Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit that seems somewhat straightforward, yet we don’t talk about it very often. The technical definition of gentleness is the quality of being kind, tender, mild-mannered, softness of action or effect.
The original word in the Bible that is translated as gentleness in English has a deeper meaning though. It is more closely correlated to power in restraint, particularly in regards to God’s power. It is understanding the power we have through God, but choosing to be restrained and exercise that knowledge and power without undue harshness.
At times Christians will allude to gentleness when they discuss the need to speak the truth in love. Teaching the lost they are lost is often best received when we approach them with love and kindness along with God’s truths.
So how can we begin to teach our kids about gentleness when it is so much deeper than the secular definition implies? Because the original word includes the normal definition of gentleness with an added dimension, you can start at the beginning.
Restraining strength. If you have a toddler and a new baby, kitten or puppy in the house, you understand this dynamic very well. Teach your kids their words and actions have power…power to encourage, help or destroy. They must make wise choices about how much strength and power they need to use in a given situation. Often the best idea for young people, because of their lack of life experience, is to start slow. This is more fun when practiced with animals. How gently should they touch a baby animal versus an adult? Should they be firmer with an animal with a tough hide than an animal with very sensitive skin? As they experiment, talk about what happens. Older children can begin drawing comparisons to how they interact with people.
Gentle or harsh. Find examples in film, children’s books or other places of people being gentle or harsh. Can your children correctly identify the people who are being gentle and those who are being harsh? Older children may be able to find ways those being harsh could have accomplished their goals in a more gentle fashion.
Gentle or weak? Young people can become confused by the biblical concept of gentleness, especially if their environment seems to require a tough exterior to survive. Find examples in the Bible when someone chose to be gentle rather than harsh, but in so doing showed their strength more than if they had acted differently. The life of Jesus is filled with these examples. Even when Jesus might have appeared to be harsh with the Pharisees, he was being gentle…he had the ability to have them struck dead on the spot, but gave them opportunities to change and grow spiritually instead by using milder actions to make them aware of their sins. Have them find examples in their own environment of ways they can show their strength better with their gentleness than being harshly “strong”.
Don’t break them. Have your children handle fragile things very gently. When demonstrating how to be gentle, drop something fragile and let it break (an egg works well if you can tolerate the mess). Somewhat frantically ask your kids to help you “fix” the thing you broke. Even if it is something you can glue back together, point out the cracks and how it will never be as strong or as perfect as it once was. Point out that when we are harsh with others our words and actions can have the same impact on them. We can break people and leave them more fragile if we aren’t careful with them. Talk about ways we break others and ways we can accomplish important goals without destroying others in the process.
Delivering “bad” news. Often we think of being gentle in a more biblical way when we have to tell people something they don’t want to hear – some sort of bad news. Show your kids a film clip or passage in a book when someone had to deliver bad news. We’re they gentle or blunt? Have them notice that although the person is still saddened by the news, they feel more loved and/or supported when someone told them gently and provided comfort or help after gently delivering the news. Role play giving the types of bad news they may have to deliver to their friends. How can they give the news gently? More importantly, how can they show love and give support after the bad news is given to someone?
Teaching your kids how to be gentle in biblical ways can improve their ability to serve others well and share their faith effectively. It’s worth taking the time and effort to discuss gentleness and help them practice it.
If you’ve been somewhere the fruit of the Spirit is being taught, you’ve probably noticed faithfulness is the one people seem to forget or gloss over. It’s perhaps a little less concrete than some of the others. It’s not something people in the world talk about very much. It’s rarely a character trait of the month at your child’s school.
So what is faithfulness? It is most often connected to trust and loyalty. The Old Faithful geyser gets its name because they know it will erupt at certain times. When it comes to Christian faith, the book of Hebrews perhaps tells us the most about it – especially in chapter eleven. You may be more familiar with this chapter as the “heroes of faith” passage.
In the chapter, the writer of Hebrews points out the characteristics of various well known people in the Bible who showed their faithfulness to God. Reading through the chapter, we can see the complexity of having faith. We also learn how important our faithfulness is to God.
Because faithfulness is important to God, we must take the time to teach our kids about it. It may mean taking the time to better understand the concept ourselves. It’s worth it though, if we and our children become more pleasing to God as our faithfulness grows.
So what are some fun ways to teach your kids about faithfulness? Here are some of our favorites.
Break it down. Grab a huge sheet of paper or some poster board. Tell your kids they are going on a faithfulness treasure hunt. They can use any resources they want to find the attitudes and behaviors God wants to see in us when we have faithfulness. This is a great chance to help your kids learn how to search for scriptures on specific topics. Older kids may be interested in taking a first look at Bible dictionaries and concordances, too. When you think you have uncovered all of the information you can, take a look at your data. What would a person who has faithfulness “look like” today?
He is real and amazing! Part of faithfulness is the basic belief in God and a willingness to seek Him. Take your kids out in nature or to zoos or aquariums. Even a walk in a city can reveal God’s gifts to mankind and God at work in the world today. As you walk, talk about the things that remind you of God or strengthen your belief. Talk about the love He has for us.
Faithfulness is courageous. In Hebrews 11, there are stories of people like Noah and Abraham who had to be brave to trust God and do what He asked them to do. Your kids will have to brave to follow God at times, too. Is there something God may want your kids to do to serve someone, share their faith or obey God in the face of teasing? What can they do to be faithful in those situations? Brainstorm a “tool kit” your kids can use when they are afraid of being faithful to God. Your children’s “tool kit” may contain Bible verses, prayers, stories and more.
The long view. One of the interesting examples in Hebrews 11 is Moses. The chapter mentions Moses giving up the benefits of being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter for hardships because he understood the greater rewards of obeying God. Faithfulness is willing to sacrifice what we want now in order to help others (and ourselves) get to Heaven. What are your kids willing to do without to help others? Is it the food in your pantry they hate to eat anyway or their very favorite? Plan a service project with your kids that requires them to make some sort of sacrifice in order to help others. Talk about our motivations as we grow in faithfulness.
Bold faithfulness. Older kids and teens often struggle with being a Christian and a strong desire to be popular. They may hide their faith in an attempt to fit in with their peers. They may even participate in sinful behaviors just to avoid teasing. Take turns coming up with scenarios you and your kids may encounter when it would be tempting to hide your faith or minimize it. Who can come up with the best ideas of how to overcome the temptation and be bold, while still being loving and kind to those around them?
Faithfulness is one of the more difficult fruits of the Spirit to teach your kids and to help them develop. It’s important to God though, so it’s worth the extra time and effort.
Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit that sounds easy at first. “Be good,” is a phrase parents have used for decades to tell their kids how to behave. What is goodness though? To the world, the concept of what is good seems to change with the wind.
God, however, has used good consistently. First, to describe how He felt about the things He created. Of course God himself, is the very definition of good. The Bible, likewise, has some instructions for God’s people who wish to be good.
First, we are instructed to do good…good works. These good works in turn not only help people, but give us an opportunity to point others to God. In Micah, we are told what God considers good…to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)
Of course, walking humbly with God implies we are obedient to Him…perhaps the traditional definition of good. Yet, unlike the world’s trendy ideas of what actions are right and wrong, God’s commands and principles are consistent. When God gives Christians a command, it isn’t up for a vote. He won’t change it on us.
So what are some ways you can encourage your kids to have a full measure of goodness in their lives?
Mother may I? Ultimately, the commands your kids should follow are from God. When they are young though, they practice by obeying their parents. Games like “Mother May I”, “Follow the Leader” and “Simon Says” are fun, silly ways to practice obedience. After several rounds, talk about why it is important they obey you. What are some possible consequences for disobedience…not just from consequences, but because your rules are often to protect them from something that could hurt them.
Good deeds days. Good deeds are part of other fruits, too. For goodness, focus on doing good deeds that cause someone to say, “This is good!” It may be cooking food for someone or creating art. Don’t forget to help your kids find ways to point others to God as they serve them.
God is good. Part of goodness is accurately reflecting God’s image. In order to do that though, your kids need to understand who God is…His characteristics. See how many words your kids can use to describe God. Consider creating a type of graffiti “wall” in your house where people can add new descriptions of God as they think of them. Older kids may be interested in researching some of the names of God. When your wall is full, discuss the ways your family can be like God in those ways. Challenge each other to reflect God more accurately.
That’s good! See how many “good” things in life your kids can list. What makes them good? What do they think God means when He says a fruit of the Spirit is goodness? How can they exhibit goodness in their lives? Younger kids will struggle with this, but older ones should be able to find some parallels. Can they think of people in the Bible who had the fruit of the Spirit of goodness? How do they know?
Goodness may seem to overlap with a few other fruits of the Spirit. That’s okay. The more practice your kids get in the fruit of the Spirit, the easier they will become.
Our neighborhood currently has multiple yard signs that simply read “Be Kind”. Kindness seems to be more and more rare. Yet kindness is not always what the world thinks it is.
Kindness is not just being nice. Sometimes, the kindest thing to do doesn’t always seem so nice. If someone has spinach in her teeth, it may not seem very nice to point it out to her. However, done with love, it can be very kind – especially if she is getting ready to stand in front of her class to give a report.
So what are some things you can do with your kids to help them be kind to those around them? Here are a few of our favorites.
Kindness challenge. There are plenty of people who are kind when it is easy or when they think they will get something in return. Being kind when there is nothing to gain or when it may cost your kids something is tougher. Challenge them to think of times it is tough to be kind. Can they choose to be kind anyway? Spend time each day talking about their efforts at kindness during the day.
It’s how you say it. This game is great for helping kids learn how to speak the truth with love. Give them scenarios where the kindest thing is to tell the truth. If they are careless with their words though, they can do as much harm as good. Have them say what they would say to the person. You can give points for kind, truthful responses or to the child who does the best job at speaking the truth with love.
Kindness manners. Manners are a way to show kindness to others…to put others needs before their own. Pretend you are having tea with the “Queen” or some other time the very best manners would be expected. See if your kids can get through the experience with great manners. As you have your “tea and crumpets”, talk about the ways good manners are showing kindness to others.
Be kind to family week. Sometimes, we can be kind to everyone but our family. Challenge your kids to meet a kindness challenge for a week. Talk about the ways your family members are often unkind to each other. Consider having a family celebration at the end of the week and encourage continued kindness to each other.
Kindness is not just being nice, having good manners or helping others…but they are all part of it. Finding ways to regularly practice kindness can help your kids be kind to others naturally.
At first glance, patience may be a fruit of the Spirit that means the same to the world as it does to Christians, and in many ways it does. Christians, however, have an added spiritual dynamic to patience. We at times have God ask us to wait for Him.
Waiting on God can at times require more patience than we care to have. Partially because God does not tell us when He will heal someone we love or return to take us to Heaven. We have to be patient in the unknown…which can be much more difficult than knowing we will only have to be patient for a specific period of time.
As you teach your children about patience, don’t forget to discuss this spiritual aspect of patience. Read Psalms and other places where people in the Bible grew impatient waiting for God. How did they handle it? Did they try to “help” God like Sarah, and unknowingly cause thousands of years of conflicts? Did they voice their frustration to God like in some of the Psalms? What happened when they were patient?
There are some fun things you can do with your kids to help them be more patient…some in more conventional ways and others with a more spiritual focus. Patience and perseverance often work together, so don’t be afraid to tackle both with the same activity. Although perseverance is not a fruit of the Spirit, it is mentioned in the Bible as a necessary character trait for Christians.
Here are some of our favorite ways to help kids work on patience.
Board games. Let’s be honest. Playing Candy Land with your child requires a tremendous amount of patience! That game can last forever! Depending upon the age of your kids though, many other games require patience in various forms. Whether it’s the length of the game, the behavior of other players or the way the game itself is played, games are one of the easier, fun ways to help your kids be more patient.
Jigsaw puzzles. The more pieces involved and the more difficult the design, the more patience it will require. Want to test someone’s patience? Hide the last piece and you will have a quick idea for how patient others are.
Cooking. This works on patience the most of it is a food your child particularly loves or if they are already a bit hungry when you begin cooking. With cooking options today, you can start by stretching your kids’ patience by a few seconds with a microwave recipe or minutes to hours using traditional ovens and stoves.
Arts and crafts. The less experience your child has and the more intricate the project, the more patience it will require. Some crafts like sewing, require pulling out mistakes and beginning again in order to complete the project.
Teaching a parent or sibling a new skill. This activity can have other side benefits as well. If your kids have knowledge about a social media platform, a new technology, or something else that you don’t know, have them teach it to you thoroughly. For many kids, you won’t have to fake having trouble understanding what they are teaching you…an even faster than average learning curve with a parent can make them extremely impatient. Once they can teach you something with patience, they can try teaching a sibling something.
Musical instruments. Learning to play an instrument well requires patience and perseverance. The more difficult the instrument, the more practice they will need to master it…requiring more patience and perseverance. The key for success though, is allowing the child to choose an instrument they are passionate about mastering. If the instrument is dictated, it may require more patience from you than them!
Races, hiking, rock climbing. Set goals and help them increase their stamina towards reaching the goal. Sometimes an external motivator for reaching the final goal can make patience a little easier.
Waiting. Whether it’s waiting in a check out line, waiting for you to cook dinner or waiting for the sermon to end, learning how to wait patiently is a skill that requires practice. Real waiting isn’t fun, but encourage your kids to find ways that help the time pass more quickly.
Teaching your kids patience, may require your patience as well. You may find doing these things with your children makes you more patient as well. Everyone will benefit when your family is more patient.