6 Christian Parenting Assumptions That Are Hurting Your Kids

Parenting advice is often passed from generation to generation. Or perhaps it is acquired from a Podcast, blog, book or magazine article. Usually, we use our “gut” to decide whether or not to accept this advice as valid. If an “expert” gives the advice, or it’s written in a book, years of education have taught us to assume it is probably the best advice we can get on the topic and we will try to follow it.

Or maybe you are parenting by your “gut” entirely – assuming your “intuition” will warn you whether or not something is “good” parenting. The most common parenting advice often comes via parents at the same stage of life as we are – popularity and “common knowledge” mean the advice works – right?

Experienced parents can tell you that not all parenting experts are right. What’s popular is likely a trend – one that may be rejected as harmful to your child in the future. Parenting peers generally don’t know much more than we do about what will work -and what appears to be working now could have negative repercussions in the future. Not to mention, parenting experts are often secular and don’t necessarily make sure their ideas align with God’s ultimate wisdom.

Talk to experienced Christian parents who have raised children who are active, productive Christians as adults and there are certain bits of parenting “wisdom” that they know young parents should ignore. Often the advice is based on some erroneous assumptions about children and teens.

  • My kids don’t need very much of my time and attention as long as they get “quality” time from me.” It takes a lot of time and energy to raise a child who will grow up to be an active, productive Christian. One study found 14 hours a week need to be spent in Bible study, prayer, conversations about God and other interactions between parents and children focused on their spiritual education. The average parent spends only a few minutes a day talking to their children and most of that is logistical. Christian parenting that is successful usually involves a large quantity of quality time that also includes God in some way.
  • If I’m happy, my kids will be happy./Kids are resilient, so my choices don’t matter” While miserable parents probably do have miserable kids – for the most part – this assumption has a fatal flaw. It is based on a selfish premise – I should do whatever makes me happy and of course my kids will be happy because I parent better when I am happy. It has been used as an excuse by too many parents who are making choices that they know in their hearts will hurt their children. I read a lot of research about how the decisions of parents impact their children. The decisions that are usually justified with this bit of “wisdom” absolutely hurt the children of the parents who make them. Sometimes, circumstances force these choices, but being honest about the real negative impact on your kids makes it more likely you will take steps to try and help your children process and heal from the choice.
  • “My teens don’t need or want my involvement in their lives.” While they may be reluctant to admit it, your teens need your involvement in their lives – they just need it to look a little different than they did when they were kids. If you have helped them build a strong faith foundation and taught them plenty of Christian life skills, you shouldn’t have to micromanage their choices. In fact, the closer they are to adulthood – the more they should be allowed to make their own decisions. Your role? Think of yourself as an advisor. They need to bounce new ideas off you. They often want to hear your opinions and more importantly why you think the way you do. They want to know any applicable examples from your own life or the lives of others you know who were faced with similar choices. They want to know what God would think of their various options. What they don’t need is you to make every choice for them, but they absolutely want and need you in their lives. (If your relationship is troubled, they want the parent they wish you were to be there for them – which is a deeper issue.)
  • “My kids are getting all of the “Bible education” they need at church. Not all churches and ministries are the same, but the study mentioned earlier would suggest that even faithful attenders are still lacking about ten hours of instruction and coaching a week. Churches just don’t have enough time to give your kids everything they need, to know how to be active, productive Christians as adults.
  • “————— is common knowledge. My kids already know that.” The problem with common knowledge is that it is still taught in some way. You may not remember someone teaching you to brush your teeth or to pray, but you were either taught how to do it intentionally or you learned it by observation, reading or in some other way. If something is important, be intentional about teaching it to your children.
  • Children should be allowed to work out their disagreements without adult intervention.” Anyone who knows me knows this particular piece of advice sends me into a tizzy. Children need to be actively taught how to resolve conflicts in godly ways – otherwise, they will likely spend their entire life resolving conflicts like a five year old. Look around our world and you will see the need for teaching your children healthy, godly ways to resolve conflicts.

Let go of these assumptions and your children will benefit. Don’t wait until they are adults to make changes – it will be difficult to undo any damage that was done.

Fun Ways to Improve Your Children’s Spiritual Resilience

Christianity is a marathon. Not just any marathon, but one where Satan is trying to trip runners in the race so they fall. In fact, he tries to trip Christians so many times that they finally give up trying to be a Christian and just sit wallowing in their failure. God wants your kids to be spiritually resilient. To pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep running the race towards Heaven.

In the last post, I listed some of the “tools” spiritually resilient young people possess. There are lots of fun things you can do with your kids to make them more resilient and more importantly spiritually resilient. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Scripture songs – sing songs with your kids that remind them of scriptures that will help them be more resilient. Can’t find a song using a verse you want to teach your kids? ”Write” your own song by using a tune in the public domain and matching the syllables of the original lyrics to the syllables in the Bible verse.
  • The Apostle Paul and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day – Familiar with the children’s book about Alexander and his bad day? Share with your kids scriptures and Bible stories about people who had really bad days or a lot of really bad days. Were those people resilient? What tools did they (or didn’t they) use that helped them recover (or not) from their bad days? Which of those tools could help your kids, too?
  • Art prayer journal – give your kids a drawing journal and some art supplies. Encourage them to draw their emotions for each day – they may or may not choose to also include other prayer requests in their art work. Encourage them to then pray about those emotions and the events that caused them to God.
  • Gift discovery, development and use – help your kids discover the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Find ways to help them develop those gifts and then begin to use them to serve God.
  • Puzzles like Logic puzzles, Sodoku, Colorku, etc. – these types of puzzles help develop problem solving skills.
  • Games like Blokus, scenario games, Jenga, etc. – look for games that require problem solving or strategy – scenario games can be made by you to cover problems you want them to practice solving in godly ways
  • Mysteries and riddles – more problem solving fun
  • Hobbies like music and gardening – these hobbies and others like them require patience and perseverance as well as problem solving skill from time to time (what is eating the tomatoes before they ripen)

Prepare your kids for the marathon that is the Christian life. Have fun, but don’t procrastinate. Your kids need those skills every day.

Raising Spiritually Resilient Children

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from hardships or failure and to adapt well to change. Spiritual resilience has a couple of extra layers to it. Someone who is spiritually resilient does not let the problems, difficulties or failures in his or her life weaken or destroy his or her faith and/or commitment to God. In addition, unlike secular resiliency, which focuses purely on the individual, spiritual resilience takes advantage of God’s wisdom and guidance as part of the recovery process.

The most important tool in the resiliency toolbox of your children? Their relationship with you! If you have a strong, healthy relationship with your kids and give them plenty of emotional and spiritual support, then they have a strong foundation on which to build resilience. They only need one supportive parent in their lives (although two of course doubles their access to support) to reap the benefits. For those who don’t have a healthy relationship with either of their parents, a highly engaged adult mentor can fill much of that gap.

There are three personality traits that make children naturally more resilient – optimism, adapting easily to changes and the ability to make friends easily. If your children were not born with these character traits, they can still be resilient. They don’t need to totally change their personality, but can work towards moving a little more in the direction of those helpful traits.

There are some skill sets resiliency experts have found increase resilience. Most of these can also help with spiritual resilience – although a few will need a tweak to more accurately reflect God’s wisdom.

  • Problem solving skills – solutions should incorporate God’s wisdom and obey His commands when applicable
  • Planning/goal setting – plans and goals should give room for God to change those plans if His plans are different
  • Time management skills
  • Strong sense of personal responsibility – both admitting and atoning when necessary for mistakes and sins as well as taking responsibility for making godly choices so as not to negatively impact others
  • Strong locus of control – believing the choices, attitudes and actions of a person impact outcomes. In secular resiliency, the underlying assumption is that the person knows the best actions to take, whereas in Christianity, there is a recognition of what God should control and using His guidance to make better choices. Locus of control is on a spectrum and resilient young people are towards the strong end of the spectrum. An example might be a teen with a strong locus of control, who failed a test, then deciding to pay more attention in class, study longer and get a tutor before the next test because those choices should improve the grade on the next test. A teen with a weak locus of control decides nothing he or she might do would improve outcomes. A weak locus of control is often blanketed with support statements like “because the teacher hates me and will fail me no matter what I do”.

There are three additional spiritual tools in the toolbox of spiritually resilient young people.

  • Scripture – the spiritually resilient young person uses scripture for guidance and/or as a reminder for the choices God knows are in their best interest. Young people who are spiritually resilient spend time reading, reflecting upon and memorizing scripture (so it is in long term memory for guidance when needed).
  • Prayer – spiritually resilient young people have an active prayer life that includes praying independently to God about emotions and asking for guidance
  • Godly advice from strong Christians – your kids need you to teach them how to identify people who are actively living their faith and who can give them godly advice. They also need to know how to compare this advice to the Bible to make sure it is godly before following it.

There are a few special tools that will best prepare your kids to be spiritually resilient.

  • Self control/impulse control – a fruit of the Spirit, self control is essential for avoiding sin. It also has been shown to increase resiliency.
  • Godly self esteem – Self esteem that is either too high or too low is bad for your kids. Godly self esteem encourages them to humbly discover, develop and use their gifts and talents to serve others, but also repents of sin and works to become more and more like Jesus every day.
  • Patience/perseverance – the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. Your kids will need patience and perseverance to end well.

Your kids need your help to become spiritually resilient. It will take time and effort on your part. It’s worth it though, because spiritually resilient children are more likely to follow God all the days of their lives.

Does Your Bible Knowledge (Or Lack Thereof) Impact Your Child’s Faith?

One of the best things about mentoring parents today is that we have actual data about what works and what doesn’t work in the faith development of children and teens. Twenty years ago, I would have had to rely on my own experiences and observations. Now, I can be a little more confident I am giving advice that will truly help your kids build strong faith foundations and develop to their full God given potential.

When I was a child, reading the Bible daily was a top priority in many Christian homes. Props to our parents, because the NIrV Bible had yet to be published. Most of the versions were quite a few years ahead of the reading levels of even the best readers amongst us. As time has passed, however, I have begun hearing more and more Christians give the excuse that reading the Bible daily isn’t so important because they know the gist of it or are already struggling to do what they have read up to this point in their lives. Adult Bible class discussions have often morphed from ”What about such and such passage?” to ”I think” or ”I feel”. Daily Bible reading is now viewed by some Christians as legalistic and even toxic (because it can lead to legalism).

At the same time, the number of young people rejecting God and the Church as they enter adulthood have grown. Is there a connection? Intuitively, I believed there was, but had no proof. Studies have been done now, however, that make it easier to verify that connection. The important thing to note was that this particular study didn’t talk to all parents or parents who called themselves Christian. It was limited to parents who had behaviors the study defined as engaged Christian parents, meaning they regularly engaged with their children in prayer, biblical conversations, worship attendance, ministering to others and more. You might call these the ”best” Christian parents they could find based on behaviors.

The study asked these spiritually engaged Christian parents how equipped they felt to have conversations with their children about topics like basic doctrinal issues (baptism, etc.), how the Bible applies to life today, sin and forgiveness, Bible history, the authority of scripture, God’s mission for Christians, etc. The results were disappointing. The highest positive response was still under fifty percent and when broken down by topics, many topics had as many as a third of parents claiming to feel insecure about discussing them. And these are the spiritually engaged Christian parents! I would imagine those numbers would be much lower for Christian parents who rarely engage with their kids spiritually at all. (This also doesn’t measure whether or not the things parents are teaching their children are actually biblically accurate.)

Even worse, parental spiritual engagement begins dropping off right about the age of accountability. So the time period when our kids are making the most important decision of their lives and learning how to live out their commitment to God once they become a Christian is the same time period when their parents start leaving them to fend for themselves spiritually. And we wonder why young people are leaving the church!

If you, like the many Christian parents, feel uncomfortable having those spiritual conversations with your kids, it’s time to educate yourself. Ask an elder, minister or Bible class teacher for a Bible reading plan that will help you learn more about these topics. If you don’t understand what you are reading or how to communicate the information in ways your kids can understand, ask for help. Encourage your kids to read the Bible independently. Read it out loud to them. Make daily Bible reading a personal habit. Saving the next generation requires getting back to the basics. And it starts with everyone reading the Bible regularly.

Summer Family Fun Activities (That You Can Use to Teach Your Kids About God)

Summer break starts here in the next few days. Why not make plans to have some quality family fun time? There are quite a few fun summer activities you can do with your kids that can also give you opportunities to teach them about God in the process. While our website has hundreds of activity ideas for over 200 Bible lessons, here are a few of our favorite summer family fun ideas.

  • Star gazing. Light pollution can make it difficult to see more than a few stars in most suburbs and cities, but they are still visible. Want to make it a true adventure? Head to the nearest rural area to see more stars than you can count. While you are admiring God’s handiwork, talk about how God created the earth or His promise to Abram about having so many descendants, they would be as numerous as the stars. You can even tell them about one the dreams Joseph had about his brothers that involved stars.
  • Build a booth. The actual Jewish holiday of the booths isn’t until Fall, but the activity is a great summer one. Find branches and foliage and build a shelter. The holiday has very strict rules about the construction, but you can do whatever works best in your yard. Make sure you can see peeks of the sky through the roof of your structure. For extra fun, sleep or eat in your structure. During the Jewish holiday of booths, the parents tell their children all of the stories of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and the ways God cared for them. They are great stories to share with your kids, too.
  • Grow or make food to share. There are lots of stories in the Bible when people shared their food with others – from Abraham feeding angels unaware to the widow feeding Elijah to Jesus feeding the five thousand – share stories about sharing food with others as you care for the plants that grow food to share or cook food for others. The story of Ruth and the stories in Acts about Christians helping those suffering in a famine, teach your kids that God wants them to help feed the hungry in our world.
  • Take family walks or hikes. Have you ever paid attention to how much teaching Jesus did while he was walking places with his disciples? Take a page from the ministry of Jesus. You can share everything he did on his walks or any Bible stories or passages of scripture you want your kids to know and understand.
  • Create some scripture art. Gather up some craft supplies. Spend time creating scripture art that is beautiful enough to display in your home or gift to others. You might even want to host an ”art exhibit” and invite others to view your scripture art while snacking on little snacks you provide.
  • Make your sidewalk a faith mural. We are supposed to have a dry summer in our area. Grab some colored chalk and create a faith mural on your driveway or sidewalk. Challenge your kids to create designs that would teach passerby about God. Help them execute their designs or if each child is decorating their own block, design one yourself. As you work, talk about what would make people more interested in learning about God and what are some important things for them to know about Him.

Have fun as a family this summer. You will create sweet memories and strengthen the faith foundations of your kids in the process.