Sit with a piece of paper and ask Jesus to show you how your child is doing with each of the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Go after the areas that need some strengthening. You are sowing into character training today so that you can reap the good fruit of it tomorrow.
When I would tell the four kids to do something, they would obey right away, but only partially. So, I would call them back, and they would obey right away again, but still not finish. I was asking them FOUR times to complete the dishwasher, FIVE times to clean the bathroom all the way, THREE times for the floor, and I was about to go mad! I realized it was an issue of taking responsibility, so I asked Holy Spirit for a creative teaching tool. Ha! Do you know one of the names of Holy Spirit? TEACHER! He rocks at teaching the kids and loves to do it in a fun way. I called all the kids back and gave them a piece of paper to wad up. I then told them they had to put the paper in the bathroom (the furthest room from the living room). They were all like, “Okay, easy peasy.” Then I said, “But… you can only drop it, stoop down to get it, stand up, drop it again, stoop down to get it, stand up, drop it…” It was super funny about four times, but after that, they wanted to cry. They were clueless about why they were doing this; it was NOT fun. I called them all back into the living room and explained that that is how I feel when I ask them to do something and then have to call them back again and again to finish it. When they are instructed to do something, they must stick with it until it is done fully and completely.
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.
When my kiddos were younger, I was learning about God’s grace. That sweet, love-filled gift of grace. I was so moved by His grace towards me that I decided I would give my children grace when they acted out… and all hell broke loose. I was perplexed that my kindness and goodness were being met with utter chaos. God showed me that grace without authority is nothing but entitlement. My children did not know how to handle the grace given because they had not yet fully been established under my authority. Let me say it this way – if you give grace to your children as a parenting tool BEFORE you have established your authority, you are not giving grace but empowering their flesh. Grace can only be received in the backdrop of understanding what they are given grace for. This is why character training is so important. It establishes for the child right living and positions them under your authority and covering. Do not mistake ignoring, avoidance, or checking out as giving them grace. That is laying down your God-given role to teach your children about His Kingdom structure. Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.
A dad approached me and asked for help with his teen daughter, who was saying really mean things to him, like, “I hate you,” “You are fat,” “No one likes you.” I asked what the consequences were for a child to speak to an adult like that, and there were none other than letting her know his heart was hurt. I encouraged him to learn how to speak firmly but lovingly to draw a line in the sand with her. NO CHILD FEELS GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES speaking to their father that way. He is indirectly teaching her that this is how you treat men, your boss, and those in authority. While her behavior may appear strong, she is actually feeling insecure. A week later, he told me the glorious story of how he lovingly but firmly told her that he would no longer tolerate those words, and she pushed back by accusing him of something he did not do. He was firm in speaking the truth to her, and freedom came to her heart. He laughed, telling me how easy and light the relationship had been since then. When the dad got back in his proper place of authority and covering, the LIE in her heart was able to come out. Together they dealt with it, and connection and peace reigned again. Fearing our children is not in our job description. They do not set the tone in the home, parents do.
Give each family member a glass jar and put a yummy ingredient in it (marshmallows, popcorn, peanuts and M&Ms). I explained to my children how all of the ingredients are good – they’re yummy and pretty good on their own, but if we put them together, they make popcorn balls, which are even better! Each ingredient is so important – and if we didn’t have one of them, sadly the recipe wouldn’t be complete.
The Scripture that came to me was Psalm 133:1 (MSG) – “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers (and sisters) get along!”
One mom shared, “My goal with this exercise will be to teach my son that his little brother is important and valuable and adds to the family just like he does. That’s what makes us a family, and family is GOOD and BEAUTIFUL, and being in unity makes God happy.”
Can you feel it? The tension with relationships, systems, church structures, and mindsets. Everything that can be shaken is being shaken.
Gather a strainer, powdered sugar, and small pebbles (or popcorn kernels). Invite the family to the kitchen and with the strainer resting on the counter throw in a pebble and call it ‘love.’ Toss in another and call it ‘kindness.’ Then dump a spoonful of sugar and call it ‘selfishness.’ Add another heaping called ‘jealousy.’ Continue to do this with the rocks representing the fruit of the Spirit and the sugar representing the things of the flesh. After a while, raise the strainer and begin to shake it back and forth over and over. As the sugar falls to the ground, explain that God is shaking things in our lives to remove the sin, mindsets, worry, fear, and flesh from us so that the only thing that remains is His Kingdom.
Read together Hebrews 12:25-27. Explain that the things that are of Him will endure the shaking and last forever, which is something we can align our lives with and celebrate. However, everything that is not of Him, or His Kingdom, will be shaken until it falls. Talk about the things in your world that God is shaking and the purpose of it. Allow the children to see that while we are enduring hard seasons, there is good behind it. How we respond to the shaking is crucial.
Hebrews 12:25-27 (MSG) – “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time – he’s told us this quite plainly – he’ll also rock the heavens: ‘One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.’ The phrase ‘one last shaking’ means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.”
Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable Kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and He won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God Himself is Fire!
Do a teaching with your children on our mouth and taste buds. Explain that our tongue tastes things that are bitter and sweet. Next, blindfold the children and lead them into the kitchen for a science experiment. Place a tiny dab of horseradish on their tongues and ask them what they think and then place a drop of honey on their tongues. They will probably beg for more. Share with them Proverbs 16:24 and discuss how our words need to be like sweet honey, not bitter horseradish. Practice role-playing some scenarios: What would words full of honey sound like when someone takes your toy? Is in your space? Has hurt you? How can you use words of honey to encourage others? Show honor to your parents and teachers? The goal is not the absence of negative feelings or reactions but to respond in love despite being upset or hurt. You can also take the opportunity to teach them how to be intentionally ‘sweet’ with their words as opportunities arise to bless others. In the days ahead, when you hear harsh tones and unloving words, call out, “Oh, that sounds like horseradish to my ears!” When you hear them speaking kindly, you can say, “Oh, I love the honey coming out of your mouth!”
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
We played the greatest game when the kids were younger, called the Smile Game!
Before we got out of the van at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, or a restaurant, we all talked about the game and would remind everyone how to play it. Then, when we got out of the van, each of us had to give as many people as possible direct eye contact and smile really big, each keeping score of how many smiles we would get in return.
The game was hilarious, and joy always broke out. The kids would often be up to 50 returned smiles, reminding them that releasing the Kingdom is about JOY. It also showed them how to flip the atmosphere where most people do not acknowledge a single person in front of them.
I was a part of an amazing single group in my 20s. One of the guys talked about spanking his (future) children and how his parents modeled it in such an honoring way. I argued that it was wrong, and we had an hour-long debate. He opened me up to a world where parents can actually spank in love without losing their temper. It wasn’t to harm the child; it was to help guide them. I want to take a moment and talk to those who were like me and argued that it was wrong. When someone brings up spanking, what is happening in your heart? Are you anxious? Nervous? Scared? I want to circle that place and zoom in on it. My goal isn’t to get you to spank. My goal is for you to see the unrest in your heart because it will affect your ability to walk in the authority you are given. For me, it wasn’t about the actual act of spanking as much as it was the fear of hurting my child and fear that my child would resent me like I did my parents for their harsh parenting. Unless and until that is resolved, I will be unbalanced in my ability to parent my children well. I would be parenting them out of fear rather than authority. When children learn they are the ones with the power, it leaves them feeling insecure, which only increases their need to be strong. It does not matter how strong they appear; they are not orphans. The safest place for their mind, body, and spirit is under your authority and covering. Yes, many of you have strong-willed children. It is your responsibility as a parent to help them submit their will to your authority, but if you have an ongoing fear about using authority, you will only lead your family to the other side of the pendulum. Let’s find Jesus in the middle and walk in alignment with Him.
HeartWork – Go back to the place of anxiety and unrest and ask, “Jesus, will You please show me what I am afraid of in disciplining my child?” Sit with Him for a moment and allow Him to minister to that part of your heart.