Priorities and time management are important for any young person to learn. They take on an added dimension though for children being raised in Christian homes. Without properly aligned priorities and great time management skills, it is easy for the things Christians need to do to be strong spiritually and to do the good works God has prepared for them to get lost in the shuffle.
So what are some good ways to help your kids establish good habits in prioritizing their lives and managing their time?
Examine the ministry of Jesus. Jesus accomplished a lot during his relatively short ministry on earth. He was able to do that because he had his priorities straight and managed his time well. Point out how Jesus didn’t try to make a lot of money because that would have distracted from his ministry. He didn’t waste his time trying to convert Caesar, but focused most of his teaching time on people who wanted to learn what he had to teach them. He also didn’t work non-stop, but took time out regularly to rest and connect with God.
Constantly reevaluate schedules. Part of the problem with setting priorities and time management is that we rarely analyze what is on our plate. We just keep piling new things on without considering the wisdom or practicality of it. We don’t regularly look at our schedules and see what priorities may need to be shifted or if some things need to be removed our added to our days. Teach your kids how to do this. Schedule a regular time when your family gets together and looks at individual and family commitments and decides on any needed changes.
Have them help plan vacations and outings. There are always plenty of options for ways to spend time on a vacation or outing. What are the best ways to spend that time? What will everyone enjoy and benefit from doing – even if it is just sleeping in and getting needed rest? The more you involve your kids in making these every day choices, the more practice they can get in setting healthy priorities and practicing good time management skills.
Practice Sabbath type rest. Good time management doesn’t mean you are working every minute of every day. Unfortunately the way most young people “rest” when they have free time doesn’t really help them restore their energy. Jesus set a great example. Real rest often requires quiet, scripture, prayer, music, exercise, creating something and of course sleep. Real rest will not come from watching a screen. Christians aren’t required to practice rest on a specific day…which means you can rest like Jesus – on any day or a little every day. It’s important that it be regular though. Don’t wait until your kids get cranky and stressed before encouraging a healthy rest. Setting aside time to rest in spiritually healthy ways as a family can help you all establish healthier habits.
Play games with timers. Young children struggle with the concept of time. Even older children aren’t particularly aware of how long a specific period of time lasts. Teens may struggle with estimating how long something will take to complete. Playing board games with timers can help your kids have a better concept of time and what might realistically be accomplished in a certain amount of time.
Run races. There are plenty of 5k races your family can run and many also have 1k distances for children. Running races and trying to improve your times is a great way to understand how little things can make a huge difference in how long it takes to complete a task. What modifications result in a faster completion time? How can those principles be applied to other things that need to be completed by a deadline?
Take advantage of the current mandatory homeschooling. Parents of homeschoolers will tell you one of the benefits is that their children learn how to self manage their time very well. In fact, elite universities often appreciate former homeschoolers because they are able to handle the independent schedule of a college student better than many young people who attended public or private schools. Use whatever time you have in the current homeschooling caused by the pandemic to encourage your kids to manage their own schedules. Talk about what is working and where they are struggling. If your children return to school, encourage them to manage their own schedules rather than having teachers or you micromanage it for them.
Teaching your kids how to prioritize and manage their time well takes effort on your part. It is worth it though, when they can use that time to serve God and become who He wants them to be.
Self control is a fruit of the Spirit with a definition that is the same for both people who are secular and Christians. The one twist is that a Christian’s self control can lessen the chances of temptations leading to sinful behaviors.
Did you know that a famous longitudinal study found that self control is a crucial predictor of success in school, careers and relationships? Have you noticed it seems to be less valued and practiced in our world today than even a few decades ago? (Or at least people aren’t trying as hard to hide their lack of self control).
Because of the current climate in our world, you will need to help your kids understand WHY self control is so important to God. Otherwise, they will get caught up in a world view that says it’s important to “live your truth” and express it loudly to anyone and everyone.
Samson in the book of Judges is a great example of a person who seemed to have real self control issues pretty much his entire life. God was able to use Samson in spite of his lack of self control, but one can only imagine what Samson’s life might have been like if he could have controlled his words and actions.
The Apostle Peter is another great example of someone who at times suffered from a lack of self control. Point out to your kids that as Peter learned some hard lessons from Jesus, God was able to use him more and more…to the point where he became an effective evangelist and author of two books in the Bible.
There are some fun ways to help your kids practice self control. It’s important to understand a huge part of self control is self awareness. What is my body getting ready to do? What does my mouth want to say? Recognizing the warning signs that they are about to lose control and walking away instead is huge. It’s much easier to stop ourselves from beginning a sinful behavior than it is to stop when we are already sinning.
Creatingawareness. You can start by asking your kids to show you how you act when you are happy, sad, mad, etc. Have they figured out the warning signs that they are about to get in trouble? Make this light hearted and fun. If you have trouble laughing at yourself, show photos of people expressing different emotions and see if your kids can correctly identify them. After you have had some fun, ask them if they can tell when they are beginning to get angry? When are other times they tend to get in trouble for not having self control? Have they noticed warning signs right before they make a bad choice? Give them strategies to use at the first sign they may soon lose control. Help them practice them and provide gentle reminders (like a secret hand signal) when you see warning signs, but they seem oblivious.
You can’t eat just one. Is there a temptation your kids seem to have trouble avoiding? It doesn’t have to be food, but that is often more fun. How long can they walk past that chocolate chip cookie (or whatever) without giving in to the temptation to eat it? Who in your family can avoid eating their favorite treat the longest? At some point, you can declare a winner and allow everyone their treat. As you enjoy, talk about strategies they used to resist the temptation a little longer. Could any of those strategies help them in other situations?
Baking and serving. Nothing is more tempting when cooking than fresh baked goods! Get your kids to help you make a dessert or bread that smells great when baking. Then take every morsel and give it to someone else. Afterwards talk about how hard it was to share and not keep at least a little for yourselves. How can they remember to deny themselves and serve others when they have the opportunity? (Putting other’s needs before your own is both scriptural and a way to practice self control.)
Controlling words and thoughts. Controlling their actions is easier for some kids than others. For kids who seem to have self control, begin discussing the need to control our words, thoughts and attitudes in addition to our behaviors. Since much of this is between only them and God or can be easily hidden or justified in their minds, this is a deeper discussion for older kids and teens. Have them look for people in the Bible and in the real world who seem to have good behaviors, but their words and attitudes indicate their heart may not be as self controlled as their actions. What are things they can do to be aware of any issues they have in these areas and address them? Can they benefit from others helping hold them accountable in some way? (This is a great way to also point out some of the possible benefits of being in a healthy Christian community.)
Self control is so important to living the Christian life, you must spend a lot of time working on it with your kids. If they have poor self control, they will have a very difficult time obeying God.
Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit that seems somewhat straightforward, yet we don’t talk about it very often. The technical definition of gentleness is the quality of being kind, tender, mild-mannered, softness of action or effect.
The original word in the Bible that is translated as gentleness in English has a deeper meaning though. It is more closely correlated to power in restraint, particularly in regards to God’s power. It is understanding the power we have through God, but choosing to be restrained and exercise that knowledge and power without undue harshness.
At times Christians will allude to gentleness when they discuss the need to speak the truth in love. Teaching the lost they are lost is often best received when we approach them with love and kindness along with God’s truths.
So how can we begin to teach our kids about gentleness when it is so much deeper than the secular definition implies? Because the original word includes the normal definition of gentleness with an added dimension, you can start at the beginning.
Restraining strength. If you have a toddler and a new baby, kitten or puppy in the house, you understand this dynamic very well. Teach your kids their words and actions have power…power to encourage, help or destroy. They must make wise choices about how much strength and power they need to use in a given situation. Often the best idea for young people, because of their lack of life experience, is to start slow. This is more fun when practiced with animals. How gently should they touch a baby animal versus an adult? Should they be firmer with an animal with a tough hide than an animal with very sensitive skin? As they experiment, talk about what happens. Older children can begin drawing comparisons to how they interact with people.
Gentle or harsh. Find examples in film, children’s books or other places of people being gentle or harsh. Can your children correctly identify the people who are being gentle and those who are being harsh? Older children may be able to find ways those being harsh could have accomplished their goals in a more gentle fashion.
Gentle or weak? Young people can become confused by the biblical concept of gentleness, especially if their environment seems to require a tough exterior to survive. Find examples in the Bible when someone chose to be gentle rather than harsh, but in so doing showed their strength more than if they had acted differently. The life of Jesus is filled with these examples. Even when Jesus might have appeared to be harsh with the Pharisees, he was being gentle…he had the ability to have them struck dead on the spot, but gave them opportunities to change and grow spiritually instead by using milder actions to make them aware of their sins. Have them find examples in their own environment of ways they can show their strength better with their gentleness than being harshly “strong”.
Don’t break them. Have your children handle fragile things very gently. When demonstrating how to be gentle, drop something fragile and let it break (an egg works well if you can tolerate the mess). Somewhat frantically ask your kids to help you “fix” the thing you broke. Even if it is something you can glue back together, point out the cracks and how it will never be as strong or as perfect as it once was. Point out that when we are harsh with others our words and actions can have the same impact on them. We can break people and leave them more fragile if we aren’t careful with them. Talk about ways we break others and ways we can accomplish important goals without destroying others in the process.
Delivering “bad” news. Often we think of being gentle in a more biblical way when we have to tell people something they don’t want to hear – some sort of bad news. Show your kids a film clip or passage in a book when someone had to deliver bad news. We’re they gentle or blunt? Have them notice that although the person is still saddened by the news, they feel more loved and/or supported when someone told them gently and provided comfort or help after gently delivering the news. Role play giving the types of bad news they may have to deliver to their friends. How can they give the news gently? More importantly, how can they show love and give support after the bad news is given to someone?
Teaching your kids how to be gentle in biblical ways can improve their ability to serve others well and share their faith effectively. It’s worth taking the time and effort to discuss gentleness and help them practice it.
If you’ve been somewhere the fruit of the Spirit is being taught, you’ve probably noticed faithfulness is the one people seem to forget or gloss over. It’s perhaps a little less concrete than some of the others. It’s not something people in the world talk about very much. It’s rarely a character trait of the month at your child’s school.
So what is faithfulness? It is most often connected to trust and loyalty. The Old Faithful geyser gets its name because they know it will erupt at certain times. When it comes to Christian faith, the book of Hebrews perhaps tells us the most about it – especially in chapter eleven. You may be more familiar with this chapter as the “heroes of faith” passage.
In the chapter, the writer of Hebrews points out the characteristics of various well known people in the Bible who showed their faithfulness to God. Reading through the chapter, we can see the complexity of having faith. We also learn how important our faithfulness is to God.
Because faithfulness is important to God, we must take the time to teach our kids about it. It may mean taking the time to better understand the concept ourselves. It’s worth it though, if we and our children become more pleasing to God as our faithfulness grows.
So what are some fun ways to teach your kids about faithfulness? Here are some of our favorites.
Break it down. Grab a huge sheet of paper or some poster board. Tell your kids they are going on a faithfulness treasure hunt. They can use any resources they want to find the attitudes and behaviors God wants to see in us when we have faithfulness. This is a great chance to help your kids learn how to search for scriptures on specific topics. Older kids may be interested in taking a first look at Bible dictionaries and concordances, too. When you think you have uncovered all of the information you can, take a look at your data. What would a person who has faithfulness “look like” today?
He is real and amazing! Part of faithfulness is the basic belief in God and a willingness to seek Him. Take your kids out in nature or to zoos or aquariums. Even a walk in a city can reveal God’s gifts to mankind and God at work in the world today. As you walk, talk about the things that remind you of God or strengthen your belief. Talk about the love He has for us.
Faithfulness is courageous. In Hebrews 11, there are stories of people like Noah and Abraham who had to be brave to trust God and do what He asked them to do. Your kids will have to brave to follow God at times, too. Is there something God may want your kids to do to serve someone, share their faith or obey God in the face of teasing? What can they do to be faithful in those situations? Brainstorm a “tool kit” your kids can use when they are afraid of being faithful to God. Your children’s “tool kit” may contain Bible verses, prayers, stories and more.
The long view. One of the interesting examples in Hebrews 11 is Moses. The chapter mentions Moses giving up the benefits of being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter for hardships because he understood the greater rewards of obeying God. Faithfulness is willing to sacrifice what we want now in order to help others (and ourselves) get to Heaven. What are your kids willing to do without to help others? Is it the food in your pantry they hate to eat anyway or their very favorite? Plan a service project with your kids that requires them to make some sort of sacrifice in order to help others. Talk about our motivations as we grow in faithfulness.
Bold faithfulness. Older kids and teens often struggle with being a Christian and a strong desire to be popular. They may hide their faith in an attempt to fit in with their peers. They may even participate in sinful behaviors just to avoid teasing. Take turns coming up with scenarios you and your kids may encounter when it would be tempting to hide your faith or minimize it. Who can come up with the best ideas of how to overcome the temptation and be bold, while still being loving and kind to those around them?
Faithfulness is one of the more difficult fruits of the Spirit to teach your kids and to help them develop. It’s important to God though, so it’s worth the extra time and effort.
Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit that sounds easy at first. “Be good,” is a phrase parents have used for decades to tell their kids how to behave. What is goodness though? To the world, the concept of what is good seems to change with the wind.
God, however, has used good consistently. First, to describe how He felt about the things He created. Of course God himself, is the very definition of good. The Bible, likewise, has some instructions for God’s people who wish to be good.
First, we are instructed to do good…good works. These good works in turn not only help people, but give us an opportunity to point others to God. In Micah, we are told what God considers good…to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)
Of course, walking humbly with God implies we are obedient to Him…perhaps the traditional definition of good. Yet, unlike the world’s trendy ideas of what actions are right and wrong, God’s commands and principles are consistent. When God gives Christians a command, it isn’t up for a vote. He won’t change it on us.
So what are some ways you can encourage your kids to have a full measure of goodness in their lives?
Mother may I? Ultimately, the commands your kids should follow are from God. When they are young though, they practice by obeying their parents. Games like “Mother May I”, “Follow the Leader” and “Simon Says” are fun, silly ways to practice obedience. After several rounds, talk about why it is important they obey you. What are some possible consequences for disobedience…not just from consequences, but because your rules are often to protect them from something that could hurt them.
Good deeds days. Good deeds are part of other fruits, too. For goodness, focus on doing good deeds that cause someone to say, “This is good!” It may be cooking food for someone or creating art. Don’t forget to help your kids find ways to point others to God as they serve them.
God is good. Part of goodness is accurately reflecting God’s image. In order to do that though, your kids need to understand who God is…His characteristics. See how many words your kids can use to describe God. Consider creating a type of graffiti “wall” in your house where people can add new descriptions of God as they think of them. Older kids may be interested in researching some of the names of God. When your wall is full, discuss the ways your family can be like God in those ways. Challenge each other to reflect God more accurately.
That’s good! See how many “good” things in life your kids can list. What makes them good? What do they think God means when He says a fruit of the Spirit is goodness? How can they exhibit goodness in their lives? Younger kids will struggle with this, but older ones should be able to find some parallels. Can they think of people in the Bible who had the fruit of the Spirit of goodness? How do they know?
Goodness may seem to overlap with a few other fruits of the Spirit. That’s okay. The more practice your kids get in the fruit of the Spirit, the easier they will become.