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.
Solitude is a lost art. Your kids may have felt isolated over the last year, but chances are they were engaging constantly with all sorts of people…real and virtual. In childhood days of “yore”, kids spent time lying in the grass and looking at clouds or stars. They fished silently by a stream. They did needlework or sketched, unaware of the world around them. They had lots of free time when they weren’t expected to interact with anyone and had the freedom to think uninterrupted thoughts.
There are some huge spiritual benefits from providing regular times of solitude for your kids. You don’t have to lock them in their rooms, but it helps to shelve the devices. Modern parents have used a quiet, afternoon rest period to provide children with some solitude – even if others are in the same room (because no talking is allowed). However you make room for solitude in your kids’ schedule, here are five important benefits they may get from the time.
Reflection. Have a daily verse they can reflect upon. They may choose to reflect upon what’s been happening in their lives and how they feel about it. Or what they have been learning at church, from the Bible or in their experiences. Giving your kids time to process things means they are more likely to have the time to understand and apply what God wants them to know and do.
Creativity. Solitude does not mean inactivity. Arts, crafts and music still allow one to think while one is working. Sometimes clarity comes when doing something creative….the creativity can spark creative solutions in other areas, too.
Problem solving. Problems often are resolved with better results when time has been taken to think through the possible consequences of the various options. You may need to teach your kids how to do that properly before they can do it independently during their times of solitude.
Talking to God. Prayers tend to be rushed when time is at a premium. Solitude provides time for unrushed, long conversations with God. You may have to work with your kids to help them understand they can talk to God about anything and everything. Once they appreciate prayer, they will often use solitude to engage in prayers they may normally have not had time to pray.
“Listening to God”. No, they probably won’t hear God’s actual voice. The Holy Spirit, however, can put things on their hearts whether it is a reminder of scriptures, ideas or dreams. This is even more likely to happen if they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism and have the quiet and solitude to “hear”. Reading the Bible during solitude makes it even easier to learn what God may want them to know. Teaching them how to test and discern what God wants them to know from their own desires or Satan’s temptations is key to “listening” well.
You will probably have to carve out special time for solitude and explain the benefits of having screen free quiet time to your kids. Once they understand how to use solitude though, they may actually ask for more.
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.
It seems like childhood revolves around gifts. Either your kids are receiving gifts or giving them to the endless stream of classmates with birthdays. As children being raised in Christian homes, you want your kids to avoid becoming entitled and materialistic. You want them to realize that even at very young ages, they can make a positive difference in the lives of others by reflecting God’s love to them.
An easy way to remind your kids to reflect God’s love is to teach them about the five gifts they can give to others every day. In fact, they can give these gifts multiple times each day, brightening the lives of those they encounter and helping them see how much God must love them, too.
To make it easier, each gift they can give is connected to one of the five senses. If your kids have trouble remembering, just tell them to remember the five senses and the attached gifts should come to mind.
Eyes. Give the gift of smiling with their eyes to others. There is something about a genuine smile from another that can bring a little light to the darkest of days. Why is this attached to the eyes? Because you can fake a smile on your lips, but a genuine smile is always seen in the eyes, too.
Mouth. Encouraging words. Encouragement is rare in our world. When your kids focus on using their mouths to encourage others, they will make a positive difference in the lives of everyone they encourage.
Ears. Listening ears are also a gift. Not the half listening that many people practice, but true active listening. Many kids have no one…not even a parent…who will really listen to them. Your kids don’t have to have all of the answers. Often just having someone really listen to them can make a positive difference.
Hands. Helping hands are becoming a rarity as people become more self absorbed. Are your kids quick to offer their hands when help is needed? A little help at the right time can be life changing or at least make the person’s day a little easier.
Nose. Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch, but for kids and teens, it too can prove extremely helpful. Can your kids develop a “nose for trouble”? Can they sense when a choice someone is about to make could have negative consequences the person hasn’t considered? Can they sense when someone is worried or having troubles? Awareness is an important skill set for a Christian who wants to serve others and share their faith.
If you want your kids to impact the world for God, have them start here. Giving these five gifts daily may be all God asks them to do. On the other hand, giving these gifts daily may be preparing them for other good works God has prepared for them to do. Since they have been practicing these gifts, they are more likely to notice and complete those good works when they appear, too.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15) is one of many verses in the scripture that counsel us to use our time wisely. Unfortunately, many of us were not taught how to really use our time the way God would want us to use this precious gift.
As a result, many of us have developed if not bad habits, then surely habits that don’t reflect our appreciation or understanding of what a precious gift from God our time is. Which means we aren’t setting the best examples for our kids or actively teaching them how to make the best use of their time in God’s eyes.
So how can you teach your kids to use their time, not just wisely, but prioritizing the things God would prioritize? It’s actually a process more than an absolute list, because their life circumstances can change parts of their schedule.
Pull out a calendar where each day is broken down by the hour. Depending upon the age of your kids, you may want to start with a day, a week or a month.
Have them block out time for non-negotiables, like sleep, meals, bathing and school. Don’t add part time jobs, extracurricular activities or even Church yet.
Ask your kids to list some specific things God wants them to do regularly. This list should include worship services, Bible classes, independent Bible study and prayer. For things like worship services and Bible classes with set times, but them in those slots on the calendar. For things like independent Bible study and prayer, discuss with them when would be a natural time to put that in their schedule. If you can connect it to a daily event, it will be easier to remember. For example, if they sit down for a few minutes after school and have a snack, that might be a natural time to read the Bible independently. (Make it even easier by having them set their open Bible where they normally eat their snack.)
Ask your kids to list some other things God may want them to do, but not necessarily every day. This is the heart of your discussion. Would God want them developing a gift He gave them that they can use to serve Him? Would He want them trying some new things to see if they are gifted by Him in those areas? Would He want them reading some Christian books for encouragement or learning? Would He want them involved in periodic larger scale opportunities to serve others and share their faith? Where do those daily acts of service, encouragement and faith sharing go on their schedules, here or in the earlier daily area of their schedule? This is where the time management piece can get tricky. If the scheduled time to read a good Christian book or work on a project developing their gift from God is the night before a big test, that could be problematic. Talk about how to differentiate between what they need to do, what they want to do, what God thinks is crucial that they do and what is flexible. Experiment with calendaring in these things. Once a week look back and encourage them to see what things happened and which ones didn’t. Can they switch somethings around so more things are accomplished well?
Godly rest. This is quality Sabbath type rest….not playing video games or zoned out watching a movie. This would include exercise, being in nature, reflection on scripture and life, creating something, surrounding themselves with things from Philippians 4:8. These rest times can be fun times, too. Exercise can be playing games. Developing their gifts often means working on a favorite hobby. (Note: Playing video games is not developing a gift. Taking video game coding lessons, however, might reveal a gift God can use at some point.)
Extracurricular activities. These should be added sparingly. They should fit into the schedule already created. So, for example, a sports team that requires regularly missing worship and Bible class won’t make the cut. This is where time management gets hard, really hard for some. God’s priorities must come first. God does not want your child missing worship and Bible classes eight weeks in a row because he or she is on a traveling sports team…for a lot of reasons. This is one of those points where parents who raise active, productive Christians split from those who raise kids who only attend or aren’t involved with Christianity at all. Being willing to sacrifice what’s popular and fun from what God wants you to do is a key faith building step. As a parent of a child who has gone through college admissions, I can tell you most universities don’t need to see dozens of different activities that have taken up every free moment. They want to see qualities like commitment, perseverance, leadership and teamwork skills. These skills can be just as easily shown through an activity or two and taking the initiative to serve God by planning and executing meaningful service and faith sharing opportunities or regularly teaching in a Bible class.
Everything else. This category will change regularly. It might include a family vacation, a special school project or a youth group activity. It can even include a little mindless entertainment, although having discussions about those choices is also another great conversation to have at some point.
This activity needs to be revisited regularly until you begin seeing consistent godly time management skills in your kids. If they drop the ball in one area, encourage them to try again the next day, week or month. If your time management skills need a godly update, do the activity with them – especially since their calendars often impact yours, too. It’s also a great way to help them understand that if each of your three kids participates in three activities and don’t drive, you and your spouse are running to nine activities…and what that does to your calendar. Teaching your kids godly time management skills will take some time and effort on your part, but if you do it well, it can help all of you spend your time doing more things that are important to God.