There are lots of things we want our kids to learn, from how to ride a bike to how to be a faith-filled, responsible adult.
Some things (like getting dressed) are easy to teach. But as a follower of Christ, how do you teach your children the values they’ll need to walk with God and fulfill their calling? We’ve found the T.E.A.C.H. principles are a helpful tool for passing faith and values. Consider a value you’d love for your children to embrace, and apply these principles as you make a plan to proactively nurture what matters to your family.
Talk with your children
If kids feel talked at, they’ll probably resist the conversation and your good intentions will backfire. An important element of talking with your kids is listening to them. Ask for their opinions and ideas frequently, and make discussions natural, as you do life together. Deuteronomy 6:7 gives the simple roadmap for “impressing” on our children faith and values: “Talk about [God’s commands] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
When parents are intentional in talking about the things that matter most, in both planned ways and in the spontaneous moments of life, their kids will likely learn. So sit down and have a conversation with your child about what’s important in life! Read a Bible passage and then tell a story about how you applied the teaching in your own life. Let them know why you honor God’s commands of respectfulness, or generosity, or hard work, or other important beliefs. Describe how you’ve seen these values be a blessing to others.
Exemplify desired practices and values
It is said that the majority of our values are learned through the example of the important people in our lives. If you want your kids to learn something, just show them! Do you want your kids to learn the value of serving others? Then show them by example. Offer to rake an elderly neighbor’s yard, or make a meal for a friend who just had a baby.
Teaching our kids to gracefully make mistakes and regroup is part of building character, too! For example, if humility and advocating for yourself are values you want to promote, equip your kids to respectfully confront you when you miss the mark. This shows them you are serious about what you’re trying to model. Lynne was working on being more respectful and breaking a nagging habit so she equipped our kids to say, “Mom, I’m feeling micromanaged right now,” (instead of “Stop nagging me!”) Lynne modeled authenticity and humility; our kids practiced respectful self-advocacy and independence without reminders.
Affirm character, talents, and effort
If you observe even the most challenging of children all day, with the assignment to notice and affirm whatever is good, you’d fill pages…. IF your mind had a vision to see beyond the challenges! When parents stop trying to “deal with” problems and are able to see and acknowledge the good in their kids (God’s image in them), these parents build values (instead of shame) in their children.
This is much more than “catch them being good.” This is believing that your kids are “fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139). It’s from a desire to see your children grow into the “masterpiece God prepared in advance for them to be” (Ephesians 2:10). With these truths as your guide, you can frequently affirm kids when they wait well, help, listen, or do what’s expected.
Thoughtful encouragement acts like fertilizer to the behavior. But this is not about praising them because they’ve pleased you (which can reinforce people-pleasing and insecurity); this is about encouraging them in the character and actions that will be a blessing to others. Instead of “Nice job!” you can say something like, “You really stuck with it! Looks like God is growing you to be a hard worker (or helper, or listener, or teammate).” [Read Is There a Miracle Grow For Good Behavior?]
Create opportunities for success, significance, and service
Help set your child up for success. Break down a challenge into doable small steps. When your child is facing something difficult, smile and ask them, “What do you need to be successful at this?” Guide them to use their talents to help others so they learn to find significance in service rather than self. When has your child taken joy in helping or serving others? How could you encourage them and provide more opportunities for that? Kids who are overwhelmed in busy environments such as school or a family gathering often do great when they have a specific task they can do to serve others.
Help them out!
Do hard things together with your kids. Make challenging tasks fun, and gradually reduce the amount of assistance you give. This can apply to everything from helping kids clean an overwhelming mess in their room to learning important relationship skills as they grow up.
A friend of ours shared with Jim how frustrated he was about his son’s inability to get and keep his room clean. John’s constant demands to his son to straighten up his room were driving a wedge between he and his overwhelmed son. “This kid is old enough to do this himself!” John complained. “It sounds like your best efforts are making it worse rather than better,” I (Jim) replied. “Why don’t you join him instead of opposing him?” I asked. I explained to John that the Holy Spirit isn’t one who barks orders, but that the Spirit is a comforter and helper who understands us and comes alongside us (John 14:15-18). So John got down on his hands and knees as a helper a few times, made it fun, and soon his son was cleaning and organizing his room independently. What might be something your child is overwhelmed by? How might you come alongside and help and encourage?
Parents who T.E.A.C.H. their kids using these principles consistently report that their kids are more receptive to their guidance. It’s not always easy and takes some thought and prayer. To help you on your journey, we have a FREE download of the T.E.A.C.H. worksheet. Download it, and get started now!
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