Helping our children grow in spiritual ways by planting seeds of faith that will not wither is one of the greatest responsibilities we have as parents. Watching the seeds we've planted take root, grow, and then flourish as they enter adulthood is an incredible blessing.
Recently as we've faced a "rocky soil" season, Dan and I have reflected on some of the seeds we've planted that are now beginning to grow. Here are some of the ideas we've learned and used over our twenty-two years of parenting. Our desire is to encourage you and your spouse as you maneuver the sometimes rocky soil of parenthood.
The most important thing we can do throughout our children's lives is love them without condition. It doesn't mean we don't stand firm on our principles. Scripture says, God disciplines those he loves. But we do let them know that even when discipline is required, the love in our hearts for them will never stop. Remind them daily, no matter their age, that you love them and that God loves them even more. Secure for them that your love will never change no matter what they do. Make sure you differentiate between disapproving of their choices to sin and who they are as your child. They are not their sin. Their sin is just a poor choice. Pour out your love for who they are and who they will eventually become and not what they are doing.
"The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work." 1 Cor. 3:8
When your children get mad at each other, what do you do? One of the most important gifts we can give them is a deep love for one another. Everyone talks about sibling rivalry, which certainly exists and can even be encouraged through a parent's actions, but what about sibling love. We can make it or break it when it comes to training the hearts of our children to truly love and value one another.
One of the first keys to training our children to love their siblings is teaching them how to resolve conflict. Conflict resolution is a learned skill. The age of your children will determine how involved you will have to be in resolving their disagreements. Obviously the younger they are the more you’ll have to teach in the beginning, but according to many studies, the less we’re involved the better.
One of the key things we did with our older children who are now 22 and 19, is start early teaching that siblings best friends for the rest of their lives. It's just a simple reminder in conversation that you can train from the time they start reasoning and engaging in relationships. Encourage them to talk about what they love about each other. Remind them they are family for the rest of their lives and family never abandons and always loves. This really worked at our house. We had very little sibling rivalry, and our son and daughter are best friends to this day. Now their example is training our younger son as he watches them and how they relate.
If you have sons and daughters, another added bonus of this teaching, is training your sons to love and protect your daughters in any given situation. Your daughters will grow to appreciate having a built in knight in shining armor. It trains our sons to be brave warriors and protectors while preparing them to be great husbands. It trains our daughters to admire the protection of a male while challenging them to choose noble husbands in their future. It also prepares them to be good wives who are willing to accept the protection of a great man. After all, we are raising the next generation of marriages.
Once your children reach the age where they begin to have their own arguments or disagreements, then you can begin teaching them how to resolve them successfully. One way to do that is to designate a particular large chair or piece of furniture as the Arguing Chair. At our house, we chose a love seat. As they began having conflict, I set aside a time to train them in how this process would work before the chaos broke out. I explained to them they would be resolving their arguments without their dad and I from now own. I reminded them that it's OK to get angry with one another because anger is a normal emotion. The key is not to sin against each other when we are angry. I explained to them in the future if they had a conflict they should let me know and then go to the Arguing Chair to work it out.
In the beginning, I would have to send them to the chair myself because they would often forget in the heat of the moment what to do. Once they got a little older, they learned to automatically go there to resolve conflict a few times on their own. Here are the rules for the Arguing Chair we used:
It only took one failed attempt at compromise at our house and they never had to go to their rooms for the hour again. They learned to quickly talk and resolve their differences. If for some reason an argument occurs during the week when there are not enough hours available to send them to their rooms before bed, move the argument resolution process to the following Saturday morning. No one wants to miss Saturday mornings stuck in their room.
The Arguing Chair did wonders at our house in training our children to respect one another, to listen to someone else's side of the story, to understand what it means to give and take, and how to resolve differences with compromise. No matter the age of your children, if they are under 18 this is a great tool to kick out the chaos and welcome in the peace.
One day they will thank you for teaching them what it truly means to love their siblings and resolve disagreements. After all, as their parents, one day we won't be here and they will be left to sort through their inheritance. When that time comes, they will be able to walk through the challenge of their grief and still find ways to love and compromise with one another because we have taught them well that every disagreement has a resolution.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (NIV)
February is National Heart Association Month so it's a great time to teach around the dinner table about being heart healthy and loving others.
Here are some of the best scriptures you can discuss about the heart with your children:
Psalms 51:10; 37:4; 9:1; 73:26; 26:2; 34:18; 24:4; 19:14; 119:1
Proverbs 3:5; 4:23; 23:26;
Matthew 6:21; 5:8
Maybe pick one scripture a week to discuss and memorize during the month of February or discuss a different scripture each time you sit down together for dinner this month.
Here are the web addresses to a couple of great videos on the heart at Youtube education that can be fun to watch and discuss after dinner.
It's also a great opportunity to talk about giving to organizations that can help others. The best place to give is to a church who believes in helping around the world with missions. For example, the church we attend has a medical boat that it supports that sails up and down the Amazon River. We give to it because it is making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
We don't personally make it a habit to give to medical organizations for research on drug treatments or drug cures because much of the money doesn't necessarily go towards the main mission when you do the research. However, the American Heart Association can be a great organization to support because they provide training on being heart healthy including providing materials for local schools. They also post educational articles for support on their web site, and educate communities on CPR training that can save lives. Here's the address to their website to check out:
Make February a Heart Healthy Month with your family!
Christmas is here! For unto us a child is born! This is a special time of year when we have the opportunity to celebrate the greatest gift that has ever been given to us. Two thousand plus years ago a child was born. Not in a hospital or the comfort of a home or bed but in a lowly, smelly, stable. It was sign to us that no matter where we are or how unclean our lives are, he can relate, and out of that love he desires a relationship with each and every one of us. He came from the lowliest place to take us to the highest place. He offers us the position of sonship and daughtership to the King. There is no greater position in life!
As you head into this season, take the opportunity to give your children a Christmas that will last a lifetime. How? Through memories that will never leave them. Some of our greatest memories as a family have been the times when we chose an unexpected family we knew who really needed help during the holiday season. We did some research on gifts for their ages that were popular and safe and went out on a family shopping spree for a few of each person's needs and a couple of their wants. Then we wrapped them all up and placed them in a large gift sack.
Next we waited for evening to settle in. Then came the most exciting part. We would each dress in all black and head out to their neighborhood. We turned off our vehicle's lights just before arriving at their home and then we walked quietly to their porch where we placed the bag on their porch for them to find the next morning. The never knew it was us, but on Christmas morning as we opened our gifts, our greatest joy came in thinking about the family we had blessed and how their Christmas morning played out as they discovered the miracle of Christmas!
One year, we were out of town for Christmas and didn't have the opportunity for choosing a family to help. Instead, we carried food to a homeless man we saw on the side of the street on our way to a Christmas feast. We gathered up extra food and delivered it to the parking lot where he was asking for help. There are lots of ways to minister to those who have less than yourself at this holiday season. You could even consider feeding the homeless at a shelter.
Instead of just focusing on gifts for each other this year, choose someone less fortunate and give them the gift of love. Many people at Christmas are lonely, scared, or brokenhearted. Surely we all have something we can give to make a difference for them. It's something your children will never forget and it makes a great object lesson on the meaning of Christmas.....giving away something valuable in order to meet the needs of others the way God the Father sent his son to bring us hope.
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
A few years ago I came across this idea in a Family Fun magazine and I thought it was brilliant. Every family needs a talking chair. It's a designated chair in your house where you can snuggle up and converse with your children. It's a place that you create where there is complete privacy and no judging or reprimands, only conversation.
We all have bad days or struggles and everyone needs a safe place to unload those struggles. The way you create this concept with your children is to take everyone to the chair you have chosen and explain how it works.
1. The talking chair is a safe place where you can tell your mom or dad anything without judgment or punishment.
2. Choose the chair you will use. Then make it known when someone needs to chat they only have to come to the parent of choice and ask for time in the talking chair.
3. Make sure everyone else knows when someone is in the talking chair, it is a private conversation and no one else is allowed to listen in on the conversation. This means your children will need to scatter and play when someone is in the talking chair.
4. Make a little sign, "Do Not Disturb" that can be stood up by the chair when a conversation is in session.
5. If you have younger children allow them to help you decorate it by coloring or applying stickers. Then laminate it with a craft laminater. If not, you can have it laminated at your local school store for a small fee.
6. Make sure as the parent, you follow your own rules. Do not listen in if another parent is chosen for the talking chair conversation and make sure you never scold, judge, or punish when someone shares their issue in the talking chair.
This is a great concept that provides a haven of safety where anything can be discussed and everyone feels the freedom to express. Open communication is one of the most important things you can give your children and one of the most lacking in today's hurried busy world. The next time someone needs to talk, take them to the talking chair and share a moment of unconditional love and a memory that will last for a lifetime!
One of my least favorite household things to do is laundry. I'm not sure why, but it's just not any fun. What I discovered years ago was that as children start to get a little more independent, around 7 to 9 years old, they begin to find interest in helping mommy do something. That is a golden moment! Don't let it slip away. Carpe'Diem. Seize the day!
Laundry is something that must be done weekly. Depending on your family size, maybe even several times per week. This weekly task is an opportunity to begin to give your children ownership of one of the three basic necessities, food, shelter, and clothing. When my older two children were around the age of seven or eight I ran across a gadget that changed everything in the laundry department at my house. I thought I'd share that information with you this month. It radically changed my life by giving them a way to do their own folding. Before going there, let me share a few other time savers in this department. Then I'll tell you where to find this miracle working clothes folding gadget.
Of course everybody is different when it comes to how they prefer their laundry to be folded. Some of you may be a little more meticulous than we are at our house, and that's fine. It's just laundry can be a time taker and I prefer the easier way to manage it. I've always been into time saving methodology over beautiful wrinkle free underwear. At our house, underwear is simply stacked one on top of the other. Socks are gathered and matched and then flipped inside each other. As for sheets, well, I use one pillowcase to gather all the pieces to that sheet set into it. I don't fold them but once a year when I rotate regular sheets with flannel sheets for the winter. I actually have two sets of sheets for each season. Two sets of regular sheets and two sets of flannel for fall and winter. In the given season, one set is on the bed and the other stuffed inside a pillow case. Each week, the dirty sheets come off, the clean sheets go on, and the dirty ones are washed and put away inside a pillow case from the set. The clean sheets are stuffed into a matching pillow case and stored on the closet shelf until wash day again the next week. I chose this method because children can't fold sheets but they can stuff them inside a clean pillow case. When the season changes, I fold all the regular spring and summer sheets and put them away for the winter season. I pull out the flannel and the methodology starts all over again.
As far as regular clothes go, I first taught the children how to match the seems at the bottom of the legs of their shorts and pants and lay flat accordingly. Then I handed over this amazing gadget I'm about to share. When I discovered this gadget, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. It's a soft rubber thing that automatically folds shirts. You just have to follow the steps in order with each segment of the gadget and "Houdini" you've got folded shirts, and as far as I'm concerned they are the most time consuming to fold. It gives the children a sens of accomplishment and to them it's like building with legos. It's just fun to use this thing to fold the shirt into a nice neat piece of clothing. Below you will find a link to this item. It may be available other places but you will get the idea. I found mine at a department store, but shopping on line is a time saver and as you know by now, I'm into saving time. Wallah, laundry just got easier but more important, it just got a lot more fun!
Check It Out!
Creating a work ethic in the hearts of our children is a very important responsibility given to parents. In fact, working and having a heart to serve is mentioned many times in scripture.
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 says, ...If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
Instilling a work ethic is crucial to our children's success in life and in school and will benefit them as adults. One way we can do this is by giving them responsibilities around the house to do on a day to day basis. Depending on their school schedule and age, they can do them all first thing each morning or after school ends, or the tasks can be split up throughout the day. That's a decision you can make together.
One method we have found effective for instilling a heart for work in our children is by creating "Acts of Service" cards. We started this idea when our first child reached the age of three. We began teaching him responsibilities like making his bed and picking up his toys. From that point forward we followed the same plan with each of our children and it has been a blessing to them and us.
When each child reached the age of three, we gave them three responsibilities to do each day. When they were four years old, they were given four things to do. Finally, upon reaching the age of five, they reached the maximum things we expected done in a day. From that point forward, they each had five things to do on a daily basis throughout their teen years.
We consciously chose not to call these tasks "chores" but instead we called them "Acts of Service" since the word chore tended to create a negative response. The year we introduced the concept, we decided to make it a special occasion our children would never forget. On that night, we lit some candles, put on some worship music, and washed our children's feet. We used it as an opportunity to teach the story of how Jesus washed his disciple's feet and how he said he came to serve others and not to be served. We talked about being blessed and showing gratitude for our blessings by taking care of what God has given us. We explained that by doing Acts of Service around the house we were saying "thank you" to God. We also talked about doing everything we do to the best of our ability.
After the teaching time ended, we showed them their new "Acts of Service" cards. These were colored cards I made on the computer and then laminated. I punched a hole in the top left corner of each card and put them on a metal ring to place by their bed so they were ready for them to look at each morning when they awoke.
On the ring, I had created cards giving directions on certain tasks like "How to sort laundry" or "How to clean a toilet". I also included a card that explained the consequences if they failed to complete the card each day. Then I created a card for each day of the week, listing what they would need to do each day.
Below I have included an example of a set of cards for an elementary school age child assigned five chores per day. You can use my ideas or create your own cards with the tasks you would like for your children to learn. Remember to keep in mind the age of your children. The tasks should be less in number and easier to do the younger they are. Also remember to have them report back to you when a task is complete so that you can check their work. At age three, you won't have a perfectly made bed but always applaud their efforts. Encourage improvement while keeping in mind their age and abilities.
The most rewarding part of developing a work ethic in your children, is building a foundation and creating a heart for servant-hood that can last a lifetime.
Acts of Service Cards
Daily Before Breakfast
Rules for Results
Do any chores not finished this week
How to Clean Toilets
Guidelines for Cleaning out car
How to sort clothes
“Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!” Psalms 119:11 (NLT)
When I was a little girl growing up on a farm, we always looked forward to the month of June for two “buggy” reasons. First, we loved catching fire
flies at dusk, putting them in a jar until morning, and watching them light up like a light bulb in a dark room. We also loved it because the “June” bugs arrived, providing great entertainment. We would catch a few in the grass, gently tie a string about 3 feet long to one of their legs, and watch them fly round and round. After about five minutes we would gently slip off the string, making sure not to injure the bug, and release it out into the world again.
Looking at nature is a great way to instill awe and wonder into the hearts of children. It helps remind them of the glory of the world they live in. The Bible says in Psalms 119: 1
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.” ·
Exploring the world we live in also provides an opportunity to teach something cool about science without children even knowing there’s learning going on. Science is the real proof of the “Creator”. Unfortunately if your children attend a government school they will experience a lot of teaching counter to creation and what Scripture teaches about everything they see. Sadly, many children lose their faith as adults because they don’t know how to reconcile the two areas of thought they typically grow up with. One of my closest friends thought she was a believer, lost her way as an adult, and then accepted Christ later in life. She says it was all because of this issue.
There are two factors involved here.
This can be a tough concept to divide and figure out to fix the problem. Here are some ideas that can help:
1. Don’t be afraid to teach at home the truth about the lies of evolution and the truth in scripture about creation. It’s OK to explain to your children that their teachers are teaching what they are told to teach and that they may or may not know the creator so make it a point of prayer to regularly pray with them for their teachers. You are raising a child with a heart for the lost by doing this.
2. If you have questions about Creation vs. Evolution yourself, gather resources to help you and your children learn the truth. Here are a couple of great resources you can use to instill the truth.
4. Do a nature scavenger hunt at least once a season. Here is an example of what to look for on your journey.
5. Discuss things when the opportunity or questions arise that prove the unmistakable miraculous power of God as creator. 6. Keep books on hand that explores the beauty of nature. There is actually more science proving divine design than the science that backs the theory of evolution. In fact it is easier to believe Creation versus Evolution when you dig into the truth.
As parents we are our children’s greatest resource and we hold the opportunity in our hands to give them the real truth and increase their awe and wonder of their creator. They won’t learn this at school. When we enter into a relationship with the Lord, we are then given dominion over the earth. Unless it’s a poisonous snake or spider, which you should never bring home, don’t be afraid to scoop it up and let them learn. There is no greater wonder than a child's curiosity. Seize those moments while you can.Before you know it, they will be gone. If you haven’t taken the time while they are young to teach them wonder then how will they wonder when they are adults? You hold the greatest opportunity to shape their hearts toward awe of an amazing God!
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom." Matthew 18:2-4 (MSG)
With summer beginning soon, here are 8 things you can use to recapture true summer fun! We’ve been using them for years to counter the chaos and boredom that can come when children suddenly find themselves with “free time”. In reality, nothing is free and everything has a cost, including “free time”. Learning how to manage that time is a taught skill since it doesn’t come naturally to any of us. Sadly, many families don’t see summer as an opportunity. Instead they see it as an “inconvenience” and by the end of summer I hear parents saying, “I can’t wait to get rid of my children” or “I can’t wait to send them back to school.” If this is something you’ve considered in the past, then maybe the ideas I’m sharing in this month’s blog can help rescue you and give you “fun in the sun” after all!
Summer is our opportunity to re-teach life skills while using fun to do it! It’s an opportunity to take back time lost and recapture the hearts of our children. It’s a great time to teach the life skill of managing “fun” children can use later in life as adults. “Free time” is really all in our perspective. If summer has been a nightmare to you then maybe these ideas can reshape how you think. Children are like sponges and sponges either soak up clean water or they soak up sticky messes. When they arrive home for summer, you can expect they are going to squeeze out whatever they’ve been soaking up because home is a safe place to release what they’ve been holding on to. This year instead of dreading summer, let’s realize it’s a gift and an opportunity to refill our little sponges with clean water they can take back in the fall and pour out on others.
This summer, see it as an opportunity for re-grounding them on family ideas and relationships. You are their greatest teacher for life skills. It’s important for us as parents to embrace that noble identity. After all, we know our children better than any other teacher they will ever have. Let the real fun begin…..
*Examples of Boredom Busters
(add your own ideas up to a list of 25 or 30 items)
Boredom Busters/Older Girls
Go on a nature walk look for two things you've never seen before
Write a letter to a family member or friend.
Make a card for someone.
Play hopscotch for 15 minutes
Catch a bug, draw it, and identify it.
Paint your fingernails.
Create a scavenger hunt for Friday Night Family Night
Wash your bicycle.
Read a book and write a summary
Paint a picture.
Play a card game with a sibling or friend
Roller-blade outside for 30 minutes
Do two chores that belong to someone else.
Boredom Busters/Older Boys
Build a Lego creation.
Play Frisbee outside for 15 minutes and try to hit targets
Go on a jog.
Write a letter to a family member or friend.
Practice Jumping on the pogo stick for at least 15 minutes
Catch a bug draw it and identify it.
Practice golf on the putting green in the basement for 30 minutes
Play freeze-tag or hide and seek outside with a sibling or friend.
Put a puzzle together.
Set up a Putt-putt course and play by yourself or a friend
Jump rope for 10 minutes, see how many times you can jump without missing.
Write a piano song.
Write a list of things you are thankful for.
Write a letter to JESUS.
Write a note to mom and/or dad.
Write a fictional story about your favorite battle in the war, you can be the main character.
Boredom Busters/Younger Children
Do two chores that will help your mom out.
Tell your mom 5 things you are thankful for.
Dictate a letter to JESUS and let mom write it down for you.
Play a new board game with someone to learn a new game.
Watch an educational video.
Draw a picture and ask someone to help you find a scripture to go with it.
Try to make up a two-line poem about the weather or some other topic that rhymes.
Sing a praise chorus to Jesus.
Think up 3 things that make your mom such a good mom and your dad such a good dad.
Have your mom or dad read a joke book to you for 15 minutes.
Play hide and seek or freeze tag outside with a sibling or friend.
See how many times you can dribble a basketball; try to beat your record each time.
Do you have children that easily get bored with their toys? Do they complain about not having anything to do? Do they play with a toy a few times and then leave it to take up space in the toy box or floor? Then this blog is for you!
I found myself in the same dilemma when my children were younger. Then I came up with an idea one day when I realized they had lots of toys and many were repeated type toys. For example, they might have two “ride on” toys or two shape sorters, etc. It was at this point that I decided to gather all the toys together and evaluate what they actually had. I threw away the toys that were broken or missing huge parts. I donated the toys they had outgrown or were causing lots of chaos at our house. When I was down to the toys that actually mattered, I created a toy rotation program.
I looked at what I had gathered and divided them into two or three separate groups depending on the amount of toys. I placed one of each type of toy in each group. For example, each group had: a building toy, dress up clothes, cars, dolls, brain challenge toys, etc. I placed each group into its own plastic tub which I purchased cheaply at Big Lots or Walmart. I placed one tub in the play room and placed the other tub/tubs in the attic. Then I sat down and discussed the guidelines with my children:
1. They weren't allowed to play with the toys in the attic until I pulled them out.
2. If they did, they lost the tub in the play room for the remainder of that day as well.
3. The toys would now be rotated every two weeks.
I also took this little meeting opportunity to remind them that I am not their mom to be their entertainment. I explained that saying “I'm bored” is not an option. I reminded them that God created the universe because He is brilliant, and we are made in his image which means we are also brilliant. This means that he created us and we can create ideas, games, and fun with our toys that he has blessed us with. Our ability to create is limitless so no excuse for boredom.
At the end of the two week period, I played a clean up game and they helped gather all the toys in the play room and place them in the tub. Then I took that tub to the attic and pulled out the next tub. It was like Christmas all over again. New toys and new ideas. Then I sent them on their way to create!