6 Ways Walks Can Make Christian Parenting Easier

Have you ever thought about how many times the Bible mentions that someone was walking? Granted, there weren’t a lot of other options unless you owned a donkey or a camel, but was it really necessary to tell us certain people were walking? Maybe not in some cases, but Jesus had a lot of important conversations as he was walking with people. He knew that there is something about walking that seems to lower defenses and encourages more open conversation.

There is quite a bit of research on the benefits of walking. These benefits can make parenting easier and Christian parents can get a few extra benefits from those walks. Many of these benefits differ slightly when you are walking alone versus walking with your spouse or children or as a family.

  • Manages energy levels. Walking is interesting in that it can give those whose energy is lagging more energy, but also helps burn off excess energy for those that have too much. Regular walks will give any of your kids who may need it more energy. If your kids are over energized after a day at school sitting at desks, a brisk walk can help them burn off the excess energy that might otherwise get them in trouble. When energy levels are managed well, misbehavior from too much energy can decrease and you will have more energy to teach, guide and correct when necessary. Even those kids who feel too tired to do homework may find a brisk walk gives them the second wind they need.
  • Tempers emotions. A recent study found that many people suffering from depression found a marked improvement in mood when they took daily long walks. Negative emotions can work themselves out from the physical activity. These emotions may not totally disappear, but they will most likely lessen, making it easier to talk with your child about them.
  • Praying/clear thinking. Struggling with what to do about a parenting issue? I do some of my best creative thinking on long walks. The trick is to leave the music at home and focus on praying about the issue that is bothering you. This also works for your kids when they are wrestling with an issue.
  • Talking to each other. Long walks often work like magic to get even non-communicative children talking to their parents. Leave the phones and music at home. Walk in silence for a bit if necessary. Ask a simple open ended question. Leave lots of room for your kids to talk. You may just be surprised how much they will tell you when you aren’t distracted.
  • Pointing out God. The Bible tells us Creation points us to God. Taking walks with your kids, spouse or even by yourself can remind you God is at work in the world today. When walking with your kids, point out things that make you think about God. Closely examine lease, rocks, insects and other things God made to get a close up look at the intricacy of God’s Creation (take along a magnifying class and binoculars to see things better).

Long walks won’t make every aspect of Christian parenting easier, but they can definitely help. Start making room on your daily calendar for a walk.

Is Your Parenting Style Undermining Your Children’s Faith?

Have you ever met someone who had been raised by an abusive father or had an absentee father and struggled to understand God, the father accurately? Or maybe you have experienced this struggle yourself. The Bible tells us God is our father and if we have not had a father who accurately reflects God’s image, then we may struggle to truly understand the character of God.

Your parenting style in general can also become a stumbling block to the faith of your children. You don’t have to be an abusive or absentee father to negatively impact your children’s faith, and you don’t have to be a perfect parent to strengthen it. You just need to monitor your style of parenting a bit more carefully.

There are three basic parenting styles – authoritarian, permissive and authoritative. They are on a continuum, but most parents fall primarily into one of the three styles. These styles, in turn, tend to model for our children how we believe God “parents” us. When our style doesn’t accurately reflect God’s parenting style, our children grow up with serious misunderstandings about God, scripture, Christianity, obedience and other areas impacting their faith. So what does that look like in “real life”?

The authoritarian parent is the classic “children should be seen and not heard” parent. They are strict, with lots of rules and consequences that can be harsh. There may or may not be other toxic parenting behaviors present. Authoritarian parents are not emotionally close to their children and would not be considered particularly loving or nurturing in the ways they interact with them. When their children want to talk with them, they are often unavailable physically and/or emotionally. Children raised in these home environments often view God as overly strict, mean, judgmental and unloving. They may reject God because they cannot bare more strict rules and harsh consequences from a God who seems to be far away and uncaring. If they attend church as adults, it may be primarily from a sense of fear and/or duty only.

At the other end of the parenting spectrum is the permissive parent. These parents have few if any rules. If a child misbehaves or gets in trouble at school for breaking rules, not only are no consequences given (consequences aren’t given for disobeying parents, because there are few rules to disobey), but these parents may even rail against the teacher for having rules, enforcing them and giving consequences when those rules are broken. Children raised in these homes often reject God because He has rules, expects our obedience and hands out consequences for rebellion. They, too, may describe God as harsh. If they attend church as adults, they tend to only see God as a loving giver of blessings and reject any or all of God’s commands – even when they clearly appear in scripture. They may also reject the idea that there is a hell or that anyone deserves to go there for rebelling against God.

Authoritative parents are what one might call moderate parents. They are often strict, but their rules are in their children’s best interest. These parents are willing to discuss rules and boundaries and may adapt some of them as children grow older. Their rules are consistently enforced and just consequences given for rebellion. Authoritative parents are physically and verbally affectionate and nurturing. They listen to their children with respect, but expect respect in return. They apologize when they make a mistake and they forgive their children when they repent. They are the most reflective of how the Bible portrays the character of God and how He treats us. Children in these homes are most likely to not only remain faithful, but also obey God’s commands (as much as possible) out of respect and love. They are most likely to be productive Christians – serving others and sharing their faith. They tend to have an image of God that most accurately reflects scripture, accept God’s commands as Truth and understand Heaven and Hell are real – as are the eternal consequences for a rejection of God and His commands. Children raised in these homes are also more likely to see the wisdom in God’s commands and view them as a way God protects them from the natural negative consequences of disobeying them.

It’s important to be honest about your parenting style. Ask close friends and relatives which parenting style best describes you. Think about your parents’ parenting style – yours is probably a close replica or the exact opposite. If your children are older, ask them. Or think about how you view God and how your children see Him and which parenting style that view matches..

If your style is not authoritative, make necessary changes. Apologize to your children, as changing your style will impact them. Make sure the ways in which you describe God and discuss His commands is an accurate reflection of scripture and not a response to how you were parented. Being an authoritative parent is best for your children in general, but it can also make them more likely to be faithful Christians as adults.

Why “No” Is Crucial in Christian Parenting

There are trends in parenting, just like there are in clothing and food. One parenting fashion that tends to cycle through periodically is the idea that saying the word “No” to a child can damage the child’s delicate psyche. While harshness in parenting is not the best idea – especially for Christian parents – the word “No” is actual a vital tool in parenting and helps – rather than harms – your child.

A quick Google search for academic studies on boundaries for children reveals no studies suggesting children are somehow healthier when allowed to have free reign, while there are many studies reinforcing the idea of setting and maintaining healthy boundaries for children. While a more extensive search may uncover a random anti-boundary study, the lack of a body of research backing the anti-boundary parenting theory means that it is based on opinions rather than actual evidence of its success – especially over long periods of time.

Which brings us back to the word “No”. The easiest way to reinforce a preset boundary with any – but especially very young children – is the word “No”. It is simple, easy for even a very young child to understand and can be said firmly, with love and still reinforce boundaries that have been set for a child. The so called gentle parenting technique of having a discussion about the issues involved in biting (for example) another 18 month old child has little impact on a child who either doesn’t understand many of the words the parent is using or whose attention span limits means the child stopped listening after the first sentence. A simple “No, we do not hit people.” is easy to understand and remember.

Rather than damaging a child’s delicate psyche, boundaries that are consistently and clearly enforced with the word “No” (and consequences if needed) instead makes children feel safe. Acceptable and unacceptable behavior is easy to understand and remember. They understand the parent is in control and can be trusted to protect them. When children feel out of control because of strong emotions, boundaries help them learn how to practice self control.

Refusing to tell a child “No” encourages the child to believe that he or she is truly the center of the universe. A sense of entitlement and selfishness begins to take root. The needs of others are ignored in the effort of the child to obtain what is wanted. Perseverance and patience are not developed. Ironically, the child can become dependent upon others bowing to his or her will for happiness and contentment. Language is often slower to develop as parents rush to appease the child at a mere whimper without expecting the child to ask politely for what is desired.

Spiritually, refusing to tell a child “No” is a disaster. While explaining why certain rules exist and are enforced can be helpful to an older child, the reality is that when God says “No” (i.e. something is a sin), He doesn’t always explain why. This is when quite a few Christians begin to struggle – particularly if they are used to having their own way in life. While grace is available to the Christian, God still expects obedience to His commands. God uses the word “No” (or not) quite often in scripture. A child raised to believe that “No” is the equivalent of a dirty word in his or her home, will struggle and quite probably fail to be obedient to God – and may not even try.

The truth is that your children will hear the word “No” quite often in life – from teachers, coaches, employers, friends, spouses and others. The childhood “No” prepares them to navigate these other circumstances well. It also teaches them how to set and reinforce their own healthy boundaries for others.

Still not convinced? When I was a child, there was a child in our church who was never told “No”. As we became annoyed with her increasingly selfish antics, my parents would tell us that it would not end well for a child who was shielded from “No”. One day she ran out into the street, ignoring her mother’s sudden, frantic “No” as a car raced towards the child. The child was hit and killed. Years later, a similar situation happened to us with our child (although she was actually crossing the street properly at the time). Except our child had been told “No” and been expected to obey – with or without an accompanying explanation. She immediately stopped and her life was spared.

You never know when your child’s life may depend upon immediate obedience to the command of someone. You don’t need to be a drill Sargent, but using the word “No”, may save your child’s life and will definitely improve the likelihood that she or he will grow up to become an active, productive, faithful Christian.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Following God’s Instructions

There are those who believe Christianity is merely a set of harsh rules made and enforced by a grumpy old God. Unfortunately, many Christians make matters worse by the ways they attempt to teach, explain and reinforce God’s commands. The truth is that God’s commands aren’t God’s attempt to make us miserable nor are they meant to be some sort of tortuous litmus test for entry into Heaven. Rather God’s commands incorporate God’s perfect wisdom and love. They are instructions for living the best possible life in a fallen world.

Have you ever seen someone try to put together a piece of IKEA furniture without the instructions? Since it’s a challenge even with instructions, attempting assembly without is a formula for disaster. God’s instructions for you and your children are very similar. Life is difficult – even as a Christian. Failing to follow God’s instructions for living the Christian life just adds layers of complications and negative consequences – some of which can have lifelong repercussions or even end one’s life prematurely.

There are some fun things you can do to illustrate this to your children in more concrete ways. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Origami fail. Find instructions for an origami figure your kids don’t know how to make. Give them some paper and read the instructions to them. Do not show them the finished image or tell them what they are trying to create. Periodically, start to read a step (stopping before it makes any sense) and tell your children that you don’t like that step and think you have a better one. Then give them a random step that’s sure to mess up the final product. After the final step, show them what their object should look like. Ask them why theirs doesn’t look the same. Then repeat the process, but this time give them the proper directions. (When we don’t like God’s instructions and try to replace them with our own, our lives won’t turn out the way God wanted them to.)
  • Tech disaster. Ask your kids to help you assemble something or figure out how to use a new product. Refuse to read the instructions. Be as frustrating as possible until they are begging you to read the instructions. (Isn’t it interesting how many Christians try to live the Christian life, but have never even read the New Testament for themselves? No wonder we struggle!)
  • Blindfold maze. Create a maze your children can walk through, but don’t let them see it. Blindfold them one by one and guide them through the maze verbally (using safety precautions of course). Afterwards ask them what would or did happen when they didn’t follow your instructions exactly. (While there is grace when we ask forgiveness, failing to follow God’s instructions perfectly can result in negative earthly consequences – even after God has forgiven us because we repented.)
  • Making up the rules as we go. Play a favorite board game with your children. Only this time, regularly announce you are changing one of the rules. Make sure all of the rule changes obviously favor you. (Sometimes when we don’t follow God’s instructions, we hurt others by our choices.)

Have fun with it, but revisit the topic regularly. It’s critical your children thoroughly understand the problems that arise when they don’t follow God’s instructions.

Helping Your Kids Quit the Blame Game

Have you ever asked your kids who broke the lamp (or did whatever) and immediately heard choruses of, ”It’s not my fault!” and ”He/she did it!”. If so, your kids have already learned how to play the blame game. They know if they can avoid any personal responsibility for something that has upset you, they are also likely to avoid any possible consequences.

Unfortunately, the game is best played using lies and avoiding personal responsibility for one’s choices. Not the best skill sets for a child being raised in a Christian home to learn. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your kids learn to avoid playing the game at all.

  • Play a new game. This is more fun with older kids. As they watch shows, see news reports or just around the house, can they catch others playing the blame game? At dinner each night, see if anyone saw people playing it during their day. What happened? What were the possible negative consequences for those who played? Your kids may not be aware they were playing the game or perhaps aren’t aware how playing it can damage their relationships with others. Seeing or hearing about lots of real world examples can make them more aware.
  • Play the game in an obvious way yourself. You may need to set up a scene with your spouse if something doesn’t happen naturally. When someone asks you something like, ”Does anyone know where my socks are?”, flip into blame game mode. Be a little over the top dramatic. It’s not your fault. Your spouse was in your kid’s room. The cat walked by the laundry basket. After a couple of minutes of blaming others, ”find” the socks where you left them (like the refrigerator!). You get the idea. Be silly and have fun with it. Don’t copy something that has actually happened in your home or it will look like you are making fun of your kids. Sometimes laughing at ourselves can also be instructive. Younger kids may try to intervene and ”fix” the situation. Don’t let them get too agitated. After your little ”skit”, ask your kids to give you a better way to handle things the next time that happens. See if they can come up with other situations when people blame others instead of accepting responsibility for their actions.
  • Have a ”blame” jar. A common strategy for breaking bad group habits, which you may have to adapt slightly depending upon how much money your kids have. An alternative way to play is to place enough money for a family treat in the jar, instead of family members having to put in some of their own money when caught playing the blame game, you take money away from the jar. They can return money to the jar by taking appropriate blame for an incident. This will need to be monitored by parents to avoid cheating. If you are brave enough, allow them to try and catch you blaming others for your own mistakes.
  • Read all about it. Read your kids Bible stories and stories from history where people blamed others for their own choices. There are plenty of examples. How might things have gone differently if the person had taken responsibility for their own actions? You will probably need to point out how blaming others undermines trust and how that in turn weakens important relationships in their lives.

Have fun with it, but make it a priority in your home. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a huge part of repentance. If your kids can’t accept responsibility, they will struggle to be a Christian.