What should your children love, and how do you teach them to love it? Today AMBrewster uses creation to help Christian parents teach their kids to love everything they should.
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Back in episode 126 we started a lengthy study on the nature of biblical family love. With a name like Truth.LOVE.Parent. I wanted to make sure we took the right amount of time to appreciate the beauty of God’s plan for True Love.
When I started the study, I made the observation that the word “love” is insanely misused and misunderstood. One of the examples I gave was a quote from my friend, Mark Massey who said, “I love pizza, but it doesn’t end too well for the pizza.”
Since then, we’ve come to learn what True Love is, and that when most people say they “love something” they really just mean they like it.
But today I plan to use the word “love” in that colloquial sense. What do your kids love to do? What do they really like to do?
I’m not asking who they love or why the love that person, I just want us to think about the things your kids really like to do.
If this is your first time with us, I want to welcome you and invite you back because today’s show is definitely going to be less than normal.
You know what it’s like when you wear a certain outfit to the store because you only need to run in real quick, and you’re certain that no one you know will see you?
Yeah, well today’s episode isn’t quite like that, but it will be a little different from usual. Let me explain how.
Normally we spend the bulk of our time reading and discussing God’s Word. I’ve made the observation on many occasions that TLP is not the number one podcast for Christian Parents on iTunes because of me or anything I have to say. I believe with all my heart that God is glorified only as we expose His Word and apply it to our parenting.
But I’ve also said that all Truth is God’s Truth. That means that despite the fact that 2 + 2 is not in the Bible, it’s a valuable concept to learn. God created it. There are no musical notes in the Bible, and yet we know that there is great value in learning and studying music.
And so today we’re going to talk about how God created humans to work even though we won’t be studying a specific biblical passage.
And — more specifically — we’re going to look at how we can help our children learn to love worthwhile things.
So, here we go.
In Genesis 1 and 2 we learn that God made man in His own image. This is a huge idea, but here are a few implications:
And if you look at your children, you should see these fingerprints of God in them.
But there’s one other way we share God’s likeness that may be harder to see.
Again, this fingerprint may be harder to recognize in your kiddos. That’s because Adam and Eve went against God’s design for them and they sinned, and when sin entered the world it marred everything good that God had made. But even though it’s been scarred and perverted, this fourth observation is still important to our discussion.
So, God created your children to be relational, creative, passionate, and good. And again, when we look at children in general, this is what we see. We see how they love to interact with each other and build blocks and color and create sprawling landscapes in Minecraft and how they do all of this with such abandon.
And why do they do these things? Well, honestly, that’s what kids do.
Now, kids don’t know that — they don’t know those things are the things kids do — but if you were to stop the average adult in New York City and ask them to name common childhood toys, you’re going to get a lot of the same answers. As a culture, we’ve defined that certain things like coloring books and bikes and tree houses and sidewalk chalk and blocks and dolls and bubbles are what little kids do.
Before I continue, though, I realize that many of you are not from America or Europe, but the reality is that in your culture most people would agree that there certain things with which children should be playing.
Now, again, the kids don’t know they’re supposed to like coloring. It’s the parents who bought them coloring books and crayons because “That’s what children do.”
And what do the children do when they get their hands on theses culturally prescriptive toys? Well, in their creative passion, they go crazy. Sometimes they go too crazy, and their creativeness is expanded beyond the coloring book to the table and the wall and the floor. But — if nothing else — that shows how zealous they are.
But — you know what — kids do that with everything. It’s not just toys. When you introduce a concept or an activity the right way, most children will passionately attack almost anything. There are children out there who are on-fire, crazy-good at various musical instruments, math, engineering, computers, and biology. God created us to love and excel at things that are good.
How to accomplish this is the theme of today’s show, but we need to lay some more important groundwork before we get there because something eventually happens to our little kids as they grow.
Our kids get older, and as children get older the culture loses consensus about the types of things children should like. This is complicated by the children’s more capable bodies, their own changing likes and dislikes, and their influences.
As your kids have aged — even though they may have all loved the same types of activities when they were younger, they likely now have many dissimilar interests. And — by the way — this isn’t necessarily bad.
Now, before I continue, I want to point out that we did a series called The Merest Christianity. In that series we answered what may be one of the most important questions of life — why do people do what they do — and more specifically — why do your children do what they do. That series started in episode 95 and should be a huge help in understanding your kids.
And — if you’ve already listened to that series — then you understand better than most why your kids love what they love. But we’re not going to repeat those conclusions here. Instead, I want to build on them.
So, as your children grow, why do they attach to certain things and not to others? How much of it is nature and how much is nurture? Can we parents have any effect on what they love? And if we can, how much of that influence should we exercise?
So, these are the four questions we want to answer:
Are you ready? Here we go.
1. Is it possible to influence what our children love?
I’m going to have to say, “Yes,” and I don’t think we need to devote a ton of time to this point.
I think it’s clear from experience and from Scripture that it is definitely possible to influence our children’s desires and beliefs. In fact, God commands us to influence both.
And I think it’s clear that we have a huge influence on our children’s interests as well. Neither of my children care for watching any professional sports, but I have many friends whose kids never want to miss a game. Why is this? Honestly, it’s because neither my wife nor I care to watch professional sports, and my friends do care to watch them. I believe with all my heart that if my children lived in my friend’s house, they’d probably like watching basketball too. And if their kids were mine, their little ones wouldn’t care.
People like to argue nature and nurture. The reality is that God created us to have unique natural desires, but He also created us with the necessity of growth and learning. All change requires death.
Let me say that again — all change requires death or destruction. If something is growing, parts of it are dying and being replaced with new parts, things are breaking off of it, you get the idea. Nothing can grow without change and nothing can change without death or destruction. So, nurture does play a huge part in every person’s life. It has to.
Don’t we see this in the way our children interact with their friends? It doesn’t take long before our kids are interested in things they never knew existed. Often, it doesn’t take long for them to learn to love what they know is wrong.
2. Since we know it’s possible to influence what our children love, is it Christ-honoring to try to influence what our children love?
Biblically speaking, we definitely need to influence them to love the things of God. That’s clear. Ephesians 6:4 tells us to, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
But would the Lord be glorified by me influencing my children to love something they don’t currently love . . . you know — like science or basketball?
Or what about influencing them to love something they already despise — like broccoli or basketball?
Well, again, I believe the answer is, “Yes.” Remember, our children need to grow. Infants and toddlers don’t come hard-wired loving everything they should. If they never learn to love new things, they’ll be incapable of glorifying God in this life. They’ll be thirty-two year old toddlers, and our society has defiantly given us enough proof that those don’t work.
I think most of us could easily argue that our children need to have an appreciation for science and broccoli. Maybe some of you disagree with the broccoli? Well, what if I disagree about the basketball? You see how subjective it becomes? And for those of us who are well-adjusted and like broccoli, it’s probably because our parents taught us to love it. And the same goes for basketball.
And, again, we need to consider your children’s influencers. If you’re not going to influence them to love what’s right, you can be certain Satan is going to use every medium he can to influence them to love wrong.
It is categorically Christ-honoring to deliberately and unashamedly encourage your children to love what’s right.
3. So, that leads us to the third question. If it’s Christ-honoring, what should we try to influence our children to love?
Well, I suppose we can keep broccoli and basketball on the list, but some of you may be arguing that you shouldn’t — and you can’t — love everything.
Well, I’ll agree with the first, but not the second.
It’s true we shouldn’t love everything. Anything that dishonors God or steals glory from Him is a sin, and we should never love it. If we do, there’s a far deeper problem.
But I’d like to argue that we and our children should love all that glorifies God. Now, I acknowledged at the start that our use of the word “love” today would be colloquial — you know, the way most people us it. However, we still need to attempt some sort of definition or else we can’t be certain on what we’re being asked to agree.
In our Three Family Loves series we defined love as doing what’s in God’s best interest for the one loved. Now, we’re not talking about loving a person, we’re talking about enjoying an activity or learning information or eating food. But I believe even our trivial use of the word love needs to be biblically informed.
I’ve found that as I get to know more and more about God, there is little in this life I hate. I can decidedly proclaim that I hate sin, but I need to be careful saying I hate the consequences of sin. All throughout the Bible God promises that He uses the trials and tribulations of life to conform us into the image of Christ. So, hypothetically speaking, if all things truly work together for my good, then how can I hate the cancer God’s brought into my life?
When I’m sinned against, I hate the sin, but God still promises to use the consequences to make me more like Him. How can I hate that? If it’s God’s plan, I don’t recommend we hate it.
But some people say, “Well, I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it.” Fine, whatever. You don’t have to enjoy the process of having your chest cut open, your sternum broken in half, and your heart removed to love that the doctor saved you from a life-threatening arterial blockage.
You see what I mean?
So, I believe it’s Christ-honoring to teach our children to love anything and everything He brings into their lives. That includes staying up late and going to bed early. That includes ice cream and green beans. That includes movie and books. It also includes instruction and correction, comfort and pain, roller coasters and school.
But before we finish off with number three, I know some of you still want a more specific answer for the types of things your kids should love.
Well, that’s hard for me to answer — here’s why: Your family isn’t mine. In the things that fall outside the direct commands of God and are open to our liberty, God’s will for your family may not look exactly like His will for mine.
Back in episode 16 I did a show called, “Planning for a Successful Family.” In the episode I discussed the three things necessary to make important changes in our family, but I also gave some examples of areas we all need to address.
Spiritual growth was at the top of the list, second was personal enrichment, third was finances, and fourth was wellness. And those are broad categories. Christ-honoring people could land in many different places under the category of finances.
So, my family’s application is going to be different from yours. Each of my family members are marital artists. We all know how to knit, play musical instruments, play chess, rock climb, and ski. But do your kids have to love those things?
“Depends on what?” you ask.
Well, I think it has to be dependent on how you believe your family can glorify God the most. As the parent, figuring that out is one of your biggest responsibilities.
We homeschool because we believe God is the most glorified by our family’s educational choice — at this time in our children’s life — to homeschool. And we have a ton of reasons we can give for our family’s decision to homeschool.
I can tell you exactly why I believe God is pleased by my children learning to glorify Him by skiing and studying the martial arts and playing the piano.
As I already said, this is one of the awesome jobs God has given you as the parent. You get to decide how to help your children grow in their wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. That’s nurture.
Of course, a wise parent is going to take nature into account as well. My son has a natural predisposition for the piano — my daughter for math. Now, though they’re both learning piano and math, I’m cataloging their strengths and weaknesses, passions and proclivities. And I’m doing this so I can better help them discern God’s will for their futures.
Let me tell you one of the positions I disliked the most when I was a school teacher. In my previous ministry I was — among other things — the school Guidance Counselor. Now, I loved the job, but what I didn’t like was that so many kids came to my office having received little to no to downright unhelpful guidance from their parents.
I would argue that if we’re doing our jobs, our kids won’t need a guidance counselor. That’s pretty much the definition of parent. Now, I know not every kid has parents who can or want to provide that guidance, and so I’m glad we have guidance counselors in the school system.
My point is that as we help our children grow and change and love Christ-honoring things, we parents must 1. Know how to glorify God and be actively pursuing it. 2. Teach your children to love the things God wants all His followers to do. And teach them to love the things that God specifically wants your family to do. And 3. Understand how God has created your children and help them discern His general and specific purposes for their lives.
You know, we tell our kids that God has a plan for them, and then we look at them like they have broccoli up their noses when they ask us what His plan is. How unhelpful is that? This is why I have two special episodes planned for the end of the school year.
One is called “Help Your Children Discover God’s Will for Their Lives,” and the second is entitled, “Help Your Children Discover God’s Will for Their Occupation.”
I want to give you the two greatest tools I have when it comes to guiding and counseling your children to love the things God wants them to love.
Why am I waiting so long to do that? Wouldn’t it make sense just to do it now? Well, I originally scheduled it for the end of school because — come august — a bunch of high schoolers are going to start asking questions like, “Hey, Dad, what should I do when I graduate.”
Of course, the episodes are going to be for parents of teens, parents of toddlers, and parents of everyone in-between.
But I also want to get into our next series. It’s a five-part series entitled “Teach Your Children to Obey,” and it needs to follow on the heels of our study of love. And I think the topic of teaching your children to obey is going to interest a lot of you as well.
Okay, so we’ve answered, “Is it possible to influence what our children love?” Yes.
And we answered, “Is it Christ-honoring to try to influence what our children love?” Yes.
And we laid a foundation for “What should we try to influence our children to love?”
And now, number 4. — the big question — if we’re encouraging our children to love the right thing, how do we influence them to love it?
Seriously, if it’s God will for their lives, how do we teach our children to love broccoli? How do we teach them to love basketball? How do we teach them to love canoeing and dogs and cleaning their rooms and school and gardening?
This is the harder question, but we’re going to answer it by reaching back to the beginning of our discussion and revisiting four of the ways we’ve been created in God’s image.
Alright, so God created us to be relational, creative, passionate, and good, and I believe it’s in these four areas we can teach our children to love just about anything.
And please understand that I’m speaking from a ton of experience. I’m the Lead Residential Counselor at Victory Academy for Boys, and every year I accept up to eight at-risk teens into my home. Part of what we do here is to teach the guys to love God and His Word. Another big part is teaching them to love tons of amazing outdoor activities.
I’ve taught defiant Texans to love skiing. I’ve taught disobedient city guys to love camping. I’ve taught poor students with bad attitude to love school. And I’ve taught rebels to love their parents.
1. Do it together. We’re relational beings, and we learn best when we learn together. Consider this: instead of teaching, try showing. Instead of commanding, try illustrating. Don’t stand behind them and push. You’re working against each other. Don’t stand in front of them and pull. You’re working against each other. Instead, stand beside them and work together. Now, you have twice as much productive energy.
This is why my family all learned to knit at the same time. One of the kids showed interest, so that Christmas we all got knitting needles and yarn. And — before you knew it — we all had crochet hooks too. And, the really funny thing is this . . . even though it was my daughter, Ivy who originally showed interest, my son and I do most of the knitting and crocheting in the house. And between the two of us, my son does 99% of it. By the way, if you’d like a hand-crocheted hat or hand warmers, he’d be more than happy to oblige.
This is also why we study the martial arts together and garden together and play chess together and do school together. Does your kid hate school? Imagine if the people to whom he was closest loved school and did it with him. Yeah, I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down.
2. Create something. Now, please note that I didn’t say, “Be creative.” I think there are a lot of people doing a lot of worthless things in a creative way. No, I think you should find the thing that it would glorify God for your kids to do, and teach them how to create using it.
For example, in the martial arts, I let my kids create their own combinations, forms, and moves. In the garden I let them cultivate their own plot. In our beekeeping, I let the kids create some income from the honey sale when they work the bees with me. In their music we encourage them to create. In their art we encourage them to create — not just copy. In their eating, we encourage them to create.
Do you want to introduce new foods to your children? Teach them to participate in preparing the meal. Once they’ve had a hand in it, most kids will be more than happy to try what they created.
This concept even works with school, but’s hard if someone else is teaching your kids. For me, I let my kids be creative with their math. We don’t do math the way I was taught, and we definitely don’t do common core. I teach my kids to look at math like an art. There are tons of ways to add — many of which are easier and more effective — than the way most kids are taught to add.
We could go on and on about this, but we need to move to . . .
3. Be passionate. Now, I didn’t say, teach them to be passionate. That’s the idea. We want them to love it. We want them to be passionate. In order to do that, we have to be passionate ourselves.
My kids don’t like watching basketball, in part, because I’m not passionate about basketball. Whereas my brother-in-law, Jon, is hardcore into sports, and his boys are too.
As a professional communicator and actor, one of the most powerful lessons to learn is that if you want your audience to experience a 100, you have to deliver a 150. If you only give what you want your audience to give, they’ll always give less.
The same is true with your kids. They come home — hating math — and they ask us for help, and we practically role our eyes at them, groan, complain, and make excuses . . . why are we surprised they ditch class, don’t do their homework, and are failing math?
This is another reason I do what I want my kids to love. If I do it and find no real value or merit, why on earth would I want them doing it? If I can’t be passionate about it, I won’t ask them to be passionate about it. Consider — again — the implications of school.
If all our kids hear is how much we hated school and all our horror stories about terrible teachers, and when they ask us why they have to learn history, we don’t have a good answer, how can we dare to expect them to love and value school?
So, when you’re teaching your children to eat broccoli, do it with them. Help them create an experience with their broccoli. If your kids are having hard time choking it down, create a positive experience by asking them to cook it, take ideas of how they’d like it prepared, make it fun and tasty. And be passionate about it. Don’t expect them to enjoy eating broccoli if you hate it or do it simply because you should.
One day, at church, my wife was talking to a friend and my son — who was very young at the time — toddled up to my wife and asked for a snack. So she reached into her purse and — instead of pulling out cheerios or goldfish — she handed my son a carrot — a whole carrot with the skin and everything. That thing was no baby carrot either. He took the carrot and joyfully ate it.
Meanwhile my wife’s friend is watching this going, “Your son’s eating a carrot.”
My wife said, “Yeah.”
The other lady responded, “Does he always eat carrots?”
She couldn’t believe she was looking at a child perfectly content to gnaw on a carrot.
My daughter was the same way. She would eat her veggies and leave her chicken nuggets untouched.
My wife and I love our vegetables and we illustrated that for our kids. I can’t tell you how often I would come home and find my kids eating fresh vegetables from our garden. One time I was met at the back door by my daughter in nothing but a diaper, chewing on an ear of corn she picked from the garden.
Be passionate, my friends. Your kids are watching.
And lastly, 4. — and this one is sooooooo important — Be good. Again, let me clarify, I don’t mean be good at it. My family and I love to do lots of things at which we’re no good.
What I mean by this point is that we need to teach our children how loving this activity or food is good. Teach them how it glorifies God. When my daughter shows disinterest in playing the piano, I don’t say, “Well, do it anyway.”
I try to remind her why it was a Christ-honoring idea to learn the piano in the first place. We discuss how her playing the piano can please the Lord. At this point, it’s not me against her, it’s us together trying to glorify God. But we also discuss how that if she’s not learning it or using it to please the Lord, how the whole endeavor is pointless.
And there have been many times we started learning something or doing something we thought was very important for our children to love, only to stop it later.
We’ve stopped some things because it became evident that it got in our way of glorifying God. We stopped others because our children weren’t mature enough to glorify God with it.
The ultimate point is that — if we want our kids to truly love what they’re doing — they need to see why it matters. It needs to be more than just so I can get a good job. It’s got to be more than merely because I told you so. There has to be more than not going to jail to motivate a kid to love what’s right.
And the only motivation that is truly beneficial is to please, honor, and glorify the Lord.
Do you want your kids to love the right things? Do it together. Create something. Be passionate, and teach your children the greatest point of their existence.
And, you know’s what’s funny? This reminds me so much of Mary Poppins. Now, I know she wasn’t a Christian and the books weren’t written with a biblical worldview, but she was penultimately relational, immensely creative, endlessly passionate, and always good. She was practically perfect in every way.
Let me leave you with this. In order to teach our children anything, we need to Love It, Learn It, Live It, Lead It.
We must be passionate about it ourselves. We must know about what we’re talking. We must exemplify it relationally in life. And we must purposefully teach our kids to love it too.
Love It, Learn It, Live It, Lead It.
Will you share episode on Facebook and Twitter and your favorite social media? This is so practical and valuable for every parent as they strive to not only teach their children what’s good, but help them truly love what’s good.
To that end, I’ve published our episode notes and transcript at TruthLoveParent.com. You can find the link in the description.
And, as I mentioned before, our next episodes starts a series called “Teach Your Children to Obey.” I know that will be beneficial for us all.
And I’d like to take a moment to thank two of your Patrons. Ray and Carolyn were our first Patrons, and they have been faithfully supporting TLP with their prayers, finances, and all-around promotion. I don’t think there’s anyone who knows them who hasn’t heard about this podcast. In fact, I think there are single people who listen who don’t even have kids because Ray and Carolyn encouraged them.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can support TLP like Ray and Carolyn, you can click on “5 Ways to Support TLP” in the description.
Our children need to know what good is. They need to love what’s good. And they need us to teach it to them.
You have everything you need to do the job well in Christ. And we’re here to help too.
See you next time.
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