Slow Down and Breathe (guest post)

You don't have to meet someone in person to respect and appreciate them.
Leigh Ann is a wise and thoughtful parent who lives with purpose, like 
Intentional Parenting should be done. I've benefited from her thoughts many
times, and I know you will here. I'm so glad to welcome her here today.  Be
sure to connect with her using the links at the bottom.

I leaned against the wall of the clothing store changing area and worked to stay upright and attentive. My older daughters had an “urgent” need for new jeans, so I had promised a quick shopping trip after an already long school day and several hours of ball practice.

The week had been a flurry of practices, out-of-town ballgames, and church youth activities—the typical whirlwind of (dis)organized chaos.

So I sighed. And I leaned.

The changing area was empty (other moms fortunate enough to be home starting dinner) so the girls grabbed adjacent rooms. I closed my eyes and waited for the fashion show.

Until I heard a giggle. I looked, and there they were—just beneath the changing room curtains—three beautiful pairs of feet.

Three pairs. Three dressing room stalls. Three places in life.

Tiny baby feet—well, not so tiny. Six years old, mesmerized by her own reflection. Dancing to piped-in music. Thrilled to be a part of what her big sisters were doing. Bright-eyed and eager to follow bigger footsteps.

Middle-sized feet—stretching, yearning to slip into jeans perhaps “too old” or “too big.” Coming into her own. A girlish beauty with one foot in the teen years, one in childhood. A pair of feet on the threshold of possibility.

Almost-grown feet—stylish and trendy. Lovely, feminine, approaching womanhood, but still so much a girl. Feet that “must have” this or that. Always longing for something new, only to discard it a moment later.

Three pairs of feet. Different, but the same. A three-dimensional picture of the glorious spectrum of childhood. Innocent, hopeful, budding. Dreaming of possibilities, of a future.

Imagining life in the next dressing room.

As I waited for my daughters to model their favorite finds, I paused to take in the now gold-hued moment. My heart reached out to God: Please, Lord, let me remember this day. May this image be engraved on my heart and mind, a reminder to be thankful, and to pray for the girls individually and often. May I never be impatient with their life-seasons or push them into the next dressing room. Help me to nurture them where they are, in this time. Thank you, Father, for slowing my frantic pace and opening my eyes.

In the blur of the everyday, we need to stop and simply be. To open our physical and spiritual eyes and see what is before us. To gather priceless snapshots in time and tuck them away for another—quieter—day.

To be still, breathe, and be thankful. To live Psalm 90:12—Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

This day, this moment is a rare treasure. How will we breathe it in?

*

(Originally published on Just18Summers.com)

“In the blur of the everyday, we need to stop and simply be. To be still, breathe, and be thankful.” #IntentionalParenting wisdom–even on a quick shopping trip–from @LThomasWrites, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet) 

Have you had one of those “I have to remember this!” moments in parenting? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

IP - LeighAnnThomas_headshot2Leigh Ann Thomas is a wife, mother, grammy, writer, and chocolate enthusiast. She has penned four books, including Ribbons, Lace, and Moments of Grace—Inspiration for the Mother of the Bride (SonRise Devotionals) and Smack-Dab in the Midlife Zone—Inspiration for Women in the Middle (Elk Lake Publishing, 2019 release). A regular contributor to Just18Summers.com and InTheQuiver.com, she has also published with Southern Writers Magazine, Power for Living, Southern Writers Best Short Fiction, and other magazines and compilations. You can find Leigh Ann on her front porch daydreaming story plots or blogging at LeighAThomas.com. Connect on Twitter at @LThomasWrites.

 

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Stack the Stones and Tell the Stories

I love those historical markers you see along the roads. They’re embossed metal, with print so small you could never read it from the car, even if you weren’t zooming past. Some stand beside busy thoroughfares, but some are on quiet streets or by scenic overlooks. We stop if we can. (I guess we’re history nerds.)

When we read those signs, we learn a little bit of relevant history. But more importantly, we’re reminded that we’re standing where many others have stood: living, fighting, succeeding (and failing), dying. Continue reading “Stack the Stones and Tell the Stories”

Why We Let Our Kids Cuss at the Dinner Table

Our plates were full. We had said the blessing, and our forks were busy. We were talking about our day, like we usually did around the dinner table, when my seven-year-old dropped an F-bomb in the middle of her sentence.

I swallowed my steamed broccoli without chewing.

The look on her face told me she knew she’d done something…questionable. “Hey sweetie, where’d you hear that word?”

“What word?”

As if she didn’t know!

I made myself say it as casually as possible.

She answered just as casually, “At school.”

Of course. (I could probably have guessed which child said it, but we won’t go into that here.) I glanced at our four-year-old, then back to the older child. “Do you know what it means?”

“Not really. Is it a bad word, like the s-word?” (By which, she meant stupid.)

Um, yes! We talked about the definition for a few minutes, treading lightly toward the level of detail her young mind needed. Then someone changed the subject—thankfully.

We could have shut her down, scolded her for saying such a terrible word, and refused to discuss it. But what good would that do? We would have created something dangerous, something worth trying again.

Instead, we demystified it. We made it not-a-big-deal by explaining the word and why we didn’t use it.

Before you start busting out Bible verses on me, let me assure you this is where we always end up:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

That little girl is fifteen now. She’s learning to drive.

In the intervening eight years, we’ve had several other inappropriate and/or disgusting conversations at the dinner table, in the car, and on the couch. We’ll probably have more in the next few years, too. At least I hope we do.

Here’s why we chose to parent this way and what I want my kids to know.

  1. My children can ask me anything, and they won’t get in trouble for asking it. I want to be their source of information because I speak from a Christ-centered worldview in an unchristlike world. That’s means sometimes we say words I would never voice on my own and talk about topics I’d rather not discuss. They will discuss these things with someone. Better that it’s me than their peers or the internet.
  2. I was a kid/teenager once, too. I know all the filthy language, all the rude gestures, and most of the dirty jokes. They can’t shock or offend me. (Okay, sometimes these days, my oldest child explains slang terms to me. I’m okay with that.) Therefore, I’ve already made the choice not to talk this way, and I have good reasons, which I will gladly share.
  3. Language becomes offensive in how we use it, not in the combination of letters. The F-word, the B-word, and the S-word have a history. They actually meant something in the past, but our culture has corrupted them. Other aspects of culture are corrupted as well. We can step back and talk about those things with our children, recognizing what glorifies God and what doesn’t, or we can create barriers to their understanding.

In the end, whether it’s bad words or dirty jokes, our standard is biblical. When we (and our children) know why certain words are off-limits, we can all make better choices about the language we use. When we make good choices about language, we’re already making good choices about our thoughts, and we’re on our way to making good choices about our actions.

That time my 7y.o. dropped the F-bomb at our dinner table and what I’ve been doing ever since. #IntentionalParenting sometimes means delving into #offensivelanguage, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Have your kids even busted out a “bad word” at an inappropriate time? Most have. We’d love to hear/read your funny story! Don’t forget to include how you handled it.

Do you have any good advice on helping our children understand and control their language? Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Middle-Grade Heroines You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Everyone knows Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games and Tris Prior of the Divergent series. YA fiction (especially dystopian fiction) abounds with strong female protagonists. But beyond Nancy Drew, such fictional role models are harder to find for the younger set. We scoured libraries and book stores trying to satiate my daughter’s appetite for good books with great girls in the lead. Her standards were high (still are), but we unearthed some awesome series!

Here are five amazing, fictional girls whose names are now embedded in our family conversations. We enthusiastically recommend these heroines to anyone who will listen.

  1. Ruby Redfort
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Ruby Redfort – yes, I took these at my local library (c) Carole Sparks

The Ruby Redfort series, by Lauren Child (of Charlie and Lola fame), packs the punch of James Bond with the quick wit of Lisa Simpson. Unbeknownst to her parents, Ruby becomes a spy, implementing all the best spy gadgets (even the ones she wasn’t supposed to take from headquarters) and repeatedly saving the world while just managing to get her homework done on time. Outlandish enough to make you wonder if it could be true, Ruby’s adventures leave her readers feeling confident and wide-eyed.

If your middle-grade reader loves adventure, intrigue, outlandish contraptions, and problem-solving, introduce her to Ruby Redfort!

  1. Kiki Strike

Kirsten Miller has assembled a group of bad-girl geniuses to protect New York City from below. They’re called the Irregulars. No challenge is too big, no mystery too enigmatic, and no risk too dangerous for these amazing girls! Teamwork doesn’t come easy to this bunch, but they learn to combine their skills to solve mysteries they couldn’t conquer independently. (Why no photo? These books were checked out when we went to the library.)

If your child is ready for more sophisticated stories but not quite up to YA yet, introduce her to Kiki’s band of brilliant misfits who will inspire her own curiosity and courage.

  1. Sophie St. Pierre in Red Blazer Girls
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The Red Blazer Girls (c) Carole Sparks

Michael Beil draws on his experience as a math teacher in a private school to create three friends who attend a private school where, not surprisingly, the uniform includes a red blazer. They’re just trying to help a neighbor when they find themselves following lots of brainy clues and working out geometry puzzles to solve an old mystery. All the while, they’re also dealing with homework, crushes, and typical middle-school drama.

If you just know your young reader would like Nancy Drew (if only she could get past the now-archaic pacing and silly situations), pick up The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour and challenge her to solve the mystery before Sophie.

  1. Princess Annie in Wide Awake Princess

20180305_173811 (2)E.D. Baker has created an anti-princess—a heroine who counters every stereotype of a “good” princess. The younger sister of Sleeping Beauty, Annie is immune to magic and can’t imagine waiting on any prince to come and rescue her. Instead, she repeatedly rescues her big sister and the prince! These books offer a fun, modern twist on well-known fairy tales—one where quick thinking and courage count for more than physical appearance and charm (the feminine kind or the magic kind).

If your early middle-grade reader enjoys the fantastical elements of fairy tales but finds herself frustrated by the classic princess’ inability to help herself, hand her The Wide-Awake Princess.

  1. Emma Hawthorne in The Mother-Daughter Book Club
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(c) Carole Sparks

In this cute series, Heather Vogel Frederick throws four dissimilar sixth-grade girls together against their wills when their mothers decide to form a book club for them. They can’t imagine talking to each other at school, but when they share Little Women, they discover they may have more in common than they expected.

Each book in the series follows the girls through another year of school and another classic work of fiction (including Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë). Frederick integrates her love of classic literature with the standard problems of middle and high schoolers to create sweet friendships and many laughs.

If you would love for your child to read the classics but she’s not interested, let Emma and her friends whet your daughter’s appetite while they also show her that people who are different can learn to care about each other.

From international super-spy to fairy tale anti-princess, these #middlegrade heroines will knock your socks off and provide hours of reading pleasure for your own young hero or heroine. (click to tweet) #IntentionalParenting via @Carole_Sparks

Have a favorite middle-grade book series you would like to recommend? Love or hate one of the series listed above? “Do tell” in the comments below!

Your Child and the 5 Love Languages (guest post)

This week, I'm pleased to introduce you to Jann Martin. On her own blog, 
Jann recently did a series of posts on The 5 Love Languages for Children. I
asked her over here today to summarize all her work and study (in less than
1000 words--no small task). If you haven't read the book, this will be a 
good introduction. If you have, it's still a great reminder (one that I 
needed!). Find out more about Jann at the end of this post.
IP - 5 Love Languages book
The 5 Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

It’s important to teach our children all of The Five Love Languages of Children. This will help them become more rounded adults and care for others around them. It may be difficult for them at first to learn how to reach out to others, but it’s very important that as they grow they learn more about how others feel and act. This will teach them not to be selfish and self-centered, but to care for and about others.

It will take time to figure out your child’s love language. When they are infants we use all of the languages with them. They are very self-centered and can’t tell us the best way to reach out to them. As they grow we will learn what responses work the best. Try to be aware of what words and actions work best in different situations.

Be honest with your children as you talk with them and reprimand them. Don’t, however, tell them what, how, and why you are saying and doing different things. This can lead to the child manipulating you to get what they want.

Describing the “Languages”

Physical touch – Touch in each stage of life is different. For infants and toddlers, it’s easy to give a lot of touch and loving cuddles. Both boys and girls need all of the love and comforting touches they can get.

12-26 friend hugs
showing some love through physical touch (c) Carole Sparks

When the children become school-age it’s important to send them off to school with hugs. This can give them a positive start to their day. There is so much new for them at school that they need that little extra reassurance before they head out for the day. The hug at the end of the day can be just as important, especially if they have had a challenging day.

Next, we come to the pre-teen and teen kids. This can be challenging. They want to break away, yet they still want their full support system to be there for them. Girls especially need reassurance and hugs from their dads to give them a healthy look at men as they grow older.

Words of affirmation – Encouraging our children with words of affirmation gives them the courage they need to grow up to be strong adults. What they learn with these types of lessons gives them the basis for treating others as they would like to be treated as well.

Quality time – We can turn any time with our children into quality time. Take advantage of a long ride. Ask a few questions or share something from your past. Your children will love to hear stories about how you met your husband or wife.

Plan quality time with each of your children. It could be a day alone with them. Go shopping, or to a movie, then their favorite restaurant for a meal. Another example could be reading together. If they can read, have them read their favorite book or a few chapters to you.

Gifts – For some children receiving gifts is very important. They look forward to their parents returning from vacations and business trips. They can’t wait to see what new thing they will receive. However, parents need to be mindful of making sure their child’s other love language needs are met.

We need to be careful not to use gifts as payments for chores or a bribe to stay busy so you can accomplish a task. These types of gifts make a child feel unloved and that receiving the gift is only if they do what is asked of them.

They also may want to make and give gifts to those around them. This can be family, friends, or teachers.

Acts of service – We want our children to grow up wanting to help others. If this is their love language, it’s easy for them to reach out to loved ones. They can do a chore, make a meal, or take them to a place where they can help others. We want to teach them to reach out to those in need around them without expecting something in return. Jesus showed this gift of love over and over throughout his ministry.

Discerning Your Child’s Primary “Language”

As your child grows, keep a mental record of how they express their love to you. Do they tell you they love you? Are they asking for attention, or how they did on a project? Then their love language would be Words of affirmation.

IP - Jesus w children
Don’t you know Jesus demonstrated all of the love languages? (image courtesy Jann Martin)

When they are relating to others and want to take something to friends, family, or teachers, they are showing the language of Gifts. It gives them pleasure to see others happy to receive something from them.

Is your child complaining that you are too busy? Is your time being split with another child or you have work to do around the house because you work away from home and are trying to get everything done? What and how often they are asking for or complaining about will help you see their love language may be Quality Time.

Is Physical touch something that is very important in your relationship with your child? They may enjoy lots of hugs, sitting close, or even being tickled. Any form of touch can be felt as an expression of love for them.

For some the Act of Service is very important. They are always looking for a way to help or do something for someone. They don’t want to be paid or recognized, the act of doing is reward enough for them.

Your child and the 5 Love Languages: how to connect with your child in the way that means the most to them. An #IntentionalParenting guest post from @JannWMartin. #5LoveLanguages (click to tweet)

I hope you learned something new to help you with Intentional Parenting. Which “language” is most challenging for you to demonstrate with your children? Have any fun thoughts or memories on how to show love to your child in the way they best understand? Leave Jann and me a comment below!

 

IP - Jann MartinJann W. Martin is a wife, mother of two girls, and Nina to four grandchildren. She is also an author, teacher, speaker and blogger. Her dream is to captivate the hearts of children, by writing stories that teach them of the Bible through the eyes of a child. Catch up with Jann on any of these platforms:

https://jannwmartin.com/  https://twitter.com/JannWMartin https://www.pinterest.com/jannwmartin/pins/  https://www.facebook.com/booksjann.christianchildren?ref=bookmarks          https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/?trk

 

Time to Take Out the Trash! (guest post)

This girl! I just love her honest perspective and practical attitude. 
I met Jenifer at a writers conference last May, and I immediately wanted her
to share here on Intentional Parenting. It took almost a year but here she
is! I'm sure you'll be blessed by her words...and maybe you'll think about
your own stinky trash can a little differently in the future. You can read
more about Jenifer at the bottom.

A few months ago I walked into the house and the smell hit me. It was overwhelming. The trash HAD to go!

I had been in the house all day and I didn’t smell it, but when I left and came back it was overwhelming. I didn’t realize how bad it had become.

I also saw this with our daughter’s attitude. Continue reading “Time to Take Out the Trash! (guest post)”

Memorable Mealtimes (guest post)

I’m proud to welcome Meredith Mills to Intentional Parenting today! She has 
some great ideas to help us maintain and/or improve our family mealtime. 
You can read more about Meredith and get in touch with her at the bottom of 
this post.

“I’m glad we eat together as a family,” said my pre-teen daughter as she served up a second helping. Her comment warmed my heart. I, too, love our shared moments around the table.

Sometimes they’re rushed as we squeeze in a meal before Wednesday night AWANA or some other obligation. But most often, our dinners are times of sweet fellowship as we experience life together.

Mealtimes provide a regular opportunity for us to touch base and talk about what’s going on in our everyday lives. Relationships blossom as we listen to each other’s hearts and respond with acceptance and love.

As parents, we equip ourselves to provide protection for our kids when we discuss interactions with friends, observe attitudes, and listen to what’s important to them.

Here are some practical tips for creating memorable mealtimes:

  • Unplug

We are less distracted and more people-focused when our devices are turned off or stowed away from the table. Our family has a designated “phone basket” for use during meals.

  • Keep it relaxed

Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance around the dinner table. This is a fabulous time to discuss issues important to our family and model respect as each person explains his or her opinion. When God’s Word and His grace are central, these discussions can build up the faith of those gathered there.

  • Facilitate conversation

The internet abounds with “conversation starters” – questions we can ask to get the proverbial ball rolling. (We recently bought a pack of napkins which had discussion questions printed on each napkin!) The best questions require more than yes or no answers. They probe deeply into hearts, souls and imaginations; they strengthen the friendships we share.

  • Make room for fun

Our kids love to tell their newest jokes and riddles during dinner. Sometimes we also craft impromptu stories around the table. One person starts out the story and sets the scene, then “passes the baton” to the next person, who adds his or her own ideas to the plot. It’s our family’s version of a choose-your-own adventure story.

  • Model healthy habits

From portion control and eating our veggies, to providing an example of good listening skills, mealtimes enable us to model habits our kids need to lead healthy lives.

  • Find your own rhythm

For many families, busy evening schedules prevent daily dinners at home. However, this doesn’t make meals together impossible. Through prayer and some creativity, each of us can find a routine that works for our family. Here are some ideas to think through:

  1. Is it possible to shift dinner to later in the evening, allowing everyone time to get home?
  2. Could you pick one night of the week as “family dinner night” and protect it like any other appointment on your calendar?
  3. What about Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday lunch together?

Prioritizing mealtime togetherness is a priceless gift we can give to our families. It takes intentionality, wisdom, and creativity, as well as some boundary-setting with our schedules, but the benefits certainly outweigh the effort.

How do you make room for family meals? What’s your favorite activity around the table? Please share some “best practices” in the comments below. We’d all love to hear from you.

Prioritizing family #mealtimes may take a little work, but it’s worth it! Some #IntentionalParenting tips via @DazzledByTheSon and @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

IP - Meredith Mills headshot

Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him, too. She blogs at www.DazzledByTheSon.wordpress.com. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and/or Twitter.

 

 

 

3 Approaches to Allowance

I have some really practical Intentional Parenting thoughts for you today about our children’s allowances. There are a few different approaches we’ll look at, and I’ll let you know why we chose the one we did.

There are three broad approaches to allowances. (I’m making up these categories.)

  1. The Beneficent Ruler approach
  2. The Employer/Employee approach
  3. The Citizenship approach

The Beneficent Ruler Approach

In this approach, there are no allowances. The parent buys the child what he wants. While it feels generous, this approach is subject to the mood of the parent, who might choose not to buy a new toy because she is angry with the child or in a hurry. The parent may also be tempted to bribe the child in order to influence the child’s behavior in the store. Furthermore, as the child grows, his expectations will become more and more expensive, creating problems for the parent who will inevitably have to start saying “no.”

I don’t recommend this approach after the child learns to count money. In addition to the issues above, the child will not learn the value of money or how to save it. He also won’t understand why some shopping trips result in toys and others don’t.

No matter which of the next two approaches you take, an allowance is a good idea. It helps your children learn how to manage money and how to save for things they really want. I am so thankful my mother taught me how to spend and save money. I’m fairly sure it’s that experience which has helped my own family stay out of credit card debt!

The Employer/Employee Approach

In this method, parents pay children for the completion of chores. Although we don’t use this approach, I have friends who do, and there are some benefits to it. Children learn the value of their work—that effort has rewards. Parents sometimes quantify purchases, saying things like, “That book costs five dishwashings.” This can be helpful for children who don’t grasp the concept of paper money and coins yet. Children will also have incentive to do their chores because of the reward, and the punishment for incomplete chores is built into the system.

The Biblical basis for this approach comes from verses like 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

The Citizenship Approach

In this method, all members of the family possess certain rights and responsibilities inherent to their positions as family members. Members have the right to an allowance, that is, to a small amount of money that can be used at one’s discretion. They also have a right to be heard and to provide input into big decisions (financial and otherwise). At the same time, family members have certain responsibilities simply because they are part of the family. Parents go to work or work from home, children go to school, parents drive places, parents buy groceries, children obey parents as governing authorities, etc. Everyone does household and yard chores appropriate for their ages and strengths.

Even if you don’t do your chores all week, even if you get disciplined every day, you still get your allowance (unless part of your discipline is the loss of that allowance, which we’ve never done).

I prefer this approach because it’s not really about the money. It’s about the family and each person’s permanent place in it. Through it, we teach our children about our (and therefore God’s) everlasting love and generosity but also our response of obedience. We fulfill our duties because we’re part of the family, not because we get something for it. We receive an allowance because we’re part of the same family and not because we did something to deserve it. Sure, it makes chore completion more of a hassle, but I think it’s worth it.

The Citizenship approach refers to our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. The Biblical foundation for this approach comes from verses such as this:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. -Romans 8:17

Details

Just a couple of details, if you’re interested.

  • Each person’s allowance (including parents) is half their age. So the 10-year-old gets $5/week. (We might have to change this in the later teenage years, but it’s working for now.) This helps us modify amounts as the kids get older. Because we parents get an allowance, too, the children watch us go through the same waiting times and decisions as they experience. They don’t think we can just buy anything we want because we have the ATM cards.
  • We give occasional advances if there’s a good purchase that probably won’t be available later. We are faithful, however, to ensure that it’s repaid. Learning about debt is part of the experience.
  • The children tithe on their allowance, as practice and as an act of worship.

3 Approaches to Allowance for Intentional Parenting. (click to tweet)

What about your experience as a child or as a parent? Please share some good allowance strategies or ideas in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

How to Study the Bible with Your Grade-School Children (in app. 500 words)

If the thought of opening the real Bible (not the children’s storybook Bible) with your children intimidates you, here’s the help you need! It’s a simple Bible study method to engage you and your children in studying His Word. It requires no weekly preparation and it should be fun.

But first, it’s okay…

…to laugh with the Bible. Have fun; be creative; stretch your imagination. For example, what kind of face do you think Zacchaeus made when Jesus looked up in the tree?

…that you don’t have a degree in Bible. The Word of God is accessible to all. Plus, your kids don’t need a lecture on transubstantiation. They need to know what it means to take the Lord’s Supper/Communion.

…if you or your kids can’t answer all the questions. Everyone can try. You will all get better at it after some experience.

…to use the “grown-up” Bible with your children. Just find an easy-to-read translation such as English Standard Version (ESV) or New International Readers Version (NIrV) and start reading!

Before your first study time, choose a book of the Bible. Start with a gospel such as Mark or Luke—lots of stories. Read the introductory material in your study Bible. That will help you answer questions about the author and situation.

The “How To”

Pray together.

Ask for understanding, patience, listening ears, no distractions, etc.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. -John 14:26

Use stories.

Read one story, along with any preceding transitions or introductions. Then have someone else retell it or act it out. Try letting a child read the story, then you retell it.

(Next time, review previous weeks, then read the next story. Make it like a series so everyone catches the bigger picture.)

Ask interactive questions.

Use interrogatives to discuss the story. Answer the questions together.

  • Where are they?
  • When does this happen?
  • Who is there?
  • What actually happens?
  • How did people respond?

Now take it deeper.

  • What did it mean to the people who were there?
  • Why did the author include this story?
  • What connections do you see to other stories/Scripture?

Finally, application.

  • What have we learned?
  • What do we need to do about what we’ve learned?
  • What action do we need to take (as a family or individually) in response?

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

Create a ‘take-away’.

Find an object to remind you of this story, have someone draw a picture of the story, or (if everyone can read) display an application phrase in a prominent place for the week.

Extend the discussion.

Talk about the story and application as you have opportunities throughout the week.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. -Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Family devotions without a devotional book: How to Study the Bible with Your Kids (in <500 words)  <-click to tweet

Try this out, then leave me some feedback. I’d really like to know what you think!

Four Intentional Decisions in Parenting (guest post)

Isn't it great when God plants a similar call in separate people's lives? When I 
started this blog a few years ago, I had never heard the phrase, Intentional 
Parenting. But just recently, I found someone else with the same heart...and the
same tag line! So of course, I had to ask him to guest post for us. Please welcome 
Phil Conrad and take some time to really hear what he shares today. You can read
more about Phil and how to connect with him at the bottom of this post.

Over the course of our years as parents, my wife, Heather and I have made several decisions that we found to be extremely beneficial to our family. I believe that part of being an intentional parent is making decisions that glorify God.

Decision 1. Cutting Cable out of our Home

Eleven years ago, we decided to shut off our cable. While we do watch some shows via the internet or DVD, we can be more selective about what we choose to watch. This decision came as a result of attending family camp (see Decision 2) to allow more time for us to serve the Kingdom more than ourselves. I enjoy watching TV, maybe too much. I would waste away hours every night flipping through different programs, watching sports, movies or whatever would grab my attention. The only thing this did was make me a dud dad.

I did not want to waste the precious time I had with my kids on mindless entertainment. Add to this the fact that commercials were becoming more sleazy, television programming was becoming more risqué, we did not want to expose our kids to this on a consistent basis. We didn’t want to expose ourselves to that garbage either. So we cut it off. Admittedly, it was difficult for the first couple of weeks and we missed watching some of the shows we enjoyed. But we soon got used to it and found more valuable ways to spend our time.

Decision 2. Vacationing to Family Camp

We love Gull Lake Ministries (GLM) family resort. (You can hear about it on one of my podcast episodes.) GLM is great for all ages, provides sound Bible teaching, a safe environment and includes a planned-out agenda. We enjoy the opportunity to unplug from the world for a week as we listen to God’s word preached in the morning and relax on the beach in the afternoon. Other activities to enjoy with your kids include a zip line, tennis, a water pad, pickle ball, bowling, paddle boards, swimming, and many others.

We have been going there for over ten years to either the week long family camp or weekend retreats. It’s difficult to explain how great the time of spiritual refreshing is; you just have to experience it. You will draw closer to God and to each other.

Decision 3. Serving in Ministry

We have been blessed with opportunities to serve in ministry including some leadership positions in our church. We enjoy this because it gives us the ability to involve our kids in ministry and serves as a growing impact on them. Through these opportunities, we have learned to trust God by saying ‘yes’ to some of the opportunities that have come along.

One example is when I was asked to be the youth leader. I led our youth ministry for over eight years. When our kids were too young to be in it, we involved them whenever we could. One of the events they enjoyed was “Chill with Phil.” About once a month, we’d invite the teens over for an evening of fun and games. It was an encouragement to both the teens and our kids to interact together over Farkle or Catch Phrase. It was a fantastic way to build relationships in our youth group as well.

Decision 4. Homeschooling our Children

In 2010, we made the decision to homeschool our kids. Heather is a stay-at-home-mom and early in our marriage we told ourselves that we would never homeschool our children. However, as time went on, it became something we would evaluate each year and spend time praying about.

As we continued seek the Lord and Godly counsel, we became convinced that God was leading us to homeschool. We started our oldest with homeschool in 6th grade and our younger two in 3rd grade. So for a couple years, we had only our youngest going to public school until he reached 3rd grade. Though difficult, we have found so many benefits to having made this decision. I could probably go on for another blog post about this alone!

An Intentional Decision

Especially if your kids are young, I encourage you to consider what intentional decision you can make for the benefit of your children and your family. Through each decision our focus is always on drawing our family closer to Christ. I love my kids. I love spending time with them. I would venture to say that they love spending time with me and Heather too. It is thanks, in part, to these (and other) decisions we have made along the way that have made a huge impact.

Ask: What intentional decision can I make for the benefit of my family? (click to tweet)

IP-phil-conrad [3103732]

Phil Conrad is the founder of Intentional Parenting at IntentionalParenting.net. He is a speaker, podcaster and blogger  focused on equipping and encouraging moms and dads in their role of  parenting. Phil and his wife, Heather, have three children and reside  in northwest Indiana.

You can connect with Phil in any of these ways:
Twitter – https://twitter.com/phillip_conrad
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IntentionalParent/
Google Plus – https://plus.google.com/101670583680738916999/posts
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/phillip.conrad/

Carole here. I think Phil and Heather made some great decisions for their family,
but it's not about their specific decisions as much as it's about making real,
purposeful decisions for the good of the Kingdom and your family. What difficult,
sometimes counter-cultural decisions has God led you to make in parenting? How did
your obedience affect your family life? Please share in the comments. I'm sure 
Phil would love to hear from you just as much as I would.