Fun Ways to Have a Grateful Family All Year

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. If your family is like most, gratitude is one of the themes for the day…at least during the prayer for the meal. In the U.S. Thanksgiving is quickly followed by a season that is characterized more by greed than gratitude. Once your kids are in that mindset, it can be tough to remind them to be grateful.

There are some fun activities you can do all year that can remind your kids to be grateful daily and not just on Thanksgiving. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Grab a large clear container (preferably unbreakable). Place it somewhere where everyone will see it at least a couple of times a day. Beside it, place slips of paper and a pen. If you have pre-writers, you may want to make the slips of paper a bit larger and place markers or crayons next to it. Encourage everyone in your family to write or draw something to be thankful for at least once a day and place it in the jar. To get everyone in the habit, for the first couple of weeks you might want to have a time each evening when you share a Bible verse and each add your entry for the day. Then periodically have a blessings time. Pull out all of the slips and read what people wrote or drew. Then have a prayer of thanksgiving.
  • Throughout history there are stories of people whose lives were saved or changed forever by an ear of corn, a crust of bread or an encouraging word. Periodically pop some popcorn or bake some bread. As you are enjoying the treat, take turns sharing the ways people have blessed you by helping or encouraging you in some way. Make the time even more special by writing a note or making a thank you treat for some of the people you mention.
  • Draw a five by five grid on a piece of paper. Each square should be large enough to write or draw something in it. You will need at least one copy for each person playing the game. Usually, kids love this game, so be prepared to make more grids! Make a set of slips of paper, each having a letter of the alphabet on it. If you have young children, you may want to leave out letters like “q”, “x” and “a”. On another set of slips of paper write categories of items for which you can be grateful like food, clothing, places, etc. If you have older children, you can make it more challenging by adding categories like books of the Bible, people in the Bible, adventures, books, etc. Start by pulling five letter slips. Everyone should write one letter beside each square going down the left side of the grid. Then pull five category slips. They should each go above a square across the top of the grid. When you say “go”, everyone starts completing the grid as quickly as possible. So if the first letter were “c” and the category, “food”, someone might write “cucumber” in the square where the two intersect. Set a time limit…slower for the first round, then shorter as you need to make it more difficult. Have everyone add up their answers and check the answers of the winner. Encourage trying to improve each person’s individual score more than focusing on who had the most correct answers each time.

Doing fun things to encourage gratitude all year, should lessen greed and entitlement as it increases gratitude. It’s a great way to spend regular family time together.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #24

Well, just when many of you were getting used to a school routine, some systems are changing again! With all of this constant change, you may be feeling the stress. Or you may not have given much thought to your Christian parenting journey because of the constant chaos. Here are this week’s social media challenges to encourage and inspire you.

Monday: Some are leaving social media because it has become toxic for them. You can read our Christian parenting blog posts and social media challenges by going to the Parenting Like Hannah website and signing up for the newsletter. You will receive three emails a week. Just be sure to open them (even if you don’t have time to read) so they don’t go in your spam folder. We do not sell or share your name with anyone. That’s www.parentinglikehannah.com.

Tuesday: These towers in Ireland were built to protect monks and their valuables, like the Bible, from Vikings. As they approached, the monks would climb a ladder and enter in that opening half way up. Then they pulled the ladder in after them. There was no ground floor access and the tower protected them. Did you know protecting your kids from evil is not only something God wants you to do, but secular science backs the need as well? The evils in the world cause stress in children when they aren’t protected from them. They can change their brain structure, have a lifetime impact on their health and in some cases even modify their DNA in negative ways…impacting their descendants. Sadly, many will mock you for protecting your kids. You can be over protective and totally shield your child from life, but that is so rare you probably will never cross that line. Protect your kids from evil. Your kids need you to be that protective tower for them.

Wednesday: Some kids seem to be born with a sunny disposition. Others…not so much. Yet God calls all of us to be grateful and to go about life without grumbling and complaining. This year has challenged even the optimists of the world. You and your kids may have developed bad habits. There’s still time to turn your family into one that is grateful, complaint free and hope filled. Find creative ways to challenge each other to break bad habits. Our recent post about a gratitude challenge with a twist could help. End this year on a positive note by filling your home with positive, godly attitudes.

Thursday: Since God created everything, it only makes sense that to reflect His image, we would be creative. Encouraging your kids’ creativity also gives them godly ways to express themselves and work off stress and anxiety. Art isn’t the only way for your kids to express their creativity. They may prefer cooking, building things, writing or dozens of other ways to express creativity. Help them find the ways God made each of them to be creative. Take it one step more. Can you help them find ways to use that creativity to serve others and share their faith? This process is one of the fun parts of parenting that can also help your kids find their role in the Kingdom, so make the time to help your kids tap into their creativity.

Friday: This sign makes sense to the people who live here, but we had to guess at the meaning. Life is like that for your kids. A lot of what you think is common knowledge or common sense is actually information you have learned over the years. You can improve your kids common sense by actually teaching them about the world and how it works. Then they don’t have to learn the slow painful way of trial and error. The same principles work for teaching them how to live the Christian life. The more time you take teaching them what God wants, the fewer unnecessary mistakes they will make.

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.

Holiday Activities That Get Your Kids Talking

In order for you to be successful in your Christian parenting journey, it helps if you and your kids have a solid relationship. This means, amongst other things, that you actively listen to what your kids need or want to tell you. Regularly giving them that time, energy and respect often means they will be more likely to listen to you when you have something important to share with them.

Unfortunately, many parents struggle with getting their kids to talk to them. At times you may feel as if the only word in your child’s vocabulary is “fine”. You’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to get the conversation flowing.

Fortunately, the holidays provide the opportunity to do a lot of things with your kids. Some of these activities encourage conversation as you complete them. Think of your reluctant talker as a little bird you want to eat out of your hand. What do you do? You don’t pepper it with a lot of questions and noise. Rather you sit there quietly waiting for the bird to feel safe, relax and move towards you.

Your children will probably respond in a similar fashion. Ask them to participate in one of the activities below. These are things that allow you to talk easily while completing them. They also last long enough to give your child time to relax and begin opening up a bit. There are a lot of things you can do, but these are some of our favorites.

  • Cooking. Whether it’s a meal or holiday cookies, cooking takes time. Plus you have even more opportunities to talk when it’s done as you enjoy eating it!
  • Crafting. Need some Christmas decorations? Why not get some supplies or a kit and work together to make them?
  • Decoration walks. Be safe, but take an evening stroll through your neighborhood to look at all of the holiday decorations. The longer the walk, the more time you will have to talk.
  • Wrapping presents. If you have a lot of gifts to wrap, have your kids help you wrap the ones that aren’t for them. There’s always something upbeat about wrapping gifts, even if they don’t look like they belong in a magazine spread when you’re finished.
  • Decorating the tree. If your ornaments are from family adventures, this has the added benefit of sharing fun memories as you decorate. Those warm feelings can encourage your reluctant talker to open up about some current things.
  • Planning surprises. What if you asked your reluctant talker to help you plan and execute a special surprise for the rest of the family? Working together on a fun secret project can make your child feel closer to you and encourage talking about other things, too.

When your children start talking, don’t interrupt. Let them talk and talk if they want to do so. There may be a lot of surface stuff that is shared before they tell you deeper things. Don’t overreact to what is said. Listen actively. Ask thoughtful questions. Choose wisely when and how to share any thoughts you may have on the topic. If initial conversations go well, you will hopefully find you have even more conversations with your kids in the future. And that can give you the opportunities you want to give your kids the spiritual coaching they need.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #23

I don’t know about you, but I’ve entered my holiday “bubble” – beginning preparations for the next couple of months of modified family fun. It’s a lot more fun and rewarding than watching the news! Here are the social media challenges for this week.

Monday: Athens, Greece is where Paul preached his sermon to the Greeks about a god they did not know, who is the only true God. How well do your kids know God? Do they know any more of His character, power, expectations than those Greeks did before Paul taught them? Just like the parents of Israel in the Bible, it is your responsibility to help your kids to really know and understand God. It is your top priority. The church is there to help you, but it is impossible for them to take your place. Studies show your kids need you talking and teaching them about God multiple hours a week – not all formally…but praying, encouraging independent Bible reading and prayer, family Bible study, church attendance, conversations, serving others, sharing your faith and more. Is it hard? Yes, for many of you it may feel like the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. Will you do it perfectly? No, some days will definitely be better than others. But it will have been the most rewarding experience of your life on earth, when not just your kids, but all of your descendants are spending eternity with you in Heaven.

Tuesday: If things are well built, they can withstand all sorts of stressors for hundreds of years. If you can help your kids build a strong spiritual foundation, it will be easier for them to stay faithful to God for the rest of their lives. Better yet, they will have the tools to help their own children build strong faith foundations. What better legacy to leave your descendants than a spiritual one?

Wednesday: One of the unexpected benefits of COVID more experienced parents and researchers noticed was that it was giving kids and teens more crucial, meaningful time with their parents. As routines start to return to normal and the holidays approach, your kids still need a lot of quality time with you. Make needed adjustments in all of your schedules to make that happen. Your kids need the same amount of time of spiritual life coaching from you that an Olympic athlete needs in a sport from his or her coach. Making that time to coach your kids to be who God wants them to be can make an eternal difference in their lives.

Thursday: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11. Discipline isn’t fun for parents or kids. We all want to avoid it, but our world today reflects generations of children who weren’t corrected and create anything but the peaceful fruit of righteousness around them. Your kids and the world need you to do the hard stuff. Doing the hard stuff of disciplining when they are little usually makes the teen and adult years so much better for everyone. Help your kids learn how to yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness the world so desperately needs.

Friday: Mr Rogers once said that one of the universal fears of children is not having value in the eyes of their parents. Do you tell your kids you love them multiple times each day? That’s great, but children measure their value in your eyes in other ways, too. Do your eyes light up when you see them? Do you obviously enjoy spending time with them…especially doing things that are important to them? Do they overhear you talking about them in positive ways? Do you still hug them with the same enthusiasm you did when they were little? Whether you realize it or not, your love for your kids models what they will assume God’s love for them is like. If you are distant, they may assume God’s love is distant, too. Make sure you reflect God’s love for us accurately by loving your kids the way He does.