I’ve often heard our pastor define wisdom as, “The ability to live life skillfully in a winsome manner.” And of course, being a word nerd, I looked up winsome. It means “attractive or appealing in appearance or character.”
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What a beautiful concept. When we teach our children wisdom, we are teaching them how to live life skillfully in a way that attracts others to their appealing character.
Just think about this: we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). And as we mature, we are conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). So, that “appealing character” that attracts others is a reflection of Christ’s character.
How can we teach our kids the art of skillful living, though? God’s Word shows us. Using the acrostic WISDOM, we can be intentional about teaching our children a few ways they, too, can navigate life in a way that reflects Christ to others.
HOW TO TEACH WISDOM WITH WISDOM
Walk wisely, making the best use of the time.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Teach them to evaluate and make the best use of their time:
- Talk about priorities. Ask your kids what they think is most important in life. What do they want to do? What kind of people do they want to be? If they don’t know the answers now, that is OK, but it is important to have ongoing conversations about these topics. Their answers can direct them in deciding how and where they will spend their time.
- Evaluate opportunities together. Teach them that when we say yes to one thing, we say no to another. These can even be good things, but too many good things can keep us away from the best.
- Implement the use of a timer. Whether it is playing video or computer games, watching TV, or any other entertainment you allow, have your kids use a timer. Choose the amount of time you feel is appropriate for the age, maturity, and needs of your children and set up guidelines. Then, purchase a kitchen timer they can learn to set before starting that activity. And make them responsible for it, not you.
- Show your children how to use a planner. Even young children can start this practice by putting stickers on special days—like a planned play-date, or special event. As your children get older, teach them to write down outside commitments and decide when they will work on their assignments.
- Practice true rest in your family. Some people are energized by being around others, while some need to be alone. But Jesus provides true rest for all—no matter what personality type we are. Show your kids that rest was given by God because He knows we need it. So, each week set aside time to focus on Him. Spend a day together worshiping, spending time as a family, and doing things that provide true rest. Consider giving up electronics for the day. Take walks. Enjoy God and one another.
- Have them keep track of their activities for a week. Help them to see where they are spending the majority of their time. Ask them if how they are spending their time will get them where they want to go, to achieve the things they want to achieve, or be the person they want to be. If your teen has a smart phone, show them how they can check the battery life to see how long they have been on different apps. Many people (adults and teens) don’t realize just how much time they spend on Social Media until they see it for themselves.
Imitate those who have gone before.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:17)
Teach them to imitate mature Christians, those a little farther down the road.
- Spend time with people who are older. Let them really get to know older people in your life and church, learning from their experience. Have them over for dinner. Encourage your children to ask them about their life, their faith, and what God has taught them.
- Read aloud stories of missionaries. Share stories of God’s faithfulness, and the persistence and faith and courage of those God called to spread His love to people all over the world. When taking a road trip, consider using audio books. Or if you have the chance, choose one of today’s missionaries and follow their lives through newsletters.
- Share Bible stories of both old and new testament characters. Go beyond the story and ask questions like, “What did you admire about this character? How did they show faith in God?” But don’t just share what these characters did right. Share their struggles and sins. Ask your kids “What they should have done? What would have honored God?”
- Read aloud and discuss literature that exemplifies how people can grow and change. For example, in Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, Johnny starts out as a young, prideful boy. But through a series of difficult events, his character is forged into humility and strength. Understood Betsy, Carry on Mr. Bowditch, and Charlotte’s Web are just a few other books rich in character development.
Set goals for different areas of life.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Teach them how to set goals that honor God and how to reach them.
Goals can be short term or long term. But they all need actionable steps to attain them. Children of any age can learn how to set goals.
- Help younger children to learn about setting goals by choosing one that can be accomplished in the short term. For example, children learning to read could say, “I want to read two easy readers from the library this week.” Then help them break that goal down by the number of pages they would need to read each day to do that. Give them a reward when they have done it (something personal is best—like an extra bedtime story with you).
- Talk about your own goals with your kids. Help kids understand by using examples from your life. Don’t be afraid to tell them about your failures and struggles, too. By doing this, you can teach them the importance of not giving up, and that short-term failures don’t have to keep them from long-term successes.
Decide with confidence.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
Teach them how to make decisions with a confident trust in the Blessed Controller of all things.
- Start with the small decisions. Give your child a few choices about some things in their day from a young age, but don’t overwhelm them with too many. For example, you can show them a couple of shirts and ask, “Which one do you want to wear?”
- Equip them to make bigger decisions. As your children get older, they will be faced with harder and more difficult decisions. What do I want to do when I grow up? Should I go to college? If so, what will I major in?
Here’s a process you can teach your children when it comes to making bigger decisions:
- Pray about the decision.
- Consult Scripture. Does God’s Word give a clear direction? Is their a Biblical principle to guide the decision?
- Enjoy freedom. If none of the choices violate a Biblical mandate or principle, then there is freedom to choose what you want!
- Trust that ultimately our Sovereign God is the Blessed Controller of all things.
Order your private world.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Psalm 51:6)
- Lead by example. Pray with your kids and in front of your kids. Study the Word alongside them and alone. Let them see that your faith is a priority, not an afterthought.
- Help them choose a Bible they can understand. Recently someone asked one of our pastors what the best translation was. He said, “The one you will read.” As they become older, you can teach them about the different types of translations, whether they are word-for-word or thought-for-thought. You can share what you believe to be the best one to study from (though I like to use multiple translations.) But don’t let that take away the simple pleasure of reading the Word for themselves.
- Provide other resources to help your children grow spiritually. Begin with the Bible—make a steady diet of it. After that, you can add what I call the “sides and dessert”—books, studies, and resources to help us understand the Word and its teachings. One of these was the inspiration for this point: Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. Check it out, and read it with your teen.
Mediate on excellent, praiseworthy things.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Teach them to renew their minds and dwell on excellent and praiseworthy things.
- Use entertainment reviews such as Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn website to help decide what you will read and watch. When my oldest wanted to see a movie we weren’t sure about, we told him to check out the review and then let us know what he decided to do. After reading about the amount of foul-language in the movie, he chose not to watch it.
- Memorize and meditate on Scripture. There is nothing more praiseworthy than The Book given to us so that we could know God and His love.
- Play praise music, hymns, and instrumental music in your home and in the car. Does that mean you and your children can never listen to anything else? I don’t think so (but listen with discernment!). However, know that with young people especially, music is a powerful tool for memorization.
- Teach them to think on truth—not what they imagine truth to be. It seems to be a part of human nature to imagine that we know what someone else is thinking. We don’t. Truth is what is real. Teach your kids to recognize the difference.
When God told Solomon to ask Him for what He should give him, Solomon replied, “Give me now knowledge and wisdom” (2 Chronicles 1:7-10).
He could have asked for anything, and yet He chose wisdom. Proverbs 16:16 says,
How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
May we seek the same.
To help you remember how to teach wisdom with wisdom, you can download your own FREE PDF Printable here!
Kay Chance is a Jesus loving writer, photographer, and retired homeschooling mom of two (just the homeschooling part!). She blogs at Cultivate My Heart where she encourages and equips other moms to educate their children—heart, mind, and soul. Kay has a passion to help moms to take care of their own hearts so they can connect to their children’s. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.