Parenting is easy… said no one ever. Parenting is hard work, but it is the kind of work that is good, rewarding, and joyful. Solomon the Sage displayed his wisdom when he said of children, “Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them” (Psalm 127:5). With a recent addition, my wife and I now have 5 children ages 7 and under. Needless to say, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to apply what God says about parenting to our little ones. Here are 10 things to do with your young children in an effort to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4):
1. Tell them about the glory of God.
Tell them who God is. Tell them what He has done. Point to the swimming fish, shooting star, swaying tree, flying bird, ripening strawberry, and show them God’s hand at work. After a recent church service, we walked out of the front doors of our church building with our children to a warm setting sun that left the sky glowing pink and orange. One of the sweet godly ladies in our congregation leaned over and asked our children, “Do you hear what that sun is saying?” Calvin was right, “The whole world is a theatre for the display of the divine goodness, wisdom, justice, and power.”
2. Read the Bible with them.
Don’t withhold the book that is sweeter than honey and drippings from the honeycomb (Psalm 19:10). Give the kids the sugar. Read them the life-giving words of Scripture. Pray that God will give them faith and then speak the Bible to them for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
3. Catechize them.
Find a biblically faithful catechism and work through it with your children. A good catechism will help your children think theologically. It will help them construct a worldview that will help them interpret the things going on around them and within them. We ask our 4 year old, “What did God give Adam and Eve besides bodies?” She responds, “He gave them souls that will never die.” We ask, “Have you a soul as well as a body?” She answers, “Yes, I have a soul that will never die.” She is better equipped to face the forthcoming funeral because of the catechism and our conversations that spring from it. (Recommendations for a good catechism here, here, and here.)
4. Sing with them.
Sing Christ-exalting songs. Sing hymns. Sing made-up songs and pray you have the privilege of hearing them sing their own made up ones. Singing cheers the soul and instructs the mind.
5. Listen to them.
Listen to their long and confusing stories. Don’t be too busy to hear about their day, dislikes, and desires. Let them vent their little heart to you so that when they grow older they won’t be tight-lipped teenagers who won’t share with you because they remember that you didn’t have time to hear about their dreams and disappointments.
6. Confess your sin to them.
Live a life of repentance before your children. Show them that daddy and mommy need the blood of Jesus. Demonstrate what a true and humble confession looks like. I remember taking a knee to look my 5-year-old son in the eye after treating him harshly. I asked his forgiveness and he granted it immediately. I arose walking hand in hand with him, preaching this to myself: Covering your own shortcomings won’t teach him to rely on the Lord.
7. Hug, Kiss, Wrestle, and Dance with them.
Share not only the gospel with your children, but your lives as well (1 Thessalonians 2:8). With little ones, this means intentional down time. We enjoy tussling around the family room floor or dancing in the room before bed. Ride bikes, throw a ball, go to a park. And be mindful that little eyes are watching your every move. Like it or not, “do as I say not as I do” doesn’t play.
8. Discipline them.
The Bible considers discipline a matter of love. Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Do you love your children? If so, the Bible says you will give attention to their correction and training. I commend Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart to consider this topic in more detail.
9. Teach them to love the church.
Point out the many and marvelous examples of sacrificial love in your church. We recently had the church provide many meals for us after having a child. As each member dropped off food we’d ask our kids, “Can you believe that the church would be so kind to us?” We considered with them what might cause our church to love us so. Consider, also, how to encourage your kids to love the Lord’s Day. Look forward with them to the first day of the week. Memorize Psalm 122:1 together and celebrate with David, “I was glad when they said to me ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”
10. Pray with them.
Prayer is learned. That’s why Jesus answered when the disciples asked him to teach them to pray. Let the children hear you vent your heart before God’s throne. Let them hear your faith-filled petitions for them, your church, and the world. Let them listen to a steady stream of your thanksgiving to the Father for His continual provision in the life of your family.
Press on in the tiresome and treasured work of parenting younger children, remembering, “children are a heritage from the LORD” (Psalm 127:3).