Fun Way to Teach Kids to Make Godly Choices

Life is about decisions. Make godly choices and you will have fewer negative consequences that result. Make poor choices and you may spend the rest of your life dealing with the negative consequences. It’s not a perfect system, because we live in a Fallen world. Regardless of how accurately the consequences are given on earth, however, we know God will judge fairly in the end.

The problem is that kids and teens are rarely taught any tools for making good choices. What results is a lot of trial and error. Kids who are attentive, detail oriented and learn from the mistakes of others will often make good choices more consistently. As a result, we think it is some skill set with which we are born and either use or don’t use.

Instead of relying on your kids to self educate on making godly choices, why not give them a few tools to use? We have a free printable parenting guide on the Teach One Reach One Ministries website, but there are several other tools you can give your kids.

One is the decision flow chart. It can be a lot of fun to teach and learn. It’s probably best to start with an example that’s fairly simple and straight forward. Grab some paper and writing instruments and show your kids the example.

Let’s say the choice is whether or not to cheat on a test. Write down the question “Should I cheat on this test?”. Then draw two diverging arrows from the question. On one arrow write “yes” and on the other write “no”. This is a great example, because it illustrates how only thinking out one step can lead to making a huge mistake. This is because the first results are actual deceptive. If your child cheats, he or she will get a good grade and if he or she doesn’t, they may fail.

Then ask them what could happen next. From this point forward, you may have multiple arrows from each option. For example, if they fail the test, they may have additional negative consequences, but they could also get extra help from the teacher or you might hire a tutor to help them.

As the adult, you will need to guide the flow chart at first. They may not have the life experience to realize cheating is lying and they might begin lying to everyone or lose the trust of others because they lied. They may not realize that while extra help and tutoring sound boring, mastering the content is crucial for where they want to go in life.

You can give them more practice using Bible stories. What if the person in the story had made the opposite choice? How might things have changed? There is actually a entire genre of literature based on people in secular history making the opposite choices and what might have happened.

Whenever your child is faced with a decision and time allows, employ this flow chart method. It isn’t perfect, because we live in a fallen world, but your life experience has probably taught you there are definite patterns.

If your child points out times when things didn’t go as expected on the flow chart, talk about it. Explain what happened when sin entered God’s perfect world and disrupted it. Discuss God’s plan of redemption. Remind them of the importance of obeying God, even if Satan gives us negative consequences in the moment for our obedience to God.

Teaching your kids to make good choices takes time and effort. It’s worth it though to help your kids avoid unnecessary negative consequences from using the trial and error method.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids to Be Salt and Light

The idea of Christians being salt and light is an abstract concept young children will have a hard time understanding. While you will need to have many conversations over the years about what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:13-18, you can begin with some fun activities.

First grab a flashlight. Go into a room or closet you can make entirely dark. Talk about how hard it would be to read a book or do anything without just a little light. For very small children, you may even bring a book into the room to read to them, but discover you can’t without the light.

Have your child turn on the flashlight. Discuss what a big difference even a little bit of light can make in a dark space. If you have more than one child, have each of them turn on an additional flashlight and show the power of having a lot of people being the light.

Try to explain the verses about Christians being a light in the world. Don’t worry if they don’t entirely understand the connection now. You can continue having conversations over the years as they become more capable of abstract thought.

Then give your kids a salted and unsalted snack. You may have to experiment to find one where the two taste distinctly different. Ask your kids to explain what they believe the salt added to the taste of the snack.

Pull out two pieces of bread. (Non commercially baked breads work better because they have fewer preservatives.) Have your kids put their unwashed hands all over both pieces. One piece of bread should go into a plastic baggie and be sealed. The other should be sprinkled with a tablespoon of salt and placed in a plastic bag so the salt stays on the bread.

Have your kids watch the bread for several days. Which piece of bread grew mold more slowly? Discuss the Bible verses while explaining that salt is used for flavor, preserving food and even disinfecting things. It had so many uses in Bible times (remember there was no electricity, so salting things could also keep them safer to eat) that salt was even used as money at times!

Spend a lot of time discussing what it means for Christians to be salt and light in the world. What are some practical things they can do to be salt and light in their worlds every day?

Teaching Your Kids to Fail Well

Failure is an odd topic in our culture. There are people who believe children shouldn’t experience failure, because it could somehow damage their fragile psyches. Others celebrate failure as something that makes us more approachable and even fun, looking down on those who want to learn, grow and improve from their failures.

As with many topics, God has some things He wants us to teach our kids about failure. Perhaps the first is the definition of failure. God doesn’t define success or failure by how much money your kids eventually make or how famous they become. To God success is living a life that ends with spending eternity in Heaven with Him.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with worldly success obtained in godly ways, your kids need to be taught their ultimate goal. Their standard of success is Heaven and the only real failure is rejecting God.

But what about all of those little failures in life that don’t necessarily have Heaven or Hell consequences? It’s important to teach your kids the difference between mistakes and sins. They have different motivations and different consequences. They also have some differences in how they need to be handled when each of those failures happens.

Mistakes are those little failures that have no connection to the commands God has given us. They may reveal a character flaw that needs additional work, but the motivation behind the original action was not a rebellion against God’s laws.

These mistakes happen regularly as children learn and grow. At times, you need to allow these mistakes to happen – and the natural consequences of those mistakes. Those natural consequences are often the best teacher. If your child doesn’t study enough for a test and misses answers, the consequence of a poor grade should provide the motivation for studying more the next time. There will be times when you will have to help your child make the connections between actions, failures, consequences and how to keep them from happening again in the future.

Other mistakes can arise from the clumsiness that often comes with a growth spurt or a lack of life experience. If no one has ever taught you to separate reds from whites when doing laundry, then the resulting pink clothes are a mistake from a lack of life experience.

Obviously, there are times when these mistakes require apologies, cleaning up the mess they created or making some sort of restitution. In general though, mistakes should be discussed with loving patience. Too much harsh criticism can make your kids so afraid of failure, they may be unwilling to do the good works God has planned for them. Like Moses, they will become paralyzed by their fear of failure – without the benefit of hearing God’s voice to help them work through those fears.

Finally, there are the mistakes your kids will make when they are trying something new. It may be learning a new concept in math or developing the gifts God has given them. They may make mistakes the first time they try to serve someone independently or share their faith. It is so crucial with these mistakes, that your response is encouraging. They need to learn to embrace these mistakes and learn and improve from them. If they stop trying because they are fearful of failure, it is highly unlikely they will ever reach their godly potential.

Sins on the other hand, come from a rebellious heart. Even though children before the age of accountability are not responsible for sins, they need to be taught that rebellion against God is unacceptable. Of course, this begins with rebelling against your authority by disobeying your rules. These failures are heart issues at their core – a selfishness that puts one’s own desires ahead of obedience and respect.

Heart issues are tough, but if dealt with at young ages you can help mold your kids hearts towards God. These failures must be discouraged and the heart molded away from selfish rebellion or your kids will have great difficulty obeying God as adults.

If your kids are old enough to become Christians, then it’s time to really focus on repentance and forgiveness. It’s important they understand repentance is not a kicking the dirt, glum, “sorry” to God. It is truly mourning the sin, asking God for forgiveness, thinking of ways to avoid committing the sin again and making any necessary restitution.

Failure is a complex subject, but taking the time and effort to help your kids understand it through God’s eyes can make them more resilient, more likely to use their gifts to serve God and share their faith and less likely to live a life enmeshed in sin. It’s worth every second you put in to helping your kids navigate failure in godly ways.

What Christian Parents Need to Know About Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a relatively new concept. Coined in 1990, the term has become the latest darling of pop psychology. What is it exactly and should Christian parents be working with their children on their emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is at its core the ability to get along with others. It is not related to intellectual ability, but rather how well one is equipped to interact successfully with others.

The book Primal Leadership maintains that emotional intelligence is made up of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

Are those concepts biblical? As with anything that has secular origins, there are some biblical truths hidden within the secular framework. Self- awareness is part of becoming a Christian and then living a Christian life. Christians need to be aware when they are sinning so they become more Christ like over time. They need to be aware of their hearts, minds and souls and whether they are godly, too. Christians also need self awareness in order to be aware of when their words and actions are truly serving others and sharing their faith in effective ways.

Self management is most closely aligned with self control. While everyone is capable of some amount of self control, we know it is a fruit of the Spirit. This means in part that we need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Christians receive at baptism to reach our potential to be self controlled.

Social awareness is picking up on the cues of others to understand how we are impacting them. If done in an effort to serve and share one’s faith, social awareness can be godly. It’s important to note though that social awareness can also be used to manipulate and control others – quite ungodly behaviors.

The final component of emotional intelligence according to the authors is relationship management. This area is a bit fuzzier than the others. Once again motivation is a key factor for Christians. If one is managing relationships to love, support, nurture, encourage and point others to God, then that is stewardship. We are taking good care of the relationships with which God has blessed us.

On the other hand, if managing relationships is about manipulation, control, “winning” or always getting our way, then it becomes ungodly. Teaching your kids to check their motivations in self awareness can be key to be godly in managing relationships.

Emotional intelligence without God in the equation is tricky. People skills can be used for good or evil. Remembering what God has to say will help your kids use their emotional intelligence for the good of others and God’s Kingdom.

In the end, while you may choose to discuss emotional intelligence with your kids, I would suggest working more on their hearts and Christian character. If they become who God wants them to be, they will have all of the emotional intelligence they need – and know how to use it in godly ways.

Teaching Your Kids to Disagree Well

Conflict resolution is an important skill set Christian parents need to teach their children. But there’s another type of disagreement that, while still conflict, requires a slightly different skill set. These disagreements occur when there are different ideas, philosophies, faiths or other more ethereal topics being discussed.

Of course, each side still believes their idea or belief is better – and some are indeed more valid than others. Your kids will need to learn some additional skills to navigate these conversations well.

It is often easy enough to write off a relationship with someone whose ideas are vastly different from ours. God has called us to teach everyone the Gospel message though. He wants us to continue to teach those who aren’t Christian about what He wants for them and from them. Yes, there are times when we need to dust off our feet and move on, but often we do that entirely too quickly.

So what are these skills your kids need to minister to and teach those whose ideas are radically different than theirs?

  • They need to be solid in their own biblical beliefs. If your children are discussing the big ideas in life, they need to really understand what God has taught. If not, they will be swayed by any argument that sounds somewhat logical – whether it is godly or not.
  • They need to make their faith in God their own. Often young people struggle in conversations because they are merely parroting what they have heard their parents say. They need to be given the time and encouragement to consider what they believe, hopefully making their Christian faith their own in the process.
  • They need to learn how to state their beliefs clearly. Faith is an interesting thing. We can have it without being able to verbalize it well to others. Your kids need practice thinking about how they might respond to certain questions or challenges to their faith.
  • They need to understand logical fallacies and how to avoid using them. Many arguments sound great, but are full of logical fallacies. The ideas may be great, but if they are presented with logical fallacies your kids should learn to stop and examine those ideas more carefully to make absolutely sure they are godly. They should also avoid using logical fallacies themselves – especially when discussing what God has taught. There are better ways to state those beliefs and they need to work to find them.
  • They need to understand what God cares about in life. Many so called philosophical arguments – including political ones – boil down to people with the same desires, but different approaches. Usually neither side’s approach is perfect, but people have still chosen a side. Christians waste too much time discussing temporary politics and other similar topics while neglecting to tackle the really important issues God wants us to deal with in life. (This is hard for many Christians to accept. While obviously the laws and philosophies governing any society are important, read the New Testament again while remembering the horrible things the Roman government was doing – including insisting Caesar was god. What does it tell us about the priorities of Jesus and his followers?)
  • They need to know how to listen well. When people disagree, they rarely listen to understand. Most people are listening only long enough to consider what they will argue next. Listening to understand may help them realize the motivations and history behind the other person’s belief make changing the ideas easier once they are truly understood.
  • They need to learn how to disagree with someone and still leave them feeling loved and respected. This has to be taught very carefully. Too many Christians believe either you have to destroy someone with ungodly ideas or that you can’t even tell the other person their ideas are ungodly because that is unloving. The truth is that you can show someone love and respect for the very fact that they were created and loved by God. If their ideas vary from what God teaches us, it is important to address those differences without destroying the person in the process.
  • They need to learn to disagree without making personal attacks, using ugly words or losing their temper. This can take years of practice. It requires a lot of prayer, spiritual maturity and self control. Your children will struggle, but they need to begin practicing it now before bad habits become ingrained.

Teaching your kids to disagree well may make them more effective in completing the good works God has planned for them. It is worth taking the time and effort to help them learn the necessary skills.