On Monday, I posted the first 8 ways our family practically trains our children to live biblically and to grow in the knowledge of God. You can read those here. None of these practices bring salvation, but as God sovereignly works on their hearts, we can be wise in how we are parenting our kids.
Here are the next 9 ideas!
9. Do Bible study daily with them and have a weekly longer study
We read a Bible story to them every night from their children's Bible, as well as do a great Bible survey that digs deeper on Monday nights. The survey is a great tool, ideal for ages 5 and up. You can view the survey we use here. We also pray with them nightly from a list of prayer requests we put together as a family on Monday night. They know the routine and remind us it is time to read the Bible. In fact, my youngest still thinks a book is called a Bible. We read the Bible so much, he thinks Bible is the word for book! It is fun to see him walk into the bookstore and point at it all and say, "Bible!"
Our oldest is also in AWANA, a great program for Bible memorization available at many churches across the country.
10. Encourage them in how they are growing in the knowledge of God--list, warm fuzzies, etc.
When I taught in a classroom, I focused on positive reinforcement. I had a "warm fuzzy jar" where we put little pom poms when the class did well. A full jar warrented a class reward. We did a lot of "put ups" to build encouragement and wise words. I gave out character awards and had all kinds of fun rewards for improvement in school or behavior.
I am not sure why, but this positive reinforcement is hard to do at home! I hear myself saying a lot of "no, no no!" Because of this, we started a new practice this year. My husband and I also have a list where we write down what we see our children doing well--how they are being obedient and choosing to do right. We read this to them on Monday night as well. We started this practice because we felt like everything coming out of our mouths was instruction, admonishment and training in a negative sense. We made an effort to train with positive reinforcement too! I have to say, this is a HUGE encouragement to both the kids and us. It is fun to celebrate good choices!
11. Have them tithe
When my son turned 5, we had him start earning an allowance for making his bed, cleaning the toy room, cleaning his room and doing his reading practice time each day. He earns a dollar a week and we have three "piggy banks." He has one for tithing, one for saving and one for spending cash. He is so proud each Sunday to bring his tithe and know that he is able to give a gift to God. Our church is expanding right now, and they were raising even more money to fund the expansion into another building. My son was so happy to tithe even more than usual for the "building fund." We let him decide how much he wanted to give. Tithing starts them in a good practice of giving off the top to God, and it also gives them ownership into their church family.
12. Put scripture in your conversations. Use everyday events to bring up the gospel.
I don't have the most empathetic or sensitive boys. Having a serious, spiritual conversation is really hard with them. I talk about Jesus, church and the gospel whenever I can, because I never know when God will soften their hearts to receive it.
For instance, my son is in AWANA, and one exercise required that he got a chart signed that he obeyed mom and dad for 5 days straight with a happy heart. He looked at me and said, "That will be easy!" I smiled, knowing otherwise.
Of course, he failed within the first hour, and the week was a struggle. It was a PERFECT opportunity to talk to him about how he can never be holy or perfect. Mommy can never be perfect or holy. We fail all the time, especially in our hearts and attitudes. I told him this is why God sent Jesus--to be righteousness for us and to pay the penalty for all our sins when we disobey. This is the only way we can be reconciled to Him.
I could have quickly signed the chart, told Carter he needed to work on obeying with a happy heart and moved on, but I have to always be ready for a gospel conversation!
13. Pray with them on the way to school, a sport event, etc.
I know we discussed conversational prayer--praying aloud so the kids hear you. How about praying specifically for your child's day with him? Do you pray on the way to school, sports, a play date? This is a good time to model how to pray, the importance of prayer and your reliance on prayer. We can pray with a Christ centered focus, too, always getting our kid's eyes off himself. Instead of, "Help us win this game," we can pray, "Lord, help us to have good attitudes, for Carter to obey his coach, for no one to feel discouraged in their efforts, and to be able to have opportunities to share Christ with families who don't know Him." I have a feeling much of that prayer is not the focus of me or my child, but, as I pray it, we are both reminded of an eternal perspective, even in a t-ball game.
14. Talk about missionaries all over the world and support and pray for them. Teach them a global perspective.
Children have a hard time thinking about the big world around them. The idea that lives are happening all over the globe is developmentally difficult. Because of this, we need to reiterate that there are Christians all over the world who are working for and suffering for their repentance for sin and faith in Christ. Children also need to understand the millions and billions of people who are around the world and who do not have a saving faith in Christ Jesus. Have a country or missionary for whom you pray. You can adopt a World Vision child and pray for him or her each night. If you live near another country like us (Mexico), take mini trips into the country to see how others live and how easy it is to share the gospel and help others. Most churches have missionaries they support. Find out who your church supports, pray for them and donate money to them. Have your child write to a adopted child through World Vision or to a missionary family.
15. Pray for families through the Christmas cards--at dinner table.
This is a fun, practical way to teach empathy and prayer to your children. We take each Christmas card we receive and put two per week in our double frame. We take the frame to the dinner table and talk about the families, pray for them and think if there is any practical way we can help or encourage them that week. I wrote a full post on this and a tutorial on making the frame here.
16. Have chores for your kids. Teach them responsibility.
There is nothing worse than a lazy Christian. God wants us to roll up our sleeves and get to work! Since our kids are living in the age of excess and ease--compared to really any age more than 100 years ago--we need to train them to respect work and to do work before they rest or play. Chores are a great way to add a little "work" to their schedules. They are respecting their family by participating and helping, and they are sacrificing some time for others. We started simple chores with Carter at 4. He helped us put away toys. As he is older, we add more each year. Clearing the table, helping mommy carry folded laundry to the right room, cleaning up his room, etc. are all realistic at age 5. Think about starting chores early on so that it is just an assumed part of being in your family.
17. Praise your spouse and teach your kids how much you love one another. Teach them how to be a godly husband or wife.
It is important to never speak poorly of your spouse to your children. You don't have to lie or be unrealistic, but don't vent frustration or slander your spouse to your kids. This should be true of all other relationships too. You should be your spouse's biggest fan, encourager and supporter. Sure, they are imperfect, but so are we.
One way to build a strong marriage is to know how a husband and wife should love one another with support, help, encouragement--even when circumstances are tough. I tell my sons that daddy works hard for them and to provide. When Ryan takes us out to eat or buys us something, I have them tell him "thank you." I give Ryan hugs and smiles in front of our boys. I try to never contradict Ryan in front of the boys--I say try because I'm imperfect and I fail from time to time. When Ryan lost his job, I constantly talked about praying for daddy and told them we needed to appreciate daddy so much for all he was doing to look for a job.
I repeatedly tell my boys that daddy and I love God more than anything or anyone else. How often people say they married their dad or mom in personality. How I portray a wife is what my sons will ultimately find normal when they pick a wife someday. I pray it is a loving, supportive, hardworking, encouraging and godly helpmate!
There are so many ways, many that I've not listed, that help rear children who know what God commands and desires from us. Let me know what you do in your home. I'd love to hear your thoughts and get some ideas from you!