Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Lead Your Child to Jesus- Part 2

Yesterday I began a series of posts to provide parents with some helpful principles/practices in leading their children to a relationship with Jesus. Establishing a good understanding of the character of God is key in laying the proper foundation for any spiritual transformation. I listed that as "Step 1", but these steps are more concurrent rather than sequential as these things will all be taking place at the same time.

Step 2: Help your child understand their need for a Savior

In our culture, which has such a strong emphasis on promoting self-esteem and tolerance, parents can feel like they are going to scar their children or squelch their unique identity in providing strong boundaries, firm consequences, a clear instruction on what is okay and not okay. On the contrary, parents do their children a great disservice in allowing the child too much freedom. Children are free to THRIVE in an environment where they know where the boundaries lie and what to expect. There's plenty more to say on that topic, but not in this post...

The most important lesson for a child 0-5 years old to learn is that they are under authority, and you, as their parent, are that authority. That may sound harsh, but take a second to play out in your mind what the consequences will be for them if they don't learn that lesson. They will not respect their teachers in school. They will not respect their boss once they get a job. They may not respect various laws. And they will undoubtedly have trouble accepting spiritual authority.

Your kids need to know that you, as the one who loves them more than anyone else on this earth loves them, will make decisions on their behalf as to what is okay and what is not okay. And out of your love and desire to protect them, you will provide consistent consequences to train them to obey. This mirrors our relationship with our loving Heavenly Father, so our kids are learning how God relates to us by how we relate to them.

The reality is our children will disobey. (Intentionally, frequently, and often with great fervor!) When they disobey, your response is paramount. You certainly do not want to shame a child, but neither do you want to make them immediately feel okay. The goal is for the child to feel remorseful over their sin, to realize that there is a standard and they're not hitting it. They need to experience a sadness regarding their failed attempts to make good choices.

If a child never feels that discrepancy between who they are and who they want (and God wants) them to be, they will never feel their need for a Savior. When you see that remorse in your child's heart, you have the amazing privilege of sharing with them the gift of forgiveness! That kind of forgiveness, when someone feels desperately in need of it, is like healing balm to the soul. They can clearly see that they cannot meet the standard in their own power, no matter how had they try. They are in need of the mercy and forgiveness of a Savior.

So, let's get really practical. How do you get your child to feel remorseful over their sin? By asking heart-probing questions.

Don't just address the sinful behavior, but the heart behind the behavior. Peel back the layers on the motivation behind the choice. Guide your child, through your questions, to discover the sin in their hearts.

Caedmon threw a roll of packaging tape at Sammy this morning and hit him in the mouth. Our (private) conversation went like this...
Me: "What happened?"
C: "I threw the tape at Sammy."
Me: "Yes, and it hit him in the mouth. Was that kind or unkind?"
C: "Unkind"
Me: "What does the Bible say about the way we're supposed to treat others?"
C: "Do to them what we want them to do to us."
Me: "How would it make you feel if I threw the tape and hit you in the mouth?"
C: "Bad"
Me: "And what else?"
C: "Sad"
Me: "So how do you think it made Sammy feel?"
C: "Bad"

And then we went through the appropriate apologies. Thinking back on it, I could have probed deeper. I could have addressed what he was feeling when he threw the tape (possibly annoyed or angry) and tried to get to the root of that.

There are a couple great books on this. Shepherding A Child's Heart and Don't Make Me Count to Three have been great resources for me.

The bottom line, your precious, adorable, sweet little angel needs to realize that he/she is not perfect! They are under authority and cannot, on their own, live up to the standards set by that authority. They are in need of forgiveness. And most importantly, they are in need of a Savior.

Part 3 of this series coming up next week...

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