Teaching Your Kids How to Disagree Well

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.

5 Gifts Kids Should Give Every Day

It seems like childhood revolves around gifts. Either your kids are receiving gifts or giving them to the endless stream of classmates with birthdays. As children being raised in Christian homes, you want your kids to avoid becoming entitled and materialistic. You want them to realize that even at very young ages, they can make a positive difference in the lives of others by reflecting God’s love to them.

An easy way to remind your kids to reflect God’s love is to teach them about the five gifts they can give to others every day. In fact, they can give these gifts multiple times each day, brightening the lives of those they encounter and helping them see how much God must love them, too.

To make it easier, each gift they can give is connected to one of the five senses. If your kids have trouble remembering, just tell them to remember the five senses and the attached gifts should come to mind.

  1. Eyes. Give the gift of smiling with their eyes to others. There is something about a genuine smile from another that can bring a little light to the darkest of days. Why is this attached to the eyes? Because you can fake a smile on your lips, but a genuine smile is always seen in the eyes, too.
  2. Mouth. Encouraging words. Encouragement is rare in our world. When your kids focus on using their mouths to encourage others, they will make a positive difference in the lives of everyone they encourage.
  3. Ears. Listening ears are also a gift. Not the half listening that many people practice, but true active listening. Many kids have no one…not even a parent…who will really listen to them. Your kids don’t have to have all of the answers. Often just having someone really listen to them can make a positive difference.
  4. Hands. Helping hands are becoming a rarity as people become more self absorbed. Are your kids quick to offer their hands when help is needed? A little help at the right time can be life changing or at least make the person’s day a little easier.
  5. Nose. Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch, but for kids and teens, it too can prove extremely helpful. Can your kids develop a “nose for trouble”? Can they sense when a choice someone is about to make could have negative consequences the person hasn’t considered? Can they sense when someone is worried or having troubles? Awareness is an important skill set for a Christian who wants to serve others and share their faith.

If you want your kids to impact the world for God, have them start here. Giving these five gifts daily may be all God asks them to do. On the other hand, giving these gifts daily may be preparing them for other good works God has prepared for them to do. Since they have been practicing these gifts, they are more likely to notice and complete those good works when they appear, too.

Teaching Your Kids Godly Time Management Skills

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15) is one of many verses in the scripture that counsel us to use our time wisely. Unfortunately, many of us were not taught how to really use our time the way God would want us to use this precious gift.

As a result, many of us have developed if not bad habits, then surely habits that don’t reflect our appreciation or understanding of what a precious gift from God our time is. Which means we aren’t setting the best examples for our kids or actively teaching them how to make the best use of their time in God’s eyes.

So how can you teach your kids to use their time, not just wisely, but prioritizing the things God would prioritize? It’s actually a process more than an absolute list, because their life circumstances can change parts of their schedule.

  • Pull out a calendar where each day is broken down by the hour. Depending upon the age of your kids, you may want to start with a day, a week or a month.
  • Have them block out time for non-negotiables, like sleep, meals, bathing and school. Don’t add part time jobs, extracurricular activities or even Church yet.
  • Ask your kids to list some specific things God wants them to do regularly. This list should include worship services, Bible classes, independent Bible study and prayer. For things like worship services and Bible classes with set times, but them in those slots on the calendar. For things like independent Bible study and prayer, discuss with them when would be a natural time to put that in their schedule. If you can connect it to a daily event, it will be easier to remember. For example, if they sit down for a few minutes after school and have a snack, that might be a natural time to read the Bible independently. (Make it even easier by having them set their open Bible where they normally eat their snack.)
  • Ask your kids to list some other things God may want them to do, but not necessarily every day. This is the heart of your discussion. Would God want them developing a gift He gave them that they can use to serve Him? Would He want them trying some new things to see if they are gifted by Him in those areas? Would He want them reading some Christian books for encouragement or learning? Would He want them involved in periodic larger scale opportunities to serve others and share their faith? Where do those daily acts of service, encouragement and faith sharing go on their schedules, here or in the earlier daily area of their schedule? This is where the time management piece can get tricky. If the scheduled time to read a good Christian book or work on a project developing their gift from God is the night before a big test, that could be problematic. Talk about how to differentiate between what they need to do, what they want to do, what God thinks is crucial that they do and what is flexible. Experiment with calendaring in these things. Once a week look back and encourage them to see what things happened and which ones didn’t. Can they switch somethings around so more things are accomplished well?
  • Godly rest. This is quality Sabbath type rest….not playing video games or zoned out watching a movie. This would include exercise, being in nature, reflection on scripture and life, creating something, surrounding themselves with things from Philippians 4:8. These rest times can be fun times, too. Exercise can be playing games. Developing their gifts often means working on a favorite hobby. (Note: Playing video games is not developing a gift. Taking video game coding lessons, however, might reveal a gift God can use at some point.)
  • Extracurricular activities. These should be added sparingly. They should fit into the schedule already created. So, for example, a sports team that requires regularly missing worship and Bible class won’t make the cut. This is where time management gets hard, really hard for some. God’s priorities must come first. God does not want your child missing worship and Bible classes eight weeks in a row because he or she is on a traveling sports team…for a lot of reasons. This is one of those points where parents who raise active, productive Christians split from those who raise kids who only attend or aren’t involved with Christianity at all. Being willing to sacrifice what’s popular and fun from what God wants you to do is a key faith building step. As a parent of a child who has gone through college admissions, I can tell you most universities don’t need to see dozens of different activities that have taken up every free moment. They want to see qualities like commitment, perseverance, leadership and teamwork skills. These skills can be just as easily shown through an activity or two and taking the initiative to serve God by planning and executing meaningful service and faith sharing opportunities or regularly teaching in a Bible class.
  • Everything else. This category will change regularly. It might include a family vacation, a special school project or a youth group activity. It can even include a little mindless entertainment, although having discussions about those choices is also another great conversation to have at some point.

This activity needs to be revisited regularly until you begin seeing consistent godly time management skills in your kids. If they drop the ball in one area, encourage them to try again the next day, week or month. If your time management skills need a godly update, do the activity with them – especially since their calendars often impact yours, too. It’s also a great way to help them understand that if each of your three kids participates in three activities and don’t drive, you and your spouse are running to nine activities…and what that does to your calendar. Teaching your kids godly time management skills will take some time and effort on your part, but if you do it well, it can help all of you spend your time doing more things that are important to God.

Is Your Criticism Aversion Hurting Your Kids?

We live in a world where everyone is encouraged to criticize, but no one is encouraged to listen. Actually, you are encouraged to listen to the person’s criticism who is speaking or writing, but no one else’s critiques matter. It’s often couched in phrases like, “Everyone is doing the best they can.” Or “No one has a right to tell me what to do.” Or the ever popular, “Imperfection shows I’m only human.”

Unfortunately, this aversion to criticism is hurting young people – and not just because they won’t listen to our critiques. We live in a world that frowns upon self examination and self improvement – that embraces imperfection as laudable. A world where people would rather experience a hundred miserable failures than listen to the constructive criticism of others.

Yet, God calls Christians to a higher standard. We are to examine ourselves and strive for improvement, growth and even perfection. (Matthew 5:48, 2 Peter 1:5-8 and others) As Christian parents, we need to examine our parenting and our children to see if what we are doing is really helping our kids build strong spiritual foundations and grow to their godly potential.

A recent article in Psychology Today, gave several reasons why parents are missing their kids’ depression. The advice boiled down to parents need to listen – really listen to their kids, and they need not look for quick fixes, but should put in the work necessary to really help their kids deal with their depression.

Yet how many parents read that article or the previous paragraph from a defensive mindset? How many excuses or critiques of the author whipped through your brain while you were reading it? How incensed were you that someone dared to criticize how you listen to your children or how you try to help them with their problems?

Now imagine, if this were written from a Christian perspective. How would you react, if they added concerns about the spiritual health of your children? Or quoted scriptures? Or made specific suggestions of ways to help them process their emotions with God’s help? Or suggested something you are doing is hurting, rather than helping your kids?

We all know that not every critique is equally valid. Yet immediately dismissing all criticism – even that which is constructive and godly – is dangerous for us and our kids. Taking a little while longer to compare it to scripture and examine it for truth and validity could save us a lot of time and spare us a lot of grief.

Godly, constructive criticism can help you catch Christian parenting mistakes before they hurt your kids spiritually. It can save you time wasted by trial and error. It can improve your Christian parenting outcomes by allowing you to learn from those wiser and/or more experienced than you.

It’s worth taking a little extra time to really listen and process constructive criticism directed at your parenting. It can make a huge positive difference in the lives of your kids. It’s worth conquering your aversion, at least long enough to listen and vet what others are saying.

Free Homeschooling Activities for Christian Parents

Have you decided to homeschool this year? Or has your local school system decided you will be doing some sort of online learning with your kids? Maybe you are a veteran homeschool family just looking for new activity ideas. Regardless of your need, we have hundreds of free ideas to help!

Our Teach One Reach One website has over two hundred Bible lessons for children. Under each Bible lesson, you will find a wide variety of activity ideas. Originally designed for faith based tutoring ministries, our academic activities will help you tie learning about Bible stories to getting needed practice on various academic skills.

Best of all, the activities are engaging, hands-on, meaningful and memorable. Many require items you probably already have around your house or can order easily online. While written for groups of children, most of the activities are easily adaptable to family groups.

We have free activity ideas for ESL (which can provide supplemental language arts activities or can be used with any second language your child is learning), basic and advanced elementary language arts, basic and advanced elementary math, science, health and even sustenance and survival.

If you want to have an actual Bible class as part of your homeschool curriculum, we also have free ideas for Bible activities, application activities and even service projects.

Feel free to share this resource with other parents. We are continually adding new activity ideas and hope to have them further organized by subtopic soon. We pray you have a great school year and let us know if we can help in any way!