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.
Your biggest fear as a Christian parent is probably that your children grow up to reject God. Or claim to be a Christian, but then refuse to obey God’s commands. You may wonder why some parents seem to raise children who are faithful as adults, while others who appear similar have children who reject God and His commands. There are some surprising reasons why this rejection or rebellion happens.
Your parenting style. Authoritarian parents have lots of rules and strict consequences for disobeying them and aren’t very nurturing of their children. Permissive parents have basically no rules and don’t give consequences when the few rules they may have are violated. Authoritative parents have rules and boundaries that are consistently enforced and fair, logical consequences are given for disobedience. They are also nurturing, engaged, loving parents. Our children often grow up to believe God reflects the parenting style of their parents. Authoritarian parents raise children who reject God because He is harsh. Children raised in permissive homes may not reject God outright, but feel no need to obey His commands because they have been raised to believe rules are optional, nor do they fear any consequences, because they assume there won’t be any. Authoritative parents are more likely to raise children who have an accurate view of God and stay faithful.
You disobey God’s commands with no signs of remorse or repentance. Do your children regularly hear you lie or commit some other sin without showing any remorse that you sinned? Do you rationalize disobeying one of God’s commands? Do they never hear you ask God or anyone else for forgiveness? If so, you are setting the example of a rebellious life they may very well copy.
You haven’t taught them what it really means for God to be Lord of their lives. If your children don’t understand what it truly means to be servants of the King, it’s no wonder they think they can make their own rules for living life. As God’s humble servants, God makes the rules and our job is to obey His commands and ask for His forgiveness when we rebel against them. Your children don’t get to disobey the commands of God because they don’t like them.
They don’t thoroughly understand the consequences of rebellion against God. Many Christian parents are afraid of teaching their children about Hell for fear of traumatizing them. Most churches rarely mention Hell. In fact, most young people raised in Christian homes don’t believe in Hell as a real place or possible consequence for rebelling against God. While you want to teach them about Hell in age appropriate ways, they need to have a clear understanding that Hell is real and it is a place in which they do not want to spend Eternity. As much as we want to believe obedience to God is only about love and gratitude, it is also built on an awareness of God’s power and knowledge that eternal consequences will be given for rebellion against Him.
Most of what they think they know about God and His commands was learned from the secular world. The world has a very inaccurate idea of God and His commands. About Christianity in general. Even supposedly “religious” characters in movies and shows spout some of the most unChristian dialog or represent Christian beliefs inaccurately. Books are even worse at times because they have the leisure of pages to really make an anti-Christian point. If your children aren’t receiving a lot of teaching from the Bible at church and home, the bulk of what they believe they know about God, His commands and all things Christian will come from these secular, inaccurate sources – designed to pull them away from God.
The good news is that you have the power to counter all of these influences that can pull your children away from God. Don’t wait to make the changes you need to make so your children don’t fall prey to these faith killers.
Spend five minutes out in public and you will probably witness multiple acts of selfishness. Wars and conflicts are often rooted in selfishness. Food insecurity, extreme poverty and other social problems take longer to resolve because money that could be used to help others is tied up in selfish ways by those who have more than enough things. And who can miss the thousands of references a day to the smaller problems caused by “entitled” people?
No one plans to raise a selfish child (at least I hope not), but many people do. The problem is we are often blinded to the selfishness in our own children. We can’t correct what we don’t notice and uncorrected selfishness eventually hardens in their hearts, creating adults who have more in common with pre-ghosts Ebeneezer Scrooge than Jesus.
So what are some perhaps surprising signs you are raising children who are becoming more selfish by the day?
Whine and complain a lot. Whining and complaining are rooted in disappointment that things aren’t going the way your children wanted them to go. It’s a selfish mindset that believes everything should always be exactly like they want it to be… or they will whine and complain in hopes of things being done their way.
Don’t say “please” and “thank you” without prompting. Every child needs periodic reminders, but if those words are rarely heard without prompting, there is a problem. Why “please”? Because the word expresses the understanding that they are not entitled to whatever they are asking of the other person. It’s a form of pre-gratitude.
Have difficulty sharing and taking turns. Very young children naturally struggle with this and must be taught and reminded. Once they are old enough to attend school, however, sharing and taking turns should come naturally.
Are poor losers when playing games. Poor losers are vocal about their assumption that they should always win everything.
Have long wish lists for birthdays and Christmas. If your children can rattle off a long list of things wanted the second they are asked for a gift suggestion, there may be a problem with selfishness.
Have trouble letting others be the center of attention. Let’s be honest. We all enjoy being the center of positive attention from time to time. If your child is clearly miffed when someone else is the center of attention (assuming your child gets enough healthy attention on a normal basis), there may be a problem with selfishness.
Have trouble celebrating with others when good things happen to them. It’s okay for your kids to hope that they too will one day win a free trip around the world, but that shouldn’t stop them from being super excited for the person who just did.
Melt down when told “no”. No one likes to hear the word, but your children should accept it most of the time. Asking to appeal your decision is one thing, but having an immediate meltdown every time is problematic.
When denied something, sneak or lie to get it anyway. This is a serious warning sign of selfishness – the inability to accept the denial of any whim and the willingness to sin to get what was desired.
Have a strong focus on money and/or things. Part of growing up is learning how to handle money in godly ways. That includes the idea of generosity. If the focus becomes on getting more money and spending the vast majority on oneself, then selfishness has overwhelmed generosity.
Shopping or window shopping IRL or online is a favorite past time. Your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists. Spending too much time in environments where things can be claimed as one’s own can create a desire for things your child doesn’t really need or under normal circumstances would even want.
Don’t seem to notice or care when their wordsor actions hurt others. There is a caveat to this one as some children with special needs struggle to notice the cues that someone is upset. Even they can be taught the cues, however, and change their behavior, apologize and make amends when they have hurt someone.
Are reluctant to take personal responsibility for the outcomes of their choices. If everything is always the fault of someone else, a selfish heart is quite probably a serious issue.
Make sure their needs and desires are met first before attempting to help or attend to others. This selfish trait is tricky, because on the surface it may look like they are helping others. Look more closely though and you will realize their needs and desires are met first and only then will they give their excess time, attention, money, etc. to others.
Our world is miserable because of the actions of selfish people. Don’t make things worse by raising more people who will operate from a position of selfishness. If your children consistently have the symptoms mentioned above, call it for what it is and take action to help them change their hearts. Otherwise, it won’t end well for them or anyone who is touched by their lives.
I always love it when social scientists stumble across something that is good for our mental, emotional and physical health that has been in the Bible since it was written! In recent years, numerous studies have found that having a grateful heart can reduce depression, lessen anxiety, support heart health, relieve stress, improve sleep (UCLAhealth.org) and make us more optimistic and hopeful (health.Harvard.edu). And those articles don’t even examine the spiritual health benefits of gratitude, which I believe are humility, faith, patience, perseverance, love and a host of other positive spiritual results from a consistent spirit of gratitude. In fact, “give thanks” is one of the most common phrases after “fear not” in both the Old and New Testaments. God knows being grateful is in everyone’s best interest.
This post is coming out right before the month of November as an encouragement to celebrate Thanksgiving all month. The truth is that your family can and should do these activities throughout the year. Some you may only do once or occasionally, while others may become a daily practice. Not only will you begin seeing the benefits listed above, but you may just find parenting becomes easier as whining and complaining give way to gratitude!
Here are some of our favorite ways to bring more gratitude into your home.
Gratitude Journal. It is important to be intentional about noticing things for which to be grateful. There are several different ways that you can do this. Have each of your children decorate a spiral notebook or composition book as their personal gratitude journal. You may also want to keep one as a family. At the end of each day, take a few moments and have everyone name one to three things for which they are grateful. (I recently found a gratitude journal for children to use with questions to guide their thinking at Five Below.)
Gratitude Jar. This is more of a long term activity. Decorate a gratitude container and place it on your kitchen table or somewhere where everyone will see it daily. Place slips of paper and pens beside the container. Encourage your children to write down something they are grateful for at any point in time and place the slip in the container (non writers can draw pictures instead of writing). You may want to encourage them to create a slip any time they are excited about something. (“That would be a great thing to put in the gratitude jar, wouldn’t it?!) Be sure and place slips in the jar as well. Don’t be afraid to put some unusual slips in the box about gratitude for things that seem negative, but in which you saw something to be grateful. Periodically take all of the slips out of the jar and read them to the entire family. End the time thanking God for His blessings.
Facts in Five Gratitude Game. Draw grids that are 5×5 on a sheet of paper for each person. Pull out those scrabble tiles or make little slips of paper with a letter of the alphabet on each. Going down the left side of the grid, write categories of things for which you can be grateful. For example: objects, people, places, food, books. Along the top of the grid, write the five letters pulled from the pile. Set the timer for three to five minutes (depending on the age and abilities of your children). At the word “go”,everyone is to fill in as many boxes on the grid as possible…. for example in the space where “object” and the letter “B” intersect, someone may write the word bike, while someone else might use the word Bible. The winner is the person with the most spaces filled in. (Many kids absolutely love this game, so you may want to be prepared with extra grids and lots of categories.)
This website has a lot of great gratitude printables for activities including a gratitude scavenger hunt. (Please note that any of these links do not serve as an endorsement of the sites as an entirety or their creators, merely an acknowledgement that these are a few great ideas you can use. The sites and their creators may indeed be fine, but we did not take the time to deeply research them.)
This website has some printable gratitude conversation starters. These often work well at meals with unfamiliar or quiet relatives to get the conversation going or just for your own family dinner.
This website has a cute gratitude game using pick up sticks.
Ask to join our Parenting Like Hannah Facebook Community and get our daily gratitude discussion prompts during the month of November.
Teach your kids to be consistently and constantly grateful. It’s how God created them to be.
Once upon a time, someone posted a recipe for bean soup on the Internet. The comments that followed were both funny and horrifying. Not just one. Not just a handful. Scads of people posted comments asking her to rework the recipe so it didn’t contain beans. Mind you, this was a BEAN soup recipe. When she didn’t post a reworked recipe without beans, she was verbally clobbered.
Our world online is currently ruled by algorithms. Ever wonder why everyone online appears to agree with your viewpoint on issues or likes the same things you like? Ever begun to think your opinions and preferences are the most popular at the moment based on what you see on social media platforms? Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s because those wonderful little algorithms want to keep you happy. Because if you are happy, you will stay on their website or app longer. Which turns into more revenue for them.
The bean soup people of the world are the result of “having it your way” all of the time. Bean soup people can’t tolerate differences of opinion or ways of looking at the world. Mind you, we aren’t just talking about spiritual, biblical disagreements. We suddenly hate people who love bacon when we don’t like it. You know. Important things. Things that have started wars.
And of course, carefully curated content matches our moods and keeps us constantly entertained. Boredom is the only deadly sin (other than poorly executed content). If something doesn’t make us immediately feel better, we quickly move on to something else that may.
Unfortunately, churches and ministries have bought the bean soup hype that children and teens must constantly be in a high tech environment that is carefully curated to match their tastes and beliefs (no matter how naive or wrong they may be) and above all to keep them on a constant emotional high. Learning to these Christians is irrelevant. Keeping everyone on some sort of self focused high so they will return is more important than teaching them how to be who God really wants them to be…. selfless servants.
Parents – even those who see the building selfishness and entitlement in their own children – may even demand churches and ministries deliver this highly entertaining, yet usually shallow content. Please don’t misunderstand. Part of the mission of our ministry is to encourage engaging spiritual educational content in every environment. Where we part ways is that our emphasis is on the spiritual education piece of the puzzle. While we believe our activity ideas are engaging, we plan them to extend and deepen learning – not to entertain (although often both goals are met). If we were somehow forced to choose between content that is highly entertaining and shallow versus content that isn’t flashy but deepens knowledge, understanding and application of scripture, we will always go for the richer content.
Don’t raise bean soup affect children. Teach them to look for substance and not just flash. Remind them the world should revolve around God and not themselves. And when they encounter a bean soup recipe they don’t like, don’t complain. The world should never be all about them and their personal preferences.
Say what you will, but there are two types of people in the world… people who play with all things AI and people who were scarred by the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey and want nothing to do with it. Regardless of your personal feelings about AI, your children have probably already been exposed to it.
Whether or not AI is helpful to mankind (for our discussion) is almost irrelevant. The difficulty with any new technology, fad or other creation is deciding how Christians should interface with it (if at all). It’s made all the more difficult, because new things are often marketed by creators to make them look as appealing and helpful as possible so they can make the most money possible before anyone realizes there are problems with the product.
It is also problematic, because as Christians, we understand God knew AI would exist when He created scripture. Instead of addressing every invention that would be created over thousands of years and how He wants us to interact with each, however, God gave us commands and principles that were both specific and general – making them applicable regardless of era or location.
So how does all of this apply to AI? A teacher recently told me that students are cheating using ChatGPT without being fully aware they are cheating. Why? Because over the years parents, teachers and other adults had focused on specific behaviors instead of overarching commands and principles. So instead of explaining to students that having anyone or anything write parts or all of your essay is considered cheating, they were just told they couldn’t purchase or copy a paper someone else had written. When faced with AI – that doesn’t neatly fit into the description of specific out of bound behaviors they have been taught – they believe they can use it to practically write entire papers for them while still not realizing they are cheating.
As a Christian parent, you probably use lots of real world examples when teaching your children about God’s commands and principles. It’s important – especially as they age – to emphasize the heart of the command or principle and have your kids generate lots of examples. The reality is that you will never be able to list every possible way your children could lie (by the way, cheating is one of them), but you can help them understand the heart of the command so well that when they see a new technology or creation instead of matching it to some check list, they are able to look for the heart of it and measure that to God’s commands and principles.
This difference in how you approach teaching them how God wants them to live their lives may seem subtle at first. With an ever changing world, however, your children need to know how to obey God regardless of what they encounter.