You always talk about keeping the lines of communication open with your kids if you want them to grow up and make good decisions. But I don’t want it to sound forced! And I don’t know how to mention God without sounding preachy. How do I make it natural?
We want to raise our kids to love God, but it can certainly seem awkward. And all too often we get scared that if we “push” it too hard, then our kids will naturally rebel.
I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Certainly if you push it, that can backfire, but if God is already a natural part of your life, then kids tend to see that and naturally gravitate to it.
As my daughter liked to say in her post about why she didn’t rebel, stress relationship, not rules. Christianity is about relationship, and when kids have that with you, and see you having that with God, it’s only natural that would spill over into your parenting.
1. God has to be a natural part of your life.
You can’t just “naturally” talk about God if you don’t actually know Him. If you’re feeling nervous, and you don’t know what to say, and you don’t want to sound stupid, and you’re wondering if your kids will even listen to you, then I’d suggest taking a month or so and really trying to get closer to God. Snatch moments through the day for your devotions if you have to. Join a Bible study that meets weekly and start praying out loud there–force yourself! I know it’s awkward, but the more we can do these things, the less awkward it gets. Things are awkward when they’re new. When they’re not as new, it’s a lot easier.
So if you’re feeling awkward, it may be a sign not that your parenting is off but that you need to spend more time with God first!
2. Take time to talk
Dr. Laura once said that “quality time grows out of quantity time”, and I totally believe that. You can’t expect to have deep conversations with kids if you don’t actually get much time with them. So limit your extracurricular activities (I can’t stress enough how important this is!). Have technology free times, like over the dinner hour, when you can talk. Try to eat dinner as a family, rather than scattering.
If you know you’re growing apart from one of your kids, your instinct may be to grab hold hard. That often causes the child to withdraw. A better approach is simply to find more time when you aren’t busy when you can just be with your child–with no agenda. The best conversations come from times when you’re just hanging out.
3. Do things together
My youngest daughter and I get into the best talks when we go for walks together, which we try to do daily, especially now that the weather’s cooperating more. Getting outside is somehow calming, too. You can hear the birds, and see nature, and the computer and phone aren’t always beckoning.
Other people swear that their best conversations happen in the car. If that’s true for you, try to chauffeur kids to things one on one, if possible. Have your husband watch some kids and have some special time in the car with one child.
4. Own up to your mistakes
The best teaching times I’ve had with my girls are when I’ve messed up. When I haven’t been the best mom, and have lost my temper too quickly, or have let them down, that’s when I can really model God to them.
Take those opportunities to offer a heartfelt apology, and then model a prayer of confession when you remind your kids that you’ve also sinned against God. Ask for their forgiveness. When we’re open about the ways that we’ve messed up, it makes it easier for kids to see where they also mess up. And I honestly don’t think you can have a relationship with God unless you first see that you mess up. Without sin there’s no need for salvation. So let them see it, and let them see that confession isn’t weakness. It’s good to acknowledge our faults, and to do it quickly when we make mistakes.
5. Make use of great resources
The first four suggestions will give you more time to talk and will hopefully open the doors to communication because you’re spending more time with God and with the kids. But if you want to be really intentional, sometimes we still need some help!
Here are just a few resources that I love for this purpose exactly.
Many of us want to do “family devotions”, but we don’t know where to start.
And I have to admit–the vast majority of family devotionals I’ve found in Christian bookstores are, to put it simply, lame.
Learning to Speak Life isn’t. It’s wonderful! Each fruit of the spirit has a week to work through, and there are stories, role playing games, verses to memorize, family activities–even a big volunteer activity you can do as a family if you so choose.
It’s got thoughts for different ages, which is so important if you have kids spanning a wide age range in your family.
And it’s super easy to do. It doesn’t need a lot of set-up. You can just incorporate it into your dinner together. If more families did this, we’d be raising kids who were excited about God!
Preparing your kids to make good decisions when it comes to dating and the opposite sex has to start when they’re young. And it’s not about having “the talk” with your kids. It’s about having an ongoing dialogue–multiple “talks”–that help keep the lines of communication open so they know that they can ask you anything.
This is one of those big picture issues that lots of parents do badly. And one of the best resources I have found for teaching parents how to make this natural is Barrett Johnson’s book The Talks. It’s easy to read, filled with great stories, and tons of practical advice.
The 50 Best Bible Verses to Memorize
Memorizing Scripture is swiftly going out of fashion. It used to be that families would memorize together, as a key spiritual discipline. But we’ve not stressed memorization as much lately.
Children having a repertoire of key verses that they know, though, puts them in such good stead for the life ahead of them. I’ve written out my favorite 50 Bible verses to memorize. You can use that post as a resource, but I’ve also got a downloadable file you can purchase so you can print out all 50 verses, or you can buy them as a set. However you use it, try memorizing one verse a week with your family. That will give you 50 in a year, and it will make a tremendous difference!
I know sometimes bringing God into conversations can feel awkward, but take a deep breath and remember: I’m just sharing with my kids my own heart. I’m sharing something that’s important to me. If those things are true, then you’ll find it much easier to parent with God.
Now let me know: how do you bring God in to your parenting naturally? Leave a comment and tell us!