We all want to raise good kids. We want our children to be kind and compassionate, loving and forgiving.
How in the world do we teach them these things??? From my experience, we simply cannot do it on our own. But we can point them to the One who is good, just, and perfect!
Here are just a few tangible practices that I have found helpful in attempting to draw our little children closer to God.
1. Pray… for yourself. Let’s face it. There is no way that we can show the love of God to our children 24/7 without His help! There are way too many tantrums, spilled glasses of milk, and altercations between siblings to keep us from losing our head in our own humanness. In addition to praying fervently for our children, we also need to pray that we can be the parents God has called us to be!
My favorite prayer lately has been adapted from Romans 8:11. “Lord, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living inside of me this very minute. Surely you, Oh God, can help me handle this (tantrum, fight, vomit-fest) with grace and love!”
Talk to God throughout the day. Although I think it is still beneficial to have a chunk of time dedicated to prayer during the day (like in the morning or right before bed), I’ve found it’s essential to pray ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day.
2. Pray with your children. There is nothing more precious than hearing a prayer from the mouth of a child! Even when my 2-year old’s prayer consists only of “Dear God, In Jesus Name, Amen,” my heart still leaps for joy that he is beginning a lifelong process of being in communication with our Creator.
Children need to hear prayers demonstrated in a variety of settings and from a variety of people. They also need opportunities to say their own prayers, even though they might not fully understand what prayer really is just yet. After Christmas this year, we saved all of the Christmas cards and put them in a drawer in our kitchen. Every now and then, we will pull out one of those cards and pray for that specific family. Just the other day, my 4-year old son came to me in the middle of the day with a Christmas card in his hand, asking to pray for that specific family because he had heard one of their children was sick.
Pray for boo-boos, pray for fears during the night, pray for sick pets… nothing is too small to pray for, especially when your child initiates it!
3. Hide God’s Word in their Hearts. Up until this last year, I was not all that convicted of the need to memorize scripture. After all, we can open the Bible whenever we need to, right? In the last several months after a series of circumstances; however, I now see the great and lasting benefits of memorizing God’s Word. I want our children to grow up with a love for the Word and simple passages that they can recall whenever faced with a situation or problem… or perhaps when they just need some encouragement! We have been working on memorizing one new scripture each week with our two boys (4 and 2).
We are currently working through these ABC Scripture Cards I created, with one scripture for every letter of the alphabet. We typically work on it together as a family immediately after dinner a few nights each week, while we’re all still sitting at the table, for a total of 5 minutes or less. And much to our embarrassment, we are normally asking our 4-year old for help! He remembers the scriptures, along with their references, MUCH better than we can!
4. Make Bible stories come to life. Move over fairy tales… the stories and miracles recorded in the inspired text are extremely captivating to little ones and they are all true (we especially love reading the Jesus Storybook Bible with our boys)! Our boys want to hear the same story over and overagain. Knowing we have two boys, you could probably guess that their favorite story is ‘David and Goliath.’ We can’t just read David and Goliath anymore, though… now it must be dramatically recreated in our living room.
5. Demonstrate small acts of kindness every day. I am currently working on a goal of doing a small but intentional act of kindness each and every day. I am extremely selfish by nature, so this is something that God and I are working through together… and so far, I’m not doing very well!
Involving our kids in small acts of kindness, whether planned or spontaneous, shows our children how to think outside of themselves and their desires. Perhaps it’s delivering brownies to an elderly neighbor or making a “get well” card, or taking time to call a friend… we all need opportunities to put someone else first!
What about you? What do you do to draw your little one closer to our God?