Managing Your Child’s Inner Dialogue

There are several new books out about the things we “say” to ourselves and the impact those thoughts can have on our lives. Children are not always fully aware of these thoughts. Metacognition, or the recognition of these thoughts, is critical to a child being raised in a Christian home. Why? Because these thoughts have a huge impact on the choices your kids will make. Being aware of their thought processes will give them more awareness of their ability to control these thoughts and make better choices.

So where do all of these thoughts originate? Many of them actually begin with you. That is why it’s so important to refrain from saying things like, “You are so stupid!” or “You always make the worst possible decisions!” when you are frustrated with your kids. Words have an impact on thoughts. If you use inappropriate language when frustrated with your kids – especially repeatedly – their thoughts will continue to define themselves using your words. Which is sad, because often parents don’t really mean those hurtful words – they were spoken in the anger of the moment.

You can also put positive thoughts in your kids’ brains. Be realistic though. Studies are showing that unrealistically high self esteem also produces negative consequences. Think carefully about the positive messages you want your kids to hear about themselves in their own heads. Be intentional in using them regularly to make the “tape” especially strong. Don’t forget things like, “I will always love you!”, because those reassurances will be there when they need them, too.

Make sure to put some strong scripture “tapes” in their brains. Have a few verses you regularly quote or summarize. Encourage them to memorize scripture and use it regularly so it will be part of their long term memory “tape” collection when they need it. Help them have a balance of scriptures that encourage them to make good choices and verses that remind them of God’s love, power and presence.

While you are working to put helpful “tapes” in the brains of your kids, it is crucial to monitor another major source of negative thoughts in our brains – the words of siblings. Do not ignore it when siblings say ugly things to one another. Don’t excuse it as normal sibling teasing. Teasing or not, when a thin girl is told constantly by a sibling that she is fat, she begins to believe it. Insist that siblings use kind words when speaking to each other. Don’t let their youthful meanness put negative thought patterns in each other’s brains for life.

Want to know what tapes your kids have playing in their heads already? Ask them? If they don’t know, tell them to name a huge goal they have for their future and then pay close attention to what their brain “says” in response to it. If they are already having negative thoughts, teach them how to change them by substituting a better thought every time they realize they are beginning the harmful thought. It takes practice, but it can help them make better choices if they learn to make their inner dialogue helpful and holy.

Christian Parenting Challenges #14

As the world begins to return to “normal”, what has your family learned in the last year? What new things did you do that you want to continue? What things did you stop doing that you realized weren’t helping your family? It’s a great and important family conversation to have. In the meantime, here are this week’s social media challenges.

Monday: Who knew feeding squirrels could lead to catching the plague, but it happens every year in this area. Sometimes your kids will encounter temptations that seem innocent enough. Those temptations may not lead them to sin at the moment, but may be starting them on a path that will lead them away from God. Teaching your kids how to consider possible future consequences of a choice may help them avoid the more sophisticated traps of Satan.

Tuesday: Whoever came up with the idea of putting holes in the bottom of this bucket created an early shower head. Sometimes Christian parenting requires creativity. What worked with your other kids, may not work for one of your kids. If you can’t think of a creative solution, ask an older Christian parent or educator. With years more experience, they may have just the idea you need.

Wednesday: These strawberries are fine, but they were bought with a purpose. They were bought to make strawberry perserves. Your kids will seem like they are fine if they never discover their gifts from God, develop them and use them to do the good works God has planned for them to do. To have the sense of meaning and purpose, to serve others, expand God’s Kingdom and do those good works though, you and they will have to be intentional. Don’t raise kids who just seem fine. Raise kids who are fully engaged and full participants in God’s Plans.

Thursday: Kids walking past this were fascinated and enjoyed trying to figure it out. Kids have a natural curiosity. It’s why they ask a lot of questions. It’s also one of the ways they learn. Your kids are curious about God and the Bible, too. Help them explore and answer their questions. Encourage their questions. Because that’s one of the ways they will learn about God.

Friday: Most of us wouldn’t know how to use this without a lot of trial and error unless someone taught us. The Christian life is the same for your kids. Unless they know what’s in the Bible, they will use a lot of trial and error in their attempts to live the life God wants them to live. Studies are finding they will get it wrong…really wrong. Even on seemingly basic issues like honesty. Take the time to teach your kids everything God wants them to know – even if you have to learn it with them.

Great Way to Motivate Your Kids

“The goal is to die with memories, not dreams.” “A breath of fresh air is a great thing to take and an even better thing to be.” If you have spent two seconds on social media, you have probably seen motivational memes. The idea of surrounding yourself with motivational messages isn’t new. Our world has just provided more and easier ways for your kids to surround themselves with motivational messages.

Some of these messages actually mirror wisdom God has shared with us. Others promote a secular or even at times, ungodly way of interacting with the world. Have you thought about encouraging your kids to surround themselves with scripture as their motivational messages?

With secular memes and motivational messages, it can be difficult to differentiate between those which contain godly wisdom and those which sound good, but encourage things that are perhaps not so godly. The good news is that scriptures memes and images are easy to find and often free.

The Bible app allows you to take a scripture and create a meme with it using one of probably dozens of different choices for translations, backgrounds, fonts and the like. A quick Google or Pinterest search provides many more free options. Your kids can even create their own scripture art to display, using their computers or regular art supplies. Join the fun and create your own scripture memes or images and place them where not only you, but your kids will also see them.

Surrounding your family with scripture is not only great for motivating yourselves to live more godly lives, but it also helps place those verses in the long term memory, where you and your kids will have easy access to them whenever and wherever your family need God’s wisdom in the moment.

What Is Your Child’s Godly Potential?

Christian parenting has one main goal – your descendants spend eternity in Heaven and help lots of others get there, too. Below that are two important goals that will help your kids reach the over encompassing one. The first is helping your kids build a strong, unshakeable faith foundation. The second is to help them reach their godly potential.

So what exactly is godly potential? It’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible as such, but there are quite a few scriptures that allude to it. Among the most familiar are perhaps Luke 12:48 (“To whom much is given…”) Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents) and 1 Corinthians 12 (Functions of members of the Church), but there are many others.

In short, God gives each of us – each of your kids – a slightly or vastly different potential in several areas. Our focus is not to be on who may have the “better” potential, for everyone has the potential to serve God. Rather it should be on developing and using our – or in this case, your kids’ – full potential to serve God.

So what are some of the components of your kids’ godly potential?

  • Gifts and talents. Spiritual gifts are often difficult to understand and apply to kids and teens. Instead, focus on the more concrete talents with which God has blessed them. As your kids develop and use these gifts to serve God, the spiritual gifts will most likely become more evident. Don’t just focus on obvious talents like artistic ability or public speaking. Your kids’ may have gifts like organizational skills, the ability to easily engage people in conversation or other talents we may not automatically connect to serving God, but which God can use.
  • Opportunities. God will give each of your kids different opportunities to serve Him. Some of those opportunities may be exciting, while others will seem more mundane. A few of the opportunities will involve all of your kids, but most will be specifically designed for each child and may vary greatly. All, however, are good works that God planned specifically for each of your kids to do in service to Him. And some of those opportunities will begin appearing when your kids are very young. Teaching them to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities God gives them to serve Him will give their lives meaning and purpose.
  • Knowledge, wisdom and discernment. In order to reach their godly potential, your kids will need to learn and understand what is in the Bible. They will also need to discern how to apply God’s wisdom to their lives. If your kids are in school, you are probably already aware that different kids have different capacities for learning, comprehension and application. God understands that, but He also expects each of your kids to do their very best to learn, understand and use the things He wants them to know.
  • Personality, character traits and resisting temptation. Each of your kids has a slightly or incredibly different personality. That personality can impact how much they struggle consistently having the character traits God wants them to have. Their personality can also impact which things tempt them and how difficult it is to resist certain temptations. This does not, however, mean any child is incapable of having the character traits God wants them to have or will be unable to resist temptation. It just means certain aspects may be more difficult for some of your kids than for others. Those who struggle need to be encouraged to continue working towards becoming who God wants them to be.

When you look at this list, what is the potential you see in each of your kids? Be careful to avoid underestimating their potential. Remember, they are still growing and changing. God may have many plans for them, but helping them build that strong faith foundation and developing to their full godly potential will help them be ready for whatever God has in store.

Christian Parenting Challenges #12

Spring is in full bloom in Atlanta. The beauty is balanced by our Spring tornado threats. Hopefully, you weren’t impacted by dangerous weather and you are starting to see signs of life in your area. Here are this week’s social media challenges.

Monday: From far away, these all just look like white flowering trees. If you look closely though, the blooms are unique and so are the trees. Your kids are very different, too. They all need some of the same things, but even those they may need in different ways. You have to get up close and spend a lot of quality time with them to really know what they need to become who God created them to be. Otherwise, they will only get a fraction of what they needed to reach their full godly potential.

Tuesday: Most people claim they don’t have family devotionals because they don’t have the time. A study found the average person spends 1800 hours in a non COVID year watching content, like tv or Netflix. If you read the Bible to your kids 15 minutes a day, it only takes 90 hours a year. Let that sink in for a minute. What are your true priorities?

Wednesday: This new book is a great tool for explaining to your kids the overarching story of the Bible and how all the pieces fit together. It also explains some of those puzzling things like why sometimes Jesus tells people he healed to keep quiet and other times to tell everyone. She also shows the amazing richness of scripture in stories like the feeding of the 4000 and why there might have been those seven baskets of leftovers. Encountering Jesus in the Real World of the Gospels by Cyndi Parker

Thursday: My urns had started looking a little haggard after years of minimal care. So I pulled everything out and started at the beginning again. Sometimes in parenting things seem to be going haywire. Going back to the basics can get things in order more quickly than trying to figure out the tangle in its current state.

Friday: Father’s Day isn’t until June, but kids need their dad to be engaged in their lives every day. Christian parenting isn’t just the job of the mother. Dads need to be in the trenches with them, actively pointing their kids to God.