Simple Ways to Point Your Kids to God

A recent Barna study found kids and teens who grew to be faithful, productive Christians as adults had been exposed to an average of about 2 hours of spiritual content a day.

Before you start to panic, the good news is that it doesn’t all have to be formal instruction (Note: Sending your kids to a Christian school, doesn’t remove the need for you, as their parents, to provide spiritual content for them.) Things like praying and having people over to eat count towards the total.

In fact, there are lots of rather simple things you can do to increase your kids’ exposure to spiritual content each day. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Have faith conversations in the car. If you’re a parent, you probably spend a lot of time in the car with your kids. As you talk about life, make sure to point them towards God whenever possible. These spiritual discussions are a key factor in building a strong faith foundation.
  • Have drive by prayers. Don’t close your eyes if you are driving, but get in the habit of having short prayers motivated by things you see as you drive. Anyone can notice something and lead a drive by prayer for it.
  • Make time for family devotionals. You make time to read your kids lots of secular books and encourage them to read independently. Why? Because you have heard it will help them do better in school. Make an effort to read the Bible to your kids and encourage them to read it independently. Having a strong faith foundation is even more important than doing well in school.
  • Make worship services and Bible classes a priority. When you regularly skip church and Bible class for other activities, you send the message that those are things are good to do only if there isn’t anything better available.
  • Serve others and share your faith. Serving others and sharing your faith should be as much of your family DNA as your last name and your holiday traditions. You will initially do these things as a family. As your kids grow older, their individual service and faith sharing should be as common as what you do as a family.
  • Let your kids have their friends over. Hospitality is a major part of the home life of kids who grow up to be faithful Christians. It doesn’t have to be formal entertaining either. Letting them invite their friends to your house counts. So do visits by neighbors and extended family.
  • Do things with other Christian families. Don’t wait for your church to plan something organized. Meet another family at the park, take a hike with a group from church or grab a fast food lunch after church with others.
  • When you take your kids to a museum, look for sections covering cultures in the Bible. Many museums have sections with artifacts from the Egyptians, the Romans, the Assyrians, the Greeks and other cultures in the Bible. You may find lots of artifacts mentioned in the Bible like oil lamps, Torah scrolls, mummies (Jacob and Joseph’s bodies were mummified in Egypt), even some of the idols like Baal. (Note: In some museums, artifacts from Israel will be found in a section called Levantine or Levant culture.)
  • Take your kids outside. The Bible teaches us that creation points to God. Take your kids on a hike, to the beach, to an aquarium or zoo. Point out how amazing God is and how much He loves us.

Helping your kids build strong faith foundations and grow to their godly potential takes intentionality. Once you make the time though, the things you need to do are actually rather basic. Don’t let anything stop you from teaching your kids about God.

Top Tips for Raising Greed Free Kids

Have you seen the viral post claiming to have found a way to cure holiday tantrums over toys? Evidently, the mom struggled with her child having melt downs in toy aisles of stores because she wanted something from Santa right then.

The mom’s solution? Take a photo of the child holding the toy to “send to Santa”. She claimed the child immediately calmed down and often even forgot she wanted the toy.

As a Christian parent, I have so many issues with this supposedly wonderful idea. Beyond the implied lie to the child that she will indeed get everything she wants from Santa (the mother had no intention evidently of giving her child most of those toys), the solution feeds a greedy, entitled heart.

There are several more effective ways of avoiding the “child melting down in the toy aisle” scenario. In fact, doing these things consistently can help you raise kids who don’t become greedy at all.

  • Stay out of toy aisles and toy stores with your child. Showing kids aisles and aisles of things they didn’t even know existed, only tempts them to want those things. Why encourage greed? The only time a child should be on any toy aisle is to quickly choose a present for someone else. Even in those cases, discuss ahead of time which toy you will probably purchase, find it quickly and immediately move to the checkout or another less tempting section of the store.
  • Avoid commercial television, catalogs and other advertising. Advertising is another way children become convinced they need something they didn’t even know existed until they saw the ad.
  • Explain the family budget in age appropriate ways. Even young children can understand how hard their parents work to earn the money you have. They also need to understand that God wants us to give money back to Him and to help others first. After that, there are bills that must be paid. Your family must also save money for things like college, family vacations and to repair the car when it breaks down. The little money left is for fun things like toys. You never want your children to worry about money, but they need to understand there isn’t an unlimited supply either.
  • Limit presents to Christmas and birthdays. If they want anything between those holidays, they must earn and save the money for those items by doing extra little jobs around the house or saving their allowance. Regularly giving your kids toys for no real reason makes them think they may just get everything they want – especially if they make it clear it is something they want badly.
  • Never reward tantrums. Your kids need to understand the quickest way to make sure they never receive a toy is to pitch a tantrum about wanting it. For older children, you may have to make a similar rule about continual begging for an item.
  • Set a good example. If you constantly talk about the things you want, spend too many hours and too much money shopping for non essential items, you can’t expect your kids to act differently.
  • Make sure your family finds giving more rewarding than receiving. Make regularly serving others and sharing the things you have a family priority. Focus more on how your family can give than how your family can accumulate more things for yourselves. When unexpected money comes into your family, give God a portion first.

You won’t banish greed from your child’s life by snapping a picture of him or her in a toy aisle. You can, however, by helping your child grow a godly, generous heart. It takes more time and effort, but it’s actually effective.

4 Ways to Develop Intrinsic Motivation in Your Kids

When parents want a child to do something, they often fall back on two parenting standards, the “carrot” and the “stick”. The “carrot” is offering some sort of reward if the child obeys or accomplishes a goal set by the parent. The “stick” is some sort of negative consequence given for disobedience or failing to reach a parental goal.

The problem with both the “carrot” and the “stick” is that they are methods of external motivation. The parent has to continue supplying rewards or threatening consequences to get the child to exhibit the appropriate behaviors. While this can work in the short run, it has one large fatal flaw.

Extrinsic motivation does little to change the child’s heart. It focuses merely on the visible behaviors of a child. External consequences are a necessary part of parenting. They help remind a child that disobedience has consequences. Rewards can be helpful on rare occasions as an encouragement for a child to begin tackling a large task. Neither though really focus on developing the godly heart we want our children to have.

To help children develop that godly heart, it’s important to find ways to encourage the intrinsic motivation that usually accompanies it. A child who is intrinsically motivated and has a heart for God will still make mistakes and sin. They are much more likely, however, to grow to be faithful, productive Christians as adults.

So what do children being raised in Christian homes need from their parents to develop the intrinsic motivation to obey God? Intrinsic motivation is based on a genuine interest and ambition towards completing certain actions. To have that intrinsic motivation to obey God, your kids will need:

  • Knowledge of God. They don’t need to just know a bunch of Bible stories and other scriptures that tell them what God wants from His people. They need this knowledge of what is in the Bible to understand who God is – in general – but also specifically to them. That knowledge can begin giving them that internal, passion for loving and obeying Him.
  • Understanding of God’s wisdom and plans. Understanding how wise God is and God’s plans are key parts of both having passion and ambition for obeying God. Who wouldn’t want to go through life following God who holds all wisdom and has a plan for them to live eternally in Heaven with Him? Obviously, there are many more details, but the principle is the same. Without understanding why God wants them to obey Him, it will be difficult for your kids to internally motivate themselves.
  • Valuing God. There are a lot of aspects of this valuing of God. Your kids have to have that passion and ambition for following, worshipping and obeying God. It will come in part when they truly value their relationship with Him and want that relationship to grow stronger and deeper. If they don’t value God in their lives, they probably won’t spend a lifetime worshipping and serving Him.
  • Gratitude. It’s often the gratitude for God’s gifts, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and everything else God has done for us that leads people to becoming Christians who are active, faithful and productive servants of God. A quick glance through the epistles in the New Testament reveals the immense gratitude the writers had for everything God had given them. If your kids aren’t grateful for God’s blessings, for Jesus dying on the cross for their sins, for the opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven with God, they will struggle to follow Him and share their faith with others.

Helping your kids develop the intrinsic motivation to worship, serve and obey God is vitally important. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them develop hearts that are truly God’s.

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.

Fun Way Your Family Can Thank Others

For many, November has become the month of Thanksgiving. As a Christian parent, it’s important to teach your children to be thankful and encourage others throughout the year.

This fun family devotional is a great way to start the conversation. It also introduces them to part of a familiar Bible story that may be new to them. You will need a Bible and the materials you will use to complete whatever project you choose to do with your children as part of the devotional.

Read Exodus 4:16-5:6 to your children, or tell them the story. Point out that Moses wasn’t particularly excited to do what God was asking him to do. He knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task. The Israelites might reject him and Pharaoh would not be at all happy to hear what God told Moses to tell him.

Yet, Moses obeyed God. Things didn’t go well at first. Pharaoh kept changing his mind and was angry a lot of the time. There were plagues on the Egyptians. Moses may have wondered at times, what was happening. But he knew the way the Egyptians were treating the Israelites was horrible – especially since the Israelites were doing all of the hard work for them.

Moses probably went through most of his life without anyone thanking him for all of the things he did to obey God and lead the people out of Egypt. In fact, he probably heard more complaints than appreciation and encouragement.

There are many people in our world today who also have jobs where they provide help to others and hear more complaints than gratitude. Have your kids name some of the people who do “thankless” jobs. They may name categories of jobs or specific people they know. You may need to help them get started or add to their list.

Look carefully over your list. Are there thirty people on it your family can thank in a meaningful way for the next month? It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but over the course of a month, your family can appreciate and encourage more than thirty people who probably really need it.

What are meaningful ways to thank someone? Saying “thank you” is a start, but meaningful gratitude is a little more. Perhaps you want to make cards or write notes explaining why your family is so grateful for what that person or group of people does. Maybe you want to make them a baked treat or give them a small gift card. Your kids might want to make them a special craft or pick a flower or some apples to give them.

It doesn’t really matter how your family makes those “thank you’s” more meaningful. Just taking the time and effort to truly thank and encourage someone can make a huge difference in their lives and give them the strength to continue helping others. It’s a great way to reflect God’s love accurately and perhaps even multiple it.