Gather the kids and talk about the importance of feeding their bodies with healthy food. Remind them of the difference between sugar treats and healthy foods that produce fuel for their growing bodies. What would happen if they skipped a meal or a day’s worth of eating? Their tummy would begin to rumble, and soon, their discomfort would affect their emotions. Then talk about how God has given them a brain to think and how significant our thoughts are. If we say to ourselves, “I am stupid,” we will begin to feel stupid and eventually will act stupid. God wants us to feed our minds with thoughts that are in alignment with what He thinks about us, “I am priceless,” “I matter,” “My voice is significant,” “I am loved.” Talk about our spirits and the importance of feeding our spirit with life-giving things such as worship, talking with God, hearing what He has to say to others, reading the Word, loving others, thanking Him, asking Him for help, sharing testimonies, etc. When we feed our spirit with things like fear, lies, nursing hurts, offenses, and being entertained by the things of the enemy (murder games, violence, etc.), we will have a much harder time experiencing His love which He designed to be poured out to those around us. He still loves us, but our ability to receive and embrace it is affected. I often use this language with my children, especially after I notice the fruit of not being fed, “Hey, what have you done lately to feed your spirit? It looks to me like you might need to sneak away and spend some time with Jesus.” Or “Wow, that comment was not very kind. What things are you feeding your mind lately?” All of these things are like putting a spoonful of fresh, organic veggies in our mind and spirit. Failure to feed our mind and spirit leaves us dry, empty and feeling disconnected. Help your children make a list of ways they can feed their mind and spirit and then feed them daily.
FEEDING THEIR SPIRIT
As we were celebrating the end of the school year, I was reminded of something Ellie said years ago. Her report card reflected all A’s, and I praised her for being so smart. But she said, “Mom, I am not really that smart. I just have the character to sit in class and listen to my teacher.” She was saying her grades were a reflection of her ability to be taught more than her inner IQ. Character matters and is something we go after for a lifetime, but those younger years are vital to setting a child up for lifelong success. If your child has never been taught to listen to and honor your voice, they will have a harder time in the classroom. If your child has not been expected to get along with siblings, they will have a harder time with peers. If your child has not been required to practice self-control in the family room, they will struggle with it in the classroom. Character matters!
Bullying is an imbalanced use of power that operates out of intimidation and control. Bullying starts in the home, not on the playground. Before you call a family meeting, do an Internet search on the characteristics of bullying. Ask your children what bullying means and what it looks like to bully someone. Role-play different situations and talk about how each person may feel if that happened to him or her. Now talk about what it could look like in the home, how it would make siblings feel, and discuss creative ways things like sharing and communicating could be done to show respect for others. Why are the weapons of fear, intimidation, and control not healthy options? Create an anti-bully pledge card and ask if they would be willing to make an agreement to abstain from bullying their siblings. In the days ahead, when you hear sharp tones or see aggressive or inappropriate demands between siblings, go to them and, in a respectful tone, remind them of their pledge not to partner with intimidation and control. Ask them how they could handle the situation differently.
As a family, write out pledge cards like this: I will not bully others. I will not leave anyone out. I will help others who are being bullied. If I can’t stop a bully, I will tell an adult. I care. I can help. I can make a change! I will stand up for what is right. The end of bullying starts with me! I, _____, pledge not to be bully. Signed _____ (me), Signed _____ (Mom & Dad). Let’s send our children back to school with a wider understanding of how to be kind to those who are different.
This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly
A school classroom is loaded with atmospheres. You have the atmosphere of the leadership, the teacher, the little girl who feels isolation, the joy of the birthday boy, the sadness of the student whose friend is out sick, the child whose dog died, and the excitement of the child who is flying to Grandma’s when school is over. Each person is releasing something into the atmosphere. That which kills, steals, and destroys will always be around me, but because He who is in me is greater, I have the authority to release that which brings life, joy, and blessings! The key to releasing it is a VERB! We get to do something about the situations around us in the spiritual realm. Jesus said that He has all authority and then commissioned us to go out and do greater works than He did. If I walk into a room and suddenly feel super angry but know it isn’t me, I know I have come under an atmosphere. I simply say a prayer/declaration like this, “Anger, I see you and forbid you from influencing me and those around me. I release joy, happiness, and peace in the name of Jesus.” That’s it! It’s like being a police officer and walking into a room and saying, “Hey you, bad guy, get out.” They have to obey because you have authority as a law enforcement officer in the name of Jesus. We are heaven’s law enforcement officers!
Family devotions one day seemed like a disaster, but that ended up being the lesson. The child who was supposed to lead picked a chapter and spent the next ten minutes reading to us, but we were all getting a bit dizzy with their fast-paced reading and rushing through the passage at record speed. Then they gave their own commentary, and 20 minutes later, we were still sitting there rather detached and unengaged. They then suggested we soak for a few moments but put on dance music, making it nearly impossible to ‘be still and know.’ Family devotions felt like a bit of a flop. Until God showed up and said, “Your lesson today is the flopped lesson.” We spent the rest of the time talking about how to lead others and create space for people to engage and for Holy Spirit to come. I asked the ‘leader child’ what the heart of the passage was, and she said, “That you can’t kill Jesus.” BOOM, that was explosive. I encouraged her to make sure as a leader, she did read the entire passage to get the front and back story of the Scriptures, but that sometimes less is more, and had she started with that statement, we could have spent hours unpacking that. My whole point in inviting you into our living room is simply to share that it isn’t about getting it right or doing it correctly. Even in the flop, Jesus shows up. My kids are learning and growing, and they grew in understanding of how to be a better leader. I would say that is a success.
Do you ponder God’s grace as much as you ponder your guilt? Is your list of blessings as long as your list of complaints? Is your mental file of hope as thick as your mental file of dread? Focus on the giants, and YOU stumble. Focus on GOD, and the giants tumble! You can rewrite the story for the next generation by teaching them how to build their mental file. Grab a piece of paper, and together as a family, begin answering these questions: Where have you seen God move this week? How did Jesus help you today?
When my daughter was in first grade, she came home and said it was the worst day ever. She said the substitute teacher yelled at the class with a red face most of the day. I felt fear as she shared with me how the adult handled situations and asked her with the utmost compassion, “Oh honey, did you feel fear when she did that?” She wrinkled up her face and shook her head, saying, “NO! I wouldn’t let it!” She knew the fear wasn’t from her Father and how to take out her badge of authority and use it. Kids don’t need to put up with everything that is handed to them in the spiritual realm. When my kids come home with stories about someone being unkind, rude, or disrespectful, we walk through forgiveness and then release the opposite back to them in the spiritual realm. You can’t be a victim when you are partnering with the Creator of the universe.
One morning, Lauren (then 15) led our family devotions. All of the kids woke up super late and assumed that waking late meant we would forgo our new commitment to meet in the living room at 7 EVERY morning to spend time with Jesus as a family. We talked about the sacrifice it sometimes takes to follow Jesus and that if their outfit, hair, makeup, packed lunch, etc., were perfect, it would add little to their day, but giving God room and time to speak to them would fill them in a way the other things can’t. Lauren chose to read to us from her daily devotion about the urgency of the Lord’s return and making every day count. She had each of us think of one person in our world that needed to know they were loved, and then we asked Jesus to show us HOW. Lauren shared that God highlighted a new girl at school who was crying. When she asked Him HOW she could love her, He said to hand her a card with her phone number on it and invite her to come over for dinner and go to youth group with her. The Spirit of God was all over this assignment, and we spent the rest of the time praying for Lauren’s confidence to walk in love and obedience. The ONLY thing Lauren had planned was to read the verse. God showed up and did the rest. We don’t have to be a Bible scholar, school teacher, or executive leader to usher our children to Jesus. We need to be intentional about making space and have faith He will show up.
People often ask me what I do for family devotions. I have done a variety of things over the years. My goal is to water their spirits every day just like I do their minds and tummies. I haven’t focused on the HOW as much as I have the WHAT. I felt led to buy each of them a personal devotion and a new journal for Christmas. I coached them on how to read, process, and journal. I felt like God was highlighting that my children are very comfortable with getting prophetic words for people, which I love, but sometimes we need to speak truth and life over people. It will only transform those around us if our words are anchored in HIS truth (the Word). I am having them read and process the following questions each day.
What did this reveal to me about who God is?
How can I relate to the story/Scripture?
What can I be thankful for because of it?
Who needs to hear this truth today?
And then they are crossing their chicken lines and growing in their capacity to ask God to highlight one person who needs to hear the truth they now carry, and they are speaking it over them through text, phone call, or email. I feel like parents need to hear this. Were my kids jumping up and down at the thought of a new journal and devotions? No. Did they fully understand the heart behind the concept of journaling? No. Did they do it on their own? No. Did they thank me profusely for caring about their spiritual growth? No. Did I do it anyway? YES!!!!! Because in this house, we serve the Lord, and this is what He has led me to do with them.
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?
Family devotions were led by Hudson one morning, and I was curious to see what he would come up with. When he woke, I reminded him it was his day and asked if he was ready. His response was, “Nope,” but I could tell his wheels were spinning. He grabbed his sister’s devotions, which touched me deeply, knowing that he was ministering to four females. While seeking Jesus is unisex, I was so touched by this thoughtfulness. He talked about getting hurt by friends and how we sometimes have to stand alone but that we are never alone with Jesus. He did a great job of engaging us and asking us questions about the passage he had just read (he learned from yesterday). One of the things I cherish most about my family is the way we all support each other by asking Jesus questions together. We each got to ask something as the rest of us listened to what Jesus had to say. It is so life-giving and encouraging to hear what everyone heard Him say, which is the very essence of the prophetic (hearing God for others).