One of the easiest ways to add more joy to your parenting is to do it God’s way. God created you, created parenting, and placed you in a particular time with particular kids. Want to enjoy your parenting? Do it God’s way! But, how? What does God say about parenting?
Deuteronomy 6 is one of my favorite places to start as Christian parents. And, this is one of those places where I feel the Bible is pretty clear and practical on its own, but I want to share some of the ways that I live out these verses with my family. I call this the Love, Teach, Play approach and it is based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
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What is Deuteronomy 6:4-9?
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT
Deuteronomy was written by Moses to the people of God while wandering in the desert after their freedom from slavery in Egypt. The Israelites had spent hundreds of years in captivity and didn’t know how to live in this new freedom.
You may be a new Christian and have been recently freed from the bondage of your sin. Or, maybe you have been a Christian for your entire life, but God still is freeing you from living in the bondage of fear or shame.
Either way, or anywhere in your spiritual journey, God has directions for how to best parent. According to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, it starts with you loving God with all that you are.
How to Love God as a Christian Parent
What does God say about Christian parenting? He says it starts with loving him.
“Listen, people of Israel! The Lord is our God. He is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ICB
This is where we start: love. As parents, as Christians, as humans, we need to make our identity about God. We need to say, “My relationship with the Lord comes first.”
In Habits of the Household, Justin Whitmel Early writes, “Our best parenting comes when we think less about being parents of children and more about being children of God.” (p. 17)
Starting with loving God fills us, forms us, and fortifies us to be the parents, spouses, friends, neighbors, employees, employers, and co-workers we are called to be. We can’t live a life in the way of Jesus without first loving and seeking after Him.
What Does It Look Like to Love God as a Christian Parent?
For me this means spending time in prayer and the Bible each morning. Now, I will admit I don’t wake up an hour before the rest of the family to do a quiet time and that’s ok. When you have littles or even bigs at home God understands your schedule, your need for sleep, and that sometimes your kids have a magic sense when you try to wake up early and they get up, too.
I wholeheartedly believe that God would rather have all 24 hours with me, than just one hour designated for him. So I listen to the Bible and the Bible Recap podcast as I get ready for the day. Then I just talk to God throughout the day. I read books and listen to podcasts that help my faith, I play worship music around the house, and I do things that I enjoy and invite God into the little moments, I pray for the good and hard things.
Not only does keeping my focus on the Lord throughout the day help me, it models to my kids what it looks like to follow Jesus along the way of our daily lives.
What Does God Tell Us to Teach Our Kids as Christian Parents?
Verse 6 is like a bridge from love and teach.
“Always remember these commands I give you today. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and walk along the road. Talk about them when you lie down and when you get up. Write them down and tie them to your hands as a sign. Tie them on your forehead to remind you. Write them on your doors and gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ICB
NIV says “impress,” NLT says “repeat,” but ICB says, “teach.”
After, and while, you are loving God you get the opportunity to teach. To say, “I have the privilege and responsibility to guide my children in what it means to live as a follower of Jesus, loving God, and loving others not just through my actions but in my words, as well.”
In Habits of the Household he writes, “The most Christian way to think about our households is that they are little ‘schools of love,’ places where we have one vocation, one calling: to form all who live here into lovers of God and neighbor.” (p. 15)
Schools of love! What happens at school? Teaching! And, what I absolutely love about these verses in Deuteronomy is that we aren’t told to have big formal family worship services. We talk about God and his Word when we sit at home, on the road, going to bed, and getting up. Just along the way of our daily lives together.
How to Teach Kids about God and the Bible
Point God out in nature, food, creation, and science when the kids ask questions. Bring Scripture into conversations where it is relevant.
We pray in the car on the way to school. Often the Lord’s prayer or for their teachers and friends. We also talk a lot about the Fruit of the Spirit in the car. When I drop them off at school or dance or wherever. I encourage them to “be fruity” as a reminder to let the Holy Spirit work his fruit in them.
We read Bible stories and pray when putting them to bed. I thank God and pray a blessing over them when we wake up. They are small habits we aim for, but not ones that are shame-inducing if we forget.
Should We Still Tie Scripture To Our Hands And Foreheads?
“Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.” Deuteronomy 6:8 NLT
Instead of literally wearing the Bible on our hands and foreheads, I use lip balm and bless their heads and hands with a cross and prayer. We call it blessing balm. We do it most school days at drop off and my kids have done it for me and others on special occasions, too.
This is an idea I got from Lacy Fin Borgo in Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together.
For writing them on your doors and gates, we include Bible verses, photos, and mementos of God’s blessings around our house. I like to link this verse to Joshua 4 where the Israelites build an altar with stones so that the kids will ask questions and then the adults can share stories of what God has done and who he is. I call it creating an environment of curiosity. You can ask yourself, “Does my home reflect God and offer opportunities for me to share with kids and others stories of his love and faithfulness?”
Using Play to Disciple Children
Finally, the last part of my approach to living a Deuteronomy 6 life is play. Play honors God’s design of child development and the way they learn, and gives our children an opportunity to experience the joy and abundant life offered by Christ.
In Habits of the Household, Early has a whole chapter on play. He writes, “Have you ever thought about the innate need to play? Why is it that children seem built to play and pretend? It is because in the story of God, we were made for another world–a world of unfettered joy.” (p. 163)
Psalm 16:11 says, “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” And John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
If our lives as Christ-followers, don’t reflect the joy of being in his presence and full life, we are doing a disservice to others. We don’t need to be inauthentic and happy all the time, pretending that life is easy, but we should be experiencing joy and sharing that with others, especially our kids.
Play doesn’t have to be fancy, take a lot of time, or make a mess. Play can be as simple as singing songs, secret handshakes, having dance parties, telling jokes, or even being a little silly when you pray together.
For example, when the girls and I pray in the car I typically end by saying, and all God’s people said… they yell AMEN! Then I’ll say, and all God’s robots (in a robot voice) said, AMEN. All God’s pirates, you get the point. It brings laughter and joy into the conversation with God and helps us to all bond together.
This LOVE, TEACH, PLAY has been God’s theme in my parenting and discipleship of other kids and teens, as well. It doesn’t make parenting easy, but it makes it purposeful and free of the pressures to be perfect. When we parent God’s way, we can enjoy parenting because we are living into it with the purpose it was created for.