He looked at me with his innocent eyes and melted my heart in an instant. The second he said he was sorry and tears rolled down his cheeks, I suddenly couldn’t remember why I was upset with him in the first place. I wiped his tears and said, “Oh, it’s okay, don’t cry. I love you, sweetheart.” I turned my back and in the blink of an eye, Spaghetti O’s were being smeared on the wall like paint as he smiled back at me in the excitement of his accomplishment. No, I’m not talking about an ex-boyfriend. I’m talking about the craftiest yet sweetest creatures to ever walk the face of the earth: preschoolers.
Being relevant is difficult enough without throwing preschoolers into the picture. Whether you have your own or work with them on a daily basis, you’ve probably found that it’s very difficult adjusting to the responsibility of another human life. You’re just figuring out this whole “walk with Christ” thing yourself, and the idea of instilling godly values in your preschooler seems like more than you can chew.
I do not have children of my own. In fact, I’m far from it. Yet children, particularly preschoolers, have become my life the past two years. Working as a leader for an inner-city children’s ministry has certainly taught me a thing or two about preschoolers. But it was when I took on the task of being a teaching assistant in a Las Vegas preschool that I truly learned just how much influence our words and actions have on them. After speaking with author and mother C. Hope Flinchbaugh and reading her book, Spiritually Parenting Your Preschooler, I’ve come up with this nowhere-near exhaustive list of ways to begin the seemingly daunting task of instilling godly values in your preschooler(s).
Speak constant words of encouragement. During these years, children begin to form their self-images. Make sure to stop and give them praises when you see them acting out the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). I know that seems very simple, but it’s amazing how busyness and fatigue can cause us to overlook the positive things preschoolers do. It’s very easy to get caught up in their mischief when we’re tired. Preschoolers seek praises from adults. They’ll only learn what not to do if we discipline and leave out praises instead of learning what qualities Christ inspires us to possess.
Correct attitude. “Children need to be corrected not only for disobedience but for attitude,” Flinchbauch said. “You’ve heard the saying, ‘They’re sitting down on the outside but inside they’re standing up.’ It’s not an easy thing, but we still need to call it out and talk about what they’re feeling inside their heart. Children need to see that it’s not just outside obedience that matters but obedience in their hearts as well.”
Unload your frustrations through prayer. “One of the biggest things is to stop and pray, even if they’re acting wild,” Flinchbaugh said. “You want to get upset with the child but instead stop and pray. I don’t even close my eyes. I just look upward and pour my frustrations out on God and not on my children. And they see me turning to God in this.”
Let them be independent at times … and look for the positive. Just take a deep breath when they’re making a disaster out of the craft you worked long and hard on to prepare for them. It’s okay if one of the craft sticks is glued vertically instead of horizontally, and the craft looks more like an alien than a person. Just remember: Even though you may care, kids usually don’t! And they’ll have a sense of accomplishment when they’re done.
And when they try to “help” you, always remember to look for the positive. When you turn around and they’ve poured an entire gallon of milk into your cereal bowl and onto the floor, realize they were just trying to be your helper before you lose it.I know, easier said than done.
Guard the images they see. This is a tough one, and I’m not about to tell you what you should and should not let your children watch. But it is something every parent, teacher, caregiver, etc. needs to carefully seek God about … and stick to their decision. No doubt, it’s difficult to be culturally relevant while watching Veggie Tales 24 hours a day. But be sensitive to what you’re exposing your preschoolers to.
Flinchbaugh writes, “Mental pictures from television, movies, computers, books and songs materialize in the thoughts of our children every day. God created those little eyes and minds to record and store information, so part of our job is to guard carefully the images and pictures set before our children’s eyes and ears.”
Don’t limit their ability. We’ve all heard the verse, “Don’t let anyone look down upon you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12). Let it sink in that this verse doesn’t exclude preschoolers. Don’t underestimate how much of the gospel they can understand. Preschoolers are smarter than we often give them credit for.
“A lot of people have prophesied that God is going to use the children,” Flinchbacuh said. “I believe that we are going to reach children with the Gospel, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the children reach the children with the Gospel. Every child has a destiny.”
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