You know you should be spending more time together as a family, but when you are together…Well, things seem to not go so smoothly. Everyone is in different rooms. Or maybe in the same room, but engrossed in their personal devices. Or everyone starts getting on each others’ nerves and you spend more time separating your kids than bonding with them and teaching them.
If you’ve gone to the trouble to clear your schedules a bit to create some intentional quality family time, taking a few extra minutes to plan can help things go more smoothly. Your family is used to entertaining themselves, doing whatever it is they personally want to do – it’s no longer necessary to negotiate the sharing of the one tv in the house.
Not having to compromise, means entertainment has become a bit selfish. What everyone else wants to do with their time is of little consequence. No wonder conflicts can erupt when suddenly a family who can usually do whatever they want for entertainment is now forced to agree on something and do it together for a period of time.
No worries though! A few well planned, fun, family activities will keep your children engaged and asking for more family time. Not everything has to be overtly religious. It’s amazing how many opportunities you will have for teaching your kids about what God wants them to do in the course of something simple like playing a board game together.
There are a million things you can do together as a family, that give you plenty of opportunities to bond, teach and model. Here are some of the things our family loved to do when our daughter was younger.
Family Game Night – Kids love playing board games with their parents. Library book sales and yard sales often have board games for sale for a couple of dollars. Our Five Below store even has a lot of fun games for $5 or less.
International Night. This was a huge hit for a variety of reasons in our house. I cooked several recipes from the “mystery” country. They were easy to find on the internet or you can buy many types of cuisine already prepared in many areas. The rest of the family tried to guess the country as we ate their most famous dishes. Often we would also listen to their music, try a few words of their language or participate in a few other things from the culture. It’s also a great way to introduce missions to your kids.
After dinner family walks. Recently, I was in Ukraine. It seemed like every family in my neighborhoods in two different cities went for family walks after dinner. Along the way, they were talking and playing with their children. They even continued their post dinner walks when school started.
Family projects. Whether it’s making a tarp into a car track for an orphanage or cleaning the garage, working together on a project is great. Often, these are things you normally do, but separately. So instead of everyone being assigned a different room to clean, for example, everyone works together on the same room.
Making cookies. This is a classic for a reason! What’s more fun than baking cookies together? Sugar cookies that you can also decorate are always great. They don’t have to be Christmas cookies either. After enjoying a few of your creations, take the rest to someone who could use a little cheer and company – as a family.
Exploring. Whether it’s geocaching or visiting a new area of town (or a new town), exploring can be a great bonding experience. Let your kids help plan the adventure for even more quality family time.
Picnics. Take a blanket and take-out if you don’t want to cook and hit the road. Picnics are great conversation starters. Don’t forget to take a frisbee for more family fun after you finish eating. (When the weather is bad, indoor picnics and “camping” are usually a huge hit with kids.)
So grab your kids and start spending time together. Having fun as a family is great. It strengthens family bonds and gives you chances to slip in little bits of God’s wisdom from time to time. It also gives you a chance to model godly behaviors for your kids and chances to see your kids’ hearts more clearly. Plus, you are creating wonderful memories you will all cherish for years to come.
If you read any book or article on parenting, the author usually suggests plenty of “family time”. Yet, millions of families around the world barely see each other and their kids seem to be turning out just fine. Or are they? Is family time really that important? And what exactly are you supposed to be doing during this mysterious “family time”?
Believe it or not, family time was part of God’s plan. Twice in Deuteronomy (11:9 and 6:7) God tells parents to spend lots of time every day teaching their children His Words. He doesn’t call it family time, but if you are teaching them at home, as you walk along the road, when you get up and when you lie down – that’s quite a bit of time interacting with your children in meaningful ways during the day.
And that is what family time is really about – creating stronger relationships with your children and teaching them directly or indirectly the things God wants them to know. In fact, that famous verse in Proverbs about training up your child in the way he should go (22:6) implies parents are actually the spiritual coaches for their children. If you have ever had a coach – especially a successful one – you know how much time and effort they put into coaching each player as well as the team.
Listing the benefits of quality family time would take an entire article. Almost every study that gauges children who are healthy and successful usually mentions family time as a contributing factor. Other studies examining risky behaviors almost always mention that young people who do not participate in risky behaviors usually have more quality family time than young people who take unhealthy risks.
Sometimes this is presented as having family meals, while often it is just mentioned in general. Regardless, family time makes a huge positive difference in the life of any child – perhaps especially a child who is being raised to become a productive Christian. Your kids can’t learn everything God wants them to know from attending even the best church in the world. There’s just too much teaching and coaching that needs to be done. To be done successfully, you will need to spend a lot of intentional time with your kids.
So assuming you create time in your busy schedules for family time, what exactly should you be doing during that time together? Should you be preaching sermons to your kids? Can you have fun together and count it as family time?
There are actually a lot of fun, meaningful things you can do doing your family time each day. In our next post, we will share some specific ideas of things you can do with your kids. In the meantime, pull out your family calendar and schedule some family time each day. It will provide long term benefits for your children that will last years beyond their childhood.
As I write this, I’m on a month long ministry trip to Ukraine. Outside of my window, I can see small children playing on equipment you rarely see in the U.S. any more because some lawyers decided it wasn’t acceptable. The other day, it was chilly here. Some children had on t-shirts and jeans, while others had on winter hats and heavy jackets.
We know there’s a fairly wide range of healthy parenting, but what about Christian parenting? The Bible tells us multiple times God never changes – His Words are for yesterday, today and tomorrow. Does that mean all Christian parents should parent exactly the same?
The short answer is “yes” and “no”. Since God’s Words never change, we don’t have the flexibility to pick and choose which ones we teach our kids to follow and obey. Deuteronomy 6:7 and 11:19 tell us how we need to teach our kids about God and His commands – constantly. In those sorts of things, we should all have parenting styles that are alike.
Within God’s never changing boundaries though, there is a lot of flexibility. The methods you use to teach your kids what God wants from them and for them can vary. The consequences you give for disobedience may even vary slightly from child to child in your own family.
So what’s the difference between an effective Christian parent and one who isn’t as successful?
A constant focus on teaching their children about God and His commands. Effective Christian parents know their kids can’t learn everything God wants them to know at church on Sundays. They make those verses in Deuteronomy their standard and talk with their kids about God daily. The different ways they accomplish that though can vary from family to family and at times even child to child.
They keep their priorities straight. They understand if they allow secular activities to consume all of their children’s free time, there will be no time left for who is the most important – God. What your family chooses to place in priorities after God can vary. Maybe your family loves spending time outdoors exercising while another family likes to carve out time to work on their hobbies. As long as God is first, there is some flexibility with the rest.
They learn from other Christian parents. Show me a group of parents whose kids all grew up to be faithful, productive Christians and I can almost promise you they did a lot of the same things. We like to pretend that isn’t true to spare the feelings of other parents, but there are certain things effective Christian parents do that are often not done by other Christian parents. Learning from those who have been effective is the easiest way to be more effective with your own children. On those things your experienced parents did differently, you will probably find those are the little places where the style is not as important as the substance.
Although the list seems short, there are lots of big and little things within those three major tips. It’s not easy to be an effective Christian parent. It takes a lot more time, effort and intentionality than one would hope. It will be worth it though to spend eternity with your kids in Heaven.
“It wasn’t my fault!” This one sentence from your children can test every bit of godly patience you have managed to acquire in a lifetime. Why? Because it is often followed by a long list of excuses – most of which are just ridiculous.
The reality is your child made a choice – probably not a great one from his or her response. The “it’s not my fault conversation” is merely an attempt to wiggle out of personal responsibility and consequences.
Sadly, we live in a world that actually encourages people to define themselves by their victimhood. While some people actually are the victims of crimes, manipulation and the evil actions of others, many are the victims of their own poor choices. Encouraging them to have a lifelong victim mentality is not in anyone’s best interest.
When I was in school and worried about a test, my parents would usually say, “Just do your best.” I knew they meant study, get help from my teacher if I needed it and try to answer the test questions in the best way I knew how to do. No one called this being a perfectionist or worried about our mental health.
Yet at some point, someone noticed there were a few people who took things to an extreme. They expected themselves and everyone around them to be perfect all of the time. So we started being told to “chill” a bit and not worry so much about being “perfect”.