For many of us, the lies that rattle the hallways of our hearts began nagging at us before we were ten. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve listened to quite a few women’s stories. I’ve been amazed at how often we absorb similar untruths about ourselves, our God, and our world despite having very different entry points for those falsities.
One woman might have been unthinkably abused in her childhood while another brought home grades that were just never as excellent as a sibling. One woman obviously absorbed more measurable trauma, but both lived with the lie that they would never be good, worthy, or acceptable. Regardless of the pain used to bash our hearts open and shove that lie into us, we all walk through life collecting, sorting, and hopefully fighting against untruths.
The enemy didn’t come to Eve and suggest the two of them turn the whole world upside down, release murder and jealousy onto her offspring, and death onto future generations. He came with a “little” lie that was twisted until it almost made sense. A notion that is a little off the truth is still a big enough thing to turn our world upside down too.
As parents, we are wise to guard and train our children about the snares of lies and teach them how to process lies once they begin to struggle with them.
Our sense of who we are, who God is, and our general concept of the world/people around us are the three foundational emotional and spiritual areas that we develop as children. Each of these areas need intentional tending from parents.
So here are 3 areas in which ways you can help your child learn early on how to process the messages they are absorbing and to be wise about the ones that aren’t truthful.
1. Your Child’s Identity
From Scripture we learn that our Creator is the only One with a right to define us. We don’t even realize it, but when we give that space in our heart to someone other than God to define us, it is a stealthy form of idolatry. Our Lord says that in Christ we are acceptable and as His children, we are His royal crown (Romans 15:7, 8:15, Isaiah 62:3).
Fill them with truth: It’s important for us to regularly quote Scripture to our kids that describes how God sees them. Studies have shown that for every negative (or for our purposes, untruthful) comment a person receives, they need three to five positive comments to recenter their sense of positive-negative perspective about the world.
Our kids are bombarded with evaluative comments from us, teachers, other children, and the vague, nagging sense of judgement that comes from comparing our life to TV or social media. So it’s important to teach them that we need to look to center our sense of self not in how others have made us feel, but in God’s word.
Be an example: This is such an easy area to slip up! Speak truth about yourself and to yourself, especially around your children. No looking in the mirror and muttering about extra pounds. Don’t drop something and mutter a harsh word to yourself. Speak to and about yourself the way you want your child to speak to himself/herself; the way your heavenly Father speaks of you.
Guard them: In a culture where kids and teens have much more separateness from family accountability than previously common I’m old enough that I grew up with a phone attached to the wall and everyone was in on the conversation. I didn’t have an email address or personal profiles. Yet all that amounted to accountability that helped me develop a sense of responsibility in my relationships and the knowledge I had to answer for my words.
As parents, we need to be wise about how our child interacts with other kids who might not have age appropriate accountability help.
So keep your kids in main living spaces when they visit your home rather than bedrooms so you can be privy to conversations and actions. How people interact with us contributes to our sense of who we are. Especially in young children, scaffolding their interaction to be respectful (to them and their playmate), supplying phrases that help them be politely assertive about personal boundaries and other tricky social situations will build their confidence and anchor their sense of self.
You don’t have to be a helicopter parent to be a “construction worker” parent who intentionally builds confidence and truth into your child. Be the guardian of this aspect of their life until they are old enough to guard it themselves. Don’t let family or friends speak untruthfully or harshly into their identity.
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2. Your Child’s Relationship with God
Fill them with truth: The Bible is filled with truth about God, but each of us needs to learn the truth a piece at a time. Our kids are no different. They learn bit by bit. So as parents, sit down and prayerfully consider what attributes of God your child needs to know.
You might be prompted naturally in life’s circumstances (or one of the many conversations your little person has with you about their thoughts) or through your praying and watching them.
Be prayerful, sensitive in your spirit, and ready to have answers for your child about who God is. Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you more and more so that you can share Him effectively with your family.
One of my favorite resources for kids is the Theo video series. This series discusses important spiritual topics in ways that kids can understand without talking down to them. Regular Bible reading is also a wonderful way to fill you kids with truth! Don’t miss those precious moments in young childhood to read them God’s word or sing those silly kid church songs with them.
Let this time be filled with words of truth!
Be an example: Let your kids see you read your Bible and pray, let them see you ask and search for answers from the Lord in Scripture and prayer. Let them see you recount His faithfulness in times of struggle. Openly ask for the strength of God’s character to fill your weakness.
Be careful with the kind of negative comments you make about God around your children. You might be going through a time of wrestling with your faith, but be wise and thoughtful in how that gets communicated to your family. You are your child’s first and most frequent minister. You are their most visible and memorable testimony of God’s character.
Guard their minds: The world is full of unbiblical perspectives about who God is and it’s our privileged place to help guard that “who God is” part of our child’s soul until they can guard it themselves!
As a family we’ve found that some relationships need to be watched and perhaps less time spent with people who wouldn’t be part of pouring truth about God into our son. Not necessarily removed, but limited. Be aware of what your family and friends speak about who God is to your children and be a filter for them.
From this they will hopefully learn in turn to filter their access to certain people when they get older. We can dearly love people without agreeing with them, and this can be prayerfully modeled to our kids when we have these kind of interactions/relationships.
The notion of God’s existence and being Creator are culturally constantly called into question. While God is plenty big enough to handle all our questions, we want to be careful about allowing our children to see God mocked (especially in an environment where He is freely criticized without any challenge).
If your family is in a place where this happens, be sure to guard their hearts by having good discussion about the truth of who God is from the Bible and make sure to pray for your family members to be filled with truth. In a non-condemning sort of way, we can take those moments to pray for those we care about who don’t know God and we can pray for us to know Him better and more fully.
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3. Your Child’s Relationship with the World
In young childhood (and even infancy) our children’s sense of the world begins to take shape. In general, by age five, most developmental specialists believe the personality of an individual has largely formed through that person’s given nature and compiled experiences.
Trust is one of those qualities we develop quite young. While it is healthy for a person to have the ability to trust, as Christians we also know the safest place for our trust to rest is in Christ alone. We all must know people will let us down; often times through no malicious intent, just the simple fact that no one person is designed to be our Rock expect Jesus.
Yet the exercise of trust is often practiced with the human relationships we make face to face.
Fill them with truth: A dear Christian sister once said to me the hardest place for her daughters to live their Christianity was with other church kids. The reason was that her daughters were being taught Biblical principles at home while many other kids were coming to church without having similar family values. So when they were ridiculed or challenged for the way they lived, the wounds came as such a surprise and sank in quite deeply.
Yet it was an opportunity to teach their girls an important truth: just because someone says they are a Christian doesn’t mean they are following Christ, so don’t let anyone--even a professing Christian--dictate how you live your love for Jesus.
I’ve met so many adults who justified walking away from church based on how church people treated them. Scripture tells us to keep fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). We can’t arrive in heaven and face all the martyrs and saints before us, look our nail-scarred Jesus in the eyes, and say “I would have followed You about the church thing, Jesus, but Sally was so rude to me one Sunday and Paul spread some gossip, so I just couldn’t endure those hypocrites!”
It’s our race to run. It’s our love and faith to pour over the feet of Jesus.
We can’t choose to not love Jesus passionately with our lives and then blame it on someone else who ought to have lived their life with more passion for Him. Let’s be parents who raise our children to follow Jesus wholeheartedly regardless of how others follow Him.
The only way I have found to fill our son with truth in this area is to take the teaching moments as they come and to have as much Scripture stored up in me as possible. We try to talk through our interactions with people before and after the fact. We pray for God to give us wisdom around others and also to be a blessing to everyone we come in contact with.
Surprisingly, some of the Bible-verse kid songs have proven to be a great way to sow truth into our son’s heart regarding relationships. He remembers them and they are quick on his mind when he is interacting with others--and I just love that something so easy to do is bearing fruitfulness in his young life!
Be an Example: God gave us human relationships to illustrate facets of our relationship with Him. He loves us like a Father, pursues us like a bridegroom, calls us His friend and brother. So in many ways, simple moments like friendship can echo into our kids’ hearts for much larger soul-issues than a mere playdate at the park.
And concepts like love, grace, and forgiveness are so big, it can be hard for us to wrap our adult selves around them, let alone expect our children to do it.
All these moments while we interact with those around us form the foundation of our children’s sense of how they fit in the world. We are called to bring God’s Word to each circumstance so they see themselves and their world in the Light of Truth.
So all those people moments that range from times when a stranger invades our kids’ space in the grocery store to the awkward surprise of a church parent who lets their littles watch rated R movies (and sure everyone can watch this movie that isn’t a good fit for your kids) or when their friend breaks their toy they shared sacrificially and thinks it’s funny, we are modeling responses that teach our children how they fit in the world around them.
It is in those moments they learn from us how to politely set a boundary or extend grace or forgiveness to someone.
One kid was recently kind of hard on my son and acting in some ways that I thought were bothering him during play time. It wasn’t extreme enough for me to intervene, but I was keeping an eye on it. Then I asked him about it later. He said at first it was upsetting him, but then he stopped and thought about why the other boy was acting that way.
He said he realized he was just so over excited about the next activity that he probably wasn’t thinking about what he was doing because he was just too excited. It was one of those parent moments when you get to see your prayers are being unfolded with sweet “yeses” in front of you.
I want my son to learn how to be an influencer rather than influenced by what goes on around him and this was one of those moments. He didn’t retaliate, he didn’t freak out, and he didn’t just quit and leave the circumstance. He showed grace and understanding to this other child and kept doing the right thing for himself. I’ve really wrestled with some of the mom moments that I deemed exercises in grace instead of correcting the other kid or removing mine from the situation; but this particular circumstance let me see he was indeed learning and practicing the balance of showing grace to others but still not allowing their behavior to change the course of his.
And in that one moment, I was thanking God He had graced the other moments to be a good example.
Guard their minds: Every family is different. Every parent is different and each child is too! So everyone needs to guard their child to suit what God has entrusted for them. But the principle that as parents we feed our kids until they can feed themselves, extends to guarding their heart and mind as well. We protect their minds until they can learn to protect it for themselves.
We watch screens at our house and know (and hold in high regard) families who don’t. While I can filter out content so it doesn’t contain violence or immorality, there’s a lot of programs that just don’t help you out as you form a sense of what the world is like.
Expectations about family, romance, work, and a host of other daily matters aren’t truthfully communicated through Hollywood entertainment. It’s not their job. So as parents we need to carefully consider the place these worldly messages have in our family.
We have told our son since he was about two that his mind and heart are some of the most precious gifts God has given him and he must learn to protect them and only allow good and true things to stay inside.
One Christian family used Philippians 4:8 as their litmus test for what to watch, read, or listen to: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
I’ve found this to be simple and effective! This verse is an excellent guard rail for us and very practical tool to use to teach our kids how to guard their mind in regard to how they interact with others.
Raising our kids up in the Lord is no easy task! It requires far more intentionality and attention than I had ever imagined before having our son. So know, my heart is in the trenches with each and every one of you pursuing the Lord’s truth for your family!
I hope that as you seek to raise your children up in the truth of Scripture, the Lord’s grace and direction meet you at every turn!
April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here.
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