The Bible says many things to parents about this. We know we have been given the task to
- Raise up our children in the paths that they are to go
- We are to tell our children of the good things God has done
- We are to talk constantly of His ways
- We are not to provoke our children to wrath
- Bring them up in the way of the Lord
One of the surest ways to provoke our children to wrath is to be two-faced. Our children see hypocrisy very quickly. Therefore if we want our children to love the Word of God, to pursue the things of God we must be doing so, truthfully, ourselves.This is the number one thing we can do for our children – we must be walking the talk. We must be living our lives according to what we believe. So often life is more caught than taught.
Parents, are you having a Regular Devotional Time?
At times I have wondered about my own personal daily devotions – just like many other mums – we struggle to fit in that private time. So now, with my children older and the privilege of more time to myself, I can look back and see that the things that I did do for my own daily devotion have actually had an impact on my children.
Since I became a Mum, I have had my devotions in the middle of the house, at the dining room table. My purpose behind this was always so that my kids could see me. Though this meant that I didn’t always get that private time that I sometimes yearned for, it did mean that the children saw me reading, studying, and praying. The negative side of this is that there were interruptions.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful, later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
So instead of seeing those interruptions as inconveniences they were moments of training the child. First, to respect my time with God and secondly to see what having a devotional time was like. It was a discipline on the child and it was a discipline on myself to train the child.
This started from a very young age and by preschool age they were sitting doing quiet things until it was their own time with God (with Mummy or Daddy). As the kids grew older, and started to have not only their own devotional time, but also their own rhythm to their days, I called for a family rule of all quiet until 7.00am. After that time, music goes on, chores happen, breakfast starts and if you are not finished with God, you have the freedom to continue in amongst the noise or to move to a quieter place.This was one way we balanced a growing family and everyone’s needs.
Parents can Help their Child Develop Personal Devotional Time
When my children were very young they would often climb up on my knee and sit there while I finished reading and journaling. They knew that if they wriggled they would be put down. Sometimes they were even taken back to bed to start the morning over again. But most times they would sit there and just cuddle.
As they grew older, they had their own little quiet time box/basket. If they woke early enough they would sit at the table with me and ‘read’ and draw. When I was finished I would read them something from their Children’s Bible, we would talk about it and they would sometimes draw something else while I went on with my next thing.
By the time they were actually reading and writing, it wasn’t long before they wanted to do their quiet time by themselves in their room. By this time, I would have another child on my knee, and maybe one at the table as well. It was my devotional time (I called it Mummy’s Bible time) and the children learnt they needed to respect what I was doing, and they could join in if they wanted to. If they didn’t want to they needed to sit else where and be quiet or go back to their bed.
Have Realistic Expectations about Children and Their Quiet Times
It is too easy to think that little children will have regular quiet times if we just do things right and show them how to do it. We must remember the reason why we have devotional time, and that is so that we can connect with God and grow closer to Him. Unless our children want to know more about Jesus, then we are just putting them through actions. Actions that one day they will realise mean nothing.
When my kids were little they loved to sit with me, they wanted me to read a Bible story to them. But there were seasons in their growing up that Bible time, or devotions, or quiet times were just a motion that the kids went through. When I felt this was happening, I would encourage them to not have their Bible time. If they were seeking, then sure, there is hard and dry times when we wonder where God is and I would encourage them to talk to me about their questions and struggles. But if they are just doing it because it is what Mum said to do – there is danger in that.
We can get excited, as parents, when our children practice the daily habit of meeting with God; when they take ownership of their walk with God. But we must remember that this is more than just something we tick off our “parenting to-do list” – encouraging our children in the Lord is a discipline, even though it is also a joy, that we must commit to for the rest of our life. Having a daily devotional time, is just a part of the picture.
There is more to Discipleship than Devotional Time
Our children’s whole faith doesn’t hang on the quality of their devotional time. Whether our kids had a personal quiet time or not, our family life had other opportunities and times where we would read the Bible, talk and pray together.
Teaching our children to have a regular time of reading and reflection is important parenting job. But we need to make sure, above all else, that our children have a relationship with God, that is more important than the practice of a daily devotional time.