“I’m bored!” When a parent hears that starting the first day of summer vacation, the inclination is to rush off to summer camps, programs, and enrichment classes. But does that truly bring about the Christ-centered calm that you long for in your home? Is there a different way to face the long summer days with children “under foot?” Absolutely!
First, it’s important to realize that you are allowed to resist your children’s insistence for activity. You do not have to entertain them 24/7. Our grandparents didn’t. What did they use to tell their kids? “Find something to do.” They just expected their children to amuse themselves, and they usually did! Forts, hide and seek, reading, doing puzzles, listening to old albums while perusing the Sears catalog–after all, it was the 60’s! Children who agonize with free time usually just haven’t been given enough time to turn the corner.
“What can I do?” is the next phrase. Why not put together a folder with suggestions? That precludes your having to constantly engage in a verbal battle. With a little forethought, you can compile a list from your own imagination or cull friends’ suggestions. Things like, “write a play and act it out on video, design clothes, design a new lego model, start a rock collection, hammer all the nails sticking out on the porch so that they are flush, make puppets out of toilet paper rolls and do a puppet show, color, play the piano (or drums?—perhaps think that one through), listen to a book on tape, do a jigsaw puzzle, clean your room . . .”
How does this bring Christ into your home? Simply this: establishing an atmosphere of independence provides time to cultivate the gifts He’s instilled in each of us.
Now what can together-time look like? It’s as simple as—
1. Read the Bible together
As soon as a child is reading, they can be given their very own Bible. An NIrV is a good translation to start with and can be marked in. Here’s one way to do Bible study with young children: everyone spends some time independently reading a section, say, 10 verses. Each marks a favorite verse from that passage with a star in the margin. Then you meet together. When you share, let each person read his/her version of that verse and then say why he/she likes it. Everyone gets a turn. That’s it! You don’t have to be a Bible scholar, and it emphasizes the fact that all may read God’s word, no matter how young. This is a super easy way to get your child to begin reading the Bible independently.
Word of caution: don’t use your turn to sermonize. Seeing yourself as a fellow pilgrim goes a long way to foster closeness. (And don’t worry if all your son’s favorites are about flaming swords or Leviathan. He’s learning to love God’s word; the Holy Spirit will do the rest.) If you have a young non-reader, that child just listens. And boy, won’t s/he be motivated to learn to read! My youngest of four was chomping at the bit to start reading.
2. Set up godly behavior incentives
This is not the typical chart-for-good-behavior. Instead, it is an opportunity to train in godliness (1 Tim 4:8 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”) Draw a big tree and make little apple cut-outs. Teach your children about the Fruits of the Spirit, then when you observe one displaying one of the fruits, you write that act on a little apple and let him or her affix it to the tree. It may be that they perform just to get an apple on the poster. Not to worry. At this point, training the will is an important part of discipline.
3. Pray together
Fill a jar or pot with people to pray for--missionaries, grandparents, a wayward cousin, pastors-- and set it in the middle of the dinner table. Take turns pulling out a name at mealtime.
4. Teach chores
What’s that old saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness?” Giving your child responsibilities accompanied by teaching about Christ’s attitude of serving sets them on a course of independence. Young children actually have fun with this. They will be ready for when God calls them to leave the house, and you’ll have a nice clean house in the meantime!
5. Cultivate thankfulness
The Bible exhorts us to live in thankfulness. One way to do this is to give each child some thin colorful post-it notes (not stickers—they leave a tacky mess) and send them out to put a strip on things they are thankful for. Your house will be a colorful reminder that God has been good to you. You could even journal together your finds. Maybe you could say each person must come daily to the dinner table with a new item to be thankful for.
Those long days of summer. Can you imagine a home revolving around Christ’s peace and joy? It can happen.Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”