Fun Family Devotional: Stop Playing the Blame Game

“He made me do it!” “It’s not my fault!” “I didn’t have a choice!” Blaming others when bad things happen – especially things that can get one in trouble – is a game that is often learned in childhood. Mind you, it’s not a game that’s taught, like Monopoly, but is learned either by observing others or by accident. If not addressed early, it can become a habit, that when bad enough can cause a separation from God.

The problem with playing the blame game is that it encourages lying and can eventually help the blame shifter develop a victim mindset. It can also lead to blame shifters refusing to repent – because in their minds, no sin is ever their fault. Even if the issue in question is fully the fault of another person, choosing to focus on blaming instead of working to correct the issue can cause the blame shifter to get stuck – never forgiving or moving on. Over time, a victim mindset can leave people stuck in an incident from years past, angry, bitter and any spiritual, emotional or other types of growth hampered because of the amount of time and effort spent ruminating on the past.

So how can you help your children learn to accept responsibility for whatever their part was in a negative situation, while also forgiving those who may have shared the blame (or even been truly totally to blame)? There is a family devotional you can do to launch periodic discussions about blaming others.

Gather your children and tell them the story of King Saul playing the blame game, found in 1 Samuel 13. King Saul wanted to celebrate his army’s victory over the enemy. As part of the celebration, he actually wanted to do something good – thank God with a sacrifice. The Law, however, stated that only a priest like Samuel could actually perform the sacrifice. So Saul waited for Samuel to appear.

Days went by with no sign of Samuel. Finally, King Saul got tired of waiting and did the sacrifice himself. Literally, just as he finished the sacrifice, Samuel finally arrived. Samuel was furious that King Saul had so blatantly broken God’s Law about sacrificing. When he confronted Saul, what did the king do? Blamed everyone else of course!

Now King Saul was not the first, nor the last person to try and blame others for their poor choices or sins. Adam and Eve were the first and people will probably still be trying to blame others for their poor choices until Jesus returns. Notice though how severe the punishment was for Saul’s disobedience. The Kingdom would not be ruled by his family in the future, but by another family. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but one cannot help but wonder if things would have ended differently if King Saul had at least accepted full blame for his sin and repented.

Point out to your children the probable lie in King Saul’s blame game attempt. Saul was king – a king who had successfully led them to victory. Why wouldn’t they wait for Samuel if Saul asked (or told) them to do so? Also note that although it might look like Saul took some responsibility for what happened, notice how it is phrased – “I felt compelled to do so”. Point out that what Saul said is very similar to when we say somebody “made us” do something. Explain that in any situation, we have a choice. We might not like the possible consequences of either option, but there is always a godly option. Even, if like many first century Christians, we find that making the choice to obey God ends up in a bad consequence (prison or death in their case), God still wants us to choose to obey Him.

Explain to your children that the problem with playing the blame game is that we can become so good at it that we don’t even realize we are playing it after awhile. Blaming others for everything bad that happens can become a really bad habit. It can become so bad that we don’t believe we need to be a Christian or repent of our sins, because we are never responsible for making sinful choices.

The first step in breaking the blame game habit is the ability to recognize how easily and often we blame others instead of taking responsibility or working to find solutions. Give each of your children a piece of paper or a little notebook. Explain that for the next week every time they catch someone or themselves trying to blame others instead of taking responsibility for their part of the problem or focusing on blaming someone instead of working to find a solution, they should pay close attention. For each incident, they should record enough information so they can discuss what happened at the end of the week. They can use examples from streaming content, books, newspapers and of course real life. (As the parent, try to capture every example of them or you and your spouse blaming others for something.)

You may want to kick off the exercise by watching a kid’s movie or show that depicts people trying to play the blame game. Help your children identify the incidents as they happen while you watch it together. After it’s finished, discuss any consequences that happened because of characters trying to shift blame (Be sure to point out any unrealistic scenarios that may have also occurred.) This is especially important for younger children who may have a difficult time understanding the concepts you are teaching.

At the end of the week, discuss what everyone observed. Did the exercise make you more aware of how often the blame game is played in our world? Did it make you start to notice how playing the game hurts the blame shifter in the long run? What could people have done differently in some of those situations? How does the blame game relate to God’s commands for us to repent of our sins? Have fun with it, but help them see how blaming others will only hurt them in the long run. (Note: Rare children may overthink this and begin doing the opposite – blaming themselves for things that were not their fault. Work with them to understand the godly balance needed. Taking the blame unnecessarily for others is often not in the other person’s best interest either – as they may need to learn to accept responsibility for their actions, too.)

Fun Family Devotional About Stewardship of Our Lives

When Christians talk about the term stewardship, it is usually in regards to money. Historically, a steward was hired by someone wealthy to help them manage their entire household. The person would be charged with improving the financial holdings through savings and income, but would also be responsible for making sure everything owned was well cared for. For example, if the wealthy man had a vineyard, a manor house and servants, the steward might be in charge of caring for all of those things.

It is crucial your children understand not just the financial aspect of stewardship God expects from His people, but also how to be good stewards over their entire lives. There is a fun ongoing devotional you can do as a family to get everyone in the habit of thinking about being good stewards over everything God has given you to steward.

Call your children together and tell or read them the parable of the minas found in Luke 19:11-27. It is a variation of the more familiar parable of the talents. It’s a little bit edgier, because it also covers those who reject Jesus entirely and their fate. I suggested this particular parable, as it is one most children never hear, but you can also do the other one if you prefer.

Explain to your children the concept of a steward. Tell them that although we may no longer refer to people as stewards, wealthy people and companies have people they hire to manage their assets. These people, just like in the parable, are held accountable for how well they do their job.

Read 1 Corinthians 4:2. Ask your children to list some of the things God has given them stewardship over. Younger children will struggle and may not be able to name anything. Some children will mention money after hearing the parable – especially if they get an allowance or earn money in some way. Rephrase the question a couple of times to see if they can think more deeply about the idea and generate a few more ideas. (What do you think God wants you to take good care of? If God came back today, what might He ask you about, like the master in the parable asked his servants?)

Help them understand stewardship goes beyond just money. God wants them to be good stewards of their health, their time, their influence, their possessions, nature, etc. As you think of new areas, write them on a sheet of paper that you can keep posted on the refrigerator or another place where everyone will see it regularly.

Ask your children to pick one area from the list you made or write each category on a slip of paper. Fold the papers and place them in a bowl, then have either someone choose a paper for the entire group or each person choose a different category.

Regardless of how you choose categories, the challenge is the same. Over the course of the next week you are to figure out what it might mean to be a good steward of that area and make efforts to improve stewardship. For younger children, you may want to discuss what it means to be a good steward in that area and together plan specific things you each want to work on that week to become better stewards in that area. Each person may have different goals depending upon the topic. For example, if the area chosen was being a better steward of my health – one person might decide to exercise more minutes a day while another decides to cut out sugary snacks.

Older children and teens might want a bit less guidance up front and more ability to explore the topic before discussing it as a family. Encourage them to do some research and think about how each of you can become better stewards in that area. Because this may mean breaking bad habits or starting new ones, this may also be a great time to talk about goals and habits.

Have fun with it, but regularly rotate areas to explore what it means to be a good steward in that aspect of life. Look at Luke 12:48 together. What does it mean ”to whom much is given, much will be required”? This topic especially needs to be explored in areas where your family or your children are particularly blessed. It can be easy to coast and give the bare minimum when there is plenty to give. A million dollar gift from a wealthy person may be less than 1% of their wealth, while a million dollar gift from someone poor would be more than they might earn in an entire lifetime. How might this also apply if your children are gifted intellectually or with various talents?

Christians are stewards of more than just money. Teach your children how to be good stewards of their lives and they may just help turn the world upside down in a good way!

5 Spiritual Benefits Your Kids Will Get From a Good Night’s Sleep

Did you know your kids are probably mildly to moderately sleep deprived? Most parents don’t know that children should get 10-12 hours of sleep a night – especially during the teen years. Most children are lucky to get eight hours of sleep and many teens are trying to get by on even less.

You are probably aware that sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, making it easier for your children to get sick. You may also know a lack of sleep impacts their ability to learn and remember things needed during the school day. If your kids do get enough sleep, it is likely because you figured out they are better behaved when well rested! Did you know, however, that sleep deprivation can also impact their spiritual well being?

That’s right. Even with the best of intentions, your kids will struggle in multiple spiritual areas if they don’t get enough sleep. Here are five of the most common spiritual areas most negatively impacted.

  • Self control/impulse control. Obedience to you, teachers, coaches and God depends in great part on self control. Can your children deny themselves something they want or want to do when it violates God’s commands? It is much more difficult to have self control when they are exhausted. They are more likely to act on impulse rather than making well thought out godly decisions.
  • Generosity. A recent study of non-profit giving found that people are less generous when they are tired. Children often have a naturally generous spirit, but when they are tired, it can easily be replaced with a more selfish attitude.
  • Kindness. Everyone is more likely to snap at others when they are tired. In fact, the generosity study above postulated that the lack of generosity was linked to the crankiness associated with not getting enough sleep. Godly people are consistently kind to others. Kindness can be difficult for children and teens in a world where teasing and bullying are not uncommon. Your children will find it easier to be kind when they are well rested.
  • Patience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, meaning it isn’t a natural human trait. You know yourself how impatient you become when tired. Your children will struggle as well – perhaps even more so to be patient when exhausted.
  • Perseverance. Living the successful Christian life requires a lot of perseverance. Even on good days, it can be tempting to give up trying to be who God wants us to be. When your children are sleep deprived, they are even more likely to give up on trying to be godly.

Your children will fight spending more time sleeping at night. You will probably need to remove all distractions from their bedrooms. They may not admit that after a few weeks of more sleep, life seems a little bit easier and better. But it will be. In fact, you are probably sleep deprived, too. Getting more sleep might just be what everyone in your family needs.

Fun Family Devotional on God’s Viewpoint

Children, and even some teens, only pay attention to what they can easily see with their eyes. This can cause misunderstandings, poor choices and other negative consequences. There is a fun devotional you can do with your kids to encourage them to look below the surface and try to see things the way God sees them.

To prepare for this devotional, you may want to go to your local library and check out books on optical illusions. Or you can find lots of optical illusions online. (Here’s a link to one site You may also want to provide your kids with plain paper and pens.

Start by reading or telling the story of Balaam and the donkey found in Numbers 22. Point out that Balaam couldn’t see what was right in front of him. His donkey could see the danger and was trying to protect him. Balaam would have been killed if he had succeeded in making the donkey continue to move forward. When Balaam could finally see what the donkey saw, it changed his attitude and behaviors. Ask your children why seeing what the donkey saw changed Balaam so much and so quickly.

Point out that sometimes in life we are like Balaam. We can’t see the things that could hurt us. We are only thinking of what we want instead of the possible negative consequences of those desires. In order to be wise, we need to look beyond the obvious and try to see the world as God sees it. Only with that full picture can we make consistently wise choices.

Ask your children to give examples of when something may look good on the surface, but if we don’t look deeper, we will miss the problems in taking that route. For example, if their teacher gives them a pop quiz and they haven’t studied, it may on the surface seem like a good idea to copy someone else’s answers. But if they pause and view the situation from God’s viewpoint, they will realize that while their grade may be higher, they are in essence lying and stealing by cheating. The consequences of those sins are much worse than a bad grade on a quiz. See how many other examples they can generate.

For a fun wrap up, show them some of the optical illusions you found. Point out how looking at them from different perspectives makes them notice different things. They can use the paper and pens to create their own optical illusions. This site gives them instructions for drawing one type of illusion.

After your devotional, periodically remind your kids to look at situations more carefully when you can tell they are only looking at the situation on a surface level. Teaching them this skill and encouraging them to use it consistently can make it easier for them to avoid negative consequences because of poor choices.

Breaking Down Communication Barriers With Your Kids

When I teach parenting classes, there is always at least one parent who mentions trouble communicating with their children. There are a lot of different reasons why communication barriers are metaphorically built between parent and child. These issues need to be addressed at some point, but there are things you can do to start lowering those walls before they become almost insurmountable.

Fair warning, if you have problems communicating, this will take a lot of time and effort on your part. You will have to be patient, persistent and change some bad habits. You may have to spend a lot of time in scripture and prayer to handle your conversations in the ways God would want. If you want your children to be faithful, productive Christians as adults, however, you absolutely must do this difficult work. If not, it may be very difficult for them to grow up to be who God wants them to be.

You may already be doing some of these things and just need to add the others. These are not necessarily sequential, although an effort was made to address them in a somewhat logical manner.

  • Ask your child what he or she believes is the reason the two of you have difficulties communicating. Emphasize that you want your child to be honest, but respectfully so. In other words, describe the issues without calling names, etc. At this point, listen and take notes if necessary. Do not respond – especially if you feel defensive or angry. Ask for time to consider what was said and to pray about it. Thank your child for being honest with you – even if you feel like crying or getting angry.
  • Apologize and state what you will change to improve communication in the future. Chances are your child will need to make some changes, too. Right now though, your child needs to know he or she was heard and you are willing to do your part. Those things you don’t agree with in your child’s assessment, for now just seek to understand. “Can you help me understand” is a great way to start. Sometimes you might agree if a better explanation is given or you may understand how to give a better reply. Once again, becoming defensive or angry at this point will shut down the process. If you believe your child is being unrealistic or excessively harsh about a point, merely state that you would like to revisit that particular point at a later date.
  • Explain to your child that you will both need to put in some effort to improve communication between you, but you want to start with easy conversations. Ask your child whether he or she would prefer these first conversations to be written or verbal. Set aside a special time for these regular talks or agree to switch the same blank journal with questions and answers back and forth at specific times. Try not to go more than a few days between attempts. You are working to establish better habits, so every day is ideal.
  • Find questions that will help you get to know each other, reveal new things about each of you, but are basically non- threatening. You can find lists of potential questions online. They can be silly or serious, secular or spiritual, but in general should make you feel closer by knowing each other’s answers.
  • Don’t be afraid to share what life was like for you at their age – but honestly. This is not a time to brag about all the laws you broke, nor is it the time to make yourself look perfect. Share some of those silly, somewhat embarrassing moments that happen to all of us when we are growing up. Rather than losing respect for you, they will begin to know and love you as a real person.
  • Spend time together doing activities, like hiking, that make talking easier. You don’t have to pepper your child with questions… just let the conversation flow.
  • Listen actively and respond thoughtfully. You cannot allow anything to distract you from what your child is saying, or you will have to begin the entire process again. The next time will be even more difficult. Think before responding to anything your child says or asks. This is not the time for flip, poorly thought out comments.
  • When your child begins to open up and share with you, do not over react. This is a critical point in the process. Your child is beginning to trust you again, but if you over react, the communication may cease and be even more difficult to begin again. If the issue does need to be addressed or corrected, ask for time to think and pray before responding.
  • Be respectful of one another when speaking to each other. This means no yelling, name calling, cursing. It also means avoiding “you are” statements and words like “always” and “never”.
  • Ask your child for the “hot button” words and phrases you use and stop using them. We all tend to say the same things when angry. For those living with us, those little catch phrases can just add to the annoyance. Make the effort to change your words and there is one less thing to make a conversation even more stressful.
  • Avoid power struggles – even verbal ones. These are your child’s attempts to make you a peer instead of a parent. The key is staying as calm as possible and refusing to play the game. At times it may mean taking a break from the conversation for both of you to calm down and talking again later.
  • In severe cases, you may need a mediator or a professional counselor to help you. If you keep trying the things above and things aren’t at least slowly improving, you may need professional help. Don’t give up, get help.

Communication between you and your children is essential to Christian parent well. When it breaks down, you must be the one who initiates the effort to improve it. If not, you may one day find you and your children are strangers.