HELP THEM OWN THEIR FAITH (Jesus based), NOT JUST OBEY YOUR FAITH (rules based)
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 reads: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (NIV)As parents, one of our values should continually be to get our kids to behave a certain way when we are not forcing them to do so. Our goal is that they would make wise decisions when we're nowhere around. Anybody can drive safe with a cop in the rearview mirror. It's on the open road that is the concern. Yes, I know your kid's an angel at their friends house and a pain in the rear at yours. I get it. I just mean that ownership, not compliance is our goal. If it isn't, I guarantee that compliance or fear won't work as a dating motivator. What will make a difference however is shared values. This is back to answering the why, not just the what question.
For parenting toddlers, this might mean:
- Use God in everyday language. Don't just relegate spiritual discussions to post sunday school or on church days. Infiltrate your home with conversation that invites your kids to invite God into every space.
- Pray often and get caught by your kids. Teach them how to pray and model for them the value of it. Pray with them for friends, their own concerns, and for thanks too. Make it a habit to constantly thank and ask God to move with your kids in prayer.
- Don't just tell kids we don't say "such and such" a word. Help them understand how those words hurt others or why those words are not good. Remind them of your goals as a family to honor God an help them to see what things do and don't do that.
- If you're experiencing behavior issues, you could consider helping them to create a list of what they can and can't do. For example: Maybe the rule list with your 4 year old looks like: put my clothes in dirty clothes hamper, brush my teeth when I'm asked, say nice words, and share my toys with others. You can even come to conclusion together on the consequences or the rewards... like an ice cream or a few minutes to play a video game they love or watch a movie or have friend over for a sleep over. If the reward is clear and motivating, sometimes just not getting that thing is enough of a consequence to get your point across. You just need to think about what motivates your kids, cuz every child is different and has different motivators. As they get older, rules clearly change, but their input into them will be the family norm and they'll own the values instead of just adhere to them. Then you can post the list on the fridge or more privately inside a bedroom door so that you can refer back to it with them. If our kids begin early on to have a say into agreed upon behaviors and what happens if you do or don't follow through, they begin the process of ownership instead of compliance that is mission critical in the long haul.
- Don't shut down faith questions or even doubts. Invite your kids to explore the infinite mystery of God and wrestle with them in their sincere questions.