Because I became convinced as a young parent (many years ago, you understand!) that raising well-adjusted children is a contribution to God’s kingdom incalculable in its value (because your children will in turn use what they have learned in raising their own kids, and you will probably influence other parents in the process), I have always been open to reading articles by credible Christian authors on some of the practical savvy issues involved. Below are two short articles that I found helpful and stimulating on the subject.
It was the alliterated title of the first that caught my attention. The article is titled Ten Tips for Teaching Kids by Stephanie Carmichael and is taken from the most recent edition of Matthias Media’s e-news newsletter. It really represents “a great little list of tips for teaching young children about God.” Carmichael has written several books for young kids and two of them, Grumpy Day and The Birthday Party are available to read online.
Following Carmichael’s tips, I have included a brief excerpt from Joel Beeke’s forthcoming book. He writes on an issue with which all exasperated parents will identify! I am indebted to Tim Challies for bringing both these articles to my attention.
Here are Carmichael’s tips:
Teach all the time: Young children live in the moment. Help them to learn in the moment by making the most of opportunities as they arise. Talk about God in the day-to-day things you are doing.
Teach at a special time: Try to set aside a special time to read about God. Prepare for this time. If you are going to read the Bible, think about what you will read and how to simplify and explain it.
Questions and answers: Listen to your children’s questions, and give quality time to answering them. But also ask them questions about what you’ve been trying to teach to check they have understood.
Teach through your life: You are a living example (or visual aid) of someone who loves God. Set a faithful example of dependence on God and let them see you reading the Bible for yourself.
Be prayerful: Like adults, children need God’s help to grow in Christ and they can learn to pray. So pray for them and pray simple prayers with them (e.g. “sorry God that we . . .”, “thank you God for . . .”, “God, please help . . .”).
Be simple: Young children are not abstract thinkers so be literal and concrete. Use real examples where possible (e.g. God made this flower). Use simple vocabulary that they can understand. Avoid jargon.
Be specific: Move from the specific (God loves Ben) to the general (God loves everyone). Use lots of familiar examples so that they can understand.
Repeat and repeat again: You might get tired of saying it, but remember young children thrive on repetition.
Be thankful: Approach God with thankfulness. Model to your children how we can thank God in various situations and what we can thank God for.
Be visual: Young children learn through their eyes as well as their ears. Use pictures, visual aids, picture books etc.
Beeke’s insight is called “Parents, Give Children Clear Instructions,” and is taken from taken from Nathan Bingham’s Ligonier blog.
Joel Beeke’s latest book, Parenting by God’s Promises, now available for pre-order, contains many practical suggestions to help Christian parents raise their children in a way that honours God.
In his chapter, “Preventive Discipline,” Beeke offers this piece of parenting wisdom to help lessen the need for corrective discipline:
“We are leaving in fifteen minutes. Please clean up your room before we go.” That command sounds clear, doesn’t it?
Perhaps there are twenty items on the floor when the child walks into his room, and about ten more things out of place. He picks up five things and then comes downstairs. His parents ask whether he has cleaned his room. He says, “Yes.” The parents check the room and exclaim: “It’s a pigpen in here! You didn’t clean your room.” The child says, “Yes, I did!”
Is it possible this boy really believes he has cleaned his room? Because a child thinks very differently from an adult, often what the adult says by implication does not get through to the child. The child may interpret an order in a way not intended by the parent. In the above example, perhaps the parents are to blame for not making their request perfectly clear.
It would be better for them to say: “Pick up everything lying on the floor and put it where it belongs. Remember, in fifteen minutes we have to leave, so you should work fast.” Do you see the difference? We must be specific and leave nothing to the imagination. When we ask a child, “Did you get everything off the floor?” he should understand what we mean.
Give children clear instructions. You will not have to employ corrective discipline as much when both of you understand what is expected.”