Creating a Structured Summer of Boredom for Your Kids

Summer is just around the corner and you have probably noticed a few parenting experts who are promoting allowing your children to be bored this summer. You understand it’s in their best interest, but it sounds like a formula for disaster. Isn’t it ultimately in their best interest to keep them in structured activities to keep them out of trouble?

Boredom gives children and teens room to rest, to be creative, to process everything they have been learning, to think about big ideas like God and Christianity, to discover their gifts and passions, to read, to study scripture, to pray and more. Your kids need a break from being over scheduled. Their lives will not be ruined by taking off one summer from structured activities. Thankfully, you can add just a bit of structure to their summer of boredom to keep them engaged in positive activities and out of trouble.

Here are some guidelines for your summer of boredom. (Note: If you and your spouse work full time, you can give these instructions to an in-home care giver or do these things at night, on weekends or on your vacation.)

  • Severely limit phone and screen time. This will be the hardest part if they are addicted. It will take two weeks of possibly miserable detox until they accept it. Phones should be used for no more than an hour a day. (If parents also detox it works better.) Admit it will be tough, but that it is in their best interest.
  • Set parameters. Do you want them to stay on your property? Do they need to go to bed by a certain time? What types of things to they need to ask your permission to do?
  • Make a family bucket list for the summer. What are some things you want to do as a family this summer? Aim for at least one ”adventure” a week. These can be free, but should be done as a family. (Don’t forget things like “pj day” “breakfast for supper” and other classics!)
  • Record a list of all of the fun things your kids can do. Don’t get too specific. For example, write down “art” rather than a very specific art project. If they really struggle, you can print off lists of art project or other ideas that contain numerous ideas from which they can choose.
  • Provide needed items. Your kids aren’t going to read if they don’t have access to interesting books or do art if they can’t find the supplies around your house. You don’t have to spend a ton of money (the public library has tons of books), but boredom summers often fail because the kids don’t have access to what they need to do something more productive.
  • Be available and engaged. Creativity means they may need questions answered or advice. Encourage them to problem solve by asking questions to guide them rather than merely telling them what to do. If you don’t get aggravated every time they want to engage with you, you may also find your relationship is strengthened.
  • Encourage daily or weekly service to others. This can be done individually and/or as a family. Our website has dozens of great service project ideas.
  • Encourage Bible study and prayer. Once again, this can be done independently or as a family. If you expect them to study on their own, help them choose a prepared study for their age group to help.
  • Encourage learning a new skill. Maybe they want you to teach them to cook their favorite dishes. Or you need to teach them how to do laundry or change a tire. Lots of craft and hobby stores have short term lessons for kids and teens.
  • Allow naps and occasional movie watching. Your kids are probably sleep deprived. Even if they won’t nap, on an extremely hot or rainy afternoon a movie online can force them to rest a bit. (Try to limit movies to no more than once every week or so.)
  • Encourage time outdoors exercising. Some kids are indoor kids and would never go outside and exercise if they could. Their moods and health will be better if they spend a lot of time outdoors and play or even walk or swim. They can even take their books and activities outside if it’s possible in your neighborhood.
  • Allow day dreaming. Staring at the clouds or stars has a purpose. It provides peace and quiet for processing, thinking, dreaming. Give your kids that gift.
  • Encourage them to entertain friends. Hospitality is a key element of families who raise active, productive Christians. Help them plan the activities they will do with their friends when they come over. Don’t forget old classics like board games when it gets super hot or rainy.
  • Make a chore jar. Experienced moms know that nothing cures boredom like a chore. If they whine or break the parameters or rules, allow them the privilege of choosing a job from the jar. These tasks should be above and beyond their normal chores and just annoying enough to encourage them to do something other than whine so they won’t have to choose from the chore jar!

Give your kids the gift of boredom this summer. Just structure it a bit so it makes this your best summer ever!

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Wisdom

The word “wisdom” appears in the Bible over 200 times. God makes it very clear that He expects his people to be wise. Unfortunately, your children will confuse knowledge for wisdom. Experts even write that tech savvy is a replacement for wisdom in the minds of many people today – especially to the young. Those who believe knowledge (or the ability to quickly access knowledge) is wisdom are doomed to a lifetime of unnecessary mistakes – often producing negative consequences for themselves and others.

There are some fun things you can do to help your children understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom, as well as how to use wisdom to make better choices.

Tell or read your children passages about Solomon’s wisdom – 1 Kings 3:1-24, 4:29-34, 10:1-13. Ask them to tell the stories in their own words. Point out that even though Solomon asked for wisdom, he also sought knowledge. Knowledge and wisdom are related, but not always synonymous. Explain that it is believed Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs – a book of wisdom. Yet, Solomon did not always use the wisdom God had given him. He made some very unwise choices during his lifetime which created negative consequences for himself, his children and his kingdom.

Have your children look up the definitions of knowledge and wisdom. Can they explain the difference? Point out that while knowledge is a building block of wisdom, it is not wisdom itself – in fact some knowledge would be very unwise to use. Wisdom is using the knowledge we have access to in order to make the best possible choices. For example, in the story of the women arguing over the baby, Solomon knew how to make a decision. He knew how to give the baby to one of the women. Solomon’s wisdom was in saying something that would help him to know which woman was the real mother. He had no intention of hurting the baby, but threatening to do so revealed which woman’s baby it was.

Ask your children to think of examples today of times when people confuse knowledge and wisdom. This is a great time to point out that although they may eventually have more “book” knowledge than you, you will always possess wisdom from life experience that they will not have yet. (Granted, not all older people are wise, but life experience does often gift one with additional wisdom.)

Point out that asking God and other people to share their wisdom with them is important. Any supposed wisdom given by people should be compared to scripture, as God is the source of all wisdom. Ask your children why people often refuse to seek or heed wisdom. What consequences do they suffer? How often do your children find themselves relying on their own knowledge rather than seeking to learn from the wisdom of others? How often do they refuse to heed the advice of wise, godly people… or even God himself? What consequences have they suffered as a result? Be prepared to give examples from your own life – especially if your kids are in denial.

It is important to continue the discussion periodically by doing fun activities to help your children understand the importance of knowledge and wisdom. Here are some fun ideas to get you started.

  • Reading mystery stories for children. (One Minute Mysteries are quick reads.) As your children attempt to solve them, ask them the roles knowledge and wisdom play in solving a crime. Point out that the detective needed knowledge to understand the various clues, but wisdom in applying that knowledge to solve the mystery.
  • Challenge your kids to learn how to do something new. Make sure it is difficult enough that they will struggle without advice from someone with wisdom in that area. Have them try to do it without instructions first and then with the help of other resources like books or YouTube.
  • Have your children find a daily news story that would have been very different if the people involved had sought and heeded wise advice.
  • Encourage your children to create scripture art that reminds them to seek and heed God’s wisdom.
  • Read a chapter or Proverbs every day for a month. Have your children each choose a verse from the daily chapter that they will use to make them wiser.
  • Have your children interview senior adults at church about wisdom. What wisdom was contained in the answers the seniors gave? How might their lives be different if they did or did not heed the wisdom of these older adults?
  • Have your children practice finding and vetting answers to their questions online. How can they make sure they are eliminating sites where the knowledge and wisdom are false? Teach them various techniques to vet online answers before accepting them as true and/or wise.

Have fun with it, but help your children see how important it is to humbly seek God’s wisdom for their lives and heed it. It could make all of your lives better.

Teaching Your Children About Promises

In the movie Mary Poppins, there is a scene when one of the characters makes a promise that Mary knows won’t be kept. She calls it a “pie crust promise” – easily made and easily broken. Sadly many of us are guilty of making pie crust promises and it undermines our trustworthiness. If your children get in the habit of making promises and not keeping them, their lives will have little integrity.

There is an interesting verse in the Bible – Matthew 5:37. At the heart of this verse is that Christians should be so honest and trustworthy, that if they merely say “yes” or “no”, everyone will believe they are telling the truth and that they will follow through on promises if they are involved.

Unfortunately, parents are often the worst at making pie crust promises. It seems easier to say “maybe next week” instead of “no”. We want to avoid the potential conflict, whining or acting out the word “no” may inspire in oir kids. So we lie, in hopes that when the promised time comes, they will have forgotten. But children are smart. Eventually they figure out our stalling techniques are actually lies. That in turn can undermine their trust in us and encourage them to make their own pie crust promises.

Have regular conversations with your children about honesty, integrity and promise keeping. Point out that the promises we make to God when we become a Christian and the promises we say at weddings are extremely important to keep. With older children and teens, talk about those promises and the damage that is done when they are broken. Encourage your children to notice what happens in their hearts and minds when someone breaks a promise to them. Caution them to never make a promise they know they won’t keep and to apologize and atone when circumstances prevent them from keeping a promise.

As time goes on, point out to your children the promises God makes to us. Note that since God hates lies, He will always keep His promises. You may want to point out various prophecies and their fulfillment. Let them make scripture art of some of God’s promises that encourage them.

If you want to raise children who are honest and trustworthy, teaching them to keep promises is an important part of that training. If they learn that lesson, it can even make your job parenting them easier!

Fun Family Devotional on Heroes

Whether we call them heroes or not, all of us have people we admire. Children and teens don’t always have discernment when it comes to their heroes. They are just as likely to have a fictional hero as a real one. They may also struggle to understand that every person we admire has strengths and weaknesses (and sins). It can be difficult for them to sort out the beliefs and behaviors of a hero that are worth trying to copy and those which they should reject. This can cause them to make poor choices in their attempts to be “just like” their heroes. There is a fun family devotional you can do to encourage them to use discernment with heroes.

Tell or read to your children the story found in Exodus 1. Ask your children if they notice something odd about verses 15 and 16. Point out that the Pharaohs in Egypt were at this time, powerful world leaders. Note, however, that God does not think it is important to tell us the name of this Pharaoh (even though his name would be familiar to us even today), but God does give us the names of the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. They would be considered “nobodies” to the Egyptians at the time. After all, they were merely slaves who helped other slaves give birth to their babies. Yet God thought it was important for us to know their names.

Ask your children why they think God may have wanted us to know their names. We don’t know for sure, but it may be because they, not Pharaoh, were the true heroes of this story. They risked their lives to do what they knew would God would want them to do. Ask them if they can think of other examples in the Bible of people who their world might have considered unimportant, but the Bible felt it was important for us to know their names and stories. With teens, you may also want to point out that many people whom God later placed in powerful positions – like David and Esther – started out as unimportant people in their worlds. You may even want to look at Hebrews 11 for more heroes and the reasons God considered them heroic.

Ask your kids to name someone they admire or would consider a hero. Point out that even the heroes mentioned in the Bible sinned at times. The Bible doesn’t always share these weaknesses with us, but it tells us the only perfect one who has lived on Earth is Jesus. Explain that all people – even heroes and those we admire have weaknesses and sin at times. Our only perfect model (from whom we can copy everything he did) is Jesus.

Give your children some blank paper and art supplies. Encourage them to draw a picture of someone other than Jesus/God they admire. It can be a fictional hero or someone who is real. Encourage them to use words or drawings to illustrate that person’ strengths and weaknesses. Then give them another sheet of paper. Have them list the admirable things about Jesus. Note that since Jesus was perfect, he had no weaknesses. Have them share both drawings with your family.

End with a discussion of how to make wise choices when wanting to be more like someone else and how ultimately, Jesus is the best hero of all to mimic. Remind them that it may be okay to let the strengths of others motivate them to have similar strengths, but they can never truly depend on any person to be perfect. Their faith has to ultimately be in Jesus, because other people will always eventually make mistakes and sin – even if we don’t know the details (like in the lives of the midwives). Encourage them to think of one way they can work to become more like the ultimate hero, Jesus.

Preparing Your Children for Peer Pressure

Remember when you were in school and popularity or fitting in seemed so important? Peer pressure can encourage your children to make choices they normally wouldn’t make. Ultimately, however, your children are responsible for their choices whether or not peer pressure played a role. It’s in everyone’s best interest to prepare your children to do what is right – no matter how much their peers may pressure or tease them.

There’s a fun family devotional you can do to help begin the discussion about peer pressure. Tell your children the story of how Saul became king, found in 1 Samuel chapters 8-11. Focus especially on how the people wanted to be like everyone else (in the countries surrounding them) and have a king. Discuss with your kids why the Israelites might have wanted to be like the nations around them. Older children and teens may also want to discuss why with all of the many differences between nations, the Israelites focused on having a king.

With younger children, peer pressure should be discussed as wanting to be “just like your friends”. Older children are already aware of peer pressure, but it is helpful to discuss the meaning as well as possible pros and cons of peer pressure.

With younger children focus on verses like Proverbs 13:20 (whoever walks with the wise will become wise, etc.) and the importance of listening to friends when what they say is wise/matches what God has told us to do.

Older children and teens can handle a slightly more sophisticated discussion including other aspects like those found in Galatians 1:10 (seeking approval of man) and I Corinthians 15:33-34 (bad company ruins good morals).

Ask your kids how hard it is to avoid wanting to go along with the crowd/be like everyone else/peer pressure. What are some of the things they do when they are faced with a choice between doing what their friends are doing and doing what God wants them to do? Be aware at this age, they will potentially say all of the right things, but in reality be doing the exact opposite. It may help to give them appropriate examples or ask them for examples of when “other” kids struggle with peer pressure.

Give your children a large piece of paper and have them glue a paper bag to the sheet. They can add the title “My Bag of Tricks For Peer Pressure”. You may also want them to add one of the above verses or another verse on the topic to the paper.

With pre-readers talk about the “tricks” on the cards. Have them glue the cards to the paper and draw pictures of those tips. For older children, have them generate as many ideas as they can on their own to write on the cards and glue to the papers.

Here are some suggestions, if they run out of ideas:
• Memorize one of the Bible verses and say it to yourself whenever you are tempted.
• Practice saying, “No, thank you.” kindly, but firmly.
• Walk away.
• Just keep saying “No thank you” over and over.
• Have a secret signal with your parent(s) that means you are tempted by peer pressure and they need to come get you.
• Don’t hang out with people or in places where you might be tempted to do something ungodly.
• Remind yourself of all of the possible negative things that could happen when you give in and disobey God. (If you are really brave, share them out loud, because others may not want to give in either and will follow your lead.)
• Offer another choice that is godly to do instead.
• Remind yourself “everyone is doing it” is not true and you are not “the only one who isn’t doing it”.
• Make sure you are well rested, eat healthy foods at regular times, exercise, etc. It’s much easier to give in to temptation when you are hungry or tired.
• Make decisions before your peers ask you to do something about what you will and will not do (For example: “I won’t get drunk.).
• Don’t feel like you have to give a reason to say “No”. “No” is a complete sentence.

Your children may have lots of other great ideas. This list is not complete. It is merely given to help add to whatever ideas your kids may generate. Don’t end the discussion after this one devotional. Continue it periodically – even into adulthood. Regular reminders and strategy sessions can help your children make wiser, more godly choices – no matter what their friends and acquaintances are doing.