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Kindergarten: God is Love

 

Blueprint Big Idea

All children have the ability with simple, childlike faith, to believe God loves them. Brain research shows that even babies’ brains reveal a desire for the transcendent from an early age, which shows God’s intentional design for relationships right from the start! Regardless of the level of faith formation, when a child can grasp the profound truth that God loves them it will transform their view of their own dignity and worth right away. Additionally, learning that God is love (He doesn’t just act loving but it is His essence) is powerful and formative, even at this young age. The Bible tells us that God created people so He can lavish love on them and in turn, teach them how to love others and this is a foundational truth parents can teach and model every day! While seemingly simple, the truth that God loves us is profound in its impact throughout our entire life and what a great privilege you have of sharing this with your children! The five blueprints below will help you teach your child these foundational truths.

 

Your child’s relationships

A child at this age will discover they can be friends with the opposite sex, possibly for the first time because they are beginning school and other team opportunities. This change in their social life is positive and something we encourage! Learning how to be good friends with both sexes is important relationship formation, however, your child may label their special opposite sex friend a boyfriend or girlfriend, not knowing exactly what they should call them. A simple way to teach them a healthy view about boyfriends and girlfriends is to say, “A boyfriend or girlfriend is a special relationship for when you are much older, but it is so good to have a friend who is a boy and a friend who is a girl. We don’t call them a boyfriend or girlfriend, just a friend.” This is important to share with grandparents or others who may think it is “cute” to use the term boyfriend or girlfriend at this early age. Of course it is innocent, but words and definitions matter, so labeling them as boyfriend and girlfriend can create a self-fulfilling path if it is introduced too early in your child’s life.

 
 
Blueprint Truth #1
 

GOD IS LOVE AND HE MADE YOU TO BE LOVED

We love because He first loved us.

- 1 John 4:19

Biblical Background

Love is not simply a characteristic of God throughout Scripture, love is the essence of who God is. We see this reality clearly spelled out in theological detail in 1 John 4:7-21 where it tells us that before the creation of the world, God is a “union of persons” (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) expressing love. God’s love existed in relationship before man was even created, seen in Genesis 1:26 when He said, “Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness...” Love is relational and true love moves outside of itself and creates life, offers love and leaves a legacy! God began this ‘love model’ right from the beginning when He chose to create mankind. He designed the human person so He could offer love in relationship as a direct outpouring of His own essence, not because He lacked anything. Your child will flourish knowing emphatically that God created them to be loved by Him and they can choose, even now at a young age to say “yes” to being loved! Receiving God’s love is a choice, and something we all can choose at any age.

 

Application

You will want to tell your child over and over again that God made them in His image, and He chooses to love them, no matter what! Your child is also made in your image, so tell them you love them… no matter what! Unconditional love for your child does not mean tolerating bad behavior, but it is a necessary foundation to our security as people. Experiencing conditional love fractures our security as a person and as a result, we don’t truly believe we are worth loving. If your child is adopted, their story is unique but the love model works the same. Your adopted child can resemble you in many ways through personality, likes, dislikes, family values and much more and as a true child of your heart, they are deeply and unconditionally loved. The key to cementing this truth is speaking these words often and backing them up with your actions!

 
 
Blueprint Truth #2
 

GOD CREATED US IN HIS IMAGE, MALE AND FEMALE

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. 

- John 13:34

Biblical Background

In Genesis 1:27, it tells us that God created mankind, male and female. The creation of the human person is the centerpiece of all of creation because man is the only created being with an essence linked to God’s image! To be made in God’s image means mankind can reason, think, love and relate to God in a way that is unlike the animals or even the angels. God intentionally created us male and female to reveal some of the different aspects of His nature. When we live in agreement with our design as men and women, or boys and girls, we have the privilege of revealing glimpses of God’s nature through our behavior. Our differences as male and female can be seen early on, and of course, there are many similarities as well. God’s Kingdom plan includes a differentiation of the two sexes and both sexes are equal co-heirs in Christ. Male and female is a powerful part of our individual formation, and it is a powerful foundation truth for building His Kingdom.

 

Application

Tell your son it is good to be a boy! Tell your daughter it is good to be a girl! Affirming this early and often helps cement their identity. It is good to highlight the fact that God chose to make them a boy or girl on purpose, with a purpose. It is also good for them to know both sexes are equal in God’s eyes, even though there are differences. Understanding our male or female nature is key to our identity search. A true story illustrates this point: There was a young girl in our neighborhood who I noticed never wore a dress and sadly, swore like a trucker (an unredeemed trucker for all my godly trucker friends!). We invited her to play with our kids, but I let her know she would have to go home whenever she swore as a natural consequence. I always offered to let her return once she asked for forgiveness. After all, swearing was beneath her dignity and her female nature! Eventually, through experiencing acceptance and love and forgiveness, (the gospel in action) this young girl gave her heart to Jesus at our church! Along with the swearing, I noticed her propensity for acting tom-boyish… and wanting to help cement her feminine nature, I offered her one of my daughter’s dresses. She said she didn’t like dresses, but would wear it for me☺. (This is why building relationship change with your kids and other people’s kids is important) When she put on the dress, we raved at how it matched her pretty blue eyes. She continued to wear that dress on special occasions although she still enjoyed climbing trees (which all girls should), and she became more balanced as a princess of the King! Yes, clothing matters in teaching male and female identity and it is one of the many ways we teach outside in!

 

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Blueprint Truth #3
 

GOD MADE US TO LOVE HIM AND OTHER PEOPLE

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  

- Mark 12:30

Biblical Background

We are created to know God, to love Him, and to love others as He loves us. In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus revealed which commandment was the most important by saying, “The most important one is this... Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” I John 4:21 says, “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” God wants us all to be part of His family. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4-5 that God “…chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons (a member of His family) through Jesus Christ.” We are also members of an earthly family. God helps us practice loving Him, by loving our parents, brothers and sisters. I John 4:20 says “If someone says ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Our “job” while we are here on earth is to love others, starting with those closest to us.

 

Application

God uses our immediate family as a training ground for learning to love others. You can help your child build healthy relationships, starting at home by creating a loving, fun, safe environment. Your kids should know you love them no matter what, and that unconditional love is what God gives us, and it is what we offer to our sister even when she takes our toy! Although kids have good and bad days, as we all do, a parent should not allow a sibling to treat another sibling poorly because “that is just what kids do.” It isn’t what they should do. Here is a good rule to use at home: All kids in your home have to treat each other at least as well as they treat their friends, and if they don’t, they do not get to play with their friend that day or see their friends until they repair their relationship with their sibling. Your family will likely be around a lot longer than friends so you want to protect and nurture their relationship, not just endure it. You likely have kids who are different, right? Isn’t that a great opportunity for training on their current and future relationships? If your daughter is being mean or mistreating a sibling, she needs to apologize and then serve that sibling in some way. Cleaning up their toys or doing one of their chores works! This rule worked in real life in the Abbott home and helped create a true friendship between five siblings that is ongoing, even after they have left home.

 
 
Blueprint Truth #4
 

GOD GAVE US COMMANDMENTS TO HELP US LOVE

 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  

- 1 John 5:3

Biblical Background

I John 3:11 says, “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love.” Loving others is what we were created to do and if we are honest, sometimes it is difficult for all of us. God knows this so He gave us a pattern, or what I call a relationship prescription to follow that can actually produce love in us and through us! This pattern is the principle called obedience. Love is more than a feeling; it is a choice to do the right thing and to treat others the way they deserve to be treated. We practice choosing to do the right thing first by obeying God, and respecting those in positions of authority because they represent this principle. Obedience is directly related to real love. God has given us commandments to help us learn this, and when we follow His commands, we are proving that our love for God is real. 2 John 1:6 says, “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” I John 5:2 says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.”

 

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Application

First time obedience should be a foundational principle of your parenting and this isn’t about legalism, but about freedom. When a child obeys their parent, and in doing so honors them as well, the Bible clearly states it will go well with them. (Ex. 20:12) Rather than making obedience seem like a negative experience, create positive ways you can encourage your kids to obey. For instance, when you agree they will obey by making their bed or feeding the cat, reward them with a sticker on a chart so they can see progress, and eventually enough stickers equals an ice-cream cone! When we obey God, we sense His love and favor on us in many ways. On the other hand, the key to teaching kids the pattern of obedience also means you have to be very consistent in the consequences when they do not obey. I know this part is hard! When they disobey, after confession restore them with forgiveness, never to bring it up again so they can be “free” to be good. Here’s how it works: One Abbott child, who shall go unnamed, was terribly cute at around 3 and was getting away with disobeying more than normal. The Lord convicted me that she had not been disciplined, and He also pointed out her resulting less-than-happy demeanor. Kids don’t like to be left in this sin. So, I let this beautiful little one, made in God’s image, know that the next time she disobeyed, she would receive a consequence, and I apologized for not doing my job as her mom. Yes, she did have a funny look on her face at that comment! Very soon an infraction occurred and she received the effective consequence, after verbalizing her sin. Once the discipline was done, she was forgiven verbally, hugged and loved tremendously… and amazingly, her happy little demeanor returned! The Lord impressed upon me she was now “free” to be good and I was not to take lightly the training of His little one (no matter how cute she is!). This pattern is also very effective for teaching the gospel and how forgiveness works. Loving our kids has to include loving boundaries and consequences for them to be whole and healthy. If you resist setting boundaries and giving consequences, you will be sending a message to your child that you don’t love them. Agree in advance what the consequence will be in your home so this pattern isn’t about your feelings in a given situation, but about their choices. Be consistent, fair, and slow to anger, just like the Lord is with you!

 

 
 
Blueprint Truth #5
 

GOD SHOWS US WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE

 

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   

- I Corinthians 13:4-7

 

Biblical Background

God is love and He actually shows us what love looks like, by the fruit it bears. In the beginning, God brought a male and a female, Adam and Eve, together in love and the result He expected from two people loving each other was a fruitful, loving, life-giving relationship (Gen 1:28). When we love others, our relationships will be fruitful, life-giving and the fruit has names! 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 shows us those names: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, it always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.” Wow, what a list. You can teach your child to grow in their ability to love by teaching them the right attitudes to have. I call it outside in training. They may not feel like not being kind, but you can tell them, “If you choose to act rude you will lose a privilege.” They may not feel like being patient, but when you ask them to wait and then give them a positive response for waiting, eventually their heart and mind and soul will feel better by “acting” loving. Ultimately, the only way for us as human beings to be truly loving is by submitting our lives to Christ and having His Spirit, His nature, live inside of us to really produce the fruitful outcomes of love. Fruit is proof of a seed planted. Inviting children to ask Jesus into their heart is the only way to get the seeds of righteousness planted. Help your child prepare for receiving the gift of salvation as early as they are ready!

 

Application

When your son or daughter acts loving, point out the fruit. Say, “Susie, being patient and letting your sister go first was really loving!” “Johnny, protecting your little sister was a really kind and loving thing to do!” Speak and name the fruit you see, to strengthen their understanding of love. In doing so you will help them understand that love isn’t just feelings, it is also actions. Understanding this principle is important for your children because when they are teens, they will understand the proof of love isn’t just their “feelings” for someone, but their righteous actions towards that person. A much better proof indeed! In addition, one way for you to determine what relationships are healthy for them is ask yourself if it is life-giving? Is the result good fruit or is it rotten? Often we feel stuck when our kids experience negative coaches or friendships or possibly even bullying that do not produce good fruit. The Bible gives us another list to watch for because sometimes things can take place that we don’t know about, but all actions have fruit. In Galatians 5:19, “The deeds (fruit) of the flesh in Galatians 5:19 are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and things like these!” Wow, what a list. Clearly some of this won’t happen at this age, but you need to be the gatekeeper of their tender heart and soul as they are learning to develop into a healthy person. Don’t be afraid to change teachers, teams or put limits on friendships or time spent in other people’s homes. I am not advocating an overprotective position, but too often I see negative outcomes that could have been prevented. God, through His Holy Spirit will direct you as you parent because He knows your child better than anyone!

 
 

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