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Getting my daughters to their activities takes lots of time each week, from guitar lessons to volleyball practice to church. The list goes on.
Instead of letting time in the car just slip by, I’ve been thinking of ways to intentionally use these moments to grow together relationally and spiritually.
Show interest in your child’s life by talking. Take advantage of the captive audience in your backseat. Try to limit talking on your cell phone and engage with your child.
Ask open-ended questions that require more than just a yes or no answer.
Consider a few of these:
Talking is an important aspect of building a deeper relationship with my children. But it’s also vital to listen and let them talk. I also can control and influence who and what we listen to.
In the car, I choose to listen to:
How do you use car time to spiritually train your children?
The blog topic assigned to me this month was: What would you do differently if you could raise your kids all over again?
I had to smile. I recently was asked this question on a parenting panel and my answer was that I would’ve gotten up earlier and happier. Not that I was grouchy in the mornings, I just didn’t like talking all that much. Fortunately, my husband was a morning person so between my silent-getting-the-cereal-on-the-table-automation and his ability to communicate at that hour – the kids did get out the door for school.
The thing is – we do what we want to do. Midway through my kids’ college years, I started working here at Awana headquarters. The problem was I lived in Wisconsin and Awana is in Illinois – which meant I had a 70-mile one-way commute. Let’s just say I had to leave VERY early to get here on time. (This was before working at home was an option.)
I knew a 6 a.m. drive on a busy four-lane highway required alertness. I needed to be awake. So, I started going to bed earlier to get a good eight hours sleep. Within a few months, I had trained myself to be a morning person – something I could’ve done back when the kids were in their early elementary years.
But otherwise? Well, sure there are things I could’ve done differently. Hindsight is better than foresight even in kid-raising. The reality is we don’t get to have do-overs in life. We can sit and feel sorry for ourselves and think of all the “what-ifs.” Or we can look at our life in the present and decide to make this very day worthwhile.
We will always be parents. We never get tired of hearing our parents tell us how proud they are of our accomplishments or how much they love us. So our kids will always appreciate us letting them know how much we care.
No matter how old our kids are, we can be encouraging to them. We can pray for them. We can listen when they want to talk with us. We can tell them “thanks” for being who they are. And we can be supportive of our grandchildren. Sometimes this might mean being the ONLY spiritual influence in our grandchildren’s lives. At other times, this is backing up what they are hearing from their parents (our kids).
Parenting is tough, and we don’t get to practice, but we do get a handbook – God’s Word, the Bible. We need to give our kids our time, our love and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Sure, we can look back, but how much better to look at today. What can we do today that will encourage our kids?
The challenge is NOT to look back several years and think about what we could’ve done differently. The challenge is to be the best possible parent today so we won’t look back tomorrow and see a missed opportunity.
What can you do today that will encourage your kids?
Parenting is my biggest challenge. It’s likely yours, too. One author says it is akin to “having your heart go walking around outside your body.” And it really doesn’t get easier with age!
What can we do about getting better at parenting? A Michael Hyatt blog post on an unrelated topic prompted me to brainstorm a list of practical ways all of us can improve as parents. Emphasis is on practical. Small steps will get you to the same destination as one or two large steps. Truth be told, most of us are small-step kinds of parents, aren’t we?
The list is not meant to be thorough. Considering incorporating one or two entries into your parenting this month.
In random order:
1. Pray for your child in her presence at the start and close of each day. Keep it brief.
2. Tell your child you love him at least every other day.
3. Hug your child often (even if it’s just a shoulder hug for teens).
4. Give her a short note of encouragement at least monthly.
5. Spend at least 30 minutes of one-on-one time with him each week, and turn off your cell phone and PDA beforehand if you own them.
6. Leave an age-appropriate joke in your child’s lunch box or coat pocket occasionally.
7. Tell her you’re proud of her. Be specific why.
8. Surprise your child with a small gift that you know he’d appreciate.
9. Read the Bible or a devotional lesson together at least weekly.
10. Play a board or card game with your child.
11. Take your child out for breakfast or lunch at least monthly.
12. Take off work early to cheer him on at an after-school activity.
13. Give your child an encouraging card, e-card or e-mail message.
14. Leave an inspirational quote on your child’s pillow before his bedtime.
15. Learn a Bible verse or passage together.
16. Hug your child and tell her “I love you” after disciplining her.
17. Watch one of your child’s favorite TV programs together.
18. Praise your child in front of his teachers or peers.
19. Teach her a new skill of yours.
20. Make a meal of his choice with him for dinner.
21. Serve with your child somewhere in your community – such as a nursing home, homeless shelter or hospital.
22. Ask your child to forgive you for something you did to her recently, such as losing your temper.
23. Pray for your child for five minutes every day.
24. Pray often for God to grow you as a parent.
25. Join your child in doing a random act of kindness for a neighbor.
26. Play catch with him.
27. Rent a funny movie, pop popcorn and laugh hysterically together.
28. Help your child with homework. Commit to being very patient!
29. Hold a family faith night – do a fun activity, read a Bible passage and pray together.
30. Prioritize healthy eating and exercise habits for your whole family. Reward your kids when they achieve milestones.
31. Plan a fun weekend or day trip away for the two of you.
32. Take lots of pictures of your child and your family.
33. Devote yourself to only disciplining your child in love. This may mean delaying discipline for a few minutes while you collect your emotions and pray.
34. Put a picture of her in your wallet or purse. Look at it and thank God for something about her daily.
35. Give your child something from your childhood that was valuable to you. Explain why it was valuable and why you’re giving it to him.
36. Celebrate your child’s successes with enthusiasm.
37. Be the first one to encourage your child when she experiences pain or failure.
Question: What would you add to the list?
The upcoming Martin Luther King holiday marks what would have been King’s 82nd birthday. What a legacy he left for all of us.
King delivered one of his most well-known speeches, “I Have a Dream”, on August 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Ranked the top American speech of the 20th century, King’s inspiring words served as a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement.
I plan to watch the video of King’s speech with my two daughters and talk about the importance of his message.
Some of my favorite lines from “I Have a Dream” that we’ll discuss include:
Reaching across the divide
My pastor regularly challenges our congregation to be the first ones to reach a hand across any kind of divide, whether it be racial, socio-economic, religious or ethnic. We are to be the ones to walk across the room, extend a hand and model the love of Christ to others.
Being the first to reach a hand across any kind of difference—and teach our kids to do the same—can sometimes prove difficult.
We live in a neighborhood without much diversity, so the kids around us playing in the street are very similar to my girls. We don’t have many opportunities to interact with people of other races or ethnicities. I know I must be intentional in teaching and training my daughters about how God views all children.
Last month, my 14-year-old daughter visited an African-American church with her high school ministry. We partner with this inner-city church so that all of us grow in our understanding of racial issues.
I look forward to the inner-city church’s high school students coming to visit our church next month. I pray that my daughter’s heart and mind will stretch as she strives to build a bridge with her new friends. I believe it’s possible and absolutely critical for the body of Christ to be united as one, as Martin Luther King eloquently challenged Americans one memorable day 48 years ago.
How do you teach your children about Martin Luther King’s message of racial reconciliation?
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Do you have a child who struggles – or just doesn’t care – to attend to the daily habits of life?
My younger daughter is notorious in our home for failing to accomplish the mundane but necessary tasks each day brings. She’s 10 years old, a wonderful child and an excellent student, yet she often doesn’t brush her teeth, comb her hair, put her personal belongings away or take care of other day-to-day responsibilities without reminders from her parents. My wife and I have tried various measures short of hypnotism but with only middling success.
As much as we remind, prod, nag, force and discipline her to get these things done, another daily practice deserves just as much and even more of her energy and our emphasis.
I’m talking about devoting time each day to studying God’s Word.
One of the most essential spiritual disciplines for Christians is daily Bible study. Without regularly feeding on Scripture, we won’t grow spiritually. Neither will our kids.
This habit is just as vital for born-again children and youth to start as it is for adults. If our kids don’t develop the daily discipline of personal Bible study under our tutelage before they leave the home, will they realistically pick up this habit when they’re on their own? I know from my experience that I didn’t learn this practice till I was in my mid-20s. It’s a discipline I wish my parents had ingrained in me when I was growing up. It would have made a huge difference in my young adult years.
How many of us as parents emphasize the value of daily “quiet time” with God and encourage its practice with our kids?
Our churches’ Sunday school classes, Awana and youth groups can teach our children that this spiritual discipline is important. But the average church-going child spends two to three hours a week at church. Our child’s church teachers and leaders aren’t with her every day to ingrain this habit.
We as parents are.
The only way our kids will incorporate daily Bible study into their lives is if we as parents model it, teach it and – when our children reach the age and spiritual level where they’re ready to own this discipline – integrate it into our kids’ day-to-day routines.
What does this look like in a real-life home? Tomorrow, when I ask my daughter if she’s brushed her hair and teeth, hung up her coat, done her homework and put away her dirty clothes, I need to pose to her another question: Did you spend time with God today? In fact, that’s the first question I should ask.
What are you doing to prepare your kids to have daily quiet times or to get your kids to spend time each day in the Bible?
You watch with trepidation as your child opens a gift from Great Uncle Harold or that sweet shut-in down the street. As you observe, you silently pray that your child will receive whatever it is with grace and kindness (even if it’s a pair of hand-knitted socks or a flowery handkerchief).
We are in the Christmas season, a time of year when a lot of gifts are given and received. No matter how much we stress the true meaning of Christmas, kids still get overly excited about what they’re GETTING! Excitement can cause them to say things without thinking. Sometimes those spontaneous words are funny – but other times they’re rude.
Christmas is about the greatest gift ever given – God sending His Son to earth so that we can have eternal life (John 3:16).
Christmas is also about showing our love to those around us. Yet, we often teach our kids the joy of giving but neglect to teach them the graciousness of receiving.
The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) includes characteristics that help us be good gift receivers, such as:
No matter what the gift.
Teach your kids that whenever they open a gift, they need to express thankfulness. If the person is present, the child needs to look at the person and say a sincere thank you.
Teach your children that even if they don’t like the gift, they can appreciate that the person took the time to purchase and wrap it and sincerely appreciate that.
If it’s a family situation, you may want to teach younger children to walk over to the person who gave the gift and give her a hug. (Use your judgment, but it’s often a good thing to do.)
If the person isn’t present, children need to immediately write thank-you notes. Even young children can draw thank-you pictures.
Prepare your children for awkward situations, too.
Of course, the best thing we can do is model gracious receiving. We don’t like every gift we receive, and we sometimes receive duplicates of things we already have (and our kids are aware of that). Our response goes a long way toward teaching our kids graciousness.
When everyone is gone, it’s OK for the 12-year-old (and the rest of the family, too) to giggle about the brown and purple sweater. But don’t allow your children to say mean things about the giver herself. Instead, talk about the effort someone put into buying and wrapping the gift (and maybe in the case of the sweater, putting long hours into making it).
You could also talk about kids who don’t have warm clothes and would appreciate the sweater – squirrels and all. Is there a children’s shelter in town where you could donate some slightly worn clothes? Better yet, could your older children go to the shelter for the afternoon and entertain the younger kids?
Be intentional about teaching your kids gracious receiving – and this year, have a thankful Christmas.
Ever feel guilty about not praying enough for your children? Not a week goes by where I don’t struggle over feelings of letting down my kids with an inadequate prayer life.
The Bible says we should pray without ceasing — not just for our children but in our regular communication with God. But Scripture doesn’t say a strong prayer life is measured by quantity of time. It’s more about us conforming to God’s will and praying with faith and fervency. As James 5:16 says, The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
How can you improve your prayer time for your kids? Here are six suggestions:
1. Ask your kids how you can pray for them
If your children are older (depends on the child’s maturity level, but typically early elementary or older), consider asking them once a week for prayer requests. The younger they are, the more assistance they may need. But you’ll eventually get into a routine that benefits your prayer life for them and strengthens your relationship with them as they see you faithfully asking for requests and following up to see how prayer is impacting those requests. Taking prayer requests from your children also makes you accountable to actually praying for them!
2. The morning-person approach
Everyone has a different prayer “style.” A friend of mine is a morning person. He and his wife awaken at 5:30 a.m. each day and pray together for an hour for their two children. James Dobson arises each morning and prays for 30 minutes not only for his kids but also his grandkids and his grandchildren’s future spouses. This approach doesn’t work for many of us, especially if, like me, you don’t thrive in the morning. But this style may appeal to your personality and temperament.
3. Keep prayers short and sweet
Brief intercession throughout your day may work well with your schedule and, if you’re anything like me, your attention span. Instead of praying for one longer time frame, I sometimes sprinkle requests for my two kids here and there across the day.
For instance, I pray for my girls in person just before they leave for school. In a minute or so, I ask God to protect them, strengthen them, open their hearts to their teachers’ instruction, prepare their hearts to treat their classmates with grace, those sort of requests. Later in the morning, I may spend another minute asking God to work in one specific way in their lives, such as growing them hungrier for His Word. That afternoon, I may ask God to prepare them for a big test they’re taking at school or for an activity they’re involved in that night. At night, I may spend a minute asking for His work in another area of their lives.
4. Use model prayers
Do you get in ruts when praying for your kids? It’s a challenge to keep our prayers fresh. Mine tend to sound the same and cover the same topics without outside help.
That’s why I subscribe to two e-mail prayer services. Real World Parents sends me suggested prayers for my kids each day. These e-mails remind me to pray that day and reveal areas of my kids’ lives that need my prayer.
Another e-mail prayer newsletter I receive is titled When Mama Hen Prays. It provides scripted prayers based on specific Scripture verses. Using God’s very words as the basis of our prayers is very powerful. I try to put these prayers into my own words while remembering that it’s the intent behind these requests that matters more than “getting the words just right.”
5. Prompt yourself to pray
A former colleague at Awana used his work computer’s electronic calendar to prompt him to prayer at set times of the day. If he wanted to pray for his children at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., he’d set “meetings” on his work calendar to remind him to pray. As a reminder popped up on his monitor, he’d take a minute to lift his kids’ needs to God.
If you own an iPhone, Blackberry or other mobile device, you could practice the same prayer strategy. Or maybe you and your spouse text message each other at set times of the day as a reminder to take a minute or two and pray for one of your kids. It provides accountability and helpful notices that keep you on track.
6. Pray for and with your child
At bedtime, after tucking my daughter into bed, I always pray not only with her but for her. This serves three purposes:
What do you do to pray throughout the day for your kids? Please share a comment.
The average 8- to 18-year-old spends 7.5 hours a day involved with electronic media.
This is nearly as much time as they sleep.
That was just one of the stunning results revealed in Albert Mohler’s blog post titled “’Like the Air They Breathe’ — The Online Life of Kids.”
Dr. Mohler’s blog is a wake-up call for parents about a growing concern in America: our kids’ out-of-control media consumption.
His final argument will especially hit home with you:
(A pediatrician) told The New York Times that we should accept media as a constant part of children’s environment.
This is advice Christian parents cannot follow.
We cannot simply accept that constant media saturation is now a fact of nature and a matter of constant need. These technologies and devices have their places. But the role of parents is to establish rules that protect children and teens from being dominated by technology and an army of digital devices.
Parents must find the courage and wisdom to know when to disconnect.
If you’re a parent or work with kids in this age range, you know that Dr. Mohler isn’t exaggerating. Electronic devices dominate teens’ lives and increasingly pre-teens, too. They’re addicted to technology that unfortunately exposes their minds to messages that likely run counter to what we teach them at home and church.
Here are a few of the sobering stats taken from the new nationwide study of 8- to 18-year-olds by the Kaiser Family Foundation:
Kids spend on average 7 1/2 hours each day using electronic media – music, TV, cell phones, text messaging, IM, e-mail, the Web, video games, etc.
Kids multitask to consume roughly 11 hours of media in that 7 1/2 hours. Cell phones enable them to be online at any time, even in bed. According to Kaiser, “Try waking a teenager in the morning, and the odds are good you’ll find a cell phone tucked under the pillow – the last thing they touch before falling asleep and the first thing they reach for upon waking.”
Two-thirds of 8- to 18-year-olds own a cell phone. Three-fourths own an iPod or other MP3 player. And most kids use their phones primarily as mobile media devices instead of as telephones.
The average American youth’s home features 3.8 TVs, 2.8 DVD or VCR players, one DVR, two computers, 2.3 console video game players and other electronic devices like radios and CD players.
Seven in 10 kids in this age range have a TV in their bedroom. One in two has a video game console. Three in 10 have their own laptop. Most have access to a computer with the Internet.
Dr. Mohler rightly observes, “There is no turning back from the digital revolution. It is not realistic for most families to declare a principled disconnection from electronic media and the digital world.”
But we must do something to protect our kids. They are becoming increasingly hooked on the drug of electronic media.
Media saturation can’t help but potentially harm our children spiritually, morally, emotionally, relationally and intellectually in a number of ways, such as:
1. Fractured relationships with family, the church and “live” friendships
2. Steady exposure to non-biblical values and viewpoints
3. Less time devoted to spiritual disciplines and academic studies
4. Loss of book reading habits
5. Inadequate sleep
6. Attention deficit.
The media monster is devouring many of our kids’ lives. As parents and church leaders, let’s do what we can to slay it.
What are you doing to give your kids boundaries around their media use?
Have you ever been pulled over for speeding? I have. It’s a terrible feeling to see those flashing lights in my rearview mirror.
In every instance, I knew I was wrong and deserving of a ticket. In most cases, that’s exactly what I got.
But on one occasion, the police officer gave me a warning and let me go free. He showed me grace, a favor I didn’t earn.
Those of us who have trusted Christ for salvation have experienced life-changing grace. Jesus paid our sin debt. We’ve been set free.
None of us deserves such a gift, but God still offers it to all who are interested.
Teaching our kids about amazing grace
We extend God’s grace to others each time we:
Modeling this for our kids is critical as parents.
“Helping our children understand and respond in awe to God’s priceless gift of grace will enable them to grow into adults who reflect Christ in the many nuances of life,” Weddle says. “God shows mercy and grace in His relationship to us. We need to show mercy and grace in our relationship with others.”
Sharing God’s grace with others offers evangelism opportunities for you and your kids.
“As our children face the world with newfound independence, they need to understand all that God has done for them,” Weddle says. “This understanding transforms into a heart response to God’s grace as revealed in the person and work of Christ. Our children also need to understand mercy. Mercy is a primary aspect of grace.”
Joseph: a case study in grace
As we strive to instill a lasting biblical faith in our kids, the life of Joseph provides a beautiful picture of grace. Found in Genesis 37-50, the story depicts a man who faithfully honored and followed God no matter his circumstances. He showed grace to his brothers when they came to him for food despite the horrific ways they had treated him.
Study these chapters as a family. Talk about the difficult situations Joseph endured. Learn more about how to raise modern-day Josephs who are filled with God’s grace and willing to share that grace with others.
And the next time you get pulled over for speeding, pray for grace!
How have you seen your kids show grace to others?
It’s easy to know which posts (articles) on the Modern-Day Joseph blog resonate most with readers. Voters vote with ballots. Online readers vote with their comments.
Below you’ll find links to the 10 most commented-on posts for the MDJ blog from the last year. Several posts express viewpoints that may motivate you to leave a pro or con comment of your own. This is an online community. The more we hear from you, the better off we all will be as we learn from each other.
10. Is There Flavor in the White of an Egg (and Other Words of Scripture)
9. Is Bible Memorization Bad for Your Kids?
8. The Electronic Media Monster is Devouring Our Kids
7. Home, Christian or Public School? Here’s the Best Choice
6. What Do You Tell Your Child About a Dying Loved One?
5. Family Values vs. Sports Schedules: Time to Take a Stand?
4. Too Busy Not to Pray for Our Kids
3. Why Do Teens Leave Church? They’ve Never Been Part of It
2. Churches Are Failing Us as Parents. Is Yours One of Them?
1. If Your Kids Ask ‘Is Santa Real?’ Tell Them the Truth
Question: Which blog post impacted you most as a parent or church leader? Which post did you disagree with?
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