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. Their daughter Katrina, who has been an integral part of their service adventures, attends Pepperdine University.
There are a lot of different ways to help your kids develop godly character traits. Board games are a fun way to work with your kids on some specific character traits with which many children struggle. It’s important to remember though, whether you use board games or some other method, you want your kids to have godly hearts…not just godly actions.
As you play board games, you want to watch for the behaviors your kids display, for they often reveal a part of their heart. Remember though, that some kids have become very savvy. They know how to appear to be the most virtuous player ever…while also cheating or doing other ungodly things in secret.
In addition to behaviors, watch for the attitudes your kids are displaying. Are they revealing a godly heart or one that is still struggling with selfishness and other spiritual problems?
As you notice concerning behaviors and attitudes, you will have a decision to make. Some things need to be corrected in the moment. Other issues, particularly heart issues, you may choose to address in a heart to heart conversation at a later time. You will need to understand your kids’ personalities to know which methods will most likely result in their spiritual growth.
So what are some of the character traits you can work on with your kids while playing board games? Here’s a partial list. Bear in mind, that some games won’t help with certain character traits. Thinking about the possible game play in each game, however, should alert you to the traits for which that game may provide practice.
So pull out all of those old board games and have a family game night. Your kids may learn how to be more godly without even realizing it!
Your kids are probably homeschooling now, regardless of their regular school situation. Contact with others outside your home is strongly discouraged. In most places though, we are still allowed to walk in our neighborhoods and do things in our yards as long as we don’t come close to others.
Your kids can use this time to reflect God’s love to your neighbors. There are quite a few things they can do to serve and encourage the people nearby. Encourage them to be creative, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Chalk sidewalk art. Send a neighborhood email and offer for your kids to decorate the sidewalk near their mailbox or their driveway with colorful chalk drawings. Remind neighbors to stay inside while your children work. If you have public sidewalks in your neighborhood, most localities allow chalk drawings which will wash away in the next rain. Encourage your kids to come up with cheerful designs that point people to God in some way.
Mailbox art. Have your kids make works of art and tape them to the mailboxes of neighbors. Once again, encourage the use of cheerful colors and finding ways to incorporate scripture or point people to God in some way.
Encourage a neighborhood cheer project for the kids in your neighborhood. Have your kids make fliers and distribute them in your neighborhood. Encourage neighbors to put a specific type of object like a stuffed animal or a drawing of a giant Easter egg in the window of their home where it can be seen by children taking walks with their families. Encourage the families with small children to go on a “treasure hunt” to see how many of the chosen objects they can see in the windows of homes while they are walking with their parents.
Design work out stations. Have your kids design a special workout families can do at certain spots on their family walk in your neighborhood. Space the ideas far enough apart and make them quick enough so families don’t risk exposure to the germs of others. For example, draw a hopscotch board with chalk on a corner sidewalk and tell families to hop rather than walk that distance. Or at a certain landmark, jump up and down ten times. Be creative and distribute the ideas to everyone in your neighborhood digitally or otherwise.
Share Spring. If you have flowers or shrubs blooming in your yard, share them with those in your neighborhood who can’t get out at all. Have your kids decorate containers to put the flowers in with a little water. Then put them on a doorstep of a neighbor, ring the bell and run far enough away to not spread germs when your neighbor opens the door.
Offer weekly check in calls. Have neighbors sign up to receive a weekly video call from your family. Encourage your kids to come up with stories to tell, a song to sing or other things to fill the time after making sure the neighbor is fine.
There are so many ways your kids can use this time to be creative in the ways they serve others and share their faith without endangering themselves or others. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids how God wants them to live their lives.
You probably have some basic supplies at home your kids can use to create crafts that will help them develop habits to encourage their spiritual growth. If you don’t have the materials listed, get creative and use what you have on hand.
Paper bags can substitute for regular paper. You can make natural dyes to substitute for paint using things like onion skins, hot water and vinegar (Just make the consistency much thicker than you might use to dye eggs.) Paint brushes can be made from attaching a pencil with a rubber band to things like a piece of sponge. Encourage your kids to look around and use their natural creativity.
Here are three great crafts to get your kids in the habit of doing things that will help them grow spiritually.
Prayer container. You can use any container, making sure there are no sharp edges or it’s unbreakable for younger children. Have them decorate the container by covering it in any decorative materials you have or let them get creative and use unusual items to decorate it. Then have them cut slips of paper that they can also decorate on one side. On each slip, have them write the name of someone they know. Place the slips of paper in the container. Encourage them to pray independently at one or more set times each day. Before they begin praying, they can draw some names to mention specially in their prayer. The activity can be adapted to include slips of paper with topics they can pray about if they are struggling with what to say to God. Have them place the completed prayer jar where they can see it and be reminded to pray.
Gratitude journal. Take a blank notebook or some card stock to create a cover and paper for the pages. Encourage them to decorate the cover with images of things for which they are grateful. On each inside page, they may choose to add a verse of scripture about being thankful and a border or small design. Encourage them to take a few minutes before bed each day and write down or draw three things for which they are especially grateful that day. Have them thank God specifically for those things in their evening prayer. They may want to place the completed journal next to their prayer container so they will remember to use it each day.
Bible bookmark. You can use a piece of card stock or the cardboard that often comes with clothing. Cut it to the size of a large bookmark. If you have crayons, have your child color various parts of the bookmark in different colors. Make sure they bare down, so the colors are vibrant. Once every part of the bookmark is randomly covered in color, have them color over the entire thing with a black crayon. The layer needs to be thick enough for a design to be etched in it. Encourage your kids to etch a design using a stylus, the handle of a spoon, a paper clip or something similar. Have them create a design that reminds them of God. They can “polish” the design using waxed paper or a plastic bag. You may want to cover the bookmark with clear tape (not cloudy) to protect it and the Bible. If you don’t have crayons, they can decorate their bookmark using homemade natural dyes and paintbrushes, markers, colored pencils or anything else you have in your home. If you have ribbon or yarn, your child can use a hole punch to punch a hole at the top of the bookmark and add the ribbon or yarn. Have them place the bookmark where they are reading in the Bible.
Have your kids make these crafts. Then encourage them to use them to get in the habits of praying, expressing gratitude to God and reading the Bible. They are habits that can help them stay strong spiritually for the rest of their lives.
You’ve probably heard about all types of parenting styles. Some help children, while others hurt them. Unfortunately, many young people today are suffering because their parents aren’t truly engaged with them. Oh, they will swoop in and project manage their kids when they feel it’s necessary, but parents having a real relationship with their children is becoming increasingly rare.
Merely spending time at home with your kids is not necessarily the answer. You can be in the same room as your children for hours without any meaningful interaction. In fact, your children may feel more hurt because you aren’t even engaged with them when you are physically present. Your kids may feel as if you have a constant “Do not disturb” sign hung around your neck.
How do you know if you are truly engaged with your children or merely co-existing or project managing them? How would your kids answer these questions about your interactions with them?
When your child needs to get your attention, how long does it take you to notice and acknowledge them?
When your child has something important to share with you, how willing are you to put down whatever it is that your are doing and listen to them (fully)?
When your child is telling you a story or something that is important to them, do you actively listen by looking them in the eyes, making gestures and facial expressions that indicate your interest and asking appropriate questions?
Can you name your child’s friends and teachers?
Can you name several concerns your child has at the moment?
Do you know your child’s hopes for the near future?
Do you know your child’s dreams for the future?
Do you know what questions or doubts your child has about God, the Bible or Christianity?
Do you know how God has gifted your child to serve Him?
Do you know what one thing your child wishes you would do to help him or her navigate some aspect of his or her life?
Can you name one aspect of his or her spiritual life with which your child needs your help and guidance?
Why ask your child’s opinion of how you should answer these questions? Because often our perceptions of our behavior and attitudes are very different from that of the people we are impacting with our choices. You may think you are fully attentive, while your kids can’t remember the last time they felt as if they actually had your undivided attention.
So ask your kids to help you take this quiz. Then make any needed changes. Your kids need an engaged parent to help them grow to be the person God wants them to be.
Priorities and time management are important for any young person to learn. They take on an added dimension though for children being raised in Christian homes. Without properly aligned priorities and great time management skills, it is easy for the things Christians need to do to be strong spiritually and to do the good works God has prepared for them to get lost in the shuffle.
So what are some good ways to help your kids establish good habits in prioritizing their lives and managing their time?
Examine the ministry of Jesus. Jesus accomplished a lot during his relatively short ministry on earth. He was able to do that because he had his priorities straight and managed his time well. Point out how Jesus didn’t try to make a lot of money because that would have distracted from his ministry. He didn’t waste his time trying to convert Caesar, but focused most of his teaching time on people who wanted to learn what he had to teach them. He also didn’t work non-stop, but took time out regularly to rest and connect with God.
Constantly reevaluate schedules. Part of the problem with setting priorities and time management is that we rarely analyze what is on our plate. We just keep piling new things on without considering the wisdom or practicality of it. We don’t regularly look at our schedules and see what priorities may need to be shifted or if some things need to be removed our added to our days. Teach your kids how to do this. Schedule a regular time when your family gets together and looks at individual and family commitments and decides on any needed changes.
Have them help plan vacations and outings. There are always plenty of options for ways to spend time on a vacation or outing. What are the best ways to spend that time? What will everyone enjoy and benefit from doing – even if it is just sleeping in and getting needed rest? The more you involve your kids in making these every day choices, the more practice they can get in setting healthy priorities and practicing good time management skills.
Practice Sabbath type rest. Good time management doesn’t mean you are working every minute of every day. Unfortunately the way most young people “rest” when they have free time doesn’t really help them restore their energy. Jesus set a great example. Real rest often requires quiet, scripture, prayer, music, exercise, creating something and of course sleep. Real rest will not come from watching a screen. Christians aren’t required to practice rest on a specific day…which means you can rest like Jesus – on any day or a little every day. It’s important that it be regular though. Don’t wait until your kids get cranky and stressed before encouraging a healthy rest. Setting aside time to rest in spiritually healthy ways as a family can help you all establish healthier habits.
Play games with timers. Young children struggle with the concept of time. Even older children aren’t particularly aware of how long a specific period of time lasts. Teens may struggle with estimating how long something will take to complete. Playing board games with timers can help your kids have a better concept of time and what might realistically be accomplished in a certain amount of time.
Run races. There are plenty of 5k races your family can run and many also have 1k distances for children. Running races and trying to improve your times is a great way to understand how little things can make a huge difference in how long it takes to complete a task. What modifications result in a faster completion time? How can those principles be applied to other things that need to be completed by a deadline?
Take advantage of the current mandatory homeschooling. Parents of homeschoolers will tell you one of the benefits is that their children learn how to self manage their time very well. In fact, elite universities often appreciate former homeschoolers because they are able to handle the independent schedule of a college student better than many young people who attended public or private schools. Use whatever time you have in the current homeschooling caused by the pandemic to encourage your kids to manage their own schedules. Talk about what is working and where they are struggling. If your children return to school, encourage them to manage their own schedules rather than having teachers or you micromanage it for them.
Teaching your kids how to prioritize and manage their time well takes effort on your part. It is worth it though, when they can use that time to serve God and become who He wants them to be.