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 Ways to Include God on Family Walks

There has been a lot about this year that hasn’t been so great for many. One of the positives, though, is that many families have been taking daily walks together. While they are great for exercise and stress relief, you can also use them to teach your kids about God. Not by lecturing, but by having fun as you go.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Play “Name the Blessings”. The Bible tells us God’s creation cries out His name. Not literally of course, but we were meant to look at nature and see God. What many Christians forget is that God is responsible for all of our blessings. He may not have built a house with His own hands, but He created the raw materials and gave people the gifts needed to plan and construct a home. As you walk, take turns naming the blessings from God you see. You may want to play it so that you have to find something for the next letter of the alphabet. Or see who can keep it going without repeating a blessing. Have fun with it. End your walk with a quick prayer thanking God for His blessings.
  • Take a prayer walk. As you walk, notice things or people that need to be prayed over. Perhaps it is the neighbor who has been sick or the family who just had a new baby. Maybe it’s for the children who attend the neighborhood school. You can stop and pray as you think of prayer needs and/or add them to your family prayer journal when you get home.
  • Take a service walk. Everyone appreciates a little act of love and service. My grandfather used to take the paper thrown by the street and walk it up to the door people used and leave it there, saving them a walk. Your family may want to surprise people or for some acts (like weeding a neighbor’s flower border), you may need to ask permission first. Even if the person refuses your offer of service, their day can be brightened by your offer.
  • Meet the neighbors challenge. On an average walk in my neighborhood, I can encounter anywhere from five to twenty five people. Using safe distancing practices (and masks if required), see if you can meet these people and start new neighborhood friendships that last beyond COVID. It’s hard to serve and share your faith with people unless you get to know them. You can start by having your adorable little ones wave and say “Hi!”
  • Storytelling walks. Running out of things to talk about on your walks? Try telling stories casually as you go. They can be family faith stories, Bible stories or any other story that teaches your kids about God and what he wants for them and from them.

Any experienced parent will tell you family walks are incredibly valuable. Use them to really listen to your kids and learn about their hearts. Have fun with one of the walks above. Just keep taking them as often as possible.

Ideas for Fun Family Faith Traditions

Most families have family traditions. After every first day of a new school year, my daughter and I headed out for high tea and talking. Some traditions last for decades, like our new pajamas on Christmas Eve. Others fade as children grow, like the elementary school last day of school Bruster’s ice cream run.

God built traditions into Old Testament Judaism. The various holidays brought family and friends together several times a year to celebrate something God wanted them to remember. These holidays also served to point them to the coming Messiah.

Jesus and the Apostles didn’t create the liturgical calendar. In fact, the Lord’s Supper during the worship services on the first day of the week was really the only holiday type tradition they established and practiced. (Easter and Christmas weren’t celebrated until long after the death of the Apostles.)

There is nothing in the Bible that says you can’t create family traditions that involve worshipping God in some way – we just can’t bind them on others. (Romans 14) So what are some family traditions you could begin that would also point your kids to God?

  • First day of school year. This is a day that should be bathed in prayer. A day where you reflect on what God may want for and from each of you during the coming school year. Perhaps you walk to school early and pray together in a quiet spot near the school. Maybe you have a special breakfast, praying a blessing over each child and helping them pick a personal theme verse for the year.
  • Fall harvest. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot moves because of the lunar calendar, but this year it will be October 2 – 9. This was also known as the festival of booths. Families took brush and built a shelter or booth outside. They ate and sleep in the booth each night, with parents telling the stories of Moses and the Israelites. They are celebrating the Fall harvest, but also God’s provision over the years. The original festival also pointed to the coming Messiah. You can do your own version. As you look up at the stars, tell Bible stories that help your kids understand the over arching story of the Bible. Talk about how God has impacted your life and how you see Him working in the world today. Talk about what God wants for and from His people.
  • Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was originally meant to focus everyone on thanking God for the many blessings He has given us – even in difficult times. Over the years though, it has become more about parades, food, football and shopping. Find fun ways to bring back the focus to God. You don’t have to give up your favorite secular traditions, just make God the top priority again.
  • Snow days. If you live in the southern half of the United States, snow days are rare and special. Why not start a special tradition on the first snow fall of the year – no matter where you live? Build a snowman or go sledding. As you drink your hot cocoa or eat your snow cream, talk about how difficult it can be to survive harsh weather conditions without the proper attire. Plan ways your family can serve others and share your faith. Take the extra time indoors to do some fun things to help discover your kids’ gifts from God or develop them more fully. Find ways for them to use their gifts on a project that serves others. Encourage them to find ways to point others to God as they serve them.
  • Valentine’s Day. Why not make this a day when your family finds unique ways to shower everyone around you with love?! Maybe you want to plan all sorts of surprises for others. Or perhaps you want to bake and decorate cookies together and take them to people. Make it a family goal to show active, godly love to as many people as possible every year.
  • Purim. Purim is the Jewish holiday celebrating the story of Esther and how God used her to save His people. Traditionally, this is a time when the story of Esther is retold. Hamantaschen cookies are eaten and little gifts of food are taken to neighbors or the poor. It’s fine to celebrate it traditionally, but add sharing your faith or encouraging the faith of those whom you serve as part of the celebration. (In 2021, Purim will be on February 25 and 26.)
  • First day of Spring. Spring is a great time to remind your kids about the rebirth Christians experience. It’s also a great time to plant a small garden – even a container garden to grow food to share with others. Or use the food you grow to cook food to share with people who may be lonely or food deprived. Since Easter is usually soon after the beginning of Spring, why not invite the people you serve to services? Many who may be intimidated by a regular church service feel more comfortable attending on holidays like Easter.
  • Last day of school. For many kids, the best day of school is the last day of the school year! Regardless, it’s a great time to talk about how God has blessed your family over the previous months. You can also talk about the ways you have each grown spiritually or how God has used each of you to serve others and tell them about Him. It’s also a great time to set summer faith goals. You may want to take an idea from our neighborhood and do it over an ice cream cone!

Starting family traditions can be a bit tricky. It’s important that you are committed to doing the same things year after year for each tradition. Some kids will let you change things, but many want traditions to be safe, comfortable and exactly the same! (Take notes if you are forgetful. Trust me. They will remember even the smallest details!)

If a tradition doesn’t work, it’s okay. Try something different. Include things your family enjoys doing together. Find times when everyone can set aside a day or an evening for the tradition. Remember, traditions are as much about your family spending quality time together as they are about whatever you are celebrating. It’s a great way to create strong, positive memories of your family and your relationship with 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.

Giving Your Kids Feedback That Works

Lately, I’ve been watching shows about the great estates in England and their servants. I stared fascinated as the servants actually took a ruler and measured everything on a dinner table to make sure each item was placed in the exact proper place.

Imagine if one of the servants were new and neglected to use the ruler for an important dinner party. What would the owner of the estate say to the servant? More importantly, what would he say to make sure the table was set perfectly the next time?

In parenting, there is feedback or correction that helps our kids learn and grow and there is another kind that confuses, frustrates and eventually discourages them. What are those differences?

  • Helpful feedback is extremely specific and concrete. Children, especially young children, are concrete thinkers. Telling them they need a better attitude or to do something better, means very little to them. If, however, you explain that the fork goes to the left of the plate or that they shouldn’t complain when you ask them to do something, they are more likely to comply. When you give your child feedback, try to hear it from their perspective, but pretend like you are speaking a language they don’t fully understand yet. Do they actually know what those words mean to you and how to do the things you are asking them to do?
  • Helpful feedback often involves demonstrations. Sometimes showing works better than telling. Show your kids how you want them to make their beds or put away their clothes. Have them practice in front of you, giving them helpful reminders as needed.
  • Helpful feedback is developmentally appropriate. A table set by a four year old will look different from a table set by a fourteen year old. You need to consider your child’s age and abilities when giving feedback. Yes, you want to move your children closer to the ultimate goal with your feedback, but don’t push them to do things they aren’t able to do yet or let them off the hook for things they can easily master. It may take some trial and error, but you will eventually get a feel for the right balance of encouraging growth without overwhelming them.
  • Helpful feedback takes into account a child’s personality. Some kids crumble before the first word of feedback, while others need to hear it given in a firm tone before they will even consider paying attention. Being too harsh or too wish washy with the wrong child and your attempts at feedback will back fire.
  • Helpful feedback looks for the root of ongoing issues. As Christian parents, we need to be extremely aware of potential heart issues in our kids. Are you constantly having to give the same child the same feedback because the child isn’t understanding or able to do what is asked or because he or she is developing a rebellious heart? Missing the development of a rebellious heart can lead to heartbreak for everyone in the future. Assuming a child has a rebellious heart when he or she is actually just confused, can do damage to your relationship over time. It’s vital to take the time to explore the root cause with your child before jumping to conclusions and then address that core issue appropriately.
  • Helpful feedback comes from a place of love and concern. Yes, you can openly dislike your children and still teach them how to make a bed properly, but that’s not the ultimate goal of Christian parenting. Christian parents need a close, loving relationship with their kids so they can continue to be an influence, helping their kids grow to be mighty men and women of God. When your kids know without a doubt you love them and have their best interest at heart, they will accept your feedback more willingly and use it to learn and grow.

The next time you give your kids feedback and don’t get the desired results, carefully examine what you said. Structuring your feedback with the tips above in mind, might get you the results you want.