Today, I’m very pleased to share a guest post with you by Linda Weddle: teacher, author, and ministry leader. I’m especially fond of her book, How to Raise a Modern-Day-Joseph.
We teach preschoolers to respect what we want them to respect.
Think of the dad who buys the Steelers shirt for his newborn son and puts it on the baby for the trip home from the hospital. Two weeks later, Dad has the baby in his lap as he watches the Steelers on Monday Night football … and for many Steelers games after that.
By the time the baby is a year old, he has been trained to raise his hands in the air and cheer whenever anyone says “Steelers.” So cute. Mom takes pictures and puts them on Facebook. Dad takes a video and puts it on YouTube.
Dad starts teaching the baby the identity of the players and by a year and a half, the child can point to the correct player on the TV screen when Dad calls out the player’s name.
A primary definition of respect is “to recognize the value and worth of a person.” With no apology, Dad has certainly done that with the baby and the Steelers.
And he’s done it without any problems because the Steelers are such a big part of the dad’s life.
He simply talked, showed, reviewed and cheered his child into becoming a Steeler’s fan even though the child has little idea what it’s all about.
An yet, in terms of God? Well, suddenly we get a little tangled up in the process.
Hmm … comparison here?
*How do we talk about God? Do we treat Him with reverence and respect? Or do we only mention God when we’re angry?
*Do we teach children about God in our daily lives? Do we teach him to pray before meals or bedtime and anytime? Do we begin reading Bible stories to her even though she doesn’t understand the words?
*Do we take advantage of teachable moments? “Yes, Aiden, that elephant is BIG! Aren’t you glad God made BIG elephants for us to enjoy?”
*Do our kids see us being excited about Bible study? Do they see us excited about church – or do they hear us complain about being too tired or not liking the music?
*Do they see us reflect God in the way we talk to our neighbors? Do they see us go out of our way to help someone? Do they hear us be kind to those with whom we come in contact?
*Do they see you serve at church? In the neighborhood? In the community?
*Do we teach them a verse once and then forget it? Do we read a Bible story once and then never talk about the story again? Do they see us encourage them to tell the story back to us?
*Do we ask their Sunday school and VBS teachers and Awana leaders what they learned in class and then review it with them?
*Do they see that we care that they understand what they’ve learned?
*Do they hear us encourage the pastor and other church staff members? Do we teach them to say “thank you” when they leave a class? Do they hear us compliment someone who has done a good job?
*Do they hear us cheer them when they’ve learned a verse or retold a Bible story? Do we encourage them when they tell someone else about the Lord – because even very young children can do this (and often without the hang ups adults have). But if we want our kids to respect and honor God, they must see that to do so is worthwhile.
Teaching a child to “respect” football players can be fun (as long as it’s not extreme), but it’s not all that important. (I know, I know … I can just hear the football fans out there.)
Teaching a child to respect God can also be fun – and a priceless, all-encompassing, life-changing experience.
Linda Weddle has had 30-plus years of experience as a teacher, curriculum writer, author, speaker and ministry leader and is the author of 13 books including How to Raise a Modern-Day-Joseph (David C. Cook). She is the corporate blogger for Awana: apparentlyblogging.awana.org (parent blog) and Lifethreads.awana.org (overall ministry blog).