Our holiday celebrations have done us a disservice. We have unknowingly come to believe that decisions to change are best made on New Year’s Day. Which is fine if it’s only a couple of days away, but not so great if it is another 364 days from now.
Your children need to believe they can initiate needed changes – especially with God’s help – at any point in time. In fact, that is one of the huge beliefs underpinning Christianity – that we can change and make godly choices, becoming who God wants us to be. Don’t let a little thing like New Year’s undermine your children’s ability to repent and change course whenever it is needed.
You can lead by example – announcing a change you want to make at some random time and asking them to encourage you and hold you accountable. You can also create little random times of setting goals for positive change. A mom I know said that they would each write down something in their lives they wanted to get rid of (like a bad habit) and throw the piece of paper into the fire to symbolize the change they were working towards. You could have a “Goal of the Month” for the family or each person. Create space on birthdays, holidays, family vacations and at other times when a little reflection and goal setting would add to the experience.
While hopefully some of the goals will be spiritual, it’s okay to have some fun goals too. There’s nothing wrong with everybody saving money together so you can go on a special vacation. Or finally climbing that nearby mountain together. Your kids will still learn something from the process of how to set and achieve goals in life that can translate to spiritual goals as well.
Don’t believe the cultural hype that goal setting is for stressed out perfectionists. God has always asked His people to continue to grow spiritually and that’s a lot easier to accomplish if your kids learn how to set and reach spiritual goals.
Have you ever thought about how many times the Bible mentions that someone was walking? Granted, there weren’t a lot of other options unless you owned a donkey or a camel, but was it really necessary to tell us certain people were walking? Maybe not in some cases, but Jesus had a lot of important conversations as he was walking with people. He knew that there is something about walking that seems to lower defenses and encourages more open conversation.
There is quite a bit of research on the benefits of walking. These benefits can make parenting easier and Christian parents can get a few extra benefits from those walks. Many of these benefits differ slightly when you are walking alone versus walking with your spouse or children or as a family.
Manages energy levels. Walking is interesting in that it can give those whose energy is lagging more energy, but also helps burn off excess energy for those that have too much. Regular walks will give any of your kids who may need it more energy. If your kids are over energized after a day at school sitting at desks, a brisk walk can help them burn off the excess energy that might otherwise get them in trouble. When energy levels are managed well, misbehavior from too much energy can decrease and you will have more energy to teach, guide and correct when necessary. Even those kids who feel too tired to do homework may find a brisk walk gives them the second wind they need.
Tempers emotions. A recent study found that many people suffering from depression found a marked improvement in mood when they took daily long walks. Negative emotions can work themselves out from the physical activity. These emotions may not totally disappear, but they will most likely lessen, making it easier to talk with your child about them.
Praying/clear thinking. Struggling with what to do about a parenting issue? I do some of my best creative thinking on long walks. The trick is to leave the music at home and focus on praying about the issue that is bothering you. This also works for your kids when they are wrestling with an issue.
Talking to each other. Long walks often work like magic to get even non-communicative children talking to their parents. Leave the phones and music at home. Walk in silence for a bit if necessary. Ask a simple open ended question. Leave lots of room for your kids to talk. You may just be surprised how much they will tell you when you aren’t distracted.
Pointing out God. The Bible tells us Creation points us to God. Taking walks with your kids, spouse or even by yourself can remind you God is at work in the world today. When walking with your kids, point out things that make you think about God. Closely examine lease, rocks, insects and other things God made to get a close up look at the intricacy of God’s Creation (take along a magnifying class and binoculars to see things better).
Long walks won’t make every aspect of Christian parenting easier, but they can definitely help. Start making room on your daily calendar for a walk.
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.
Childhood, like life in general, isn’t fair. Some children seem to be born knowing what gift(s) God has given them. Their gifts are so obvious, the adults around them easily recognize the gift and offer regular praise and encouragement. Other children struggle – not just in identifying what gift(s) God has given them, but just in general. They seem to always say and do things that result in adults being upset with them – even when they are genuinely trying to do their best.
As they get older, it often seems like those young people with obvious strengths continue to build on their early successes, while those who struggled continue to focus on their weaknesses, mistakes and failures. Many times those who are successful can become over confident or even prideful, while those who struggle may stop trying to find any strengths in themselves.
Yet, there are a handful of young people who don’t follow the normal pattern. They have obvious gifts/strengths, but they are humble and often offer to use their gifts to serve God. Or despite early struggles, they persevere and eventually find their gifts and use them to serve God as well. The difference isn’t really how early young people find their gifts (although the earlier, the better) or how obvious those gifts are to adults. Those who avoid some of the pitfalls of strengths and weaknesses have been taught to look at both in slightly different ways.
They are taught that both strengths and weaknesses have a flip side. Every strength has a corresponding weakness and every weakness has a strength that can be attached. Children and teens need to be made aware of these connections and the possible ramifications. For example, a child who is always being corrected for being too laid back/lazy, could possibly also be a child who has great patience. Meanwhile, children who are given lots of visible roles at school because they are confident, may also realize that they struggle with arrogance. Both children should be encouraged to work on their weaknesses and their strengths, rather than one child being constantly considered a “problem” and the other a “joy”.
They are taught people with strengths or weaknesses different from their own are not necessarily “better”or “worse” than they are. Yes, in certain situations some gifts are more helpful than others, but every gift is needed at some point. Many weaknesses can encourage people to make sinful choices, but those temptations can be avoided and better choices made. It’s really never a good idea for your children to try and determine their value based on the behaviors or attributes of others. The standard should always be that set by God – and God loves them even when they struggle.
While many gifts/strengths can also be used to help earn a living for the people who have them, financial gain, fame or power should never be the primary goal. God gives us gifts to use in service to Him. Some gifts can also be used to earn a living. For some people, like for many of those with the gift of teaching, the two can be combined and they can earn a living using their gift, while their career is also their ministry. Encourage your children to think about using their gifts to serve God first, then explore whether or not those gifts can also be used in a future career.
As gifts/strengths are identified, the focus should be on developing them to their full potential and using them to serve God. Even a child born with an obvious gift needs help developing it fully. Mozart had to be taught how to capture the tunes he heard in his head and write them as sheet music others could play. Arrogance often takes root in the hearts of those who believe they have nothing to learn from others in their area of giftedness. Likewise, your kids will need help finding ways to use their gifts to serve God. This may require creativity for some gifts, but if God gave the gift, He must know there is a need for it somewhere.
Most gifts/strengths are best used to serve God outside of the church building. Too many hours have been wasted with people arguing about whose gifts get to be on display in front of the congregation. Often though, the most impact on the world for God comes from those using their gifts to serve God outside of the confines of the church building.
Encourage godly self esteem – a realistic understanding of both strengths and weaknesses. Your children should be humble about their strengths, but not so humble they “bury their talent” like the man in the parable. Likewise, they shouldn’t become so focused on correcting their weaknesses that they fail to see their strengths that could be developed and used to serve God.
Helping your children navigate their strengths and weaknesses isn’t necessarily a quick or easy process. Done well though, it will make living the Christian life much easier for them.
Children and teens are learning how to navigate the world around them. One of the most difficult areas of life for them to master is interpersonal relationships. In fact, most of us adults are still trying to be more loving and godly in our relationships with others, too. If your children are old enough to spend time with people their age, you have probably already seen them struggle with the conflicts that often occur in relationships.
Perhaps the most difficult of relationships for Christian young people to understand and live out in their lives is the idea of loving and praying for your enemies. We live in a world that increasingly encourages everyone to destroy not only enemies, but anyone who thinks differently from us on a wide range of topics. In a world that believes it is tolerant, your children will be exposed to people who counsel them to do things that are far from loving.
So what are some things you can do to raise children who are counter cultural and love their enemies as commanded by God? Here are some of our top tips on the subject.
Teach your children God’s views on the topic and discuss it regularly. Your children will struggle to obey God and love their enemies if they don’t realize or remember that it is a command from God. I met a young man recently who had grown up in a war torn area of the world. Even though his father had been a soldier and watched as the enemy burned their family home to the ground, he regularly reminded his children that not only did he expect them to avoid saying anything negative about the enemy country and its people, but he also told them he would hold them accountable if he ever heard them doing so. Loving your enemy needs to be part of your family DNA as well as a command from God.
Define enemy for them. An enemy is not someone who disagrees with them or holds an opinion that is different than theirs on a topic. Enemies are people who actively seek to do us harm. They need to learn that the word enemy is a very strong way of describing someone in a negative way and it should be used very rarely in describing another person.
When they do believe they have an enemy, encourage them to pray for that person, but also make a point of your entire family praying for them as well. I believe God commands us to pray for our enemies because it is very difficult to simultaneously hate someone and pray for their benefit. Our brains don’t like contradictions, so praying for their enemies will make it more difficult for them to actively hate them. If your entire family prays for the enemy of one member, you also are reminding your children that your family is a team for God, not just individuals who happen to live together.
Don’t forget to teach your children the rest of the command. Luke 6:27-28 also says to do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and to not just pray for, but also love your enemies. Discuss and find ways to do good to any enemies your family has. Discuss what it means to bless those who curse you. How can your family do that on a regular basis also? With so many good things your kids will be doing for their enemies, it will be difficult for hate to take root in their own hearts.
Be empathetic about the pain your children’s enemies cause. I think Psalms shows us that it is natural to be hurt and even angry in the immediate aftermath of an enemy’s blows. Show empathy for that pain, but also put a time limit on it. Continuing to revisit the same grievance over and over is what can lead to sinning in one’s anger.
An enemy may never become a friend, but encourage your children to try and thaw relations when possible. It can be extremely difficult to act kindly towards an enemy. Most children, teens – and even adults – either try to avoid the person or snap back with their own anger. In potentially dangerous situations, avoidance may indeed be wise, but for the average childhood enemy situation, encourage your child to see if they can improve the overall relationship even a bit. Frenemy wouldn’t be a term if it were impossible to at least broker a truce of sorts.
Set a good example. If you are always criticizing your own enemies – or even worse – plotting revenge, you cannot expect your children to love their enemies. Setting a good example will make it easier for them to understand how loving your enemies is done.
It may never be easy for your children to love their enemies, but it is possible. They will need your help though in learning how to do it. Coaching them through the process will help them become who God created them to be.