Things Your Kids Wished You Knew

You could be the best parent in the world and there will be things your kids don’t tell you. Maybe they don’t think it’s important. Maybe they are worried about your reaction – even if there is no need for them to worry. Maybe they are embarrassed.

Your kids are right…to a point. Some of those things they don’t share with you are relatively inconsequential. If they told you every single thought they had, neither of you would get anything done. On the other hand, there are some thoughts they have that you really need to know. Things they may desperately want you to help them sort through, but are reluctant to tell you.

There is a book titled, “Things I Wish My Teacher Knew”. It argues that teachers would be much more effective if they had crucial information about the things their students choose not to share with them. The same is true for Christian parenting. You may be missing key bits of information that could help you parent more effectively. And you are missing these bits of information because your kids have chosen not to share them with you.

Those are the things you must make safe for them to tell you. Otherwise, they will be struggling alone or with the help of equally inexperienced peers. Creating a safe space for them to share these thoughts isn’t overly complicated. They need a time and place where they have your full attention and some privacy. They need you to listen actively – seeking to understand before you seek to help or correct. They need to know you aren’t going to have an emotional explosion- erupting anger all over them if what they say is upsetting to you.

They will test you with easy things at first. They won’t know they are testing you of course, but they are. They will tell you something that they are pretty sure you won’t get upset about and see how you react. Then when that goes well consistently, they may tell you something where there is a risk you will get a little upset with them. Only after you have earned their trust (or if they are so miserable and desperate, they talk regardless), will they truly open their hearts and share all of those thoughts you need to know.

In my ministry, I see kids who are struggling all of the time. Kids who desperately want help, but who are afraid to ask their parents for it. They may be acting out in hopes of their parents paying enough attention to them to realize how much they are struggling. In these situations, I am heart broken for the struggling young person and heart broken for their parents, who often have no idea how much their children are struggling.

If you try creating a safe space for your kids to open up and they still aren’t talking, try asking them if they did something they knew would make you angry – would they tell you. If not, ask them what you could do differently so they would feel like they could tell you anything. They need to know you will love them through the consequences you may have to give them. You will help them problem solve even if the problem itself is breaking your heart. You are and always will be their best advocate and will do anything you can to help them spend eternity in Heaven.

The Chore Wars

Do your kids have regular chores? Or do they help around the house whenever you ask them to do something on a daily basis? How you have your kids help with the chore type tasks around the house may not be as important as merely asking them to perform those tasks. Those mundane tasks around your home teach your kids crucial life lessons and more importantly, crucial Christian life lessons.

You have probably figured out by now that life is full of lots of boring and even unpleasant tasks that must be done. You know, like balancing your checkbook, doing laundry or cleaning the toilets. Your kids are probably still struggling with this. They want life to be all fun and games. Oh, they don’t mind the occasional fun task, like helping make cookies for the neighbor. Making their beds or doing homework, however, can be a very different story.

When I used to tell people we were homeschooling, one of the most common responses was, “I could never get my kids to do their schoolwork.” While homeschooling isn’t for everyone, having children who won’t do their schoolwork when asked by a parent is a very real problem indeed.

In Christianity, just like in the secular world, there are chore type things that must be done. God also expects us to obey His commands, which at times may feel about as fun as chores. It’s not always fun to do the things God wants us to do. Sometimes you get really hot and sweaty and tired. Sometimes the task He asks us to do is just plain boring. Sometimes He wants us to avoid doing something that looks like fun, because He knows it’s not in our best interest.

If your kids won’t do chores – either scheduled or ad hoc – they may also have problems doing the things God wants them to do. If they won’t do their schoolwork or homework when asked, because they would rather have fun, they may struggle to be obedient to God. When they whine and complain, remind them that everyone has to clean the toilets of life sometimes and they might as well learn to do it with grace and humility now.

At the end of the day, chores are about self control, self discipline, responsibility and a lot of other qualities God wants His people – including your kids to have. The next time the chore wars erupt in your home, stand firm. Help your kids learn to have the godly traits doing boring, unpleasant things can grow. They will need those qualities to be who God wants them to be.

Christian Parenting Challenges #15

Summer will be here soon. How will your family make sure God is not forgotten in the return of the hustle and bustle of activities? Here are this week’s social media posts to challenge you.

Monday: Your kids may never be tempted to worship a statue of a false god like Neptune, but there is one false god they probably will be tempted to put before God – themselves. Society will try to convince them they are smarter, wiser and more tolerant than God. That they will make better decisions for themselves than obeying God’s commands and principles. That they need to love themselves first. Giving them a strong spiritual foundation will help them keep God in his rightful place – first.

Tuesday: This is a class I took on mixing scents for candles. If my adult daughter lived here, I would have asked her to join me. Why? Because one time classes like this are great for doing something fun together, having conversation starters later and discovering whether or not something is a gift or passion God may have given one of you without a huge outlay of cash. So the next time one of your kids wants to learn about something, try signing both of you up for an exploratory class. Who knows what will happen!

Wednesday: Did you know in the days of the Vikings in Ireland, the Bible was considered the most valuable thing they could steal because the Irish would pay top dollar to get the Bibles back? If a thief came into your home and stole your Bibles, would your family even know they were missing? Your kids need to see you truly value God’s Word and spend time in it daily if you expect them to do the same.

Thursday: Believe it or not, behind that fog is the Grand Canyon. We believed it because we saw lots of signs along the way. We couldn’t prove it to ourselves or anyone else until the fog cleared the next day. There are signs all around us that God exists, but you can’t prove it until Jesus returns. Your kids will need faith (and reminders that atheists can’t prove God doesn’t exist either – atheism is also a faith of sorts) and they need you to point them to all the signs of God’s existence, so they don’t miss them

Friday: The Bible tells us that God’s creation points to Him. Your kids also need to hear you connect things in nature to God and His love for us. Don’t forget to mention God to your kids when you visit the zoo or aquarium, go on a nature hike or visit the farm.

Christian Parenting Encouragement for the Hard Days

Writing a Christian parenting blog isn’t easy. There is the burden of helping young Christian parents be as effective as possible in giving their children strong spiritual foundations and helping them develop to their full godly potential. Then there are parents whom you want to reach who are actually harming their kids in some way out of their naïveté. That all must be balanced with the realization that there are some days or even seasons in parenting that are a true struggle for survival.

On those bad days or during those tough seasons, you don’t want or even need to be reminded of what you aren’t doing. You are already well aware that you will be thankful if you all just survive – forget about thriving or growing through the events. Sadly, there is a subset of parents who are having perfectly normal days who have convinced themselves they are too burdened to Christian parent. I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t counsel you to examine the situation and see if it can’t be improved by making different choices.

If not, I want to encourage you by reminding you that it’s okay to let almost everything slide on those days when everyone is violently ill with a stomach bug or one of your kids is in the hospital for a time. Or those days when it seems like everything important you touch breaks and there’s no money or time to figure it out that day. God knows your situation. He knows your heart. He loves you and your children dearly. He understands you will make mistakes and even sin. He wants to forgive you, if you will only ask.

More importantly, God has put people in your life to help you through these tough times. His people. Christians who want to love and help you. You may not be seeing them in your exhaustion, but they are there. Ask for help. Pray. Listen to godly wisdom. Read the Psalms for comfort and for reassurance that God wants you to pray your emotions to Him.

Your kids are resilient to a point. They love you and most of the time, they know you love them. An apology and a hug go a long way. Taking a break from the stress just to do something that will make you all laugh is good for the mind, body and soul. Praying together can be healing. Your kids want to forgive you. They want to be close to you. They love you – even if they don’t always act like it.

No mom or dad is perfect, but we can all learn and grow. Perfection may not be attainable, but doing our best is within reach. What that “best” looks like may vary from day to day, but we should never be proud of our parenting mistakes. Don’t live a life of making excuses to get out of doing the hard work Christian parenting takes. Laugh at your mistakes if they are silly. Apologize for them if they are serious. But keeping trying to be a more effective, more godly parent. Your kids desperately need you to parent them towards God as many days and in as many ways as possible. You can do it!

8 Fun Service Projects for Preschoolers

Want to serve others and share your faith as a family, but have young children? Many organizations don’t allow preschoolers and toddlers to participate in the service projects they may sponsor. It’s unfortunate, because starting kids serving others when they are young means it is more likely to be natural for them as they grow older.

Thankfully, there are some fun service projects that are just right for preschooler and in some cases, toddlers. Here are a few of our favorites.

  1. Canned food drives. Little hands can safely handle a can of food and place it in a grocery bag to be donated. Of course, the more food your family is donating, the more fun this will be.
  2. Growing food for others. Many who provide food to those who are food insecure don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Little hands are more than able with adult supervision to plant and water seeds and plants and pick produce to share with others.
  3. Making cookies. With adult supervision, preschoolers can begin measuring and adding ingredients and shaping the raw dough into cookies. Decorating them might be a bit much if you want perfection, but those who could benefit from some cookies might also appreciate that children decorated them.
  4. Artwork. Nothing cheers someone like the art of a child. For really young ones, you can take their scribbles or finger painting smears and cut them into the shape of a heart for the recipient.
  5. Goodie bags. Preschoolers can help stuff goodie bags if the items are organized to make it easier for them. Think about goodies to thank servant leaders or community helpers, diaper changing sets for people who ask ministries for help or fun activity bags for pediatric patients or foster children.
  6. Decorate collection bags. Sponsoring a church wide, ministry wide or neighborhood collection of food or clothing? Have little ones decorate paper grocery bags to give possible participants to serve as colorful reminders of the need for donations.
  7. ASL. Many babies learn a few signs before they can speak. Although their motor skills are still developing, preschoolers learn languages quickly. Start teaching them some ASL signs and even a church song or two in ASL.
  8. Cheering at Special Olympics. You don’t even have to sign up in advance. Check your local Special Olympics website for the time and location of their local games. Little ones love to cheer and Special Olympians love to be cheered as they compete.

Don’t wait until your kids are older to have them start serving others. Make it so much a part of their lives that they serve others naturally for their entire lives.