Heart Questions for Your Kids

One of the main differences between secular and Christian parenting is that secular parenting often focuses on the outward behaviors of a child, whereas Christian parents are focused on the heart of their child. It’s not that behaviors and attitudes don’t matter to Christian parents. They have merely learned from the ministry of Jesus that so called good behaviors can cover a heart that has no intention of worshipping and obeying God.

Since God looks at and judges hearts, we need to be concerned about whether or not our kids’ hearts belong to God. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability Jesus did to perfectly know another person’s heart. Our kids aren’t necessarily going to freely offer the information we need to know about whether their hearts are gradually moving towards or away from God. We must use a lot of different parenting tools to try and get the most accurate picture of the hearts of our kids.

One fun way to get a glimpse of your kids’ hearts is to ask fun thought questions. While secular parents also use these same kinds of questions at times, your purpose is different. Often secular parents use these table talk type questions to generate interesting conversations. Or out of curiosity about their kids’ opinions.

As a Christian parent, you want those things, too. You also, however, want to later analyze the answers to see if they give you any clues about your child’s heart. You can Google and easily find hundreds of free table talk questions that will be fun and engaging for your kids. How do you go about analyzing their answers for clues about their hearts? Here are some questions to ask yourself as you think about their answers later.

  • Was their answer just for fun or was there an underlying attitude, character trait or thought process to consider? Let’s say the question was about whose life would you want to live for one day. Two kids may answer the question the same way, naming a popular music star. The “why” part of their choice is the most important piece of the answer. Did they choose that person because it would be fun to sing well in front of a lot of people, or because they want the lifestyle of having everyone give you everything you want? The first answer may actually reveal your child has an interest or even a passion for music. The second answer may reveal a heart that is focused on self more than others. You shouldn’t read too much into just one answer, but a pattern along with other behaviors can indicate a heart issue.
  • What underlying attitudes or beliefs might their answer reveal? This is somewhat subjective, but you are looking for patterns over time.
  • What changes in answers do you detect over time? Asking a hundred questions in one encounter is not as helpful as asking a question or two regularly over a long period of time. Do their answers show a shift in attitudes or beliefs over time? For example, do their answers appear more selfish or less selfish over time? Kids are rapidly growing and changing. You want to catch negative trends before they become entrenched attitudes and beliefs that pull them away from God.
  • Do their answers reflect deeper level thinking? If your kids can never explain their answers, answering the “why” part of the question, it may reveal that they are doing little if any metacognition – recognition and analysis of their own thought processes. If they don’t become aware of their thought processes, it will be extremely difficult for them to recognize when they are being tempted and to take steps to avoid sinning.
  • Do their answers reveal ignorance of important Bible knowledge? You can make some of your questions about information in the Bible. For example, what three people in the Bible would you want to invite over for dinner? Or which Fruit of the Spirit do you think is most helpful in your life? If your kids can’t name three people in the Bible or don’t have a clue what the Fruit of the Spirit options are, it reveals an ignorance of important Bible knowledge. It’s a sign they need more Bible instruction at home than they are currently receiving.

Have fun with it. Don’t make your kids feel like they are being interrogated. Don’t critique their answers in the moment (You can have those conversations later.). Share your own answers, too. Mix in some silly questions. Analyze the conversation later on your own or with your spouse out of the hearing of your children. Use the information you learn to teach and help mold their hearts towards God. It’s another great tool in your parenting toolbox.

Fun Service Project That Teaches Your Kids

When you think of serving others while sharing your faith as a family, you are probably focused on deciding on the type of project you will do or deciding which people most need your help. What would happen if you considered the ways your own kids could grow spiritually while working on the project, too?

If you keep in mind the ways you want your kids to grow while working on the project together, you will be more intentional about the conversations you have with them. You may change responsibilities or make other choices that will give your kids more practice in the areas of focus. You will spend time together reflecting after the project and helping your kids think of other things they can do to keep growing spiritually in those areas.

Here’s a fun service project that will give you a great example. Let’s say you want your kids to have more patience and perseverance and to be more responsible. You are also concerned about some sad or lonely neighbors who might love some pretty flowers, or providing fresh vegetables for people you know who are food insecure. What is a project you can do to help your kids and the people who need to be served and encouraged?

Why not grow some pretty flowers or vegetables? Have your kids help plan what to plant. Remember, certain plants take longer to germinate and produce the desired outcome for your service project. The longer it takes, the more patience and perseverance your kids will need to complete the project. It should be balanced though, with how quickly the people you want to serve need help. You may choose to do something more quickly and then do the growing project for a long term, sustainable solution.

Explain to your kids not only whom you have decided to help and the type of help they need, but what you want them to learn or practice during the project. Ask them to think of ways they can participate in the project that will help them learn or practice those skills. If they decide taking ownership of a portion of the project will help them grow, ask them how they will hold themselves accountable to follow through. Remind them, if they fail to do their part, the people who need the help may not get it. They may even want to decide what consequences they will receive if they don’t do what they promised.

Once everything is decided, it is crucial that you allow them to take on their responsibilities. Don’t do their part for them. Stick to the agreed upon accountability measures and consequences. Otherwise, your kids will learn they can remain immature spiritually and someone else will take care of things for them.

Have fun with the project. Encourage your kids. Point out when you see them grow. When the project is completed, take some time to reflect on everything that happened and the lessons they learned in the process. Discuss ways they can continue to grow and other ways your family can continue to serve these people or others who need help. It takes extra time and effort, but you will see more lasting spiritual growth in your kids when you do service projects while more intentionally focusing on your kids’ spiritual growth, too.

Fun Ways to Engrave Scripture on Your Kids’ Hearts

There’s a hard truth many older Christians have already figured out. If you don’t have God’s Words engraved on your heart, it isn’t very helpful. Why? Because most decisions are made in fractions of a second. If your brain doesn’t automatically know what God wants you to do in a particular situation in that second, you may very well make a sinful choice.

Your kids are no different. In fact, because the decision making areas of the brain aren’t fully developed, they need to have those helpful verses come to mind even more quickly.

But, you are thinking, my kids hate to memorize anything. If I force them to memorize scripture, we will be in constant conflict and they will learn to hate the Bible. The good news is that there are fun ways you can engrave those words on your kids’ hearts. – even if they hate memorizing things. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Teach them fun songs. If your kids are young, you probably are playing Kidz Bop or Disney music on constant repeat. Why not add some fun scripture songs in the mix? There are songs specifically recorded to help kids memorize scriptures with those tunes young kids enjoy. Of course a lot of worship music also has scripture embedded in it, too. By singing along or hearing it played millions of times, those verses will be engraved in their hearts as well.
  • Use scripture art. Have your kids create works of art around important scriptures and display it prominently around your house. Don’t forget, they can make pillows and other decorative items with scripture as well. Older kids and teens may also enjoy Bible journaling. (Note: They can do it in a spiral notebook as easily as they can in an expensive wide margin Bible.)
  • Develop favorite sayings. You probably already have sayings you use over and over again that you probably got from a parent or grandparent. Why not be purposeful about it and find some pithy verses to use as some of your repeated sayings? If you say them often enough, your kids will groan, but join in repeating the scripture just like they do your other sayings. Chances are, they will repeat them to their kids, too.
  • Have a family contest. Some kids thrive on competition. They already think you are becoming old and forgetful. Why not challenge them to scripture memory contests? You can work together to choose scriptures and what winners will get as prizes. Don’t forget, for kids, getting to choose what you cook for dinner or getting to go to bed fifteen minutes later can be as exciting as a new purchased item.

Have fun with it, but make sure your kids have key scriptures engraved on their hearts. It will make it so much easier for them to know what God wants them to do and to make good choices.

5 Important Reasons Your Kids Need Solitude

Solitude is a lost art. Your kids may have felt isolated over the last year, but chances are they were engaging constantly with all sorts of people…real and virtual. In childhood days of “yore”, kids spent time lying in the grass and looking at clouds or stars. They fished silently by a stream. They did needlework or sketched, unaware of the world around them. They had lots of free time when they weren’t expected to interact with anyone and had the freedom to think uninterrupted thoughts.

There are some huge spiritual benefits from providing regular times of solitude for your kids. You don’t have to lock them in their rooms, but it helps to shelve the devices. Modern parents have used a quiet, afternoon rest period to provide children with some solitude – even if others are in the same room (because no talking is allowed). However you make room for solitude in your kids’ schedule, here are five important benefits they may get from the time.

  • Reflection. Have a daily verse they can reflect upon. They may choose to reflect upon what’s been happening in their lives and how they feel about it. Or what they have been learning at church, from the Bible or in their experiences. Giving your kids time to process things means they are more likely to have the time to understand and apply what God wants them to know and do.
  • Creativity. Solitude does not mean inactivity. Arts, crafts and music still allow one to think while one is working. Sometimes clarity comes when doing something creative….the creativity can spark creative solutions in other areas, too.
  • Problem solving. Problems often are resolved with better results when time has been taken to think through the possible consequences of the various options. You may need to teach your kids how to do that properly before they can do it independently during their times of solitude.
  • Talking to God. Prayers tend to be rushed when time is at a premium. Solitude provides time for unrushed, long conversations with God. You may have to work with your kids to help them understand they can talk to God about anything and everything. Once they appreciate prayer, they will often use solitude to engage in prayers they may normally have not had time to pray.
  • “Listening to God”. No, they probably won’t hear God’s actual voice. The Holy Spirit, however, can put things on their hearts whether it is a reminder of scriptures, ideas or dreams. This is even more likely to happen if they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism and have the quiet and solitude to “hear”. Reading the Bible during solitude makes it even easier to learn what God may want them to know. Teaching them how to test and discern what God wants them to know from their own desires or Satan’s temptations is key to “listening” well.

You will probably have to carve out special time for solitude and explain the benefits of having screen free quiet time to your kids. Once they understand how to use solitude though, they may actually ask for more.

Kids, Free Play and God

If you were a child in the 1960’s your jobs were to go to school, do chores and play. There weren’t many expectations of participating in other activities until well into elementary school. Even then, it usually was an hour or two a week until your teen years in many cases.

Today’s kids live a very different life. They are in constant planned activities from infancy. There is very little if any time to just play like children used to play. Our kids are missing out on some of the benefits of free play that even teens used to regularly get. Some of those can also be impacting the spiritual lives of young people, too.

As the world gradually returns to normal, here are some reasons you should keep your kids’ schedules lighter and allow more time for free play. (Note: Free play does not include anything that involves a device.”

  • To show their hearts. Mr. Rogers once said,”Play allows us a safe distance as we work on what’s close to our hearts.” The free play your kids choose to engage in can tell you a lot about what is important to them. What is each of your kids’ favorite way to play? What does it reveal to you about what is important to them? Does it show a loving or an angry heart? They may never articulate the things their play reveals.
  • To try out new ideas. Play is a great way to safely test new ideas in a controlled environment. What happens when you build a tower of blocks and knock it over? How do others react when you are a grumpy store clerk when playing grocery store?
  • To better understand things or problem solve. Play is a great way to begin understanding things that are confusing or try out different solutions to problems. How is that toy put together? How can I fix it if it breaks? How would my “mommy” doll respond if I said different things to her?
  • Mimic what they see, hear and experience. Play therapists sometimes use play to encourage kids to open up about traumatic events they have experienced. In fact, if your child plays the same negative pretend game over and over, you may want to get professional help determining if your child has experienced a trauma of which you are unaware. On the other hand, how your kids play pretend games like “house” may give you an idea of how they interpret your marriage or your parenting. These may also be the qualities they carry into their future families.
  • Sharing their faith. Kids who love church often choose to “play” church. It’s a way for them to practice the various acts of worship and invite friends to share in that part of their world. It’s faith sharing in its purest, simplest form.
  • Gift discovery. Have a child whose toys are always organized? She might have the gift of organization. Kids often display an early aptitude that is actually a gift from God they can develop and use to serve God. If they appear to enjoy something and have an aptitude for it, consider providing things to help them to continue to explore and develop that potential gift.

What items do your kids need to get these benefits from play? The great news is that expensive toys are often the least helpful in providing benefits to children. Common objects like pots and pans, crayons and paper, sticks and rocks can give kids an opportunity to be truly creative in their play. And that’s when the benefits really begin to appear.