Children – How Do You Define A Friend?

As a Principal, I have observed how quickly children turn against one another. As a grandmother of a tween granddaughter, I have experienced her attempting to navigate this concept of ‘friendship.’

                                              

In cyberspace, our children find ‘friends.’ People they do not know. People that prey on our children’s good nature. People who will lift them one minute and tear them down the next moment, unfortunately, cyberbullying has become a way of life. Our children are blind to what and who a friend is and is not. They cannot readily discern who is or is not a fake friend. It is important to teach our children how to discern who is their friend and who is not. This lesson is on ‘friendship.’

I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

Our children are misled because they do not know how to discern if their friends are of good character. According to Matthew Poole, theologian, a friend is sincere and loves you at all times. It is during difficult times that a friend reveals him or herself as something more. It is during the difficult times that a false friend forsakes you. Therefore, if your children tell you they made a new friend, but that friend began talking to their other friends about your child, that person revealed they are a fake friend. But does your child know that person is not their friend? Generally not.

Freedictionary.com defines ‘friend’ as a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. Of all the definitions I have read,  I believe this is the closest to the one God is conveying in the Bible. A friend is someone of good character. Someone you like, someone you can trust and someone who likes you for who you are.

“There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

Cyberspace is not the only place our children learn to define friendship. They also learn the definition of the word ‘friend’ at school through the various relationships they have with other children, or by observing other children’s actions. I have found that these friendships are fluid. One minute a friend will be loyal, trustworthy, and honest and the next minute they are telling lies about their friend, tearing them down and turning people against them. One of the main reasons children are sent to the office is because a friend’ mistreated them. The first thing most crying, hurt, children reported to me was, “but I thought she/he was my friend.” The concept of what is a friend is difficult for young children, tweens and teens to understand.

The lesson for parents is to reinforce the scriptures that define the term friend. Ask your children when they speak about their friends, do your friends meet the scriptural definitions of friends and friendship? It is important that they can determine whether their friend is truly a friend.

A friend is always loyal. Proverbs 17:17</blockquot

Regarding Social Media, it is important to check and block sites where children and tweens have access. A ‘Social Media or Internet friend’ that you have not met and approved as a friend is not a site your children should be allowed to visit. Invisible friends can be dangerous and often predatory. There are two types of cyberbullying. One that cannot be linked through the direct relationship with the child and secondly, the cyberbullying that is initiated by another young person or group of people that know the child being bullied. Now, more so than ever before, our children must be grounded in the Word.

When our children begin to understand their relationship with our Lord, daily put on the Armor of God and practice the Fruit of the Spirit/the characteristics of Christ in their daily lives, they will become empowered and no longer be identified as weak prey to (online) cyberbullying. Further, they will be expressing themselves as God’s children and stand apart from the crowd.

As Christians, we have to take the following scriptures seriously.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. (John 10:10, NKJV)

According to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2, NKJV)

The thief is here to steal our children, kill our children, and destroy our children. He is devious and uses whatever tools our children are prone to engage in to accomplish his goals. While Ephesians 2:2 does not explicitly say that the power of the air is the Internet, Satan, the thief, certainly uses Social Media as an instrument of destruction when it comes to cyberbullying and online harassing.

Our children must be taught to be strong in the Lord. Teaching them how to use Bible principles when they are young empowers them to be strong Christian Warriors throughout their lives.

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Core Values Early In Life

Step out of your comfort zone. We can no longer sit and wait for change, we must intentionally take action each day to improve situations and conditions around us. Remember, ‘it is not about you”. We’ve been charged with the commandment to Love thy neighbor – give of your self. These are core values.

Teaching our children Jesus’ core values provide the framework to become Young Christian Warriors. As Christians, we live in the world but are not of the world. I children need to understand the differentiation between the two worlds.

Children – Fruit of the Spirit

 

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22,23

 

 

Paul, the author of the Book of Galatians, used the concept of fruit because it created a visual image of the characteristics (or virtues) of Christ. When teaching the Fruit of the Spirit, we always see a chart or pictures of fruit. Most people can recite the nine characteristics, known as the Fruit of the Spirit, but how many look at themselves to make sure these are their (personal) characteristics acquired through their relationship with Christ? Reinforcing the characteristics of Christ, in our children, is the basis for who they will become as adults.

Definitions

LOVE (parent to child.)

Love is selfless, unconditional love. God loves us unconditionally, without thought, and we should love each other the same way. It is the way Jesus feels about us. This type of love is always giving and impossible to take or be taken. Agape love shows itself in action. (Focus on the Family, Agape Love.)

(Parent to child)  It is the way I feel about you when you behave or misbehave when you are sick or well. If you have a pet, use the pets’ relationship with your child. It is when Sam hides your ball, tears up your book, wets on the floor and when he retrieves the toy you threw, sits next to you, and sleeps on your bed. It is Sam being Sam and loving him for it.

JOY (parent to child)

Joy is a feeling of internal (inside) peace. It’s the warm feeling you get when you see Grandma, your new baby sister or, picked out your pet. It is how you feel the love God has for you and the love you have for God. It is a snuggly, warm feeling.

PEACE (parent to child)

Peace is the warm, snuggly feeling of joy and peace we feel in our hearts. Peace comes from the presence of God in our life. It lets you know God loves you by sending his only Son, to strengthen our relationship with Him. When you are using these characteristics (of Christ) in your decision-making, you will experience peace when you make your decision and will know God is with you.

PATIENCE (parent to child)

Patience is how we wait for something. For example, when you get a new pet, you have to be patient while you train him, he will not obey immediately, he has to be taught. When your little brother, sister, cousin, or neighbor is playing with you, and they do not treat your toys the way you want them to, you have to learn to wait without staying angry while they learn how to treat your toys. God wants us to learn to become patient with others, just as he is patient with us. Patience is being kind to others even when you don’t want to. Patience demonstrates how we trust God to answer our prayers while we grow to become more like Christ.

KINDNESS (parent to child)

Kindness is how we treat others, we are not rude, angry, or blaming. It is being generous. It is letting go of how a friend mistreated you and love them for who they are. It means we are concerned about others, such as when a friend gets hurt on the playground; you help them up, call an adult, and tell them everything will be okay.  Kindness helps us to become better-caring people.

GOODNESS (parent to child)

Goodness is more than kindness. Your friend got hurt, you were kind because you wanted to help him. The act of goodness is helping him. Many people want to help someone in need but do not follow through. Goodness is following through because you know that is what God wants you to do. It is having a good heart and acting on it. We saw goodness in people during Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria. Neighbors were helping each other to survive the storms. Why, because it was the right thing to do.

FAITHFULNESS (parent to child)

Faithfulness is being responsible. If I (mother) ask you to put your clothes in the hamper and you do it, it is being reliable. I can trust you to do what you say you will do. It is being able to be trusted, reliable. Being faithful is demonstrating how Christ feels about us, the is trustworthy and reliable. He is true to his word. Our goal is to become trustworthy and reliable like Christ.

GENTLENESS (parent to child)

Gentleness is not blaming a person for doing something wrong but instead helping them to do better. Gentleness does not show conceit, envy or rudeness. God’s love helps you to become gentle, caring, and kind.

SELF-CONTROL (parent to child)

Self-control is when you stop and think about what you are getting ready to do and decide not to do it because it is wrong and you know Your parent expects a better outcome. self-control is self-discipline. For example, athletes are self-disciplined, they know how they should behave and how to exercise to be their best. The Holy Spirit helps us to have self-control and to behave ourselves.

ABOUT THE PROCESS

The nine characteristics of Christ are very powerful tools. Teaching our children and teens to rely on them is important. We cannot begin the process too early in life., though it is important to keep in mind your child’s developmental stage to ensure they understand the power our Lord has given us. It can be likened to Clark Kent growing up in Smallville, Kansas. Superman learned about and how to use his powers over time, learning to apply the characteristics of Christ in our lives is much the same. It is a process.

Please be patient with the process. This lesson may take a few weeks to teach the definitions to your children and months to reinforce what they have learned. You will reinforce the virtues by asking your children about how they use them. Questions and discussions reinforce what they have learned.

Good questions to ask your children each day during dinner to help reinforce the use of the Fruit of the Spirit in their daily activities:

  • How was your day?
  • What characteristics of Christ did you use today?
  • What did you do and what was the result?
  • Is there an instance when you did not use the Fruit of the Spirit, why not, what happened?

Activating the Fruit of the Spirit in Children

All saved Christians embody the Holy Spirit. He dwells in us. Our children need to understand that they are his host. Everything Jesus represents resides in our children and needs to be activated in their being. You can compare superheroes to Christ and the hero they morph into as the Holy Spirit. The hero that lives in Clark Kent is Superman, and the hero that resides in Wonder Woman is Diana Prince. Now, this is stretching it a bit, however, the Holy Spirit resides in us and we must activate by incorporating it with our personalities to manifest the character of Christ in our own lives.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

In the previous lesson, Armor First, I spoke briefly about the Fruit of the Spirit and named each, but did not define them. How many of us read this scripture to our children but did not teach them how to become more like Christ? The question is, how do we share the power of these words with our children? We teach through defining and applying the Fruit of the Spirit in how we should live, act and think.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. – Galatians 5:22, 25, 26 NLT

When I was a Teen Bible Study teacher, I found that our kids were so vulnerable. The world so easily tries to gobble up our young people through social media, and TV exposure is pervasive. Today, peer pressure is heightened through smartphone access. The outreach and exposure through these avenues are pervasive. Our children’s friends, sometimes innocently entice our children and teens to join in ‘the fun’ which can be immoral and sinful. In a world of ‘fake truths’, it is difficult for them to know who they are and how to stand in the face of evil.

So back to Fruit of the Spirit. We need to teach our children that they belong to Jesus Christ, that they embody the Holy Spirit, and if they are going to emulate someone, it should be Christ, and not blindly following the crowd. They need to understand that if they practice love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, they will succeed in life. The fruit will make them stronger in the Lord, and along with the Whole Armor of God, they will ward off the tricks and traps of the evil one.

What does this mean to you and your children? To begin, teaching your children the spiritual definition of the words increases their understanding of Jesus, his Disciples and men, and women in the Bible. It provides them with a framework of what it is to be a good person and become more Christ-like. They need to know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). They are the children of our Almighty God.

Helping Children Put On Their Armor Through Prayer

Putting on your children’s armor is a process.

When you begin the lesson, it will take time to thoroughly train your children in understanding how and what they are doing.

When my Granddaughter and I began praying the Whole Armor of God, I would repeat the prayer after me. I began teaching the prayer to my Granddaughter when she was five. She is turning nine and no longer needs my help.

I always asked her what I said, quizzing her to decide if she understood the power of the prayer over her life. I would explain that putting on the Armor is like getting dressed every morning. You put on one piece at a time.

Over time your children will grow in their understanding and the prayer may take 4-5 minutes unless the Holy Spirit inclines them, or you, to speak to what is occurring in their lives. Today my granddaughter leads the prayer. She explains what each piece of armor does and what she specifically wants to include in the prayer. For example, my granddaughter was being bullied at school by one of her classmates, so she included protecting her mind when praying about the Helmet and what it covers, she prayed – “I reject Janet’s mean words about me, they have no power over me.”

A recommendation, ask your children visualize putting on the armor as you pray out loud explaining how each part of the armor will protect them.

At the close of the day I always ask her how her day went and did the armor protect her today, she would tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and if she visualized the part of her armor when the enemy came against her. If she did, she would tell me how it protected her and kept her at peace and, how she applied Jesus’ example in her actions. Often she will report whatever was causing her a problem stopped. We praise the Lord for the Armor.

Prayer

Today Lord, we are putting on the Whole Armor of God.

The Helmet of Salvation covers my head, my mind, and my eyes.
My helmet is my invisible sensor, and it keeps evil out of my mind. It helps me focus on the Lords will and not on sin. It helps me to ward off and reject harmful words and actions directed at me by others. It protects me from evil. It deflects hurtful things people say to me.

The Breastplate of Righteousness protects my heart.
Righteousness is the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit; it is a gift from God, I cannot earn it. Righteousness is much like a filter that strains out unGodly and reinforces our wish, to be honest, trustworthy, kind, good-hearted, loving, and joyful. (Fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23).

The Belt of Truth holds us together.
It keeps all the armor in place, like a belt holding up pants, blouse tucked in, secure in Jesus and the Word of God. It keeps our heart and mind focused on Christ.

The Sandals of the Gospel of Peace covers my feet.
Everywhere I walk I walk in and bring peace. My sandals, shoes or sneakers keep me from hurting my feet. The gospel of peace is the Word of God that we share with others as we walk in His Word. Without the Gospel of Peace, I am barefoot and cannot walk without fear.

The Shield of Faith protects me from the darts of the enemy.
It helps me when I do not understand. My faith is the thing God gave me to protect me from the things I cannot see.

The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. It gives me boldness to reject and attack misinformation. I use it to defend myself from things I know and don’t know are wrong. The sword cuts through everything the enemy can send my way. The sword is the way, the truth, and the light.

Father, thank you for my armor. I go out today able to protect myself from evil, by acknowledging the power and strength you gave me though sacrificing your son, Jesus, to give me life.

I hope you found this short series about how to teach your children to cover themselves begins to visibly change their sense of who they are as Young Christian Warriors.

Next Post: Recipe for Success – Teaching Children How to Embody the Fruit of the Spirit

Children – Armor Up

Praying with our children is the most important thing we can do every morning before leaving home. It instills a sense of purpose, peace, and hope by living the Word out in our daily lives. Over time this prayer will become part of your family’s morning practice, and as your children become young adults, they automatically ARMOR FIRST every morning.

My prayer with my Granddaughter goes like this: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for waking us up for another day’s journey. Thank you for going before us and protecting. Today, we are putting on our armor to protect us throughout the day, to resist the enemy and help us to become more like You.

Next post: The Prayer, Putting On My Children’s Armor