May 27, 2024

Raising Responsible Kids

smileboy.jpgIn a culture preoccupied with entertaining and having fun, how do we as Christians ensure that our children grow up equipped to handle adulthood with success?

Yesterday in my post, Are We Having Fun Yet, we talked about the growing trend of irresponsibility and immaturity evidenced in many young adults.

And why shouldn’t they value pleasure over purpose? We reinforce this wrong attitude by encouraging our kids to enjoy their childhood, by giving them every electronic toy and media available, by planning the best vacations, sending them to the best sports camps; in short, telling them that life is all about doing whatever it takes to be happy.

Childhood should have its carefree moments, but childhood is also the time to cultivate the good habits and godly character that prepare one to value a life lived with direction and purpose.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Qualities we want to strive toward:

  • financial and emotional security
  • great relationship skills
  • steady and reliable, vs bowing out when the going gets tough
  • contentment and thankfulness

And most importantly:

  • having a “Holy Ambition” (as described by John Piper, follow the link)

Financial and Emotional Security

How do you spend your time and money? This speaks loudly to your children… Try to guide them early on in a Biblical mindset on hard work and giving. Teach them an empathy for others, rather than focusing on themselves.

A couple ways we’ve done this is by being up front and conversational about such things as Hurricane Katrina, the Asian Tsunamis and children at risk. Children’s hearts go out to other hurting children, maximize on this empathy while they’re young, and encourage them to give money to help others.

At the same time, teach them responsibility with the money they have. Give them daily chores, and on top of that, occasionally create opportunities for them to earn money from doing jobs outside their required ones. Crown Financial has a great piggy bank designed to teach the Biblical concepts of giving, saving and spending.

Chores make your child feel a vital and needed part of the family. They also teach them that if everyone does their job everyone benefits. (It’s not fun to pick up a room that’s been neglected for two weeks, vs keeping up with it on a daily basis)

Affirm to them that they are needed and loved. Thank them for all they do for you. Occasionally, point out areas in which they could do better (but only in times of non-conflict).

Great Relationship Skills

Imagine how many marriages and boss/employee relationships would be furthered if adults knew the basics of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Anything you can do to teach selflessness to your child will reap gi-normously (as my nine yo would say) in their future relationships.

Steady and Reliable

These qualities are the pluses of responsible people. There are many ways to reinforce them in your children:

  • be steady and reliable yourself! Volunteer your time and do it joyfully giving 100% effort (bring your kids into it as well–family bonding)
  • expect them to do what you tell them when you tell them to do it!
  • if they fail to accomplish what you’ve required, let there be a consequence. For instance, if they forget their homework at home as a 5th grader, don’t rush it to school for them. If you told them they could watch a movie if they fulfill “such and such” don’t remind them, and harp at them to get it done or else. Just leave it up to them and simply remind them that they didn’t get the end result because they didn’t prove up in the allotted time frame.
  • don’t let them get in the habit of giving you excuses
  • if they can’t keep up with one responsibility (like keeping their toys picked up) then they’re not ready for another responsibility (like owning a pet). They need to deserve those steps up the responsibility ladder…
  • point out the consequences others are paying for their bad choices, do this without being judgmental, and only if you trust your child not to act rudely or pridefully with the information
  • in the same way, point out the benefits of wise choices

Some of these may seem harsh, but they can be carried out in a loving and firm manner. Your child can have another chance on brand new day. Also, you implement these in baby steps. The older the child, the greater the responsibility that is required. If you start young, you’ll have less resistance as you increase the expectations.

Teaching Contentment and Thankfulness

This is an amazing quality that once learned will serve your child forever.

I’ll never forget talking to my middle child about her “glass half empty” outlook. She’d entered a whiny, complaining stage that frustrated me to no end. This amazing little talk really struck her and as a result, she now strives to view her circumstances with a “glass half full” optimism and thankfulness. Things, after all, could be much worse. And in our relative affluence to all those dying of hunger and poverty, we really need to underscore to our children the importance of contentment.

Having a Holy Ambition

If I do nothing else, I pray that my children grow up with a heart for God. Teaching responsibility in the above ways is a major inroad helping this goal of mine along. There’s no room for spiritual or physical laziness in a culture such as ours.

Consider what John Piper said to the children in his sermon entitled, Holy Ambition: To Preach Where Christ Has Not Been Named:

“But some day you won’t be a little boy any more. And one of the differences between being a little boy and growing up is that growing up as a Christian means you get a holy ambition. And that means the fun of guns and trucks and balls gets small and the joy of fighting for justice and salvation gets big. Growing up means getting a holy ambition to wield the sword of the Spirit mightily and drive a truckload of love to the needy and kick Satan’s rear end in the name of Jesus.” John Piper, August 27, 2006

Parents, raising your children to be responsible adults is your godly privilege. It’s your main contribution to a lost world.

Let’s take this one seriously.

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15 thoughts on “Raising Responsible Kids

  1. I find the financial responsibility to be a key part to educating kids. With all the credit card offers and such I see on a college campus it’s important that those students know good financial skills!

  2. Ouch! That’s for sure. I can’t imagine the life-long debt they could incur with no restraint in this area…talk about added stress to every aspect of life. Money sure can be the root of all evil.

  3. Here’s what I have found shocking recently: I’m told, and I have yet to verify the stats, that some HUGE majority of missionaries, globally, are women. While I certainly think it is important to teach young men financial responsibility and the skills to be able to support a family, without what you call Holy Ambition what’s the point?

    About the percentage: in the youth mission program I heard the statistic from, they are currently running anywhere from 3 boys to 5 or 6 girls, to 2 boys to 10 girls. They will not take girl-only teams.

  4. You’re right that is shocking. I knew the numbers of men entering the ministry were fewer, but didn’t know actual numbers. Just paving the way for all those women pastors…where are all the men?

    Thanks for sharing that, Rebecca.

  5. I’m not sure if an enjoyable childhood in which children are encouraged to play is necessarily a bad thing. Children are designed to learn through play, and imaginitive play is a very important part of this. Of course, the point you raise is still right. If we just buy all the latest toys, where does the imagination go? Hannah loves being pushed around in the laundry basket, and both girls like to climb onto a blanket and “fly away” to exotic places. We don’t need a filght simulator to make that work!

    Video games are also an issue because of the time they waste, and the sedentry lifestyle they encourage. But I don’t think we need to ban video games – we just need to keep the balance right. The same for television and just about everything else.

    But where I think our society (and maybe yours – I don’t know for sure) is going wrong is in the whole notion of “youth culture” as something different from our current culture. The reason these young people are not growing up, and are learning to behave like debauched idiots is because they are associating only with other young people. They disdain contact with more mature adults, and nothing in our society really forces them to associate with adults any more.

    Now it is basic human nature that we conform to our societal norms, because (in the absence of Christ at least) we derive our sense of significance from our standing in whatever group or society we inhabit. So if you get groups of young people, they derive significance and a sense of self worth from one another by behaving in a manner that idolises what sets their group apart (their youth). And so they act more like immature people – because they need the sense of self worth that this brings them.

    So how do we change it?

    In our churches we have “youth work”, which is important. But youth work that separates the youth from the Church and never attempts to integrate them into the larger body is counter productive. It becomes increasingly secular and often embarrassing. It dishonours God.

    So bring the youth work back into the life of the Church. Involve the pastor and everyone else. Have joint events, and fund raising by young people working with or for the older people.

    Hmm.. I’ve written enough here that I think I may post it on my blog too 🙂


  6. Stephen, thank you for the great comment, I, too, was thinking, ooh, this would make a great post! Glad you’re going to take it further at your blog…

    I agree, children do need playtime…in fact, I think I sometimes let mine have entirely too much play time. It’s something I’ve been mulling over, for sure. I like the fact that having girls means that any time they spend playing babies or “house” or baking cookies is constructive playtime that prepares them for motherhood and homemaking. When I made the comment I did: “we reinforce this wrong attitude by encouraging our children to enjoy childhood”…I should have thought of a better way to phrase it.

    Excellent point about the “youth culture”…I’ve seen this play out time and again in our church, and among our friends. It made homeschooling so attractive to us, because most of the homeschooled children we knew were mature on many levels, able to relate with all age groups, not just their peers. Our former pastor was so involved with our youth group and really pushed the dads to get involved, vs relying on a young hip youth pastor. Sadly, it didn’t go over well with kids that just want to escape mom and dad’s eagle eye. I have to say though, our current youth pastor and his wife are wonderful and doing a great job, though youth groups do always seem to be their own little entity. I wish you’d blog ideas about incorporating them more into the church. I liked the fundraising one…our youth group has done the “slave for a day” where they sign up to work for donations to raise money for their mission trips, etc.

    Again, thank you for getting my wheels turning, this is a great conversation.


  7. Stephen, your point about the youth culture is exactly what is keeping me awake at nights these days. I am beginning to ask the question, “why is youth work important?” or maybe the better question would be, “why have a youth group?”

    It seems the excuse is often “because the parents aren’t training the kids”. Well, if a husband wasn’t doing his job in the home, when would we ever counsel the wife to jump in and do it for him? Never, of course! So why should the church be attempting to disciple the youth (and failing very badly at it, I might add)?

    Mary, it is particularly troubling to me to see the church extending youth on up through early adulthood. Our church has a separate “college and career” Sunday School, taught by the pastor; the young adults are NEVER seen mixing with any other age group.

    Sure the youth group went and Christmas caroled at the homes of widows. But what we really want is LIFE together, not just an isolated event.

    Why have a High School ski trip? Why not a family ski trip?

    Why have separate game nights for junior high, young marrieds, and 0ver 55s? Why not have game nights where we all play together?

    Uh, I’ll get off my soapbox now. … And head over to Stephen’s blog. 🙂

  8. Rebecca, I don’t think it is wrong to have a youth group – particularly as it can give the young people a group through which they can conduct evangelism. The danger is that this group becomes divorced from the life of the Church, and that we think that becaise we have a youth work that we are catering for our young people.

  9. It is especially suited for evangelism amongst other young people, because the young people can be encouraged to invite their non Christian friends, thus bringing them to a place where they can hear the gospel message and see the truth of the gospel in the lives of the other youth in the group.

    Not all youth groups do this – but it should be an aim of the group I think.

  10. Well, we have seen that model work, on at least one occasion, in our church, although clearly it works better with younger children (such as in Awana). Most of our teens are either homeschooled or attend Christian schools, there is very little evangelistic inviting that happens.

    Another model would be to teach the kids to bring the gospel message to those outside the church themselves. (I actually am beginning to question the “invite people to church” method of evangelism for all of us.)

    Unfortunately, what many people would in terms of truth in the lives of the kids might be overshadowed by cliqueish-ness, a problem I believe develops, at least in part, from a sincere desire of the parents to have their kids in a “nice group of Christian friends”.

    I agree that evangelism is a positive aim for a youth group. Or any group, for that matter.

  11. Cliques clearly needs to be avoided. I think the “invite people to church” method of evangelism only really works if the people being invited are comfortable with the Church culture. In the past, when society was more religious, people who were not Christians would be comfortable in coming into church buildings, where they could hear the gospel. Now, if we want non Christians to come into church, we need to consider how our church culture differs from the world culture.

    But once in a church, there can be no better place to hear the gospel.

    Youth groups can bridge the gap to some extent by offering a safe environment in which other young people can get used to Christian young people and the things they choose to do.

  12. For some time now I’ve been convinced that if we are going to reach our culture we have to do more to meet them where they are instead of expecting them to come to us.

    I’m not saying that it didn’t happen in the New Testament times, but all the examples of sharing the Gospel in Acts seems to be a whole lot more about people going into places with the good news rather than people going out and inviting people back to their groups. It seems like the evangelistic work was done external and the edification work was done internal.

    So, for the past few years, I’ve pushed Good News Clubs instead of VBS, and wanted to start Home Evangelistic Bible Studies. Seems to me we need a better job of reaching out instead of hoping people will come in and hear.

  13. Stephen ~ you make a good point about people’s comfort in being in church. These days I wonder if many people don’t even know anyone who is a Christian.

    Man ~ another outreach I think has tremendous potential is lunch-time office Bible studies. I would love to see our men’s outreach done in small groups scattered through-out the city, rather than another evening out at church away from the family.

    Unfortunately, nobody asks me.

  14. Interesting, Rebecca. There are three men from my church that work at my company and my father who is also a Christian and our church is right across the street. One of the things that I told our pastor when he came– which was last year– was that we should start a prayer time or something at my workplace. It’s fascinating to see that we’re thinking on the same page.

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