Parenting is hard, isn’t it? As parents, we have many hopes and desires for our children and we pray regularly for the day our children accept Christ into their hearts. Even before we had kids, my husband and I both had visions of what our house would look and sound like. However, our dreams typically do not align with the day-to-day tasks of parenting.
During our sermon series on Vices and Virtues, we took a closer look at each of the seven deadly vices and their corresponding virtuous solutions. Throughout this series, a question has come back to my mind again and again (and I don’t think it’s just because I work with kids!): when it comes to kids, how do we instill these virtues, but also keep the gospel front and center?
Given a choice, we’d all say we want children who display virtues like the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But frequently we display outbursts of anger, hostility, jealousy, envy, dissension, and so on.
Faced with that (difficult) reality, we ought to first take a hard look in the mirror. That’s because the number one way to impress virtues (or vices!) on our child’s heart is through modeling. We can’t be Jesus for our kids, but we certainly can SHOW them Jesus. Each day our kids wake up, ride in the car, and eat. These are wonderful times to model and discuss with your child how to live a virtue-filled life. Let me explain…
Begin each morning with statements of praise: “Look at the beautiful day God made.” Our kids are typically in the room as I open our blinds each morning. Make it a habit of noticing the weather and thanking God for the gift of another day. Adopt this habit from Psalm 5:3: “In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Bless your child each day as they leave for school or, in this season, as they wake up to spend their day at camp, play at home, or head to summer school. This reminds them of who God is and their identity in Christ.
Time riding in a car can provide opportunities to talk about God. Point out the beauty of creation as you drive: the blankets of grass, the first tulips pushing up through the mud, the fall foliage bursting with color. When you pass through different areas of town, pray aloud for the unsaved in our world. When you hear a police, fire, or ambulance siren, pray for the workers and those involved in the accident or crime. When you pass a school, pray for the teachers who teach there and the children who attend. Ultimately, the goal is for your child to see God in action in every facet of life — and to live for Him.
Encourage spiritual discussions during meal time. Choose a child-friendly devotional a few times a week. Spend this time reading together out of the Bible. Meal time is also a great time to hear your child’s heart and their questions and ideas about God. Use this time to share and thank God for the ways you saw His presence that day. Each week, set aside time to share how you’ve witnessed God working and moving through your child’s life. Pray together as a family. Guide your child in praying for others.
Kids have many opportunities to be engaged with a screen. As parents, we have to be proactive and help them chose quality media and talk about the messages. Media, from video games, television shows, to movies, can help teach virtues (or vices). Kids are using media for everything from playtime to communicating. It’s essential for parents to use these opportunities to strengthen kids’ social-emotional development. Co-view, co-play, and talk about television shows, movies, books and games. Again, model for your child. Put away your phone and explain you want to give them your full attention. When you do have to go online, tell them what you’re doing.
Raising kids is not for the faint of heart, and the days they are in our care decrease daily. Bringing a child up in God’s way is a humbling responsibility. God promises His Word does not return to us void. It won’t to our children either. Use each day to take advantage of the opportunities to impress God’s truth and virtues on their teachable hearts.
For an additional resources, pick up the Homefront magazine at church each month or visit the website homefrontmag.com. Also check out these books: Courtney DeFeo’s book, In this House We Will Giggle: Making Virtues Love and Laughter a Daily Part of your Family Life and You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith.