By Karen M. Pina
Raising children is no easy task and it’s not getting any easier. At the same time, the word of God remains the same even in a world that is changing by the moment. In this article, we provide 7 strategies to teach your kids about priorities and intimacy with the Lord.
By now, we have all heard start early with spiritual disciplines as your child's personality is completely developed by age 5. Certainly, this is true and you should start early. What happens when life happens and does not allow you to start as early as you would have liked to? The good news is that it is not too late. It takes 30 days or more to break a habit. So if by age 10 certain spiritual disciplines are not in place in your child’s life, just start re-training them, gradually introducing the new Godly habits and replacing the old ungodly habits.
Strategy #1 -Be the Balancing Act
God loves just weights. This tells us He loves balance, and as His children He wants us to truthfully balance the things in our lives and our children's lives. When you think of the word balance what percentages come to mind, 50% - 50%, 20% - 20%, 80% -20%? OR is it my child spends a lot of time in this area of his/her life for a season (perhaps baseball or basketball season), and little time in the other areas of our lives (perhaps sleepovers, parties, etc...)? And then when it's not baseball or basketball season, nor party time, we spread out our time evenly to other categories of our lives like work/chores, time with God, and family time. Let your children see you spending time building relationships with God and others, time for recreation, rest, church and spiritual devotion, entertainment, hobbies, sports, work, family and community time. As the parent, set the tone, the pace, be the weighing scale, and monitor areas that are getting out of balance.
Strategy #2 - Be the Model
When you model balance, your children will follow suit. Remember our actions are as important, if not more important than our words. Let them see you reading the Bible and ask them to read with you. Let them see you praying, and encourage them to pray with you. How about implementing a family fast day? Let them hear you talking about God, and include them in your dialogue. Children of all ages imitate what they see. If you seek God in prayer in the midst of a trial, they will too. If you mirror an intimate relationship with God, you will see the rewards in their relationship with God.
Strategy #3 - End the Day With God
Set aside 15-30 minutes each night with your children evaluating your day. Try reflective journaling. Each of you can ask the following questions: What choices did I make today? How does God feel about them? How did I relate to others? Is there something I need to seek forgiveness for before going to bed? What were my challenges and opportunities in keeping His Word today? Share your answers. Yes, be transparent and honest with them, but most importantly with God.
Strategy #4 - Busy on Purpose or Frantically
Think about how many things you are currently involved in on a week-to-week basis. Now ask yourself, how many of those things have a specific leading from the Lord? Routinely, we take on responsibilities and even "fun" activities that are more life draining than they are life sustaining. I strongly urge you to partner with God and allow Him to create your family’s schedule by asking Him, Is this something You want me/us doing? The answer to this question will find you busy on purpose versus running in 14 different flesh-inspired directions.
Strategy #5 - Write a Life Mission
There are many things we strive to achieve in life for ourselves and for our children. Here are a few: healthy self-esteem, a good education, and success. But how about wanting your children to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ above anything else? God desires we hunger and thirst after Him, and seek Him more than any other person/thing in the world. What are your children thirsty for? What are you thirsty for? We urge you and your children to sit down and write your own mission statements. The statement conveys what you want your life to be most concerned with. Take into consideration your God-given gifts, talents, abilities, and passions.
Strategy #6 - Apply For the Transfer
As your children start getting older you need to learn the mystery of transferring responsibility. When your children are younger, you are “the be-all end-all” in providing direction and order. As they get older, gently prompt them to integrate the spiritual disciplines you have taught them into their own lives.
For instance, ask them to pray about what God would have them do in certain situations even about helping around the house. Whatever they believe God would have them do, encourage them to go for it. This way they are accountable to God for what they do or don't do, not you. Yes, they may flounder, blunder and make some mistakes. Hold them accountable for the mistakes and redirect them back to God again. This practice will expand their learning capacity to trust and lean on God, and make decisions that please him, not you. They will need these skills later in life.
I admonish you to turn your child over to the Lord, actively surrender expectations and attachment to results, and let God raise them. I am confident He has some pretty creative ways of disciplining them while maintaining fear, reverence, and respect in their relationship. This strategy is sure to be a hit because you get to keep their respect in the learning process. To tell the truth, you may gain more than you already have!
Strategy #7 - Set limitations
No good thing does God withhold from us. As His child, we may ask him for more material possessions, more friends, a promotion on our job, or a new house. Certainly there is nothing wrong with any of these things. At the same time, what we may need is more grace, more peace, more joy, or to spend more time with Him to fill up our mind, will, emotions, and body with what they crave – His presence.
It should be no different with your children. What do they really need when they ask for one more material possession, to spend the night at a friend’s house, or to sign up for another activity after school? Our flesh is never satisfied and as parents we must set limitations and define how much is enough.
Closing Thoughts for God's Leaders
John Maxwell says leadership is influence. Our ability to influence our children is tied into their respect for us. It is natural for us to resist being influenced by those we do not respect. On the other hand, we emulate those we do respect. To lead our children, we have to become leaders worth following. Loving them unconditionally, providing for them, spending time listening to them, setting limits, and teaching them Godly wisdom are all part of our role as reputable leaders.
Sure effective parenting is a tough, time-consuming, wonderful job, but it is one of the greatest callings in life, and we need God's parenting wisdom for the job. Do not look for a formula based parenting tool, or a pre-fab approach. We need to “specialize” in our parenting by seeking God's wisdom based on each child's gifting, character and temperament.
Our children are on loan to us for a short time. You are momentarily in charge of an eternal being! Use this time gracefully balanced between creativity and wisdom.
©2007 Gifts Ordained by Direction/Karen M. Pina All Rights Reserved. This article may be forwarded, reprinted, and copied in full without special permission, provided it is used for non-profit purposes. Note: full attribution, copyright notice, and About The Author info must remain intact. For other purposes, please contact Gifts Ordained by Direction.
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