I’ve found that some kids just really struggle to obey. Have you?
Here’s how to help your kids make wise choices.
I saw this struggle to make wise choices a lot as a classroom teacher. Some students were just natural rule followers who couldn’t get in trouble if they tried. Others couldn’t stay OUT of trouble if they tried. Even their best efforts fell short. Every. Single. Day.
As a parent, I wasn’t surprised to have kids all over the spectrum. I have two kids that I’d say are average trouble-makers (ha), one child who can’t get into trouble even if she tries, and one who can’t stay out of trouble no matter what she does. (Good thing God gave us a sense of humor, right?)
Of course, I don’t have to tell you that my trouble-finding child (often labeled as strong-willed) requires a lot of attention. We talk often about wise choices and decisions she makes (like, say, hitting her brother because he looked in her direction). And we have a LOT of teachable moment “talks” and a lot of tears in the process.
But last year, she asked me a question that stopped me dead in my tracks. “Mom, why is it so hard to do the right thing?”
This is exactly the question we want to be asking because until we come to the end of our own ability, we can’t see our need for a Savior.
Since I’m the rule-following, never-gets-in-trouble type, I had to think a lot about the answer. Was it hard for me to make wise choices? Mostly no. But if no one was looking, I have to admit that I also struggled to do the right thing. She was right, and the question was valid.
Why is it so hard to do the right thing, and how can we ALL make wise choices instead of getting ourselves into trouble?
More importantly, how can I help my kids with this struggle? I don’t have all the answers to these questions either, but I have found a few tips that make a big difference in all my kids—regardless of their natural bents.
Tips for Helping Your Kids Make Wise Choices
A Long List of Rules Won’t Help Kids Make Wise Choices
What do you do when no one is looking? This was the question that worried me the most as a parent. I could make a grocery list of rules for my kids, but the second I’m not watching, what happens? Our fleshly response is to try to do right if someone is watching, but then we don’t always follow through when they’re not.
This is where rules fail us.
Rules don’t permeate private spaces like your room,
your friend’s house, and your thoughts.
If we want our kids to make wise choices, we will need something that goes deeper. Plus, we all know someone who “follows” the rule by finding a loophole or exception. They think of something no other kid has ever tried. Because kids are all different, our rules can’t possibly cover everything.
Rules aren’t one size fits all
because ALL kids are different.
I’m not opposed to rules. (I’m a rule follower, so I thrive on rules!) We just have to remember to keep rules in their place and not rely on them to keep our kids safe. In fact, rules can even push you away from God if they focus on your failure instead of helping you see your need for God.
Making Wise Choices Takes Understanding
We all know how to obey—whether we accept the rules as good things or rebel against them. But just because we know HOW to obey doesn’t necessarily mean we know WHY we should obey. Like me, I’m sure you have been asked “Why?” more times than you can count by your children. Is it bad that kids ask these questions? Often we feel like they are insulting, but it’s just not so.
Kids need to ask questions and be encouraged to seek answers
so they can take ownership of what they think and believe!
Understanding your WHY goes further than outward conformity. It reaches our hearts! Understanding “why” ultimately makes the difference between a compliant child and an obedient child.
To help your kids see the importance of obedience, try using teachable moments when you are living out life. Point out consequences for choices made (but never shame another person). You can use these real-life situations to pray for the struggles of others while teaching your kids to recognize the consequences of behavior.
For example, if you are in the checkout line and a child is screaming and throwing a fit, your kids will notice. When you get to the car, say, “Hey, let’s pray for that child and her mom.” Then do it! Once you are done, ask your kids what consequences the child’s tantrum caused. This is a great opportunity to have compassion for everyone involved while still using it to teach your kids about how our choices affect others.
Be sure to set your kids up for success. Don’t go into the grocery store at naptime or when everyone is starving. Even adults struggle to make good choices in those situations. Yes, your kids will need to learn to handle it, but this is better done when they are much older. Trust me—there’s plenty of teaching time at home too!
Another practical way to help your kids is to be real with your own struggles. If you give the impression that you are perfect, it sends the message to your kids that something is wrong with them. They can never measure up to your perfection! Instead, we ought to be showing them how to go to God for help, forgiveness, and guidance when we struggle. Remind your kids that there’s ALWAYS hope because God is faithful and merciful toward us.
Give Your Kids Tools to Help Them Make Wise Choices
If we want our kids to take ownership of their faith, we can’t just lecture or tell them things. We need to SHOW them the truth and where to find it. Every time there is a question or problem, open the Bible and have your kids read the truth you want to apply to the situation. Then talk about what it means.
It’s vital that we don’t teach our kids to rely on our words alone because all parents make mistakes. The enemy will use our mistakes to take captive our kids’ hearts. But if you teach your kids to stand firm on the truth of God’s Word, the enemy has no grounds.
Want help? Do Right is a 4-week Bible study all about making wise choices in the face of temptation. As you put on the whole armor of God and understand who the real enemies are, you will learn how it’s possible to make right choices no matter what!
This study is available in parent guide, primary, junior, AND teen versions, making it a great fit for family devotions and discussions.
We also have a free, one-week Armor of God Challenge that you can get started on while you wait for your studies to arrive!
Sign up, download the free printable, and follow along as we discuss why we need the armor of God, discover where we can find this armor, and learn how each piece fits together to help us make wise choices in the face of temptation. Each day, we will look at biblical truth, learn practical solutions, and participate in challenges designed to grow you and encourage your faith!
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.