. Sadly, most of these parents are probably totally unaware of the damage their words are causing. They may think they are just teasing their child or helping their child be “better” somehow.

So what are those words that break children emotionally? It’s important to remember, we all misspeak at times. Apologizing as soon as you realize what you have done and trying to make amends, can heal any cracks your words may have caused. What causes the deep damage is repeatedly saying these types of things to your kids.

  • You are…statements. These may be said directly to the child or the child may overhear their parent constantly describing them this way to others. Not the positive statements, but defining statements that are negative. For example, “You are so difficult”, “He is such a handful”, “She is so prickly”. If you are unsure whether or not the statements you are making are positive or negative, just don’t say them. Your kids are a mix of thoughts, feelings, words and actions. They don’t always align. A child who appears difficult may actually be a highly gifted child who no one is helping reach his potential, so he is bored out of his mind. When you repeatedly use “You are” statements, many kids begin to define themselves with that label – and sometimes only that label.
  • Complaining statements. Okay, we have all had bad parenting days. You know those days when you aren’t sure whether or not you or your child will survive their childhood. Or there may be things you want to do that aren’t practical at the moment because your children are still at home. If your children constantly hear you say what a burden they are to you, or how you can’t wait until they go back to school, they will begin to believe you don’t love them. Even worse in a young person’s mind, they will think you don’t like them. They will begin feeling unloveable and unlikeable. After all, if their parents don’t like them (and in a kid’s mind that’s part of the parent’s job), then who else can possibly like them?
  • Name calling. Stupid. Bad. Idiot. Klutz. Thunder thighs. Ugly names have no place in Christian parenting. Often parents view these as “pet names” used in “teasing”. They actually serve no purpose other than to demean. Your child doesn’t really think these names are funny on any level. (Even if they pretend to laugh along or begin calling themselves the name.) Don’t use them with anyone, but especially your children. (The Hollywood star’s parents called him “dumb dog” throughout his childhood.)
  • Cursing. Christians should avoid cursing for a number of reasons. When you curse at your children, they know it is a sign of anger and disgust. When they constantly hear you cursing at them, they feel they are disgusting – whether or not that is what you meant to convey.
  • Broadcasting your child’s weaknesses and mistakes to others. We aren’t talking about prayer requests for kids struggling with something like drug abuse. We are talking about posting on social media or telling everyone within earshot of the embarrassing things that happen to your kids. Or complaining about how they got in trouble for something in school. Or posting one of those posts meant to mortify a child that disobeyed. Kids need room to make mistakes and suffer consequences without feeling like the whole world now knows what they did.

If you have been guilty of using these types of words in your parenting, please stop. Apologize to your child. Look into getting you and your child outside help repairing your relationship and their self esteem if you need it. Don’t make the damage worse by continuing bad speech habits. Being kind in your speech to your children can give them the strength and resiliency they will need to live the Christian life.

Making Time to Parent Well

One of the most common reasons we give for not doing all of the Christian parenting things we know we should be doing is that there just isn’t enough time. And some weeks that is true. When everyone is sick with a nasty virus and three major things have broken down all in the same week, you are in survival mode at best.

The rest of the weeks we parent though, our lack of time is often because our priorities are wrong or we lack time management skills or some other factor that we can control. We aren’t always quite sure where to turn for advice on things like time management. It seems most of the books focus on employment tasks, not things impacting our homes and families.

Morgan Tyree has sought to help with her new book, Take Back Your Time. It’s a time management system that has some unique aspects that separate it from others I have seen over the years. While some of the beginning chapters have a lot of general organizational tips, it’s in the heart of the book where she introduces her somewhat unique system.

I won’t try to summarize her system, but it basically involves understanding your most and least productive times and ordering your tasks accordingly. It’s a bit more complex than that, but not so complex that the reader will become frustrated and quite trying.

Having said that, her technique does involve some paperwork – at least in the beginning. She includes sample forms, which are too small to be very usable, but are easily replicated.

As a fairly organized person who manages my time better than many, I can see where her techniques could be very helpful for those who struggle. Once you get used to the system, it should become easy to do without a lot of forms – perhaps a color coded to do list instead.

I actually appreciate the thought behind her system and may add some aspects of it to my schedule. I already do that unintentionally at times, but I think doing it intentionally would have a more positive impact on both my productivity and my guilt.

If you struggle with time management, I think this book can provide you with a helpful framework. If you are trying to squeeze a little more productivity out of an already productive life, her methods may be able to help you do that. It’s definitely a book worth reading to see if it will work for you.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.

Teaching Your Toddler About God

You have just brought home a precious new baby. When should you start teaching him or her about God? As strange as it may seem, teaching your baby about God is a great way to start helping him or her build a strong faith foundation.

Science is constantly learning more about what babies might understand. Because they aren’t verbal yet, it’s almost impossible to know for sure. Many early memories are more like photos – visual since they haven’t learned words yet. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these early visual memories and the first words they understand are about God?!

Babies and toddlers aren’t ready for complex ideas. Since much of faith is abstract, they may not fully understand even the things they can repeat about God. That’s okay. What is important is that they are hearing them regularly. These early concepts about God should be almost as familiar to them as basic information about themselves or their families.

So what are some of the things you should teach your baby or toddler about God?

  • God made everything. You can repeat this general statement as well as pointing out some of the many things God created one by one. Don’t forget, God also made the materials and gave people the intellect and talents to make the things we often call man-made, too.
  • God loves us. Everything in Christianity revolves around the idea of God’s love for us.
  • The Bible is a book with the things God wants us to know in it. Toddlers are a bit young to begin learning more details about the Bible. Those concepts can be introduced as they approach the preschool years.
  • Basic Bible stories. You can use a baby or toddler “Bible”. These reduce basic Bible stories to a few sentences. Some encourage toddlers to make movements to accompany the stories. Continue reading through these stories over and over. Repetition is important to help toddlers begin to remember some of the basics of these Bible stories.
  • Prayer is how we talk to God. Prayers with babies and toddlers should be short and simple. Rote prayers are fine, but it is also good to pray for things that are impacting your family in some way.
  • The Church is made up of Christians. We meet together to worship God and learn more about Him. Christians are a family of God’s people. It is important to begin teaching children from very young ages that the Church is the people, not just a building. They need to also regularly hear that Christians are a family of God’s people. It is also good for them to learn a couple of the basic purposes of our worship services.
  • God is good. God is the very definition of goodness. Children should hear that regularly from the youngest of ages.
  • Jesus is God’s son. Yes, the trinity is more complex than that. At this age though, you can begin introducing Jesus to them as God’s son.
  • God is smarter than any person. Many of the spiritual problems people have as they get older start with a lack of humility. They may not say it, but they think they are smarter and wiser than God. Teaching children from the very beginning that God is smarter and wiser than humans, can perhaps encourage them to remain humble as they grow older.
  • When we disobey God, it makes Him sad. Obviously, the concepts of sin, repentance, forgiveness and grace are much more complex. The first concept for them to understand is that our sins make God sad. For little ones, it is easier for them to understand obeying and disobeying than the idea of sin.
  • Our family loves God and wants to worship and obey Him. If this is true of your family, your baby or toddler needs to hear it regularly. Eventually, he or she will make an independent decision about whether or not he or she wants to become a Christian. In the meantime, they need to understand that just like Joshua’s family, your family follows the Lord.

Can a baby or toddler really understand all of these basic concepts about God? We may never know for sure. What we do know is that the more a child hears about God at home, the more likely he or she is to grow up to become a Christian. It’s worth making the time from the very beginning to teach your precious little one about God.