4 Ways Your Kids’ Activities May Be Undermining Your Parenting

A few decades ago elementary aged children may have been involved in an activity other than church and school maybe one or two afternoons a week. Now, it seems the average child is involved in activities from the time they leave school until bedtime every day and all day Saturday and often Sunday. As young people struggle more and more with various aspects of life – particularly living the Christian life -could it be all of this extra activity is undermining our efforts to parent our children?

The answer is a resounding “Yes”. While there are some benefits to your kids being involved in an activity or two, constant participation in activities can actually hurt them in critical ways.

Here are 4 critical things you and your kids are losing when every free moment they have is spent involved in an organized activity.

  • True emotional closeness. Watching your children participate in something is important to your kids. If that’s all you are doing, however, it can give the illusion of a close emotional relationship when you actually don’t spend enough time engaging with each other in meaningful ways to have much of a relationship at all. It’s deceptive, because it feels like we are spending time with them, our interactions with them are limited to cheering them on which feels positive, but it’s all very shallow in the end. You need true emotional closeness in order to really know your kids’ hearts and how they need molding in God’s image. They need to be emotionally close to you so they will listen to your teaching and correction. That requires a lot of time spent interacting with each other in meaningful ways. That can’t happen if you barely have a few minutes together a day.
  • Accessibility, time and energy to teach your kids about God and what He wants from them and for them. The things God wants your kids to know and live are complex. You can’t teach it to them in a few minutes a day and you definitely can’t mentor, coach and correct them when they aren’t around or neither of you have the energy to deal with it. Extra curricular activities used to be about having fun, but now they are huge revenue generators and are run as if every child will become a professional in their activity of choice. While that may be helping professional sports teams and other fields, it’s robbing your kids of the time they need to spend with you, so they can be learning how God wants them to live their lives.
  • Consistent, godly moral lessons. All activities are run, coached or advised by adults. These adults may be operating from a very different moral perspective than you. In fact, their beliefs may cause them to openly oppose what you want your kids to believe. They may also repeat over and over sayings that they believe help participants, but which may be in direct opposition to what God teaches. This can be true even if the adults in charge call themselves Christians. In addition, many adults running activities pay little attention to the interactions between the kids or teens participating in their activity. If I had a nickel for every child that was introduced to drugs, sexual activity and other ungodly pursuits by fellow participants in an activity, I would be wealthy!
  • Choice of whose lives they will emulate. Participation in an activity at a high level often means those who are successful in that activity are held up as role models for your kids. Often, these people make ungodly choices as money and fame tempt them. It is rare that even Christian activities will consistently hold up Jesus as the model for your kids to follow.

There are other ways your kids’ constant involvement in activities can undermine your efforts to parent them towards God. Saying no to over involvement in activities won’t be easy. Your kids may be upset. Other parents and activity sponsors may try to pressure or even bully you to let your kids remain active. You will have to be strong for your kids to get the parenting they need from you, so they can truly grow up to be who God created them to be. It may seem counterintuitive to limit your child’s activities, but it really is in their best interest.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids Bible Application Principles

There is a misconception that teaching kids the stories in the Bible automatically means they know how God wants them to live their lives. Most kids need help finding the commands and principles in Bible stories, as well as guided practice in learning how to live those commands and principles on a daily basis.

You could choose to do this through lectures, but it’s not the most effective way for kids to learn. You can actually have fun with your kids and teach them at the same time. Here are some of our favorite ideas.

  • Make English muffin pizzas. Pizza isn’t mentioned in the Bible, but taking English muffins, pizza sauce and a few toppings can give you a great forum for teaching your kids about the practical application of what they are learning from the Bible. As your kids are creating their pizzas, encourage them to talk about what is happening in their lives. Find ways to reinforce what God would want them to do in specific situations. Or instead of telling them what God wants them to do, ask older children how they think God would want them to handle certain situations. See if your kids can think of examples in the Bible when someone encountered a similar situation.
  • Complete a family project together. Whether it’s planting a family garden, cleaning the garage or serving someone, working together gives you lots of opportunities to remind your kids of relationship principles and commands in the Bible. You can also spend time teaching your kids godly conflict resolution skills or help them develop strategies for better self-control of the things they say to others.
  • Have a family game night. Competition can bring out the worst in many people. Games are a great way for everyone in your family to work on godly traits like honesty, patience, perseverance and more. Spend time after the game is over talking about the principles they can practice when they are playing games.
  • Go for a long walk or hike. Kids tend to gradually open up if you are present and available to them. Make sure the walk is long enough to give them time to relax and talk and for you to respond as needed.
  • Hang out in the yard together. Blow bubbles, play in a sand box, watch the clouds or stars go by, mall driveway chalk drawings. Once again, your undistracted availability as you do quiet things together gives them opportunities to share their thoughts and concerns with you. It also gives you a relaxed way to teach them what God wants them to know.
  • Use one of our free application activity ideas. Our primary ministry website has dozens of application activity ideas with meaningful ties to Bible stories. Just click on the application tab for dozens of great ideas. Originally meant for Bible classes, many can also be adapted for families. http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/

Taking the time to make sure your kids understand the application principles in Bible lessons and giving them guided practice can increase the likelihood they will be able to live the lives God want them to live. As a bonus, you will be creating fun family memories.

Hidden Benefits of Praying Blessings Over Your Kids

In the Old Testament, there are several times when fathers prayed blessings over the heads of their sons. The stories are often difficult ones for us to understand as at times they sound more as if the father in question is prophesying the future of each child. The Bible doesn’t thoroughly explain how these blessings worked. Did the father in question get some sort of direct message from God as to what to say – meaning it was an actual prophecy from God? Did God somehow make these blessings happen in the lives of the children? (It’s important to note, some of them didn’t exactly sound like blessings!) Did the father base the blessing on the character the now adult child had displayed in his life?

We may never completely understand these parental blessings, but there is something we can learn from them. Blessings said out loud over our children can impact their lives. There is no actual command to pray blessings over your children, but what children would not be blessed to hear their parents praying out loud for God to bless them?

When we talk about God blessing your child with these prayers said out loud over your kids, we aren’t just talking about money, success or good grades. It’s okay to ask God for those things to an extent, but what is more important is to use them as an opportunity to encourage your kids to see themselves as God sees them. To pray the ways you want to see them live their faith. To pray for God’s protection and guidance for their lives.

Fair warning, your kids will find this cringe worthy embarrassing! (This is best done without a public audience most of the time!) The good news though is that their respect for God and prayer will let them allow you to pray blessings over them they would never let you say to them in conversation without interruptions or leaving the room.

These blessings are times to share the potential you see in them. To point out their gifts from God. To remind them how incredibly precious and loved they are. To remind them God wants to guide them through life if they will let Him. To remind them God wants what is truly best for them – even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Blessings also remind your kids how much you love them and how important their spiritual life is to you.

Here’s the other secret about most kids. While they may cringe at these blessings, secretly most of them are soaking them into their hearts and minds. Done periodically with some consistency, they will even eventually become a treasured part of your relationship. If you connect these times of blessing with regular events like birthdays, the first day of school or other events, you may even find if you forget it one year, they will remind you.

So pray blessings out loud over the heads of your children. Praying for your children is always important. Praying blessings out loud over their head can benefit them in ways silent prayers don’t necessarily provide. So give your kids both and watch what happens!

Encouraging Your Kids’ Godly Dreams

Parents will often tell their kids that they can do anything they put their minds to do. The implication being that with enough hard work, anything is possible. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Other factors can prevent your kids from achieving their dreams, but were those the right dreams anyway?

The Bible tells us God has good works planned for each of us to do. It also tells us that He loves us enough to know the number of hairs on our heads! I doubt even the most loving mother could tell you the number of hairs on the heads of each of her kids, but she still has plans and dreams for them. It only makes sense that God cares about more details in our lives than we often give Him credit for having.

God has specific plans He would like for each of your kids to follow. Obviously, becoming a Christian is one of those plans. Obeying His commands is another. Serving others and sharing their faith would also fall under plans God has for your kids. There is a reason though, all of your kids are at least a bit different – with different gifts, talents, interests and passions. They were hard wired by God to be able to do the good works He has planned for them to do. Some of those good works will overlap with where they attend school, live or the careers they choose.

So why don’t Christian parents tell their kids they can do anything if it’s in God’s plans for their lives? Why aren’t we spending more time helping them discover their gifts and passions and helping them match those up with potential careers? Why aren’t we spending more time teaching them about vocational ministry – finding ways to serve others, share their faith and be a light in the world while at work, school or even home? Why aren’t we equipping them to discern God’s plans for their lives, so it will be easier to follow them?

Instead, parents often either micromanage their kids’ choices or encourage them to think almost selfishly…focusing on plans that will make them happy. Christian parents need to spend more time teaching our kids how to focus on being more holy. Happiness may or may not come with holiness, but joy always does. We need to teach our kids how to dream godly dreams. Dreams the Holy Spirit is perhaps placing on their hearts for ways to minister to others. It may be through their career or in their time outside of the job…hopefully, both.

“You can do anything” may be encouraging your kids to do what they want to do – whether or not it is in God’s plans for their lives. It encourages them to make major life decisions by bringing God into them late in the process – if at all. It encourages them to perhaps even push past walls God has set up to protect them from that choice. If you have been telling your kids they can do anything, try switching the dialogue. Point them to including God and following the plans He has for their lives. Everyone will benefit from the change.

The Secret to Raising Productive Christians

Did you know God expects more from Christians than just sitting on a pew once a week? More than just to avoid sinning? There is a productive side to Christianity. God expects His people to serve those around them and share their faith, so others will become Christians. The Bible tells us there are definitely lukewarm Christians. Now I don’t have any idea who those lukewarm Christians are in Revelation 3:15-16 that God will spit or vomit out, but I don’t want my kids to be in that group.

Our works don’t save us, but are an outpouring of our gratitude and obedience to God. I want to raise kids who are serving others and sharing their faith. Kids who are obedient to God’s commands. Kids who attend worship because they want to, not because it’s a habit, family expectation or spiritual insurance policy. A group that does Christian research found that children raised in Christian homes fall into three basic groups as adults. The first are those who may or may not still claim to believe in God or be a Christian, but make few, if any, attempts to actually live a Christian life.

The second group is tricky. They call themselves Christian and may even attend worship services and Bible classes regularly. Their life, however, does not reflect obedience to God on a large scale, including obeying God’s commands, serving others or sharing their faith. Their faith or at least their lifestyle reflects a shallow Christianity. The research didn’t follow these young adults for years, but I would imagine they are more susceptible to having their faith continue to weaken over the years.

The third group of young adults lived their faith. They weren’t perfect, of course, but they consistently made godly choices. They served others regularly and shared their faith. They were active and productive Christians.

It’s important to remember that all three groups of young adults were raised in Christian homes. So what made the difference? Was there consistency within certain homes…raising kids that mainly ended up in the same faith category? The research found there was a great bit of consistency and that there were marked differences in the ways the three groups were raised.

As one would imagine, the group of young adults who did not remain faithful grew up in homes where not a lot of spiritual things happened. They may have prayed at meals and attended church, but there weren’t family devotionals, spiritual conversations and family efforts to serve others and share their faith. The spiritual instruction and coaching that is essential just didn’t happen often or consistently enough to impact the children who were raised in those homes.

The surprising part is the difference between the last two groups. They pretty much did the same things. They prayed and studied the Bible together and independently. They had a lot of discussions about how God wants us to live our lives and other spiritual topics. They corrected their kids and helped mold their hearts to obey God. They attended worship, served others and shared their faith.

So why did some kids become church attenders and others become productive Christians? One factor seemed to make the difference. Hospitality. Yes, you read that correctly. Families who invited friends, family and strangers into their home on a regular basis were much more likely to raise productive Christians than those who didn’t. It didn’t seem to matter who was entertained or what kind of food (if any) was served. Just regularly having other people in the home changed everything.

Hospitality is a dying art in our world. Being hospitable will make you stand out in a positive way. It will expose your kids in more meaningful ways to other Christians. It can model for them how to serve others and share their faith. It can encourage those you entertain. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Your home doesn’t have to be perfect. Just open your door and invite people into your home.

The ironic thing is that the Bible focuses on hospitality quite a bit – especially in the New Testament. It’s even a requirement for those who wish to become elders in the Church. In fact, it’s commanded of all Christians (Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9 and others). Yet, it’s rarely mentioned or practiced today and our kids are missing an essential element of spiritual growth because of it. So grab your phone and have someone over for ice cream. It might just make a huge difference in your kids’ spiritual lives.