Holiday Activities That Get Your Kids Talking

In order for you to be successful in your Christian parenting journey, it helps if you and your kids have a solid relationship. This means, amongst other things, that you actively listen to what your kids need or want to tell you. Regularly giving them that time, energy and respect often means they will be more likely to listen to you when you have something important to share with them.

Unfortunately, many parents struggle with getting their kids to talk to them. At times you may feel as if the only word in your child’s vocabulary is “fine”. You’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to get the conversation flowing.

Fortunately, the holidays provide the opportunity to do a lot of things with your kids. Some of these activities encourage conversation as you complete them. Think of your reluctant talker as a little bird you want to eat out of your hand. What do you do? You don’t pepper it with a lot of questions and noise. Rather you sit there quietly waiting for the bird to feel safe, relax and move towards you.

Your children will probably respond in a similar fashion. Ask them to participate in one of the activities below. These are things that allow you to talk easily while completing them. They also last long enough to give your child time to relax and begin opening up a bit. There are a lot of things you can do, but these are some of our favorites.

  • Cooking. Whether it’s a meal or holiday cookies, cooking takes time. Plus you have even more opportunities to talk when it’s done as you enjoy eating it!
  • Crafting. Need some Christmas decorations? Why not get some supplies or a kit and work together to make them?
  • Decoration walks. Be safe, but take an evening stroll through your neighborhood to look at all of the holiday decorations. The longer the walk, the more time you will have to talk.
  • Wrapping presents. If you have a lot of gifts to wrap, have your kids help you wrap the ones that aren’t for them. There’s always something upbeat about wrapping gifts, even if they don’t look like they belong in a magazine spread when you’re finished.
  • Decorating the tree. If your ornaments are from family adventures, this has the added benefit of sharing fun memories as you decorate. Those warm feelings can encourage your reluctant talker to open up about some current things.
  • Planning surprises. What if you asked your reluctant talker to help you plan and execute a special surprise for the rest of the family? Working together on a fun secret project can make your child feel closer to you and encourage talking about other things, too.

When your children start talking, don’t interrupt. Let them talk and talk if they want to do so. There may be a lot of surface stuff that is shared before they tell you deeper things. Don’t overreact to what is said. Listen actively. Ask thoughtful questions. Choose wisely when and how to share any thoughts you may have on the topic. If initial conversations go well, you will hopefully find you have even more conversations with your kids in the future. And that can give you the opportunities you want to give your kids the spiritual coaching they need.

7 Top Tips for Using Scripture in Parenting

If you know me very well at all, you know I’m passionate about honesty. I didn’t always feel that way though. As a young child, I evidently went through a stage when I believed lying was the best way to avoid getting into trouble. I don’t really remember the lying or any of the consequences my parents used. What I do remember is what they did that changed my perspective on honesty for the rest of my life.

One day they handed me a Bible. I honestly can’t remember if they gave me a concordance or a list of verses, but the instructions were that I was to read every scripture in the Bible about honesty and lying to see what God thought on the subject. I can’t remember my emotional state after all of those verses, but I clearly remember my conclusion…God hates lies and I would be wise to refrain from telling any more of them.

Some of you may have had a similar experience growing up. Unfortunately, for some kids, using scripture as a parenting tool can backfire. It’s not the scripture that is the issue, of course. It’s the way they are used that can cause problems later.

There are several things you need to remember when you are attempting to use scripture as a parenting tool.

  • Knowing and loving God comes first. If your child knows nothing about God….if your family doesn’t put God first…if your child doesn’t love God, scripture won’t help much. Scripture is useful, because we love God and we respect Him. We know He is the author of wisdom and we want to spend eternity with Him. We are unbelievably grateful for Jesus dying on the Cross. That all should lead to a desire to obey God and make Him happy. If your child doesn’t know, love and respect God, that needs to be your primary focus. If that is not the underpinning of your parenting, very little else will go well…at least spiritually speaking.
  • Use scripture for encouragement more than correction. Yes, it is meant for both. When you begin using scripture as a parenting tool though, you don’t want to only use it as a way of trying to scare your kids straight. If you do, they may begin to view God as the big meanie in the sky. Rather share scriptures that will strengthen them when they are frightened, soothe them when they are nervous, console them when they are sad, and ones that encourage them to be who God wants them to be. Then, share those scriptures that reinforce correction.
  • Choose short, clear verses. When you want to share scriptures with your kids, try to find verses that are relatively short and easy to understand. There is a time and place for those longer passages. For now though, you want something that’s easy to understand and remember.
  • Place key verses in strategic places. The bathroom mirror is one of my favorites. Write out a couple of key verses on index cards and tape them to the mirror of the bathroom your children use. They will see those verses several times a day, subtly ingraining them in their minds. Decorative art, computers and refrigerators are other great places to put scripture.
  • Use the same verses multiple times. Repetition over time helps move scriptures from short term to long term memory. It’s okay to use more than one scripture for the same topic. The more you use the same scripture though, the more it will become firmly planted in their long term memories.
  • Use gist. Studies have shown that people tend to remember the gist of something better than a word for word memory of it. While the exact quote of scripture is key, using the gist of scripture also serves a purpose. The key is making sure you are stating the gist of the scripture properly. Misusing scripture can backfire, so use Bible study tools or ask a minister or Bible class teacher if you need help.
  • Point out earthly consequences when they occur. Often kids begin understanding God’s wisdom and the need for heeding it when they see the earthly consequences for obeying or disobeying God. Consequences aren’t always consistent and fair because we live in a fallen world. When they do occur, though, be sure to point out that the consequence that just occurred was one of the reasons God said what He did in scripture. Remember that the positive consequences for obeying God can be more important for some kids to see than the negative ones for disobeying God.

Scripture can be an important Christian parenting tool. Using it well, not only helps in the moment, but also gives your kids scripture in their long term memories that can help them for the rest of their lives.

The Question That Can Teach Your Kids to Think Biblically

Parenting done well is time consuming. Christian parenting, even more so. It’s tempting to try and cut corners whenever possible. One of the ways parents often cut corners is to tell their kids what they should do or what they should think rather than teaching them how to think about life the way God would want them to think.

Ironically, you can be great about teaching your kids what God wants them to know without teaching them how to think about life in the ways God would want them to do. That’s one of the reasons why a young person who appears to know a lot about the Bible can struggle living it in every day life.

There is an important question you should start asking your kids at relatively young ages. “What do you think?” It’s important to understand, you will still guide their thinking, but with questions rather than direct answers. Since younger children are more likely to come to you with their dilemmas, starting this technique when they are young teaches them the thought process. They can then use it when they are older and you are perhaps not around as much to give them guidance.

The temptation for both you and your child will be to come up with a response and implied “right” answer as quickly as possible. At times, you may want to do that. Most of the time though, you need to keep asking thinking questions to teach them the questions God would want them to ask themselves before making a choice.

If, during the conversation, your child gives you a wrong or inappropriate answer, try to resist the temptation to immediately correct and lecture. Rather ask more questions that will help your child realize his or her first conclusion may not have been the one God would want them to make. With questions, it is easy to bring in scriptures and Bible stories without sounding preachy, because they are the ones supplying the examples.

This method is also helpful because it takes advantage of the mind’s tendency to remember things it generated better than things it is told. When your child finally comes to a godly conclusion about a situation, it will be remembered better for the next time something similar happens. The questioning method also unravels the power dynamic between some children and their parents. Since you aren’t telling them what to do, they are making the choice independently and are less likely to try and rebel against their own conclusion in some sort of power struggle.

This method won’t work with every child. If you have a relationship where you barely speak, it may not work well at all – especially at first. If your child doesn’t have enough Bible knowledge to know what God wants, this method will be difficult, but not impossible. And sometimes your child will beg you for a quick, direct answer that includes your opinion. There are times when you will need to respect the request, but ultimately, your kids will learn better, godlier decision making skills when you first ask, “What do you think?”

Fun Ways to Include God on Family Walks

There has been a lot about this year that hasn’t been so great for many. One of the positives, though, is that many families have been taking daily walks together. While they are great for exercise and stress relief, you can also use them to teach your kids about God. Not by lecturing, but by having fun as you go.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Play “Name the Blessings”. The Bible tells us God’s creation cries out His name. Not literally of course, but we were meant to look at nature and see God. What many Christians forget is that God is responsible for all of our blessings. He may not have built a house with His own hands, but He created the raw materials and gave people the gifts needed to plan and construct a home. As you walk, take turns naming the blessings from God you see. You may want to play it so that you have to find something for the next letter of the alphabet. Or see who can keep it going without repeating a blessing. Have fun with it. End your walk with a quick prayer thanking God for His blessings.
  • Take a prayer walk. As you walk, notice things or people that need to be prayed over. Perhaps it is the neighbor who has been sick or the family who just had a new baby. Maybe it’s for the children who attend the neighborhood school. You can stop and pray as you think of prayer needs and/or add them to your family prayer journal when you get home.
  • Take a service walk. Everyone appreciates a little act of love and service. My grandfather used to take the paper thrown by the street and walk it up to the door people used and leave it there, saving them a walk. Your family may want to surprise people or for some acts (like weeding a neighbor’s flower border), you may need to ask permission first. Even if the person refuses your offer of service, their day can be brightened by your offer.
  • Meet the neighbors challenge. On an average walk in my neighborhood, I can encounter anywhere from five to twenty five people. Using safe distancing practices (and masks if required), see if you can meet these people and start new neighborhood friendships that last beyond COVID. It’s hard to serve and share your faith with people unless you get to know them. You can start by having your adorable little ones wave and say “Hi!”
  • Storytelling walks. Running out of things to talk about on your walks? Try telling stories casually as you go. They can be family faith stories, Bible stories or any other story that teaches your kids about God and what he wants for them and from them.

Any experienced parent will tell you family walks are incredibly valuable. Use them to really listen to your kids and learn about their hearts. Have fun with one of the walks above. Just keep taking them as often as possible.

Ideas for Fun Family Faith Traditions

Most families have family traditions. After every first day of a new school year, my daughter and I headed out for high tea and talking. Some traditions last for decades, like our new pajamas on Christmas Eve. Others fade as children grow, like the elementary school last day of school Bruster’s ice cream run.

God built traditions into Old Testament Judaism. The various holidays brought family and friends together several times a year to celebrate something God wanted them to remember. These holidays also served to point them to the coming Messiah.

Jesus and the Apostles didn’t create the liturgical calendar. In fact, the Lord’s Supper during the worship services on the first day of the week was really the only holiday type tradition they established and practiced. (Easter and Christmas weren’t celebrated until long after the death of the Apostles.)

There is nothing in the Bible that says you can’t create family traditions that involve worshipping God in some way – we just can’t bind them on others. (Romans 14) So what are some family traditions you could begin that would also point your kids to God?

  • First day of school year. This is a day that should be bathed in prayer. A day where you reflect on what God may want for and from each of you during the coming school year. Perhaps you walk to school early and pray together in a quiet spot near the school. Maybe you have a special breakfast, praying a blessing over each child and helping them pick a personal theme verse for the year.
  • Fall harvest. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot moves because of the lunar calendar, but this year it will be October 2 – 9. This was also known as the festival of booths. Families took brush and built a shelter or booth outside. They ate and sleep in the booth each night, with parents telling the stories of Moses and the Israelites. They are celebrating the Fall harvest, but also God’s provision over the years. The original festival also pointed to the coming Messiah. You can do your own version. As you look up at the stars, tell Bible stories that help your kids understand the over arching story of the Bible. Talk about how God has impacted your life and how you see Him working in the world today. Talk about what God wants for and from His people.
  • Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was originally meant to focus everyone on thanking God for the many blessings He has given us – even in difficult times. Over the years though, it has become more about parades, food, football and shopping. Find fun ways to bring back the focus to God. You don’t have to give up your favorite secular traditions, just make God the top priority again.
  • Snow days. If you live in the southern half of the United States, snow days are rare and special. Why not start a special tradition on the first snow fall of the year – no matter where you live? Build a snowman or go sledding. As you drink your hot cocoa or eat your snow cream, talk about how difficult it can be to survive harsh weather conditions without the proper attire. Plan ways your family can serve others and share your faith. Take the extra time indoors to do some fun things to help discover your kids’ gifts from God or develop them more fully. Find ways for them to use their gifts on a project that serves others. Encourage them to find ways to point others to God as they serve them.
  • Valentine’s Day. Why not make this a day when your family finds unique ways to shower everyone around you with love?! Maybe you want to plan all sorts of surprises for others. Or perhaps you want to bake and decorate cookies together and take them to people. Make it a family goal to show active, godly love to as many people as possible every year.
  • Purim. Purim is the Jewish holiday celebrating the story of Esther and how God used her to save His people. Traditionally, this is a time when the story of Esther is retold. Hamantaschen cookies are eaten and little gifts of food are taken to neighbors or the poor. It’s fine to celebrate it traditionally, but add sharing your faith or encouraging the faith of those whom you serve as part of the celebration. (In 2021, Purim will be on February 25 and 26.)
  • First day of Spring. Spring is a great time to remind your kids about the rebirth Christians experience. It’s also a great time to plant a small garden – even a container garden to grow food to share with others. Or use the food you grow to cook food to share with people who may be lonely or food deprived. Since Easter is usually soon after the beginning of Spring, why not invite the people you serve to services? Many who may be intimidated by a regular church service feel more comfortable attending on holidays like Easter.
  • Last day of school. For many kids, the best day of school is the last day of the school year! Regardless, it’s a great time to talk about how God has blessed your family over the previous months. You can also talk about the ways you have each grown spiritually or how God has used each of you to serve others and tell them about Him. It’s also a great time to set summer faith goals. You may want to take an idea from our neighborhood and do it over an ice cream cone!

Starting family traditions can be a bit tricky. It’s important that you are committed to doing the same things year after year for each tradition. Some kids will let you change things, but many want traditions to be safe, comfortable and exactly the same! (Take notes if you are forgetful. Trust me. They will remember even the smallest details!)

If a tradition doesn’t work, it’s okay. Try something different. Include things your family enjoys doing together. Find times when everyone can set aside a day or an evening for the tradition. Remember, traditions are as much about your family spending quality time together as they are about whatever you are celebrating. It’s a great way to create strong, positive memories of your family and your relationship with God.