Saturday, May 7, 2016

How to teach your children using six bedtime prayers

Teaching your children the essential core values can be a challenging process. How do you instill in them the values that you want them to have? You can teach your children consistently by using a blessing during your child’s bedtime routine.
Praying hands on a Bible

Each night I pray this prayer of blessing for each of my kids during our bedtime routine. I say, “God, please bless ______, keep them Safe, keep them Strong, keep them Pure, help them to be Obedient, Respectful and to have a good Attitude.” I usually add a prayer to help them sleep well and have nice dreams, and then a more personal tag for the day, “Help him to do well on his test tomorrow”, “Help her tummy to feel better as she sleeps”, etc.

In addition to the obvious spiritual reasons for these prayers, let me explain several practical reasons why I pray the same things each night.

1) I want them to hear consistently what I desire for and from them. Today about the only thing that is constant is change. The world is constantly changing around us and it can be difficult to keep up. It’s especially hard to be consistent with our children. Praying a specific blessing for your child each night can give you one piece of consistency in the midst of the chaos.

2) I use the repetition to drill it in. I want my children to learn these core values that I am saying each night in my blessing for them.

3) I want them to have a specific phrase to remember from me when I’m away. I travel quite a bit, so I want them to have things to remember when I’m away. But I also am trying to instill some values in them that will follow them even when I’m gone for good. I want them to remember these core values long after I’m gone. 

So why do I pray these specific six blessings:
Safe - I have a deep desire for my children to be safe. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to put them in a bubble to protect them from all possible harm. Quite the opposite. I let my kids climb trees, play outside, wrestle each other, play sports, chase our black lab and much more. I even invite them to come up on the roof with me when I’m putting up Christmas lights each year. A few months ago, I even intentionally let Matthew, my five year old, climb a tree in order to then slide onto the roof to join me as I was taking down the Christmas lights. I don’t over shelter my children, but I do want them to be safe in all they do. So I pray that they will be kept safe.

Strong - I exercise my physical strength by using weights in the gym every week. However, it’s important to recognize that there are also other kinds of strength to consider when raising children. There is strength of character, strength of morals, strength of will, and strength of mind just to name a few. I want my children to grow up strong in mind, body, and soul. I want them to be prepared to help others with their physical strength, but also through the use of their minds. When I pray for their strength, I am praying for their physical health, but also for their mental and spiritual strength. 

Pure - Have you noticed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain purity in this world that we live in? If you have kids, however, you don’t have to look far to see true purity. There is nothing like the purity of a child and I want my kids to stay pure for as long as possible. I pray for it, I encourage it, I protect it. We take caution in what we let them watch on tv and what they can do on the internet because I want to protect their purity. We use monitoring programs to see what they are doing on laptops, but I also encourage them each night as I pray for their purity. 

Obedient - Ok, this is getting tough now. Have you ever asked a 5 year old to do something? Anything? Just to have him or her yell back “no!”? Well, if you have kids and you haven’t heard that response, then send me the secret to raising kids because my kids love to say no. I think all kids do. So we go back to the issue of consistency. I want my kids to see consistency from me, and I try to get it from them as well. This takes patience, perseverance, and sometimes punishment. I pray for my kids to be Obedient because I want them to know that this is a core value. Obedience is going to help them now, but it is also going to be key as they grow up to become adults. When they start driving, I want them to know that if they see a stop light, that’s not just a suggestion that they can ignore. I want them to understand that obedience is a good thing. It protects them. And they don’t always have to understand why they are being asked to do something. As they grow older, I am wiling to give more explanations for my reasons, but at an early age, I simply want obedience.

Respectful - My family is from Alabama. And, even though I didn’t live here my entire life, I still got those good Southern values instilled in me. Saying “yes Sir.” and “yes Ma’am” was a natural thing for me growing up. I want my children to have that same respect in their lives. Just saying the words “yes Sir” is an important start to understanding respect. But it’s just a start. I often explain to my children about the importance of respecting all people. (yes, even your brother or your sister) You don’t have to agree with everything they do or say. You don’t have to like their stance on things. Sometimes, you may not even like that person. But you do need to respect them. A recent example of this came from the current presidential election race. My kids came home one day seriously disrespecting one of the candidates. (apparently they heard someone else doing this and thought that it was funny and acceptable to do the same). Now, I won’t say that I agree with everything this presidential candidate says or stands for, but I want my children to understand respect. I explained that this person may one day be our president, and we were not going to disrespect them. (tough lesson even for many adults, if our children see us disrespecting people, how can they be expected to act differently). 

Have a Good Attitude - A few years ago, my dad started a saying, “you can choose to be….. Happy!” This is such a key concept for kids and adults alike to learn. Have you ever felt like all of life’s circumstances were against you? That everything you did was against you? I’m reminded of a favorite book of ours “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” (this is an affiliate link) In it, a young boy named Alexander has… well... a terrible, horrible no good, very bad day. All the circumstances are against him, his friends seem to be against him, and even his own family. It’s so bad that he says throughout the book that he may as well just move to Australia. At the end of the book, Alexander comes to the conclusion that sometimes we all have days like that, even in Australia. The point is this, we all have bad days. We can’t control all of our circumstances. We can’t control the actions of others. But we can control our own attitude. We can choose to be Happy.  I want my kids to understand and accept this and always have a good attitude, even when life seems to be against them.

Ok, so now that you know why I pray these things, a couple of important side notes.
1) Expect your children to be different. Even if you’re praying the same thing for each child each night, don’t expect the same results from each child all the time. Children are different at different ages. I don’t expect the same level of respect and obedience from my 5 year old as I do from my 10 year old. Even though I have been praying the same blessings for both of them, I know that the 10 year old should have a different level of understanding and response because of five extra years of experience and maturity. You also have to realize that your children will have different personalities. Matthew, has a wonderful attitude 95 percent of the time, he is just wired that way. (maybe part of that is his last child syndrome, I don’t know). His attitude is going to be different from that of Andrew, my 10 year old.

2) Don’t expect changes over night. This is a long process that requires your constant working to instill these values in your children. I often use our prayer time at night to discuss one or more of these principals with my children. I may say something like this “Eden, do you understand why it’s important to be obedient?” Since children are often more irritable and prone to act out at night, this becomes a prime time to go over these issues. They may not always seem to appreciate it now, but hopefully as adults they will recognize the importance and go back to these core values that were instilled night after night as children.

Bedtime prayers can be a perfect time to say a blessing for your children. It can also be a fantastic time to instill the values that you want your children to have. It doesn’t take any effort to say these blessings and you may see a great return from your efforts. 

Question: What are the things that you are trying to teach your children on a consistent basis? Or, if your children are now grown, what did you try (or wish you had tried) to teach your children when they were young? Leave a comment by clicking here

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