If you have school aged children, you are familiar with sleep overs. Many parents don’t like hosting them because behavior can get out of control with the combination of lack of sleep, junk food and too much unstructured free time. With a little extra effort, you can host a sleepover that’s still lots of fun, but helps others and teaches the kids or teens attending about serving.
First, you need a theme for your party of service. Does your church support service efforts in your community or mission efforts in other countries? Contact someone you believe the young people attending the party would be interested in serving and find out if there is something your group can do to serve them. Local service has the advantage of a possible field excursion to serve or deliver needed items. Service projects for the mission field make it fun to carry the theme throughout the evening with food, music and games from the country you are serving.
Once you have identified the group you are serving, you will need to gather the items you need for the project. If the group does not have a suggestion, our ministry website has dozens and dozens of service project ideas. Our family has hosted parties where the girls made fancy hair ornaments for girls in a homeless shelter and decorated onesies for children served by a Christian foster care agency. Your party can plan a collection, making posters and fliers to distribute or physically go somewhere and execute a project. (Some organizations have minimum age limits, so call before going.)
Have fun with it. Older children and teens may want to plan the entire party. The more ownership they have of the service project you complete, the more they will enjoy participating. If possible, have party goers interact with the people they are serving – either during the party or at a later date. It will make the entire experience more meaningful for them. Done well, you may be hosting many more service sleepovers in the future!
Did you know your kids are probably mildly to moderately sleep deprived? Most parents don’t know that children should get 10-12 hours of sleep a night – especially during the teen years. Most children are lucky to get eight hours of sleep and many teens are trying to get by on even less.
You are probably aware that sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, making it easier for your children to get sick. You may also know a lack of sleep impacts their ability to learn and remember things needed during the school day. If your kids do get enough sleep, it is likely because you figured out they are better behaved when well rested! Did you know, however, that sleep deprivation can also impact their spiritual well being?
That’s right. Even with the best of intentions, your kids will struggle in multiple spiritual areas if they don’t get enough sleep. Here are five of the most common spiritual areas most negatively impacted.
Self control/impulse control. Obedience to you, teachers, coaches and God depends in great part on self control. Can your children deny themselves something they want or want to do when it violates God’s commands? It is much more difficult to have self control when they are exhausted. They are more likely to act on impulse rather than making well thought out godly decisions.
Generosity. A recent study of non-profit giving found that people are less generous when they are tired. Children often have a naturally generous spirit, but when they are tired, it can easily be replaced with a more selfish attitude.
Kindness. Everyone is more likely to snap at others when they are tired. In fact, the generosity study above postulated that the lack of generosity was linked to the crankiness associated with not getting enough sleep. Godly people are consistently kind to others. Kindness can be difficult for children and teens in a world where teasing and bullying are not uncommon. Your children will find it easier to be kind when they are well rested.
Patience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, meaning it isn’t a natural human trait. You know yourself how impatient you become when tired. Your children will struggle as well – perhaps even more so to be patient when exhausted.
Perseverance. Living the successful Christian life requires a lot of perseverance. Even on good days, it can be tempting to give up trying to be who God wants us to be. When your children are sleep deprived, they are even more likely to give up on trying to be godly.
Your children will fight spending more time sleeping at night. You will probably need to remove all distractions from their bedrooms. They may not admit that after a few weeks of more sleep, life seems a little bit easier and better. But it will be. In fact, you are probably sleep deprived, too. Getting more sleep might just be what everyone in your family needs.
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.
For many of you, the chaos that can mark the end of a school year is heightened with the anxiety produced by the pressure to give your kids’ teachers end of the school year gifts. The dirty little secret in education is that teachers feel as if many of the things they are given actually have very little thought or gratitude attached to them. As a Christian parent, teaching your kids to express their gratitude to others and God should be one of your priorities. So what can you do to teach your kids appropriate character lessons and help their teachers feel truly appreciated?
There is no perfect answer, because the personalities of teachers can vary more widely than one would expect. There are some ideas, however, that should appeal to the vast majority of them.
Have your kids write sincere, handwritten, specific notes. I know that for many of you, the idea of actually accomplishing this seems unbearable. However, it provides your kids an excellent lesson in going the extra mile, treating others the way you would like to be treated and showing gratitude. These notes need to be highly personal and specific. Encourage them to think of one or two examples of a time when their teachers made an impact on them. Did they have a difficult year, with a problem teacher? It happens. Even the worst teachers teach our kids something, though. They may not want to ”thank” this type of teacher for teaching them how they don’t want to treat children when they are adults, but encourage them to think hard of something positive the teacher did during the year. Notes filled with platitudes will never mean quite as much as notes that are specific. Most great teachers would probably be happier with a note like that from your child than some meaningless gift. (Note: Start really early with beginning or struggling writers. There will be a lot less stress for you and them.)
Find a gift that shows your family has been paying attention to them as people. Starbucks gift cards are great, but most teachers will never have to pay for a Starbucks drink again for the rest of their lives. How many families paid enough attention to learn that she loves to knit or wants to learn how to do something new. Or maybe she misses riding horses. Gift cards to make those things possible, along with a note connecting it to something shared during the year will let your child’s teacher know you thought of her as a real person and not just an ”employee”.
Remember the school custodian, librarian, specials teachers and others who are often forgotten. Did the school secretary help you out with something? Was the assistant principal always kind to your child? Notes from you or your kids with a small token will often mean more to the other people who work in your child’s school than an expensive gift to a teacher. No one likes to be forgotten or their kindnesses taken for granted.
Make gratitude a year long project. Want to make the end of the school year less stressful? Do all of those kind things throughout the year. A teacher who feels genuinely appreciated throughout the year will feel more encouraged than one who has presents thrown at her the last day of school that obviously have very little real thought or gratitude put into them.
Teach your kids to thank the teacher at the end of every class or day . Our daughter participated in an activity as a child that required taking a lot of classes each week. The studio insisted the children thank the teacher individually before they left the room at the end of each class. In fact, the teachers thanked the students, too. It made a difference in how they treated each other and set a great precedent.
Taking the time to help your kids express real gratitude to their teachers is a great way to teach them some important Christian character traits. Make sure you take full advantage of the opportunity.
Entitled. Greedy. That’s how the world sees young people today. It doesn’t have to be that way. Whenever I notice a greedy or entitled child or teen, I have found their parents are almost always making one or more common parenting mistakes. Since Christianity is about sharing what you have rather than focusing on amassing more, it’s important you are doing everything you can to avoid raising the stereotypical greedy and entitled child.
So what are some concrete things you can do to avoid raising greedy kids? Here are a few of our favorites.
Avoid toy aisles and stores. Parents who raise greedy kids often believe it is necessary to walk through toy aisles and stores as some sort of reward or incentive for good behavior on a family shopping excursion for needed items. The truth is your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists. Constantly parading them in front of all the things a kid can possibly want is going to make your kids want them. Toy aisles should only be visited when purchasing toys for someone else.
Stop watching entertainment with commercials. If your kids are watching entertainment, encourage them to avoid commercial tv. When they are young, screen time should be severely limited anyway. When they do watch, PBS and some streaming platforms don’t show commercials. As with the toy aisle, your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists.
Discourage them from playing the comparison game. When I was growing up, the day after Christmas was spent calling friends and comparing gifts. Remind your kids that playing the comparison game is hurtful for those who can’t afford what other families can or whose families have different values about gift giving. Comparing gifts can even convince them they really, really want something that they actually don’t care about at all. They’ve just gotten caught up in the competitive aspect of the game. Teach them how to change the subject when anyone asks them, “What’d ya get?”
Call out greed when you see it. If your child visits Santa or someone asks for a gift list, it should only contain two or three reasonable items. If your kid creates a long list, send them back to edit it. You may also need to set price limits on the gifts they can request. It’s never too early to understand money is a finite resource that must be used carefully and in godly ways. Define greed for them and choose a great Bible verse that reminds them God does not condone greed.
Clearly define wants versus needs. The slippery slope to a greedy heart often begins because we think we need something we actually just want. Spend time serving the poor. Point out that there is often joy in homes where people own less than your family does. Encourage them to think about from where that joy could come. Never allow your kids to define something they want as something they need.
Make them pay for any items they want if they can’t wait until their birthday or Christmas for them. Tolerating delayed gratification is one of the building blocks of eliminating greed. If they just can’t wait, but are too young to get a work permit, find extra jobs they can do around the house to earn the money. The bonus is developing a strong work ethic in the process.
Don’t use things to soothe your parental guilt. Parents who don’t give their kids the time and attention they need often feel guilty. They think buying their kids gifts will make up for their absence. In fact it’s so common, there’s an expression…”Your kids prefer your presence over your presents.” Instead, find ways to give your kids more of your time and attention.
Set a good example. Have you ever really listened to yourself talk? How often are you talking about the things you need or want to buy? How often do you go shopping for fun? If your kids see greed in your life, they will often copy your behaviors and attitudes. Greed can become a habit. If you’ve been greedy for a long time, breaking the habit won’t be easy. If you want to raise kids who aren’t greedy though, you’ll need to do the work to banish greed from your own life.
God calls Christians to share everything they have so others won’t lack what they need. A greedy child will become a greedy adult incapable of obeying God in this area. Stomp out greed in your kids before it becomes a habit that’s hard to break.