7 Top Tips for Using Scripture in Parenting

If you know me very well at all, you know I’m passionate about honesty. I didn’t always feel that way though. As a young child, I evidently went through a stage when I believed lying was the best way to avoid getting into trouble. I don’t really remember the lying or any of the consequences my parents used. What I do remember is what they did that changed my perspective on honesty for the rest of my life.

One day they handed me a Bible. I honestly can’t remember if they gave me a concordance or a list of verses, but the instructions were that I was to read every scripture in the Bible about honesty and lying to see what God thought on the subject. I can’t remember my emotional state after all of those verses, but I clearly remember my conclusion…God hates lies and I would be wise to refrain from telling any more of them.

Some of you may have had a similar experience growing up. Unfortunately, for some kids, using scripture as a parenting tool can backfire. It’s not the scripture that is the issue, of course. It’s the way they are used that can cause problems later.

There are several things you need to remember when you are attempting to use scripture as a parenting tool.

  • Knowing and loving God comes first. If your child knows nothing about God….if your family doesn’t put God first…if your child doesn’t love God, scripture won’t help much. Scripture is useful, because we love God and we respect Him. We know He is the author of wisdom and we want to spend eternity with Him. We are unbelievably grateful for Jesus dying on the Cross. That all should lead to a desire to obey God and make Him happy. If your child doesn’t know, love and respect God, that needs to be your primary focus. If that is not the underpinning of your parenting, very little else will go well…at least spiritually speaking.
  • Use scripture for encouragement more than correction. Yes, it is meant for both. When you begin using scripture as a parenting tool though, you don’t want to only use it as a way of trying to scare your kids straight. If you do, they may begin to view God as the big meanie in the sky. Rather share scriptures that will strengthen them when they are frightened, soothe them when they are nervous, console them when they are sad, and ones that encourage them to be who God wants them to be. Then, share those scriptures that reinforce correction.
  • Choose short, clear verses. When you want to share scriptures with your kids, try to find verses that are relatively short and easy to understand. There is a time and place for those longer passages. For now though, you want something that’s easy to understand and remember.
  • Place key verses in strategic places. The bathroom mirror is one of my favorites. Write out a couple of key verses on index cards and tape them to the mirror of the bathroom your children use. They will see those verses several times a day, subtly ingraining them in their minds. Decorative art, computers and refrigerators are other great places to put scripture.
  • Use the same verses multiple times. Repetition over time helps move scriptures from short term to long term memory. It’s okay to use more than one scripture for the same topic. The more you use the same scripture though, the more it will become firmly planted in their long term memories.
  • Use gist. Studies have shown that people tend to remember the gist of something better than a word for word memory of it. While the exact quote of scripture is key, using the gist of scripture also serves a purpose. The key is making sure you are stating the gist of the scripture properly. Misusing scripture can backfire, so use Bible study tools or ask a minister or Bible class teacher if you need help.
  • Point out earthly consequences when they occur. Often kids begin understanding God’s wisdom and the need for heeding it when they see the earthly consequences for obeying or disobeying God. Consequences aren’t always consistent and fair because we live in a fallen world. When they do occur, though, be sure to point out that the consequence that just occurred was one of the reasons God said what He did in scripture. Remember that the positive consequences for obeying God can be more important for some kids to see than the negative ones for disobeying God.

Scripture can be an important Christian parenting tool. Using it well, not only helps in the moment, but also gives your kids scripture in their long term memories that can help them for the rest of their lives.

The Question That Can Teach Your Kids to Think Biblically

Parenting done well is time consuming. Christian parenting, even more so. It’s tempting to try and cut corners whenever possible. One of the ways parents often cut corners is to tell their kids what they should do or what they should think rather than teaching them how to think about life the way God would want them to think.

Ironically, you can be great about teaching your kids what God wants them to know without teaching them how to think about life in the ways God would want them to do. That’s one of the reasons why a young person who appears to know a lot about the Bible can struggle living it in every day life.

There is an important question you should start asking your kids at relatively young ages. “What do you think?” It’s important to understand, you will still guide their thinking, but with questions rather than direct answers. Since younger children are more likely to come to you with their dilemmas, starting this technique when they are young teaches them the thought process. They can then use it when they are older and you are perhaps not around as much to give them guidance.

The temptation for both you and your child will be to come up with a response and implied “right” answer as quickly as possible. At times, you may want to do that. Most of the time though, you need to keep asking thinking questions to teach them the questions God would want them to ask themselves before making a choice.

If, during the conversation, your child gives you a wrong or inappropriate answer, try to resist the temptation to immediately correct and lecture. Rather ask more questions that will help your child realize his or her first conclusion may not have been the one God would want them to make. With questions, it is easy to bring in scriptures and Bible stories without sounding preachy, because they are the ones supplying the examples.

This method is also helpful because it takes advantage of the mind’s tendency to remember things it generated better than things it is told. When your child finally comes to a godly conclusion about a situation, it will be remembered better for the next time something similar happens. The questioning method also unravels the power dynamic between some children and their parents. Since you aren’t telling them what to do, they are making the choice independently and are less likely to try and rebel against their own conclusion in some sort of power struggle.

This method won’t work with every child. If you have a relationship where you barely speak, it may not work well at all – especially at first. If your child doesn’t have enough Bible knowledge to know what God wants, this method will be difficult, but not impossible. And sometimes your child will beg you for a quick, direct answer that includes your opinion. There are times when you will need to respect the request, but ultimately, your kids will learn better, godlier decision making skills when you first ask, “What do you think?”

Fun Family Devotional About Yeast

Cooler weather is a great time to bake bread…and it’s not as hard as you might think. This family devotional is a great way to teach your kids some important biblical principles, spend time together cooking and then have fresh, hot bread to eat or share.

Although there are a lot of Bible stories involving bread, for this devotional, we are focusing on a common ingredient of bread…yeast. The Bible actually talks about yeast in two different ways, but the same principle applies…a tiny bit of yeast can have a big impact.

Before you gather your kids, make sure you have all of the ingredients and baking equipment you will need. You will be making two batches of bread…one with yeast and one without. The recipes are slightly different because yeast breads tend to have extra ingredients. To be authentic and cook actual breads from Bible times would require lots of flours we normally don’t use in baking. These recipes call for white flour, but you could substitute a more rustic flour…the flavor will just be different.

Read Matthew 13:33. Jesus told this parable comparing yeast to the kingdom of heaven. A small amount of leaven added to bread yields more bread. Yeast is an organism. When you sprinkle it on warmed milk or sugar water, if you watch it carefully, you can actually watch it multiply. In fact you may want to do that with the yeast for the bread recipe that includes yeast. Show your kids how it is multiplying. The gases produced by the yeast are what makes bread dough with yeast double in size in just a few hours. In this parable, Jesus is telling the Apostles that the church will begin small, but grow rapidly as if it were bread dough with yeast in it.

Now read Matthew 16:5-12. In this case, Jesus is using the example of yeast as a bad thing. Thankfully, he explains his meaning to the Apostles. The teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees were not what God wanted. Jesus was warning his Apostles that if they paid attention to these teachings, the problems they caused would be like yeast…spreading throughout everything they were trying to do for God.

If your kids are interested, you can discuss other passages about yeast like 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Exodus 12:39, Deuteronomy 16:1-4, and Luke 13:20-21. As you are reading and discussing the passages, you can begin making the two types of bread. The unleavened bread should go in the oven as soon as the dough is completed. The dough with yeast will have to rise for several hours before baking.

When the yeast dough has doubled in size, call your kids back together. Explain that these Bible stories show how easily something that seems small can actually have a huge impact either good or bad. And sometimes, once that thing has worked it’s way into every area of our lives, it can be almost impossible to remove. That is why we must be so careful about even the small things we allow to influence us.

Show your kids the risen dough. Ask them what they could do to get rid of the impact the yeast has had on the dough. They may suggest pushing it flat again. If they have more than one idea, let them try it out on various pieces of the dough. You can make rolls with their different ideas and place them on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. You can write the method on the parchment paper under the roll, so you can keep them straight after baking.

Regardless of what they tried, the baked rolls will still have more height than the unleavened bread. The impact of the yeast is still there. Remind them that they can be like the good yeast in the first scripture and help spread God’s kingdom or they can allow the bad yeast from others influence them to make bad choices. Ask them to think of real world examples of each type of yeast today.

Your family can enjoy the breads or if they turned out well, you may want to share them with others.

6 Signs You Are Raising a Victim

It’s important to understand that as a parent, you can’t always protect your kids from every bad thing that could happen to them. Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, one or more of your kids will become a victim to an unfortunate circumstance, an illness or accident or even a crime.

When those truly bad things happen, your child will need a period of time to process and mourn the incident. That is normal and healthy. However, if they stay focused on that incident…if it begins defining who they are, then they will get stuck, unable to fully enjoy the rest of their lives.

Worse yet are children who are taught they are victims from birth. They are told in numerous ways that the world is out to get them and they will always be the victim. Once again, some people will live lives that are tougher than others. Refusing to define yourself or your kids as perpetual victims does not condone what others may do to you or them. It does not minimize the pain their words or actions cause. What refusing to see yourselves, define yourselves as perpetual victims, does is it allows you all to refuse to let those people and circumstances control you and the rest of your lives.

Refusing to define yourselves as victims allows you to process, mourn, forgive and then move on with your lives. You don’t become stuck. You don’t let it keep you from being who God wanted you to be. Yes, it may have some residual impact on you, but it shouldn’t define who you or your kids see themselves as….you should always view yourselves as beloved creations of God, with meaning and purpose.

The difference may sound subtle to you and difficult to really understand. It’s the difference between introducing yourself, “I’m Sam the robbery victim” and “I’m Sam (someone God loves and has plans for), who got robbed once.” The first sentence has Sam constantly reflecting and defining himself through the lens of that incident. The second has Sam defining himself as someone loved by God…whom God has planned good works for…that happened to be robbed once.

Not sure if you or your kids are defining yourselves as victims and not allowing yourselves to live the life God wants for you? Here are six signs of a victim mentality.

  • Continually thinking and talking about the incident long after it is over. After the initial processing and mourning period, there may occasionally be something that brings the incident to mind. It may also bring back some of those original feelings. That is normal. If, however, the incident is something thought about almost every day and especially multiple times each day, that can become problematic.
  • Constantly feeling sorry for yourself. If you or your child is constantly throwing a pity party, there may be a victim mindset developing. Everyone wants a little sympathy after a bad experience. If the pity parties are held frequently, chances are the one throwing the constant parties is developing or has developed a victim mindset.
  • Everything is always unjust or unfair. The perpetual victim also seeks perpetual sympathy. He or she tells every incident in a way that is designed for others to feel sorry for him or her. If that doesn’t work, they may try to convince the others they are also victims.
  • Always focuses on the negative. If there are two ways to look at an incident, the perpetual victim will only see the negative one. They find it impossible to see the silver lining, or see some good that came out of a bad situation. Think Eeyore on a really bad day.
  • Reframed events. If the teacher fussed at your child’s class, the teacher was just fussing at him or her. Every event is reframed so the perpetual victim was targeted. Obviously, your child will be targeted at times. If it’s constant though, you may be raising a victim or at least more investigation is warranted (for example, if a bully has actually targeted your child).
  • Acting helpless. On bad days, we all regress a bit. What adult hasn’t secretly had days when they wished they could be the kid again? Helplessness can manifest itself in a couple of ways. The first is often that there is no action the victim can take to prevent from becoming a victim again. In actuality, there may be several things that can be done to either prevent that type of incident from reoccurring or that will help achieve a better outcome if it were to happen again. If your children are constantly claiming they aren’t able to do things which they are perfectly capable of doing, that can also be a sign of a victim mindset or entitlement. Oddly enough, the victim mindset and entitlement often do appear together. Partially because often victims are told they can’t or shouldn’t do anything for themselves…particularly by predators who many times are also the perpetrators.

You can’t protect your kids from everything, but you can equip them to recover and continue living the lives God wants for them. It takes hard work and at times outside help, but it’s crucial if you want your kids to live a rich, full, Christian life.

Fun Way to Involve God in Your Family’s Plans

Recently, someone I know shared a special “bucket list” her young granddaughter had created. It listed everything she wanted to do with her family before her new baby sibling was born. As I read through the list, I realized with a few tweaks this could be a great tool for Christian parenting.

One of the problems with Christian parenting isn’t that we don’t have enough time or even the skills needed to parent well. It’s that we let the every day take control over our lives. We meander about, dealing with what is happening in the moment. We don’t consider what needs to be done or give ourselves any framework to help us remember to do those things that are critical for our kids’ spiritual development.

The idea of a bucket list is actually a perfect tool to help parents overcome this tendency to Christian parent without a plan. In fact, you might want to have several different bucket lists you refer to regularly to keep you on track. The best bucket lists for this purpose have time limits on them. You may have weekly or monthly bucket lists and then a childhood bucket list that covers everything you want to do over your kids’ time at home to help them grow spiritually.

So, my monthly bucket list might have “make drawings and take a meal to Mrs. Jones”, the elderly lady down the street. Or it might have something about how many family devotionals we want to have or chapters we want to read in the Bible. Your kids might want to add to the list. Think about adding fun things like taking a hike in the mountains to appreciate and thank God for His creation.

On that childhood bucket list, you may want to add things like study baptism with Johnny when he reaches the age of accountability (we have a free e-book to help you). Or maybe go on a parent/child trip with each individual child so you can spend one on one quality time discussing their spiritual hopes and dreams for the future.

Bucket lists can be private ones only you and your spouse see or they can be ones the entire family creates together. The trick to successful bucket lists is to review them regularly and be intentional about accomplishing each item on the list. So pull out some paper and pens and give bucket list Christian parenting a try!