I meant to post this yesterday, but about the time I finished it, my computer crashed and I lost most of my work. Maybe it is better than it would have been had I posted it earlier.
One of the topics I like to think about is when to teach. Now, my mom made a comment once that parents tend to use Scripture only when they’re correcting their children. I know that I’ve recognized myself doing that sometimes, and probably every time I share a Scripture in an unpleasant time, I evaluate whether I’m teaching in other times, too. I’ve mentioned on my blog that I love to talk about spiritual things at breakfast and in the car. I don’t do it every time. In fact, I think it’s been five or six days since I’ve said anything remotely spiritual at the breakfast table (other than saying Obey mom and eat your cereal). However, I’m thinking today about the situation more than the location or specific time. Here is my list, but I’m sure others can add to it
- Teach during crises. Whether unfair treatment, conflict, or fears, showing children that God’s Word is a help in solving their problems is of great value. Surprisingly to me, showing a child what God’s Word doesn’t teach is a help. I’ve been trying to help David understand that sadness because his dad is deployed is not a sin. Crying because we miss our dad isn’t a sin, and we can cry out to the Lord for help even if our heart is breaking. He’s at a stage where he wants to be good, so he’s been keeping his feelings hidden because he thinks they’re bad. Now that I think of it, I think I’m going to spend some time showing how King David expressed deep emotion along with a confidence in God. Maybe today at breakfast.
- Teach when exposed to a bad example. Whether an adult or child, a stranger or a friend, whether at home, church, or in the community, children are watching others. Beware that it’s easy to teach a sense of pride along with teaching them to avoid bad behavior. Since God uses negative examples in his word, I see them of great value, but I also want to teach them that we are all sinners. I might say, “Let’s pray for our friend who is having a hard time obeying today. We have a hard time obeying, too, don’t we?” By reminding them that they struggle, too, I’m hoping to encourage a spirit of humility as they observe the lessons their friends are learning. Sometimes my children will ascribe evil motives to someone, and I try to acknowledge that while those motives are a possibility, there could be other reasons. That’s why we really don’t know.
- Sometimes a bad example can be in literature or television programs. These are sometimes the best kind of example, because your kids can’t go up to Amy March and tell her how sinful she’s being. While a steady diet of bad examples is not helpful for our spiritual lives (evil communications corrupt good morals), even godly people sin (King David is a classic biblical example) and we can learn from their negative example.
- If we use bad examples to teach, we probably should use good examples at least as often. Otherwise we run the risk of rearing children who spend their lives scrutinizing others for the dark side of their lives. Ick. What we praise is significant, because it reveals much about traits that we value. Do we praise outward expressions of Christian behavior (like going to church often) or the fruit of the spirit? Do we value integrity or humility when we admire others out loud? I plan to take some time and think of some good examples that I can share with my children this week. If I don’t do it deliberately, I probably won’t do it at all.
- Share when God teaches you something. Learning from someone else’s mistakes is much easier than learning from one’s own. When God is teaching me something, I find it difficult sometimes to share those things with my children. Contrary to what we think, our children respond positively to our transparency (shared on a child’s level, of course) and learn from us what the Christian life is all about. Deliberately sharing what we’re learning may also cause us to evaluate what God really is teaching us, and challenge us spiritually in another new way.
I’ve got a few related thoughts, but I’ll share them another day. Can you think of any other occasions for teaching?