Fun Family Kindness Challenge

It always makes me a little sad when I am kind to a worker in a retail store or restaurant and they thank me like I’ve just given them a million dollars. Their reaction tells me it may have been a very long time since a customer treated them with just the very basics of kindness.

Let’s get real. Most of us have little margin in our lives. We don’t get enough sleep or exercise and we don’t eat as nutritiously as we should. So when a retail worker doesn’t move as quickly as we want them to or there is the slightest little issue, we snap. Ah, you may say…. but the person wasn’t doing their job properly or was rude to me. Yet, Jesus said we are to love even our enemies and treat them with kindness, too.

For Christian parents, our rudeness has another problem attached. Our kids are watching everything we do. They are soaking it in like little sponges. If they see you routinely being unkind to retail workers or bad drivers, they are going to be rude to those who annoy them in their lives. Soon it becomes a really bad habit for your entire family. A bad habit that draws no one to God and is a poor reflection of God’s image.

Why not have a family challenge to break bad habits and add some kindness to the world (kindness can have a ripple effect too). Gather your kids together and read a few verses like Luke 6:35 and Ephesians 4:32. Ask your children why they believe God wants us to be kind to others. Look at 1 Corinthians 13 and start making a list of ways to show kindness to others. Then add to the list concrete things like giving sincere compliments (preferably on character traits and not just appearance) or helping someone carry things.

Write each idea on a little slip of paper, fold them all and place them in a container. Every day for the period of your family kindness challenge, someone draws the slip of paper for the day. While hopefully your family is more focused on doing all of the things you listed, the act on the slip drawn is the special focus for the day. Everyone should go out of their way to do whatever it says as many times as possible during the day.

That evening at dinner (or before bed) have everyone share their experiences with the kindness act of the day. How hard was it to do? How often were they able to do it during the day? Could they do it so many times they lost count? How did people respond? (Not everyone will respond to kindness with kindness or gratitude. The response should not keep us from continuing to be kind to that person.) Don’t forget that family members should be kind to each other as well, so make sure you encourage them to be kind to each other each day.

How long your Family Kindness Challenge lasts is up to you. If you have enough ideas and keep it going for long enough, however, you may find that kindness has become natural for your entire family.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Respect

In many ways, a healthy parent/child relationship is built on respect. If children don’t respect their parents, they may rebel against every request or obey only to avoid consequences. (Parents need to show a different type of respect to their children, but that’s a conversation for another time.) For your children to have a healthy relationship with God, they have to show respect to Him. Did you know, the original Hebrew and Greek words for worship are basically defined as showing humble respect to God? If your children don’t respect God, not only are they likely to rebel against His commands, they won’t even be able to worship Him!

Unfortunately, our culture has weakened what the word “respect” means. To most people, respect means being polite or perhaps showing a slight humility towards – as one might slightly nod one’s head rather than bowing or curtsying to royalty. The biblical meaning is much stronger. Respect towards God is to honor Him and value Him highly. To fear Him (yes, in spite of what you may have been taught, fearing God is a biblical principle) in a way that indicates a deep respect. Respect in the Bible includes obeying God’s commands – even ones that are confusing or with which we disagree – and paying attention to what He says. Having a true, biblical respect for God means your children feel that respect to their core. They don’t just metaphorically salute God or bow and then go about their lives focused on what they want rather than what God wants.

Before doing fun things to explore the idea of respect with your children, it’s important that you discuss the biblical meaning and standard for respect and what is the current definition for most people in the world. They may not thoroughly grasp the difference until you do some of the activities, but it’s a topic you should revisit periodically throughout their lives.

Once you’ve introduced the topic of respect, here are some fun things you can do to explore it in more depth.

  1. Check out some children’s books and read them together. There are children’s books about respect, but also look for books involving royalty or people in power over others. What are the various ways people showed respect towards those in power? Find books on customs in other cultures and see if you can find anything about how children might show respect to parents, older people, teachers, etc. You may want to keep a running list or compare and contrast time periods and cultures.
  2. Have a spot of tea. A part of showing respect is good manners – even if it is not the total definition of the word for our purposes. What is more fun than having a tea party or going to a tea room or “fancy” restaurant where they can practice their manners? Just remember to talk about how good manners can still be a hiding place for a disrespectful heart.
  3. Draw it out. Give your kids each a large sheet of paper. Have them divide it in half. On one side, they can draw or right words, attitudes and actions that are respectful, and on the other side things that are disrespectful. If they illustrate something they think you are doing that they believe is disrespectful, seriously reflect on their thoughts. You may need to apologize and make some changes yourself.
  4. Cookies for cops (or other authority figures). This activity can be with teachers, first responders, politicians, judges – even church elders… anyone who might have some sort of authority over your children. Work with your children to make them some cookies and thank you drawings or cards. Call ahead to find a good time to drop by and deliver your goodies, but also have a conversation with them. In what ways do people act towards them that make them feel respected? Disrespected? Why do they think respect from others makes it easier to do their job?
  5. R..E..S…P…E…C…T. You know the song. Encourage your children to take a familiar tune in the public domain (no copyrights, so most nursery songs) and write their own respect song or rap. You can even make a music video of the finished song.
  6. Have a heart. As mentioned early, respectful words and actions can hide an extremely rebellious and disrespectful heart. Have your children cut out a large heart. On it, they should draw or write the things they believe are part of having a respectful heart towards God. After discussing their drawings, have them flip the heart on the other side and draw or write the words or actions someone who respects God will exhibit. Encourage them to reflect on their hearts regularly.

Teaching your children to respect others is great. Teaching them to have a respectful heart towards God is crucial. Taking the time to help your children learn about respect can make living the Christian life much easier for them.

14 Surprising Signs Your Child May Be Selfish

Spend five minutes out in public and you will probably witness multiple acts of selfishness. Wars and conflicts are often rooted in selfishness. Food insecurity, extreme poverty and other social problems take longer to resolve because money that could be used to help others is tied up in selfish ways by those who have more than enough things. And who can miss the thousands of references a day to the smaller problems caused by “entitled” people?

No one plans to raise a selfish child (at least I hope not), but many people do. The problem is we are often blinded to the selfishness in our own children. We can’t correct what we don’t notice and uncorrected selfishness eventually hardens in their hearts, creating adults who have more in common with pre-ghosts Ebeneezer Scrooge than Jesus.

So what are some perhaps surprising signs you are raising children who are becoming more selfish by the day?

  • Whine and complain a lot. Whining and complaining are rooted in disappointment that things aren’t going the way your children wanted them to go. It’s a selfish mindset that believes everything should always be exactly like they want it to be… or they will whine and complain in hopes of things being done their way.
  • Don’t say “please” and “thank you” without prompting. Every child needs periodic reminders, but if those words are rarely heard without prompting, there is a problem. Why “please”? Because the word expresses the understanding that they are not entitled to whatever they are asking of the other person. It’s a form of pre-gratitude.
  • Have difficulty sharing and taking turns. Very young children naturally struggle with this and must be taught and reminded. Once they are old enough to attend school, however, sharing and taking turns should come naturally.
  • Are poor losers when playing games. Poor losers are vocal about their assumption that they should always win everything.
  • Have long wish lists for birthdays and Christmas. If your children can rattle off a long list of things wanted the second they are asked for a gift suggestion, there may be a problem with selfishness.
  • Have trouble letting others be the center of attention. Let’s be honest. We all enjoy being the center of positive attention from time to time. If your child is clearly miffed when someone else is the center of attention (assuming your child gets enough healthy attention on a normal basis), there may be a problem with selfishness.
  • Have trouble celebrating with others when good things happen to them. It’s okay for your kids to hope that they too will one day win a free trip around the world, but that shouldn’t stop them from being super excited for the person who just did.
  • Melt down when told “no”. No one likes to hear the word, but your children should accept it most of the time. Asking to appeal your decision is one thing, but having an immediate meltdown every time is problematic.
  • When denied something, sneak or lie to get it anyway. This is a serious warning sign of selfishness – the inability to accept the denial of any whim and the willingness to sin to get what was desired.
  • Have a strong focus on money and/or things. Part of growing up is learning how to handle money in godly ways. That includes the idea of generosity. If the focus becomes on getting more money and spending the vast majority on oneself, then selfishness has overwhelmed generosity.
  • Shopping or window shopping IRL or online is a favorite past time. Your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists. Spending too much time in environments where things can be claimed as one’s own can create a desire for things your child doesn’t really need or under normal circumstances would even want.
  • Don’t seem to notice or care when their words or actions hurt others. There is a caveat to this one as some children with special needs struggle to notice the cues that someone is upset. Even they can be taught the cues, however, and change their behavior, apologize and make amends when they have hurt someone.
  • Are reluctant to take personal responsibility for the outcomes of their choices. If everything is always the fault of someone else, a selfish heart is quite probably a serious issue.
  • Make sure their needs and desires are met first before attempting to help or attend to others. This selfish trait is tricky, because on the surface it may look like they are helping others. Look more closely though and you will realize their needs and desires are met first and only then will they give their excess time, attention, money, etc. to others.

Our world is miserable because of the actions of selfish people. Don’t make things worse by raising more people who will operate from a position of selfishness. If your children consistently have the symptoms mentioned above, call it for what it is and take action to help them change their hearts. Otherwise, it won’t end well for them or anyone who is touched by their lives.

Why Your Kids Need “Old”People in Their Lives

Ageism has always existed – otherwise God would not have had to command people to take care of their elderly parents. Over the centuries though, some cultures have realized the value of respecting older people and considering whatever wisdom they may have to share. Ours is not one of those cultures. To be quite fair, we should treat everyone with respect regardless of their age – as Christians it is one of our “top two” commands. And, I hasten to admit, not everyone grows wiser as they grow older – some just continue making poor choices and advising others to do the same. Throughout the Bible though, God commands older people to teach and mentor younger people and younger people to be willing to take advice and learn from them (when it matches God’s Word).

Perhaps you are reluctant to try and create opportunities for your children to spend time with older adults. You may think your schedule is already overbooked or that all the older people you know aren’t very wise… after all, they know nothing about technology or the latest trends. Before you close this post and continue isolating your children from “old” people, consider these thoughts on providing your children with lots of interactions with the senior citizen set.

  • Your children need to know the value of wisdom – especially wisdom from God. Wisdom that isn’t from God isn’t wisdom. (Godly wisdom can, however, can be shared by people who have rejected God – although they are often unaware from whence it came). Knowledge is not wisdom, although it is necessary to have knowledge to become wise. Tech savvy – or the lack thereof – has no relation to wisdom. Older people are not the only ones who can be wise, but there is a element of wisdom connected to life experience. Proverbs 1:7 reinforces that fools despise wisdom and that wisdom is rooted in the fear/respect of the Lord. Wisdom can protect them from making poor choices and reaping the negative consequences.
  • Teach your children that knowledge and wisdom should be actively sought. Wisdom isn’t going to just fill their heads because they ate the right foods, exercised or slept well. Pursuing wisdom – reading scripture, listening to wise, godly people and other active pursuits of knowledge and wisdom are needed to become wise.
  • Teach your children to recognize the signs that someone is wise. Thankfully, God gave us a pretty thorough list in James 3:17… godly wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Godly wisdom will never contradict the Bible. No Christian is perfect, but a wise Christian will regularly display these attributes – and so will their advice.
  • Help your children understand the value of life experience. Here is where older adults can help your children in all sorts of ways in addition to spiritually. Maybe after years of cooking, they have learned what ingredients can add something special to a dish or be substituted – and what happens when you don’t keep their advice in mind. Or they’ve learned a quicker way of doing something or a way to hold something together with paper clips or duct tape until you can get it fixed. Spiritually speaking, they have seen a lifetime of examples of people who did or did not obey God and what happened. They know from experience that disobeying and rejecting God never ends well.
  • Encourage your kids to find things in common with older people. Realizing they have things in common is a great first step into developing empathy, love and respect for older people.
  • Take advantage of the time to listen and mentor that many older adults have to share with your children. Today’s young people are in pain today in part because they have no one to listen to them and mentor them. The adults in their lives are too busy to give them much time and attention. Finding an older mentor for your children can give them the extra attention they need and someone to support the godly things you are telling them.
  • Find older people who are encouragers. Everybody could use another person in their lives who will encourage them. Keep your older friends aware of when your children have events or could use an encouraging conversation to keep trying.
  • Teach your children Paul’s formula for using people as inspiration. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul advises readers to follow him only as he followed Christ. Even the most godly Christian people sin. Your children’s ultimate example should always be Christ. If they admire something about someone older, it is fine to use the person as inspiration – as long as the person was following Christ in what they did.

Make the time in your family calendar to spend time with “old” people. All of your lives may be richer because of the experience.

Christian Parenting and Tea Parties

If you have young children, you’ve probably attended several pretend tea parties thrown by your children. There’s just something about pretty food, tea cups, dressing up and acting like grown up royalty that screams fun to kids. You may have considered throwing a tea party for your children and their friends, but were intimidated by the ”fancy” part of it. The good news is that not only can you throw a tea party that is affordable and easy, but you can teach your children quite a few Christian life skills in the process. In fact, begin by giving your kids a budget for the party. Have them find ways to do everything they want for the party, but still stay within the budget. Take them shopping and teach them how to find bargains at the store. The better they are at managing finances, the more they will have to use to serve God.

So how can you make a tea party easy and affordable? First of all, it’s a rare American child who will like hot tea. Instead, fill their tea cups with lemonade or caffeine free iced tea. What’s a tea party without petit fours? They are not easy to make and bakery ones are expensive. Thankfully, someone has finally produced a frozen variety that is affordable. If you want your kids to practice patience and perseverance, try making your own. Make it easier by buying frozen pound cake and cutting it into small squares while it is not quite thawed. Then find a recipe for the pourable icing to frost them with. (It is thinner than standard frosting.).

Tea sandwiches? Teach your children some cooking skills they can use to serve others. Cut the crusts off of regular sandwich bread. Make a few favorite sandwiches of your children and their friends, then cut each sandwich into four triangles.

Hospitality is one of the attributes of a strong Christian. Discuss with your children whom they want to invite, but more importantly, how to make them feel comfortable and welcome in your home. This can also be a great excuse to review some basic manners needed at a ”proper” tea party.

Involve your children in the cleaning and decorating. They will learn responsibility and begin developing a strong work ethic (hopefully!). Chances are, you will even get to remind them of the Bible verse about doing everything without grumbling and complaining more than once! Help your children plan a few activities to keep their friends engaged before or after the tea party if they want their friends to stay a little longer. Talk about “considering the needs of others” and making sure they choose activities they know their friends will enjoy.

When everyone has gone home, “let” your children help with the clean up. It’s a great time to talk about working “as for the Lord” and how we all must do some things we don’t enjoy in life, but are necessary. While you are cleaning, talk about the party and what things you want to change or try the next time. It is a great way to begin teaching them how to reflect and make improvements in their lives and ministries.

Most of all, have fun! Be the house where your children and their friends want to be. It takes extra time and effort, but when your kids are teens, you will be glad you did.