It may just be me, but it seems as though times have changed so much since the last generation of parents raised their children. It is so disheartening to see, read, and hear about children committing crimes are younger; children without both parents in the home more common. What is happening to our society?
I read a transcript of a sermon by the Rev. Billy Graham from a message given about 20 years ago. In that message he outlined six steps that is followed would help keep children from getting into trouble. In this series of articles I am covering each of those six steps. I do hope that you will follow each article and I further hope that these articles will bless you and your family as you strive to raise christian children. Here is Step #4.
Plan Family Activities That Include Your Children
It is amazing to me that families are doing less activities that include the children. The parents seem to be just as socially active, but baby sitters are being hired more and more to take care of children while the parents pursue their desire to “get away”. Are we to believe that they mean by this that they want to “get away” from their children? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding YES!. How sad. And we wonder why families grow further apart as the children age.
When parents realize that they are getting away from involving their children in family activities they will realize that the main reason is their attitude towards raising children. When they brought their children into this wonderful world, they brought along with them the responsibility to give their children the very best of themselves. To give to their children the love and attention they so deserve and at the same time give them a family that does things together. Please don’t mistake activities to mean, as one mother expressed to me, “Our family does everything together: my husband takes my son to soccer practice three days a week; I take my oldest daughter to dance classes every week; and five days a week my husband drops our baby off at day care and I pick her up. We do everything together.” No, I didn’t give her a definition of “together”, I was too shocked to even respond to her statement. But hopefully, those reading this article are in agreement with me that this example does not meet the definition of a family doing activities that involve the children that is referred to in this article.
Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Here Solomon issues a bold challenges, particularly to those who are parents and instructors of children, to the propagating of wisdom, that it may not die with them. Train up children to prepare them for what they are designed for. Train them up, not in the way they WOULD go, but in the way they SHOULD go, the way in which, if you love them, you would have them go. It is true that many children indeed have departed from the good way in which they were trained up; Solomon himself did so. But the early training they received from their parents may be a means of their recovering themselves, as it is supposed Solomon did. At least the parents will have the comfort of knowing they have done their duty and used the appropriate means.
In planning activities that include your children your should first, consider the developmental levels of your children, then plan your activities based on individual maturity level. You can try more challenging activities to encourage them to progress, but remember that you want them to be successful at the activities. You certainly do not want them to get frustrated or bored with the activity. Also remember that your goals for each of your children may be very different. Family activities may be either 1) activities in and around the home or 2) activities that are part of a vacation. Either way, planning those activities for and with your children will make them feel more an integral art of the family.
Here are some suggested activities that we found both fun and beneficial for our children.
Activities In And Around The Home
When planning activities in and around the home it will require some sacrifices of time on the part of everyone in the family. Mom and Dad (assuming both work) are usually tired by the time they get home from work, eat dinner (supper for those of you in the south) and hopefully have a little time to relax. But your number one priority should still be your children. Why not set some evenings of the week for family activities (other than taking your kids to sports practice, dance lessons, music lessons, etc.)?
The number of children you have and their ages will dictate what activities will work best for your family. The listed examples we what we used for our family which included three children: 12-year old son, 8-year old son, and 4-year old daughter.
We planned our family evening activities around our children’s activity schedules and usually had two or three nights a week for family fun. Ideally, every night could be used for some type of family activity, but that is not being realistic in today’s busy world. For this article let us assume that you do have every evening available for a family activity is case your are blessed.
In our family, Wednesday night was set aside for church service. During the school year, we had to be very flexible. Not every activity had all the kids involved due to various amounts of homework. During summer vacation time, more consistency in full participation was possible. Exception: our 12-year old was the star pitcher on his baseball team and they played several night a week until the All-Star team lost in the regional tournament. Here is a sample of our family activities in and around the home would ideally be:
Monday evenings: Family Scrapbook Night
We put a lot of value in keeping our family scrapbooks. We had a separate scrapbook for each child and one for the family (we also had a scrapbook that was reserved for our family history: genealogy research). This may seem like “over kill” to some, but now that our children are grown, those scrapbooks are priceless to them. As each child left home, they took their individual scrapbook with them. We kept the “family” scrapbook and it stays on our living room coffee table as a proud reminder of our children’s lives from birth to present. We are still adding pages: GRANDCHILDREN!
Tuesday evenings: Family Game Night
Our family really enjoyed game night. It gave us as parents a way to teach our children the importance of being both a good loser and a good winner. We live in a competitive world and as our children enter into that competitive world they need to be prepared for winning and losing and how to handle both in a christian manner. We would choose games that would involve our 4-year old. She loved Skip Bo as she loved to count. Yahtzee was another game that gave our 4-year old lots of enjoyment. Our boys even enjoyed picking up the dice when she would throw them across the table and onto the floor. Lots of good laughs: lots of fun for all.
Wednesday evenings: Church Night
Where we attend church they have classes divided up in age groups so each of our children have their own class to attend where they not only grow their faith, but grow many friendships.
Thursday evenings: Food Fight Night
Just kidding, but hopefully I have your attention now. Thursday evenings we work together as a family in the preparation of a special meal that has been planned (the week before) by our children. We allow them to decide the menu for a four-course meal and then we divide up the preparation appropriately. For example, we do not our 4-year old to handle hot items like boiling water or deep frying. (I guess I just have a dislike for emergency rooms.) One of the kids favorite menus was: 1st course of an appetizer (in this case cheese bread; 2nd course of mixed salad; 3rd course of spaghetti and meatballs; 4th course Italian doughnuts “Sfinci”. Assignments: 1st course – our 8-year old; 2nd course – My wife and our 4-year old (talk about your “tossed” salad); 3rd course – me and our 12-year old (he really got good at meatballs!); 4th course – everybody. When meal preparation was over the kitchen did indeed look like we had a food fight. Great fun except for when it came time for clean up. But again, a great teaching tool for seeing a task through to completion.
Friday evenings: Football Game/Family Reading Night
During football season, we would go as a family to the local school’s football game. On the Friday evenings that the team was out of town we had our family reading time. We encouraged our children to read not only during this time, but whenever they had some free time. We would allow our children to chose a book to read and then involve everyone who could read to take their turn reading. As the years have passed we look back on our reading nights as special night of bonding as a family. Many of the books we read came from “Hooked On Phonics” material. We were very impressed with the entire “Hooked On Phonics” program. It deserves most of the credit for developing the reading skills in our children and their developing a love of reading.
Saturdays: Arts & Crafts /Community Service Day
As a family we are arts minded. My wife is an excellent artist, I have performed as a member of several symphony orchestras. We encourage our children to pursue their individual interests in the arts. One project we used to lead into activities that are part of a vacation is the creation of a Family Vacation Savings Box. We used a “cigar” box with our kids, but I have not seen a cigar box in years, so any sturdy box about the size of a cigar box should work fine. We decorated the box with pictures of the places we want to visit on our next family vacation. We tape it shut and cut a slot in the top. As a family we developed several strategies for having money available to actually place in our savings box. One that my 8-year old suggested was to take the money we saved using coupons for food purchases. He had helped his mother cut out lots of coupons so it is easy to see why he would suggest this. His mother and I agreed. Our 12-year old placed half of what he earned mowing lawns in the neighborhood. He currently is the leading salesman for a cell phone company and his experience early might have lead to this success. He informed all his customers how he was using half his earnings for helping with the family vacation fund and his client list grew over the years. Challenge your children to help save for the family vacations. You will be as amazed as we were how much more enjoyable the family vacations became.
As a family we are community service minded. Through our church we volunteer as a family to visit nursing homes, help with church and community events, and help many elderly or handicapped church members who need assistance with various tasks such as mowing lawns, cleaning their home, or preparing a healthy meal and taking it to their home. We wanted our children to grow to be caring and unselfish individuals. As we look back at those times we realize how close we became as a family because of our participating as a family in these activities. At first our children were not excited about “helping” other people, but after a very short time, the attitude changed. After each volunteering activity we would have a family meal at a local restaurant. We used the time during the meal to discuss how it made each of us feel to do what we had done. Our children would always mention “warm fuzzy” as a feeling after seeing the smile on the faces of the people we assisted. When we finally returned home we all felt a sense of accomplishment. Of all our volunteer activities, visiting nursing homes was our most memorable. You could see the appreciation in the faces of those wonderful people with whom we were privileged to spend some time getting to know.
Sundays: Church was our primary activity every Sunday. Being able to attend the church of our choice as a family gave spiritual strength to us as individuals and as a family. Worshiping together with our friends was a special time for our family. A time of spiritual growth and appreciation for each other as part of a loving and caring family. After most Sunday services we either had been invited to one of our friends’ homes for lunch or we had invited guests to join us at our home for lunch. Either way, it was a continuation of sharing with other people with like interests and our children strengthened friendships with our guests children. Sundays were truly a blessed day for our entire family.
Activities That Are Part Of A Vacation
So as not to turn this post into the length of a major novel, I will just simply state that the planning of our vacations were done by everyone in our family. It was our goal as parents to choose a vacation location that could be fun for every member of the family. We never had unlimited funds for vacations, but you would have thought by the stories our children tell of our trips that we did. The “Family Vacation Savings Box” money was dedicated to our children’s entertainment and their souvenir purchases. Also, to conserve funds, we tried to plan a vacation route that would include areas where we could visit relatives. (Our adult children now refer to our vacations as “Family Tree Vacations”) This served a dual purpose: saved us money on motels and gave us time to visit with family members we had not seen in several years. As an added plus we could also gather updates for our family history scrapbook.
We live in what is referred to as the Midwest section of the United States. Most of our family live in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas. Two of our favorite destinations were Nashville, Tennessee and San Antonio, Texas. We had numerous activity choices in both. When we went to Nashville, we routed through Kansas City as our 12-year old was a fan of the Kansas City Royals baseball team. So, he wanted to go to a baseball game. Our 8-year old was taking guitar lessons, so he wanted to go to the “Grand Ole Opry” in Nashville. Being as both locations had theme parks, our 4-year old was quite satisfied to ride anything that was slow. My wife and I enjoyed all the selections our children made, we had to as they put up with our visiting the relatives on both sides of the family.
It is my hope that this article will encourage you, the reader, to start involving your children in your activity planning if you don’t do so already. If you are including your children in your activity planning, may this article give you some ideas to give your activities some variety. Raising christian children is such a challenge in today’s world. We as parents should be challenged to find as many methods as we can to involve our children in wholesome activities that will encourage them to consistently keep their focus on things eternal. May God bless your and your family!