What To Do When Your Kids Say Something Outrageous (i.e. Wrong!)

When was the last time you learned some little tidbit that was fun, interesting or exciting? Remember that feeling of wanting to share the information with someone so they could get excited or amused with you? What happened? Did the person respond in a less than enthused manner or with outright derision at your tidbit? How did that make you feel?

Chances are it didn’t feel so great. Even though you are an adult with somewhat healthy self esteem, a part of you was disappointed, embarrassed or perhaps even angry or upset at the negative reaction. If the response included a personal insult, you probably aren’t inclined to share anything with that person again.

Your children are exposed to a lot of new information every day. Some of it is learned in the educational process. They may pick up new information from new experiences, things they read or social media. Some of that information is true and helpful. Some isn’t true, but believing it doesn’t have a lot of negative consequences. Sometimes, however, the information they learn is wrong and may have consequences that range from minor to deadly if they believe and act on it.

As parents, we are busy. It feels like the list of what we need to do never ends. So when we see a shortcut we can take that will save us some time, we try to take it to give ourselves margin. And what saves more time than cutting off your child who is speaking nonsense as if it were wisdom and tell them immediately their information is wrong, while also supplying the correct information?

It may save you time, but it begins chipping away at your relationship with your children. In their minds, not only did you not really listen to what they had to say, you interrupted them and made them feel stupid. While, I’m hopeful you didn’t actually say that the information or they themselves were stupid, that’s what your kids felt like. And if your tone and body language were dismissive as you corrected them, the damage is even worse. Children who are already leaning towards rebellious behavior will tend to double down on their original statement – even if they know you are probably correct in your assessment of its weaknesses.

You don’t want your children to go around believing incorrect information, much less acting upon it or sharing it with others. So how can you correct the information they have shared without making matters worse? Sometimes the best technique is to give them openings that encourage them to dig a little deeper and discover the error in their statements through a guided thought process.

Start by using one of the following statements or questions.

  1. Tell me more.
  2. That’s an interesting perspective. Where did you learn about it?
  3. Hmmm. Is there any evidence or research to support that statement?
  4. Why do you think that is true?
  5. Do you know if the Bible has anything to say about that?

It is crucial that while asking these questions you muster all of the humility and mutual respect you can in your tone and demeanor. Who knows? Although the original statement may be far from true, there may be little bits of information connected to it that will teach you something new.

Be interested in the responses your children give to you. Ask follow up questions. Suggest other places they can research that might have better data or more accurate information. Offer to read the materials they read if you have the time. (Sometimes the original information was correct, but your children misunderstood what they read.) When you sense they feel heard, then and only then should you begin introducing your side of the “debate”.

Humbly (this is key), mention that you have come to a different conclusion based on the information, knowledge and experience you possess. Sum up quickly the bulk of the information you know that led to your differing conclusion. If your children want to continue the conversation, you can share more information or give them things to read or watch that will educate them.

It’s important to remember that many debates are about opinion – not Truth or even truth. Pick your battles. Let your children have their own opinion about things that don’t really matter. Save your corrections for spiritual matters and other crucial information. Most importantly, follow the rules of debate – no name calling or yelling, don’t talk over your child, take turns speaking and yield the floor back to your child regularly, allow your child to amend his or her original statement with dignity, extend comfort and grace when your children realize their statements are incorrect and applaud their willingness to hear what you had to say and consider the evidence with discernment. Don’t let the outrageous statements your kids make undermine your relationship or your ability to parent them. Hopefully, they will give you the same respect and grace when you say something outrageous!

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Opportunity Cost

We live in a world that teaches children they can have anything they want if they work hard enough. The truth is that some choices are mutually exclusive – by choosing one thing, you are automatically unable to get the other things. For example, if your children are only allowed one after school activity, choosing one means they cannot participate in others that may be available to them.

Why is this important as Christians? There are several reasons. If your children choose to spend time on their devices, they have chosen to not spend that time learning about God, serving others or doing other positive, productive things. Or if they choose to play on a ball team that plays on Sundays, they have opted to not worship God and fellowship with the Christians at their church. Ultimately, they can choose to reject God for their entire lives and shut themselves out of Heaven.

There are some fun ways to begin teaching your kids the principle of opportunity cost and the impact it can have on their lives.

  1. Creating alternate picture book stories. Read your children a picture book. After the first reading, have your children imagine the characters made different choices than in the original story. How might the story and the ending have changed by these different choices?
  2. Double playing a board game. This works best for board games with a particular end goal in mind and with only a couple of players (otherwise it can become too confusing). Each player has two game pieces instead of one. They make the play for the first piece, then immediately see what might have happened had they made a different roll or spin by playing the second piece. How did the game end differently for each of their game pieces?
  3. Creating a free time log and bucket list. First have your kids create a place where they can log how they spend their free time outside of school. (You may want to exclude homework, studying and tutoring as they aren’t really optional!) Then have them create a list of all of the things they like to do or more importantly would like to do. Often the things they would like to do the most are never done because they waste all of their free time with screens. Encourage them to keep the log and then look at their bucket list to see how much they are missing out on by the way they are spending their free time.
  4. Taking hikes with forks in the road. You’ll need to go online first and find places with trails that have options along the way. Depending upon the length of the trails, it may take more than one visit to compare and contrast the trails the different options provided. Discuss what you saw on one trail versus the other (Note: this means looking out for animal life, plants and other sights that may not have been seen on the other trail.)

Have fun with it, but make sure your children understand that some choices mean they will miss out on the other options. You don’t want to paralyze their decision making process, but do teach them to seriously consider what they may miss out on when making a particular choice.

6 Reasons Your Kids Shouldn’t Follow Their Hearts (Or Trust Their Guts)

There are some bits of advice your children will hear over and over again throughout their lives that sound wise, but are actually pretty bad advice. Perhaps the two most common are “Follow your heart” and “Trust your gut”. At their core, the two are actually flip sides of the same principle – that bad choices will give you a bad feeling and good choices, a good one. In a perfect world, that might be true. In most cases, however, other things may prevent your kids’ hearts and guts from helping them make good choices in life.

Here are our top six reasons you need to teach your children about why they shouldn’t trust their hearts and guts.

  1. They lack Bible (and other) important knowledge. Our tendency to teach children and teens the same two dozen Bible stories over and over can lead them to think they know everything in the Bible. Add that to a youthful tendency to think they know more than those older and wiser than them and you have a dangerous combination. Teach your children that their hearts and guts don’t necessarily have all of the information they need to make a wise choice.
  2. They lack life experience. Some things are learned from either personal experience or watching others make similar choices over the years. Your children need to learn that they don’t have the life experience to automatically know what may happen based on the choice they are about to make.
  3. They need to use their hearts and guts as a warning flag, not a decision maker. If your children have a bad feeling about something, it is often wise to slow down a bit and gather more information and godly advice before making a choice. Sometimes it will be a natural fear about facing something new that is ultimately good for them and they can proceed. What they shouldn’t do is assume a good feeling, desire or whatever is a definite green light that something is a good choice.
  4. Experts are wrong more than they are right – and that’s using knowledge and experience – not hearts and guts. Making good choices is tough – even with knowledge and life experience. Your children’s natural youthful arrogance can make them feel like experts in the choice to be made. Remind them that even “real” experts get it wrong more than they get it right.
  5. Emotions are poor decision makers. Feelings are fickle and susceptible to being influenced by things like hunger, exhaustion, loneliness and other unhelpful factors. Remind them that their feelings about any choice can be changed if they are already in a good or a bad mood…. meaning the choices they make based on emotions might change from one day to the next. These potentially volatile choices are a sign that emotions aren’t the best decision makers.
  6. They should make decisions based on what God wants for their lives – even if it is different from what they want. Part of making God the Lord of their lives is admitting God is wiser and bowing to His Will. That means at times God’s commands, principles or plans for their lives might look different than what they may feel like they want for themselves. It can help to remind them that God knows what is best for them and if they are wise, they will always follow His lead – not their hearts or their guts.

Teaching your children to ignore popular “wisdom” can be tough. You will need to revisit the topic more than once over the years, for the truth about this principle to take root in their hearts and minds. It’s important though, if you want them to make wise, godly choices in life.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Sloth

Chances are your children think of the adorable, slow moving animal when they hear the word “sloth”. They have no idea that it also describes a character trait that isn’t pleasing to God. Thankfully, there are a lot of fun ways to teach your children about the biblical meaning of sloth and why being slothful should be something they avoid.

It’s important (before we begin) to differentiate between the sloth and godly, Sabbath type rest. Jesus rested regularly and encouraged his disciples to rest as well. He knew that to be healthy and effective in ministry, it is important to get regular, deep rest. Interestingly, most of us today equate idleness with rest. Secular studies have found that idle activities, like screen time, don’t provide the restorative type rest our bodies and souls really need. Instead, those activities are often addictive and can lead to a life of slothfulness.

There are a lot of great Bible verses about sloth like Ecclesiastes 10:18 and Proverbs 19:15. Most are very colorful and descriptive verses about what can happen when one lives a life of sloth or what it looks like to live the opposite life – like an ant (Proverbs 6:6-9). Chances are great though that your children will need some practical experiences (and guided reflection thereafter) to really grasp the need to avoid being like a sloth!

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Have an ant farm or go watch the ants in your yard. I loved having an ant farm as a child. It seems like ants never stop working. They are fascinating to watch. Better yet, they are a real life example mentioned in scripture … a way your kids can see scripture come to life.
  2. Visit a farm, talk to the farmer about all of the work that goes into a successful farm and help out (if you’re allowed to do so). Not many jobs require more work than a small family farm. Just listening to farmers talk about their daily work is enough to exhaust you. Even better if it is a family friend who can put your kids to work for the day, so they can experience some of that hard work for themselves.
  3. Make treats for the school custodian and get him or her to tell your kids about all of their job responsibilities. As an adult, I have to believe being a school custodian may be second only to a hospital orderly for jobs that are both hard and regularly unpleasant. Yet, my experience has been that many school custodians are some of the nicest, kindest people in the school. What a wonderful person to teach your kids about having a great attitude while doing a difficult job that often goes unnoticed!
  4. Grow a garden or visit a you-pick-them farm or orchard and process the “fruit” for personal use and to share with others. My family had a ½ acre garden when I was growing up. It involved a lot of labor, but provided most of our food and food to share. The summer of the unbelievable corn crop and the work it took to process is still one of family legend! If you don’t have the space for your own garden, chances are you are only a couple of hours away from a farm or orchard where you can purchase a bushel or two of something and process it. Freezing is often the easiest if you don’t do it regularly and you can find step by step instructions online.
  5. Visit an assisted living facility or nursing home and ask the oldest residents about what it was like to do things like laundry or cooking dinner when they were little. We forget that even a few decades ago many people hung their clothes outdoors to dry or made most of their dinner from scratch – including things like bread. We complain about how busy we are, but they knew true work all day – every day!
  6. Participate in a “hard” service project. These are usually a favorite of youth groups, but you can do them as a family, too.
  7. Ask employers and managers about sloth versus hard work as an employee. They probably have plenty of interesting and funny stories to tell if they have managed people for awhile. It’s important for your children to really understand what an employer considers sloth versus hard work and how it impacts their reaction to and treatment of employees.
  8. Make sloth art. Have your children draw a large outline of a sloth (the animal!). Inside the sloth, have them write or draw what a person who is slothful is like. Outside the sloth, have them write or draw the characteristics of someone who is not slothful.
  9. Visit a zoo with a sloth. You can use Google to find out if your local zoo has a sloth. Spend some time watching the sloth and discussing the movement (or lack thereof). If you don’t have a local sloth, watch some sloth videos online. There’s nothing like watching a real sloth to help one’s understanding of slothfulness!

It’s important that after any activity you take some time to sit down with your children and discuss what happened during your activity. What did they learn about sloth? About hard work? Most importantly, what changes do they think God would want them to make so they have less sloth in their lives?

Teaching Your Kids About Balance In the Christian Life

Have you ever noticed the human tendency to go to extremes? If I’m not exercising at all, and decide that’s not a great choice, instead of exercising a few minutes a day….. I will have a multi-hour mega workout session. Or if I believe my parents were way too strict…. I raise my kids with no rules at all. Instead of finding the perfect – usually happy medium – our pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. Which means that while we may correct some of the problems at one end, we just exchange them for equally serious problems at the other end.

It’s important to help your kids avoid the pendulum swings and this constant exchange of serious negative consequences. God is stable and steady. He’s even referred to in scripture as a rock. God’s commands and principles keep us in that healthy, balanced area of life, attitudes and behaviors. The Christian life only seems extreme because the rest of the world is swinging between the extremes in life. In reality, the Christian life is lived in that stable, healthy, calm, balanced area of God’s wisdom informed obedience and decision making.

There’s a fun family devotional you can do to begin having conversations about balance and the Christian life. Take your kids outside. Create a balance beam out of a line made of chalk or a wooden board on the ground. Take turns walking, jumping and doing other things while staying balanced on the “beam” you have created. See who can stay balanced on one foot the longest as you take turns calling out things you all have to do while staying balanced on that one foot.

After you’ve had some fun, find a place to sit and talk. Ask your children to name some activities where it is important to have good balance – like riding a bike or walking a tightrope. Explain that there is a different kind of balance in life that is important to understand when we make choices. Read or tell them some of the stories of the life of Peter. You may want to start with John 13:1-10 and Peter’s rather extreme reaction to Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles. If your children know a lot of Bible stories, ask them to think of other times when Peter or other people in the Bible had an extreme over reaction to something. Discuss together what might have been a better, more balanced and more godly response to what happened.

The difficult part of this type of topic in a devotional is helping your children make the mental leap from the principle you are teaching to what it might look like in their own lives now and in the future. Remember, that these balanced, godly choices in life are not always about sinning versus not sinning (although they can be). Often, they are about making wise, godly choices that don’t start them down a road that might eventually tempt them to sin. For example, in our earlier example about exercising, under or over exercising is not necessarily a sin. Either extreme can become sinful, however, if it eventually tempts them to take illegal drugs to build muscle or lose weight or if they are not being good stewards of their health and the body God gave them.

Work with them to think of other examples in life when people tend to go to one extreme or the other when God’s wisdom would put them in the middle. Don’t forget with older children and teens to talk about extremes like Christians can’t have any fun (think Puritans) on one end and living a life centered on having fun on the other. Discuss how God’s wise center is not having fun doing sinful things in moderation, but finding lots of fun things to do that aren’t sinful. Point out that when they are confused about where that godly center is that they can find the commands and principles to help in scripture. Help them find some verses in Proverbs and other scriptures that give some great guidance in finding that perfect balance.

Afterwards, you may want to go outside and try some more balancing fun, like walking with a book balanced on your heads, playing Twister or having an old fashioned egg race or “floor is lava” game. Don’t forget, this is a topic you will need to re-visit multiple times as a topic of discussion and in the moment as you watch your children struggle with pendulum swing type decisions. Finding their balance in God’s wisdom can make it much easier for them to live the Christian life.