Today I want to share 7 simple ways to disciple your children. I’ve included some of my favorite resources, but this is by no means an all-encompassing list! Rather, it’s a list of tools that I’ve gathered during my parenting journey. These tools have helped me in instructing, encouraging and equipping my children to know the Lord, to know His Word, and to follow His ways. I hope it’s a blessing to you and your family as well!
Discipline as discipleship
Before I had children I had so many ideas about how they would and would not behave. Further, I had several convictions about the ways I would or would not discipline them. I remember the first time my older daughter was disobedient. I was certain that my “perfect little angel” just didn’t understand what I was asking of her. To my demise, I came to find that she knew exactly what I was asking of her, yet choosing to disobey. Needless to say, my child’s behavior didn’t line up with my pre-child expectations! For the first time, I had to decide how I was going discipline my child.
What do you think of when you hear the word “discipline”? Often, the word discipline invokes thoughts of punishment and/or spanking. However, the root word of discipline is disciplina, which means “instruction and training.” It is derived from the root word discere which means “to learn.” Likewise, the word discipleship comes from the Latin word discipulus meaning “student.” Therefore, if we’re going to disciple our children, then they become our “students” and they need to learn through discipline — instruction and training.
How are you parenting differently than the rest of the world?
One night my husband and I were talking before bed. I asked him a question that had been rattling around in my brain for a while. “How are we parenting differently than the rest of the world parents their children?” Other than attending church and praying before meals and bedtime, he really couldn’t think of an answer. Our children watched all the same TV shows, listened to the same silly kids music, and were disciplined with little to no mention of God.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is something inherently wrong with kid’s shows or silly music. What I am saying is that I want my relationship with the Lord to inform the way that I parent my children. I want our family’s culture and life together to be steeped in God‘s word and His presence. I want to teach my kids how to pray, how to worship, how to be obedient, how to forgive, and how to hear God’s voice. Scripture reminds us,
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
While I don’t believe this is a promise of your children’s salvation, I do believe that it emphasizes the importance of the kind of training we provide while our children are young. We have the ability to shape our children’s view of God, of themselves, of the world, and of what it looks like to live a God honoring life.
As I began to discipline my child, I was very drawn to gentle parenting. I still love the heart behind many of the methods that gentle parenting provides. I love that it emphasizes empathy and respect for the child, an acknowledgment of the child’s feelings, and space for them to feel their feelings. I’ve also seen the first-hand benefits of empathizing with my child when she is really upset about something that is seemingly small to me. And most of all, I love that gentle parenting seeks to develop a relationship of mutual respect, trust and unconditional love as the child grows. However, while I acknowledge that it’s healthy to feel our feelings, I also believe that it’s my responsibility to teach my children not to be overcome or enslaved by their feelings.
Again, feelings are not bad. They are like little indicator lights on the dashboard of your heart, showing you when something needs attention. But in my personal experience, much of the gentle parenting advice that I encountered was primarily secular. It left little to no room for Biblical instruction, encouragement, or discipleship. My goal isn’t just to allow my child to feel her feelings interminably. And while the world focuses on having a “calm-down-corner” or deep breathing (both of which are great tools), my goal is to help her feel whatever she is feeling, identify what that particular feeling is, and to take it to the Holy Spirit allowing Him to guide and comfort her.
I think it’s important to take a balanced approach to this because denial of your feelings is NOT the same thing as developing true self-control. In fact, I would argue that when we bury our feelings, they usually come out in unhealthy ways with unintended consequences. I want my children to know that when they invite the Holy Spirit to fill them with His presence, He develops the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” that they need in order to process their emotions in a healthy way, and to move to a more regulated state. (Galatians 5:22-23)
So how do you practically disciple your children?
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Here we see that discipleship is something that happens in the ordinary moments of life. While we sit down to share a meal, while we walk to the park, while we do bedtime routines and while we begin a new day, we are to disciple our children.
I wish that I could say I came up with this awesome list all at once and did a complete 180 with my parenting overnight, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I’ve gathered each of these tools one by one over the last year or so. I’ve slowly incorporated them into our daily rhythms and routines. I also want to emphasize that I am not an expert in parenting or child development. I’m just a mom who wants to share what has helped me in hopes that it may benefit you and your family. I hope, at the very least, these tools give you a jumping off point for ways that you can begin to disciple your children as well!
1. Disciple your Children with reproof & encouragement
The first tool that I want to share is called Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Hubbard. This booklet is a couple pages long. It lists out a behavior, some questions that you can ask your child to get to the heart of the issue, a “reproof” verse from Scripture, an “encouragement” from Scripture, and some additional verses that you can look up and read together if need be. I have this chart hanging on my fridge which has been so handy. I frequently find myself running into my kitchen to put it to good use. It’s made me realize that we need to memorize each of these verses together. That way, when we encounter a behavior issue, we can recite the appropriate verse together. This leads me right into my next point — memorize Scripture together!
2. Disciple your children by memorizing Scripture
Scripture memorization is one of the first things that we started to incorporate with our older daughter. I truly believe that it’s one of the most important things that we can do with our children! Their minds are like little sponges, so there is no better time to teach them the truth of God’s Word! Psalm 119:11 says,
“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
And that is truly my prayer for my girls. I pray that as they memorize the passages we are learning, that the words and the meaning and truth behind the words sink in to their little hearts and stick with them throughout life. What a gift it would be to them!
Scripture Memory Journal
We started with this Scripture Memory Journal for Kids from Daily Grace Co. and it worked really well! It’s nice to have the verses in this format so that when you finish memorizing one, you can just flip the page to the next one.
Bible Memory Chart
I also created this Bible memory chart for Kyla. I didn’t want to “reward” her for memorizing Scripture, since I truly believe that the Scripture itself IS the prize. However, allowing her to add a sticker to this chart indicates that we worked on our memorization for the day and keeps us motivated to keep going! Kyla loves adding these star stickers, but you could also use these adorable happy face stickers, or really any stickers you have on hand!
Scroll to the bottom of this post to find the free download for this Scripture memory chart.
Charlotte Mason Scripture Memorization System
If you feel like you need a little bit more review for your verses, or want to incorporate Scripture memorization into your homeschool rhythms, I would highly suggest this Charlotte Mason Verse Memorization System. This is something that we recently invested in, and I’m super excited to start using it. For more information on this, you can check out this video.
Singing Scripture Together
Lastly, Hunter Beless, the founder of the Journeywomen Podcast and Author of Read it, See it, Say it, Sing it! Makes Bible memory really fun with her family by putting long portions of Scripture to a beat. You can head over to her Instagram to watch an example here. I haven’t tried doing this yet, but Kyla LOVES singing! I could see this being a huge hit in our home.
3. Disciple your children by Reading Scripture
This is probably one of the most simple things that you can incorporate into your day with your children. We like to keep a children’s Bible in a basket at the breakfast table. I try to read it each morning while we eat breakfast together. The girls get SO excited to read a new story each morning. There are so many different kid’s Bibles to choose from. We love The Jesus Storybook Bible and the way that it connects each story back to Jesus, however the stories are a bit long for my younger daughter. Lately, we’ve been loving 100 Bible Stories, 100 Bible songs. It holds the attention of both of my girls since each story is one to two pages long. Plus, it comes with 2 CD of songs that go with each of the stories.
Wooden Bible Figurines
I also love to use this Jesus and Friends Wooden Playset to act out the stories and to give the girls something to play with while I’m reading. You could even buy some wooden peg people and have your children help you paint them. Don’t be afraid to get creative! In my experience, the more I involve my girls, the more excited they are to participate!
4. Disciple your children by praying together
Like I mentioned earlier, I want to teach my children to pray by modeling prayer myself. Obviously, we pray before meals and bedtime, but I also invite them to pray with me when someone gets hurt, when we feel really thankful for something, or any number of other circumstances that we encounter throughout our days. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says,
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Fruit of the Spirit Fruit Basket
I think praying through tough moments with big emotions can be especially powerful in bringing comfort to your child, while teaching them the importance of submitting themselves and their emotions to the Holy Spirit. One of the primary ways that we’ve done this is through this Fruit of the Spirit fruit basket.
I created this PDF, printed out the pages, asked Kyla to color the fruits, cut them out, laminated them, and put velcro dots on the back. Then, we laminated the fruit basket page and applied velcro dots wherever I wanted the fruit to be positioned in the basket.
When Kyla is having a difficult time, I help her to identify what emotions she’s experiencing. Then I help her to choose whichever fruit she needs to help her through each unique situation. Once we’ve identified the fruit, she “picks” the fruit out of the basket. Just the task of picking the fruit out of the basket helps to calm her down, and then she holds it while we pray together. She brings her emotions before God, and asks Him to comfort her and equip her with the “fruit” she needs in that moment. I invite her to repeat after me, so that she can learn how to pray in situations where I’m not there to guide this process. My hope is that it will eventually become second nature.
These PDFs are available below, and I’ve included the coloring sheet, the basket, and a sheet with each fruit already colored in for those of you who just want to print it out and start using it.
5. Disciple your children by swapping out their media
Now, everyone is going to have their own personal convictions when it comes to screen time and the type of media that their children are allowed to consume. However, I personally, started to feel really convicted in this area. Eventually, we’d love to go completely screen-free, but for now we decided that, for us, there was no “neutral” content. I started to replace any shows and music that we would typically allow our children to consume with Christian replacements. This might sound really extreme to some people, but in my opinion, just because some of the shows weren’t outright “bad” the way that the characters would treat each other or the way that certain characters would talk to one another was not in alignment with our family’s personal values. Here are some of the swaps we’ve made:
Cocomelon –> Listener Kids
Paw Patrol –> The Beginner’s Bible
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood –> Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood
We also purchased this Take Along Bible Storyteller for the girls to add to their Easter baskets, and it’s been a HUGE hit around here. It has a set of books that come with it (that we also using during Bible reading time), but they mostly love playing the songs!
Through this transition, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my older daughter’s behavior. In addition, I’ll catch her randomly singing “Jesus Loves Me” or other sweet children’s worship songs, and it brings my heart so much joy! I feel at ease, knowing that the media we consume is God-honoring and that I don’t have to worry about questionable content making it’s way into our home.
6. Disciple your children by finding Godly Mentorship
I don’t know about you, but this one can be really challenging for me! But surrounding yourself with other Godly women who are further ahead on the journey of motherhood can be an immense blessing and source of encouragement. Whether it’s your own mother, your sister, a more formal mentor or a friend, we can learn so much from one another. Parenthood was never meant to be a journey that we walk alone.
If you have no one in your life that you feel like you can turn to, firstly, I would encourage you to pray and ask the Lord to bring women into your life who are wise and encouraging. Secondly, I would encourage you to be bold in seeking out the mentorships and relationships that you desire! Lastly, I’ve found that one resource that has been very helpful to me is an e-book called Raising Tiny Disciples by Phylicia Masonheimer. She’s a mom of 3 and wrote this 100+ page e-book full of extremely practical tips for how to disciple your children.
7. Disciple your children by being the example
This last tip is probably the most important. So much of our children’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors are caught, not taught. Therefore, one of the best ways that we can disciple our children is for them to see us loving God, reading Scripture, praying, worshipping and loving others. Obviously, we cannot and will not do this perfectly. But in moments where we falter, we have the opportunity to ask for forgiveness, and to show our children that God’s grace is sufficient for us. Thank you, Jesus!
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What about you?
What are some of your favorite simple ways to disciple your children? Do you use any amazing tools or resources? Please share with us in the comments below so we can all support one another!
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