Encouraging parents in their efforts to raise their children to be enthusiastic servants of the Lord.
Author: Thereasa Winnett
Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.
Have you ever met parents who seemed totally clueless of how their child behaved out in the world? Sadly, it’s more common than you think. Too many parents think their kids are doing just “fine” and have “great” friends when that isn’t even close to their child’s reality. If you already have a great relationship with your kids – the type where they freely tell you anything and everything about their lives – good, bad and ugly – you probably don’t need to worry. On the other hand, if you know very little about your child’s life outside of your home and even less about his or her friends, you may be missing out on crucial information to help you parent more effectively.
For Christian parents, knowing if your child lives differently outside of your home can be crucial as it may reveal serious issues with the heart. Hearts that are beginning to view lying and hiding things as acceptable are generally not headed in a very godly direction. Spying on your kids by invading their privacy is rarely the best choice. There are more honest, fun ways of seeing your kids in their daily environments that give you opportunities to see how they are living while also giving you opportunities to get to know their friends and peers better, too.
Volunteer. You would be surprised how much the “catsup” mom learns about all of the kids in school – her own included! Most schools and extracurricular activities need volunteers to do various tasks. Look for ones that give you opportunities to interact with your children and their peers while volunteering. Instead of talking with other volunteers, observe the kids and interact with them in ways that are considered appropriate. Most kids desperately need someone to listen to them, so you will be ministering to them as well.
Sponsor or lead. Some activities need adults to lead them. This requires a bigger investment of time, but also gives you more long term access and involvement in the activity lives of your kids and their peers. Once again, many parents find this is also a great opportunity to minister to young people who need mentoring.
Host their friends. Whether it’s a play date, sleep over or Friday night pizza and game night, having your kids’ friends in your home is the best way to really get to know them. If you entertain enough, you may even find yourself with a few extra members in your family after a time. It’s important to remember that opening your home and leaving them to their own devices is very different from being accessible and available. You don’t have to hover, but popping in with cookies or a question periodically is a great way to remind them you are available and that you are aware of what is happening.
Treat to ice cream or coffee. Kids and teens love special time with adults. Whether it’s just your child or your kid and a friend, taking them out for ice cream, “coffee” or some other special treat gives you relaxed time to have deeper conversations with them. Sometimes framing questions with “I heard/read kids/teens your age ———-, do you think that is accurate?” can often yield a wealth of insight into their world.
Learn something new together that they choose. This is a great way to learn about your kids’ gifts and passions. If they’ve always wanted to learn how to weave a basket or play the ukulele, taking a class together can be fun. Even if it’s not your gift or passion, it gives you a better understanding of what they love and why they love it.
Taking extra time to join your kids in their worlds is a great way to make sure your kids are doing as well as you hope they are. If you discover issues, it also gives you time to parent them before things get too serious. It’s worth taking some extra time and effort.
Have you ever thought about how many Bible stories involve food? Whether it’s Abigail preparing food to take to David in an attempt to avoid disaster or the Last Supper, food plays a role in numerous Bible stories and scriptures outside of the context of a story.
The dining traditions and even many of the foods in these scriptures may be unknown to your kids. As a result, when they hear or read about those things in the Bible they have little understanding of what is being said. This can confuse them or even convince them the Bible is too hard to read. The good news is you can have fun, teach them some important food related customs and words and improve their Bible reading comprehension at the same time.
The set up for your “Bible” meal can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. If you have older kids or teens, you can have them do some research to help. The basics would involve creating a table space on the floor with fabric or a tabletop flat on the floor (card tables and banquet tables with the legs folded work great for this). Throw pillows on the floor next to the table for you and your kids to lounge against as you eat. People generally ate with their hands from communal serving dishes, but individual plates and bowls did exist and I’m sure were used depending upon the situation.
The menu can be as simple as rustic bread, dates, figs, grapes, olives, fish (some suggest sardines), lamb, quail (ask your butcher), etc. If you want your kids more involved in preparing the foods, try a lentil soup recipe (spoons did exist then!) or making unleavened bread. You can find lists of every food mentioned in the Bible and authentic recipes with a quick search online.
Want to really teach your kids some important lessons? Have a basin of warm water and wash their feet before they sit at your table. Share with them some of the stories from the Bible involving food. Talk about the things that were discussed at the Last Supper. Marvel at the miracles of Jesus feeding the 5000 and then the 4000. (Fun fact. It is believed the 12 baskets of leftovers at the feeding of the 5000 represented the 12 tribes of Israel. The 7 baskets of leftovers at the feeding of the 4000 is thought to have represented all of the Gentiles who were referred to as the 7 nations at the time.)
Have fun with it. There are so many Bible stories involving food, you can do this more than once, changing the menu to match the story. It’s a fun way to teach your kids some important lessons from the Bible while helping them better understand what they are reading in it.
There’s a well known book that was written for educators called, One Thing I Wish My Teacher Knew. The premise is that often teachers could be more effective in educating any particular student if they knew what that “one thing” was. It’s an interesting premise and the author has a valid point. Often adults struggle to reach a young person, not realizing that child or teen holds the answer to the issue.
I believe that same principle can apply to Christian parenting. Often kids know and can easily articulate the issue that they have with the way they are being parented. Their “one thing” may be that they can’t hear what you want them to know when you are yelling at them. Or maybe it’s that they are really tired after school and they can’t handle the deep conversations you always seem to want to have when they first get home. Or maybe their “one thing” is actually a question they have about God that is a stumbling block for their faith.
Your kids’ “one thing” may actually be several things. Each of your kids may have a different “one thing” from their siblings. The problem is that without knowing their “one thing”, you are parenting by trial and error against a wall that has an unknown building material. You may get lucky and guess the “one thing” that is getting in the way of your Christian parenting efforts with your child. Most likely though, you won’t. At least, not without your kids’ help.
Fair warning though. Your kids may not believe you truly want to know their “one thing”. You will have to make them feel safe enough to reveal it to you. If you immediately get angry when you hear it, that will probably be the last time your kids will open up that much to you. And that’s unfortunate, because their “one thing” will probably change over time. You will need to have them share periodically their current “one thing” with you.
You may be thinking, “What if their “one thing” is something outrageous, like wanting to never be corrected?” If that were to happen, ask some follow up questions. Explain that correction is in your job description as a parent, but can they think of a way you can correct them that will be more effective in helping them make crucial changes? Agree to try it their way for a period of time and see if it works better. If not, talk again and come up with a new strategy.
Asking your kids to share their “one thing” with you can be scary. If you can listen calmly to your children’s “one thing” and make needed adjustments, however, you may find your Christian parenting makes great strides in its effectiveness with relative ease.
One of the lists of characteristics God wants Christians to have is often referred to as the Fruit of the Spirit. Within that list is the word kindness. Kindness is also mentioned as part of the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. In fact, the word kindness or some variation of it is mentioned over forty times in the Bible.
In a world where kindness is increasingly rare, when your children are kind, they will stand out from the world – in a good way. God knows that standing out in good ways from our culture can draw people to Him. Additionally, God expects us to reflect His love to others and kindness is a great way to do that. Since kindness is not the norm, however, you will have to be intentional to teach your kids how to be kind. Thankfully, there are some fun things you can do to make kindness a habit they want to keep in their lives.
Here are a few of our favorites.
Secret acts of kindness. Kids – especially young ones – love the idea of doing something in secret. They will love the idea of seeing how many kind things they can do for others without getting caught. These kind acts don’t even have to cost money. Something simple like moving someone’s newspaper from the street to their door in cold weather can make someone’s day. Doing things in secret also reinforces the scripture about not trumpeting your good deeds to everyone. (Matthew 6:3)
Doing the little things. What if your kids held open the door for everyone who was going into or out of a building for a period of time? Or picked up trash in a park (use safety precautions)? What if they offered to wash dirty dishes or stack chairs after an event at church? Or neatened up a messy display in a store? Those things mean extra effort or work for someone. Having a little extra help that is offered without asking is a true act of kindness. It may not seem as fun on the surface, but you can make it fun by telling your kids to notice the reactions they get. Sharing them later can be a lot of fun!
Hosting a manners party for younger kids. Encourage your kids to be creative as they plan the event. Have attendees dress in costumes, provide fun “high tea” type snacks. When your kids teach younger kids manners, they will be reminding themselves of how they should behave and why manners are such an important part of kindness.
A week/month without. A part of kindness is noticing the needs of others and putting them ahead of your own. (Philippians 2:3-4) Challenge your kids to think of things they could go without for a week. Make it fun, but truly challenging. Sometimes, you may want to focus on excess rather than entire deprivation. For example, your kids can’t run around nude all week, but they can limit themselves to four or five articles of clothing rather than their normal twenty totally unique outfits a week. One family limited themselves to eating meals created only from items already in their home! At the end of each week, discuss how much is too much and how your family can better live out those verses in Philippians.
“Adopt” someone who is lonely. You can choose one person as a family or each family member can choose someone different to “adopt”. Discuss ways the person needs kindness in his or her life. You can let the person know who you are as you do these kind things or keep it a secret. Since this is an “adoption” try to be consistent in your kind acts for a long period of time – preferably six months to a year. This can be a lot of fun, but it can also teach your kids that sometimes kindness takes effort and needs to continue for a lifetime – not just done once in awhile.
Have fun with it. The more you do some of these things with your kids, the more likely it is that kindness will become a permanent part of their character.
You’ve been proactive and instead of making the mistake of letting your kids work out conflicts on their own, you’ve actually taught them useful conflict resolution skills. Since it’s easier for your kids to practice using them when they aren’t upset, what are some fun ways to encourage them to practice their skills so they will use them naturally in a real conflict?
Here are some of our favorites.
Mock trials. Whether it’s a person in the Bible or a fairy tale character, mock trials can be a fun way to practice taking turns and stating two sides of an argument clearly and calmly.
Board games. Some games naturally cause more disagreements than others. Look for ones that involve a lot of judgment calls to determine who gets points, etc. When disagreements do occur, make sure to stop play long enough to practice one or more of the conflict resolution skills they are learning.
Debates. While debates are a bit more formal than the average conflict between family members or friends, learning some debate skills can help them practice controlling emotions and making the best points to convince others they are correct. Try fun topics that will engage your kids…perhaps regarding a special interest or passion they share.
Reading or telling stories. The Bible is full of stories of people in conflict. There are also plenty of children’s stories that involve some sort of conflict. As you are reading or telling the story, stop periodically and ask your kids what one of the people should do next to help resolve the conflict. Or have them point out when someone in the story uses poor conflict resolution skills.
Have them teach you. Yes, you were the ones who taught them the skills initially. Call your kids, however, when you and your spouse can’t agree on something. Whether it’s what to have for dinner or what color to paint the den, have them tell you what each of you should do next to avoid getting into an actual argument about it.
Have some fun with it, but give your kids as much practice as possible using their conflict resolution skills. Then when they need them in real life, they will remember them and feel confident using them.
For more information on teaching your kids godly conflict resolution skills, we have a free printable parenting sheet on the topic.