When Teachable Moments Aren’t Convenient

Teachable

I had just gotten in bed and closed my eyes. It had been a long day. I was tired. I really wanted to go to sleep. Then I heard it. The squeak of a door opening, and the footfalls of my 10-year-old walking into my room.

My first thought was “Please, don’t be sick.” My second one was “Why are you out of bed?” I wasn’t prepared to give a life lesson. I wasn’t interested in a long, drawn-out conversation. All I wanted to do was send her back to bed.

She approached the bed slowly. She knows how much I hate to be woken up. “I can’t sleep,” she says.

This is my favorite excuse for being out of bed. It covers so many things, and it’s not something you can argue with or fix. Usually I tell my girls to go lie down and count purple hippos until they fall asleep, but that night something stopped me from my usual response.

Instead of suggesting the purple hippo method, I asked “What do you think the problem is?” The flood gates opened. A tearful child told me how hard she was trying to get along with her sister, but it was really hard, and it was keeping her awake at night.

My girls have struggled to get along well this summer. Some of it is age. Some of it is hormones. And some of it is just plain orneriness.

Usually, it all just rolls off my younger daughter’s back, but we’ve been working hard with her on holding onto her tongue and thinking about others first. Clearly, the message was getting through, but she was struggling with the implementation.

I laid in bed for a moment, caught between my need to capture this teachable moment and the need to go to sleep. It would have been so simple to throw out an easy answer and to have gone to sleep. But the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit prodded me to take the time to really answer her. It reminded me that this teachable moment might never come again.

So instead of a pat answer and a quick trip to dreamland, I spent the next 10 minutes talking with her about how God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He expects us to rely on Him. We talked about how sometimes in hockey you miss the net the first time you shoot, but sometimes you can pick up the rebound and hit the net. We talked about how we don’t expect her to score every time when it comes to her sister, but we do expect her to be aiming for the net. And we talked about asking God to help us when we struggle.

I sent her back to bed with much to think about but with a calmer spirit. She and I both fell asleep quickly. I tell you all of this as a reminder that teachable moments with our kids don’t always come when it’s convenient. Sometimes they come when we’re exhausted, when we’re sick, when we’re walking out the door five minutes late.

No matter when they come, though, we need to grab them. We need to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit when He tells us not to let this moment go. Our kids need us to be ready to teach them on a moment’s notice. We can only do that if we’re paying attention to what they are really saying.

It’s easy to give our kids the easy answers. The simple choice is to pat them on the head and send them back to bed. The hard part of parenting comes when we make the choice to give up our own comfort to spend a moment teaching our kids.

Teachable moments come our way every single day. The challenge is to grab them — even when it’s not convenient.

 

How to Turn a Minute Into a Moment

My younger daughter was getting ready for school. She was less than happy about it. She didn’t want to go to school. She was worried about a test she had to take. She didn’t enjoy the kids she had to sit with that day. She’d simply had too much fun staying at home over the weekend and didn’t want to go back to the hustle and bustle of school.

As she tearfully explained all of these things to me, I reined in my frustration. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard these tearful complaints. I knew she wasn’t happy at school, but right then, there was nothing I could do about it. In the background, the Casting Crowns’ song “Already There” played on the radio. As I heard the following words, this minute into time turned into a teachable moment:

From where I’m standing

Lord, it’s so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You’re leading me

I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are going to play out
In a world I can’t control

When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory

‘Cause You’re already there
You’re already there

We spent a minute listening to the song then talked about how we don’t have to worry about the future — not the next minute, not the next day, not the next 50 years — because God is already there. He’s there before us, so we never have to feel all alone. The conversation lasted about 30 seconds, but the lesson learned lasted all day — and hopefully much longer.

It doesn’t take a lot to turn a minute into a teachable moment with your kids. As I wrote yesterday’s post, I thought about what we can actively do to turn a minute into a moment. I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t take much — just three simple steps.

1. Look for the moment. If we’re not actively seeking a moment with our kids, then those minutes will fly by without anything meaningful happening. If you’re on a walk with your kids and you see something amazing, that’s a moment to teach about God’s creation. If you’re talking to your teenager about a poor decision a friend made, that’s a moment to teach about seeking God’s wisdom. These moments happen all the time, every day, we just have to be aware enough to recognize them.

2. Prepare to turn the minute into a moment. We never know when an ordinary minute will turn into a teachable moment, so we have to be prepared in advance. That means that we’re spending time with God on our own, that we know what His word says, and that we’ve identified the things that our kids need to hear. If we’re not filling ourselves up with God’s wisdom and love, we can’t be prepared to pour that wisdom and love out on our kids.

3. Grab the moment. When that minute turns into an opportunity to create a moment, grab it with both hands. Don’t worry about what your kids will think. Mine sometimes roll their eyes and think, “Here mom goes again.” Your kids are listening, even when it seems like they aren’t. The best way to teach our kids is not with a formal lesson or a church program. The best way to teach our kids is in the trenches of life — as they’re living in a difficult situation, as they’re dealing with a broken relationship. Never be afraid to pour God’s wisdom into your kids’ lives. Isaiah 55:11-12 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” When we speak God’s word into our kids’ lives, it makes an impact on their hearts.

Turning a minute into a moment doesn’t take much. It doesn’t take a lesson plan. It doesn’t take a theology degree. It just takes us being ready and willing to jump in and grab the minute when it happens. That’s when it becomes a moment.

Lyrics from eLyrics.net

Friday Introduction: Rise Above Your Limits

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My oldest daughter has had a rough week at school. The other night, she was investing a lot of energy and tears into reliving some mean girl drama. It was bedtime. I was tired, and we’d already hashed and rehashed the situation. I really wanted to just kiss her on the head and tell her to go to sleep. As I debated in my brain how to disengage from the conversation, a still, small voice reminded me that this was a teachable moment. I could grab it or I could pass it up. But I needed to recognize that if I passed it up, I was missing an important opportunity to teach my daughter about God’s love and compassion.

My daughter has a loft bed, so to carry on this conversation, I had to stand on a chair — not the most comfortable of positions for a 20-minute teachable moment. I really wanted to walk away, but I didn’t. I stood there, precariously balanced on the chair and helped my daughter work it through. It was a teachable moment that I chose to grab, and I was glad I did. I haven’t heard more about that particular event the rest of the week. Things seem to be going better with the girls in her class — for the moment.

I don’t always grab the teachable moments. Sometimes I ignore the still, small voice prodding me to teach my kids about how God helps us in the moment. Sometimes I miss them because I’m too busy, and sometimes I choose to ignore them because they’re not convenient. When I miss them, I ask for forgiveness and ask God to give me another opportunity, but I’ve learned the key to catching those moments is to be looking for them. It’s taking a moment to lose my selfishness and dive into the opportunity God provides.

I’m talking about this as a guest poster over at Rise Above Your Limits today. Pop on over to get a more in-depth look at why it’s so important to grab the teachable moments with our kids.

Becky Jane does a great job at Rise Above Your Limits of offering encouragement and godly wisdom to women of all ages and life stages. From parenting to humor to parenting, Becky Jane has something for everyone. She even has a few give-aways going on.

Join me at Rise Above Your Limits for the rest of today’s post.

When You Miss the Moment

As I sat with my youngest daughter at the NHL game on Saturday night, I got a text message from my dad. It was an update on my older daughter’s soccer game. It said, “Score is 4-3. E scored 2 goals.”

I thought he was kidding, not because my daughter isn’t a good player, but she plays defense. She rarely makes it across the midfield mark in a game, much less gets close enough to score a goal. She’s scored one goal all season. And the one week neither of her parents are there, she scores two goals and apparently has the game of her life.

While we had a great time in St. Louis with our youngest (you can read about it here), I was disappointed to have missed my older daughter’s stellar performance. It feels like I missed a special moment. And I hate that.

As parents, sometimes, we miss those moments. Oh, not just the goals being scored or the big events, sometimes we miss the teachable moments. We look back at our day and think, “Wow, I missed a great opportunity.” And a lot of times, we beat ourselves up for missing it.

I wish I could have been at my daughter’s game. I wish she hadn’t picked the one game all season that neither of us were there to have the best game she’s ever had. I wish I had gotten to share that moment. But would I have given up the memories we were making with our other daughter to do so? Probably not.

I could sit here and wallow in disappointment that I missed her game. But you know what? There will be other soccer games. I will never be able to go back and capture this particular moment in her soccer life again, but there will be others. There will be tournaments to win and games where she’s terrible. She might even have another two-goal game, and I will be there for most of those.

Just like there will be other teachable moments. If I miss one today, then I’ll just have to look for one tomorrow. It’s easy to beat ourselves up over a lost moment with our kids. Sometimes we think, “If I were a better parent, I would have dealt with that better” or “If only I hadn’t been so busy, I could have captured that moment.”

We all miss the moment sometimes. And it’s OK. Recognize that you missed it, ask God to provide you with another teachable moment, and move on. No parent is perfect. We all screw up. We get mad when we should be calm. We chastise when we should teach. We focus on rules when we should be looking at our kids’ hearts.

God knows we screw up, and He loves us anyway. He loves us so much, He’s always willing to give us another chance to do better. When we screw up, we need to acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness (from God and our kids), and ask God for help to do a better job next time. When we ask God for forgiveness, He gives it and forgets about it. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” We’re the ones that get stuck in remembering our failures, and it keeps us from moving on to the next moment.

Don’t wallow in disappointment or compare yourself to another parent. God chose you to be the parent of your child. He’s going to give you all the tools you need to do so. If you miss a teachable moment, He’s going to give you another one. It won’t be exactly the same as the first one, but you’ll get another opportunity.

I won’t get another shot to see the fantastic game my daughter played on Saturday. But I will see a lot more soccer games and a lot more goals. You might not get another shot at the teachable moment you let slide by yesterday, but you will see more teachable moments today. If you’re not busy dwelling on what you’ve missed, you’ll be ready when they come around.

A Different Perspective on Jesus

We’re finishing our basement. Actually, we’ve been working on finishing our basement for about the past six years, but the past couple of months, my husband and I have been putting a lot more effort into it.

Last night, I needed to paint the drywall that’s going on the ceiling, and my youngest daughter decided she wanted to help. Now, this is definitely one of those tasks that was going to take longer with her help than without. I was tired and just wanted to get it done, but I had been promising her she could help me paint for a while, so out to the garage we went.

I took up my paint pole and showed my daughter how to roll the paint onto the drywall. As I was doing that, she began to copy my motions and said “I’m imitating you.” As she said that, into my mind popped the thought that we need to be imitators of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

You know, last night I was tired. My kids were tired. It had been a tough day. The last thing I really wanted to do was teach my child something. I almost didn’t grab that teachable moment with my daughter. I almost let it pass. In my mind, I had already said, “Not now, God.” But the Holy Spirit kept prompting me to talk with my daughter about being imitators of Christ. So, as I handed over my paint pole and tried not to get side-swiped with the paint roller, I asked my daughter who we should imitate.

Her answer was quick and simple — God. As we talked about what that meant and how Jesus was a physical example for us to follow, I asked my daughter how Jesus treated others. We’ve been working a lot on controlling our words and being an encourager to others the past few weeks. I asked her how Jesus talked to other people. Her answer made me sit up and take notice.

“He used nice words,” she said. “But sometimes he was kind of harsh.”

Wow, I thought. Here my 8-year-old had noticed something that I had never really put a lot of thought into. When you look at the words of Jesus, He never uses discouraging language or puts others down. What He does do is call sin a sin. He doesn’t mince words about the consequences of certain choices in life. And He was never afraid to call out the religious leaders of His day.

Too often, we have a tendency to paint Jesus as this kind, gentle man, which He was. But we want to gloss over the side of Jesus that overturned the money lenders’ tables in the temple and who took on the religious hypocrites of His day.

I’m not really surprised that my daughter picked up on this aspect of who Jesus was. She’s a tell-it-like-it-is personality. She also has a strong sense of justice. Reading about how Jesus stood up for what was right and told people exactly what He thought appeals to who she is.

We want to make sure we’re giving our kids an accurate picture of who Jesus is. Jesus is both a kind and loving Savior, but He is also someone who stands up for what’s right and doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to sin. We want our kids to emulate all of those qualities. If they’re going to be imitators of Christ, then we want them to imitate all of Him.

Take a moment to think about what you’re teaching your kids about Jesus. Are you giving them a one-dimensional view of who He is? Are you sharing with them the accounts of when Jesus stood up for what was right? Are you sharing the times when He got righteously angry? If not, start working those things into your child’s impression of Jesus.

And don’t ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit when God is asking you to grab a teachable moment with your child. God might want to teach you something in that moment, too.

Plenty of Time to Play and Have Fun

My youngest daughter is playing a 3-on-3 hockey tournament this weekend. I got an email from the tournament director today that essentially said his goal for the tournament was for the kids to have plenty of time to play and have fun. The emphasis for him would not be on winning but on making sure every child has an enjoyable tournament experience.

Now, my daughter is pretty focused on her team doing well in the tournament. She doesn’t play anything without wanting to win. She hated playing kindergarten soccer because they didn’t keep score, and “why play if you can’t win?”

Too much of our kids’ world is focused on competing and winning (this from a mom with two very competitive kids). Our kids are expected to excel in everything — from state assessments at school to the sports field to the school choir. We have toddlers entering beauty pageants and 12-year-olds being touted as the next Michael Jordan.

Somewhere we’ve lost the attitude that our kids should have plenty of time to play and have fun. We’ve lost sight of the fact that some of the greatest memories are made and the most worthy lessons taught not in competition but in cooperation and sharing. We’re so busy pushing our kids to succeed that we forget to let them just have fun.

We live in a world where parents put their names on waiting lists before their kids are born to be sure they get into the “right” preschool. Our schools have become focused almost solely on state test scores, leaving little room for the creative experiences that help our kids learn to solve problems and work together.

Solomon was the wisest man on earth. He had succeeded in everything, yet when he neared the end of his life, here is what he had to say, “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2)

Despite the fact that he had spent his whole life achieving things, Solomon felt his work was meaningless. He looked back and found nothing of worth in all he had accomplished. We want our kids to find meaning in their lives, which can only be found in Jesus.

Our kids need time to enjoy life. They need time to learn about God. They can’t do that if the only focus in their lives is to compete and achieve. Make time to play and have fun with your kids. Use the teachable moments that come during those times to point your kids toward God.

  • Don’t structure everything in your child’s life. Leave room for creative play and spontaneity.
  • Remember your child does not have to be the best at everything they do. If they enjoy a sport or an activity, let them enjoy it without pushing them to be the next world champion.
  • Be willing to encourage your child’s passions but set limits on the number of activities you’re willing to let them be involved in at the same time.
  • Look for teachable moments with your kids. Be aware that those moments often come when they are least expected and not always when they’re convenient.

When we leave plenty of time for our kids to play and have fun, we leave time for teachable moments. And we leave time for God to work.