Stupid rules

Help your children to understand that the Bible is a love letter from God.  Throughout the Old and New Testaments we see how He patiently loves and even directs circumstances to achieve good for his people. Just as a parent would protect and warn a child, God’s Word gives us warnings and protection.  My own heart is rebellious by nature.  I do not willingly obey rules which do not make sense to me.  My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Joy Biehl, repeatedly told us students that when we call something stupid, it is usually because we don’t understand it.  She was correct.

This applies to God’s commands and laws as well as man’s. When I find myself labeling something stupid, it is usually because I do not understand the reasoning behind it. Certain speed limits seem stupid to me when I want to drive faster than the posted limit. A stop sign may seem stupid when there is no traffic, but at other hours of the day it may be crucial to safety. It is possible that man’s laws are arbitrary or reactionary, but God’s laws and principles are perfect. They are for the benefit and protection of everyone.  Just as I sometimes consider traffic laws as impeding my driving progress, God’s laws are sometimes seen as impeding our pursuit of happiness or satisfying our appetites.

One day I watched two squirrels in my backyard gnawing on a wooden bench.  I thought to myself, those squirrels are looney.  The bench was under a walnut tree filled with nuts so ripe they were falling off the trees.  They were filling up on “junk” food and ignoring the available nutritious food all around them.  We too choose counterfeits.  An example of this would be when we choose to enjoy sex outside of marriage contrary to God’s laws, instead of His best way within marriage. When we circumvent God’s way for man’s ways we are not satisfied, but left empty.

walk on waterAnother very important biblical principle to teach is that of reaping what we sow.  Galatians 6:7 warns us, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  It is vital for us to understand, believe and teach this principle.  Most children must experience this to internalize it.  Parents must allow children to experience consequences.  Shielding children from consequences does not protect them but it cripples them.  Consequences are valuable teaching experiences.   If a child is selfish, grouchy, demanding or bossy they will lose friends and have troubles at home.   Not allowing consequences to occur results in spoiled children.  Just as spoiled fruit is stinky, ugly and unappetizing, spoiled children are unpleasant, self-absorbed, and discontent.

As a homeschooling family every school day began with reading from a Bible story book. We had a 10 volume set of these which we read through entirely numerous times with our children. Children need to hear the stories and learn their principles.  The story book format presented the stories in an interesting way and in a chronological order using vocabulary designed for juvenile understanding.  From Ken Ham of the Creation Institute we learned the importance of clearly stating over and over that the stories in the Bible are not myth or fictional.  The Bible is true.  Bible stories are a record of true events and real people. Story does not equal myth.bald knob cross

Even after our children were strong readers and read the Bible for themselves we continued starting our days with reading from the Bible story book.  Parents must also model the spiritual discipline of daily Bible reading. When children observe their parents guarding their personal Bible reading time, they will see that we value it ourselves.

Bible memorization is extremely valuable and very easy for most children.  Our second son, David, made a new friend on the next block who invited him to go along with him to AWANA club at his church.  Our son loved it and soon all four of our children were attending with the four children of the neighboring family.  We are very thankful for the years these faithful neighbors took our children to AWANA at their church.  They had fun with the Olympic and pine wood derby competitions , the wacky dress-up events and many new friends while the Word of God was penetrating their awana

Later three of our children switched their mid-week church activity to the next door church’s children’s programs.  Again our number two son became very involved which eventually led to his involvement with their youth ministry.  Even though we had a youth ministry at our own church which I led, this secondary involvement was very beneficial for him and later also for our daughter.  At this youth group David was more of an individual and not just another Sergeant.  They were allowed to participate as much as they desired, as long as it did not conflict with our church.  David had his first mission experience with this neighbor church.

With some effort parents can find many venues to aid with spiritual formation.**


Challenging Chores

A chore is a routine task that needs to be done over and over and over again to provide order, safety and comfort.  There is much diversity in opinion over how much and what kind of order a family or a home needs.   However most of us like to eat every day after day. . .after day. . .after day.  Therefore some routine tasks need to occur so that we can eat.  Everyone also needs to wear clothing and some social situations require a standard of cleanliness for that clothing. Clothing must be maintained. It needs to get cleaned, perhaps repaired and we need to be able to locate it so that we can wear it.  There are also personal hygiene chores which our society require.    Even if you are happy and comfortable living with chaos and disorder in your home you still need the basics of food, clothing and personal hygiene for everyone’s health, comfort and safety.   These three necessitate chores.

Should children do chores?   I ask you do they make the mess?  Are they eating the food and wearing the clothes?  Yes. Yes. Yes.  Obviously age and ability must be considered and frequently evaluated.  I think there is exponentially more value in having children do chores than not do chores.  However, I will give you some reasons for both sides of the debate.

dave digging tom hacking

Yes, children should do chores

Doing chores builds life skills which builds self-confidence.  Doing chores gives opportunities for children to contribute to their family which is a precursor to contributing to society.  Doing chores may provide an opportunity to earn personal funds.

Children should not have to do chores

They are only children and will only be children for a few short years.  They should be free to play and pursue their interests during the few years that they can be carefree.  They will be grown up soon enough and have many years to work.   Children are too busy with sports and school to do chores.    I present each of these for the sake of argument but personally think each one a lousy reason.  If they are too busy to fit chores into their schedule, then they are too busy.  Take the time to reevaluate priorities. Yes childhood is short and temporary.  Adulthood is many decades long so get prepared.

How to get your children to do chores

howard & kaylee mowing

Start early.  Most toddlers want to be at their parent’s side and do with them whatever mom or dad is doing.   Much of what mom and dad do is considered chores.  Take advantage of this time when they WANT to do whatever you are doing. They don’t see this as WORK.  They see it as being WITH you and being allowed to do what you do.  It is a privilege.  Are you grumbling and complaining about the drudgery?  STOP IT.  Don’t’ instill in them a negative attitude about work.  Of course, some tasks are more pleasant than others, but each needs to be done and complaining doesn’t make it easier or faster.

You can converse while working together.  Talk about anything.  Talk about the task and why it needs to be done. Talk about cooperation and serving your family. Talk about why you are doing the task in the manner that you are doing it.  You will be teaching order and processing skills.  Teach problem solving skills by discussing other approaches to tasks or how a big task is broken down into many smaller tasks.  You may be surprised and even entertained by their ideas and suggestions.

If children begin doing chores as toddlers, then as they grow and mature they will be accustomed to participating in making and keeping order.  If everyone is doing chores, then no one feels singled out like a Cinderella.  All contribute.

Chloe & Oma CookingIf you did not teach your children to do chores when they were young, then start now.  Gradually add more and more chores (lifeskills) to their resume.  Someday their spouses will thank you.  They may even thank you.

Payment for chores also provides incentive.  Encourage chores to be done early in the day whenever possible.  Once our children reached age eight each one was responsible for remembering to do their chore without reminders from parents and to have the tasks completed by 5 p.m.  Chores not completed by the set time still had to be done but without any pay.  Other consequences such as half pay or other loss of privileges could be established.  This process of mom relinquishing the reminders and the children working without them was a sometimes painful process for both.  These boundaries helped fight procrastination and prepared them for future employers.

Proverbs 14:23 “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”

Living generously

My husband and I have been heavily influenced in the area of finances from our families of origin and the teachings of Larry Burkett.  We were both taught to earn, save, and tithe.  I recall when my older sister got her first regular babysitting job.  She earned $12 per week and divided her money into four envelopes.  Written on the envelopes were Savings, Tithe, Spending, and Presents.  I was amazed at how quickly she saved enough money to purchase a small black and white television set for our bedroom.  On many occasions I was the happy benefactor of the Presents envelope.  When I began babysitting I followed her example.  My husband grew up on a farm in Nebraska and had the opportunity to manage his own business raising sheep, chickens and goats. Thus he also had opportunity to manage money and make money decisions. Larry Burkett was a strong proponent of training children financially beginning with preschoolers.  The following are some of his guidelines:

  1. Pay them only for jobs that are completed.
  2. Pay for quality work. Have a strict work performance code for teenagers.
  3. Pay fairly, within your budget, but don’t overpay because you can afford it.
  4. Reward extra effort.
  5. Teach your children the “sharing” principles from God’s Word.
  6. Teach your children to save.
  7. Teach principles of budgeting.
  8. Get and use a checking account.
  9. Get and responsibly use a debit/credit card.
  10. There are no allowances in the real world.

As soon as a child is able to earn money they can also learn to manage it. Begin with a very simple system of envelopes or containers labeled with words or pictures for “Tithe or Church or God”, “Spend”, and “Save”.  Because it is mathematically easy to cut an amount in half and then half again, we had our children use half their money for “spend”, and then halve the remaining half resulting in saving one quarter of their income and giving one quarter of their income.  This meant I had to have on hand many single dollar bills and quarters so that the money could easily be divided. $_12

We explained that biblically we are instructed to give a tithe or ten percent.  A biblical tithe was just the basis for giving.  It is the minimum.  Tithes and offerings were given. “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work.”  Nehemiah 10:37

When people practice giving liberally in childhood, when they only have a little, a habit is developed which helps them be liberally giving people as adults with employment income.  Giving a tithe and offering is reflective of a heart that is obedient and recognizes God as the giver and provider of everything.  It also builds trust in Him to continue to do so.

In many homes financial details are kept very secretive. There is some wisdom in this however there is also value in not always keeping it all a secret.  Children and even teens cannot comprehend all the bills and expenses a family incurs.  Nor do they understand adult income. We also don’t want to needlessly burden them with money worries. But in financially tight times your children can rise to the challenge to live more frugally. They can learn much from hearing or overhearing some of the process and discussions about priorities in saving, spending and budgeting.   I think this is especially true whenever philanthropy is concerned.

Matthew 6: 2-4 says, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”   Because of this scripture we did not involve or even inform our children anytime we would give to a need or make donations.  We thought we were being scriptural in our secrecy.  However we realized by our secrecy we were missing important teaching and modeling opportunities.  If being generous was important to us, then we needed to model it.  It was not a matter of bragging but of training.

One way we have found to contribute to others’ needs is ordering online gift certificates from major grocery stores or department stores to be delivered anonymously.  We have also played ding dong ditch delivering bags of groceries at a doorstep.  Our youngest son has participated in this “game” being our runner as we wait nearby in our car.  This is a great way to involve children who can keep it a secret and still fulfill the principle of Matthew 6.

Intentionally spiritual

Some Christian parents do not intentionally address their child’s spiritual development.  Some feel inadequate in this area or think this is the church’s job. The church has an important role but the parents need to fulfill the primary role of spiritual developer. Ideally parents and churches will partner. Make certain you know your church’s theology and agree with it.  Discuss what is being taught at church. Many children’s ministries have take-home papers available which can be utilized at home. Sunday school and children’s church lessons can be springboards for further, deeper discussions.  As you study with and spiritually challenge your children your faith will also grow deeper. You may even be surprised at their faith and learn from them.  Start having spiritual conversations with your children when they are young and continue to do so as they become teens and young adults.  In time this will seem normal to them.  Help them and yourself become comfortable discussing spiritual issues.

Don’t be like some parents who claim Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” as their spiritual insurance plan.  John White exposes this as false comfort.  “If you examine its [Prov. 22:6] context you will discover that the verse is not a promise made by God to anybody.  It is a statement, a general statement about how family relationships normally work.  Good parents usually produce good children.” Parents must first have a personal relationship with Christ and model godly living.  Parents need to pray for and with their children.  Help your child become so comfortable with praying that it seems inseparable from who they are and is their first response to every situation.

sws baptism

sws baptism1

There are many ways to pray for your children.  Dr. Anthony Evans  suggests we model our daily prayers after Luke 2:52 which tell us that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and man.  Praying for wisdom would include gaining knowledge, intelligence, learning, common sense, discerning right and wrong, understanding, and the fear of the Lord.  Praying for increase in stature involves physical growth, health, and development. In favor with God refers to a father and child relationship.  Pray that your child will know, love, serve, and walk with God.  Pray for them to be rooted in the Word and to love the church.   Finally to pray for favor with man refers to their social growth.   Pray for their choice of friends, relationships with siblings, respect for parents and authority, and even for their future mates.

Pray with your children.  Pray at mealtimes.  Pray at bedtimes.  Pray anytime needs arise.  Pray with rejoicing and thanksgiving for blessings. When our children were very young we prayed with each of them at their bedside at bedtime.  Later we gathered as a family at bedtime and all prayed together usually beginning with the youngest child and ending with the oldest parent. When friends and extended family stayed overnight with us they were invited to join us and also pray or just listen as they were comfortable.  Sometimes it was challenging to avoid rote prayers. Sometimes someone fell asleep before it was their turn.  We knew someone was not focused when they prayed out of turn or even prayed twice.

Go to church every week.  Keep it a priority.  As a youth pastor I was often asked to be a reference for teens seeking employment.  I willingly did this but always encouraged the teen to tell the employer they could not work on Sunday mornings.  Whether it is work or sports or other activities, do not allow these to have more importance in a child’s life or yours than regular worship and fellowship at your church. Attend church as a family.  Fitness and physical training are important. There is much to be gained from team participation which may even have lifelong benefits.  However spiritual development endures longer than the body and this life, it is preparation for eternity.

Say yes

“Say yes whenever possible unless it is unsafe, immoral or illegal.” That is the advice of veteran mom of three sons, Ruth Gibson.  Ruth Flesvig Gibson was speaking in 1988 at a women’s meeting at my church, Sunny Place Church of God in Addison, IL to mothers of young children.  She was encouraging us.  Her words resonated in my heart and energized my approach to parenting.

“Yes”, was the answer when my 3 sons and their friends wanted to rearrange the furniture in the family room and hang blankets to build bulwarks for rubber band gun wars.  “Yes”, everyone must wear safety goggles or sunglasses.  And every boy who entered our house learned the Number One Rule: Never Shoot The Momma.

rb guns1 rubberband guns

rb guns

“Yes,” was the answer when the children wanted to play outside for five hours in the snow building igloos.   “ Yes,” was the answer when a child wanted to make cookies.  “No”, was the answer when they wanted to eat all the dough (unsafe) and not bake any cookies.

Sometimes the answer “yes” is difficult and inconvenient.  I didn’t do it perfectly.  “Yes,” was the answer when they wanted a friend to stay for a meal or a sleep over. “Yes,” was the answer when they wanted a strange hairdo.  “Yes,” was even the answer on the subject of tattoos.  However there was a caveat, you had to want the same design in the same place on the body for a whole year and you had to wait until you were 18.  Actually they didn’t need our permission once they turned 18 and as far as we know none have a tattoo yet.

snow fort

Having four children of our own sometimes meant that we could have four or more other children playing at our house at one time.  There was a period of ten months from August 1990 till May 1991 that another family with one small child also lived with us.  That increased our household of six residents to nine people.  Add a few friends and it was not unusual on any given day to find more than a dozen people at our house.  It was not always chaotic, just sometimes.

The point of saying “Yes” whenever possible is giving your child freedom to try things.  The result is a growing self-confidence and the discovery of interests and strengths.  Also there is less to feel rebellious over when much freedom is given.  Sometimes the answer was, “Yes, you may, but can you afford to do that?”   This leads to lessons in finance and delayed gratification.   Another answer, “Yes, but do you think that is the best option?” leads to lessons in decision making and discernment.

high ropes