3 Gifts Your Kids Need From You This Christmas

It’s only a few days until Christmas. Your kids have visions of new bikes, games, dolls or whatever they asked to receive as presents. There are three gifts, however, they didn’t think to add to their lists. Gifts that are the absolute best gifts you could give them.

The first gift your kids need from you is a large amount of quality time. Time where your focus is on them, not a device. Time when you listen as they tell you whatever is important to them….no matter how silly or unimportant it may seem to you. Time when you mentor rather than lecture. Time when you teach and coach them how to be who God wants them to be. Time to have fun and just enjoy being together.

The second gift your kids need is that you live out Deuteronomy 6:7 and 11:19 as if their very souls depend upon it.”Impress them on your children (God’s commands). Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Your kids need you to do what’s in this verse every single day. They need you to do this so they can develop a strong faith foundation.

The third gift your kids need from you is to see you live your faith daily. They need to see how being a Christian makes you different from other parents and other people. They need to see you showing love to everyone…even your enemies. They need to see you obeying and worshiping God. They need to see you love reading your Bible and value praying to God. They need to see you have the character traits God wants His people to have. They need to see you serving others, being generous and sharing your faith with everyone you meet.

Your kids will recover if you couldn’t find the toy they wanted for Christmas. They won’t fare as well, however, if they don’t get these three critical gifts from you.

Fun Ways to Get Your Kids Talking

Some kids, usually extroverts, seem to be born talkers. Not only will they talk about anything to anyone, they also often have the ability to turn even the most mundane experience into a fun, energetic story. Other kids act as if perhaps they are paying someone a tax for every word spoken. Getting an “Okay” out of them in response to an open ended question can feel like a major victory.

PC Henry Clark

In the “children should be seen and not heard” era, quiet children were probably valued. For Christian parents, however, it’s almost impossible to know where to adjust your parenting to fit the needs of your children if they won’t tell you their thoughts and emotions. Of course, the more pressure you apply to quiet children, the more likely they are to retreat even farther from engaging in conversation.

The wisest advice I ever heard given to the parent of a quiet child was to think of the child as a little bird. If you wanted to hand feed the bird, what would you do? You’d be present, available, quiet and non-threatening. The same applies to encouraging a quiet child to talk. You have to appear available, ready and non-threatening at the moment they want to tell you something. If you appear too busy, not interested or frustrated at their “interruption” of whatever you are doing, they will scurry off without saying very much. They’ll also be much less likely to attempt to talk to you again in the future.

Fortunately, there are some fun ways to be available and approachable while giving your kids rather large chunks of opportunity to open up to you. Most of them also involve an activity that will distract them from their fears, so that many kids will even surprise themselves at how easily they begin sharing what is on their hearts and minds. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Take a long walk or hike. Nothing so arduous that you physically can’t talk, but long enough to give your kids time to relax and start talking. You will have to experiment a bit to see if a familiar route or hiking somewhere totally new causes them to open up more.
  • Sit by a pretty stream. Allow time to wade or look for pretty rocks or fish. Bring a snack, so after you finish playing in the water, you can just sit, relax and take in the beauty. (Looking up at the clouds or the stars from a shared blanket works in a similar way.)
  • Put together a jigsaw puzzle (bonus points for by a fire!). Set up a card table in a cozy room and pull out a jigsaw puzzle. Keep two or three chairs at the table. This is great for encouraging multiple conversations over a period of time. You can start working on the puzzle and wait until your child joins you or notice when your child is working on the puzzle and join him or her.
  • Cook something together. Kids are drawn to a kitchen with someone cooking like moths to a flame! To keep them in there longer and creating more openings for them to talk, engage them in the process. Decorating sugar cookies, making mini pizzas or tasks like shelling beans allow plenty of room for conversations.
  • Share a craft activity or work on crafts side by side. Most crafts are engaging, but not so difficult that conversation is annoying. You can either work on a project together or work on individual projects side by side. Be careful to avoid projects like complicated knitting and crocheting patterns that require full concentration.
  • Read books together and talk about them. This one can take a little more planning on your part, but can also result in more targeted conversations. Read the book to your child, talking about it as you go. Even older children and teens often enjoy being read to from chapter books…a certain amount of time or a chapter a night. Or, if all else fails, both of you can read the same book independently and then discuss it. Make sure to have lots of open ended questions to ask and be prepared to share your observations, too. This may take practice to get proficient at using books as a platform for meaningful conversations, but there is a lot of free information on line to get you started. Just Google something like “thought questions for xyz book”.

You may need to experiment for a bit to find the activity that encourages your kids to talk the most. Each of your kids may have a different favorite. You may also find it’s better to provide separate opportunities where you can be alone with one of your kids and other activities you do together and allow all of them to talk at once. It’s a little more challenging, but for some kids the extra cover of sibling comments gives them the courage to speak, too. (Others will be even more quiet with siblings around.) Have fun with it, but get your kids talking!

5 Fun Ways to Learn More About Your Child’s World

Have you ever met parents who seemed totally clueless of how their child behaved out in the world? Sadly, it’s more common than you think. Too many parents think their kids are doing just “fine” and have “great” friends when that isn’t even close to their child’s reality. If you already have a great relationship with your kids – the type where they freely tell you anything and everything about their lives – good, bad and ugly – you probably don’t need to worry. On the other hand, if you know very little about your child’s life outside of your home and even less about his or her friends, you may be missing out on crucial information to help you parent more effectively.

For Christian parents, knowing if your child lives differently outside of your home can be crucial as it may reveal serious issues with the heart. Hearts that are beginning to view lying and hiding things as acceptable are generally not headed in a very godly direction. Spying on your kids by invading their privacy is rarely the best choice. There are more honest, fun ways of seeing your kids in their daily environments that give you opportunities to see how they are living while also giving you opportunities to get to know their friends and peers better, too.

  • Volunteer. You would be surprised how much the “catsup” mom learns about all of the kids in school – her own included! Most schools and extracurricular activities need volunteers to do various tasks. Look for ones that give you opportunities to interact with your children and their peers while volunteering. Instead of talking with other volunteers, observe the kids and interact with them in ways that are considered appropriate. Most kids desperately need someone to listen to them, so you will be ministering to them as well.
  • Sponsor or lead. Some activities need adults to lead them. This requires a bigger investment of time, but also gives you more long term access and involvement in the activity lives of your kids and their peers. Once again, many parents find this is also a great opportunity to minister to young people who need mentoring.
  • Host their friends. Whether it’s a play date, sleep over or Friday night pizza and game night, having your kids’ friends in your home is the best way to really get to know them. If you entertain enough, you may even find yourself with a few extra members in your family after a time. It’s important to remember that opening your home and leaving them to their own devices is very different from being accessible and available. You don’t have to hover, but popping in with cookies or a question periodically is a great way to remind them you are available and that you are aware of what is happening.
  • Treat to ice cream or coffee. Kids and teens love special time with adults. Whether it’s just your child or your kid and a friend, taking them out for ice cream, “coffee” or some other special treat gives you relaxed time to have deeper conversations with them. Sometimes framing questions with “I heard/read kids/teens your age ———-, do you think that is accurate?” can often yield a wealth of insight into their world.
  • Learn something new together that they choose. This is a great way to learn about your kids’ gifts and passions. If they’ve always wanted to learn how to weave a basket or play the ukulele, taking a class together can be fun. Even if it’s not your gift or passion, it gives you a better understanding of what they love and why they love it.

Taking extra time to join your kids in their worlds is a great way to make sure your kids are doing as well as you hope they are. If you discover issues, it also gives you time to parent them before things get too serious. It’s worth taking some extra time and effort.

One Thing I Wish My Parents Knew

There’s a well known book that was written for educators called, One Thing I Wish My Teacher Knew. The premise is that often teachers could be more effective in educating any particular student if they knew what that “one thing” was. It’s an interesting premise and the author has a valid point. Often adults struggle to reach a young person, not realizing that child or teen holds the answer to the issue.

I believe that same principle can apply to Christian parenting. Often kids know and can easily articulate the issue that they have with the way they are being parented. Their “one thing” may be that they can’t hear what you want them to know when you are yelling at them. Or maybe it’s that they are really tired after school and they can’t handle the deep conversations you always seem to want to have when they first get home. Or maybe their “one thing” is actually a question they have about God that is a stumbling block for their faith.

Your kids’ “one thing” may actually be several things. Each of your kids may have a different “one thing” from their siblings. The problem is that without knowing their “one thing”, you are parenting by trial and error against a wall that has an unknown building material. You may get lucky and guess the “one thing” that is getting in the way of your Christian parenting efforts with your child. Most likely though, you won’t. At least, not without your kids’ help.

Fair warning though. Your kids may not believe you truly want to know their “one thing”. You will have to make them feel safe enough to reveal it to you. If you immediately get angry when you hear it, that will probably be the last time your kids will open up that much to you. And that’s unfortunate, because their “one thing” will probably change over time. You will need to have them share periodically their current “one thing” with you.

You may be thinking, “What if their “one thing” is something outrageous, like wanting to never be corrected?” If that were to happen, ask some follow up questions. Explain that correction is in your job description as a parent, but can they think of a way you can correct them that will be more effective in helping them make crucial changes? Agree to try it their way for a period of time and see if it works better. If not, talk again and come up with a new strategy.

Asking your kids to share their “one thing” with you can be scary. If you can listen calmly to your children’s “one thing” and make needed adjustments, however, you may find your Christian parenting makes great strides in its effectiveness with relative ease.

Defining “Christian” for Your Kids

Occasionally, I will watch popular shows to get a gauge for the current culture in entertainment – especially content created for kids and teens. I’ve noticed recently a disturbing trend in content that can have an extremely negative impact on young people being raised in Christian homes.

While it’s not new for popular content to subtly or openly mock Christians and their beliefs, this new trend may be more insidious. It seems to be more common on reality type shows, but can be found everywhere. A character or a member of the cast openly and often proudly claims to be a Christian and to value his or her faith. In fact, the person may say his or her faith is one of the most important things in his or her life.

Almost immediately, however, the person engages in what I would term a sin that is obvious to almost anyone with even a passing knowledge of Christian beliefs….like taking all of their clothes off in public, having sex with someone to whom they aren’t married, etc. Or the person will state a belief they have because they are Christians and then do that very thing, but in perhaps less obvious ways – for example, that they don’t believe in lying – but then proceed to detail all of the ways they will lie….but don’t “count” because they aren’t “real” lies.

When your kids are exposed to content like this – or even similar people and ideas in real life – their understanding of who a Christian is and how a Christian lives life becomes skewed. I don’t believe these people are lying when they say they love God, they just don’t know who they are supposed to be as a Christian. So they have become a secular person, living a largely ungodly life, but one who believes in God.

That is not even close to the Christian life God wants for you or your kids. He wants Christians to stand apart from their culture – not partake of it in the same ways as unbelievers. Your kids need you to define for them who a Christian is in real and concrete terms with lots of practical examples. They need to understand, not just the commands of God, but the underlying principles as well. They need to know what God wants them to do as much as they know what God doesn’t want them to do. They need to thoroughly understand they will be different from most people, because that is how they will stand out from the crowd so others know to whom they should go to learn about God and the life He wants for them, too.

Don’t assume because your kids attend Church and Bible classes, that they know any more about who God wants them to be than any other young person in the world. You need to be “quality control” and make sure their understanding of what it means to live a Christian life is thorough and correct. Otherwise, they may end up not living their faith at all.