I hadn’t left the hospital with our first when I was instructed, “Enjoy each moment. It’ll be over so soon.” It’s good advice and has buoyed me through many late nights and frustrating discipline situations.
The value of that advice is increased when it’s coupled with another truth: kids make very poor gods. When you move past enjoying your kids to worshiping them, you’ve become an idolater and set your family up for failure in the process.
Today, let’s lean into both pieces of advice and learn to enjoy our kids without worshiping them.
Enjoy Your Kids…
How can you learn to cherish your children? Let me offer five practical activities that have helped me enjoy my kids.
1. Watch your children enjoy life.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 points to this shared reality and reminds us that youth is often full of blissful joy and simple delights. Purposely look at your children and watch them enjoy their toys, friends, and hobbies.
I can’t help but think of the scene from Thorton Wilder’s Our Town where one of the main characters returns to her childhood home after death to relive her 12th birthday. Her joy quickly turns to pain as she sees how little they all enjoy the simple pleasures of living life together.
“Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead. You’re a grandmother, Mama! Wally’s dead, too …. But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s really look at one another!”
Take a few moments today to intentionally observe your kids and watch them without distraction—phones or otherwise.
2. Journal to remember.
My life memory is comically poor, so I’ve been forced into a practice that may help normal people, too. I take videos, photos, audio recordings, and notes about my kids rather obsessively.1
I use an app called Day One that allows me to have a separate journal for each child. My wife and I keep funny sayings in a shared document and I often record audio of the kids praying or talking with me.
It not only helps my memory, but allows me to enjoy the kids more in the moment.
3. Write notes to your kids.
I also use Day One to write notes to my kids about once every three months. They don’t know this and I don’t know if I’ll ever even give the notes to them, but it helps me enjoy my kids.
I usually include what they’re learning, things we’ve done together, words they’re learning to say, and the like. I’ll often add photos and videos sprinkled throughout the letter.
This simple practice forces me to reflect on my kids and enjoy them.
4. Refuse to complain about your kids.
File this piece of advice under “aspirational.” When you’re up three times a night or cleaning up puke, it’s hard to not complain. Life in a fallen world is tough, but I’ve found three things helpful for me in this category:
- Be willing to switch places with your wife. If I’m more bothered and frustrated with a child, my wife is able to step in with grace and it allows me to be grateful for her rather than frustrated at my kid.
- Talk positively about the kids. We regularly tell each other in the midst of very difficult moments, “We’re going to miss even these moments very soon.”
- Bring frustrations to God, not your wife. God cares for your kids more than you do and he can help! He made them (Psalm 139:13–16), has sustained them (Acts 17:25), and loves them (John 3:16).
5. Plan shared experiences.
If you’re like many dads, you want to have shared experiences with your kids but it never seems the right time. Let me encourage you to schedule time. That may seem too regimented or insincere, but we schedule things that are important to us. Schedule a “dad date” with every kid on a regular basis and then enjoy time together.
Here are some ideas:
- get ice cream
- go on a hike
- go to the playground
- watch a movie together
- enjoy a shared meal
- play sports together
Just put something on the calendar right now and make it a repeating event.
…Without Worshiping Them
It’s far too easy to let your kids drive your life in a way that looks very much like worship. Here are five practical helps.
1. Hand your kids over to God each day.
Start or end each day with a simple prayer, offering your children to God. Children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3), and you are only a steward. This repeated act of submission will help guide your heart and see your kids in their proper place.
2. Prepare your children to leave.
“Me don’t ever want to leave you and mommy. I want to live with you forever!” my three-year old recently proclaimed. She’d just learned that kids grow up and sometimes move away.
That’s a moment to enjoy, but it’s also a moment to teach. I’ve repeatedly talked to my children about what God might have for them and have realized the importance of positively framing God’s plan for them.
“I wonder what things God has planned for you! I can’t wait to figure it out! Wherever God wants you—in our home or somewhere else—will be the best life for you and I can’t wait!”
3. Faithfully guide and correct your kids.
Having formerly worked with teenagers and their parents for more than a decade, I’ve found one sure sign of child-worship: paralyzing fear of displeasing a child. When a parent is afraid to contradict or cross their child, they’re dangerously close to idolatry.
The surest way to ensure you create mini-gods in your home is to neglect correction and difficult guidance. As a rule, we don’t typically correct gods; and it’s hard to worship someone you discipline faithfully.
4. Faithfully teach your children about God.
Children have an amazing ability to sniff out insincerity. You can talk a big game at church or with company, but when you neglect family worship, regular times of prayer, and daily opportunities to talk about God, your kids see through you.
Take heart in the old adage “just do something.” You don’t have to prepare an hour-long sermon each day. One verse, a few sentences of explanation, and a sincere prayer at dinner is a wonderful starting point!
5. Don’t make major church decisions for your kids.
I’ve seen many families make major church attendance or membership decisions to help their kids. When you make major church decisions for the sake of your kids only, you’re telling them “your comfort, friends, and growth are most important factor for how our family relates to God.”
The same effect is present on a smaller scale when parents regularly miss worship with God’s people for sporting events, camping trips, and more. The best way to teach “God alone is God” is to worship him together with your kids and to prioritize that worship over everything in your home.
You will only have one opportunity to parent your children through life and it’s so important to enjoy them before God as you steward their little lives.
But beware! Worshiping your children will only destroy them and you. It’s one of the easiest way to destroy your home while thinking you’re protecting and cherishing it.
When you allow these truths to counterweight each other, however, your home can be a place of joy, growth, and worship.
One note about photos and video: I find it’s very easy to spend all your time recording memories while forgetting to make them in the moment. When I take photos or videos of my kids, I almost always hold the phone to my chest and look at my kids rather than the phone. I’m not trying to win an award for cinematography; I’m trying to record an event. I want to remember my kids in my mind, and I can only do that if I see them experience life with my eyes first rather than on a phone screen only. For this reason, I really enjoy audio recordings. I can start the recording (unbeknownst to them) and then just live life next to them. ↩