Fun Way to Teach Kids Manners

It’s tempting to skip teaching your kids manners because it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s easy to dismiss manners as antiquated in today’s world. Yet, at the core of Christianity is putting others before yourself. That was also at the core of manners in the past. When your kids have good manners, they stand out from the crowd. They point others to God as they show kindness and consideration for others.

So how can you teach your kids good manners, as well as why God wants us to have them and not feel as if you have spent all day nagging your kids? There’s actually a fun way that can be easily adapted for different ages of kids.

Start by calling your kids together and telling them the story of Esther, David or one of the other kings or queens in the Bible. In some of those stories, customs that could be considered “court manners” are implied or explained. Ask your kids if they noticed any actions that could be considered good or bad manners in the story.

Then read Philippians 2:3-4 to your kids. Ask them what it looks like to put another’s interests before your own and to count others more significant than ourselves. Explain that manners were created as a way to show kindness, respect and consideration to others. Mention a few manners on which you would like to focus. Ask them how each shows consideration for others.

If your kids are little, play royal dress up games. Have tea or a “royal” meal. Teach and practice manners that would enable them to have “tea with the queen” without embarrassment. Make it fun, dressing up, making paper crowns and tea sandwiches or whatever would engage your kids.

For older kids, spend some time examining manners in different countries or time periods. There’s a fun book called George Washington’s Rules to Live By you can use for that time period. Or grab an older edition of Miss Manners or Emily Post. Or have them research manners in other cultures to find ones that are similar and different.

Even older children will enjoy going to high tea or a “fancy” or fun restaurant to practice manners. Or invite over someone who grew up in another culture and have them answer your kids’ questions about manners there. Don’t forget, manners can change even from region to region in the U.S. and from generation to generation.

Focus on manners that make life better for others – including table manners! To sneak in extra lessons, focus on different aspects of manners like table manners, hospitality manners, manners when speaking to others, manners when meeting new people, etc. Then find fun ways to practice them. Don’t forget to find a corresponding Bible lesson or scripture for each one, while making those verses in Philippians your theme verse for every lesson. (The spaced repetition of the verse over time will move it to their long term memories, where it can be remembered for years to come.) Before you know it, your kids may just have wonderful manners worthy of tea with the queen!

Making Chores Work for Parents and Kids

It’s hard to find a parenting expert that doesn’t embrace the idea of chores for children. They can help kids develop a sense of responsibility, perseverance, patience and a strong work ethic. For Christian parents, it’s a great way to also train your kids to put Colossians 3:23-24 into practice in everything they do. (“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”)

Unfortunately, life can be crazy in a home with young children. Creating, assigning and monitoring chores can seem overwhelming to an already exhausted parent. As a result, many parents give up on assigning chores and their kids miss out on important character training. Fortunately, there are some chore “hacks” you can use to make things easier for both kids and parents.

  • Make some chores standard procedure. Keep it simple. Have some chores everyone is supposed to complete every day to keep your home running smoothly. These should be simple things like making the bed (whatever that means to you), putting away clothes after they are worn (whether it’s hanging up to wear one more time or putting them in the clothes hamper or wash room), putting their dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher after they eat, and putting things back where they found them when they are finished using them. Children can be given a graphic or written check list to help them remember. Consequences for not completing these tasks should also be standard and given automatically at the end of the day or the beginning of the next day.
  • Consider handing out other chores on an “as assigned” basis. This worked best for our family, especially as our daughter’s schedule got busier. Every day I asked her to do several things to help me around the house. How many tasks she was given and what they were could be adjusted to the circumstances of the day. I tried to give her at least one or two things to do for me every day unless she was sick or something major was happening. This method freed me from having to remember and monitor every chore on some list. I just needed to make sure she had completed each chore as given.
  • Have family work days. My mother used to declare most Saturday mornings as “clean the house day”. No one could run off to other things until the house was spotless. She sent us scurrying to perform various cleaning tasks around the house. She was assured of immediate compliance, because we wanted to be finished as quickly as possible!
  • Make a chore chart. This one may be too much trouble if you aren’t a list maker by nature. For those who are, a quick glance at the chart can tell you who has completed which chores for the day. Don’t forget to spot check completed chores from time to time to make sure they were done well.
  • Allow your kids to claim chores. As strange as it may sound, some kids love to vacuum, while other kids hate it. My mother rarely cooked a meal in the summer, because I offered to cook to get out of weeding the garden. Occasionally, kids should be expected to do something they hate as a chore for growth purposes, but allowing them to pick a few favorites can make them more compliant and the results a little better.
  • Don’t be afraid to work on attitudes, too. Those verses in Colossians and the ever popular “Do everything without complaining” verses (Philippians 2:14-16) have been quoted to whining children for probably almost two thousand years now for a reason. Chores aren’t just about the task. They are also a way to work on attitudes. We have a saying in our house, “Sometimes you just have to clean the toilets.” There are chores and perhaps things God gives us to do that we just don’t want to do. The reality is that to live the life God wants us to live, we have to do them any way. Doing them with a good attitude and compliant heart works best for everyone involved. Helping your kids develop good attitudes and compliant hearts when they are young will help them when they are older and have more freedom.

Chores are a part of life. God also sometimes asks us to do things for Him that can feel like chores. Training your kids by giving them chores in childhood can help them grow to be who God wants them to be. It really is worth your time and effort.

Fun Cure for Summer Boredom

As excited as kids are for summer vacation to begin, they eventually reach a point where everything they could do with their time just seems boring. The kind of boredom that has caused more than one parent to suggest handing out extra chores to relieve it!

There is actually a fun activity your kids can do that should relieve their boredom and serve someone else in the process. Gather your bored children. Explain that the Bible talks about doing good things for others in secret. Their mission….should they choose to accept it…is to do as many acts of service for others as they can without getting caught.

The average child loves books like Harriet the Spy and the Boxcar Children. There’s just not much call for children who solve mysteries in your average community. So the idea that they can sneak around and do some sleuthing and service will sound like an adventure if it is presented to them with enthusiasm.

Set whatever limits for safety and expenses you wish. Decide the time period over which the service projects should be executed. Encourage your kids to do some sleuthing to find out the ways they can best serve the people they choose without giving away the secret that they hope to do those things for that person. The age and maturity of your children will impact how involved you need to be in the process. The more they control the service projects though, the more fun they will have and the more they will learn.

Make sure to create some reflection time later. Talk about what they learned from the experience. What went well? What would they do differently next time? What did they learn about serving others and sharing their faith? Who knows? This could be an annual summer tradition for your family!

Fun Way to Help Kids Make Better Choices

You may have read how the brains of young people aren’t fully developed until their late twenties and that is why they tend to make poor choices. While it may be true, it’s not because the brain isn’t capable of developing those areas at younger ages. It’s just that most parents have stopped doing the things necessary to help those areas of their kids brains develop. When left without training, the brain reacts as most muscles do….it may get there, but much more slowly than if there had been consistent exercise sessions.

Self control and making good choices are both a huge part of making the choices God wants your kids to make. Both are considered executive functions of the brain. There are lots of things you can do to help your kids “exercise” and strengthen this area of the brain. Thankfully, most are a lot more fun than running laps around a track!

Call your kids together. Tell them you are going to give each of them an opportunity to plan and execute something fun for the family. You can set parameters on what is done and how much money is spent. It can be anything from preparing a meal to planning a day trip or even a longer trip.

Most kids will jump at the chance to be able to “control” something their family does. How well they are able to actually plan and execute their choice is another matter entirely! Here’s the hard part for you as a parent. Instead of telling them what to do, ask questions. So instead of saying “We need a schedule for the day”, say “What are some of the things we need for the day to go smoothly?” If that doesn’t work, try “What could you do to make sure we get everything done we want to do that day?” Do your best to avoid just telling your child to make a schedule and then doing it for him or her when it’s not done quickly.

If you use questions instead of directions, your kids may come up with some very creative solutions. As long as they are safe…let them try as many as possible. Who knows? They may help you discover a better way of doing something. If their idea fails, ask what they would do differently next time. Posing it as a learning experience, rather than a failure, will make them more resilient.

Gradually increase the size and scope of the projects you give your kids the freedom to plan and execute. By high school, many should be able to entirely plan a family vacation with only minor supervision.

This activity may sound frightening to some of you. Just remember, although the brain isn’t technically a muscle, it acts like one in many ways. The more you exercise your kids’ executive functions in their prefrontal cortices, the more likely it is they will learn how to plan and make better choices in their personal lives as well. (This is assuming of course, they have been taught the choices God wants them to make!) So have some fun and let the planning begin!

Tips for Raising Courageous Kids

Life can be scary. Especially for your kids. Their lack of size, life experience and knowledge can make even things that don’t concern adults incredibly frightening for them. Being a faithful, productive Christian requires courage. Your kids will need courage to make godly choices when those around them aren’t. They will need the courage to share their faith, even though they may be rejected. God may also ask your kids to do things to serve Him that are frightening in some way….whether it’s public speaking or traveling alone to minister in a country that is unfamiliar or something else entirely.

What are some things you can do to raise your kids to be courageous Christians, fully living the life God has planned for them?

  • Tell them the stories of courageous people in the Bible. So many of the people in the Bible needed courage to do what God wanted them to do. Some of those stories are obvious, but don’t forget the more obscure stories either. Your kids need lots of examples of the different ways they may need to be courageous during their lifetimes.
  • Teach them courage is not recklessness. Jumping off the roof to prove God will take care of you is reckless, not brave. Teach your kids to think through possible consequences. Is the event requiring their courage something God is indeed asking them to do, or are they just being tempted by Satan to do something reckless?
  • Remind them courage is not the lack of fear, but doing the next thing God wants you to do in spite of your fear. To your kids being kind to the person everyone at school mocks can be just as terrifying as being thrown in a den of lions. They need to learn to do the right thing no matter what.
  • Help them memorize a few Bible verses they can recite to themselves in their heads as they face their fears. What those verses are should be ultimately chosen by your kids. They know what verses comfort them. Psalms has a lot to choose from or Google Bible verses to give me courage. Memorizing the verses means they will have them ready whenever they need them….without stopping to look them up.
  • Talk through common situations when they may need courage. Walking through likely scenarios can give them helpful practice in what they can say or do. Practicing makes it more likely they will make good choices when those scenarios occur in real life.
  • Teach them how to pray for God’s help and read scriptures that reinforce their trust in God. Knowing their strength comes from God will give them the extra courage they need.
  • Remind them to follow God’s path for their lives…even when it doesn’t make sense. This is tough to teach and learn, but can be so helpful as they get older. Being courageous is a lot easier when you are sure you are doing what God wants you to do and not headed off somewhere by yourself on your own agenda.
  • Admit being courageous does not always have a happy middle, but it will have a happy ending. Some Christians mistakenly believe that when they are brave for God, nothing bad will happen. We know from the lives of Jesus, the Apostles and thousands of Christian martyrs, that just isn’t true. What God does promise is a happy ending – spending eternity with Him in Heaven. It’s why so many martyrs could endure martyrdom without rejecting God to escape it.

Being courageous isn’t easy, but using the tips above will help your kids be braver than they might have been otherwise. The world needs more courageous Christians. Wouldn’t it be great if your kids were some of them?!