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.
We may be in a global pandemic at the moment, but life always has its stressors. Your kids may be extremely anxious at the moment, or have barely noticed anyone has any concerns at all. Yet the same child who is calm now may melt down right before his or her next exam or performance.
The key is to teach your kids how to manage their stress in godly ways. To lean on God so that stressful times can still be times when they learn, grow and serve. Stress may never disappear from their lives, but they can learn how to minimize the negative impact it has on them.
Here are ten great tools to give your kids to help them manage their stress in godly ways. Use the current situation to help them practice and incorporate them into their lives.
Listen to what God has to say. Whether they hear Bible stories or scriptures from you or read them independently, there is a lot to learn about stress in the Bible. The names may change, but the Bible has a little bit of just about any stressful situation you can imagine including plagues and wars. Notice the ways people handled these stressful situations. Who leaned on God and grew spiritually? Who panicked and made choices without God that caused even more problems? What patterns do they see?
Make prayer a priority. Kids and teens raised in Christian homes believe in prayer even if they aren’t so sure about other aspects of Christianity. Keep a family prayer journal. Have special times of family prayer. Encourage special times of independent prayer. Have your kids touch base electronically with friends and family and add their prayer requests to the mix. Note when God answers prayers – even if the answer is “wait” or “no”. Periodically go back and see how faithful God has been over time.
Put scripture permanently in their hearts and minds. Find a verse or a passage that seems to really comfort your kids. Encourage everyone to memorize it and repeat it when they start feeling anxious. Older kids and teens might want to memorize a few individual verses and a longer passage like Psalm 23.
Sing it out. It’s hard to feel negative when you are singing. Psalms was a very active book used as both songs and prayers for centuries. Find scripture songs or write your own. When everyone starts seeming anxious or sad, start singing.
Philippians4:8 your home. Turn off the news. You only need updates once or twice a day and young children probably don’t need to hear those first hand. Encourage teens to turn off those automatic notifications from most if not all news sources. Discourage negative books, movies and games. Create an environment that is full of things that are good, pure, lovely and all of those wonderful positive adjectives in Philippians 4:8.
Exercise. Sitting around all day disrupts sleep patterns and can cause depression under the best of circumstances. Exercise works out stress and strengthens the immune system. At this point in time, it seems safe to go for long walks or runs – especially in areas where it is possible to do so and maintain a safe distance from others. try to get everyone walking several miles a day. You may have to start walking a shorter distance and walk a little farther each day to get to that point, but that’s okay. Kids and teens who are in sports or dance may need more vigorous exercise. There are also plenty of online exercise programs that are free and available for working out indoors if necessary.
Be productive. It’s hard to worry about what might happen when you are focused on learning something new or challenging yourself mentally in some way. You may have to experiment a bit if your kids’ schools aren’t providing work. Thankfully there are so many homeschool resources online – many of them free. Don’t forget artistic as well as academic pursuits. Now is the time to practice that instrument, write that song or paint that painting.
Do chores. There is something about taking something that is dirty or messy and working hard to make it clean and neat that is soothing. It allows time to think, but the hard work that is often involved burns off the stress. Your house may never again look as clean and be in as good repair as it will after several weeks of daily chores by everyone. Don’t forget yard work. Planting season is here and watching flowers or food grow can be extremely rewarding (and helpful). You can order supplies online and have them delivered if you want to avoid stores.
Serve someone. It’s hard to focus too much on your own problems when you are focused on helping someone else. Even if you are confined at home, there are things your kids can do to serve others. Get creative, but encourage regular service while you are all at home together.
Create something. God is the Creator. It only makes sense that if we are created in His image, we are designed to create things, too. Get your kids involved creating something – whether it’s a new recipe or a painting to cheer a grandparent. In the process they may also discover gifts God gave them to serve others. Art and music in particular are a great way for kids and teens to work out their emotions in the creative process.
No one knows how long we will be asked to stay close to home. Use this opportunity to teach your kids how to manage their stress in godly ways. They will use those skills long after the current crisis has long passed.
Let’s be honest. None of us really wants to be quarantined for a long period of time whether it’s from this virus or something else. The good news is that a lot of healthy families are being quarantined at home. We don’t know how many of us or how long any one area will find everyone at home before the virus peaks and life resumes as normal.
If you find your family at home for any period of time, don’t waste that precious time. You may have few other opportunities to connect as a family in this way. There are a lot of ways you can take advantage of this time and use it to better prepare your kids to be who God wants them to be.
Reconnect emotionally. Have those long conversations. Find out what everyone is thinking and feeling about all sorts of topics. Get to really know and appreciate each other. And limit time on devices to no more than an hour or two a day outside of time required for school or work.
Have fun together. Play games. Watch silly old kid movies. Tell jokes and stories. Have tea parties. Build forts with blankets. Have a family sleep over. Just enjoy being together.
Start or entrench habits of spiritual disciplines. Family devotionals, independent Bible reading, prayer, meditating on scriptures…all of those habits that will make you and your kids stronger spiritually, but you never seem to have time to practice. Challenge and encourage each other to establish good spiritual habits that will keep all of you connected to God each day.
Serve others. Whether or not people can leave their homes seems to vary from place to place. FaceTime people who may be isolated at home alone. Help others as much as whatever restrictions you are under will allow. Model unselfish behavior by not hoarding supplies, but sharing.
Read good books aloud. Most adults don’t realize it, but even many teens still enjoy hearing a great book read aloud. C.S. Lewis stories appeal to all ages as do many other great books that allow you to have interesting family conversations. You should have access to e-books even if libraries close and many classics you can find online free or at very low cost.
Look for God working in the world today. Things like pandemics can make some people question whether or not God still loves us and cares about us. They may feel like God has disappeared. Point out the small blessings God sends your way each day. Celebrate God’s goodness as He gives people gifts to develop new medicines and vaccines to end the current health issues facing us. Remind your kids daily that God is alive and walking beside us even when scary things happen.
I doubt any of us will be volunteering to be quarantined for fun. Taking advantage of the opportunities it may present your family to grow closer and more godly if it is required of you though, may bring your family more benefits than just good health.
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.