How do you know what a child believes about God? If you want to know, just ask them! When one Sunday School teacher who was teaching through the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23) asked their 5-8 year old students what they thought “peace” was, the responses were varied; here are some of my favorite answers.
- My Mom says “it’s when everyone is asleep, but her”
- Sharing one of your favorite toys and then, not hitting your friend even though they sat on it and broke it
- When everyone gets exactly what they want to eat at dinner
- When my Dad gets to sit in his chair and control the remote control
- Grandpa said without quiet, there is no peace and since it’s never quiet in our house, peace doesn’t exist
These children’s God-knowledge brings a smile to our face; out-of-the-mouth-of-babes we discover what we have taught them. Life observations that often occur in everyday conversations reveal our child’s everyday theology. As they grow older, staying on top of these perceptions is key so we ensure our children are building a foundation of solid truth about God and who He is, how He works and how they can know and love Him. To discover what our children are thinking and remain influential in their spiritual faith formation, consider the following A, B, C and D.
A. Ask questions and listen well before you give advice. No matter how old they are. Do you want them to respect you? Then, model respect to them first by giving them an opportunity to explain themselves. Try not to jump in too soon so they have the time and space they need to make themselves heard.
B. Be in consistent conversations. Theology is a process of learning and growing both in orthodoxy (beliefs) and orthopraxy (living out our beliefs). This requires conversations every day whether we are walking, relaxing or driving to church (Deuteronomy 11:19 ). Hint: if a conversation isn’t going well, think about walking away and trying again another day; remember – faith formation is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line. Winning an argument could cost you future conversations and thus, your influence is diminished in their lives.
C. Communicate with them over dictating to them. Fear can lead us to try and control our children (preschoolers and young adults alike). To live by faith, not fear, be self-aware of your stress and worry, take a deep breath and seek to respond with calm wisdom, avoiding knee-jerk reactions.
D. Depend on God in prayer. We won’t be “quick to listen and slow to speak” unless we are depending on God’s Spirit to guide our thoughts, calm our hearts and produce the fruit needed for godly influence. Ask God for His peace that passes understanding for in that stillness, we will sense God’s voice guiding and leading us.
What do our children believe? Building a solid theology that informs our children’s everyday lives comes in all shapes and sizes, just like our children. As children grow, it will come to mean different things to them and they’ll have different questions. Approaching our everyday conversations about their everyday theology can be as simple as A, B, C and D.
Here are some final thoughts on peace to encourage you as you parent:
- Silence is usually associated with peace, unless they are yours and are upstairs playing – then silence is suspicious…
- Peace is only one drive-through away when your child doesn’t need a sippy cup because they have finally reached the magical age of drinking through a straw.
- I could get a medal for world peace and not feel as accomplished as potty training a child.
- Peace is that glorious moment in the morning when no one is conscious but me!
- Of course my children experience peace – I’m the one up most of the night overthinking their lives for them…
Blessings to you and the precious children in your life. Fondly yours, Elizabeth