Why Your Kids Need “Old”People in Their Lives

Ageism has always existed – otherwise God would not have had to command people to take care of their elderly parents. Over the centuries though, some cultures have realized the value of respecting older people and considering whatever wisdom they may have to share. Ours is not one of those cultures. To be quite fair, we should treat everyone with respect regardless of their age – as Christians it is one of our “top two” commands. And, I hasten to admit, not everyone grows wiser as they grow older – some just continue making poor choices and advising others to do the same. Throughout the Bible though, God commands older people to teach and mentor younger people and younger people to be willing to take advice and learn from them (when it matches God’s Word).

Perhaps you are reluctant to try and create opportunities for your children to spend time with older adults. You may think your schedule is already overbooked or that all the older people you know aren’t very wise… after all, they know nothing about technology or the latest trends. Before you close this post and continue isolating your children from “old” people, consider these thoughts on providing your children with lots of interactions with the senior citizen set.

  • Your children need to know the value of wisdom – especially wisdom from God. Wisdom that isn’t from God isn’t wisdom. (Godly wisdom can, however, can be shared by people who have rejected God – although they are often unaware from whence it came). Knowledge is not wisdom, although it is necessary to have knowledge to become wise. Tech savvy – or the lack thereof – has no relation to wisdom. Older people are not the only ones who can be wise, but there is a element of wisdom connected to life experience. Proverbs 1:7 reinforces that fools despise wisdom and that wisdom is rooted in the fear/respect of the Lord. Wisdom can protect them from making poor choices and reaping the negative consequences.
  • Teach your children that knowledge and wisdom should be actively sought. Wisdom isn’t going to just fill their heads because they ate the right foods, exercised or slept well. Pursuing wisdom – reading scripture, listening to wise, godly people and other active pursuits of knowledge and wisdom are needed to become wise.
  • Teach your children to recognize the signs that someone is wise. Thankfully, God gave us a pretty thorough list in James 3:17… godly wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Godly wisdom will never contradict the Bible. No Christian is perfect, but a wise Christian will regularly display these attributes – and so will their advice.
  • Help your children understand the value of life experience. Here is where older adults can help your children in all sorts of ways in addition to spiritually. Maybe after years of cooking, they have learned what ingredients can add something special to a dish or be substituted – and what happens when you don’t keep their advice in mind. Or they’ve learned a quicker way of doing something or a way to hold something together with paper clips or duct tape until you can get it fixed. Spiritually speaking, they have seen a lifetime of examples of people who did or did not obey God and what happened. They know from experience that disobeying and rejecting God never ends well.
  • Encourage your kids to find things in common with older people. Realizing they have things in common is a great first step into developing empathy, love and respect for older people.
  • Take advantage of the time to listen and mentor that many older adults have to share with your children. Today’s young people are in pain today in part because they have no one to listen to them and mentor them. The adults in their lives are too busy to give them much time and attention. Finding an older mentor for your children can give them the extra attention they need and someone to support the godly things you are telling them.
  • Find older people who are encouragers. Everybody could use another person in their lives who will encourage them. Keep your older friends aware of when your children have events or could use an encouraging conversation to keep trying.
  • Teach your children Paul’s formula for using people as inspiration. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul advises readers to follow him only as he followed Christ. Even the most godly Christian people sin. Your children’s ultimate example should always be Christ. If they admire something about someone older, it is fine to use the person as inspiration – as long as the person was following Christ in what they did.

Make the time in your family calendar to spend time with “old” people. All of your lives may be richer because of the experience.

Fun Family Devotional on Comparison

One of the more difficult parts of growing up is the comparison game. Let’s face it. Before children are even born, the ob/gyn caring for their mothers begins comparing the unborn child to other children at the same gestation mark. Once children are born, many pediatricians will tell parents what percentile their children are in for height and weight compared to other children of the same age. And let’s not forget about the ever present standardized testing once they reach school age. It’s no wonder parents and children alike catch comparison fever – many times basing their own feelings of success (or the lack thereof) and even self worth by how they compare to those around them.

God never intended us to compare ourselves to each other. He doesn’t want your children to base their self worth on how they compare to their peers in height or test scores. In fact, the only perfect standard is God Himself – and that has nothing to do with appearances or test scores and grades. There is a fun devotional you can do with your children to begin talking about comparison and helping your children view it in a more godly light.

Before the devotional, gather several different kinds of salt, sugar, bread, fruits or any other edible thing for your children to compare during the activity. When you are ready for the devotional, begin by reading to them 1 Samuel 8 and 10:21-24. Asked your children why the Israelites wanted a king. Point out that they did not ask God to provide them with a godly leader of His choosing, but insisted God give them a king like everyone else around them. Ask them why they think being like the other nations around them was so important to the Israelites.

Then refer to the reading in chapter ten. Ask them if they find an interesting comparison statement in that passage. Notice that both Samuel and the people were focused on the outward appearance of Saul – that he was much taller than everyone else. They seemed to believe that Saul’s height would make him a good king. If your children are familiar with the rest of the stories of Saul’s life, ask them what kind of king he actually was. If they don’t know those stories, you can sum them up and ask them whether or not it sounds like Saul was actually a good king once he started reigning.

Explain to your children that comparing ourselves to other people can cause lots of problems. Ask them why they believe that to be true. (Teens may point out the benefits of an inspirational person. Help them understand why it is important to be careful how they use another person to motivate themselves towards a goal.) Explain that God wants us to compare ourselves to Him – not to decide if we have value in the world, but as our inspiration for how we should live our lives. You may even want to spend time discussing the old adage about comparison that you can always find someone better or worse than you are and how that makes comparison a weak measuring stick for anything – especially deciding whether or not they are meeting the expectations God has for them.

Bring out the items you have gathered to compare. Point out that while comparing people to one another isn’t healthy, comparing foods or other objects to one another can be fun and help them make wise purchases. Have fun comparing the items. Afterwards, reflect on the ways each of you has been comparing yourselves to others and how it has been causing problems. Pray that God helps your family remember that God is our only standard for perfection in spirit, character, etc.

Choosing the Best Bible for Your Children

The Bible never changes, but the variations of translations and special features available to consumers does change from time to time. It can be difficult to keep up with the alphabet soup of translations, much less things like publisher speak like thought-for-thought. You may also have questions about all of those little extras placed in Bibles today. What types of things are helpful and which might either confuse your children or quickly make them believe they have outgrown a particular Bible?

We are going to try and cut through some of that confusion and list some of the more popular versions and why we believe they may or may not be the wisest choice for your children. Then we will list what we believe are some helpful additions to some Bibles and why we believe they may add value to a purchase. So, let’s get started!

NIrV Bibles. This has been our top recommendation for a first personal Bible for independent Bible reading for many years now. This is based primarily on the fact that it has been the Bible with the lowest reading level, making it easier to understand for beginning readers and more advanced readers who are beginning independent Bible study. (There is another version at that level now, that will be discussed later.) The “r” is important because that means it is the version of the Bible written on a third grade reading level. It is not a paraphrase per se, but does appear to be moving more towards the thought for thought translation rather than word for word. The downside is that it is not the most accurate version (most believe the word for word translations are in general the most accurate), but to my knowledge the only huge difference one could argue the interpreters have made is making it somewhat gender neutral (for example people instead of mankind). Although not perfect, it is still the best Bible to get children and even many teens. Why? Because any Bible with a reading level too far ahead of a child’s current reading level will be a frustration text and convince the child that the Bible isn’t worth reading for themselves because it is “too hard”. Most of the remaining popular versions range from 7-12th grade reading levels.

International Children’s Bible (ICB). While also on a third grade reading level, this version has one major flaw… its name. Anyone who works with children and teens understands that beginning fairly early in elementary school, most young people don’t like to be thought of as children. While I did find some covers that weren’t childish, I still believe once they see the name of the version, most young people won’t be nearly as interested in using that version. Which is a shame, because otherwise it would have jumped ahead of the NIrV on our list since it is slightly closer to the word-for-word end of the spectrum.

NIV. For many people, this is the automatic choice. It is closer to a word-for-word translation that the two earlier translations on this list, but is still not even quite half way there. It also contains a lot of gender neutral words that were not in the original. The reading level is 7-8 grade, meaning it is not a great Bible for any child reading below about the 6th grade reading level (your child’s school teacher can tell you the reading levels of your children). The one benefit is that many churches read from the NIV in worship services and Bible classes, making it easier to follow along.

ESV. In recent years, this version seems have to become more popular with teens and young adults. It’s advantage is that it is much closer to a word-for-word translation than the NIV.

Are Your Conversations With Other Adults Hurting Your Children?

We need to bring back some old adages you don’t hear much any more. One I always thought was a little strange was, “Little pitchers have big ears”. I have to admit, I am still not sure what jugs with big handles have to do with the topic of eavesdropping children, but the adage should be repeated often to parents and other adults. Not following this wisdom (from a man named John Heywood in 1546) leads to more brokenness in children than most adults understand.

Many adults believe that conversations with other adults in front of small children are not understood by little ones. Other adults think that if they can’t physically see a child, then the child can’t hear them. Or that if children are engaged in an activity, they aren’t aware of what is being said. Most adults seem to have the mistaken belief that children will understand their sarcastic comments as humor or that the adults were just upset and venting their feelings rather than actually believing what they are saying to their peers. Or more commonly these days, they believe social media posts about their frustrations in parenting will never be seen by their children.

The truth is that little pitchers do indeed have big ears. They are very much aware of many of the negative things you say and write about them. If they don’t have access to some of that information now, they will seek it out or stumble upon it when they are a little older. Those words said in an attempt to update friends and relatives, to get advice from other parents or as an attempt at being funny can negatively impact your children’s self image and undermine your relationship with them. Sadly, for some children, those comments can also begin destroying their faith in God.

Most of the time you will never know this has happened. They won’t usually come to you and complain that you were talking about them in negative ways to your friends. They just hurt emotionally. If it happens often enough, those hurts will start collecting and grow into emotional scars that may impact them for the rest of their lives. (At times, one particularly hurtful comment can have the same impact.) No matter how pure your motives may have been or whether or not they understood the conversation or its context correctly, damage has been done. Damage you can’t repair, because you don’t even realize it is there.

This doesn’t mean you can’t vent in healthy ways to friends or family or get their parenting advice. In fact, you need to do those things to be the best Christian parent possible. The key is choosing the times and places these conversations occur. If you are about to say anything about your children that may sound to them as critical or may make them think that you somehow don’t love them, please be 100% sure they will not hear you or read what you have written or posted now, or in the future. (Note: If you are remembering past negative social media posts, take some time to delete them.)

If you realize they may have heard you or they confront you, apologize. Empathize with them by imaging how you would feel if you heard someone important to you talking about you negatively. Make amends if it is possible. Regularly say positive things about your children to other adults when you know they can hear you. Put affirming love notes on their pillow or in their lunch box. You love and adore your children – even when they frustrate or upset you. Just make sure they know it, too.

Fun Fall Family Service Project

When the temperature starts to drop a bit in the Fall, it’s a great time to get baking together as a family. The kitchen is a special place where children can start to relax and begin talking about whatever is on their hearts. A place where devices can be banned and everyone is having so much fun they don’t even notice. Where the results of your endeavors can not only feed your family, but serve others who may be lonely or food insecure. Best of all, you don’t even have to be a master chef to pull it off.

Call your kids into the kitchen. For the easiest Fall baking project, you will need one box of spice cake mix, one small can of pumpkin (usually on the bottom shelf in the baking aisle near fruit pie fillings at your grocery store), a mixing bowl, spoons and a muffin pan. (I recommend using muffin papers to lower the odds of muffins getting stuck in the pan.)

You can just do the baking as a service project, or turn it into a family devotional by telling them stories like Abraham entertaining three “men” (Genesis 18) or the widow feeding Elijah in 1 Kings 17:7-24. Either way, discuss as a family some of the people you know or know about that may benefit from being given some of your muffins. Your family may want to serve the food insecure, use them to cheer someone up who is lonely or sad or even thank someone who helps others, but rarely gets thanked.

Have your children take turns doing the various steps of the recipe (depending upon their age and the things that are safe for them to do). Open the cake mix and pour it into a mixing bowl. Add the can of pumpkin and about 1/2 to 2/3 of the empty can full of water. Mix and pour into the muffin papers in the muffin tin. If you have dry measuring cups, the 1/4 cup measure is about the right amount of batter to put into each muffin tin. The batter makes more than 12 muffins so unless you have a large oven and two muffin tins, it will take some time to use up all of the batter. Bake at 350*F until muffin tops feel a little firm or a toothpick comes out clean. (Because the batter is already dark, it can be difficult to tell if they are getting too well done.) Note: Checking to see if the muffins are done can be hazardous, so this should be done by an adult.

While the muffins are baking, your children may want to make cards for the recipients. If you want to add a little variety, but minor difficulty, you can purchase other flavors of muffin mixes. If your family has gone apple picking, you can add fresh peeled and finely diced apples (1-2 cups depending upon how much fruit you want in your muffins) to a cinnamon muffin mix to make apple cinnamon muffins.

Have fun with it. Enjoy spending time together baking. Deliver the muffins as a family. Talk about the experience and what you learned from it after it is over. It may just become a family tradition!