Fun Way to Teach Your Kids About Needs and Wants

Ever have one of your children tell you that they ”really, really neeeeeeeeed” something that is actually not a necessity? It’s important for your kids to thoroughly understand the difference between their ”needs” and their ”wants”. If not, they will be more likely to become selfish, entitled, greedy and unwilling to help others because it costs them something ”important”.

Start by telling them the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings 16:29-17:24. Explain that God took care of Elijah’s ”needs”, but didn’t necessarily provide everything that Elijah may have wanted. For example, the ravens brought Elijah bread and meat and he had water to drink from the brook. God didn’t give Elijah fruit or his favorite dish. Anything above the very basics in life are not needs, but things we want. It is not sinful to at times want something. Wanting too much or thinking we ”deserve” or ”need” the things we want can cause us to have sinful attitudes and behaviors as we attempt to get everything we want.

Place several magazines and catalogs in front of your children. If your children are younger, point to various photos and ask them if the item pictures something they need or something they want. Give older children the chance to find pictures of things that may be harder to decide if the item is a need or a want. For example, are vegetables a need or a want? Are there circumstances when vegetables might switch from one category to another? (Perhaps, we need vegetables to be healthy, but we may want a particular vegetable. In what situations would that want be okay and when might it be a sign we are becoming selfish or entitled?)

While on the surface this is an easy subject to teach your children, the nuances of it can be more difficult. Continue to revisit the topic regularly with your kids to help them develop hearts that are grateful and generous.

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids to Speak Kindly

If you’ve ever had a child in early elementary school, you know that age group often considers the word ”stupid” as a curse word. They may use other unkind words, but not ”stupid”! Sadly, for most children that ban fades with time and their words can become increasingly unkind or even mean. Speaking unkindly to others can become a bad habit that is very difficult to break. There is a fun way you can work together as a family to speak more kindly to others.

Gather your kids together and share with them verses in the Bible about how we are to speak to one another. Some good ones are Proverbs 16:24, Proverbs 15:1-4, Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 4:6, Proverbs 25:11, 1 Peter 3:15. Have your kids explain each scripture to you in their own words and give examples that illustrate the verses. Explain that all of you need to practice being more careful in how you speak to others.

Have several pieces of paper (preferably large), each headed with a different category like ”Unkind Words”, ”Kind Words”, ”Words That Help”, ”Words That Hurt”, ”Words That Encourage”, ”Words That Discourage”, etc. Have your children give you suggestions of words or phrases for each category (Note: There is no need to list every curse word. The term can cover them all unless your kids are using words they don’t realize are curse words.) Make sure your lists include the things they say to each other that you know are unkind or hurtful.

Explain that the lists will be where everyone can see them and add other things as they think of them. Periodically share any new entries. Don’t be too surprised if they add things you say to them. Sometimes parents are unaware how the things they say impact their children – and that may differ from child to child. (A great deeper conversation to have with older children and teens – how careful do we need to be with words that some find hurtful, but others don’t.)

What happens next depends on your family. Do you need to break bad habits? Are you trying to encourage them to focus on being more intentional in providing encouragement to others? If you are trying to break bad habits, you may want to establish some sort of accountability. Maybe a jar filled with slips of paper – each listing a chore that must be done if caught using unkind words with someone. To be fair, if you have such a system you need to let your kids ”catch” you using unkind speech and assign you a slip. It may be necessary, however, to explain the difference between parental correction and unkind speech (assuming you are loving, but firm in your correction).

If you are trying to encourage more intentional encouragement from your children to others, try to ”catch” them in the act and give praise when it is appropriate. You may also choose to give some sort of small reward when you feel like they have established better habits. For teens, you might also want to work on ways they can use their words to point others to God and share their faith.

Have fun with it. Have your kids make scripture art with verses about how we speak to one another and display it around your house. Encourage them to write and perform a skit on the topic for younger children. Get blank books and let them write and illustrate a children’s book on the topic they can use when babysitting or donate to a group working with young children. Assist them in developing strategies strategies that can help them to remember to speak kindly to others when they are away from home, like a special bracelet or memorizing a verse to think about when tempted to use unkind or hurtful words.

For some families this may need to be an ongoing project. It’s worth it though if your family becomes known as Christians who always speak kindly to others.

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids About Moderation

I have to admit that there are a few stories in the Bible that are just funny. One of my favorites can be a great way to introduce your kids to the importance of moderation in living the Christian life. You can find the story in Numbers 11:4 and following.

This is one of those stories that is best read directly from the Bible. The exasperation of Moses at the whining of the people is classic! Then for God to basically tell them that if they want quail…He will give them quail. In fact, they will eat so much quail for a month that it will ”come out of their nostrils”! I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a conversation that could happen in any home with whining children!

There are a couple of ways to have fun with the idea of having ”too much of a good thing”. Before you read the Bible story to your kids, call them to a meal. Serve them ice cream or some other treat as their entire meal (One non-nutritious meal won’t be bad for most healthy children and having only dessert for a meal will make the experience very memorable – especially if you are normally really healthy eaters.)

After they have enjoyed their unusual treat of a meal, inform them that from now on that will be the only food they will be given for every meal and snack. Very young children may get excited at first. Remind them that if they only eat ice cream, they can’t eat any of their other favorite foods like macaroni and cheese.

Or you can do the same thing by finding a recipe for ”manna” cookies and giving that to them for their meal. Explain that although we don’t know exactly what manna tasted like, we have enough of a description to know a little bit about what it may have tasted like. Ask them how they would feel if that were the only food they ever got to eat – every meal – every day – every week – every month.

In both cases your kids will probably admit that while it is fun to have a dessert like meal, having only it for a long time would be difficult. It’s too much of a good thing. Then read them the story of the manna and the quail. Explain that the Israelites had the same reaction. Only instead of remembering that God had just rescued them from slavery (which was horribly difficult), they focused on the fact that they missed the variety in their diet. They whined and complained until God got so frustrated He gave them so much quail, they probably never wanted to eat quail again. It was too much of a ”good thing”.

Read them a few verses like 1 Corinthians 6:12, Proverbs 25:27 and Proverbs 25:16. Explain that there are some things God knows we need or want that in moderation aren’t bad for us, but that if we want too much of it we can have too much of a ”good thing”. Have your kids think of examples in addition to the ones in the verses you read. Suggest that sometimes wanting too much of something – like money – means we even stop worshipping God and make the thing we want our idol. How deeply you can go with this conversation will depend upon the age and maturity of your kids.

Explain the concept of moderation. Help your kids think of ways to enjoy good things with moderation so they don’t get too much of a good thing or start worshipping the good thing instead of God. Have them share the good things they like so much that they could have problems with later if they are not careful to keep God first. Encourage them to use strategies that help them remember to use that thing in moderation.

Helping Your Kids Quit the Blame Game

Have you ever asked your kids who broke the lamp (or did whatever) and immediately heard choruses of, ”It’s not my fault!” and ”He/she did it!”. If so, your kids have already learned how to play the blame game. They know if they can avoid any personal responsibility for something that has upset you, they are also likely to avoid any possible consequences.

Unfortunately, the game is best played using lies and avoiding personal responsibility for one’s choices. Not the best skill sets for a child being raised in a Christian home to learn. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your kids learn to avoid playing the game at all.

  • Play a new game. This is more fun with older kids. As they watch shows, see news reports or just around the house, can they catch others playing the blame game? At dinner each night, see if anyone saw people playing it during their day. What happened? What were the possible negative consequences for those who played? Your kids may not be aware they were playing the game or perhaps aren’t aware how playing it can damage their relationships with others. Seeing or hearing about lots of real world examples can make them more aware.
  • Play the game in an obvious way yourself. You may need to set up a scene with your spouse if something doesn’t happen naturally. When someone asks you something like, ”Does anyone know where my socks are?”, flip into blame game mode. Be a little over the top dramatic. It’s not your fault. Your spouse was in your kid’s room. The cat walked by the laundry basket. After a couple of minutes of blaming others, ”find” the socks where you left them (like the refrigerator!). You get the idea. Be silly and have fun with it. Don’t copy something that has actually happened in your home or it will look like you are making fun of your kids. Sometimes laughing at ourselves can also be instructive. Younger kids may try to intervene and ”fix” the situation. Don’t let them get too agitated. After your little ”skit”, ask your kids to give you a better way to handle things the next time that happens. See if they can come up with other situations when people blame others instead of accepting responsibility for their actions.
  • Have a ”blame” jar. A common strategy for breaking bad group habits, which you may have to adapt slightly depending upon how much money your kids have. An alternative way to play is to place enough money for a family treat in the jar, instead of family members having to put in some of their own money when caught playing the blame game, you take money away from the jar. They can return money to the jar by taking appropriate blame for an incident. This will need to be monitored by parents to avoid cheating. If you are brave enough, allow them to try and catch you blaming others for your own mistakes.
  • Read all about it. Read your kids Bible stories and stories from history where people blamed others for their own choices. There are plenty of examples. How might things have gone differently if the person had taken responsibility for their own actions? You will probably need to point out how blaming others undermines trust and how that in turn weakens important relationships in their lives.

Have fun with it, but make it a priority in your home. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a huge part of repentance. If your kids can’t accept responsibility, they will struggle to be a Christian.

Hidden Skills Your Kids Need for Better Relationships

I don’t know if Satan has a top ten list of the ways he tempts people to sin, but if he does, I would imagine relationships would be on it. Your kids have lots of relationships they are trying to navigate – you (their parents), siblings, other relatives, friends, neighbors, coaches, teachers, ministers and more. With their lack of knowledge and life experience, it can be easy for them to make poor choices in how they handle the difficulties that often arise between two people.

As Christian parents, you are probably spending a lot of time reminding them to be kind and loving. You are hopefully having conversations about which words and behaviors are loving and kind when interacting with others. You are probably spending time correcting them when they make poor choices in how they treat others. Did you know though, that there are some special skill sets and habits you can teach your kids that will help them continue to improve in the ways they interact with others even long after they are adults?

If you can work with your kids on these areas, it is much more likely they will avoid developing bad and even sinful habits in how they interact with others.

  • Keen awareness of the emotional states of others. There are a few people in the world who are what is known as an ”open book”. They are extremely open and honest. If you say something that hurts their feelings, they will usually let you know immediately and give you an opportunity to resolve any misunderstandings in the moment. Most people, however, are emotional poker players. They are afraid to be vulnerable enough to share their emotions with someone. That can be good, if they are doing it in an effort to have self control over their words and actions. It can be toxic when they never let the person who has upset them know so they can make amends or they tell everyone else how angry they are with someone who literally has no clue anything is wrong. Teaching your kids how to read facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and tells can help them recognize when someone might be upset with them. They can then be proactive in checking to verify the emotional state of the person and correcting any issues. Being aware of the emotional states of others can also help them choose times for having difficult conversations when everyone is emotionally calm and not already upset, tired, etc.
  • Ask for feedback. This is scary for everyone. We all know we aren’t perfect, but who really wants to hear a list of one’s faults and mistakes? Feedback from others, however, is the quickest way to correct mistakes and grow – assuming the feedback is trustworthy. Help your kids find people they can trust to be kind, but honest about how they interact with others. Often a teacher, coach, best friend or relative can point out little things your kids can change in the way they treat others. Remind them to reject any criticism that would have them disobey God (Like ”Everybody would like you a lot better if you would do drugs with us.”) or is problematic in other ways. Often little things like taking a step back when talking to others or letting the other person talk first don’t require a lot of practice, but can make the people with whom they are talking feel more loved.
  • Spend time in reflection. Encourage them to spend time replaying difficult interactions in their heads. Not to be overly critical of themselves or others, but to identify things they did well and the things they still need to practice. In the middle of a conversation it can be hard to determine what made things turn sour. Replaying it later can help your kids figure out what they need to change the next time they are having a similar conversation.
  • Ask for help. Some kids are socially awkward. They aren’t really being unkind, but it might seem that way to others who don’t know them as well. When your kids feel as if they are getting negative reactions from more than one person, but can’t seem to make needed corrections on their own, they may benefit from some coaching. Usually an adult is best suited to analyze the situation and help figure out any changes that may need to happen. For children who really struggle, reader’s theater social scripts can help. You can find plenty online for free that illustrate a positive way to handle the interactions that are a struggle. Your child can read through these scripts with you or others until the desired changes are comfortable.
  • Conflict resolution skills training. The worst parenting advice consistently given by ”experts” is to let kids work out their own conflicts. Children need to be actively taught strong conflict resolution skills and be given practice in using them. This skill alone can save them a lot of relational difficulties. We have a free printable parenting sheet walking you through a method on our website that you can access here.
  • Analyze the interactions Jesus had with others. Sometimes the world’s view of how to treat others isn’t very kind or loving. Your kids will be a lot less confused if they regularly go back and read about the encounters Jesus had with others. How did he interact with people who were hurting or upset? It can also help if they memorize passages like the fruit of the Spirit and 1 Corinthians 13 so they can remind themselves in the moment of how God wants them to treat others. (Repeating ”love is patient, love is kind” over and over in my head while dealing with someone difficult has helped my own self control more than once!)

So the next time you become exasperated your kids aren’t being as loving and kind towards others as you had hoped, take a step back and teach them these skills. It might just be exactly what they need.