How to Teach Children to Make Wise Choices

Parenting.pngWhen you become a parent, your worries and concerns revolve around your baby’s sleep patterns, which diapers to use, how to deal with colic, the baby’s health, and your ability to be the parent you want to be. Later on, your focus is on whether or not they are learning to read and comprehend the concepts of mathematics. You must decide if they are ready for the responsibility of a pet, and you make sure they are choosing the right friends. The Christian family’s biggest concern is to make certain their children understand the importance of asking Jesus to be their personal Lord and Savior.

Before you realize what’s happening, your perfectly wonderful, amazing, child reaches the point in life when they begin making their own decisions, leaving you desperately hoping they will make the right choices. However, what if I told you hope is not all you have to go on?

Teaching your children to make wise choices is something every parent wants to do and intends to do, but wants and intentions are never enough. Teaching your children to make wise choices has to be a consistent and intentional part of your parenting plan.

A parenting plan? Is there really such a thing? Yes, there is. It is called the Bible.

Take a minute to re-read the verses at the top of the page. Did you notice that God is instructing parents to impress his words on the hearts of their children—not casually mention, not ignore, not suggest, but impress. God also clearly states that this impression should be consistent and on-going. In other words, God should permeate every aspect, nook, and cranny of your home and family.

When this happens the other “variables” of channeling your children in the right direction will naturally fall into place. Such variables as:

Unconditional love: Christian author Darla Noble calls this the “just because” kind of love—the love that is just because you are mine. It is not dependent on what your child looks like, how accomplished they are, or anything else. It is the same kind of love God has for us.

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Set the standard: You cannot expect your children to do as you say and not as you do. It does not work that way. If you do not believe that, take a look around at parents who have tried it. If you want your children to make wise choices, show them how by making wise choices yourself.

Boundaries, expectations, opportunities and consequences: It is vital that you provide clear and definite boundaries and expectations for your children. They need to know up-front what is expected of them and what is and isn’t allowed. While these will change as your child grows and changes, making the rules up as you go doesn’t work. Children need to know what their limits are so they will know a) where the lines are and b) how far to push and when. Children also need opportunities to operate on their own within these boundaries and expectations, aka, to make decisions. Children need to know up-front what the consequences of their decisions will be—and not just the negative consequences. They need to know that every choice has a consequence (good, bad, or indifferent), and they need to experience all of these. Moreover, children must be made to understand you will be there to enforce these consequences whether they are good (praise, positive reinforcement, and rewards), bad (discipline and living with the results of their decisions), or indifferent (the normal flow of things).

Give your children over to God: Just as you have free choice, your children do, too. So while it is your responsibility to do your best to live out the words of Deuteronomy 6, it is ultimately up to your child to make their own decisions, and it is up to you to decide whether you handle them with the love, grace, and discipline of God…or not.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).”

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