Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ideas For Pointing Your Preschooler/Toddler to Jesus


Before I begin with my "List," let me say a few things. These are just ideas that have worked for my family and my toddler-I am in no way an expert Christian mom or anywhere near perfect. Teaching our kids about Christ is a precious responsibility we've been given and there is no "10 step" process. Give yourself grace-you're not perfect! 

Remember your child is a human being-a sinful one- who needs the grace and mercy of Christ just as much as the next person. God has not called us to create perfect little law-abiders, but instead has called us to "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4), which includes teaching them what it means to live the gospel of grace. It's not easy because I don't always live the gospel of grace myself! But, trusting God to help me teach it to my child has convicted and changed me far more than I imagined.

Also, remember your child is an individual. God is working in their life in His way and they are on their own journey to knowing Him-it's not about you and you're awesome parenting skills...or lack thereof as I often feel. :-) 

You may feel overwhelmed by this idea-maybe you don't feel qualified (none of us are-that's why we need to depend on Jesus!); maybe you are a new believer and not sure what to do; maybe you struggle comparing yourself to Mrs. Perfect Mother at your church whose children are always neatly dressed, sit quietly, and can quote the whole book of Isaiah. Those things don't matter. What matters is Jesus and He will give you the grace to do what He has called you to do as a parent.

I felt the need to say this because I would love to share these practical ideas that work for my family, but I never want it to leave anyone feeling like they don't measure up. There are practical steps we can take to help our children understand Jesus, but ultimately, it comes down to His work in their lives. It's hard as a mom to remember that balance-I know! There are days when I'm like, "Yeah! I am pretty good at this!" and then most days I think, "Am I even a Christian?"

I do not do these perfectly, but here are some things that I have learned and work for my family:

1. PRAY AND WALK WITH THE LORD
If you can do nothing else, pray for your child. God works in prayer and HE is the one who will change and work in your little sinners' hearts. :-) See above message for further explanation of my meaning!

Walking with the Lord ourselves is important if we want to pass it on to our children. When our children are little, it is really hard to take time to spend with the Lord. I know-I struggle with this EVERY DAY and honestly, am not the best at it. But, I feel that deep need to be filled by Him so I can pour out to my family and others. I am encouraging you to not be legalistic about it though-God still loves you when you don't pray and read the Bible! It took me a long time to get over legalism in my life and spend time with God out of a deep desire in my heart-so I encourage you to keep praying for this. I should probably write a separate post just about that!

2. SOUND CHILDREN'S BIBLES THAT POINT TO JESUS AND THE GOSPEL
Reading to our kids is important-reading to them children's Bibles with sound doctrine is especially important! What do I mean? They are are a myriad of children's Bibles out there and they are unfortunately not all great.

I was convicted when I was pregnant that God wanted me to teach my children the gospel-show them Jesus-and not treat the people of the Bible as heroes to be emulated. While, some of the people of the Bible do have characteristics we can teach as a positive example, all of them are flawed because humans are flawed. The Bible isn't about people we should emulate, but about a gracious God who uses and redeems horrible, broken people through Jesus.

Thankfully, there are wonderful children's Bibles out there with just that theme and approach. My very favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones.


   Each story takes an honest approach to the people of the Bible, but keeps it on a child's level and each story explains how it points to Jesus and the gospel. This children's Bible explains the Word of God as a big story all pointing to Jesus and Lloyd Jones is an amazing storyteller!
Another one I recommend is The Big Picture Story Bible. We don't use this one and I don't think it as good at bringing each story back to Jesus, but it does focus more on God and His work than on the people of the Bible. It's also a quick read and easy for little ones to understand and sit through.


We also use the Read and Learn Bible from the American Bible Society. I supplement The JSB with this one, as it has extra stories. This Bible doesn't point to Jesus in every story-it is less of a commentary than the JSB and more of a straight forward telling of the Bible stories. That's why I like this one too-it just straight forward tells what happens in the Bible at kids' level.


This post is about preschoolers and toddlers, but if you have older kids, I recommend the Gospel Story Bible.


3. SONGS, SONGS, and MORE SONGS!
Most little ones love songs and they learn and memorize through songs-it is shocking what a toddler can memorize! I do scripture memory with my three year old and we do it through song. I will pick a simple verse, such as Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Then, I sing it to a tune she is familiar with-for that verse, I used "Where is Thumbkin?"
She loves it and it helps me remember verses too! 

We also really love the cds by Songs for Saplings. They have an ABC scripture memory songs cd as well as a 123 one for little ones.


Each CD is only 99 cents for a digital download and many times throughout the year, they will let you download them for free. They also have an awesome catechism program put to music for older kids.

I also really love Rain for Roots. It is not scripture memory, but biblical children's songs that will not drive you nuts.

4. DISCUSS WHAT THEY LEARN AT CHURCH.
This may take about 10 seconds because not all toddlers have great memories nor is their attention span very long. But, it is always good to ask your child what they learn when you pick them up from Sunday School, children's church, whatever.
Don't be dismayed if they can't remember. Like I said, their attention span is short. Also, some churches may not teach a lesson to younger kids. Our church starts lessons at age 2 and they usually give us a handout, so we can review with our kids. You may not have those resources, but if you do, take advantage of them!

I also do Bible Study Fellowship and bring my toddler. I love their children's program-it is so great at teaching kids about God and they do lessons even with the little babies while they rock them! I definitely recommend looking up the BSF in your city. The adult study is pretty intense, but doable.

5. MAKE LESSONS OF DISCIPLINE ABOUT THE GOSPEL, NOT JUST BEHAVIOR.
 Toddlers are little stinkers and they need lots of discipline and direction. At this stage, we are mostly teaching them right from wrong and how to listen, so deeper conversations will come later. But, I often still try to incorporate the gospel when I discipline my little one. She may not fully understand it, but my prayer is that it's being rooted in her heart.

What do I mean by make discipline about the gospel? My husband and I have decided that we don't just want to correct behavior and ignore the real heart issues of why our child is misbehaving. Children break rules, test, push boundaries because they are human-and little sinners like all humans! We DO discipline and carry out consequences, but we try to communicate three things to our child every time:
 1. She is receiving discipline because of HER choice of behavior.
2. We love her no matter what she does-she is not her behavior/actions.
3. She chose wrong, as all humans choose wrong, even mommy and daddy, because we are sinners who do things God does not want us to do. But, He loves us anyway and that is why He sent Jesus to die for us. This is why we need to  believe and trust in Jesus-to save us from the bad things in our heart.

Depending on the behavior, I might discuss with her why she chose wrong-this is a little harder with toddlers as they are not fully developed in understanding their emotions and communicating, but I hope to put this into practice more as she grows older.

Disclaimer: I have a very easy toddler,. If my next one is rambunctious and head strong, I can definitely see myself losing my patience more easily and yelling a lot. There will probably be lots of apologizing (see next point). If you're struggling with a headstrong child, take heart! That's why prayer is important, so God can help us have patience-also, it's OK to fail. There is grace. AND, that headstrong child will be a leader one day.

 6. APOLOGIZE
I really think it is important for us to admit wrong and apologize in front of our children and to our children. It is healthy for them to see that we are not perfect and we own up to our mistakes. They are incredibly observant, so we are not fooling them anyway! But, when we model what it looks like to have humility and apologize, we are teaching them to also be humble and apologize-not because it is the right thing to do, but because we mean it.

When I lose my patience with my little one and lash out, I try to apologize for my brashness and for not acting in love. I ask for her forgiveness. I must admit, this is a lot easier to practice with that sweet little face then my next point...

I also try to apologize to my husband in front of my toddler. There's been whole books written about this, so it's hard to be brief, but I hate conflict and struggle with feeling guilty if my husband and I fight or bicker in front of our child. (By fight, I mean emotionally charged disagreements with flared tempers and louder voices; not yelling and all out fighting). But, again, when children see healthy conflict-that is conflict being resolved, it is good and healthy for them. So, while I may feel guilty, it also convicts me to be quick to apologize and slow to anger with my husband and to make sure that if we argue in front of the toddler, we also resolve the conflict in front of her too.

I hope this was helpful and encouraging. Again, remember that none of us are perfect and by God's grace our children will grow up to love Him and walk with Him- remember, plenty of children of faithful parents have walked away from the Lord and plenty of children who were never taught about God are walking with the Lord today. Our job is to be faithful with what He has given us-our children make their own choices and we must entrust them to the Lord!
 
P.S. I am hoping to post soon on some prayer ideas for little ones-so stay tuned!

Linking To

SUNDAYS

TUESDAYS
Titus 2 Tuesday with Cornerstone Confessions 
SDG Connections with Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood 

WEDNESDAYS
Women with Intention Wednesdays with Women With Intention

THURSDAYS  
Thought Provoking Thursday with 3D Lessons For Life

FRIDAYS
 Preschool & Kindergarten Community with Homeschool Creations
 Faith Filled Friday with Missional Women
Blessing Counters with Counting My Blessings

3 comments:

  1. Oh, I just got tears reading your post and remembering the times my girls understood the Gospel for the first time. That light can never be forgotten, and they both are walking with God, involved in His service. Thank you for taking the time to share all these resources. There were some I didn't know about and will make perfect gifts for the grandchildren.

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  2. I love what you said in the beginning of this post. I don't have toddlers anymore, but I still sometimes feel less than as a mother. I also loved the ideas you mentioned here!! The Jesus Storybook Bible was one of our favorites! Sharing your post!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jen! It is so easy for us to believe lies and feel less than as moms.

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