What does it mean to actually show children how to live according to God’s way? One of the most effective ways is by teaching children about the fruit of the spirit. A fruit is for our nutrition and meant to be eaten. In the same way, the fruit of the spirit is food on how to live.
Galatians 5:22-23 says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control“. It goes on to say that “against these, there is no law“. That means that these traits can never be too much or in excess.
Every person needs to have something they are trying to emulate. As we know children live to emulate their parents, knowingly or unknowingly. They watch their parents, how they behave, how they speak and what they do. For parents, the reality is that children learn more by what you do than what you say – action speaks louder than words.
Children naturally desire to please and want their behaviour to match the expectations of their family.
The Amplified version refers to the fruit of the spirit this way “love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things, there is no law”. Teaching children what the fruit of the spirit means in daily living is an invaluable lesson to learn.
5 Ways to Live to please God (for children)
To love is to have an unselfish concern for others, to love neighbours like themselves and to love God. The best place to practise this starts in the home. Do the children show love and concern for their siblings, parents or staff in the house? How they treat nannies and other domestic staff is a major factor in whether they understand what love is.
On my house-keepers birthday, my daughter reminded me to get a cake to celebrate. The housekeeper was thrilled that we got her a cake as we made a fuss by taking pictures and singing happy birthday. Everyone wants to be appreciated and everyone responds to love.
Joy and Peace
Children should have zeal and exuberance for life. Having joy that comes from within and being grateful for the little things builds a positive attitude. True joy is not tied to external events or material goods but rather to having inner peace and not being anxious. [Read: Pressure to Look Good]
Patience is not something adults miraculously learn, the act of delayed gratification is learnt. Children can learn this value from an early age and to wait and have joy and peace while they wait. Delay does not mean denial, but if God says no then it is because it was not meant to be hence the need to learn wisdom and discernment.
Kindness, goodness, faithfulness
Children witness this in the home. How parents act here is very important, are you kind to people around you? At the pharmacy, a gentleman in front of me did not have enough to pay for his items. I offered to pay for his goods and asked the cashier to add his items to mine. I believe in random acts of kindness just for the sake of it. Later on, as I left the store my daughter asked if I knew the man who was waving to me in the parking lot. I told her what happened and smiling she said: “he will know that you are a Christian and what it means to be kind”. I could not have guessed in a million years this simple act of kindness would make such an impression on her!
On the surface, self-control might seem like a hard one to teach children. It starts from when certain behaviours like throwing tantrums, whining, shouting and other signs of naughty behaviour are not tolerated. The earlier they learn to express themselves properly the earlier they will master self-control. [Read: Raising an Ajebutter?]
You can teach children about living according to God’s way, by explaining, discussing and demonstrating what the fruit of the spirit looks like.