Raising Honest Children

"Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body."
Ephesians 4:25

We can all admit that we have told lies during our lives, some bigger than others, but it can be hard to handle when we observe our children doing it.  As Christian parents, we should be loving but intentional in stopping our children from developing a bad habit of deceitfulness.

There are several passages in the Bible that discourage deception and promote honesty.  The verse for today’s blog is one of my favorites - Ephesians 4:25.  As a Christian family, parents should stress that we are all a part of the body of Christ, and should work together for His sake, a task that cannot be accomplished when a member of that body is untruthful.  Another verse is Proverbs 12:22 “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful.”  As I have recommended before, write these and other Bible verses down and help your children to memorize them.  Talk with them daily about what God expects of them – honesty and love.

When you catch your children telling a lie, do not justify it by calling it “cute” or “harmless”.  This can be very confusing to a child.  Where do you draw the line between a “harmless” lie and a lie that causes “harm”? All lies should be immediately addressed and discouraged.  

Since I love to promote reading, there are three stories about lying from which children can learn: The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and Pinocchio.  Read them with your children and discuss what is happening in each story.  Ask them questions to generate their thinking processes about telling lies.  For example, what could the character in the story have done differently, instead of lying?  What would have happened then?

 Of particular concern is looking for opportunities to praise your children for telling the truth.  Too often, we parents focus on the negative.  What better way to instill honesty but by parents catching their children being truthful and immediately praising them for it.  Positive attention builds more and more positive habits and self-confidence while repeated negative attention erodes a child’s well-being and image of who he is in Christ.

As I have matured in my relationship with the Lord and in my years, I have come to appreciate honesty more and more.  Even though so-called small white lies can be explained away, I ask myself “why should I even do that?”  Nowhere in the Bible does it say we can tell certain lies but not others.  It’s all in the way we frame our words, with the goal of being true to the Word.

Raising Happy Children

We have all seen those faces: a child with an angry look – his face turned away from you, his lips pursed, his eyes glaring.  Perhaps the child did not get what he wanted.  Or, perhaps he woke up grouchy from a nap and saw no reason to change his demeanor or behavior and decided to take things out on you.  Children can be taught from a young age how to become happy and not remain in a negative mood.  According to Proverbs 15:13, a happy heart makes the face cheerful.

Helping your children develop happy hearts depends first and foremost on you having a happy heart yourself.  It is critical that as Christians, adults memorize scripture so that we lean on what the Bible has to say about our circumstances rather than on what the world throws at us.  The Word of God can be an extremely positive force in our lives if we speak and apply it. 

Try selecting various Bible verses that are easy for your children to memorize and write them on index cards or type them and hang them up throughout your house.  There are many websites that have lists of simple Bible verses so you can select one verse each week on which to focus.  Make it fun to memorize a verse and incorporate it in your everyday discussions.  The more you make the verses a part of their everyday lives, the more these verses will become a part of their thinking and behavior.   A quick reading of a verse will not do it.  It takes time and energy to change thoughts and behavior – it is not a one time, quick fix.

Also, have your children look at themselves in a mirror when they are happy and then when they are angry.  Help them to connect their facial expressions and outward physical behavior to their feelings.   Smiling is an indication of happiness and actually makes a person more attractive.  More people are drawn to smiling, friendly persons and the opposite is true as well.  Remember that your children typically will copy your behaviors.  Have you smiled at your children lately or have they seen you smiling?  You cannot expect your children to smile if you are not smiling at or with them!

Laughter is very important in maintaining a happy heart.  Children love to laugh – it’s part of their nature.  My sons enjoyed all kinds of silly jokes and riddles from when they were both small.  I bought joke books and cartoon books for them to read, to encourage laughter.  (Of course, that also encouraged reading.) They both have a wonderful, positive sense of humor today! Another way to make them laugh is spending time with them doing fun activities.  When was the last time that you played with and tickled your child?

These are some practical suggestions to raising happy children.  I encourage you to take the time to implement some so that you see more cheerful faces around your home!

When Should Your Child Have a Smartphone?

When Should Child Have Cell Smart Phone Soraya Coffelt

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, parents are busily looking for gifts for their children.  One such gift is a smartphone.  Parents, though, are often hesitant about purchasing cellphones for their children for a myriad of reasons, the most important being its negative effects on social skills.  While this is a genuine concern to have, smartphones can be great tools in assisting your children with the many challenges they may face.  Here are some suggestions to help you decide whether to purchase one, and if you do decide to purchase one, to determine what parameters should be established for its use:

1.    What age should your children be?  Generally, around the age of 14 is a good, practical age, but it all depends on the maturity levels of your children.  Are they responsible?  Cell phones are costly and children are prone to lose things.  Will your children abide by rules that you set for their use?

2.    How will it be purchased?  Many parents require that their children do chores at home to earn at least a portion of the purchase price of a cell phone. That builds in the child the importance of earning money and using money wisely.  If the cell phone device itself is a gift, consider having your child earn the money to pay for the monthly charges.

3.    What rules will be established for its use? The rules are completely up to you and what you, as the parent, determine is most important.  Use of the device during family times and meal times should be off limits, though.  Will you require a shut off time at night? If so, what hour? What about your free access to the phone to monitor goings on?  That should be made clear to your child from before the phone is purchased.

As with everything else, you cannot use the “do as I say, not as I do” method. Children learn best from observing their parents and if they see you contradicting yourself, it will only confuse them and cause them to rebel. If you tell them to put their phones away during meals, but you are busy calling and texting during dinner times, there will be problems.  

4.    What type of services or apps should be on a cellphone? You will need to monitor your children’s cell phones closely to ensure that they do not download any unacceptable apps.  In fact, one rule of use should be that they do not download anything without your knowledge and permission.  Be vigilant in monitoring their phones as there are a huge variety of apps out there.

One highly recommended service for a cell phone is called location services. It is very helpful because you can keep track of your children’s locations.  There are various apps that provide these services at the app store, but parents can include family locator services in their cell phone plan (usually for an additional price) as well. The already embedded GPS in cellphones is very beneficial in the event that your children are at unfamiliar areas and need to find their way to a specific destination or back home.

Getting their first cell phone can be an exciting time for your children.  Parents should, however, spend time preparing and planning for one.

Helping Children Enjoy Church

"Our kids can learn to enjoy church when they watch how much we enjoy worshiping the Lord and caring about the body of Christ."
Christy Fitzwater

For adults, attending church is an experience like no other.  We assemble together, a group of people of different ages and from varying backgrounds,  to learn more about God, to sing praises to Him, and to fellowship with others.  As fulfilling as these services may be for adults, children oftentimes view attending church as a once a week obligation that they would rather avoid.  It can be hard for them to sit or stand and listen for an extended period of time, and that can make church extremely boring for them. Their outlook on church does not have to be this way, however, and parents should do all that they can to assist their children in having enjoyable church experiences.

Start with your attitude about going to church.  Do you and your spouse enjoy attending church or is it just another duty that you both reluctantly do?  Do you allow any excuse to prevent you and your family from attending? As a parent, your attitude toward church will rub off on your children. 

Spend time at home reading the Bible as a family together and praying together.  Also, incorporate singing and worshiping God into your everyday life. There are many Christian children’s songs.  Purchase some cds or download songs on your computer or smart phone.  When your children arrive at church, all that is done at church will already be a part of their experiences at home. 

It is important is to find out if your church has a children’s ministry that is geared for your children’s ages.  Children’s ministries are developed to teach them the Word of God in fun-filled ways.  I served as a lay children’s minister for many years and can tell you that a children’s ministry is not all games and laughter, though it may appear that way.  In fact, I attended several children’s ministry training conferences just to learn more about making our children’s ministry better.  Ministers and volunteers spend a lot of time planning out what will keep the children’s attention and at the same time help them learn the Word and develop a deep love for Christ.  From lessons to songs to puppet skits to games – everything is centered on God. 

If your church does not have a children’s ministry, there are many things that you can do to help your children have enjoyable experiences, especially because of their short attention spans.  First, put together what is called a “worship bag”, which is a backpack with coloring sheets, crayons, cute stickers and many other items that will keep your children busy while the adult sermon is being preached.  Contact your church’s office beforehand to find out what subject or scripture verse will be in Sunday’s message and gather items that are on that specific topic.  Include a few simple snacks too as little ones have appetites.

Second, encourage your children to participate during the service.  Allow them to hold the hymn book and put money into the offering basket.  This will make them feel included.  

Third, talk with your children after church to find out what they learned.  Ask questions.  This will generate their thought processes and help them develop their knowledge about the Bible more.  And, since children love sharing what they learned, these discussions will motivate them to pay close attention so they can do so.

The Bible instructs us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  (Hebrews 10:25)  Adults and children attending church is important to God. By being engaged with your children in every step of their church experience, you will help them grow to enjoy church services and fellowship with other believers.

Parents - It’s Important to Stay Involved in Your Children’s Homework Process

Last week, I ended my blog by stating that the implementation of a homework schedule and a quiet place to work gives children the basics they need for concentration and a good homework product.  I suggested that parents set aside time to assist their children. Today, I will dig deeper into parental involvement in homework.

When it comes to homework, take time to, at the very least, oversee the homework process. Ask questions to make sure that they know what the homework is and what is expected of them. 

Engage and respond when given the chance. Working with your children not only gives them an opportunity to discuss what they are learning, but also gives parents the opportunity to know what their children are learning. Even the smartest children will sometimes need help and that is an opportunity to step in.  In regard to making corrections, while it is important for you to make a correction when a mistake is made, you should give critiques constructively, not with judgment or name calling. 

As children grow older, their work becomes progressively harder, making it more difficult for both students and parents to keep up.  Never “make up” an answer if you do not know how to solve a specific problem. Your job is to help them to the best of your ability.  Giving false information does more damage than good for a child’s education. Instead, make a note of the problem that was giving you both trouble and speak with or email the teacher, so the teacher knows exactly what to review with your child during the next class.

When it comes to homework, there is no expectation for you to be the perfect parent. There will be some areas you can assist with and there will be times when you are just as confused as your children, maybe even more.  Being a part of that process is what is most important for your children’s development and what will eventually cause them to thrive.

Encourage Your Children’s Curiosity by Reading Rather Than By Being Nosy

 
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business
— 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NASB)

When I read the above quote and saw the picture, I laughed out loud!  It is so appropriate, isn’t it!  Our children are naturally curious and will ask a lot of questions.  As parents, we should encourage their curiosity and help them search for answers, but not allow being nosy to be a part of their behavior.  Reading is the best way to find answers to questions.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “nosy” in the common English for students as “wanting to know about someone else’s business.”  This has a negative connotation.  It does not mean that you are sincerely curious so that you can assist and provide consolation and prayer for the other person.  Instead, you are trying to find out about the other person so that you can make derogatory comments, often behind that person’s back.  The Bible encourages us to spend our time diligently working, not having idle time to be a busybody. 

 
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down...
— 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 (NIV)
 

Most of our children’s behavior is modeled after us, as parents.  Take a moment and analyze your own behavior.  Do you have your nose in someone else’s affairs?  Do you talk openly and in front of your children about what other people are doing in a condemning way?  It may seem harmless but it isn’t at all.   Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about those things that are honorable, pure and worthy of praise.  Being a busybody is not among those mentioned. 

Plan A Parent-Child Date Night Every Now and Then

Last week, I wrote about how important it is for parents to have regular date nights away from their children so that they can develop a deep relationship with each other.  Today, I am focusing on a parent having a “date” or “date night” with a child.  Why would such an event be important?  The answer is simple – because it is a special time specifically set aside just for the parent and child to bond.

Each child is unique.  In order to learn what is truly distinctive about your child and the gifts God has given him/her, you need to spend time with each of them apart from your busy day.  As you do, you talk, ask questions, listen without being judgmental, laugh, hold hands and do whatever else makes you both have fun and enjoy each other’s company.  There should be no cell phones, lap tops, or other demands on a parent’s time and attention, as your full concentration should be on spending quality time with your child.   And, you can stay home or go out for an activity; you can go to a free event or an expensive one, such as dining at a fancy restaurant.  You can do them once a month or more frequently.  The choice is yours. 

In her blog, homeschool mom Heather Brown gives very good advice about parent-child dates and makes some creative recommendations about what to do with your child on these “dates”.   To read more, visit this link.

Have Interesting Dinner Conversations With Your Children

Dinner is one of the most important times during the day that you can spend talking with your children and learning more about them.  But, if your children are like mine, they usually have one or two word responses to questions.  How was your day? “Fine.”  Did you do anything interesting at school? “Not really.” And, I have to ask everyone to put away their cell phones so that we can actually focus on talking.  Every once in a while, however, I observe someone sneaking a peak at a cell phone under the table.

What can parents do to encourage stimulating discussions with their children during dinner time?  Many experts agree that making dinner a regular ritual is important.  Children need order and regularity in their lives, so parents should plan to have regular dinners with them most days of the week.  Another recommendation is to ensure that all devices are turned off.  Everyone at the table should be focused on listening and talking to and with each other.  No cell phones, tablets, computers, or televisions should be on or at the dinner table.

Experts also recommend to plan ahead so that you have good questions and conversation starters, and not to ask the same questions each night.  Change it up a bit.  Make it fun.  Ask questions about a grandparent’s heritage or the funniest thing that happened that day or the grossest thing they have ever eaten or what is their favorite song and why.   The questions are unlimited.  It takes your commitment as a parent to think and plan for these conversations during dinners with your children and see them as special opportunities for everyone to learn about each other.

How to Choose a Bible for Your Children

Do you have a Bible for your children?  Many parents buy story books for their children with stories out of the Bible because they do not believe that their children will be able to understand the Bible.  I continue to encourage parents to buy an actual Bible for their children so that they can begin to read God’s Word for themselves.

In the online article Choosing a Child’s Bible, writer T. Capps provides some excellent guidance in selecting the right Bible for your children.  Important considerations are:

1. Make sure that you purchase a Bible that is the right reading level for your child.

2. Buy a Bible that is the complete Bible, and not just one part.  That way, your children learn from young about the Old and New Testaments.

3.  If the Bible has pictures, ensure that they are accurate and not cartoon characters or scary.  The Bible is not a cartoon book, and children should not think of it as such.

4. Purchase a Bible that has maps and other information to help your children learn more about the time periods.  Maps, timelines, etc., offer assistance to children and make the Bible more understandable.

5. Make sure that the Bible is durable and further consider a cover for it so that it can last many years.

The author makes many more helpful suggestions.  Spend time considering what Bible to purchase as it will be a prized possession for your children for many years. To read the entire article, click here.

Helping Your Children To Make New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the beginning of a brand-new year and I’m sure that many of you have already sat down and written a list of resolutions to start off the year right.  Some parents think that new year’s resolutions are just for them as adults.  However, parents can help their children make changes and improvements in their behaviors and habits by encouraging and helping their children to make new year’s resolutions too.

In her online article 8 Ways to Help Kids Make New Year’s Resolutions, author Wendy Schuman gives some good advice.  First, she encourages parents to be role models for their children in making and following through with resolutions.   For example, if eating healthy is at the top of your list as a parent, make sure that you do your best to purchase healthy food and eat it.  Include your children in making healthy food choices and planning healthy meals.  And, ensure that there are plenty of nutritious snacks around, as we all know that kids love to snack.

Second, have your child write a short list of resolutions of just 2 or 3.  Ask your child: “What is the most important improvements that he would like to make?”  A long list can lead to frustrations when your child does not achieve every single item listed.

Third, be positive.  Don’t look for every time that your child has not followed through on a resolution and nag about it.  A nagging or criticizing parent can cause a child to develop a lack of self-confidence.  Instead, if your child does not follow through, try to remind him of the many successes that he has had in the past.  Encourage him to not give up and continue toward making the resolution a reality.  Each day is a new day and your child can always begin again.

Fourth, develop a family ritual around resolutions.  Get together as a family and share each person’s resolutions.  Make them meaningful. Be kind and loving to each other rather than critical and judgmental.   This is the beginning of a fresh new year that God has blessed you and your family with.

To read her entire article, CLICK HERE.

 

How Should Christian Parents Respond to Bullying?

Now that our children are back to school and settled in, I would like to discuss a subject that seems to be increasing in frequency – bullying.  As Christian parents, how are we to handle bullying, whether our children are being bullied or are the bullies or are the persons standing by watching or video-taping the bullying?  This is a challenging and complicated subject because as Christians, we immediately think about Jesus telling us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39).

But is that really what the Bible instructs us to do?

The following incident just recently occurred at a high school.  A teenage student walked off the campus and was pursued by another student, who kept verbally taunting him.  The victim hung his head and did not respond to the constant taunts.  The bully caught up to the victim and hit him in the jaw, breaking it.  There were other students who were standing around watching and some were even video-taping the incident with their cell phones.  Adults passed by in vehicles.  No one did anything to intervene and stop the violence.  It was only when one of the videos was posted on the internet, did the community find out about what happened. My heart ached as a mother to hear about this victimization and brutality.

Bullying is too difficult a subject to fully address in a short blog, but there are a number of helpful websites.  I especially encourage parents to visit and read the information on THIS WEBSITE.  One of the leading experts on bullying is Paul Coughlin, the founder of The Protectors, an anti-bullying movement, whose own daughter was bullied.  Mr. Coughlin helps parents learn about bullying and teaches what they can do, in turn, to help their children.  He calls it “bully-proofing” your children.

Bullying can be very devastating to children.  Prepare yourself and your children for it so no one is caught by surprise if and when it does happen.

Inspirational Back to School Quotes for Your Children – Build Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

For the month of September, I have been centering my blog posts on inspirational, back to school quotes for your children.  In this last blog for the month, I would like to focus on teaching your children to trust God.

Trusting God first starts with children understanding and accepting the critical truth that He loves them unconditionally.  Unlike a parent whose love may be denied based on the child’s actions, God always loves us because He is love.  Since He loves us so very much, we know that we can trust Him in everything.

On her webpage, Rachel Wojo writes about many ways to teach trust to children.  She suggests taking your children to a planetarium, for example, to help them understand how big our God is and how His ways are greater than our ways.  She also has a list of Bible verses to read with your children to help them build trust.  She further suggests spending quality time praying with your children, and when their prayers are answered, remind them of all that God has done for them.  To learn more, visit her webpage by clicking here.

Inspirational Back to School Quotes for Your Children – Instill Courage

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 31:8

I’m continuing with back to school inspirational quotes for your children during the month of September and today’s blog post is on instilling courage.  As your children return to school, they are dealing with many different fears – fears of the unknown such as new teachers, new classmates, new activities, etc.  The Bible is filled with stories showing how ordinary people overcame their fears by keeping their focus on God.  Pick out some stories and read them to your children.

One wonderful example is Daniel in the lion’s den.  Discuss the characters in the stories and how they stood out from among the others.  Select verses focusing on courage and help your children memorize them.  Pray with your children for strength and courage during times of transition.  Talk to them about the situations that they are going through.  Help them develop a deep understanding that God is faithful and will always be with them.

Reading Bedtime Stories with Your Older Children

    When was the last time that you read a bedtime story with your older children?  When they were young, you took the time to read and cuddle before going to bed.  But, now that they are older and can read by themselves, you should not stop reading with them bedtime stories.

    According to Scholastic.com, there are many benefits to reading bedtime stories with your older children.  Here are a few:

1.  Your children are spending precious time with you and you with your children.   You are doing something together, which builds memories. 
2. You get to know their opinions.  When reading, ask questions.  Since they are older, they can give their opinions on subjects.  Have them think outside the box, rather than just giving rote answers.  This will give you important insight into what and how they are thinking. And, remember – no question is a dumb question.  
3. Children are learning good writing skills and sentence structure when they listen to well written books.  Then, when they are in school, they will be able to remember these skills and replicate them.  This is much different than with their younger siblings who are not at that stage of development yet.  

    Be sure to select a time that is convenient for you and your children.  Don’t rush through a book just to say that you read with them.  Plan and take the time that both you and they need to make this an enjoyable occasion.

    For more information, read the online article by CLICKING HERE.

Throw a Fun Book Swap Party for Your Children and Friends

    Book swap parties have become popular events for children and promote reading at the same time.  They are simple to organize and fun to participate in.  And, they are a wonderful way to add new books to your children’s collection without having to pay the cost.

    If you’ve never been to a book swap party, here’s how they usually go.  Pick a date that will work for you, your children, and others.  Have your children select the books that they have already read and would like to swap with other children.  Be sure to explain to them that once the book is swapped, it no longer belongs to them but to the other child.  That way they understand that the book will have a new home. 

    Encourage your children to write a couple of sentences on an index card or post-it note as to why they liked those books.  This will encourage other children to read the books too.

    The children who are invited should also bring their books to swap.  Plan refreshments and snacks, just as with a regular party.  During the party, the children look at all the books and swap for the ones they want.  For those books that are left over, donate them to your children’s school’s library or the public library.