Teaching Kids About Truth and Love

There is a misconception in today’s world that truth and love cannot exist in the same space. Your kids will probably be told that it is preferable to lie rather than to risk hurting someone’s feelings. Or that it is important to tell everyone they are going to Heaven, rather than risk upsetting someone by telling them they are disobeying God. Or that it isn’t loving to believe God will indeed send people to Hell for disobeying clearly stated truths in the Bible. And sadly they will watch as supposedly strong Christians take a clearly written declaritive sentence in the Bible and twist the words into a pretzel so that in the end, the sentence means the exact opposite of what it says.

The problem has been that many have done a very poor job of how they choose to share God’s truths. Or their “truth”. Love has come disconnected from truth and it seems to be getting worse every day. Fortunately, you can actively teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected – the way God intended it to be.

There are a few basic principles about truth and love that your kids need to know and practice.

  • Not every “truth” is actually “truth”. Just because your child believes something to be true, does not mean it is. Your child could be mistaken or wrong. Your child may only know part of the truth, but not all of it. Or it may just be your child’s opinion on a topic where everyone has a right to a different opinion (like a favorite color). Part of keeping truth and love connected is to constantly search for truth and make sure something is definitely truth before we present it as such.
  • Not every “truth” is equally important. God’s truths are absolute, unchanging and of eternal importance. Much of what people believe is “truth” is actually an opinion. There is no real evidence to prove whether or not it is absolute, unchanging and valid for everyone. An opinion positioned as “truth”is not nearly as important as God’s absolute truths.
  • Not every “truth” must be spoken immediately. Timing is crucial. Sharing a truth that could embarrass someone is perhaps best not done loudly in front of a large group of people. Your kids also need to understand that the “truths” of their opinion may not need to be shared at all. Just because your child doesn’t like someone’s outfit, doesn’t mean five hundred other people won’t love it. It’s not necessary to hurt someone’s feelings with your personal opinion.
  • God’s truths are absolute and do not change. We do not get to vote to change God’s commands. Current popular culture may not approve of God’s commands, but that does not mean they should be changed. God knows what is best for us. We have to trust and obey Him.
  • There is a way to share God’s truths with love. Most people believe they are doing the best they can. They will usually become defensive and stop listening if someone uses harsh, ugly, angry language to communicate God’s truths to them. Yes, Jesus may have sounded a bit harsh at times, but those occasions were rare. Most of the time he was very loving, but firm in the ways he corrected others.
  • Keeping God’s truths from someone is not love. There is a thought process that people cannot “help” who they are. It is not their fault if they want to live their lives in ways that disobey God. The fear by many Christians is that sharing God’s truths with them will make them reject God. The reality is living a life enmeshed in sin is a rejection of God. Making someone believe they are “right” with God while they are living in enmeshed sin is not loving. You are giving them a false sense of security. Sharing God’s truths in such a way that they will hopefully want to make changes and obey God is ultimately the most loving thing anyone can do.

Take the time to teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected. It is a skill set our world desperately needs.

Using Animals to Teach Your Kids About God

Family fun trips are great times to reinforce what your kids have been learning about God. Zoos, aquariums, nature preserves and even farms are usually full of animals and other creatures God created. (Our suburban yard has even been host to deer, foxes, possums, rabbits and more!) You can use the animals you see as ways to teach or remind your kids of some important biblical principles.

The great news is that you don’t have to preach a sermon to your kids. You don’t have to memorize a lesson plan or a bunch of scriptures. You can just make casual comments as you go. Often these comments are best made in response to something your child has said. Hopefully, some of them will come out of your mouth spontaneously. And of course, you can say other things while you are enjoying God’s creation, just sprinkle in the comments from time to time.

Use your own words, but try saying some of these things to your kids the next time you visit the zoo or aquarium.

  • “God must really love us to have created such an amazing variety for us to enjoy!”
  • ”God is so creative! Did you know God made you in His image, which means He made you to be creative, too?!”
  • ”God is amazing!”
  • ”How awesome is that! God created the (insert creature name) so that (insert interesting fact about animal you just learned). Did you know that the extreme intricacy in God’s creation is what is leading many scientists – even some atheists – to admit that the idea that all of this was created by chance is impossible?”
  • ”Oh! That’s a donkey like the one in the Bible that Jesus rode.”
  • ”I wonder if this animal would have been clean or unclean when Noah was loading the ark?”
  • ”How interesting that all of these different types of (insert name of animal grouping) are related. Noah didn’t have to take one of each variety of these on the ark, just one of each kind, or group of animals. He probably took baby animals so they would have longer to breed after the flood and would have taken up less space and eaten less food on the ark.”
  • ”I wonder what day of creation these were created on?”
  • ”God told Adam humans were supposed to take care of everything He created (have dominion over). How do you think He would want us to take care of all of these animals/fish? What is one thing we can do to help?”
  • ”God sure did bless us by giving us so many beautiful things to see while we are on Earth!”
  • ”Why do you think God created (insert name of creature) so that (insert characteristic)?”
  • ”How many animals did we see today that you think are mentioned by name in the Bible?” (Provides a great excuse for teaching your kids how to use Bible resources to find information.)
  • ”What are some things we saw today that we should thank God for the next time we pray?”
  • ”God is amazing!”

You won’t use all of these every time you go to a zoo or a nature preserve. Some you will word differently because of the personalities and interests of your kids. There are probably dozens of more things you could say, but these should get you started. Have fun with it. Use every chance you have for a teaching moment that points your kids to God.

What Is Your Child’s Godly Potential?

Christian parenting has one main goal – your descendants spend eternity in Heaven and help lots of others get there, too. Below that are two important goals that will help your kids reach the over encompassing one. The first is helping your kids build a strong, unshakeable faith foundation. The second is to help them reach their godly potential.

So what exactly is godly potential? It’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible as such, but there are quite a few scriptures that allude to it. Among the most familiar are perhaps Luke 12:48 (“To whom much is given…”) Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents) and 1 Corinthians 12 (Functions of members of the Church), but there are many others.

In short, God gives each of us – each of your kids – a slightly or vastly different potential in several areas. Our focus is not to be on who may have the “better” potential, for everyone has the potential to serve God. Rather it should be on developing and using our – or in this case, your kids’ – full potential to serve God.

So what are some of the components of your kids’ godly potential?

  • Gifts and talents. Spiritual gifts are often difficult to understand and apply to kids and teens. Instead, focus on the more concrete talents with which God has blessed them. As your kids develop and use these gifts to serve God, the spiritual gifts will most likely become more evident. Don’t just focus on obvious talents like artistic ability or public speaking. Your kids’ may have gifts like organizational skills, the ability to easily engage people in conversation or other talents we may not automatically connect to serving God, but which God can use.
  • Opportunities. God will give each of your kids different opportunities to serve Him. Some of those opportunities may be exciting, while others will seem more mundane. A few of the opportunities will involve all of your kids, but most will be specifically designed for each child and may vary greatly. All, however, are good works that God planned specifically for each of your kids to do in service to Him. And some of those opportunities will begin appearing when your kids are very young. Teaching them to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities God gives them to serve Him will give their lives meaning and purpose.
  • Knowledge, wisdom and discernment. In order to reach their godly potential, your kids will need to learn and understand what is in the Bible. They will also need to discern how to apply God’s wisdom to their lives. If your kids are in school, you are probably already aware that different kids have different capacities for learning, comprehension and application. God understands that, but He also expects each of your kids to do their very best to learn, understand and use the things He wants them to know.
  • Personality, character traits and resisting temptation. Each of your kids has a slightly or incredibly different personality. That personality can impact how much they struggle consistently having the character traits God wants them to have. Their personality can also impact which things tempt them and how difficult it is to resist certain temptations. This does not, however, mean any child is incapable of having the character traits God wants them to have or will be unable to resist temptation. It just means certain aspects may be more difficult for some of your kids than for others. Those who struggle need to be encouraged to continue working towards becoming who God wants them to be.

When you look at this list, what is the potential you see in each of your kids? Be careful to avoid underestimating their potential. Remember, they are still growing and changing. God may have many plans for them, but helping them build that strong faith foundation and developing to their full godly potential will help them be ready for whatever God has in store.

Fun Activities to Improve Kids’ Metacognition

One of the keys to a young person’s self control is metacognition – the ability to recognize one’s own thoughts. For Christian young people, this is also a key to recognizing when they are being tempted to sin. Fortunately, metacognition is a skill that can improve with practice. Even better, there are fun ways to give your kids practice in recognizing their own thoughts.

  • First thought game. This is a game we normally associate with psychology, but we aren’t using it in the same way. Throw out random words and have your kids say the first thing that pops into their minds. You won’t be analyzing their responses at all. What you want them to do is develop an awareness that outside stimuli can trigger thoughts in their minds and that they can become aware of what those thoughts may be.
  • Jot it down. Throw out a “wild” idea. Example: “What if we went on a year long vacation anywhere in the world?” Instead of giving you a verbal answer, have your kids jot down everything they are thinking. Once again, the answers aren’t important (unless you intend to actually do it). Jotting down words, phrases or ideas will make them more aware of their thought process than merely verbalizing them. Don’t forget them to capture thoughts like, “Is she serious?” “What about school?” and other similar thoughts.
  • Ask directly. Throw out a controversial topic and ask what they think about the subject. Try to choose one that won’t upset you if you disagree with their responses. To take it to the next level, see if they can tell you why they think the way they do about the topic.
  • “What if”. Trying to ask kids what they were thinking right before they made a poor choice rarely results in a concrete answer. Although that’s a great goal to have, try focusing on having them be aware of the process of thinking of other options. Encourage them to stop whenever they have a choice to make and ask themselves, “What if I did something other than what I am getting ready to do?” It will take verbally practicing with you first quite a bit before they can do it naturally in real time, but mastering this may help point them towards better options and intentional thinking rather than merely reacting to a choice without awareness of any cognition.
  • Question hour. Encourage your kids to ask their questions. If you aren’t available when a question comes to mind, train them to jot it down to ask you later. Becoming aware of the questions they have is one part of recognizing their own thoughts. You don’t literally have to spend an hour answering questions, but you should make time regularly for answering them. Remember, there is no shame in having to look up answers you don’t know or have forgotten. It’s a great way to teach them how to find reliable answers for themselves as they grow older.
  • “Voices” in their thoughts. Ask your kids what “voices” they hear in their heads when they want to do something. Younger children won’t be able to do this, but older ones should be able to tell you they “hear” grandma’s favorite expression or the mean thing a coach said to them. Knowing the “tapes” they have already ingrained can be helpful to you as you parent them away from any unnecessarily toxic thoughts they have allowed others to place in their metacognition collection. It will also let you know if some of the positive “tapes” you have tried to install in their brains have taken root.

Helping your kids with their metacognition skills takes time. It can really help improve their self control and avoiding sin when tempted. It’s worth making the time to help them recognize their own thoughts.

Great Way to Answer Your Kids’ Questions About God

It’s fairly accepted in ministry now that doubts and questions about faith don’t cause faith to crumble on their own. It’s the act of not helping young people find the answers they are seeking, and allowing Satan to provide his false answers that will pull them away from God.

Even though most in ministry are aware of these studies, it is the rare church that provides regular opportunities for kids and teens to ask questions and express their doubts. Which means, parents have to take a more intentional role in uncovering and answering their kids’ questions and doubts about God, scripture, the church, etc.

Before we go any farther, it’s important to emphasize that you personally don’t have to know all of the answers. Sometimes, you will, especially with younger children. Sometimes, there isn’t an answer, other than that God hasn’t explained it to us thoroughly yet and we will understand better when we are in Heaven. Many times though, you will need to research the answer yourself and that’s actually great. Why? Because you can teach your kids how to find and use reliable resources to answer any questions they may have when they are older. If you don’t know any reliable resources, ask your minister for a few. (Apologetics books often cover a lot of very common questions.)

It’s critical that you don’t just make up answers to avoid looking ignorant. An inaccurate answer, an answer with faulty logic or other weak responses can also be used by Satan later to undermine anything that was true in the answer. If you need a little extra time for research, say so. Or you can ask your kids to give you their questions a few days in advance so you can make sure you are giving solid answers.

Give each child a special notebook or journal. If your kids have a phone, encourage them to set up a special section in the Notes app. Explain that you want them to jot down any questions that they think of….things they don’t understand (which is how kids often express doubts) about God, the Bible, Christianity, etc. Encourage them to take their notebooks to church and jot down questions that come to mind during the sermon or class. Ask them to jot down questions that might come up during the school day or during free time, too.

Then have regularly scheduled question times, where you sit down as a family and discuss everyone’s most recent questions. How often this is will vary depending upon your kids. It needs to be consistent enough though, that your kids believe you really will address their questions, so they will continue to jot them down.

Obviously, this all takes time and intentionality, but you and your kids will benefit from discussing their questions and doubts rather than having others answer them later in ways that will pull your kids away from God.