Fun Ongoing Activity to Help Your Kids Grow Character

Naaman is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. You see, Naaman was a wealthy, powerful man in his world. There was only one problem. He had contracted leprosy, which meant being ostracized from society. His wife’s servant had heard of the prophet Elisha’s ability to do miracles. Fast forward and Naaman is told by Elisha that to be healed he merely needs to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Simple, right?

Naaman was…. appalled! The Jordan River was not a mighty, beautiful river. It couldn’t possibly be the answer. The problem is that too many of us are like Naaman. The simple solution seems too plain… too dirty. Why do that when we can wash in fancier or more expensive water? Yet, those fancy things wouldn’t cure Naaman. Only obeying God and washing in the muddy Jordan would heal him.

Christian parenting can be like that. We want to be able to spend money or do something fancy to ensure our kids will grow up to be strong, faithful, productive Christians. Unfortunately, there is no magic, fancy, pretty solution. Christian parenting is successful when parents do those simple every day things with their children – like family devotionals, prayer and regular worship attendance. It comes from consistent serving of others and sharing your faith.

And it comes from the daily shaping of their character and hearts. Want a simple ongoing, fun activity that can help shape your children’s character? It’s not fancy. Or expensive. It won’t work immediately. You will have to do it with your kids – at least at first. Over time though, it can help your children develop perseverance, patience, a strong work ethic, problem solving abilities and much more.

So what is one of the Jordan Rivers of Christian parenting? Jigsaw puzzles! Yes, jigsaw puzzles. Find a card table you can leave up all of the time and start a jigsaw puzzle. If you sit and work on it for a time, your kids will likely join you (assuming you enforce device free time in your home). Have fun with it. The puzzles should be challenging, but not too frustrating – especially if they have never done one before. Be excited by the idea of finishing it and they will catch your excitement. As time goes on and the puzzles get harder and take longer to solve, you may just find they are improving their character as well.

Helping Your Kids Make New Year’s Resolutions All Year

Our holiday celebrations have done us a disservice. We have unknowingly come to believe that decisions to change are best made on New Year’s Day. Which is fine if it’s only a couple of days away, but not so great if it is another 364 days from now.

Your children need to believe they can initiate needed changes – especially with God’s help – at any point in time. In fact, that is one of the huge beliefs underpinning Christianity – that we can change and make godly choices, becoming who God wants us to be. Don’t let a little thing like New Year’s undermine your children’s ability to repent and change course whenever it is needed.

You can lead by example – announcing a change you want to make at some random time and asking them to encourage you and hold you accountable. You can also create little random times of setting goals for positive change. A mom I know said that they would each write down something in their lives they wanted to get rid of (like a bad habit) and throw the piece of paper into the fire to symbolize the change they were working towards. You could have a “Goal of the Month” for the family or each person. Create space on birthdays, holidays, family vacations and at other times when a little reflection and goal setting would add to the experience.

While hopefully some of the goals will be spiritual, it’s okay to have some fun goals too. There’s nothing wrong with everybody saving money together so you can go on a special vacation. Or finally climbing that nearby mountain together. Your kids will still learn something from the process of how to set and achieve goals in life that can translate to spiritual goals as well.

Don’t believe the cultural hype that goal setting is for stressed out perfectionists. God has always asked His people to continue to grow spiritually and that’s a lot easier to accomplish if your kids learn how to set and reach spiritual goals.

Fun Way to Help Your Kids Communicate Better

James was right. Most of us could benefit from being quick to listen and slow to speak. If you think about it, many of the problems we encounter are due (at least in part) to poor communication. Either someone isn’t listening well or someone is unable to clearly communicate their ideas. As a result, frustration increases and conflicts begin. Remember, the frustration with poor communication was so strong at the Tower of Babel that the people scattered all over the earth!

There’s a fun activity you can do with your kids to help them work on their communication skills. You will need plain sheets of paper and pencils, crayons, markers, etc.

Call your kids together and ask them to think of times in the Bible when there were problems with communication. They may mention the Tower of Babel, Balaam’s talking donkey or one of the times Peter spoke too quickly. Read them James 1:19. Explain that it takes a lot of practice to be a good listener and an effective communicator. Good communication is about the words used, but also tone of voice, attitude, body language and more.

Give everyone a sheet of paper and crayons, pencils or markers. Choose one person to be “It”. That person shields his or her paper from view and begins creating a simple drawing. Using only words that describe the lines to be drawn and each new line or shape’s position in relation to previously drawn lines or the paper itself (as opposed to “draw a house with two windows”), “It” should describe the lines and shapes to be drawn as he or she is drawing. When the picture is complete, have everyone share their finished drawings. Who came closest to matching the original? What made it more difficult or easier at times? How can the next person communicate more clearly or the others listen better to get better results?

Regularly make time to work on listening skills with your children. Remind them to give equal talking time to others in a conversation (This is more difficult for extroverts.) Teach them how to both listen and speak with empathy. Strong communication skills will make living the Christian life easier for them.

Are You Raising Virtuous Children?

A large part of living the Christian life is having godly character traits. The New Testament has several lists of traits that God wants your children to have as well as some God does not want them to exhibit. There is one trait listed that is a word I doubt many of us use regularly or for which we could give a solid definition – virtue. 2 Peter 1:5a reads, “supplement your faith with virtue”. What is virtue and how can we instill it in our children?

Looking at the dictionary definition of virtue/virtuous helps, but still doesn’t make it crystal clear from a parenting standpoint. Webster defines virtue as “moral excellence, value, merit, worth, integrity of character, purity of soul, performance of duty, energy, strength, temperance (self control), service/charity and chastity”. That’s a lot to unpack! It’s almost as if Peter were trying to package every character trait mentioned in the New Testament into one word – virtue.

Although he is in theory promoting stoicism (true stoicism has some aspects in common with Christianity – mainly valuing some similar character traits), author Ryan Holiday in his book, Discipline is Destiny, does a great job in breaking the idea of virtue into an organized list of character traits. He believes virtue is composed of character traits that fall into one of four categories that are consistent in many religions – courage/fortitude (we would probably say perseverance)/sacrifice, self control/moderation/balance, justice/service/fellowship/goodness/kindness and wisdom/knowledge/truth/peace. Notice that the words in each category aren’t necessarily synonyms, but paint a clearer picture of that particular category of virtue. (Note: It’s important to remember that anyone can stumble across one or more of God’s Truths without believing in or obeying God. This inclusion of some Truth does not mean their religion or philosophy is Truth as a whole.)

The problem is that the world around us no longer values virtue. It sees many, if not most, of these traits as archaic, stifling and oppressive. Yet the opposite is true. Living a life of virtue as a Christian ultimately means not only obeying God’s commands but also shaping our character to be more like His image. It may not always be fun, but it provides the richest, most fulfilling – and I would argue – most joyful life possible in this fallen world.

Your children aren’t born virtuous, nor will they become it over night. Becoming virtuous requires hard work and can only be truly reached with the help of God. Those who don’t value virtue will try to convince your children that the process is perfectionism at its worst and will ultimately destroy them. Or that it will take all of the fun out of life. Or that by striving to be virtuous, thy are attempting to earn their way into Heaven (Sadly, those who call themselves Christians can at times discourage others from living a virtuous life). As your children get older, pursuing godly Christian virtue may cost them friends and romantic relationships. They won’t make it if you don’t instill in them an almost stubborn desire to become who God created them to be – His virtuous servant.

Should you be raising virtuous children? Absolutely! The world will be a better place if you succeed.

Can Your Kids Benefit From Sick Days?

To me, one of the very worst parts of parenting was when my kid was sick. I hated to see her suffering and there’s often very little you can do other than try to minimize symptoms until they fight off the virus. Those first couple of days are rough, but what about the day or two when they aren’t quite well, but are feeling much better?

Do you rush them back to school and activities so you can get back to work or get them out of the house? A few of you don’t have a choice, but for those who can work from home or already stay at home, why rush your child back when he or she is probably still contagious? Instead, give the ailing child a little extra TLC and attention. Snuggle up and read a book or watch a movie (yup movies on sick days are not going to ruin them for life)? Sit by the fire and let them talk about anything and everything while they drink some warm tea. Lay down with them when they take a nap (because you’re probably sleep deprived too and have already been exposed to their germs).

While we are thinking about giving our kids more time and attention, why not think of times when they are healthy that you can spend some one on one time with them, listening, supporting, nurturing, teaching, coaching, encouraging, loving? Maybe everyone in your family needs to cut out one activity, so you all have more time together for family dinners and board game nights. The children in the Netherlands are supposedly the happiest kids in the world, and most attribute it to the fact that families eat breakfast and dinner together at the table, every day – regardless. It gives the kids plenty of time to get focused attention from their parents each day and parents an opportunity to catch up with their kids and talk about what they hope is truly important to their children – like being a faithful, productive Christian as an adult.

Make this year a retro year for your family. Bring back spending time together enjoying each other – not in the car running from activity to activity. You might be surprised how much happier and better your kids are.