Have you ever tried to lose weight? I don’t know about you, but it’s amazing how many tempting foods there suddenly are when I want to drop a couple of pounds. It’s so easy to give in and have that box of Girl Scout cookies, if I haven’t already planned strategies for helping me avoid it.
You can tell your kids what sins to avoid time after time. Some that don’t appeal to them will be easy for them to avoid. Others will probably tempt them their entire lives. Helping your kids not sin is more complicated than just telling them “Don’t!”. If you don’t teach them effective strategies of what to do when they are tempted, they will probably give in to the temptation on a regular basis.
So what can you teach your kids to help them avoid sinning when tempted? There are probably a lot of things, but here are some of my favorites:
- Decide ahead of time it is a sin they will avoid at all costs. You may think your kids automatically do this when you tell them something is a sin. This is a little different though. This is the realization that a particular sin will be especially tempting to your kids and that they will make an extra effort to avoid it. Doing this will make your children think twice as they start stepping towards those sins. It can help them put the brakes on a situation that is leading them closer to the sin. This strategy seems to be particularly effective for staying sexually pure and avoiding drugs and alcohol (which regardless of your beliefs is illegal for the under 21 crowd and therefore sinful).
- Using prayer and scripture. This is probably most helpful if your kids commit the same sin repeatedly and don’t seem to be making any progress at avoiding the temptations in this area. Help them find scriptures they can memorize and say to themselves over and over when tempted. Teach them to pray about it before they are tempted and in the midst of the temptation. Remind children who have been baptized the Holy Spirit dwells in them and they can tap into that power to help them avoid sinning when tempted.
- Practicing different ways to “Just say no”. Peer pressure can play a huge role in your children’s susceptibility to temptation. A sin which normally may not tempt them at all is suddenly something they must do when pressured by their peers. Help them think of lots of different ways to tell their peers “no”. Make some of them creative and fun. Your kids don’t need to be ugly, but they should feel comfortable being firm in their rejection of the temptation. Giving them prepared lines can prevent them from fumbling around for something clever to say in the moment. That awkwardness can have them agreeing to sin rather than sounding “dumb” in front of peers.
- Give them permission to make you the bad guy. Even the toughest kids are sympathetic about kids receiving consequences from parents. Your kids can use that to their advantage when in situations where they are being pressured to sin. It’s surprising how a heartfelt “My Mom will KILL me if she finds out and she somehow always finds out!” will make a lot of peers remove the pressure on other kids to sin.
- Developing healthy habits. We have all been there at some point. When you are tired, hungry and don’t feel all that great, it is much easier to give into all sorts of temptations and sin. Teach your kids to take great care of their bodies. Another study came out today that teens need at least nine hours of sleep each night and kids need ten to twelve hours. Eating regular meals and snacks that are mainly healthy will keep blood sugar levels even. Exercise will give your kids the energy they need to stand up to temptation. As strange as it sounds, a healthy body will help your kids avoid a lot of sins.
- Realizing there are certain people, places and things they just need to remove from their lives as much as possible. It sounds harsh, but kids and teens aren’t spiritually mature enough to put themselves in the path of temptation on a regular basis and avoid sinning. They are not able yet to spend a lot of time with people who encourage them to sin and convert those people into people who obey God. At their age, they are much more likely to be swept into that sinful lifestyle than to pull someone out of it. They will need to learn if they always sin when they hang out with Johnny, they need to stop hanging out with Johnny. (Not be ugly to Johnny, just don’t spend any more time than necessary with him.) If going to a particular place is their downfall, then they need to avoid going there if possible. This is one of the first things they teach people who are recovering from addictions. It works just as well for other temptations.
- Help them think of fun, creative things to do instead of sinning. Sometimes sinful behavior is a default choice when young people are bored. They are told by the world certain sins are fun things to do when you are bored, stressed or life stinks. Teaching your kids to be creative, will help them avoid these sins. Help them learn how to look for better options of things to do when they are bored, stressed or bummed than opting for the default sins promoted by the world. Ironically, this is one strategy that will often pull other young people away from sinning because they are often tired of those sins being their only options. If your kids have lots of creative ideas at their fingertips, they may very well find instead of sinning, they are leading a group of peers to a fun, temptation- free experience. They will also learn these godly alternatives are much more effective at curing the root problem than the unhealthy, sinful strategies of the world.
Your kids are human and they are going to sin. Teaching them these strategies though, may reduce their sins drastically. Take some time to go beyond telling them something is sinful and help them learn and practice ways to actually avoid it. It’s definitely worth your time and effort!