I am sure you’ve never been out in public with young children and been embarrassed by their behavior. Never, not you. Not your kids. But just…
Do you remember those early years of marriage when you realized what you thought was normal wasn’t exactly normal to your spouse (and vise versa)? Maybe you thought dinner should happen at a certain time, and your husband did not. Perhaps you grew up with fancy vacations and he grew up camping. Maybe you thought the house should look or feel a certain way, and your husband was used to something entirely different. Needless to say, what’s normal to one person is not always normal to another.
Now think about the fact that one day your children will become adults and they will walk into adulthood with a list of things they think are normal because it’s what they grew up doing. Not just in the small details of life – but in relation to what you value, how you treat people, how you work through conflict, how you operate in daily life. Because ultimately, the habits formed in your home are constructing your child’s version of what’s “normal.”
What a blessing it would be to our kids (and their future families) if there was a whole set of God-honoring habits, routines, and values they were ready to replicate as “the norm.” Surely they can ditch the non-essential “norms” (like how we do dinner), but there are some things worth normalizing, if you will. Here are 12 that come to mind (in no particular order):
It should be obvious that we rely on God for everything…and thus we pray to him about anything and everything. There should be built in times when we pray, and random times when we pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Our kids should always think it’s normal to “stop and pray.”
2. A joyful life.
As Christians we ought to be the most joyful people. Of course life is not always easy and pleasant, but God has been so good to us—we always have reason to rejoice (Philippians 1:18). No “Debbie downers” (or glum Gregs?) should come from our homes!
3. Trust in God.
Hard moments, difficult days, and even heart-breaking seasons will come. But our kids should see we’re never shaken, because our confidence is always in God (Psalm 16:8)!
4. Church involvement.
Busyness seems to be a rite of passage nowadays, but we should always protect the times reserved for church. Going to church on the weekends should be a non-negotiable, and being “plugged in” to the life of the church should be automatic (Hebrews 10:24-25).
5. Giving respect.
Respect for authority shouldn’t be a lost cause just because our culture doesn’t encourage it. Hopefully our kids will see that even their parents submit to the government, the rules, the laws, and the leaders in their life (Romans 13:1). And hopefully they will be ready to follow suit, not only as children, but as teens, and eventually adults.
Along those lines, respect should come out in how we talk about people. It’s far to easy to talk negatively in the comfort of our homes. But this should not be. Even, and perhaps especially in our homes, we should say things that are “good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Our kids will be so much better off if they are not used to speaking negatively about others.
6. Honoring marriage.
Every kid in the home should know that the marriage relationship is extremely important, and is meant to be till “death do we part” (Matthew 19:6). Even in homes in which a parent in single, marriage should be spoken of highly.
Romans 12:13 says we should seek to show hospitality. And furthermore, we should do it without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). So to both us and our kids, hosting people should seem normal rather than an intrusive inconvenience. And where better to learn how to have people in your home, than by watching mom and dad have people in their’s?
Every family is going to have tension and relational issues. The question is, how does your family handle them? Hopefully everyone in the home knows that we not only deal with our problems, but we do it as lovingly and graciously as we can. No one gets to angrily storm upstairs or out the front door — instead we talk things out, and we forgive and reconcile as soon as we can (Ephesians 4:26).
9. Marked by love.
Whether it’s through official ministry, having people in our homes, or impromptu ways to serve others, noticing people’s needs and trying to meet them should be a lifestyle (Romans 12:10). On top of that, we should gladly put aside our own needs to practically love those within our home too.
10. Hard work.
Our weekly pattern should show we work hard and we seek to enjoy working hard (Colossians 3:23). And then we rest well so we can work hard again. In other words, we fight against laziness, free-riding, gluttony, etc (2 Thessalonians 3:10, Proverbs 13:4, Proverbs 23:21). No doubt we can show this by our example as well as through our expectations for our kids.
11. Purposeful priorities.
Our kids should see that we focus on what will last for eternity. And one of the biggest challenges is not developing a pattern of focusing on material possessions. Things will always be a part of life (and we should take care of whatever things God allows us to have). However, may our material possessions never become an obsession, a focus, or a priority (Matthew 6:19-20).
On top of that, We have a unique challenge raising this upcoming generation because of the pervasiveness of screens (iphone, ipads, app watches, computers etc). Technology can be used for good, but may a constant gaze into the abyss never be the norm. Instead, it should be evident that we prioritze the people in front of us far more than we value whatever’s on our devices.
12. Treasuring the Bible.
I saved one of the best for last. Reading the Bible, learning about the Bible, memorizing the Bible, talking about the Bible—should all be commonplace. We should treat this book like it’s God’s very words to us, because it is! And in many ways, if God’s Word is central in our lives, all the other godly habits will fall into place!
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Honestly, I could probably think of at least 10 more things I’d love my kids to go into adulthood ready to replicate. But I had to stop somewhere. And I imagine you have a handful of your own ideas.
The point is, what we do now shapes who are kids are becoming. Our lifestyle is either giving them a great jumpstart to godly living, or it’s not (and they’ll hopefully figure it out on their own). I don’t know about you, but I want to take the jumpstart route!