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On a practical level here are the basic areas that I believe are both biblical and essential to teach:
1.) Respect/honor for others-It is essential that our kids learn to not only honor and respect us as parents (like the verses above state), but also that they learn to honor others. Romans 12:10 says to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is the honoring of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We also honor those who are not Christians- “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” These are the characteristics that set us apart as very different from the world. These are the nuts and bolts of our faith. When people compliment the good fruit in our kids and in us, it opens the door to share the gospel and we get to share our need for Christ.
So many of these simple acts of respect/honor can be practiced at home between family members. Practicing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Galatians 5:22) God’s Word sets a high standard to shoot for and when we fail (which we will do often), we get to remind ourselves and our kids of the goodness of the Gospel. That we are sinners that need a Savior and Jesus is that Savior. That he lived and died and rose again for that very reason. So we have HOPE in the midst of our failures. That we aren’t stuck there. That’s the beauty of family life: it reflects many of the conflicts and obstacles of real life. And isn’t that what we are shooting for? Teaching our kids how to live out their faith in real life?
Respecting others means respecting their property, their personal space, etc. Teaching our kids to pay attention to “No Trespassing” signs, to stay out of people’s personal items, to listen when someone says they are not liking something they are doing or saying, not to interrupt in conversations, to greet others respectfully, to use please and thank you and make eye contact, etc. Our family is far from perfect in any of these areas, let me tell you! I think it’s hardest to live these things out at home. And obviously all of this is NOT going to happen overnight or 100% of the time…ever, but something we make a habit of reminding our kids of and we try to example for them as much as we can.
When we had eight little ones and we would be invited to someone’s house for dinner or were overnight guests, I would gather the kids and have the person who was hosting us tell us what the house “rules” were: any rooms they shouldn’t play in, or things they shouldn’t play with, etc. Then we tried to make sure that the kids stayed within those boundaries while we were there. I can’t say that we caught all offenders all of the time because we were also visiting, but we made a concerted effort.
2.) Responsibility- There are a few things that fall under this category:
a.) Taking ownership– Our kids need to know that their choices affect those around them as well as themselves and that there are either consequences or rewards for every choice we make. The concept of sowing and reaping is a very biblical one and doesn’t vary much at all. It’s crucial that our kids know that. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” So it’s essential that we don’t shield our kids from the consequences of their decisions. When our kids are very small, it may look like getting flicked on the hand for touching things that daddy or mommy have said “no” to. When they are school age, it may look like losing privileges when they don’t get their chores or schoolwork done on time. As teens, it may look like making them pay the increase in car insurance when they have wrecked the car.
The most important area that we want our kids to take ownership is their personal walk with God. All the other areas will develop with much more authenticity if this area is owned for reals. We cannot force our children to read the Bible, pray or have a growing walk with God. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit and so our greatest weapon of all is prayer. We also need to set an example in our own lives. That example does not have to be perfect, but it does need to be REAL. Let’s be humble with our kids about our own struggles and victories and testify to them of God’s work in OUR lives. It gives power to our Christianity and brings an authentic, sovereign, powerful Savior to our kids.
b.) Developing a strong work ethic- I don’t know that many parents in this day and age understand the many ways our kids benefit from having a good work ethic. Work ethic is defined as: a belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.
The challenges we face constantly in the adult world are also the challenges that we must overcome to have a good work ethic. For instance:
Doing things well, even when we really don’t want to (perseverance)
Learning to work well with others (teamwork)
Seeing what needs to be done and doing it (initiative)
Figuring out how to overcome obstacles in order to accomplish the goal (problem-solving)
Become capable and skilled in many areas (confidence)
I look at that list from adult perspective and think, “This is what I spend most of my time doing in one way or another!”
Although this can happen through school work, sports and other activities, giving our kids regular chores and responsibilities is a great way to accomplish this. They learn A LOT as we walk along side them. We learn a lot about them (and often about ourselves) which can be challenging. AND WE GET STUFF DONE! It’s a win/win!
SO I say, “Onward with chores, onward with projects and, yes, the children need to be doing these on a regular basis!” I’m telling you, moms, it can REALLY lighten your load and help the whole household run more efficiently!
I am not gonna lie. Our kids have no idea how beneficial this will be in their lives, so I promise you this probably won’t be met with great enthusiasm. In fact, more times than I can count, the mere mention of work has brought on groans and complaining from the kids. Not something I relish or enjoy, but (often out of sheer desperation for help) I have made our kids do it anyway. And do you know what? Our kids now have a reputation for hard working, being initiators…seeing what needs to be done and doing it and with a good attitude. They are gaining a good reputation and most of all they are a great reflection of the character of Christ. And isn’t that what it’s really all about anyhow? Being salt and light in every way possible. I guarantee you that as our culture becomes lazier, our kids’ good work ethic will stand out even more!
One of the best ways to teach a good work ethic is to be an example ourselves and WORK ALONGSIDE our kids. It’s such a great opportunity to talk and laugh along the way and sometimes to work through things with them. And don’t forget to give them accolades and praise for what they ARE doing right. Even if they are NOT getting the job “right” but have a good attitude. And brag them up to others in front of them. They LOVE that, even though they may never tell you.
I have, without apology, used work many times as a means to use up the loads of extra energy boys, especially, seem to possess. I use it when they are hassling me or just generally have bad attitudes. There is something inherently cleansing and calming to a boy who engages in good, hard, physical work. You can read more about boys here.
Lastly, never, never lose your sense of humor.
Don’t forget to enjoy your kids. Have fun with them. Our kids know we love them, but they also want us to LIKE them and the best way for us to show that is to laugh with them and enjoy their presence. They want the same things that we want. To be encouraged, to be loved, to be respected and to be INSPIRED!
HERE ARE SOME RESOURCES THAT WE HAVE CONTINUOUSLY FOUND HELPFUL OVER THE YEARS:
A few devotionals that we have LOVED. Although they are written for boys, I read the first two to our girls too and they enjoyed them very much. Bob has a gift for explaining some very basic and yet essential life principles in an interesting and engaging way. I always walk away inspired!
Practical Happiness by Bob Schultz
Created for Work by Bob Schultz
Boyhood and Beyond by Bob Schultz
And this particular book was a game changer for us: Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp The emphasis is on reaching our kids’ hearts which is essential for effectiveness and lasting change.
I love this one because it centers around the gospel and how it affects (or should affect) our parenting. So simple and straight forward. Gospel Powered Parenting by William Farley.