Goal-Setting for Children

Even though it’s only mid-December and the biggest event of the year is still ten days away, I find myself already looking toward the new year. I’m not big on making resolutions, but I do like to use the fresh year as a kicking-off-point for new habits or emphases. If you’re the same, you know it takes forethought and prayerful consideration to implement meaningful change—in ourselves and in our children.

In Shepherding a Child’s Heart (which I also mentioned last week), Tedd Tripp offers guidance on how and why we, as parents, should set goals for our children. There’s no need to rehash that. Let’s look instead at what sort of goals we might set for our children.

In my parenting, I often come back to this one verse.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. -Luke 2:52

(I wrote about Luke 2:52 as a guide for prayer in the past.) When we think about the young Jesus, we know he didn’t grow up in a vacuum. Joseph, Mary, and others influenced his maturity. I’m a little jealous; that must have been the easiest parenting job ever! For the rest of us parents—the ones raising non-God-incarnate children—it’s even more important to intentionally influence every facet of our children’s maturation.

This verse provides us with four areas of growth. Applied to goal-setting, the short version looks like this:

1 achievement, 1 skill, 1 spiritual growth, 1 relationship

Let’s brainstorm some ideas.

Wisdom: intellectual development

violin-close-up
music lessons (c) Carole Sparks

Set one goal related to their education, learning, or other thinking/mental skills. This could be a skill or an achievement. Some possibilities:

  • Learn to read chapter books.
  • Improve average grade (overall or in one subject) by one letter grade.
  • Attend a special class or camp that emphasizes an area of personal interest such as environmental sciences, computer coding, painting, soccer, etc.
  • Learn to play an instrument or, if they already play, learn a significantly more difficult piece.
  • Learn another language such as sign language or Spanish. Connect this with their social development by finding someone they would like to talk with.

Stature: physical development

gymnastics-assist
gymnastics assist (c) Carole Sparks

There’s not much we or our children can do about their height or shoe size, but we can help them practice a healthy lifestyle or improve their fitness. Set one goal related to their physical development, also either a skill or an achievement. Something like…

  • Learn to ride a bike.
  • Learn a new sport.
  • Achieve a new level in their existing sport. For example, earn the next belt in karate or make the varsity team in his/her sport.
  • Accomplish a fitness goal such as running a 10-minute mile.
  • Learn to eat three new healthy foods.
  • Learn to cook something specific, learn a certain type of cooking, or learn how to do some household chore. (Don’t just say “learn to cook.” That’s too broad to measure.) Last year, my oldest learned to use the washer and dryer. This year, maybe we’ll focusing on cooking some simple dishes.

Favor with God: spiritual development

11-21 read Bible story (2)
(c) Carole Sparks

How can we help our children grow closer to God through the year? Consider one of these or something else that fits your child’s interests and current maturity level.

  • Become consistent in having a daily quiet time or personal devotion.
  • Memorize a certain number of Bible verses. (Personally, I’m planning to memorize twenty-four passages in 2017!)
  • Work on one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) such as kindness or self-control. This one will take some extra effort on your part, parent, to find actions and/or practices specifically targeting this one thing.
  • Begin paying attention and/or taking notes in “big church.” Start with once/month or five minutes/sermon.
  • Learn a certain number of Bible stories (great for younger children). Maybe one per month?
  • Improve upon one spiritual discipline such as meditation or generosity (great for older children).
  • Read a certain numbers of books related to spiritual growth. I’m challenging my teen to read one non-fiction book per month, mostly faith-based. John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ is a great one for thinking teens to start with.

Favor with Man: social development

02-17-jo-hangs-with-big-boys-2
kid spectators (c) Carole Sparks

Without a little encouragement, our children fall into relationship ruts just like we do. Talk with them about how they want to grow this coming year. Some options might be…

  • Intentionally make a new friend at school or church.
  • Reconcile with someone they don’t like or with whom they had a fight. This starts with praying for that person.
  • Learn how to make “small talk” with adults.
  • Compliment/encourage someone every day.
  • Learn another language so they can talk to someone in that person’s “heart language.” (See intellectual development above.)
  • Learn a technique for diffusing conflict—one they can practice with siblings.

 

As you look toward 2017, pray through what sort of goals God is leading you to set regarding your children. Ask Him to reveal areas where they need purposeful intervention, bringing them into the conversation at an appropriate level. For my older children, they fully participate in the process, but younger children may need more guidance from you.

After you’ve set your goals, don’t just leave them at the level of ideas. Goals need action plans or steps toward fulfillment. Sit down with your kids and discuss the small steps that will lead to big growth in 2017. Look at your own life, too. We have to model before we can teach. This is why I’m signing up to learn twenty-four Bible passages this year. I need accountability for my own spiritual growth, and I want to model the importance of Scripture memory to my children.

And finally, follow up! Through the year, revisit the goals. Are you seeing growth? Do you need to adjust something? Are they experiencing the difference? Encourage them to stay faithful to the task…and you stay faithful, too. Jesus grew up at the same rate that our children do. He didn’t achieve wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man in one day or even one year. This is an eighteen-year process, parents!

Then celebrate at the end of 2017! Recognize your children’s achievements. Talk about how they’ve grown and what changes you’ve seen.

As you anticipate Intentional Parenting in 2017, I pray this brainstorming session helps you set significant, achievable goals for and with your children. If you’ve been encouraged, please share this post using the tweet below.

4 #IntentionalParenting goals to help our children grow in #2017.

What goals are you setting in 2017 for your children or for yourself as a parent? Join this brainstorming session (in the comments below), and you’ll be helping us all!

Advertisements

Reflections on Sunday School Songs: Zacchaeus

I once met a woman named Zachaea, and I shared this story with her in another language by simply translating the words to this song.

I don’t know why we think of it (Luke 19:1-10) as a children’s story. With “wee little,” my mind goes to leprechauns and elves, but Zacchaeus was simply a short man, not a mythical creature and not a child. What is more, his life experience was far beyond that of those who usually sing about him.

Read on to discover how this story-song speaks to parents (perhaps more profoundly than it speaks to their children) in the 21st century.

Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.

Unimportant, overlooked, insignificant. That was Zacchaeus. Like a hobbit jumping to see over the shoulders of the race of men, he just didn’t measure up. Even worse, his occupation as a tax collector meant his own people despised him.

In the day-to-day, my life as a parent often feels inconsequential. It’s hard to keep focused on long-term parenting goals when every day feels the same (young kids) or you’re tired of driving all over the place (older kids). I can start to question my value to society. Then I catch myself saying, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

Do you ever feel like a “wee little mama” (or papa), without much impact in the world? Take another look at Zacchaeus. (click to tweet)

He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.

07-18 pretty tree
Not sure this is a sycamore tree, but you get the idea. (c) Carole Sparks

Zacchaeus had to make an effort to get close to Jesus. Unlike those tall, respected guys who just wandered down and stood along the road, he had to get creative. I imagine he looked around for a solution until he saw the tree. He hesitated before he climbed it because, well, climbing trees is not something we adults do. Especially not in a robe. When’s the last time you climbed a tree? It’s not as easy as it was when we were kids! Ever done it in a skirt? No, me either, but I think it would be really hard. If I did climb a tree out in public somewhere, I can imagine that people would stare at me incredulously. Zacchaeus’ desire to be close to Jesus superseded everything: effort, difficulty, embarrassment…

A young mother told me recently that she tries to get up early and spend time in Scripture, but her toddler invariably starts crying before she can. Been there? Me, too. Remember those days before kids when you could sleep as long as you wanted, get up slowly, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down with your Bible for as long as you wanted? I think I vaguely recall something like that. Like Zacchaeus climbing the tree, spending time with Jesus takes more effort and creativity now. If we think it’s worth it, though, we find a way.

Here’s one idea that’s great for summer: audio Bible and a stroller. You can make notes on your phone. You can even pray out loud because people will think you’re talking to someone on the phone. (Bonus: exercise!) Sure, it takes some effort to get the kid strapped into the stroller and the diaper bag packed and the audio file or podcast set up. But it’s worth it.

As the Savior passed that way, He looked up in the tree, and he said, “Zacchaeus, you come down…

This is the best part of the story. Jesus could have changed directions or He could have ignored Zacchaeus. But He didn’t. He stopped and honored—not just acknowledged but honored—this overlooked, despised tax collector. I’m going to go out on a limb here (all pun intended!) and say Zacchaeus was pretty embarrassed to be discovered up in that tree. But Jesus didn’t care. He already knew Zacchaeus by name, and overlooking his ridiculous position in the tree, Jesus looked him in the eye.

When we make the effort to get close to Jesus, He knows exactly where and who we are, and He always responds. He will not overlook us. He will not ignore us. He will not laugh at us.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. –James 4:8a

For I’m going to your house today, for I’m going to your house today.

Jesus didn’t wait on Zacchaeus to invite Him. Jesus invited Himself into Zacchaeus’ house. It was a sign of respect that Jesus would eat with Zacchaeus—one that Zacchaeus probably didn’t think he deserved.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. –1 Samuel 16:7

Jesus wants to come into our homes today, with the piles of dirty laundry, the unswept floors, the clutter on the kitchen counter. Jesus wants to come into our lives, with the feelings of insignificance, the effort we make just to open our Bibles, the embarrassment of “putting ourselves out there” again and again.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. –Revelation 3:20

Dear parent, like we’ve considered this children’s song afresh, receive this news today as if it’s fresh. God knows where you are, and He knows who you are. He wants to join you in the middle of your parenting mess.

Parents: Like Zacchaeus, God knows where you are and who you are! (click to tweet)

Do you have a special memory or significant understanding of this song or story? Share it with us in the comments below!

Song Attribution: traditional

Previously in this series:

            This Little Light of Mine

            The B-I-B-L-E

            Deep and Wide

Still to come:

  •             Jesus Loves the Little Children
  •             I’ve Got the Joy, Joy…
  •             Father Abraham
  •             The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

Is there a children’s song you would like me to write about? Let me know in the comments.

 

Praying Scripture for Your Children: 4 Areas

We all want to pray for our children more. For me, the topic has come up repeatedly in  discussions, blog posts, and other places recently. (Maybe God is trying to tell me something!)  One of the most effective ways to pray is to quote Scripture back to God or use Scripture as the framework for our prayers. That principle stands when we pray for our children as well. So here, I offer you 4 areas in which you can pray Scripture for your children, all based on Luke 2:52.

We have so little documentation of Jesus’ childhood, and all we know of Mary’s prayers are that she spent time thinking about her memories (Luke 2:19, 51). I’m not even sure that’s a prayer. At any rate, it’s not much guidance for us in the 21st century. Ah, but there is something… Recently, someone drew my attention to Luke 2:52, noting that this verse covers every major aspect of Jesus’ life.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Wisdom is intellectual: knowledge, understanding, and application of learning.

Stature is physical: height and strength.

Favor with God is spiritual.

Favor with man is social/emotional.

We can take these areas of growth and apply verses from other parts of the Bible as we pray for our own children under these same headings! I’ll just give you a couple of examples on each. I’m also including a suggested prayer with each verse. If you’re not accustomed to praying Scripture, let this be your introduction.

Wisdom

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  Proverbs 2:1-5 (1-11 is better!)

Heavenly Father, please give my child a tender heart to receive correction and direction from me (and show me how to frame my words to be more effectively received). Show her heart what real wisdom looks like so she can recognize it…and the many counterfeits out there. Reveal yourself to her in both Your awesomeness and your gentleness.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  2 Peter 3:18

Lord, help my child retain what he learns about you: the facts of your time on earth, yes, but more importantly, help him understand your grace as we know it from the Bible and from experience. I pray that, as his knowledge increases in all areas, he will draw closer to you and celebrate you rather than rejecting you, as some do.

Stature

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

O God, please show my child that her body is borrowed, that it belongs to you. Help her treat it like something precious and save it for Your glory: sexually, yes, but also regarding exercise, food, substances, sleep, behavior, and everything else.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…  Isaiah 40:30-31

Father, please strengthen my child’s confidence in you. Don’t let him depend on his youth or his physical strength but rather let him place his hope in You because You alone can sustain him through the physical trials he will face.

Favor with God

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20

Heavenly Father, please help my child learn how to be obedient—not for my convenience but for Your glory. Let her experience Your pleasure as she obeys the many authority figures in her life.

Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:8b-10

Lord, I pray that my child is always interested in pleasing You. I ask that he will live in Your light, loving everything good, righteous, and true.

Favor with people

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16

Father, I pray that my child always acts and reacts with gentleness and respect, especially when she’s sharing about Jesus. I pray that her words and behavior will be so excellent that her enemies cannot find anything to criticize.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

Lord Jesus, you know that I want a well-behaved child. We all do. I pray, however, that I will not expect or seek good behavior for my own glory. I pray that my child’s behavior reflects well on You. I further pray that he and I both learn to be quick to give You credit.

 

If the Lord leads you to a great verse in any of these four areas, please let everyone else know by leaving a comment! I’m going to keep an on-going list to use as a resource.