If you know me very well at all, you know I’m passionate about honesty. I didn’t always feel that way though. As a young child, I evidently went through a stage when I believed lying was the best way to avoid getting into trouble. I don’t really remember the lying or any of the consequences my parents used. What I do remember is what they did that changed my perspective on honesty for the rest of my life.
One day they handed me a Bible. I honestly can’t remember if they gave me a concordance or a list of verses, but the instructions were that I was to read every scripture in the Bible about honesty and lying to see what God thought on the subject. I can’t remember my emotional state after all of those verses, but I clearly remember my conclusion…God hates lies and I would be wise to refrain from telling any more of them.
Some of you may have had a similar experience growing up. Unfortunately, for some kids, using scripture as a parenting tool can backfire. It’s not the scripture that is the issue, of course. It’s the way they are used that can cause problems later.
There are several things you need to remember when you are attempting to use scripture as a parenting tool.
- Knowing and loving God comes first. If your child knows nothing about God….if your family doesn’t put God first…if your child doesn’t love God, scripture won’t help much. Scripture is useful, because we love God and we respect Him. We know He is the author of wisdom and we want to spend eternity with Him. We are unbelievably grateful for Jesus dying on the Cross. That all should lead to a desire to obey God and make Him happy. If your child doesn’t know, love and respect God, that needs to be your primary focus. If that is not the underpinning of your parenting, very little else will go well…at least spiritually speaking.
- Use scripture for encouragement more than correction. Yes, it is meant for both. When you begin using scripture as a parenting tool though, you don’t want to only use it as a way of trying to scare your kids straight. If you do, they may begin to view God as the big meanie in the sky. Rather share scriptures that will strengthen them when they are frightened, soothe them when they are nervous, console them when they are sad, and ones that encourage them to be who God wants them to be. Then, share those scriptures that reinforce correction.
- Choose short, clear verses. When you want to share scriptures with your kids, try to find verses that are relatively short and easy to understand. There is a time and place for those longer passages. For now though, you want something that’s easy to understand and remember.
- Place key verses in strategic places. The bathroom mirror is one of my favorites. Write out a couple of key verses on index cards and tape them to the mirror of the bathroom your children use. They will see those verses several times a day, subtly ingraining them in their minds. Decorative art, computers and refrigerators are other great places to put scripture.
- Use the same verses multiple times. Repetition over time helps move scriptures from short term to long term memory. It’s okay to use more than one scripture for the same topic. The more you use the same scripture though, the more it will become firmly planted in their long term memories.
- Use gist. Studies have shown that people tend to remember the gist of something better than a word for word memory of it. While the exact quote of scripture is key, using the gist of scripture also serves a purpose. The key is making sure you are stating the gist of the scripture properly. Misusing scripture can backfire, so use Bible study tools or ask a minister or Bible class teacher if you need help.
- Point out earthly consequences when they occur. Often kids begin understanding God’s wisdom and the need for heeding it when they see the earthly consequences for obeying or disobeying God. Consequences aren’t always consistent and fair because we live in a fallen world. When they do occur, though, be sure to point out that the consequence that just occurred was one of the reasons God said what He did in scripture. Remember that the positive consequences for obeying God can be more important for some kids to see than the negative ones for disobeying God.
Scripture can be an important Christian parenting tool. Using it well, not only helps in the moment, but also gives your kids scripture in their long term memories that can help them for the rest of their lives.