Christian Parenting Challenges #7

It’s been cold and snowy for much of the country this week. Spring is just around the corner though. Here are this week’s social media challenges to encourage and inspire.

Monday: Thankfully, there are no written tests in parenting! It’s important to stop periodically though and examine whether your parenting techniques are getting the results you had hoped. If not, find mentors or books to give you better strategies. Don’t wait until your kids are adults. Reflecting as you go can help you make crucial changes as quickly as possible, avoiding potentially negative long term consequences.

Tuesday: A friend of mine just put out a cd with classical music for people who are melancholy, to encourage reflection and healing. Did you know music has an impact on your kids’ moods? Sometimes a few peppy tunes will put everyone in a better frame of mind. Worship music can help teach your kids scriptures. Playing music in your home has lots of positive purposes. So crank up those tunes!

Wednesday: Sure it’s cold where you are, but it’s not too early to start growing seeds with your kids. Old plastic take out containers (with clear lids) make great greenhouses. Growing things is great for teaching your kids about God, and working with them on their patience, perseverance and responsibility. The resulting flowers or vegetables can also be used to serve others. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can move the plants to pots. (We even grew cucumbers in a pot on our deck last summer!)

Thursday: Many kids enjoy experiencing something new or different. To them it’s interesting and fun. They may not be excited about trying these chips, but many of the stories in the Bible are awesome to kids! Adults forget how amazing these stories are because they have heard them so many times. Kids haven’t though and these stories are new and interesting. Your attitude should be excitement in being able to share these stories with them for the first time. And don’t forget all of those short obscure Bible stories they will probably never hear at Church. God wants them to hear those stories, too.

Friday: Is your home a Philippians 4:8 home? You don’t have to have a lot of money to surround your kids with things that are good, pure, lovely, positive, etc. Life is full of negativity, your home doesn’t need to encourage engaging with dark, negative content unnecessarily. You may just find the joy in your home increases as you fill your space and time with positive things. What are some things you do to be a Philippians 4:8 home?

Your Kids’ Second Language Can Serve God (And Fun Ways to Start Language Learning at Home)

Ask any one who does ministry in multiple countries about their biggest need and their answer will often be “translator”. It’s not surprising that on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the ability to speak in languages they hadn’t studied. Because it happened on a major Jewish holiday, people from all over the world had traveled to Jerusalem. In order to understand the Gospel message, they needed to hear it in a language they could understand.

The internet is a wonderful way for ministries to help people all over the world. In order to do that though, they need resources available in multiple languages. And as much as translation apps have improved, they still aren’t accurate enough to trust with important ministry documents. Speakers and teachers who travel to other countries often need local translators.

There are other second language needs in ministry. One of the largest underserved people groups in the world is people who are deaf. The vast majority will never be able to read or hear the Gospel. The Church desperately needs people who can sign in one of the many sign languages of the world.

There are people groups in the world who still do not have access to the Bible. Special ministries look for people willing to move to these places, learn one of these obscure languages and then help translate the Bible into that language.

To be fluent enough to be helpful in translating for speakers and written materials, it is helpful if the language is learned in childhood. The younger the child is, the more easily they can make unique sounds and mimic appropriate accents. Young people also often find it easier to remember new words as they are already in that process in their first language.

Have children interested in learning other languages? Encourage it! God may have given your kids the talent and passion for easily learning other languages. There are many fun ways to help your kids explore other languages.

  • Children’s books. Our local public library has books for kids in Spanish, German, Hindi and other languages. You can also find them online.
  • Children’s programming. Did you know Sesame Street is produced in multiple languages? Many countries even have their own unique muppets. You can find episodes on cable or on places like YouTube. Many languages have other children’s programming and because the shows are made for kids, the language is often easier to understand.
  • Language learning apps, videos, etc. There are so many choices today. Some are free, while others require some financial outlay.
  • Local language classes and play groups. It’s common in large cities to find language classes and play groups for toddlers and older. Those taught by native speakers will help your kids speak more like someone born into a family that speaks that language.

Have fun with it. If your kids develop a passion for a particular language, encourage it. Don’t forget to explore other cultures while you are learning through music, art, food, travel and other ways to encourage their language learning. You may be raising kids who can help spread the Gospel faster because of their ability to translate.

Introducing Your Kids to the Bible (by Age Group)

Christian parents can get stuck on what may seem like the little things. You know your kids should be exposed to the Bible at home, but what’s the best way to do it for the currents ages of your kids? While every child is different, these guidelines can at least give you a starting point.

  • Infants – baby Bible….few words, lots of engaging art work, interactive aspects to Bible like texture, tell simple Bible stories regularly
  • Toddler – toddler Bible …a few more words, still lots of pictures, basic questions about the story to help them remember it, tell simple Bible stories regularly and ask simple questions and/or explain parts which may be confusing
  • Preschool – Depending upon child, toddler Bible or children’s Bible, still need artwork, still summaries of the stories, exposure to a few verses from the “real” Bible with each story, questions and scripture memory work to help remember story, more formal family devotionals regularly including Bible story or scripture, prayer and songs or activity when time allows
  • Early elementary – begin transitioning to a simple translation of the Bible, like the NIrV. Children who aren’t strong readers may still need a children’s Bible for independent Bible reading…start child on independent Bible reading with discussion afterwards to clarify vocabulary, meaning, etc. Continue reading and telling Bible stories to the child…including more complex ones. Continue discussing what is read and encouraging reflection upon and memory of scripture
  • Late elementary – depending upon reading level of available translations of Bible and reading ability of child – may continue mix of children’s and adult Bible reading or transition entirely to adult Bible (still NIrV translation if possible). Should be able to retell numerous Bible stories from memory, have several scriptures memorized and be able to summarize many others. Should be moving towards independent Bible study more comfortably, although still needs parents to read or tell complex Bible stories and explain them. Able to read and discuss Bible passages that don’t involve a story
  • Teens – should be moving towards independent daily Bible study…still need help understanding complex passages, should be exposed to the majority of the stories in the Bible and many passages not connected to stories…should show the beginning of being able to use the Bible to teach others about Jesus/God. Should have either memorized or be able to summarize a wide variety of key Bible verses

The specific baby and children’s Bibles you choose are largely a matter of the preferences of you and your child. We prefer ones that follow the actual Bible story as accurately as possible without a lot of added details. For readers, we prefer the NIrV version in English. We chose it because it is a translation and not a paraphrase and is written on a third grade reading level. You can now find them in more “grown up” covers and with study aids included.

Teens who do well in school, may prefer a slightly more accurate version than the NIrV, but watch reading levels carefully. If they choose a version with a reading level much higher than their current reading level (ask their school teacher if you don’t know their reading level), they may become frustrated and not want to read the Bible because it is “too hard”. (This link gives the reading levels of many popular versions of the Bible. https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2016/06/bible-translation-reading-levels/

Taking the time to introduce and/or expose your kids to the Bible in age appropriate ways can make it much more likely they will understand it and learn to enjoy reading it regularly themselves.

Parenting Challenges #6

Valentine’s Day is this weekend. Have fun showering your kids with lots of extra love! Here are this week’s social media challenges.

Monday:This man is famous for taking trash and turning it into art. It only makes sense that your kids, being created in God’s image, will also be creative. Unfortunately, their creativity is often stifled, making it difficult for them to discover their gifts from God….and find creative ways to use those gifts to serve Him. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to encourage your kids’ natural creativity. Just allow them to play with a bunch of safe, random objects and see what happens.

Tuesday: What’s in a name? For fans of this Canadian chain, they know what to expect…even if they find one in Scotland! So what does it mean when your kids take on the name Christian? It’s more than a name, for sure. What does God expect of His Christian people? What does the world think when they see the name Christian? What does God want us to do as Christians that will cause others to want to learn more about Him? These are all important questions your family should regularly discuss.

Wednesday: If you live near an ocean where these live, you’ve probably taught your kids to be careful around them to avoid getting hurt. Have you taught your kids how to avoid being hurt spiritually? They need to be taught how to recognize temptations and how to avoid sinning when tempted. Otherwise, they are much more likely to get hurt.

Thursday: This is a sidewalk in a city I visit. The optical illusion can make the sidewalk appear uneven. Sinful pursuits can have the illusion that they will make your kids happy and popular. And they may for a time. Ultimately though, those sins can and will hurt them. Sometimes immediately. Sometimes much later. Sometimes when it’s too late. Whenever possible, helping them understand some of the reasons why God may want them to avoid those will help many. For others reasons don’t help because it’s an issue of their heart towards God. They will need to learn to trust God, their King, and want to obey Him, before they will attempt to avoid sins.

Friday:Different kids have different needs. Basketball is a priority for this family, so they made sure each child has the goal they need to practice appropriately. Each of your kids will need some of the same things to grow spiritually and reach their full potential. Because of their personalities and varied gifts from God, they will also each have special needs to become the active, productive Christian God wants them to be. It takes time to discover and provide those things, but it’s the best way to help your kids reach the full spiritual potential God gave them.

Fun Way to Shower Your Kids With Love

You’ve probably heard of the five love languages, but did you know your kids need a little of all of them? When they are hurting or upset, they will probably have one or two they prefer. The rest of the time, they need you to give them some of all five.

There’s a fun way to shower your kids with words of affirmation. While it would seem that “words of affirmation” is one of the easier ways to express love, if you aren’t careful, it can backfire. To make this activity fun, you will need lots of hearts on which you can write words. For each child, create as many hearts as you can with words of affirmation for that child.

As you create your hearts, there are some important things to remember.

  • Make them personal. If each child gets hearts with the exact same words on them, it won’t feel genuine. And yes, at some point they will compare.
  • Make them specific. “I love it when you laugh at my silly dad jokes” is more meaningful than “You have a nice laugh.”
  • Make them uplifting, not passive aggressive. “I love it when you brush your teeth” when it has been an ongoing struggle does not feel loving, it feels like another frustrated reminder.
  • Be honest. Don’t say “I love spending time with you” when most of the time you aren’t around and they have to jump up and down to get any attention from you at all. Don’t say “I love how sweet you are to your little sister” when they’ve heard you tell your friends multiple times how mean you think they are to her. Kids have a very strong understanding of honesty. Don’t try to be less than honest with them.
  • Make them mushy. They will moan and grown, but secretly they will treasure that you wrote that her smile when she sees you after school makes your day better. This is a great way to say all of those things to older kids that they never let you finish saying.
  • Make it fun. Have them taped to their door one morning when they wake up or put the cereal in a baggie and fill the empty box with your hearts, so when they pour their cereal the hearts fill their bowl. Have fun with it. Don’t feel like you have to wait for Valentine’s Day or their birthdays. If you rotate kids, make sure they all get a turn and each child gets about the same number and quality of hearts when it is his or her turn.

Showering your kids periodically with words of affirmation can help them understand how much you really do love them. And that can make it easier for them to build strong spiritual foundations and reach their godly potential.