Teaching children to walk in character is a VERB, and it is best done in the home by loving parents.
I AM THEIR TEACHER
This is how I taught my four toddlers how to grow in self-control during story time at the library. I figured it was an excellent place to train them because no one would notice either way. I sat them down at home and talked about the librarian. I asked Lauren to stand up and share the story of her birthday party. As she was talking, I began to interrupt, wave my hands, hang on her, and be super silly. Then I asked Emma to stand up and share what she had for lunch, and I did the same thing. Yes, we were all laughing hard, but we talked about how awkward it is to be trying to share and have people be disrespectful and rude. I role-played being the librarian reading a book. I taught them how to fold their hands and zip their lips. We talked about how we can be crazy loud monkeys at the park, but a library is a place where we use self-control and show respect. I was armed with training and ready to test it out. Before getting out of the van, I reminded them of the rules and what I expected. I praised them ahead of time, letting them know I believed in them. We entered, and chaos broke out as expected. A couple of times, they began to get up, and I would fold my own hands to model for them what I expected. If they were talking, I would motion to zip my lips, point to my ears, and then intently listen to the librarian. If they attempted to get up, I would give a firm no-no motion with my head. If one ran away, I would go after her and pick her up and set her back down. I would whisper that we are listening to the story. It took us three weeks before my children fully understood but let me tell you, the JOY they brought to the room was priceless. I noticed other moms trying to get their children to start listening, too. They got to enjoy the story because they were taught how to pay attention and show respect. I also had them go up to the librarian at the end of each story time and thank her for reading to them. The first time she had a tear in her eye and said, “I dread story time each week. It is the worst part of my job. Thank you for noticing my effort.” I don’t know about you, but as a mom, that isn’t okay with me. By the time school started, they were way ahead of the game because we had already gone after knowing when to be still and quiet and how to listen when adults are teaching/reading. It is training like this at an early age that sets them up for success down the road.
Fear is just a tool the enemy uses to paralyze us and stop us from moving forward. Fear always comes with a LIE. Lies are not true and are almost always in the tune of God being powerless, small, or absent. During the online mentorship class, nearly 99.9% of the adults mentioned fear from childhood that crippled them in some area.
There was a wooded area next to where we used to live, and we often saw evidence that homeless people had been there at nighttime. While walking one night, it started to get dark, and Lauren said, “We should head home now.” I asked her why, and she said she felt something, like danger. I wanted to see if Holy Spirit was warning us or if the enemy was using fear, so I asked her to ask Jesus if that was coming from him. He said no. I could allow fear to chase us home or teach my daughter how to stand up like a lioness and take authority over it. She stood there and commanded all fear to leave in Jesus’ name and then released a blessing of peace, love, and comfort to all who passed through the wooded area. Another day, we went boating as a family, and out of nowhere Holy Spirit told me to ask my daughter if she was afraid of something and her reply surprised me. I sensed I was to gather all the kids and ask them. Each of them were believing a LIE that was producing a different fear. It doesn’t take much in today’s world to plant the wrong seeds and for them to grow.
Spend a moment connecting with your child to fill up their love tank (if you don’t know what that is, start there) and then ask them, “Sweetie, what are you most afraid of?” or “What are you most worried will happen?” Instead of YOU telling them the truth together, ask Jesus for His truth. “Jesus, is it true that ________” or “Jesus, what do You think about ______?” This leads children into an encounter with the Father and not just a religion in their minds.
Childhood fear can be removed in childhood and not carried around with them into adulthood!
I love Communion Sunday. I take the forgiveness of my sins seriously and believe with my whole heart that Jesus is not only the Savior of the world but MY Friend. The price He paid for me to know Him and walk in that friendship is no small thing. While my children took communion on Sunday, I wanted to go deeper with them. I went to the store to buy gluten-free rice crackers and a bottle of grape juice. I already had communion cups (at any party store) and gathered the kids. We spent time going around telling Jesus what we were thankful for (because of Him). We broke the cracker and sat quietly as we each focused on His body being beaten, ripped, and torn for US! We recalled the countless times He has washed us clean from our messes and mistakes and never once turned His back on us. We thanked Him for ‘taking the spanking on our behalf’ and quietly consumed the juice. What struck me so profoundly about our pastor’s message is that communion is so much more than just eating and drinking over a history lesson. Just as being baptized is more than taking a swim, there is something more significant going on when we take communion. We take communion to RECEIVE His forgiveness and healing TODAY. We are committed as a family to taking communion every morning. We recall who needs the blood of Jesus in their life or circumstances, and we take it on their behalf. We focus on what Jesus has done for us TODAY and fill our hearts and minds with His goodness. Gather your kids and partake in one of the greatest gifts ever given to man!
Years ago, I was invited to a mom’s night out with our local twin’s club and hungered for deep girlfriend time. I had four-month-old twins and just discovered we were pregnant again. Little did I know how that evening would change my life. These seasoned moms began to share the horror stories of taking twins out in public – each story topping the next with embarrassment over unruly children in public places. One lady raised her glass to toast ‘eating out in public with twins’ goodbye. Something about this conversation was upsetting to me. Maybe it was because I have often said that eating out was my love language (my deeper confession is that I’m not too fond of cooking). Part of me didn’t like being controlled by a child who didn’t even know how to walk yet, and part of me wanted to raise my glass and toast to equip our children to not only have the character to be able to enter all places, but to be a JOY! I went home that night, determined to do just that. We would go out in public, and I used it as an intentional training ground to equip our baby twins, soon-to-be-four children under four years of age, how to have self-control, honor, and respect. Years later, I am still reaping the fruit. I saw a need to equip hungry parents in the ways of Kingdom parenting, specifically as it pertains to healthy character building that models the heart of the Father, the original parent! Character firmly plants a child to bear good fruit. Your home will be one of honor, respect, and peace when character is at the foundation. Enjoy the journey of equipping your children to bear good fruit.
Going up to someone and saying, “Will you mentor me?” is a little like telling the guy on the first date you are going to marry him. Mentoring someone requires connection and the freedom to speak honestly into someone’s life. Often, this means hard conversations and truth shared in love. They are mentoring you to empower and help you grow, which means growing pains. Not everyone is in a place where they can receive this type of conversation without being offended, wounded, or defensive. The best mentors, I have found, are those that happen organically by the move of God vs. someone searching for one. If you long for this type of relationship, tell God and have faith in His ability to orchestrate it on your behalf. When God gives you this connection with someone, don’t view it as a relationship to take, but as one to serve and give out of the gratefulness in which you have received from their wisdom, time, and investment in you. One of my mentors is a single lady, so we would always be on the lookout for ways we could stand in the gap and help her with things like changing the oil in her car, bringing her meals, or sending her flowers on Mother’s Day. We both are blessed by the connection for different reasons. I positioned my heart to look for opportunities to bless and serve her. Oftentimes people don’t really want a ‘mentor’ but a person who will give them the gifts that a mother or father give, such as a sense of belonging, to be seen, community, wisdom, etc. Identifying what needs you are specifically seeking to meet helps to go after that person who carries that gift. Our greatest connections with those who are older (and wiser) than ourselves have simply evolved from intentionally getting to church at least 30 minutes earlier and extending a warm greeting to those around us, whether it be sitting in church, standing in line for childcare check-in, or greeting those we haven’t met before. This isn’t scary, but it requires a heart that is open to seeing and loving people. We have a strong connection to every regular attender who sits in the same section as us every Sunday morning simply because we have made it a point to see and welcome them. We have gotten together for Sunday brunch, dinners, playing games, going to each other’s homes, and texting often. It was organic simply by being open and friendly to those God has put in front of us. My kids have profited profoundly from having multiple adopted grandmas and grandpas. Who will you sit by today? Reach out, introduce yourself, be excited to see them again next week, and see what God does with it!
When you can’t receive God’s truth about you and partner with the lie, “I am not enough,” you will think that you aren’t enough and then act like you aren’t enough. When you act less than enough, your children get the fruit of a parent who isn’t enough – two generations in one with a single lie. Rise, dear one, and reject whatever feels, sounds, and looks true and walk in what IS true. You ARE enough, not on your own, but because He lives inside you, and you are His. Ask, “Jesus, will You please show me who taught me that I am not enough?” Forgive that person for teaching you a lie about your worth. Write out the words, “I am not enough,” and then rip it up, shred it, burn it, flush it, stomp on it, crumble it, toss it. Whatever you need to do to prophetically tell that lie, NO MORE! Then ask, “Jesus, will You please teach me about my worth and value that was inherited when I decided to follow You?”
How would you finish this sentence, “Jesus, have I told You lately _____?”
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.
When my children were younger and formulating what Christmas was all about, it was important to me that they got a grasp on the true meaning and not just the presents, food, tree, Santa, etc. I took a Cabbage Patch baby doll, wrapped him in a blue blanket, bought a wooden box and straw from Michael’s, and put together ‘Baby Jesus.’ After we decked the house and trimmed the tree, I sat them down and explained the true meaning of what we are celebrating. I brought out ‘Baby Jesus’ and told the kids that we treat Him with the utmost respect. He is indeed a gift that should be received with thanks, gratitude, appreciation, honor, and respect. They would ask to hold Him, take turns caring for Him, and would often leave their toys and notes by His manger. One year, I even heard one of them go to ‘Baby Jesus’ and ask for forgiveness for being mean. I had no idea that years later this would be their most memorable part. He is still under our tree today!
Introducing your child to the free gift of salvation is the most – THE MOST – important and precious responsibility we have as parents. It is not to be taken lightly or carelessly. Their eternal choice affects your family’s generational legacy and is forever. I am not going to give you the 1,2,3 steps in how to lead your child because this is so much more than “Here, do this…” I encourage you to pray about this first and really sit with Holy Spirit and get His heart for your child and what He is doing in them right now. Take this seriously and partner with Him. There are no rules in how one can accept Jesus but there are some foundational truths in what Biblical salvation must entail. This is so important for parents to not only understand but to proactively teach it to their children especially in today’s world where there are so many false teachings, faulty understandings of God’s plan, and twisted messages.
Biblical salvation must include the truth that: #1. God loves me (Romans 5:8, John 3:16, Romans 8:38-39) #2. I have sinned (Romans 3:23, Matthew 25:46) #3. God sent Jesus to take my place (1 Peter 2:24) #4. If I believe in Him, I will be adopted (Romans 10:9-10). I encourage you to do this in one sitting or pick one theme a day to build up the story. The goal shouldn’t be to get them saved (unless Holy Spirit is moving), but to arm them with truth and understanding. I bought these wooden pieces at the local craft store to help give visuals. Anytime you can role-play, act out or partner with JOY it makes the principles come to life for the child. I encourage you to pray about this and ask Holy Spirit to show you what He is doing in your child’s life already. Partner with Him.
#1. God loves us – period. This is the entire basis of creation and salvation. God loves us and desires that we would choose Him and have a relationship with Him that would reflect a child perfectly secure in their Father’s love, protection, provision, and affirmation. Talk to the kids about God’s love – what does it look, sound, feel like? Ask them if they have felt loved before from someone and then compare that to God’s love for them. Spend time exploring a love that can never ever be damaged or ruined. WOW.
#2. We are ALL sinners. Even cute, sweet little babies are born sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. No one, not one, can boast, except Jesus of being pleasing to God on their own. This is a massive lesson in humility and having an accurate assessment of our spiritual state without Jesus. Talk to the kids about sin and that it is anything that displeases God. Sin isn’t a list of rules, but things that make God sad because He knows it will not go well with us or bless us. Talk about ways we sin. Yes, some sin appears to be bigger like murder, but to God it is all the same. Talk about how many things we do a day that fall short of His best for us. Share your own experiences with the ways you have fallen short in the past 24 hours. Model humility.
#3. God sent Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins. Someone has to pay the price, be accountable for the crimes committed and God loves us so much He allowed Jesus to get the ‘spanking’ for us. Hell is a real place and when God says He sent His Son to save us, He isn’t kidding. While hell can be a big topic for small children it is important for them to know it isn’t a choice between earth and heaven. God spared us from a dark place that is for forever. You can use as strong or sensitive of language as appropriate for your child, but the picture of hell is that there is isolation/being alone, no connection, total darkness where there is no help, no peace or joy, and never being able to relate to Jesus. A good word picture small children would understand would be sitting in a dark closet in a time out for the rest of their lives. Jesus came to open the closet door and let us out!!! Jesus is the bridge between darkness and light. Jesus is the One who carries us to the Father in His arms. No one gets to the Father except through Jesus.
#4. We have to do our part in accepting this free gift and say with our mouth that we acknowledge we have sinned and believe that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. When we do that God adopts us into His family forever. Heaven is a huge concept for kids to grasp but zoom in on the fact it is unbreakable and forever. Talk about what it means to be a Son or Daughter in God’s Kingdom. Luke 15:10 – “There is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
I encourage you to use the verbiage, “Someday maybe you will decide you want Jesus in your heart,” instead of asking them if they want to pray. Why? Because children love to please you, and this is something that needs to be Holy Spirit-led. Your job is to teach them; His job is to save them. I cannot wait for your children to be adopted, move into the palace and join the party – FOREVER!