Some kids, usually extroverts, seem to be born talkers. Not only will they talk about anything to anyone, they also often have the ability to turn even the most mundane experience into a fun, energetic story. Other kids act as if perhaps they are paying someone a tax for every word spoken. Getting an “Okay” out of them in response to an open ended question can feel like a major victory.
In the “children should be seen and not heard” era, quiet children were probably valued. For Christian parents, however, it’s almost impossible to know where to adjust your parenting to fit the needs of your children if they won’t tell you their thoughts and emotions. Of course, the more pressure you apply to quiet children, the more likely they are to retreat even farther from engaging in conversation.
The wisest advice I ever heard given to the parent of a quiet child was to think of the child as a little bird. If you wanted to hand feed the bird, what would you do? You’d be present, available, quiet and non-threatening. The same applies to encouraging a quiet child to talk. You have to appear available, ready and non-threatening at the moment they want to tell you something. If you appear too busy, not interested or frustrated at their “interruption” of whatever you are doing, they will scurry off without saying very much. They’ll also be much less likely to attempt to talk to you again in the future.
Fortunately, there are some fun ways to be available and approachable while giving your kids rather large chunks of opportunity to open up to you. Most of them also involve an activity that will distract them from their fears, so that many kids will even surprise themselves at how easily they begin sharing what is on their hearts and minds. Here are a few of our favorites.
Take a long walk or hike. Nothing so arduous that you physically can’t talk, but long enough to give your kids time to relax and start talking. You will have to experiment a bit to see if a familiar route or hiking somewhere totally new causes them to open up more.
Sit by a pretty stream. Allow time to wade or look for pretty rocks or fish. Bring a snack, so after you finish playing in the water, you can just sit, relax and take in the beauty. (Looking up at the clouds or the stars from a shared blanket works in a similar way.)
Put together a jigsaw puzzle (bonus points for by a fire!). Set up a card table in a cozy room and pull out a jigsaw puzzle. Keep two or three chairs at the table. This is great for encouraging multiple conversations over a period of time. You can start working on the puzzle and wait until your child joins you or notice when your child is working on the puzzle and join him or her.
Cook something together. Kids are drawn to a kitchen with someone cooking like moths to a flame! To keep them in there longer and creating more openings for them to talk, engage them in the process. Decorating sugar cookies, making mini pizzas or tasks like shelling beans allow plenty of room for conversations.
Share a craft activity or work on crafts side by side. Most crafts are engaging, but not so difficult that conversation is annoying. You can either work on a project together or work on individual projects side by side. Be careful to avoid projects like complicated knitting and crocheting patterns that require full concentration.
Read books together and talk about them. This one can take a little more planning on your part, but can also result in more targeted conversations. Read the book to your child, talking about it as you go. Even older children and teens often enjoy being read to from chapter books…a certain amount of time or a chapter a night. Or, if all else fails, both of you can read the same book independently and then discuss it. Make sure to have lots of open ended questions to ask and be prepared to share your observations, too. This may take practice to get proficient at using books as a platform for meaningful conversations, but there is a lot of free information on line to get you started. Just Google something like “thought questions for xyz book”.
You may need to experiment for a bit to find the activity that encourages your kids to talk the most. Each of your kids may have a different favorite. You may also find it’s better to provide separate opportunities where you can be alone with one of your kids and other activities you do together and allow all of them to talk at once. It’s a little more challenging, but for some kids the extra cover of sibling comments gives them the courage to speak, too. (Others will be even more quiet with siblings around.) Have fun with it, but get your kids talking!
There is a misconception that teaching kids the stories in the Bible automatically means they know how God wants them to live their lives. Most kids need help finding the commands and principles in Bible stories, as well as guided practice in learning how to live those commands and principles on a daily basis.
You could choose to do this through lectures, but it’s not the most effective way for kids to learn. You can actually have fun with your kids and teach them at the same time. Here are some of our favorite ideas.
Make English muffin pizzas. Pizza isn’t mentioned in the Bible, but taking English muffins, pizza sauce and a few toppings can give you a great forum for teaching your kids about the practical application of what they are learning from the Bible. As your kids are creating their pizzas, encourage them to talk about what is happening in their lives. Find ways to reinforce what God would want them to do in specific situations. Or instead of telling them what God wants them to do, ask older children how they think God would want them to handle certain situations. See if your kids can think of examples in the Bible when someone encountered a similar situation.
Complete a family project together. Whether it’s planting a family garden, cleaning the garage or serving someone, working together gives you lots of opportunities to remind your kids of relationship principles and commands in the Bible. You can also spend time teaching your kids godly conflict resolution skills or help them develop strategies for better self-control of the things they say to others.
Have a family game night. Competition can bring out the worst in many people. Games are a great way for everyone in your family to work on godly traits like honesty, patience, perseverance and more. Spend time after the game is over talking about the principles they can practice when they are playing games.
Go for a long walk or hike. Kids tend to gradually open up if you are present and available to them. Make sure the walk is long enough to give them time to relax and talk and for you to respond as needed.
Hang out in the yard together. Blow bubbles, play in a sand box, watch the clouds or stars go by, mall driveway chalk drawings. Once again, your undistracted availability as you do quiet things together gives them opportunities to share their thoughts and concerns with you. It also gives you a relaxed way to teach them what God wants them to know.
Use one of our free application activity ideas. Our primary ministry website has dozens of application activity ideas with meaningful ties to Bible stories. Just click on the application tab for dozens of great ideas. Originally meant for Bible classes, many can also be adapted for families. http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/
Taking the time to make sure your kids understand the application principles in Bible lessons and giving them guided practice can increase the likelihood they will be able to live the lives God want them to live. As a bonus, you will be creating fun family memories.
Parents will often tell their kids that they can do anything they put their minds to do. The implication being that with enough hard work, anything is possible. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Other factors can prevent your kids from achieving their dreams, but were those the right dreams anyway?
The Bible tells us God has good works planned for each of us to do. It also tells us that He loves us enough to know the number of hairs on our heads! I doubt even the most loving mother could tell you the number of hairs on the heads of each of her kids, but she still has plans and dreams for them. It only makes sense that God cares about more details in our lives than we often give Him credit for having.
God has specific plans He would like for each of your kids to follow. Obviously, becoming a Christian is one of those plans. Obeying His commands is another. Serving others and sharing their faith would also fall under plans God has for your kids. There is a reason though, all of your kids are at least a bit different – with different gifts, talents, interests and passions. They were hard wired by God to be able to do the good works He has planned for them to do. Some of those good works will overlap with where they attend school, live or the careers they choose.
So why don’t Christian parents tell their kids they can do anything if it’s in God’s plans for their lives? Why aren’t we spending more time helping them discover their gifts and passions and helping them match those up with potential careers? Why aren’t we spending more time teaching them about vocational ministry – finding ways to serve others, share their faith and be a light in the world while at work, school or even home? Why aren’t we equipping them to discern God’s plans for their lives, so it will be easier to follow them?
Instead, parents often either micromanage their kids’ choices or encourage them to think almost selfishly…focusing on plans that will make them happy. Christian parents need to spend more time teaching our kids how to focus on being more holy. Happiness may or may not come with holiness, but joy always does. We need to teach our kids how to dream godly dreams. Dreams the Holy Spirit is perhaps placing on their hearts for ways to minister to others. It may be through their career or in their time outside of the job…hopefully, both.
“You can do anything” may be encouraging your kids to do what they want to do – whether or not it is in God’s plans for their lives. It encourages them to make major life decisions by bringing God into them late in the process – if at all. It encourages them to perhaps even push past walls God has set up to protect them from that choice. If you have been telling your kids they can do anything, try switching the dialogue. Point them to including God and following the plans He has for their lives. Everyone will benefit from the change.
Solitude is a lost art. Your kids may have felt isolated over the last year, but chances are they were engaging constantly with all sorts of people…real and virtual. In childhood days of “yore”, kids spent time lying in the grass and looking at clouds or stars. They fished silently by a stream. They did needlework or sketched, unaware of the world around them. They had lots of free time when they weren’t expected to interact with anyone and had the freedom to think uninterrupted thoughts.
There are some huge spiritual benefits from providing regular times of solitude for your kids. You don’t have to lock them in their rooms, but it helps to shelve the devices. Modern parents have used a quiet, afternoon rest period to provide children with some solitude – even if others are in the same room (because no talking is allowed). However you make room for solitude in your kids’ schedule, here are five important benefits they may get from the time.
Reflection. Have a daily verse they can reflect upon. They may choose to reflect upon what’s been happening in their lives and how they feel about it. Or what they have been learning at church, from the Bible or in their experiences. Giving your kids time to process things means they are more likely to have the time to understand and apply what God wants them to know and do.
Creativity. Solitude does not mean inactivity. Arts, crafts and music still allow one to think while one is working. Sometimes clarity comes when doing something creative….the creativity can spark creative solutions in other areas, too.
Problem solving. Problems often are resolved with better results when time has been taken to think through the possible consequences of the various options. You may need to teach your kids how to do that properly before they can do it independently during their times of solitude.
Talking to God. Prayers tend to be rushed when time is at a premium. Solitude provides time for unrushed, long conversations with God. You may have to work with your kids to help them understand they can talk to God about anything and everything. Once they appreciate prayer, they will often use solitude to engage in prayers they may normally have not had time to pray.
“Listening to God”. No, they probably won’t hear God’s actual voice. The Holy Spirit, however, can put things on their hearts whether it is a reminder of scriptures, ideas or dreams. This is even more likely to happen if they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism and have the quiet and solitude to “hear”. Reading the Bible during solitude makes it even easier to learn what God may want them to know. Teaching them how to test and discern what God wants them to know from their own desires or Satan’s temptations is key to “listening” well.
You will probably have to carve out special time for solitude and explain the benefits of having screen free quiet time to your kids. Once they understand how to use solitude though, they may actually ask for more.
Did you know it is not a sin to disagree with others? The sins often happen with how we behave when we disagree and what we do after the disagreement. One of the most famous disagreements in the Bible is between two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas. The topic seemed critically important to both men. It appears they may have never totally resolved the disagreement. Yet, they were somehow able to continue to put God’s Kingdom ahead of their disagreement and it appears were even supportive of one another after the rift.
Your kids probably already disagree with someone about something. They may even be questioning some of your ideas about a topic or two. We live in a world that is allowing relationships to be destroyed forever because people disagree on an issue. What can you teach your kids about Barnabas and Paul’s disagreement that will help them navigate their own disagreements in godly ways? We don’t have a lot of information in the Bible, but we can probably come to some fairly accurate conclusions.
Get the facts straight…preferably from the actual person. Too often disagreements begin based on gossip or assuming we know what the other person meant or what their intentions were. Often our initial assumptions are wrong, but we have created unnecessary conflict because of them. Teach your kids to go to the source and gather all of the facts before assuming there is a disagreement.
Speak directly to the person with whom you disagree first. Teach your kids to refrain from adding to any possible conflict by gossiping or using messengers. Train them to have a conversation with the actual person with whom they believe the disagreement exists.
Listen before you speak. The Bible isn’t clear about the actual conversation between Barnabas and Paul. In general though, it’s best to listen carefully and ask lots of clarifying questions before you present your side. Doing so makes the other person less defensive and can make your argument unnecessary or stronger because you have all of the necessary information about the person’s view on the topic. Teach your kids how to be good listeners and to ask great clarifying questions before sharing their thoughts on a topic.
Be humble. Once again, we aren’t sure how Barnabas or Paul reacted initially, but it helps any disagreement to enter it humbly. Chances are great each person in the disagreement may be right about some things and wrong about others. When we enter a disagreement assuming we are totally correct and the other person is totally wrong, we will fail to find any common ground or correct any mistakes we may be making. Teach your kids to remember they may have as much to learn on any given topic as they have to teach.
Know when to agree to disagree. Yes, your kids may be passionate about the “proper” color for bedroom walls. If their friends want to paint their rooms a different color, then teach your kids to let it go. Teach them they can be friends with people who disagree with them on a variety of topics. Paul and Barnabas agreed to go on separate missionary journeys, taking different helpers. In reality, that probably allowed them to cover more territory, while training younger men to eventually take their place, than working together had. You may think the one exception would appear to be arguments about scriptural matters. It’s important to note though that although Jesus was passionate about teaching the truth, he never bullied anyone into accepting it. Your kids need to be willing and able to argue passionately about scriptural truths, while avoiding bullying those who disagree with those truths.
Practice repentance and forgiveness. Often things are said and done during disagreements that are unfortunate or even sinful. Your kids need to be quick to apologize when they have erred and quick to forgive those who have made poor choices when disagreeing with them.
Time outs are better than permanent rifts. Sometimes after a particularly heated disagreement, it feels very uncomfortable to be around one another. Or agreeing to disagree, like Paul and Barnabas, means your choices take you in literally different directions. People need time to calm down and let things go. Time and distance can help. The trick is to use the time and distance to actually work on getting to a place of reconciliation. Too many times the time and space is used to allow grudges to grow and resentment to form, creating a permanent rift. There is nothing godly about bitterness and hatred.
Find ways to reconcile. Often working together to serve someone else helps reminds people of a common, larger purpose for their lives. At other times, doing something together that both enjoy can remind people of why they were close before the disagreement. Teach your kids to find ways to restore relationships that have been damaged by disagreements and to be the initiator of reconciliation.
Teaching your kids to disagree well can help them more accurately reflect God’s love to others. It can also help them avoid destroying important relationships when inevitable disagreements occur. It’s worth taking the time and effort to teach them how to do it well.