One day they’re cute, toddling around, listening to everything you say (!)… the next they’re spotty, answering back and full of issues… It was lovely of Rachel to ask me to write a post about parenting older children (admittedly they’re now several months older than when she first asked) but like most of us, I don’t really feel I have any answers, but am just learning as I go. It’s great to be able to learn together though and support each other on this journey, so hopefully something of what I’ve written here may be of some use, just as the posts I’ve already read have helped me.
So here’s what I’ve found so far about bringing my kids up to love God (four Fs although it wasn’t intentional!):
- Make it “Fun” – it’s important that kids have a happy experience of church. Having friends their age on a Sunday may not always be possible, but making an effort to take them to activities where they will get the chance to mix with other kids is important. At home there are ways we can make what may otherwise seem a duty quite fun – we do the readings on the iPad and we also discovered a Bible Quiz app that asks questions based on the chapters for the day. These are little things but they do make a difference – I’d love to hear of any suggestions anyone else has.
- Be “Flexible” – we make sure our kids regularly come with us on a Sunday but, in the same way that we all have a holiday sometimes, we do give them licence to miss it occasionally. This has led to some interesting and open discussions with them about why we do that. Our answer (and you may disagree) is that God is our priority but that we want them to come to love Him as we do because they want to, not because we’ve forced them to. We explain that if we make them miss every party that is organised on a Sunday, they may grow up resenting Him. It seems to be working as the first thing Charlie wants to know when he receives an invitation for a Sunday is whether he can still go to Sunday School.
- God time is “Family” time – we all know that children learn by example, so we must make every effort to set them a good one. Praying together, reading the Bible together, going to church together, and above all discussing issues and questions openly and honestly as a family, I believe set a good foundation for our children.
- Admit your “Failures” – following on from that, it is important to be honest both with yourself and with your kids and admit when you’re wrong. Children see clearly through hypocrisy and there is nothing worse for their faith than a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. And, as we all know, we won’t get it right all the time (in fact most of the time I’m afraid to say!) so it’s really important not to beat ourselves up, but as Helen said in her blog post, to forgive ourselves. Again, this teaches that nobody’s perfect (even parents!), but that we’re all trying our best and dependent on God’s mercy.
God bless us all as we try to do the best we can to bring our children up to love and serve Him.