Developing the Heart of Christ

Today is another installment of our “Faith-Based Parenting” series

By: Kimberly Wagner

faith based parenting graphicHave you seen the series of commercials by Coke Zero? I was shocked and a little sickened when I saw one of these while a group of us were watching a basketball game at a friend’s house. Coke calls it their “Enjoy Everything” marketing campaign and according to their website, this newest series is geared to tell men, “It’s not your fault . . .” and to celebrate “guys being guys.” I’m not sure what they mean by that, unless they mean guys are to celebrate selfishness.

The commercials are promoting letting responsibility go, because you deserve to “Enjoy Everything.” Instead of picking up his in-laws at the airport, this guy was applauded by the narrator for choosing to stay home and win the battle on a video game.

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Faith-Based Parenting: Rooting Your Child in Love

by Kimberly Wagner

faith based parenting graphic“I love you, Mama!” The seven year old little guy sent out his love message to his mom in the driver’s seat. I glanced to the back and saw his big grin. This was about the third time that day I’d heard his unsolicited shout-out of love. We’d enjoyed several hours of adventure together, his mom, twin sister, and I, and throughout the day I’d witnessed two children very “rooted and grounded in love.”

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Faith-Based Parenting: Inspiring Faith

By Kimberly Wagner

kim with grandsonHe’s one of the happiest little fellas I know. Always smiling. His mama says that well disciplined children are happy children. I’ve watched that with them. They are already clearly drawing lines of right and wrong even though Drake’s just starting to walk.

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Cultivating an Overflow of Gratitude

By: Kimberly Wager

faith based parenting graphicMy son’s eighth birthday party wasn’t the best. He had a birthday meltdown. It wasn’t pretty. There were a lot of contributing factors: too much cake and punch, high expectations. His birthday meltdown was a wake-up call to me that I needed to take a more intentional approach to cultivating gratitude. We used that next year to focus on studying and developing gratitude and I saw real change take place in that little guy.

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The Forgiveness Lifestyle

By Kimberly Wagner

faith based parenting graphicA precious young mom shared with me last week that she had to ask her son and the rest of his eleven year old soccer teammates for their forgiveness. She loves the Lord, loves His Word, but in a moment of frustration, she lost her cool in front of the team. The next week, she gathered them together so she could look each one in the eye and explain why she needed to ask their forgiveness. Many of these kids are from non-Christian homes and had probably never seen or heard a gospel demonstration like that!

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Faith-Based Parenting: Self-Control Training

By Kim Wagner

faith based parenting graphicHave you ever heard of the Marshmallow Test? In the 1960s, Walter Mischel conducted this now famous experiment. A group of four-year olds were given a marshmallow and promised another, only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. You can google and find recent videos of reenactments of this experiment.

It is both hilarious and agonizing to watch these youngsters strive to practice self-discipline as they longingly gaze at the marshmallow inches from their face. Some pick it up to smell it, stroke it, rub it across their faces …  but then quickly put it back on the plate, forcing themselves to wait for the reward of a second marshmallow. Some gradually cave, some start by licking it, then pinching small bits, thinking their nibbling might go unnoticed.

We all naturally make choices from selfish desires — maturity and wisdom are needed to make decisions that involve delayed gratification, self-control, self-sacrifice, or self-discipline. Parenting involves leading little ones to understand why this matters and then training them to practice these actions.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit but also a character quality we can encourage our young ones to develop. So how do we help our children see this as a desirable quality?

• Creative games and activities that reward “waiting” give youngsters the framework for understanding self-control.

Silly games like “Mother, May I?” and other creative activities that train a child to understand the meaning of “pausing,” waiting, or delaying gratification, makes the practice of self-control a fun competition. Plan a fun activity like baking cookies as an intentional exercise that shows the value of “waiting” — as they watch the cookies in the oven, let them know there is a time to wait, and the wait will be worth it—hot cookies with cold milk. (Of course this won’t work if the child discovers how tasty raw cookie dough can be!)

Simple (but sometime difficult) expectations like not allowing a child to snack right before dinner, trains the child that there is a time for eating and a time to practice self-restraint. We should be conveying to our children the truth that waiting is beneficial — waiting is not punishment — it is the process that allows the end result to be even better!

• Give your child the opportunity to exercise their “freedom of choice” (in small measures) and experience the consequences of foolish choices and the benefits of wise choices.

If I’m always administering “outer control” over my child’s behavior rather than training them to practice inner self-control, they will never mature or develop wisdom for making right decisions on their own. They are merely learning to comply with my demands or learning to perform because of my pressure or approval.

For example: Let your children choose when/how to insert their chores into the daily schedule. This allows them to experience the achievement of accomplishing a job on their own. If a pattern develops where chores are neglected, remove the privilege of choice for a bit and require chores to be completed at a specific time. After progress is made, return the privilege of choosing the time of day they’ll do their chores.

Give them the choice of what book to read before bed, the privilege of choosing the game for family game night, how to spend free time (probably lame examples but insert here what age appropriate choices you can give your children and be intentional to offer ample opportunities for them to practice their “freedom of choice”).

• Affirm wise choices and use their foolish choices as a gospel opportunity.

If you want your child to learn the benefit of self-control, they need to see you practice it. Be intentional in watching for their smallest attempt at practicing self-control and make a big deal to affirm them for it. Allow them to experience the consequences of their foolish choices but also dialogue with them in a grace-filled atmosphere. Freely share with them your own mess-ups and the negative consequences you’ve experienced.

Be transparent and let them see that you’ve had to grow and learn just as they are. Be quick to seek their forgiveness when you’ve set a poor example in practicing self-control — this will produce a culture of repentance in your home—but it will also allow your child to see that there are real-life consequences to our actions.

If you are pulled over for speeding and receive a traffic ticket — this is a prime opportunity to train your child the value of practicing self-control. When we’re in a hurry, exceeding the speed limit (breaking the rules rather than practicing self-control) it can lead to some expensive consequences! Don’t waste the opportunity to use your own experiences as a teachable moment.

• The “good thing” you want before the right time, becomes the “best thing” when you wait for God’s timing!

We want our children to learn the value of waiting for the right season to experience good things — like waiting for marriage before experiencing God’s good gift of a sexual relationship. If a child gets every new gadget on the market, a cell phone at ten, a new car at sixteen, a credit- card to cover his expenses while in high-school (with parents footing the bill), the child will never learn the value of waiting (or the responsibility of providing for himself).

Training self-control in small things now instills discipline for meeting the greater challenges of self-denial that your child will face throughout life.

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Prov. 25:28)

How are you training your child to practice self-control?

wagner_kimberlyKIMBERLY WAGNER is married to her favorite pastor, LeRoy Wagner. Their children include Rachel and her husband Adam, Caleb and his wife Lindsey, plus a growing tribe of grandchildren! Kim’s passion is Christ, and she desires to ignite women’s pursuit of God’s glory. She is a frequent guest on the Revive Our Hearts radio program, as well as a regular contributor to the True Woman blog. Kim has written several devotionals and resource materials for women and loves encouraging women to become students of the Word. She is the author of “Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior.” You can connect with her through her website: where she’s transparent about what God is teaching her.

Faith-Based Parenting: Fostering Loyalty

By Kim Wagner

You may have the idea that being your child’s “buddy” will foster their loyalty. I’ve seen a few moms approach parenting more like a popularity contest; they cave to the child’s whims and demands from fear of losing the child’s devotion or making him or her unhappy.

Watch out, mom, that approach is a recipe for disaster! Continue reading

Faith-Based Parenting: Getting Them to God

By Kim Wagner

My husband was only 6 years old when He responded to Christ’s call to salvation. He was a mere boy of 13 when he surrendered to preach the gospel and delivered his first message. It’s hard for me to imagine having a kid-pastor barely 18, but the folks in my husband’s first church loved and respected their teenage pastor. His experience however, is definitely not the norm. Continue reading

Faith-Based Parenting: Intentionally Winning the Next Generation

By Kim Wagner

My husband and I had a rude awakening when our firstborn was entering her teen years. About that time, a study was released that showed frightening statistics indicating we were losing our kids:

• 69–94 percent of Christian youth forsake their faith after leaving high school.

• An additional 64 percent loss after college graduation.

• 75 percent loss of students from the Assemblies of God churches within one year of high school graduation.

• 88 percent loss of students from churches within the Southern Baptist Convention.

• 94 percent fallout within two years of high school graduation was reported by Josh McDowell Ministries. Continue reading

Faith-Based Parenting: Questions to Ponder

By Kim Wagner

A young mom sent me an e-mail recently and asked if she could pick my brain on how to recognize the difference between “fear motivation” verses “faith motivation” in raising her kids. It’s a great question because I think operating from fear is a common trap for us moms who are trying to parent biblically: Continue reading