Want to give your children a gift today? Read through Psalms 139: 1-18 with them at the breakfast table. This is a powerful revelation of the goodness of God and rebukes the lie that we are alone. Anchor them today in His Word.
Without connection, we can use spiritual tools to drive a wedge between our children and their Father. The Pharisees were all about obeying the law perfectly, and Jesus was about the person. We can parent to keep our children in line with perfect expectations, or we can parent the child as an important, valuable, and unique human being who is in training to become a successful adult. One focuses on what they DO, while the other focuses on who they ARE.
I used to parent based on my child’s behavior, modeling the popular WWJD – “What would Jesus do?”. Jesus never hit, backtalked, pinched his sister, slammed doors, disobeyed, etc., so whenever those ‘ungodly’ traits would appear, I would discipline for it. I was a strong believer in raising kids who modeled the outward behavior of Jesus. I probably would have even admitted that it didn’t matter much what was going on inside their hearts because if I could train them to do it ‘right’ on the outside, eventually, it would sink into their heart. Anytime they were out of line, I felt anxious, and in my view, I thought I looked bad to others. If my child had a meltdown at the mall or displayed a lack of self-control at a restaurant, it meant I was a bad mom. It was a fear-based cycle of needing to control their outward behavior so that I felt good about myself as a parent. Their immature choices were more about my feelings than their training and development. I’m not sure parenting ever works that way, but what it produces is legalism and a religious spirit that tells the child that we don’t really care about what is happening inside them; we want them to perform to make us feel good. Kids are taught their behavior matters and they do not. They are taught God is a ruler maker who disciplines imperfection. They are trained to hide their true selves. They are introduced to isolation and loneliness. They feel like something is wrong with them. Can you relate? Is Holy Spirit showing you that there is room to grow in your focus from controlling their outward behavior to parenting the heart? If yes, we have to respond to Him. There won’t be any transformation unless we are willing to let Him move us.
HeartWork – Grab your journal and spend some intentional time today asking for forgiveness for caring more about your child’s behavior than their heart. Cry out to God, ask Him to teach you how to parent the way He parents us. He cares about your heart.
What did you eat last night for dinner? How about lunch yesterday? When was the last time you fed your spirit by: reading the Word, praying, declaring, worshiping, encouraging others, laughing, serving others, praising God, journaling, repenting/confessing?
Just like skipping meals and going without food, our spirit becomes weak if we do not feed it often. To be as sharp, aware, alert, and aligned as God desires, we must intentionally feed our spirits daily. Don’t feel like it? That is just a sign you are already spiritually fatigued and lethargic. The way to get out of your funk is to begin eating. I say every day to the kids, “Make sure you feed your spirit!” Teach your children this concept of feeding our bodies and how it relates to feeding our spirit.
God created us to be fully alive, deeply accepted, and belong completely. The aftermath of the fall is that man became a spiritual orphan separated from God and wandered around life, feeling profound feelings of abandonment, loneliness, and isolation. The Good News is that Jesus came to restore us back to that place of deep security with the Father. We can accept Christ yet still be wandering like an orphan striving, begging, and doing life on our own. Imagine a child digging through the dump fending for themselves and meeting their needs for food and clothing all on their own day in and day out with no rest in sight. Now picture a palace where the table is always set, and there is a room with your name on it. When we become Christians, we get the honor of living in the palace, yet some enjoy the view and go back to the dump laboring daily to meet their needs. It is impossible to raise a child as a Son/Daughter in God’s Kingdom when you occupy the dump yourself. If you want to raise them in the palace, you have to enter yourself.
Orphan Parenting is when we parent our children from the place of isolation, abandonment, self-protection, striving, loneliness, self-sufficiency, and lack. We are modeling to our children how to live like an orphan, not from Kingdom reality.
Kingdom Parenting stems from a confidence that you are more than enough and God is doing a good work in YOU; therefore, there is no need to compare yourself to others. You are fully aware of the journey and process the Father has you on because you are intimately walking it out with Him, and you trust Him that He knows best.
The following list is NOT a pass/fail. It is the JOURNEY of becoming more and more like Him. Everyone starts out as an orphan, and we will spend the rest of our days on earth discovering, realizing, and embracing the love of our Father.
Orphan Parenting – Orphans feel insecure about themselves, their performance, and their worth. They are competitive with others internally and are jealous of others’ success because it reminds them of their lack.
Kingdom Parenting – Sons/Daughters know they are loved and, out of that place, feel deeply secure to take risks, adventure out, and explore new things. When they see someone else gain what they desire, it gives them hope for what is available.
Orphan Parenting – Orphans cannot rest because they have to constantly be doing ‘good’ in order to feel worthy of His love. They are agitated when children are joyful and carefree because they do not feel they have the right to relax.
Kingdom Parenting – Sons/Daughters are able to experience the Father’s pleasure over them even when they are resting and are able to be at peace knowing He is well pleased with who they are, not just what they do. They welcome the joy children release.
Orphan Parenting – Orphans feel a gaping hole in their heart that is painful. They strive to fill it with outside sources (shopping, alcohol, porn, social media, etc.), but it only leaves the hole bigger. They often get annoyed with the confidence of a child who operates without the gaping hole.
Kingdom Parenting – Sons/Daughters are strengthened by intimacy as they have allowed Jesus access to the aches and pains in their hearts, which position them on solid and secure ground.
Orphan Parenting – Orphans have a deep drive for success, but with the goal of feeling worthy or good enough. It puts them in the driver’s seat of their lives at all costs.
Kingdom Parenting – Son/Daughters are confident in the plans God has for them and are led by the Holy Spirit to lead them on a life adventure that is full of favor, open doors, and eternal fruit. Their definition of success is measured by obedience, not popularity, ‘likes,’ or bank accounts.
Orphan Parenting – Orphans use people for their gain and advancement. They see people as stepping stones to their own agenda. They see people as an opportunity to network.
Kingdom Parenting – Son/Daughters serve those around them to build them up, following Christ’s example to serve and have a high value on connection.
Orphan Parenting – Orphans are annoyed by children and see them as a hindrance to their agenda who drain them of their time, energy, and resources. They respond with dominance, fear, and shame to control the child’s behavior to meet their agenda.
Kingdom Parenting – Son/Daughters understand the foolishness and immaturity of a child and respond with love and healthy authority.
Orphan Parenting – Orphans are often angry and full of rage out of ongoing fear that they cannot control the world around them. They have high levels of anxiety and worry.
Kingdom Parenting – Son/Daughters are confident that their Father is in control of all things and has the ability to work all things out for their good. Because their circumstance does not define them, they are able to respond in peace and not react.
Orphan Parenting – An orphan only feels as good about themselves as their outward appearance, clothing, number of ‘likes,’ material possessions, etc., allow. Orphans are always the first to get the latest trend and are constantly looking for praise and applause from others.
Kingdom Parenting – Son/Daughters are deeply affirmed by the Creator of the universe that He has created them to be unique and have immeasurable value to Him. They are secure and confident because of their relationship and intimacy with Him.
The ONLY way to cease acting like an orphan is to embrace the love of the Father and accept the invitation to act like a Son and Daughter. It’s already been paid for. All you have to do is receive.
The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and JOY (Romans 14:17)! If we want God’s Kingdom in our homes, it has to be one filled with JOY. Many of us have heard of the Make-A-Wish foundation where they network to provide an ill child with a JOY-filled event. But what we don’t see is that the child is hours away from a major life-threatening treatment or surgery. Statistics were showing a small percentage of children surviving life-threatening illness, so they did a study on those who survived and found only ONE difference between the two groups. Those who survived had a larger amount of a particular chemical in their brain that is only produced through JOY. When God says laughter is medicine (Proverbs 17:22), He wasn’t kidding. So, they coordinate these JOY-filled encounters for children to raise the chemicals in their brain to boost their survival rate. Joy matters! My kids and I sat down to create a list of fun things you can do to keep your children’s energy moving and carve out pockets of joy.
Create an indoor obstacle course with pillows, chairs, and jumping over a stack of books. Put kids in the shower with a can of shaving cream. Let them paint the walls. Network with a local middle school girl to see if she can come as a mother’s helper to help entertain the kiddos (it gets her out of the house, too). Mom stays home, but the mother’s helper occupies the kiddos. Blow up balloons and play indoor volleyball – my favorite! Get an indoor exercise trampoline and let them burn off some serious energy. Buy a bunch of inflatable beach balls and kick them around – Hudson’s favorite. Do a family puzzle. Finger paint with pudding. Hide-and-Go-Seek game (you can hide forks, socks, or pens – it doesn’t have to be anything big). Flashlight tag with the lights off. Walk around the mall looking for someone who needs a smile or kindness. Extra-long baths with lots and lots of bubbles. Create an indoor movie theater with another family. Bake cookies or muffins for your neighbor. Go bowling. Have a slumber party in the living room. Network with friends and have all the boys at one house and all the girls at another. Play a round of charades. Write letters/draw pictures for the firemen. Play Pictionary. Give them $5 and ask them who they can bless, and then go do it (buy someone’s coffee, give a meal to a homeless person, buy flowers for a worker). Pop some popcorn and have a quiet reading hour. Everyone in their places, even the little ones, flipping through books. Create a mall scavenger hunt with a check-off list of things they need to find and then take a photo of them with that item (a gal with a hat, a mannequin wearing shorts, a stuffed animal, a water bottle, a necklace, etc.). We did this for Ellie’s birthday, and it was so much fun. Rotate with friends taking the kids for a day and run a mini daycare giving other moms a break and allowing kids to have extra fun peer interaction. Have you heard of Studio C? It is like Saturday Night Live, but for kids and CLEAN! Have an indoor spa with pedis, manis, facials, etc. Put on a family talent show – hilarious! Have dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. Break out in a dance party – YouTube has some great ones. Skype family members and friends. Host another family for a picnic lunch in the living room. Play elimination card games to see who the winner is!
Jesus doesn’t have band-aids.
Teach the children about the sun, stars, grass, and trees. Who made them all? God did. OOH and AAH over His mighty creation. Then tell them that there is one thing that He loves more than anything else He has ever created and ask if they want to see it. Spend some time making a big deal out of it. When they can’t hold onto their excitement any longer, bring out a mirror and let them see themselves.
In the days to come, remind them often of just how valuable and important they are to Him.
I recently talked with a mom and her young adult daughter about sex and how she navigated through life, making solid choices in a world that screams otherwise. She credited it to this – she was taught sex isn’t something you *shouldn’t* do, but something you *should* protect and value. It wasn’t a ‘thou shall not,’ but rather an ‘I want to protect.’ It was a game changer for her. Sexual empowerment looks like choices and helping children see the value in making healthy choices to protect what is most sacred vs. dictating and demanding they follow a rule to govern themselves.
It is very difficult for a child to release the Kingdom at the store if they are on the floor pitching a fit because you did not buy them a toy. They will have a harder time hearing God’s voice if they haven’t been taught to listen to yours first. You will have a greater challenge getting them to be ‘others’ focused if they have been taught that they are the only ones that matter. Character matters!
Rest is not being inactive. Rest is the position of our heart after we have released something over to God and left it in His care. We cease taking matters into our own hands and operating in self-sufficiency. We hand over the transaction to Him, and at that moment, we are in restful confidence He can act on our behalf. We rest in the assurance that He is able, capable, mighty, willing, powerful, and active in our lives. Simply put, spiritual orphans can NOT find rest because the world’s weight is on them to self-provide, self-protect, self-defend, and self-secure. But as Sons and Daughters, we have a Father who is alive and well and wants to help us. Have you ever sat on an aircraft and watched people attempt to put their luggage in the overhead compartment? They struggle to lift the weight of their carry-on above their head while juggling their coffee, trying hard not to hit the person in front of them. Along comes a flight attendant in full confidence in their ability to help lighten the load and get them situated. Have you ever watched a child struggle to tie their shoes or fasten their pant button? They get frustrated easily with their lack of ability. A loving parent comes alongside them and, with ease, eagerly helps them. The Father is like the flight attendant wanting to carry your load. The Father is like a loving parent wanting to help in your time of need. Rest is not simply doing nothing. Rest is releasing your burdens for Him to do something.
HeartWork – “Jesus, I surrender and hand to You my burden of _____.”
Parents often feel pressure to lead their children spiritually. While there is a mandate to train and raise our children, I think sometimes we put too much focus on the HOW. My greatest tool for leading my children is to simply stay hungry myself and share with them what God is doing in my life. Every morning we would meet in the family room at 7 to check in, talk about our day, evening schedule, and it is my time to feed their spirits before they go out in the world. I was camped out in John 10 and came across this line, “My sheep recognize my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one shall snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else, so no one can kidnap them from me. I and the Father are one.” I highlighted to them that they could never be kidnapped from Jesus. They can never be taken away from Him. That simple line and 2-minute family devotion taught them a lot about who their Father is and placed a wall of security around them as they went out the door.