What makes chores an actual ‘chore’ to a child is when we have taught them that they do not need to help out or be an active part of the family. If they are taught that it is Mom’s job to do everything, then, of course, they will resist when you ask them to pitch in or do something. It becomes an inconvenience for them to help you. Teaching them that tasks around the house are vital to keeping a home running and soliciting their help empowers them to belong to something greater than themselves. Empowering them when they are young is key but be encouraged that it is never too late to instill the character of serving, helping, and being a blessing.
Children might be world changers in training, but they still have childlike immaturity that needs to be cultivated so that they can endure the assignments God wants to give them to change the world around them for a lifetime. Character is a stone in their foundation that must be laid in childhood.
Character Counts is a downloadable digital resource that we created to give parents the How-To in equipping their children with godly character. We provide you with fun and engaging activities to do with your child to empower good character.
Teaching your child to confess their sin robs the enemy of his desire to wrap them in shame. Humility is taught, not to condemn but to FREE us from the sins of our flesh. It looks like this: There is conflict, and you ask, “Sweetie, what did you do wrong?” They tell you their part (confession), and then you help them ask for forgiveness. “Jesus, I hurt my brother. Would You please forgive me?” If they honestly can’t tell you what they did wrong, then YOU haven’t done your part as a parent to teach them what right living (righteousness) looks like in that situation. Teach and empower them in times of peace what right living looks like. Forgiveness isn’t a blank credit card for our sins. It is a GIFT that needs to be acknowledged, honored, and intentionally received. When children mess up, they carry the guilt, which can easily become shameful if not dealt with. Helping them confess brings peace to their heart.
Your child should have some weak character- it’s called being a child and not yet maturing. Childhood is not the season to expect perfection. Instead, it’s the training ground to give them life skills and character traits to be successful for the rest of their lives.
I would rather have my children make a big mess, even in front of others, and learn from it than model perfect outward behavior in front of others and have a deceitful heart that is cruel and lacking in self-control. I would rather have them get an F on an assignment and learn from their mistakes than be on the Honor Roll and walk-in entitlement or manipulation. Childhood is not the time to expect perfection but give them the skills and tools to live successful adult lives.
Once past the elementary years, a great parenting tool has been to simply partner with Holy Spirit to see how the discomfort can be placed on the child, not me. A child will step up to the plate when they feel the pressure and discomfort of their choices. When my kids transitioned from homeschool to formal school, I showered them with grace as they were learning so many new things involving lockers, tests, new classroom rules, eating lunch in a certain time frame, and so on. Months into it, I still found myself asking in the morning, “Did you brush your teeth? Did you make your bed? Did you…?” My mind was going to explode as I tried not only to get myself ready and out the door but to remember who did and didn’t do what! I sat on the kitchen counter lamenting to Holy Spirit that I felt like I was going to lose it. The kids came down only to confirm they had not done what was expected, and back up they went. I stayed on the counter, trying to keep my cool. This continued for nearly 20 minutes. We finally got in the car, when I calmly said, “Thanks for choosing to get all of your stuff done this morning. Great job. I just want you to know that the bell rang 20 minutes ago.” They begged me with tears not to make them go to school late, but I had to be tough to let them feel the discomfort of their choices. Upon entering the school office, I was asked the purpose of the tardy. I simply said, “My kids were learning to take responsibility this morning.” The office clerk winked at me and told the kids it would be unexcused and handed them their slips to enter their classrooms… late. Guess how many times they failed to do their morning routine after that?
**Toddlers need the training established so that you can use tools like this down the road. I would not attempt to do this with a toddler who is still learning right/wrong.
Serve the children banana or apple slices and then leave some out on the counter for a few hours. Gather the children in the family room and have them bring their journals and Bible. Ask them to read to themselves Galatians 5:22-23 outlining the fruit of the Spirit. See if they can remember the fruit listed (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Talk about each one and give an example of kindness, self-control, joy, etc. Share what kindness looks like at the dinner table. What does joy look like when Mom says no? Ask them if they enjoyed the banana or apple you served earlier. Wasn’t it delicious and tasty? Bring out the plate of food you set out hours earlier and attempt to give them a bite. A wilted mushy brown banana. YUM… NOT! Talk about the opposite of love, joy, peace, etc. Help them to see specific examples of peace vs. chaos, love vs. rejection, etc. We do not just ‘obey’ to behave like the fruit of the Spirit. We are helping them understand that choosing not to is partnering with the enemy to bring his kingdom into our homes, relationships, and cities. We choose to partner with God and His Kingdom because we believe in Him and want the fruit of His Kingdom for ourselves and those around us. There is a real war in the spirit realm to bring about chaos, isolation, hurt, lawlessness, and offense. How do we counter this? By going after the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.
NOT IN MY HOME – Explain to your children that there is a real rebellion in the world today against being kind and loving to others and that while it may be what ‘everyone else is doing,’ our home honors and obeys the Lord. Ask each child to draw a picture of each of the fruits of the Spirit. When all of them are illustrated, put them on the side of the room and have them sit in a circle. Ask them if they WANT a house of love or rejection. If they say love, pick one person to get the ‘love fruit’ and carry it back to the family circle, placing it in the middle. After each fruit has been brought to the center of the family, tell them they can either bring LOVE to the family circle or throw it out.
In the days ahead, I would be extra aware of the hours and days ahead to call out and make a big deal when you see someone displaying the fruit of the Spirit. “Johnny, that was SO loving,” “Susie, that was so kind of you to _____.” “Sarah, look at the self-control you had in that store.” You are empowering them that their choices make a difference, and they are significant contributors to the Kingdom of God. When you see your child choosing the opposite fruit, ask if they remember the banana slices. Ask them, “Which fruit do you think you are partnering with right now?” After kids have a grid for this, all you have to say is, “I am not sure that is a very tasty fruit,” which helps them see how they can choose different fruit.
ON A MISSION – I encourage you to gather the children, remind them of this lesson, and pick ONE of the fruits together. Let’s say you choose KINDNESS. Come up with a list of ways you can show kindness to others as a family. Maybe it is buying someone coffee, bringing a warm meal to a homeless person, babysitting to give the parents a date, sending notes to friends, or dropping off a balloon at someone’s door. Go on a MISSION to release that fruit. This will help build your child’s muscles in the joy of His ways. Often before we walk into a store, I will pick one and say, “Okay, let’s all be on the lookout for ways we can practice SELF-CONTROL in this store.” or “When you go to Ms. Johnson’s house, I want you to all look for ways you can be LOVING,” and then we talk about it afterward.
When I stand before Him, I want to be able to say, “Lord, I cared about the fruit of Your Spirit and did my best to teach my children to know, understand, partner with, and display the fruit of Your Spirit.” TAKE BACK GROUND BY GRABBING AHOLD OF HIS FRUIT!
Has your child ever come home from school, youth group, or a friend’s house and declared that their peers do not like them? It is hard to hear, isn’t it? Let me empower you on how to help your child walk through it. It is brutal to feel like you don’t belong because God created us with wiring TO belong. Belonging was one of the things stolen in the Garden. When a child experiences belonging, they start becoming who they are called to be. When a child experiences a lack of acceptance, they shrink back and partner with timidity and smallness, which robs those around them of who they were created to be. There are reasons why children experience a lack of belonging with their peers. Sometimes they do not fit in because there is something within them that needs to be matured or revealed. Humility and intentional parenting are required to help them overcome. Let me give you an example.
Years ago, I was a nanny for one of the wealthiest families in Minnesota. The six-year-old girl loved opening soda cans and pouring out all of the sweet sugar. The bees loved it too. The family’s full-time caretaker asked her many times to please stop. She looked at him and said, “My name is Anna ___. I can do whatever I want.” Her parents almost lost two employees that day. My first thought was, “How sad that where your parents failed to teach you, your peers will.” That attitude won’t fly with peers; they could care less about how much money your daddy has or how spoiled you have been at home. You can’t do whatever you want just because you feel like it and have been falsely empowered to do so at home. In this case, the response from peers, while it wouldn’t feel good, is a gift to help you see where you may need to come into greater maturity. One of my goals in parenting has been to accurately discern my child’s weaknesses and help empower them with tools for success and growth so that they don’t have to learn it the hard way through the rejection of peers. But there are times when nothing about the child warrants pushback from peers, but it happens anyway. I want to open your view of what is happening. Satan hates unity. There is strength in numbers, and his goal is to separate and devour. When there is love and unity among us, God’s Kingdom advances. There is an assignment against your child in this area specifically, and none of them are exempt from having to walk through this. Something happens, say three girls are hanging out and one girl feels left out of the conversation, which feels uncomfortable, but then the enemy comes and whispers, “You are all alone. No one likes you,” and it may FEEL true at that moment. A child partners with it, and now the lie is a part of their belief system.
Another example is that a child makes a foolish comment that lacks maturity (which happens all the time and should be expected of a child who has not yet become a full adult), and the receiver owns the comment as truth. They must be taught that not all comments, even from the popular kids, are true and accurate. Another example might be when the teacher calls on a student, and they don’t know the answer. This is common and normal in a classroom setting where everyone is learning and growing. The child feels embarrassed, and the enemy whispers shame and smears their intelligence with lies. They then shrink back in shame with their peers. When a child is partnering with shame and rejection as their identity, other children can feel it, even if their minds don’t understand it. It is like they have a sign on their back that says, “I am rejected.” Sometimes when a child reports over and over how others are treating them, it is wise to ask Jesus to reveal what lies they are believing about themselves (and therefore projecting). The next time your child declares no one likes them, ask Jesus to show you if this is a lack of character on their part that requires additional parenting help or if it is an attack of the enemy on their identity.
God is creative. The enemy is not. He can only take what God has already created and twist and pervert it for his agenda, making it a counterfeit to the original design. But there is one thing he cannot counterfeit, and that is PEACE because peace is His presence, and he is not GOD! There is no such thing as ‘false peace.’ 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” I would argue that it is important to walk in His peace at all times, but I want to zoom in on the importance of creating peaceful school mornings. Chaos breeds hurt, pressure, fear, confusion, anxiety, low self-esteem, worry, insecurity, and doubt. It cripples their confidence and pushes them to act like orphans fending and striving. Chaos creates opportunities for them to take out their anger on others during the school day. Worse yet, it ushers them into emotional or mental isolation, which is the breeding ground for the enemy’s lies. Chaos sends our children to school feeling like they are a disappointment and disconnected from the ones who should love, value, honor, see and hear them the most. Chaos sets them up for hardships and conflicts with friends because they have unresolved heart splinters. Chaos can become a mental distraction causing an inability to focus well on school and learning. Their minds are focused on the lack of peace and connection from the morning, and it robs them of the freedom to engage in the moment. Some children spend all day fearing going home, knowing they disappointed Mom in the morning. This is the very opposite of our heart for them, yet we are gatekeepers for what we are allowing to transpire in our homes each morning. You are not a victim to your schedule or demands. Your child does not dictate and lead. You are a leader in your home. What you allow and tolerate is what you will reap.
I want to offer some suggestions for keeping order, even joy, in your mornings as you prepare for the day and get everyone out of the door.
Wake Up – Get alarm clocks for each person, making it their responsibility to get up on their own. Nothing creates more stress and sets the tone for the day than Mom yelling at a child to wake up for the tenth time. If my kids do not heed their alarm, I turn on their light. If they continue to refuse to get up, they lose out on get-ready time, but either way, my car leaves at the same time to go to school, and they will be in it. It generally takes an ‘I am serious’ moment for them to learn the lesson that getting up on time is VERY important as no child wants to go to school in their PJs. This applies to teens too. Nothing motivates a teen girl more to wake up than realizing she will miss out on doing her hair and makeup if she doesn’t manage waking up.
Role Play – For younger children entering school for the first time, have a mock school day where you wake up and pretend it is a school day. Walk through with them what needs to be done step by step.
Breakfast – Isn’t it interesting how we can be together all morning and never once even look at or see each other? Make a goal to sit together even just for five minutes. Talk about your upcoming day. This is a great time to cheer each other on for tests, tryouts, or heavier issues they are facing. I have a couple of great question games that we keep at the table to create conversation and laughter. Also, setting breakfast at a certain time each morning helps them manage what needs to be done by breakfast time (make bed, get dressed, etc.), as well as after (brush teeth, put shoes on, etc.).
Routine – Having a consistent routine and agenda helps children to be successful. They know what they can expect and what is expected. It helps them to be self-guided in managing their time, too. One thing that really helped when they first started formal school was to have them do it in order. They had to get up, then make their bed, then get dressed, then eat breakfast, then brush their teeth, etc. Doing it in order helped them to know what they should be doing next. When they got older, our morning routine included the kids getting up at 6:30 AM, at the breakfast table at 7:00, and out the door at 7:30. They managed themselves in between, but those three times needed to be honored. Establishing the expectations ahead of time took the pressure off me having to keep them moving. Do not be shy in creating a poster with the schedule and if you see a child not doing what they are supposed to be doing, ask them to check the schedule.
Lunches – Empower children to make lunches the night before, perhaps even on Sunday. Create an atmosphere of empowerment rather than pressure like it is a chore. Praise them for their effort and accomplishment. I told them they had to have one meat and one fruit/veggie, and one snack/treat, but they could pick what they wanted.
Clothes – Empower children to pick out their clothes the night before, including socks and shoes, or perhaps spend an hour on Sunday afternoon having them set out their outfits for the whole week. My girls love it! This includes a routine for gym uniforms. Picking out clothes in the morning can be a recipe for chaos, especially for girls.
Chores – Years ago, the kids wanted me to take them to the park, but I was too exhausted from the never-ending cycle of making meals, washing dishes, picking up, folding clothes, fetching juice, etc. I decided that day that since my children were a part of the household, they needed to contribute to the success. My top areas were the floors, dishes, trash, and laundry (which is perfect because I have four kids!). When they were younger, I printed out the weekly schedule and assigned chores and posted it on the wall in a frame. This empowered them to take responsibility, manage something, and feel good about their contributions. We have continued these chores to this day, but I have moved them to the evening so they can focus on other things in the morning. The only chore they have in the morning is managing themselves for school and putting their dishes away.
Bathroom – Is bathroom time a hassle in your home? Switch from AM showers to PM showers. Create a hair/makeup area in their bedroom, leaving the bathroom available for the basics.
School Papers – It caused me a lot of stress when the kids would shove a piece of paper in my face while driving, expecting me to sign it before we arrived. I created a system where anything that required my time, signature, or money needed to be placed on top of my coffee maker. I wake up early and review the pile while making my coffee. I respond and place the notes on the counter, making it their responsibility to get it in their backpacks. If they came to me in a panic about something, I would remind them of the system. Sometimes they had to get a ZERO on their reading log in order to learn that their lack of planning does not create a crisis on my end. I was holding onto my peace and teaching them to be more prepared.
Attitudes – If attitudes are something you deal with in the morning, it means their teacher is dealing with it, too. Do not ignore this character weakness, parent it. Pinpoint the real issue, such as a lack of humility, rebellion, or lack of self-control, and go after it in times of peace. Sit with them and let them know responding to authority that way is not acceptable, and then role-play some ways they could handle it differently. Go after that character trait in other ways. Teach, train, and empower them.
Family Meetings – I call “Family Meeting!” often in our home. The kids know they need to come immediately into the living room (yes, we had to practice what it means to come immediately and not 15 minutes later). I used this time to inform them of events, talk about issues, work through hurts/offenses, and allow their voice to be heard. We meet weekly, oftentimes more than that. During the school year, I made sure every Sunday we had a check-in and talked about the week, field trips, errands that must be run, things that needed to be added to the grocery list, playdates, permission slips, sports obligations, rides, science projects, etc. This helped us all to feel ahead of the game and not always reacting at the last minute.
What are some steps you can take to make sure you are sending your child out into the world armed with peace?
Fearing we will harm our children if we cause their discomfort can actually harm them more!
Teaching character in the earlier years is so important because you will spend the rest of your parenting years building upon it. When your child is around 7-9ish and fails to complete a task that you asked of them, change your language from “I asked you to do _____” to “Is there something I asked of you that you have not completed yet?” It makes their mind think on their own, which is a muscle that needs to be exercised and used. I would say things like, “Oh, I don’t think you are ready to eat dinner with us,” and it would make them stop in their tracks and remember. It is amazing how quickly their minds can recall it when forced to think for themselves. This takes the pressure off of you to be their mind and eliminates the frustration of a child who is not being faithful with responsibility.