I wrote a post a minute ago about speaking and believing the best for our children. In doing so, I forgot to discuss the other side of this particular coin: what your children might be speaking to themselves.
When I was young, our small church congregation prayed collectively, led by one of the church deacons. I can remember one gentleman who was often asked to lead us in prayer. Man, he could turn a phrase, and there was a melody to his voice that made his prayers memorable. In fact, he prayed the exact same prayer every Sunday. You would think I would have taken note of his character such that people wanted him to lead prayer, or his sincerity in talking with the Father. At that age, what I instead latched on to was his repetitiveness. I concluded that prayer needed to be pleasing to the ears of those who heard it, poetic even.
It was not until I was in my mid-20’s that I grew weary of eloquence with limited results. Ritual is never a good substitute for relationship, yes? It took me a minute to understand that the words were already there—in the Bible. God had already told me what to say, and even how to say it.
Learning to pray the Word has changed my prayer life and my Bible study tremendously. More importantly, it has changed the results of my prayers; seeing God move according to His Word has increased my faith. But I still did not intentionally teach this dynamic of prayer to our children. I figured, they’ll get it; after all, we study the Bible every day, right?
Color me surprised when our youngest came to us a couple of weeks ago, overwhelmed and distraught by everything she has seen and heard of recent world events. Real news, fake news, and everything in between—it all came crashing down on her in one big flood of emotions. As she tried to articulate what was happening in her mind and heart, I was caught totally off guard because none of what is happening should have been a surprise to her. After all, we study current events weekly, and her dad and I talk about world happenings every day. We talk—a lot— about the impact of what everything means to us as Believers in Christ, as African-Americans, and as parents of two young adults who do not live under our roof.
Maybe that is the problem.
After listening to our daughter, I was forced to reacquaint myself with the fact that kids do not always hear things as you think you said them. Also, she is old enough until she is not always under us. We are not there when she is reading articles from her phone, or talking with her friends (whose opinions are probably shaped by their parents as well), or taking in someone’s (mis)interpretations of what it all means. So, I am thinking, how do we capture the best of what we are doing, but also be more sensitive to how what we do affects young ears? In other words, how do we balance real, rich, meaningful discussion without scaring our child to death? Maybe someone reading this might have a similar question. Here is where my head is right now:
Word in, Word out: We are told that the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all things seen and heard (John 14:26). What is implicit in this Word is that something must be seen and heard first for us to remember it. We have to expose our kids to the Word, whether it is via inductive study, memorization, object lessons, or whatever. My friend Angela demonstrates a very practical application of the Word taught to her children, based upon Keys for Kids‘ studies.
Role modeling: it occurs to me that kids watch our actions as much, if not more, as they hear our words. If our first reaction is to panic, we teach them to panic. If we speak inappropriately (profanity, blasphemy, etc.), guess what words they learn? So it stands to reason that if we put the Word on a situation first…As a friend of mine often says, ‘The Word works IF we work it.’
Minding my tongue: Enough said, yes? We hold the very power of life and death in our tongues. Our words mean something, and again, they might mean something very different to little ears than was our intent when we spoke them. Our conversations might be the very source of our children’s apprehensions.
Targeted memorization: A family favorite in our home is 2 Timothy 1:7: ‘For God has not sent the spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.’ (NIV) Over the years, those words have helped them walk upstairs alone, sleep in their own beds on a stormy night, and perform many tasks without screaming, “Moooooooommmmm!!” James 1: 2-4 might another powerful passage to put to memory.
Intentional discussions about feelings: Admittedly, I have lost my status as the coolest person on the planet now that she is a teenager, and my new position is a back seat to all her friends who can better relate (so she thinks). But I make the most of those moments when she wants to talk, and I even designed into her bullet journal a few reflection questions to prayerfully help me with where is her head in the moment.
Looking for more on the idea of helping your children deal with the realities of this life season? Check out a couple of articles below:
How about you? How are you teaching your kids to weather these turbulent times?