I was at the mall one day and witnessed something that I wanted to speak into. A child was given a toy by her grandma while the adults shopped in a store. The child was happy and content. A few minutes later, the four-year-old wandered over to the table with perfume bottles and began to play with them. Grandma came and yanked the girl’s arm away, and the girl resisted. She went back to the perfume bottles again and was playing with them. Grandma returned only to scold the girl sharply. A power struggle broke out. I 100% agree that it is not wise for a four-year-old to be playing with perfume bottles BUT can we take a small tour into the world of a four-year-old? She was given a toy and that is okay, but finds something else to play with quietly and is yanked, scolded and reprimanded. How is she supposed to know at four what is and what is not okay to touch unless someone teaches her? What would it have looked like if Grandma understood she was just touching and playing because it was there and on her level of reach and in her mind she honestly did not know the value of the bottles or what could happen if they fell on the floor or worse yet sprayed in her face? How do you think the girl would have responded if Grandma got down on her level, gently held her hand, looked in her eyes, and said firmly, “No, no touch,” and began to train the little girl to honor her voice? Grabbing, yanking, scolding, and yelling, do nothing to teach a child what is and is not okay. It breaks connection and confuses a child. TRAIN them in self-control and responding to your verbal command.
My daughter was having a tough time with her brother thinking it was funny to put his toe right up against the doorway to her room. He never went in but was taunting her, and she was biting the bait. She came to me exasperated. Holy Spirit had me teach her that he was getting a thrill out of her reaction. He doesn’t care about going into her room; he loves the rise it is causing her. It is making him feel powerful (of course, none of this was appropriate on his end), but this is an annoying thing about people kids must learn to overcome. I told her that every time she freaks out, it was like she was giving him chocolate. Of course, he would want more. But when we take the ‘fun’ out of our reaction, it is like handing him a candy bar made of broccoli. Ah, no thanks! I encouraged her to go up and ignore him, blow it off, and soon enough, it won’t be fun for him anymore. She invited him in, and then he ran away. He never wanted to enter; he wanted to bug her! When my kids find themselves in that situation again, I simply say, “Give them a broccoli bar.”
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
Fear knocked, and I felt seduced by it for an hour. I finally called a friend to pray with me and heard God say, “Your hedge is not high enough.” I knew He meant that I needed to increase prayers and declarations. I needed to put a verb in my prayers, so I asked Holy Spirit for a creative idea, and this is what He gave me. I had the kids all write out their worries, fears, and statements about the coronavirus. We shared our vulnerability as a family and then shredded them. We then wrote out TRUTH statements and hung them on our Cross. We feasted on these throughout the day. We wanted to do a prophetic act about the virus passing over our home, and instantly I remembered these balls I got at the dollar store years ago (they actually look like the virus). We put a bucket of warm soapy water outside our front door, made bold declarations that the virus would pass us over, and threw them into the soapy water. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are building a hedge of prayer around your family in this hour.
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!
To teach your child about the powerful use of their tongue, go to a thrift store and buy a fancy but cheap plate. Spread out a sheet/blanket outside and as you raise that plate to the air and proceed to smash it to the ground, call out the words you hear your child speak. “I hate you,” “Leave me alone,” “You are stupid,” “I don’t like you,” “I don’t want to be your friend,” and then sincerely say, “Oh whoops, sorry!” and ask them to put the pieces back together again. They will be dumbfounded as they know it won’t be able to go back together again. Explain that our words can shatter a person’s identity and worth (it actually doesn’t change their worth, but one’s ability to receive and believe it). Even when we say sorry, the damage is already done.
Toddlers are not socially aware of cultivating meaningful friendships, but this is a rich season where parents can go after character training so that children are set up for success with peers down the road. I would often set up a playdate with another mom with the intention of paying close attention to how my children interacted with their peers. Did they hit when they didn’t get what they wanted? Did they yank the toy out of someone’s hands? Did they wait patiently when wanting something? Did they interrupt me using the hand technique? Were they a joy to be around? Are they the type of children others would want to invite back or were happy to have us leave? Did they say “Thank you” when given something? OF COURSE, they did not ace all of these areas. They were toddlers full of fleshly desires and selfishness. My goal was never perfection but rather seeing where I needed to parent them. I would take a mental inventory of the areas they needed to grow in, and we would spend the week working on it. I would set up another playdate and test it out. Example: If I saw my child hit another child because they wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. I would address it on the spot, but when we got home, I would teach them how to handle that situation differently in times of peace. We would role-play, I would tell them what I expected (no, no hit), and we would look for ways at home they could apply that teaching with their siblings. I was intentionally teaching them how to be better friends. The heart of this cannot be legalism or performance. Children are going to be foolish, act out, throw fits and be selfish. There has to be grace for their development. But I was always on the lookout for ways they could increase their capacity in an area and go after it through connection and joy. 90% of my parenting in the toddler years was going after things in the time of peace and setting them up for success instead of constantly reacting to their negative behavior. Some of the main focus points for toddlers are: learning to wait patiently for something that they want, saying “please and thank you,” understanding right/wrong, knowing sowing/reaping (consequences), using manners (kind words), and using their words (not strength), respecting the word NO, listening and obeying right away, practicing gentleness, having self-control, and being content by themselves at times.
**My eBooklet Character Counts gives you oodles of creative activities to do with young children to instill character. You do not have to do this all in one day but rather have a mental awareness that between today and the time they enter formal school, they should have the character to play well with their peers. Order your copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly
Ponder for a moment why God would say there is incredible power in blessings and kindness. The reality is it has the ability to transform the worst of situations. So how can you be an agent of ‘doing good’ today?
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.
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?
I have an above-average sensitivity to whining. It grates on me deeply. I taught my children from the toddler years that if they whine, they lose. I even typed it up and framed it on the wall in our kitchen on their level (along with other house rules). I first taught them in the time of peace what I did want from them, and we role-played what whiny and peaceful words looked like. Then the first time they whined to get their way, I got on their level and said, “When you are ready to use your big girl words, let me know,” and I would walk away. It took a matter of seconds before they came chasing me and changed their tone. Whining is a lack of self-control and orphan. I want my children to speak to me with confidence and self-control. I laid the foundation, and this was something that brought a lot of peace in our homes.
Shalom isn’t the absence of conflict. It is peace in the midst of it. Declare it over your situation. “I speak shalom to ____.”