HEART PLAY

HEART PLAY

People have asked me over and over to show them HOW I taught my children different things. Years ago, the kids and I sat down and recalled some of the key lessons I taught them over the years, and we put together a kit for parents to use in their own homes. 

This is a sample lesson: Heart Play (Playdough) – Teaching children to care for the hearts of others. Intentionally play with playdough with your children for a bit, and then ask them to make you a huge heart. Ooh and aah over their heart creation while you hold it in your hand. Talk about our physical hearts and why God gave each of us one, and how important they are to our survival. Every human has a heart – it is what makes them alive. Take the heart creation in your hand and talk about how gentle we need to be with people’s hearts. Now take one finger and smash it deep into the heart, then smash another finger in another place. Show them that the shape of the heart changed when you were not gentle and caring about it. Words aren’t just words; harsh words are hurtful to people’s hearts. Also, explain that many people have wounded hearts (not from us), but when we say loving things to them, it is like their hearts go back to the way they were originally. Act this out a few times and role-play how we can both squish and help people’s hearts.

In the days ahead, when your kids are having issues with unloving words, remind them of the playdough heart. Ask them, “Hey guys, do you think you just put love in that person’s heart or poked it?” “How could you do that differently without hurting his/her heart?” Also, when they get their own heart poked, show them how we can ask Jesus to put His hand on our hearts and heal them. “Jesus, my heart got hurt. Will You please touch it and make it all better?”

JESUS’ FRIENDS

We often refer to Judas as the man who betrayed Jesus. He did, and it was painful and ugly. But there is more to the story. Call a family meeting and instead of focusing on judgment towards Judas for his actions, focus on Jesus’ friendship with him.

YOU HAVE HOMEWORK

Every child needs to do this exercise! Do it 1:1 with each child, so you can hear their heart and pick up on any resistance. Have them outline a body on a piece of paper. Start with their hair and walk through their mind, eyes, nose, mouth, body shape, stomach, height, etc. Think of their interests and the things that make them come alive (sports, music, dancing). Write it out on the paper as you go through who they are, top to bottom. You are helping them see who they are. While we are constantly being transformed on the inside, there are some things we cannot change, such as our nose shape, eye color, height, gifts, what makes us come alive, etc. This is the package of who they were created to be. Now have them make a circle around the entire body. Explain to them that who they are is to be guarded and protected as if it is inside a bubble. Read Proverbs 4:23 and explain if any person, peer, teacher, sibling, social media post, song, friend, movie, leader, or thought tells them that something is wrong with their body, gifts, talents, etc., they are to reject it. Empower them with how to reject it. Perhaps they will take that thought captive and say to themselves, “That is not something I agree with, and do not give that voice permission to speak to me.”

When I was teaching my children this concept, Hudson (age four at the time) got up, went to the front door, made a kicking motion, and slammed the door. I asked what he was doing, and he said, “I had a bad thought, so I was kicking it out” Yeah, like that, buddy! They can write it on a piece of paper, rip it up, cross it out, or shred it. I had a season that we were going after this and put a set of colorful markers in the bathroom and would have my children write the lie on a piece of toilet paper with the colorful marker and then toss it into the toilet. The color would lift, making a beautiful swirl in the toilet bowl (isn’t that true of what God does with whatever we give Him? It turns it into something beautiful.). Teach them that there is a difference between being humble and allowing people to speak into their lives and give healthy feedback and constructive criticism vs. someone or something being used as a spokesperson of the enemy to tear down what God has built and designed. Give specific examples such as a friend saying, “Shut up. You are so annoying when you talk,” and a teacher saying, “I need for you to manage your mouth when I am teaching the class.” Both are addressing the issue of their mouth, but one is to be rejected and the other is to be received. How do they know the difference? It is generally tested by peace.

If while doing this with older children, you feel resistance or they say things like “This is stupid,” “Why do we have to do this?” “What’s the point?” Please do not back down. The resistance is telling you that they have already allowed a voice inside their bubble, which needs to be exposed. I would take it as far as you can, and then if it is time to back off (Holy Spirit will lead you), say something like this, “Okay, yeah, we can stop, but I need for you to hear this. Your resistance and wall to even talk about who you are is revealing that you have allowed a thought to enter your bubble. It is there to steal your joy, rob you of your peace, and tell you that something is wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you, and I am here when you are ready to deal with it.” I would intentionally speak their love language and look for creative ways to bring them joy because it releases a chemical in their brain that gives them the will to fight and endure hard things. Give it a few hours or a day but circle back by saying something like, “Hey, remember when I asked you to draw that picture? What was happening inside of you when we talked about who you are?” Listen to them. Do not fix or correct them but listen to what their heart has to say. For many older children, simply exposing it helps them reject it and realize that they are feeling icky about themselves because of a lie, not because something is wrong with them. Others may need to ask Jesus to show them who they need to forgive for speaking that their body, gifts, and personality are unacceptable.

Moms and dads, please do not ignore this exercise. Children who grow up with the wrong voices inside their bubble carry them around for years, shaping who they become. We can empower our children to reject lies and protect who God designed them to be.

Are you willing to put in the effort and help your child understand their value and worth?

 

HELLO, MY NAME IS

Go to the store, get a label/sticker, and write things like ‘loving,’ ‘kind,’ ‘helpful,’ ‘worthy,’ etc. Then, throughout the day, call out your child’s identity and remind them who they are. Ask Holy Spirit to make your ears sensitive to hear when your children call out a lie about themselves. Things like, “I am not good at this,” “I can’t,” “I am not smart,” “I am stupid,” “No one cares,” and show them their name tag and ask, “Is that who you are?” Show them it is a LIE from the enemy, and they can easily toss that lie out. It is important that children get practice hearing GOD’S words about them and learn how to toss out the lies. They will use this tool for the rest of their lives!

‘Identity’ is a very big word with a loaded meaning. This is just a tiny sampling of what we can teach our children about identity, but the most important thing is that they realize that there are two opposing views – what God says about us and the lies the enemy says. We need to choose which one we will believe and which one we will kick out the door – about ourselves and others.

HIS KINGDOM

The Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy, yet one of the biggest reasons why Sunday school leaders have a hard time finding volunteers is because adults are uncomfortable with JOY. Teach parents how to be restored to joy, and they will be drawn to those who carry child-like joy!

GET THOSE EMOTIONS OUT!

My heart is heavy for the parents facing hard things with their children. I want to encourage you with the following: #1. ANGER – Be mad, let it out, and process those emotions. Scream in a pillow, journal, beat the sandbag, go for a hike, vent to a friend – whatever you have to do to GET THOSE EMOTIONS OUT! You cannot afford to carry the weight of those emotions with you. Get them out so you can let them go. #2. GRIEF – Many of you are grieving. Grieving for your family, your child’s heart, the plans for the year, and your ability to juggle it all. This is real and must be acknowledged. Grab your journal and begin, “God, I am so sad that…” #3. HOPE – It is hard to be anchored in hope if you carry around a lump in your throat, are ready to explode, or feel like a victim. Processing your emotions and heart will help you move into HOPE. Hope is anchored in THE truth, not the facts our circumstances scream at us. Declare the TRUTH! God has not left you. You have what it takes to not only survive but thrive. You will know what to do (because He lives inside of you). 

God has keys and strategies for your situation. He works all things out for good, He sees your world, and He cares. He has a solution – ask Him! It is going to be okay. Your child is going to be okay. YOU are going to be okay! 

RELIGIOUS SPIRIT

This is what the religious spirit looks like. A mom messaged me about a dream she kept having.

“Here is the dream: I am awaiting my turn to enter the Kingdom, and before I get there, I hear, ‘Do I know you? Do you know me?’ And I always awake abruptly. I have this worry when I wake, and I almost feel paralyzed in how to fix the problem. Like I have to jump through hoops to be back where I need to be. Or I have to perform to be good enough.”

I asked her if she was secure in her salvation. She was. I asked her how she felt when she woke up. She said she was anxious/worried. This is not how God speaks to us in our dreams, even if He is highlighting something. I told her to come out from under it, take authority over it and pray for Holy Spirit to guide her dreams. The spirit of religion was trying to groom her into thinking her relationship with God was not secure.

RESTORING CONNECTION

 A mom messaged me, saying that her daughter believed lies and had shut down. She wanted my help with how to handle it. This is an excellent example of being led by the all-knowing Holy Spirit and not just checking off a religious formula to fix your child. I first asked her WHAT the lie was. She replied that the daughter believed her parents were abusive and did not love her. While that was obviously a lie, it was the daughter’s truth. I asked the mom to ask Jesus what He thought of the daughter’s words. The mom humbly returned to me, reporting that Jesus showed her that she was using a tone and responding in a way that was hurting her daughter. Can you see how a religious mindset would have disciplined the child for being so ‘un-Christ-like’ when the reality was that the mom needed to hear something? The daughter doesn’t have the language yet to explain her heart, but the words ‘don’t love’ and ‘abusive’ were the best things she had to describe her heart. The mom repented to God, and then her daughter and their heart connection grew. Can you guess what the daughter’s love language is? Children who hear love through words are very sensitive to yelling, harshly spoken words, and overreacting parents.

SLANDER

Slander steals and kills! God hates slander (Proverbs 6:16, 19). It is evil. That’s why Paul lists it as a behavior of those who hate God (Romans 1:30) and why James calls it demonic behavior (James 3:15-16). Slander occurs whenever someone says something untrue about someone else that results, intentionally or unintentionally, in damaging that someone else’s reputation. And when it occurs, it becomes a divisive, discouraging, and confusing weight that often affects numerous people – sometimes many, many people. Because of its poisonous power, IT IS ONE OF THE ADVERSARY’S CHIEF STRATEGIES TO DIVIDE relationships and deter and derail the mission of the church. We must be on our guard against this closely clinging sin and frequently lay it aside (Hebrews 12:1). Slander applies to siblings too. 

The Subtlety of Slander

Sometimes, saying something untrue and damaging about someone is bold and blunt. But the slander is often insidiously subtle, especially since we have heard it in almost every context and grown accustomed to it all our lives. This means we must heighten our sensitivity to it and lower our tolerance to it. Slander can wear a hundred masks. I’ll mention a few common ones. Sometimes we pass along slanderous information that seems almost like harmless hearsay. Yet, the effect it has on our listeners is to leave them with an unfairly negative perception of another. Sometimes we embellish with information or tone a negative report about someone in order to enhance our listener’s perception of ourselves. Sometimes we have a very real concern about someone, but we share it with someone who cannot benefit from it or help with the concern. We do this because we want our listeners to think worse of a particular person. Or suppose we share a concern with an appropriate person. In that case, we can sometimes indulge our speculations or presumptions, mixing them almost imperceptibly with facts for our listeners, distorting the concern to sway an outcome in the desired direction. The net effect of all forms of slander is to unjustly devalue another person’s reputation. 

Slander Is Stealing

This devaluing is at the heart of what makes slander evil. The Bible tells us, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). In this context, a good name represents a person’s character, which is the most valuable thing about their identity. A good name is who we are in the minds of others. And since relationships trade in the currency of trust, a reputation is a very precious asset. So whenever we handle a person’s name – who they are in the minds of others – we are stewarding a treasure that belongs to them. If we unjustly damage a person’s reputation, we are stealing their good name and vandalizing their character. This causes real, sometimes long-lasting damage to people because restoring a devalued name is difficult. Who knows what love, joy, counsel, comfort, and opportunities we take from people if we care for their name carelessly? God knows. And He hates it. God hates when we speak evil of his name (Exodus 20:7) and when we speak evil of others (Titus 3:2). He will hold us accountable for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36). This is a great incentive for us to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1).

Fight Slander First in Yourself

The foremost slanderer we must silence is the one inside us. Full of malignant pride, our sinful natures are not interested in truth but in self-glory. So they seek to manipulate others through slander (or flattery) for our own selfish benefit. Sin (and therefore our demonic harassers) seizes on a concern for or an offense we’ve received from another and seeks to distort it into thinking evil of that person. Thinking evil of another is assigning imagined or exaggerated negative qualities to them that doesn’t exist. Often this begins as private fantasies where we nurture our concerns or offense by imagining ourselves justified in our righteousness and others condemned in their evil. But in truth, all we’re doing is passing our own evil thoughts on to imaginations disguised as other people. That’s our sinful nature’s slanderer talking. We are fools to listen to it. And when our slander spills out from ourselves to others – and it will if we don’t catch it soon enough – it is both selfishly indulgent and cowardly. Slander is indulgent because we often seek the self-flattery buzz of our listener approving and admiring us more than the one we are slandering. We are robbing another’s reputation to get the drug of self-flattery. Slander is cowardly because it’s a way of nurturing a concern or an offense and gaining sympathizers without doing the courageous work of bringing it directly to the source of our concern or offense. Our rationalizations for this can be countless, but essentially we don’t have the guts to deal with it head-on. This means our character is in serious question since we are willing to vandalize another’s character to gain allies.

We must grow ruthless in ignoring and silencing our slandering sinful natures. 

By Jon Bloom 

INTERRUPTING

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!

1ST, 2ND, 3RD CHAIR

This concept has been so helpful to me as I have helped my children navigate friendships over the years. Line up four chairs and have your child sit on an end. You sit in the chair furthest from them and explain how anyone they meet is a 3rd chair friend. You might say “hi” or ask how they are doing, but they remain far away from your heart. Move to the next chair and explain this is a 2nd chair friend. You might say “hi” and sit with them at lunch, laugh with them in class, or even hang out at the mall together. You have fun with them and enjoy being around them. But your 1st chair is the one closest to you. These people know you at your worst and best and everything in between. They make you laugh hard and have the power to influence you. No one starts in the 1st chair. They have to be invited in, and it is cultivated over time. Over the years, we have seen this played out as friends change chairs. When they come home excited about someone they have met, we celebrate the connection, but I am aware that there is a process of connection developing and asking questions along the way.

Emma came home excited one day about a new ‘best friend.’ They had fun together and giggled hard. But over time, the friend began to invite Emma to do things that went against what we stood for as a family. She had to learn she could surely still giggle and be friends with this gal but pulling her into her 1st chair would not go well with her down the road. Lauren had a friend who would love her one minute and be so cruel the next. It was a love/hate response; she never knew which one she was getting. The ‘love’ felt so fulfilling and fun that she had difficulty seeing the flip as bad. Because she was learning how to build healthy relationships, I had to help her see that this is not how 1st chair friends treat each other. It was so painful for her to back off the relationship, but years later, she still comments on how glad she was that she could create room for other friends who were indeed 1st chair worthy. I often say, “Either you influence them, or they influence you, so you better make sure you are heading in the same direction.” I have no problems with my children being friends with unbelievers (how else are we going to impact those around us?) or with children from different beliefs and backgrounds. I DO have a problem if those children become 1st chairs. How do you switch chairs? By how much or little you feed it. Help your child pull in new friends closer by inviting them over to join your family for dinner, creating a fun outing, helping them with their homework, asking them how their day went, tell them something they like or appreciate about them. Support the things they like to do, attend their sports games, text to compliment them, and invite them over just for fun. It is impossible to have a 1st chair and only do this once. Building closer friendships take intentionality, consistency, and frequency. If a child has pulled someone in too far too fast before discerning that the connection is not healthy, simply stop feeding the relationship, and it will not grow. I encourage them to sit by the person at their lunch table, say “hi,” and always communicate with the message that they are valuable. But do not invite them to connect deeper or 1:1. If they are invited somewhere, they say they are busy, or their mom says NO. I do not want to empower my children how to reject, hurt, or create a wound in someone so how they navigate their chairs matters. Pull out the chairs and teach your children today about their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd chair friendships.