I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made a New Year’s Resolution. Too much pressure for my one little person to handle. Just the thought of looming goals made in anticipation of grandiose payoffs gets my heart racing. If I’m going to make a change—especially one that lasts—it’s going to be done in small, manageable steps.
But things have changed. Now I have a purpose that dwarfs my dawdling temperament. And with this purpose comes an urgency that time matters.
The purpose? I’m a parent; a mother of four (make that five in March) beautiful, energetic, impressionable and time-evaporating children. My eldest who was seemingly born yesterday (no pun intended) is now in her pre-teen, peer-adoring years.
I had a wise friend who warned me, “Take advantage of young these years, Sara, because when she turns eleven, her life will be more influenced by her peers than you. As I gauge it, you have about three years left of good, solid indoctrination.”
I took her counsel to heart. In fact, I downloaded the “Legacy Countdown” App from the ReThink Group. It’s kind of like watching the national debt calculator spin out of control in Times Square; when you see it, the reality sets in just how quickly it wracks up.
Similarly, this app counts down the days you have left with your children before they are typically out of your care and supervision. The tagline: “What You Do This Week Matters.”
Humph. Talk about heart racing. Watching the seconds of time with your child tick away is enough to reset any parent’s agenda.
Bottom line: I can stew and think and plan, but the timer is running. We must act now to obey our God-given directive to train up our children the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).
Still, the task (no–the privilege) can seem daunting. That’s why I’ve put together three easy ways to start now. Feel free to wait until the New Year if you prefer a clean slate–but start.
- Spend Quantity Time With Your Children
No pressure here. This is a simple step you can incorporate immediately. Start now by spending time with them. Not mind-blowing, adventurous, Disney-esque time that’s cost and planning prohibitive. Just time—and lots of it. Why? Because you are the best and most powerful influence in your child’s life. Something or someone will be influencing your child; God just wants it to be you.
Quantity time has the benefit of taking advantage of impromptu conversations. The more time, the more likely at some point, something will trigger an indulgence into their mind. Spontaneity acts as a pseudo truth serum. These unplanned moments often reveal the deepest insight into our child’s heart and develop strong bonds of trust between parent and child.
So you’re not perfect. That’s ok. God intentionally chose you to rear your children. It’s no accident you were selected to model His love for them. We parents teach our children when we don’t even realize we’re teaching. When we spend time with our children, it teaches them that they are worth it; that we enjoy their presence; that we love them.
If you’re looking for a small step—this is it. Simply include your children in your daily routine. Oh, I hear what you’re thinking, you can get so much more done on your own. You may rationalize the benefits of having time left over at the end of the day for more quality time. But the truth is, we will fill our days and before we know it, they day is over and time spent with our children is lost—again.
God teaches that it is the first fruits that are most valuable. For example, God instructs us to tithe the first 10% of our income. Why? To show Him our love and trust. To give what’s left over doesn’t mean as much. That’s why our left over food is relegated to a doggy bag. It’s left over. Yuck.
Our children are perceptive. If we give them only what is left over of our time, they will feel the same way God feels about our priorities. If we love them, we will make time for them—lots of time. They will get the non-verbal message.
- Spend Quality Time with Your Children
At the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we must not neglect the importance of quality time with our children. Quality time is purpose-driven, lesson-based, intentional parenting time meant to chisel the Word of God into the hearts of our precious offspring. It doesn’t happen as often, but when it does, it’s with a teaching purpose.
This is arguably a little more difficult than quantity time. Quality time does take foresight and planning. But we need to do it anyway.
If this is new for your family, it may seem awkward at first. So make it fun! As the lessons unfold and truth begins to penetrate everyone’s hearts, earnestness will surface. And a longing will bloom for more time seeking truth together as a family.
Family is the safe place for children to obtain this foundation of faith. Quality time around the Word of God ensures your child won’t get the short end of the faith stick. Parents are the most influential source for modeling trust in God. Talk is cheap; start planning today.
Where to begin? Fruits of Faith offers a weekly scripture lesson for families to incorporate into their routine under our Chalk Talk Ministry. We provide the scripture, lesson, discussion questions and prayer. Start here for an easy, nearly effortless way to indoctrinate truth into your child’s life.
Other options: Find a Bible believing church to teach both you and your children. Develop a relationship with a Christian mentor family whom you can emulate and with whom you can socialize. For bedtime stories, chose ones from an age-appropriate Bible instead of a secular book. Use mealtimes to pray and thank God for your blessings. All of these efforts will pay off while there is still time and opportunity to reap what you’ve sown.
- Don’t Stress
My friend received a nice note from a fellow parent. It thanked her for modeling stress-free, joyful living in what could have been a very stressful situation. At first, my friend was perplexed. She and her son had simply been late to school that morning.
Turns out this other mother also happened to be late and witnessed my friend and her son’s arrival. Instead of yelling and running to arrive five rather than ten minutes tardy, my friend laughed, sang and skipped holding hands with her son all the way. The admiring mother noted that she appreciated the stress-free model of parenting. It inspired her to do the same with her children.
Life is hard. Kids get that. It’s never been easy, but culture today puts stressors on children unheard of a generation ago. The power of social media has changed the adolescent landscape. While our society has prolonged childhood, the experience comes at a cost—the pressure to amount to something in the world from an early age.
The validation our children seek from “likes” and “followers” is empty and vain. It will leave them reeling for more; and the world, which promises so much, will come up short in fulfilling its promise.
If we parents stress over the small stuff, we teach our children that the values of this world matter. Yes we want them to respect the laws and rules. But we do that with a forgiving, grace-pervading attitude.
We are in charge of molding their hearts. But we risk damaging it and burdening their hearts with the pressures of the world if we stress about them.
By teaching them their true purpose, which comes from their identity as a child of God, we can free them from the pressures of this world.
With patience in the Lord, modeled by us parents, they can keep the faith that God will exalt them in the proper time. No stress required.
- Delegate Tasks to Create More Time
Our culture delegates; it’s the mode of efficiency. But there is one area of life that should not be passed on to “experts.” No one and nothing can replace personal parenting.
Scripture commands parents to teach their children about God and His truths. When Scripture exhorts parents to diligently teach their children, the Hebrew language connotes the image of repeatedly chiseling (using a sharp tool) into a nearly impenetrable surface.
What fascinating symbolism! Parenting is no easy task. We must literally chisel using the sharp Word of God—repeatedly—to make a mark on the nearly impenetrable surface of our children’s wayward hearts.
Only this kind of parenting stands a chance of ensuring our children will not depart from the way they are to go. And when we are no longer there to show them the way, we will want the reassurance that the chisel actually made a mark.
But we can delegate the other tasks that fill our lives. Delegation often costs money, though. If you can’t afford to delegate these other activities, make them a family activity.
Cleaning the house? Put on music, give everyone a job, and enjoy time together getting something accomplished. Celebrate with a bowl of ice cream and a laugh.
Otherwise, give yourself permission to spend a little to save a lot–precious time spent investing in a relationship with your child.
- Make Prayer Priority Number One
I’ll never forget my dad being asked to pray and his response, “Not going to do it.” It’s hard for adults who were not discipled in the Word of God to feel comfortable praying out loud.
Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). When we expose our children to scripture and its truths, they have the opportunity to ask for anything and have it be done for them. Why would we want to limit this blessing by making the “asking” taboo?
So model prayer for your children. Pray at mealtime, bedtime, when you’re looking for a parking spot, and most importantly, over them. Scripture provides a plethora of promises God wants to fulfill in the lives of your family. The only way to tap into those is to ask for them; to claim them as your own.
God is waiting to flood your faithful life with the goodness that emanates from such blessings. Today is the day to start harvesting through prayer.
God Bless You and Your Family in 2017! Join us on our mission to create legacies of faith by growing in personal faith and reproducing such faith in the lives of others.