God gave the children of Israel choices. One choice brought blessing; the other brought trouble. Right choices were a lifestyle that caused the blessing of God to overtake them. God explained to them up front that choices are loaded . . . with consequences.
Deuteronomy 30: 19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
Helping our children see the result of their choices is critical. Train, explain, demonstrate; let them feel the results of their choices. That is how they learn.
For younger children, adding one marble to a jar every time a chore is completed will help your child tangibly see his right choices grow. Rewards for reaching certain levels in the jar will connect the blessing to the choice of responsibility.
Teenagers need a lot of talking through of circumstances before they occur. The Lord gave Deut. 30:19 to the Israelites before they entered the land. Look ahead—for the day, for the week—scan the horizon; are there situations coming up that we need to clarify for our teens before they get there? When you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to talk about with your teen. The Holy Spirit is our Paracletos (One called alongside to help) for life; He is our Counselor, our Helper. He knows what’s ahead. Call Him alongside. He wants to guide us.
One summer afternoon several of one of our teenager’s friends were all going to a movie, harmless enough, but a mixed crowd. The Holy Spirit just pricked my thoughts, alerted me, to the fact that I needed to talk to our teenager about what could occur in a mixed crowd and what the boundaries are. Through our discussion, we were helping him look at the road and make a pre-choice for doing right.
In George Barna’s research, he found that parents and kids should be having at least 90 minutes of conversation daily. Clearly, the time is proportionate to the age; however, as parents we want to have the mindset of interpreting the outcomes for our children—of life and death, of blessing and cursing—in the coming and going of life.
Stories are a great way to communicate the outcome of choices. When our children were young, I often told them stories of a “pretend friend” named Pickety-Pockety. He was a playful, mischievous little monkey who came all the way from Africa. Somehow he landed in the very port city where we were living!
Pickety-Pockety had wild and incredible adventures in our own backyard, and his very closest playmates were Anna, Patrick, and Billy. The unfortunate thing is that Pickety often made wrong choices. Through Pickety-Pockety’s mishaps, our children were able to vicariously live out each wrong choice all the way to its fateful fruition.
For example, one incident found Pickety disobeying and leaving the yard where he was supposed to be playing. Through a series of events, he ended up running in the street where he was hit by a car. Of course we had to take him to the hospital; all the while, not even sure that he would live. He ended up being strung up in traction and had a very serious broken leg. Through this episode, an obedience lesson was clearly demonstrated in a way that they could relate to and even enjoy.
Biographies are another excellent tool for teaching our children of all ages about life choices. Consider some of the great men and women of history, or a missionary family, or maybe even stories from your own ancestry. Reading books out loud, as a family, provides not only the opportunity to stop and discuss, but it also affirms our relationships as we participate in this activity together.
Enjoy the summer with your children. Help them learn about the goodness of God who helps us know the consequences of our choices . . . ahead of time!