We can teach our children about good character to set them up for fruitful lives. If they do not learn it at home, they will learn it from conflict with their peers. If they fail to learn it from peers, they will learn it on the job with their boss. If they miss the lessons, they will learn them when they become married and have areas of conflict with their spouse. If they fail to learn it in their marriage, God allows them to learn it from their children. If they do not learn it from seasons of parenting, they will learn it from grandparenting their children’s children. Save your child a world of heartbreak and trouble by teaching them godly character, such as self-control, patience, and caring for others when they are younger! Not sure how? Character training is not an event, it is a lifestyle. In this magazine, I will empower you with fun activities to engage your child and equip them with godly character.
NEVER TOO LATE
I was chatting with a mom the other night about her son getting out of bed 101 times. She went through the list and said, “Spanking doesn’t work,” “timeouts don’t work,” “withholding toys don’t work,” “getting mad doesn’t work,” and after the fifth example of what doesn’t work, I realized that SHE is the one who wasn’t working. I asked her why she thought it wasn’t working, and she said that her son kept doing the behavior despite her dealing with him. I asked how long she went after it, and she responded that she didn’t want to be the mean parent as she grew up with a lot of fear and intimidation. BAM! That was the key right there. She hasn’t yet fully reconciled her own experience, which was influencing her ability to parent her strong-willed son. She realized she didn’t want to use fear and intimidation, which is good, but she needed to keep going in her process. Does being firm mean intimidation? Is exercising parental authority going to induce fear over the child? If we don’t reconcile our parent’s parenting, we will swing so far to the other side, making both generations out of balance. We need to come into alignment with how God runs His family. No to fear and intimidation, yes to parental authority, and being firm.
I want you to ponder your children and the way they interact and speak to each other. What does it look like? What do you tolerate? What don’t you tolerate? What are the stated household rules for getting along? What consequences can be expected when they don’t? I am not asking for what you hope for; I am asking what the current reality of your household is. Are your children allowed to hit their siblings? Are they allowed to slam doors? Say, “I hate you”? Are they allowed to pick their friends over their family? Every family has its own rhythm, and no two families will flow alike. Every family will have a different set of core values and different standards which they are governed by. As parents, it is important to be able to see the vision you have for your family. If you don’t know what you are aiming for, you will parent inconsistently, which will produce inconsistent and frustrating results for the whole family.
For me, growing up, there was freedom to hurt and hate each other, which affected me greatly. When I started having my own children, I drew a line in the sand and was determined to teach them that we would be a family that communicated belonging and acceptance. True change doesn’t come from just outward performance; it comes from within. Instead of giving you a list of tools to use to whip your children into shape and force them to love each other (which, by the way, never works), I want to help you come into alignment in your heart first. It is out of that place where real change happens. Spend time pondering and processing this with the Lord. Ask Him to shine His flashlight into your heart (Psalms 139:23) and show you how He sees and feels about the way the siblings treat each other. Oftentimes there is a pang of great guilt for parents because they WANT their children to get along more but simply don’t know how. Confess that to the Lord – that perhaps you have allowed (for whatever reason) your children to be unkind to each. Allow Him to speak to your heart. I am going to provide you with some questions to ponder with Him. I encourage you to get a journal and write down whatever you heard or see Him saying to you. If He is really the head of your household, then give Him room to speak into this situation.
“Father God, would You please show me what makes You happy when you see family?”
“Jesus, would You be willing to reveal to me what in our family needs to come into alignment?”
“Holy Spirit, what does my child really need from me when there is conflict?”
“Father, what area do You want me to focus on with my children?”
“Jesus, if You were here today in the flesh, how would You handle my children?” (You may be surprised by the answer).
God is a perfect Father and knows how to lead your family into greater peace. Holy Spirit is your Helper, and there is nothing but hope ahead to have the family you have dreamed about. Let the Children Fly!
Playdates are the best kind of summer school.
There is nothing sweeter than a playdate on a lazy summer afternoon. These can be the best outlets for training ground with your children. Host a playdate and let your child play naturally like they usually would do, but keep within earshot of them interacting with their friends. What are you hearing? What are you seeing? Are they being kind and gracious and putting other people first, or do they need help in these areas?
After the playdate is over, sit down and have a conversation with them or role-play some of the things that have happened. Empower them by explaining how they could have done it differently or show them new skills to apply in those same situations. After a few days, invite that friend over again and see how they implement the tools. I encourage you to remind them before the playdate about the tools or maybe even have hand signs as code words. Perhaps they need to learn to put their friends’ desires first, so maybe you want to have a code word of putting up your pinky finger. This keeps your child protected from shame in front of their friends and is the little code word between the two of you where you are letting them know they need to increase putting other people first.
Children have both strengths and weaknesses. Let me give you an example of how a child’s strengths can turn into a weakness. My daughter is a super strong leader. I probably would have let her stay at home and babysit at the age of 5 if it was legal. But because she’s such a strong leader, and has the end result as her focus, she has little regard for the success of others. I do not want to shut down her strength, but I do want to strengthen her weakness. So while the leadership skills will be there no matter what, I have intentionally gone after teaching her to lead in love. We have talked about it, role-played and I have given her plenty of intentional situations in which she can apply leadership in love.
Tell them stories about your friends growing up. What are some things that your friends did that made you come alive and felt very important?. What are some things your friends have done over the years that have hurt your heart or shaped who you are in a way that God did not intend?
Do you have kids who like to interrupt you? I taught the kids in the time of peace what I expected, and then we role-played, practiced, and got good at the technique before we were in ‘need’ of it. I explained that they are SOOO important, but so am I. When I am in the middle of something with someone ELSE, I need the respect of not having someone demanding my attention elsewhere. We had FUN role-playing what a demanding child looks like when Mama is talking to someone else or on the phone. We talked about WHY interrupting wasn’t okay and how it made others feel. The bottom line it is a self-control issue. I instructed them to put their hand on my arm, which signaled, “Mom, I need you.” It is important then for the adult to put their hand over their hand, which means, “I see you.” Then, when the timing was appropriate, I would say, “Excuse me, Mrs. Smith, could you hold for a moment?” and would direct my attention to them. If they came barging into the room or demanding my attention, I would simply say, “Excuse me, Mrs. Smith, could you hold on for a moment?” And then I would say out loud to my child, “You are so important, but so is Mrs. Smith. I need you to wait until I am done,” and then when I got off the phone, we would role-play and practice again. My kids use this tool to this day, and it is golden to have respectful kids who know how to wait their turn.
Teach this to your child and then set up a playdate specifically to practice this way of learning how to get your attention when you are busy.
Childhood is not the season to expect perfection but to give them the tools to live successful lives.
I am all about empowering children, as my ministry is based on equipping parents on how to empower their children. However, I do not believe in empowering them BEFORE the child has first learned to submit. If you are empowering your young child by offering them a choice with everything you are teaching them, they are the master of their own world, which ultimately is not entirely true. Yes, they alone control themselves, but that doesn’t mean they are not accountable to an authority greater than themselves. Some things need to be submitted to, such as our relationship with God, our desires, Holy Spirit’s leading, stop signs, not playing in the street, harming another human, moral compass, relationships, righteousness, and so forth. We may be free to do as we choose, but that does not mean we want to raise children who are only motivated to respond when they are in control. I see parents of little ones so eager to empower their children. Yet, they are missing out on the required seasons of laying the foundation of character training and intentionally teaching children to submit to their authority. This is raising children who are defiant and full of entitlement.
Let me share an example: My daughter, who is a naturally born confident leader, went to babysit for a family. She returned and declared she would never do that again because the kids never listened to her. I encouraged another attempt. She again came through the door and stated the same thing. Not so eager to let her miss this golden opportunity to grow in her capacity to lead, I made her do it one more time. But this time, she came through the door and was most upset. I honestly could not figure out what was happening because this was a wonderful family. Shortly after, the mom asked me for a playdate, and we met at the park. Her toddler made a mess, and she asked, “Do you want a spanking now or a time out when we get home?” Instantly, I knew the problem my daughter was facing. When we got home, I asked her if she gave the kids a choice of when to go to bed. I asked if she gave them a choice of PJs. If she empowered them to decide if they wanted to brush their teeth or read their book first. My daughter was frustrated and said, “No, I just did what the mom told me to do with them, and they wouldn’t listen to a single thing I said.”
The problem was that she didn’t offer them choices, and the only way the child knew how to respond to authority was if they were in complete control of the option. This only works if, everywhere they go, people offer them choices to feel powerful, but that is not how the world is set up. Ultimately this is not true empowerment; this is entitlement. It is overwhelming to a small child who doesn’t even have the total brain capacity to always be in the driver’s seat. They are not orphans, but children set in families with parents who make healthy choices on their behalf.
A child must endure some training at home that establishes authority and how to surrender their will by trusting those God has given to care for them. The toddler years are when this is established and skipping this season and jumping right to empowerment will reap the fruit that will give parents a run for their money down the road. The definition of empowering means to give (someone) the authority or power to do something. If you give children something they do not know how to use properly, it is like giving a baby food before they know how to chew or a car before they know how to drive. We set our children up for messy accidents when we empower them before they are ready.
Do I believe in giving children space to make choices? YES! Do I believe in doing it before they have been first taught to trust your leadership? Not at all. Perhaps we can move away from the ‘do as I say’ control-based parenting and yet not swing so far to the other side where we skip some of the crucial character development that comes with being able to carry the weight of being truly empowered.
I want to encourage you to make a small yet significant shift in your parenting. First, switch your focus from trying to rid them of conflict to growing them to avoid the conflict. There is a radical difference between the two. Move from being a constant referee to being their teacher to set them up for success. Second, we cannot help someone if we first do not know what the issue is. The next time they are in conflict, instead of reacting, stop for a moment and watch what is going on. It is not about who has what toy, but rather issues of selfishness, impatience, lack of self-control, rudeness, etc. – pinpointing where your child needs to grow and mature is vital to helping them. Third, teach them what you want in times of peace. The Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17), and it is okay to teach and equip our children with the tools of JOY. Make it fun, be creative, and partner with joy in your parenting. Training in the times of peace will give you tools to use in the moments of conflict. Teaching during conflict has proven to be far less effective. Fourth, children are creative. You could tell them ‘NO’ all day long, and they will still come up with another creative way to do something. Focus 90% of your parenting on teaching and training in the times of peace what you DO want. Role-play what selfishness looks like at the table, in the car, with toys, and then model for them what you DO want from them during those situations. This empowers them with how to succeed.
Serve the children banana or apple slices and then leave some out on the counter for a few hours. Gather the children in the family room and have them bring their journals and Bible. Ask them to read to themselves Galatians 5:22-23 outlining the fruit of the Spirit. See if they can remember the fruit listed (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Talk about each one and give an example of kindness, self-control, joy, etc. Share what kindness looks like at the dinner table. What does joy look like when Mom says no? Ask them if they enjoyed the banana or apple you served earlier. Wasn’t it delicious and tasty? Bring out the plate of food you set out hours earlier and attempt to give them a bite. A wilted mushy brown banana. YUM… NOT! Talk about the opposite of love, joy, peace, etc. Help them to see specific examples of peace vs. chaos, love vs. rejection, etc. We do not just ‘obey’ to behave like the fruit of the Spirit. We are helping them understand that choosing not to is partnering with the enemy to bring his kingdom into our homes, relationships, and cities. We choose to partner with God and His Kingdom because we believe in Him and want the fruit of His Kingdom for ourselves and those around us. There is a real war in the spirit realm to bring about chaos, isolation, hurt, lawlessness, and offense. How do we counter this? By going after the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.
NOT IN MY HOME – Explain to your children that there is a real rebellion in the world today against being kind and loving to others and that while it may be what ‘everyone else is doing,’ our home honors and obeys the Lord. Ask each child to draw a picture of each of the fruits of the Spirit. When all of them are illustrated, put them on the side of the room and have them sit in a circle. Ask them if they WANT a house of love or rejection. If they say love, pick one person to get the ‘love fruit’ and carry it back to the family circle, placing it in the middle. After each fruit has been brought to the center of the family, tell them they can either bring LOVE to the family circle or throw it out.
In the days ahead, I would be extra aware of the hours and days ahead to call out and make a big deal when you see someone displaying the fruit of the Spirit. “Johnny, that was SO loving,” “Susie, that was so kind of you to _____.” “Sarah, look at the self-control you had in that store.” You are empowering them that their choices make a difference, and they are significant contributors to the Kingdom of God. When you see your child choosing the opposite fruit, ask if they remember the banana slices. Ask them, “Which fruit do you think you are partnering with right now?” After kids have a grid for this, all you have to say is, “I am not sure that is a very tasty fruit,” which helps them see how they can choose different fruit.
ON A MISSION – I encourage you to gather the children, remind them of this lesson, and pick ONE of the fruits together. Let’s say you choose KINDNESS. Come up with a list of ways you can show kindness to others as a family. Maybe it is buying someone coffee, bringing a warm meal to a homeless person, babysitting to give the parents a date, sending notes to friends, or dropping off a balloon at someone’s door. Go on a MISSION to release that fruit. This will help build your child’s muscles in the joy of His ways. Often before we walk into a store, I will pick one and say, “Okay, let’s all be on the lookout for ways we can practice SELF-CONTROL in this store.” or “When you go to Ms. Johnson’s house, I want you to all look for ways you can be LOVING,” and then we talk about it afterward.
When I stand before Him, I want to be able to say, “Lord, I cared about the fruit of Your Spirit and did my best to teach my children to know, understand, partner with, and display the fruit of Your Spirit.” TAKE BACK GROUND BY GRABBING AHOLD OF HIS FRUIT!
I am getting better and better at letting my kids feel the aftermath of their choices instead of taking it on myself. The other day, I asked one of the kids to take out the trash, and as we pulled out of the driveway to go to school, I noticed two fully loaded trash bags sitting against the fence. I immediately pulled back into the driveway and put the trash in the bin myself in a bit of a huff. In the process, I stepped in the mud with my new shoes on, and it was not a fun ride to school. I sensed Holy Spirit saying to me, “Why did you do that?” and I began to think of what would happen if I hadn’t put the trash in the bin myself. Oh my – it would have been a disaster. Surely the neighbor dogs would have found the chicken bones, and there would have been trash all over the yard. And gee, the neighbors would probably think less of me if my yard was littered with trash. Then I heard it again, “Why did YOU do that?” and I began to picture my son coming home from school to find trash – the trash HE left out – all over the place and how uncomfortable HE would have been in cleaning it all up. While it would have cost me embarrassment with my neighbors, it would have been a price to pay for my child to learn ownership of completing tasks fully. God has set before us a Kingdom principle of reaping and sowing. Our children need to learn how to reap what they are sowing and not always have a parent who steps in to reap what they have sown.
God gave frogs long tongues to catch their food. They have to be very still and intentional about how they use their tongue, or else they will scare away their dinner and go hungry. Have the kids act out being a frog – jumping around, ribbiting, and sticking out their tongue. Then explain to the children that God has given us very powerful words. The Word says our words are like a sword, and we can either help or hurt others with them. We need to be very wise in how we use our tongues so that we don’t end up hurting those around us or ourselves.
Guarding Your Tongue – Nine out of ten times, when my children come to me to complain about someone else, I discover they are at fault themselves, and they end up getting disciplined for it. It was their ‘mouth’ that revealed there was an issue, and more times than not, the issue was with them. The goal is not to hide things from Mom and Dad but to teach children to choose their words carefully, to build others up and not tear them down. In the days ahead, when your children run to you to tattle-tale on their siblings, lovingly get down on their level and ask, “Honey, do you remember the wise frog? Are you using your tongue wisely right now?”
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
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.