Gather the kids and talk about the things most dear to your heart. Ask them what is one thing they couldn’t live without. Spend time thanking Jesus for giving it to you.
Parents message me almost weekly asking what devotions I recommend for their children. Can I be blunt? I don’t! I passionately believe that children need the WORD OF GOD directly. A devotional is not a substitute spiritual teacher.* Part of the armor God has given us is the sword of the Word, and children, now more than ever, need to be armed with the truth of His WORD. Teach them in childhood how to have a relationship with the Word, and it will reap a lifetime of fruit. Instead of seeking an author’s words to parent your child spiritually, they need you to learn how to explore the Word together with them. When they are walking through something together, seek verses on the subject. Buy one-year Bibles for each family member and read Psalms at breakfast time or the New Testament before bed. Then, simply open up the Gospels and begin reading the story together. Stop, talk about it, ask questions, ponder, search for answers and enjoy exploring it together. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (Deuteronomy 11:19).
**This is not an argument against devotion. It is about realigning our hearts to be the spiritual leaders of our home and making sure we are not abdicating that role to Christian educators, Sunday School leaders, and Christian authors.
Many parents ask me what the best resources for raising children in the faith are. While there are a lot of things we can do to nurture their relationship with God, I firmly believe one of the most significant ways to impact them is merely sharing your own journey with them. I often tell the kids what God is doing in my heart, revealing the things He has spoken to me, or how verses have come alive for me. I am taking what is inside of me and getting it out for them to see, hear, and feel. It is one thing to talk about it; it is another to witness and experience it. This is one of the glorious things about family and living with such a deep connection to those around us. If we get hit with something hard, I make sure the children aren’t just seeing the struggle but also the journey of God showing up in the process. Have you shared your childhood stories about life with/without Jesus and how it has impacted you? Have you told them when and how you first met Jesus? Do they know about your recent revelations and encounters? Your journey with Jesus is powerful – share it!
A parent was asking me about the child who slams their door and remains in the room upset. Their question included, “I can’t control them,” and something profound rose within me. No, they are right that control-based parenting is ineffective for the long haul and does little to address the child’s heart. However, I think there is a lot of space between “I can’t control them,” and “there is no way I will lay down my authority that fast when the enemy comes to build a wall with my child.” Let me explain. The purpose of a wall in the natural (bushes, fences, room dividers, retaining wall) is to hold something in and/or keep something out. It creates a physical boundary line that communicates “you can’t get through.” We build walls in our hearts when we are hurt or afraid to keep the bad out and to self-protect ourselves from getting hurt again. This makes logical sense, EXCEPT #1. It keeps the bad out but also keeps the good out. #2. It traps the bad so that it can’t escape and causes us to carry the hurt/offense around. #3. God never intended us to carry the job of self-protection. That is His job. When the enemy is working my child to build a wall to keep pain in (and me out), I agree I can’t control them, but boy, mama bear comes out in the spiritual realm. I bind whatever is in operation, ask Holy Spirit to bring into light whatever is in darkness, release comfort to their hearts, and I go after their love language BIG time. When I see my child struggling and needing the comfort of a wall to feel safe, I BACK OFF from parenting their flesh and wrong behavior and go after their heart. My goal isn’t to have perfect kids. My goal is to keep their heart in the palm of my hand and teach them a lifestyle of going to God even in the complicated and messy places. Control? No. Power and authority? YES!
On the first day of our JOURNEY class, we talk about being hungry for MORE. Nearly 100% of the answers reflect a deep desire for more of Him but a fear. Fear is just a lie to get YOU to forgo the goodness God has for you. The enemy can’t stop you, so he whispers lies that produce fear, which causes us to shy away, afraid the lie will actually come true. God is calling you deeper. Be known for your yes to Him, not for partnering with fear. I encourage you to break agreement with the lie and take it right to the throne by asking, “God, is it true that _______? What is Your truth?”
Want to help your child reset after coming home from school? Give them an intentional few minutes of just being still in God’s presence. I would prepare a snack for them and tell them to grab a corner of the living room and enjoy their snack while lying quietly. Sometimes all it took was five minutes, and you could feel the shift in the atmosphere.
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.
This is in response to the many questions I get about toddlers who are regressing or acting out when the new baby comes home. I had 14-month-old twins when their brother was born, so I went after making sure they felt secure. It is a big deal for a child to have their birth order changed. Think about it – they are the only ones who get Mom’s attention; she leaves for a few days and comes back with a new baby she is with all the time. Often, Mom is recovering physically, and others intentionally keep the older child away from Mom so she can rest. This is confusing to a child, and they can surely build up resentment toward their new sibling. One thing that was super helpful was the ‘5-minute dates’ with the twins when I knew Hudson would need me for feedings and such. I would bring them to the floor with me, and we would spend quality time together. If Hudson started to cry, I would say out loud, “Oh no, not now, Hudson. Lauren and Emma are very special to me, and I am spending time with them now. You will have to wait.” Of course, you don’t make a newborn wait long, but they have no concept of time. I was communicating to them that the baby has not replaced them, and they are still so valued and important to me. But then I would tell them it was Hudson’s turn and that they needed to play by my feet, watch a movie, read a book, etc. If they wanted juice or help when I was feeding Hudson, I reminded them it was his turn, and they had to wait. I intentionally filled them up like this for many days after we brought him home, and the transition was smooth for all.
How many of us get annoyed when we speak to our children, and they don’t listen because they are engaged elsewhere (book, TV, homework, screen time, etc.)? How many of you get annoyed when you are in the middle of something (book, TV, housework, screen time, etc.), and your kids interrupt you as if you aren’t doing anything? Hmmm… maybe we are actually teaching our children to interrupt by what we are modeling for them. We think just because we are adults, we can crash into their world at any time and expect them to instantly stop what they are doing and give us their full attention. While that would be awesome, that isn’t reality. Perhaps we should be modeling for our children how we would appreciate and value them interrupting us when we are in the middle of something, and they need our attention. I have taught my kids that when they need me, but see I am in the middle of something, to come and place their hand on my arm. I place my other hand on top of theirs to say, “I see you,” and they need to wait until I can switch my attention to them. When they got older, I showed them how to say, “Excuse me, Mom, is this a good time to interrupt you?” If I am engaged with another person (on the phone or in person), and the kids would not show honor, I would say, “Excuse me for a moment,” to the person and then say to my children, “You are so important, but I am important too, and right now Mama is talking to Ms. Smith.” This is a people skill that children need to be taught, trained, and equipped in with intentional parenting. Nothing welcomes favor more than honor and respect!
One day, Emma came to me in tears with her beloved Pinkie Pie (pink horse), whose leg broke off. Pinkie Pie was no ordinary toy. She had waited months to get it and had lavished more love on that horse than on any other toy! To have it broken was truly a sad loss for her little heart. My heart wanted to rush out and buy her a new one, but Holy Spirit showed me that Emma was learning compassion. I realized that she needed to know how to deal with things in her life that were broken because life is messy, and we can’t always just ditch the broken and replace it with new. I asked her if she loved Pinkie Pie any less because she lost her leg, and she said no. To play with a Pinkie Pie with only three legs required an adjustment, but that’s life! We still have her, as she is our reminder to love all things, even when they are broken. Jesus always healed out of compassion, not need. We need to be looking for ways to teach our children to walk in compassion for others.
Gather the kids and walk through these verses. Make them come alive by explaining them and adding real-life stories and examples. Let His word be written on their hearts.
Psalm 7:17 – “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.”
Psalm 100:4-5 – “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Psalm 118:29 – “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.”
Psalm 9:1 – “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
Colossians 2:7 – “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”
Colossians 4:2 – “O Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Ps. 95:1-3 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Psalm 103:1-5 – “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Psalm 107:1 – “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”
Ephesians 5:20 – “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Psalm 28:7 – “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.”
Psalm 69:30 – “I will praise the name of God with song, and shall magnify Him with thanksgiving.”
Psalm 136:1-5 – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;”
Hebrews 12:28-29 – “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
2 Corinthians 9:15 – “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
Revelations 11:17 – “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.”
Revelation 7:12 – “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”