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Family Devos Are a Drag

How can I keep my child interested?

My elementary-school age son isn't interested in paying attention to family devotions. He's fidgety and complains that he's bored. What can I do encourage his participation without becoming a nag?

Believe it or not, your son might be paying more attention by fidgeting than if he were staring you straight in the eyes. Some children are better able to learn while their bodies are engaged in some activity. For instance, let's say you're reading from Genesis; why not give your son some paper and markers to illustrate the story of Creation? Or give him a bucket of Legos and suggest he build the Tower of Babel.

If you're trying to have family devotions every day, keep it short. If you gather once a week, then take some time to plan ahead to make this something to look forward to. Does your son like to play with little green army men? Then study all the Old Testament wars. Do you have a "princess" in the family who'd like to learn all about the real queens in the Bible, such as Queen Esther?

Get the whole family in on the act. Assign each family member an element of the story to present. One may want to make a shadowbox to illustrate his passage; another may want to write a silly song about it. Dress up in costumes and act out the story; I guarantee your kids never will forget this week's lesson.

If you need help coming up with memorable family devotions, pick up a copy of one of Focus on the Family's "Family Night Tool Chests." It's a great resource for those days when you realize, Oh, my goodness, tonight's family devotions. What are we going to talk about?

If none of these ideas grabs your son's attention, then give him a choice. Tell your son that if you're boring him to sleep, he could go to bed. That should perk him up! If he's still disinterested, then put him to bed and carry on with devotions in the next room. Be sure to laugh real loud. Perhaps next time he'll want to be part of all the fun.

"But Everyone Else Has … "!

We're constantly hearing from our preteen daughter how "everyone else has" when it comes to designer labels, cell phones, and the latest hot gadget. We're concerned about her focus on material things. Help!

If you have the money to buy your daughter the "latest and greatest," but you're choosing to invest in something that won't be yesterday's news by this afternoon—such as faith-based organizations, your local church, and/or a college tuition fund—then take her out for some ice cream and talk to her about the biblical principles that shape your priorities, such as tithing and stewardship.

Perhaps buying the things your daughter's clamoring for isn't even an option for your family. Then this is the perfect time to give your daughter a lesson in real life. Over the next couple months, invite her to join you at the kitchen table on bill-paying night. Show her your stack of bills. Teach her how to make out a check; direct her attention to how much money it takes to pay for all the things you need and use as a family.

If your daughter still wants all that extra stuff, let her have it—as long as she can pay for it. Encourage the entrepreneur in her. She may balk that other parents don't make their kids pay for their inalienable teen rights (the operative word when used in conjunction with teens being "alien"!). Simply explain it's your responsibility and privilege to prepare her for survival after high school. To give her less is to love her more.

But how do we get to our child's heart? Jesus told us in Matthew 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." The key is to discover where your daughter's heart beats in rhythm with God's. Without bringing up the subject of money, talk to her about what touches her heart the most. Is it hungry children? Abused animals? Babies' lives taken before given a chance to live?

Together, get involved in serving an organization that addresses this need. Once her heart gets involved, pray her treasure will follow. You may be surprised where her Christmas money from Grandma is spent next year.

Playing Favorites with Disabled Child?

One of my children is grappling with a learning disability, and I've noticed my other child, who is two years younger, seems jealous of the attention we give his brother. Any ideas on how we can give our one child the attention he needs without seeming as though we're playing favorites?

I'm assuming you spend extra-special time with your younger child—"Mommy and me" times at the park, McDonalds, or even the grocery store. In addition to these times, look for everyday ways to give him special attention. Invite him to cook with you or pick out your clothes for the day. (This works best on a Saturday.)

Does he often see you sitting at the kitchen table helping your eldest child with his school work? Whenever possible, wait until your younger child's playing with a friend, down for a nap, or in bed for the night before giving extended periods of time to your oldest child.

In the meantime, go out and buy your younger child a coloring book or paint-by-numbers set. Mimic the same situation he's seen so many times, only this time, he's the one in the special chair learning from Mommy.

Lisa Whelchel is the author of Creative Correction (Tyndale) and The Facts of Life and Other Lessons My Father Taught Me (Multnomah). She and her husband, Steve, have three children. Check out Lisa's website at www.lisawhelchel.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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