Fun Way to Teach Kids Manners

It’s tempting to skip teaching your kids manners because it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s easy to dismiss manners as antiquated in today’s world. Yet, at the core of Christianity is putting others before yourself. That was also at the core of manners in the past. When your kids have good manners, they stand out from the crowd. They point others to God as they show kindness and consideration for others.

So how can you teach your kids good manners, as well as why God wants us to have them and not feel as if you have spent all day nagging your kids? There’s actually a fun way that can be easily adapted for different ages of kids.

Start by calling your kids together and telling them the story of Esther, David or one of the other kings or queens in the Bible. In some of those stories, customs that could be considered “court manners” are implied or explained. Ask your kids if they noticed any actions that could be considered good or bad manners in the story.

Then read Philippians 2:3-4 to your kids. Ask them what it looks like to put another’s interests before your own and to count others more significant than ourselves. Explain that manners were created as a way to show kindness, respect and consideration to others. Mention a few manners on which you would like to focus. Ask them how each shows consideration for others.

If your kids are little, play royal dress up games. Have tea or a “royal” meal. Teach and practice manners that would enable them to have “tea with the queen” without embarrassment. Make it fun, dressing up, making paper crowns and tea sandwiches or whatever would engage your kids.

For older kids, spend some time examining manners in different countries or time periods. There’s a fun book called George Washington’s Rules to Live By you can use for that time period. Or grab an older edition of Miss Manners or Emily Post. Or have them research manners in other cultures to find ones that are similar and different.

Even older children will enjoy going to high tea or a “fancy” or fun restaurant to practice manners. Or invite over someone who grew up in another culture and have them answer your kids’ questions about manners there. Don’t forget, manners can change even from region to region in the U.S. and from generation to generation.

Focus on manners that make life better for others – including table manners! To sneak in extra lessons, focus on different aspects of manners like table manners, hospitality manners, manners when speaking to others, manners when meeting new people, etc. Then find fun ways to practice them. Don’t forget to find a corresponding Bible lesson or scripture for each one, while making those verses in Philippians your theme verse for every lesson. (The spaced repetition of the verse over time will move it to their long term memories, where it can be remembered for years to come.) Before you know it, your kids may just have wonderful manners worthy of tea with the queen!

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.

Teaching Your Kids How to Disagree Well

Did you know it is not a sin to disagree with others? The sins often happen with how we behave when we disagree and what we do after the disagreement. One of the most famous disagreements in the Bible is between two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas. The topic seemed critically important to both men. It appears they may have never totally resolved the disagreement. Yet, they were somehow able to continue to put God’s Kingdom ahead of their disagreement and it appears were even supportive of one another after the rift.

Your kids probably already disagree with someone about something. They may even be questioning some of your ideas about a topic or two. We live in a world that is allowing relationships to be destroyed forever because people disagree on an issue. What can you teach your kids about Barnabas and Paul’s disagreement that will help them navigate their own disagreements in godly ways? We don’t have a lot of information in the Bible, but we can probably come to some fairly accurate conclusions.

  • Get the facts straight…preferably from the actual person. Too often disagreements begin based on gossip or assuming we know what the other person meant or what their intentions were. Often our initial assumptions are wrong, but we have created unnecessary conflict because of them. Teach your kids to go to the source and gather all of the facts before assuming there is a disagreement.
  • Speak directly to the person with whom you disagree first. Teach your kids to refrain from adding to any possible conflict by gossiping or using messengers. Train them to have a conversation with the actual person with whom they believe the disagreement exists.
  • Listen before you speak. The Bible isn’t clear about the actual conversation between Barnabas and Paul. In general though, it’s best to listen carefully and ask lots of clarifying questions before you present your side. Doing so makes the other person less defensive and can make your argument unnecessary or stronger because you have all of the necessary information about the person’s view on the topic. Teach your kids how to be good listeners and to ask great clarifying questions before sharing their thoughts on a topic.
  • Be humble. Once again, we aren’t sure how Barnabas or Paul reacted initially, but it helps any disagreement to enter it humbly. Chances are great each person in the disagreement may be right about some things and wrong about others. When we enter a disagreement assuming we are totally correct and the other person is totally wrong, we will fail to find any common ground or correct any mistakes we may be making. Teach your kids to remember they may have as much to learn on any given topic as they have to teach.
  • Know when to agree to disagree. Yes, your kids may be passionate about the “proper” color for bedroom walls. If their friends want to paint their rooms a different color, then teach your kids to let it go. Teach them they can be friends with people who disagree with them on a variety of topics. Paul and Barnabas agreed to go on separate missionary journeys, taking different helpers. In reality, that probably allowed them to cover more territory, while training younger men to eventually take their place, than working together had. You may think the one exception would appear to be arguments about scriptural matters. It’s important to note though that although Jesus was passionate about teaching the truth, he never bullied anyone into accepting it. Your kids need to be willing and able to argue passionately about scriptural truths, while avoiding bullying those who disagree with those truths.
  • Practice repentance and forgiveness. Often things are said and done during disagreements that are unfortunate or even sinful. Your kids need to be quick to apologize when they have erred and quick to forgive those who have made poor choices when disagreeing with them.
  • Time outs are better than permanent rifts. Sometimes after a particularly heated disagreement, it feels very uncomfortable to be around one another. Or agreeing to disagree, like Paul and Barnabas, means your choices take you in literally different directions. People need time to calm down and let things go. Time and distance can help. The trick is to use the time and distance to actually work on getting to a place of reconciliation. Too many times the time and space is used to allow grudges to grow and resentment to form, creating a permanent rift. There is nothing godly about bitterness and hatred.
  • Find ways to reconcile. Often working together to serve someone else helps reminds people of a common, larger purpose for their lives. At other times, doing something together that both enjoy can remind people of why they were close before the disagreement. Teach your kids to find ways to restore relationships that have been damaged by disagreements and to be the initiator of reconciliation.

Teaching your kids to disagree well can help them more accurately reflect God’s love to others. It can also help them avoid destroying important relationships when inevitable disagreements occur. It’s worth taking the time and effort to teach them how to do it well.

What Christian Parents Need to Know About Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a relatively new concept. Coined in 1990, the term has become the latest darling of pop psychology. What is it exactly and should Christian parents be working with their children on their emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is at its core the ability to get along with others. It is not related to intellectual ability, but rather how well one is equipped to interact successfully with others.

The book Primal Leadership maintains that emotional intelligence is made up of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

Are those concepts biblical? As with anything that has secular origins, there are some biblical truths hidden within the secular framework. Self- awareness is part of becoming a Christian and then living a Christian life. Christians need to be aware when they are sinning so they become more Christ like over time. They need to be aware of their hearts, minds and souls and whether they are godly, too. Christians also need self awareness in order to be aware of when their words and actions are truly serving others and sharing their faith in effective ways.

Self management is most closely aligned with self control. While everyone is capable of some amount of self control, we know it is a fruit of the Spirit. This means in part that we need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Christians receive at baptism to reach our potential to be self controlled.

Social awareness is picking up on the cues of others to understand how we are impacting them. If done in an effort to serve and share one’s faith, social awareness can be godly. It’s important to note though that social awareness can also be used to manipulate and control others – quite ungodly behaviors.

The final component of emotional intelligence according to the authors is relationship management. This area is a bit fuzzier than the others. Once again motivation is a key factor for Christians. If one is managing relationships to love, support, nurture, encourage and point others to God, then that is stewardship. We are taking good care of the relationships with which God has blessed us.

On the other hand, if managing relationships is about manipulation, control, “winning” or always getting our way, then it becomes ungodly. Teaching your kids to check their motivations in self awareness can be key to be godly in managing relationships.

Emotional intelligence without God in the equation is tricky. People skills can be used for good or evil. Remembering what God has to say will help your kids use their emotional intelligence for the good of others and God’s Kingdom.

In the end, while you may choose to discuss emotional intelligence with your kids, I would suggest working more on their hearts and Christian character. If they become who God wants them to be, they will have all of the emotional intelligence they need – and know how to use it in godly ways.

Teaching Conflict Resolution Skills to Your Kids (And Their Parents)

Put siblings in a confined space for very long and conflict usually erupts. Often it’s over something silly, like someone breathing on someone else, chewing too loudly or crossing an imaginary line. Sometimes though, there are legitimate differences of opinions or grievances.

Unfortunately, most parenting experts give the very worst advice on managing sibling conflicts. The “let them work it out on their own” philosophy has reigned for many decades now and our society has become the worse for it.

Godly, effective conflict management skills will rarely be figured out by two five year olds in conflict. Or even two adults. It’s a skill set that isn’t complex, but must be taught. If you and your spouse have wonderful conflict resolution skills, your kids may learn them from observing you resolve your conflicts.

For the rest of us who grew up learning to “work it out on our own”, we probably demonstrate as many bad conflict resolution skills as good ones. So what are godly conflict resolution skills? I can’t take credit for these steps, but they are considered the standard in effective conflict resolution.

1. Give your kids time alone to calm down. When emotions are running high, conflict resolution is unlikely to happen in godly ways. Allowing everyone time to regain their self control is key.
2. Have each child think about how they feel and why they feel that way. It’s important for kids to begin to analyze why they feel the way they do. Are they really that upset at what happened or was it just the last straw in a bad day?

3. Teach your kids to calmly tell each other how they feel, using the
following sentences. “I feel ___ when you ___ , because ____. I would like ____.
It’s important for them to use this exact wording until they get used to this step. If they begin to use other language, it may be necessary to back up and start at step one again.
4. Do not let your kids use ugly words when talking to each other. Name calling, using absolutes like “always” and “never”, cursing and other negative words rarely deescalate conflict.
5. Have each child repeat what the other child wants and needs
in their own words.
Often conflict is worsened because people stop listening. This step forces each person to listen until the other person believes they have been heard accurately.
6. Let each child tell their wants and needs again if they believe they were not restated correctly.
7. Have your kids list as many possible solutions to the problem as possible. In most conflicts, the people involved only see two possibilities…their way and the other person’s way. In reality, there are often many other options that would make both people happier. Teaching your kids to seek those extra options is key.
8. Help your kids pick the solution that will help everyone get what they need. Notice the word is “need”. Everyone may not get what they want, but most of the time it is possible to give everyone what they truly need.

Godly conflict resolution requires teaching, guided practice and real life practice. It takes time and hard work, but if learned successfully, these skills can improve most relationships.

Note: Click here for a printable version of these steps.