A beary important lesson

Share the following story about a mother bear and a disobedient cub if you feel it is appropriate for your children.

After reading any of these stories about obedience, have your children re-enact the different roles to further enhance their learning.

The grizzly bear and her cubs*

There were three young grizzly cubs playfully exploring the woods near their den. The scent of food caused them to be drawn away from the protection of their mother. Their curiosity drew them closer and closer to danger. The food they had smelled was a caribou carcass that belonged to a family of wolves who had hidden it in the bushes and dirt near their own den.

As the cubs came closer, the wolves circled preparing for a deadly attack. The mother bear heard the cries from her cubs and came running to their defence. The mother bear fought savagely and was finally able to separate herself and her cubs from the attacking wolves.

They had just reached the safety of a nearby hill when the weakest of the three cubs ignored the protective wishes of its mother and returned to sniff the caribou. In seconds it was surrounded by the wolf pack. The mother now had to expose herself and the other two cubs to the battle again.

The lead wolf had returned from hunting and distracted the mother bear while four other wolves attacked the weak cub. The mother bear broke free from the lead wolf and roared furiously at those who were attacking her cub. She wildly swung her paws in defence. Finally, she drove the three cubs through a thick patch of brush and into a glacial stream.

The smallest cub cringed on the shore, frightened . . . The mother pushed it into the water so the wolves would no longer follow. The wounds the young cub suffered were a lasting reminder of the consequences of not following the instructions of the one caring for you.

* Reproduced from Character Sketches from the Pages of Scripture, Illustrated in the World of Nature Volume I. Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 1976. www.iblp.org. Reproduced with permission.

Questions for discussion
  • Which rule did the little bear disobey?
  • What rules do Mom and Dad give you for your own safety?
  • What could happen to you when you choose to disobey these rules?
  • What do kinds of food do Mom and Dad ask you to eat, but you would prefer not to?
  • What do you think would happen to you if you ate cake, ice cream and cookies at every meal?
  • What kinds of traps do bears get stuck in?
  • What kinds of “traps” does Satan set for people?
Key concepts

Here are some key points to emphasize in discussing this story with your children:

A mother grizzly must help her cubs to survive by teaching them what foods are available in which seasons and how to find them. Likewise, as parents, it is our responsibility to teach you how to eat healthy meals. For example, we encourage you to eat balanced meals, including lots of vegetables.

A mother bear also teaches her cubs how to avoid natural dangers such as hunters, bear traps, porcupines and wolves. Again, without her guidance, the cubs’ chances of survival would decrease significantly. It is our job, as your parents, to teach you how to be safe. That’s why we give your rules such as “Don’t play in the street” and “Don’t go anywhere with strangers.” These rules keep you safe physically.

It’s also our job to keep you safe spiritually. Satan is our enemy and he is always tempting us to do wrong. We need to teach you how to overcome the temptation that Satan sends and how to live to please God instead.

Boundary game

To play the boundary game, draw a circle around a child with a piece of chalk (or use a hula-hoop). Give examples of respecting other’s boundaries. Here are some ideas:

Please stop tickling!

One child steps inside another child’s circle and begins tickling him/her. The child already inside the circle must say, “Please stop tickling me.” Then the child must leave the circle, demonstrating that they are respecting the other’s boundaries.

No hugs, please

Have one child ask another child if they can give him/her a hug. If the second child says “Sure,” then the first child may step inside the second child’s circle. However, if they say “I’d rather not,” then child number one must respect child number two’s boundaries.

May I have that back, please?

Have one child play with a toy that belongs to another child. Then have the owner ask if they may have their toy back please. The child must step inside the owner’s circle to give back the toy and then leave the circle once again to show they are respecting the other’s wishes.

Afterward, you can use the questions for discussion to debrief. Also discuss ways in which people can respectfully communicate their boundaries to others.

Questions for discussion
  • How does it make you feel when someone is disrespectful to you?
  • Do you like to be around people who are disrespectful?
Relevant Scripture

Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

1 Peter 2:17 “Show proper respect to everyone…”

Righteous warriors

Most kids love an excuse to dress up. In this activity you will help your children make or select dress-up items to reinforce the idea that we can be “clothed in righteousness.” You will need dress-up clothes, cardboard, wide fabric elastic and sticky-back jewels, or little wads of tinfoil to serve as jewels.

Read the verses provided below and ask your children to identify different pieces of clothing mentioned in the verses. For each piece of clothing they note, work together to make that item, then add it to your dress-up box.

Here are some suggestions to help you make the clothing you will need:

Cloak | Use a shiny scarf with metallic thread, a fuzzy blanket or any length of fabric that your children find appealing to wrap up in.

Breastplate | You will need a chest-sized piece of cardboard, scissors and 61 cm (24 inches) of fabric elastic measuring 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide, plus your choice of medium to decorate or cover the cardboard. Begin by slicing 1-cm-wide slits (half-inch slits) in the cardboard as shown below – one at each corner and one in the middle of each side.

To make arm straps, take a 15-20 cm (6-8 inch) length of elastic and push the end through one of the top holes, working from front to back. Tie a knot so the elastic will not pull back through. Take the other end of the elastic and push it through the hole just below it, again tying a knot to keep it from slipping back through. This is your first arm strap. Repeat this step on the other side.

To make the waist strap you will need 20-31 cm (8-12 inches) of elastic. Use the same method you used to make the arm strap, attaching the elastic to each bottom corner of the breastplate. Help your child decorate their breastplate creatively. You may wish to glue large gold or silver buttons over the elastic knots and add other details using colourful ribbons or markers.

Crown of righteousness | Cut a 5-cm-wide (2-inch-wide) strip of cardboard, making it 5 cm longer than the circumference of your child’s head. Help your child cut a jagged edge on one side of the strip. Colour and decorate the crown, leaving a 5-cm space at one end to allow for overlap. Use a glue gun or stapler to join the two ends of the cardboard, overlapping the ends as needed to fit around your child’s head.

Pray, based on Colossians 3:12-14: “Lord God, please clothe us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Help us to put up with each other and forgive whatever complaints we have about each other. We want to forgive others as You forgive us. And most important of all, please help us to ‘put on’ love, so we can be a unified family who lives together enjoying peace.”

Talk about the different ways your children can choose to be righteous. When you see your children choosing to be righteous, you can affirm them by giving out jewels to add to their crowns or breastplates. The “jewels” can be taken from old strings of beads or pearls. (Beads can be a choking hazard so omit this idea if you have young children in the house.) To add interest, you may also wish to have your children connect a “righteous act” with a specific jewel colour. For example, pink might represent kindness, yellow might represent generosity, love, justice or mercy etc. Continue to add jewels for the duration of your study on righteous choices.

Relevant Scripture

Isaiah 64:5-6 “You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, You were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

Isaiah 59:17 “He put on righteousness as His breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak.

Isaiah 61:9-11 “Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed. I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”

2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

Colossians 3:12-14 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Ugly tempers on display

If you get a chance, videotape a temper tantrum. Whining, groaning and complaining are temper tantrums in disguise. If these are problems in your home, you may also want to record them, too. View the recording later and use the questions for discussion to help talk about how the tantrum or the grumbling and whining looks and sounds. Explain to your children that when they lose self-control, they will end up getting disciplined rather than getting what they wanted.

Read Titus 3:1-2. The Bible says we are to be obedient – ready to do good, to slander (speak badly of) no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to have a humble attitude. Pray, asking God to help your family members “do whatever is good” so there will be fewer outbursts of anger, and less whining and/or bickering.

Questions for discussion
  • Do you like the way this tantrum looks?
  • Do you like the way this tantrum sounds?
  • Would you like to be around someone who did this?
  • Should a child who loses self-control expect to get what they want?
Relevant Scripture

Titus 3: 1-2 “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

Everyone loves presents: God’s great gift!

Prior to beginning this discussion, wrap up an empty box in attractive gift-wrap. Attach a note that says:

An empty box wrapped with ribbon and care,
This gift is not costly, but precious and rare.
Please do not open it – you’ll find nothing there,
It’s just to remind you, that with one simple prayer
God gives you His Spirit, it’s His gift to share.

Place the gift where it can be admired during your discussion. Use the introductory questions for discussion to introduce the concept of the Holy Spirit as a gift from God.

Questions for discussion
  • Can you think of a special gift someone has given to you?
  • Who gave it to you?
  • Why is it so special?
  • Do you want to hear about an even greater gift that God has waiting for all of us? Read Luke 11:5-13. Explain that the Holy Spirit is God’s special gift to us and that His Spirit can come and live in each of us (John 16:5-16, John 14:15-21).
  • Have your parents ever given you an awful gift like a snake or a rock?
  • When you ask for food, what do your parents give you?
  • Have you ever turned down a gift that someone gave you?
  • What is the “good gift” God offers us?

Close by reading the note on the gift aloud and ask your children if they want to accept God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. If they do, suggest that while you pray, they hold their hands open as though they were about to receive a gift. Pray with them, thanking God for His gift of the Holy Spirit and asking God to fill each of you with the Holy Spirit. Pray specifically for the Holy Spirit to provide self-control. Leave the gift wrapped as a reminder to ask for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit every day.

Relevant Scripture

Luke 11:5–13    

John 14:15-21

John 16:5-16

Rich man, poor man

Ideally, parents should read the book of Ecclesiastes to get a sense of the purpose of this exercise. While you read Ecclesiastes, substitute the word insignificant for meaningless. The message of Ecclesiastes and this exercise is the same: In comparison, everything outside of our relationship with God is insignificant.

Pick an hour or predetermined length of time that you will play this game. Have your children choose what they would like to be for the day: a rich man or a poor man.

If they choose to be a rich man, allow them to have anything they want (within reason) for the predetermined period of time. Their riches may include playing with all the toys they want, watching all the videos they want (with pre-screened content), and eating anything they want.

If they choose to be a poor man, they only get the basics, which are food and clothing. The poor man, although he/she doesn’t have any toys to play with and eats only at meal times, he/she gets to hang out with Mom or Dad. The parents are basically playing the part of God, so the child is “blessed” because he/she gets to spend time with Mom or Dad.

The point of this exercise is to illustrate that just because you have everything doesn’t mean you feel satisfied. Make sure that if you do this with siblings, they have the opportunity to play both the rich man and the poor man so they can feel what it is like to be on “both sides of the fence.”

After, summarize the lesson by reading Ecclesiastes 2:24-26. Explain how we can easily be fooled into thinking our needs are satisfied by the things of this world, including pleasure, entertainment, luxurious food and activities. However, outside of being in relationship with God, our innermost needs and desires will never be met.

Though the “rich” man thought he/she was getting a good deal, all of the luxuries of this world become empty and meaningless if they are enjoyed outside of knowing God. The “poor” man, although he didn‘t have any luxuries, enjoyed companionship, which is ultimately more valuable than possessions, especially when it is a relationship with God. After the game is done, review the questions for discussion with your children.

Questions for discussion
  • Which did you prefer – to be the rich man or the poor man?
  • Why did you enjoy being the rich man?
  • Why didn’t you like being the rich man?
  • Why did you like being the poor man?
  • Why didn’t you like being the poor man?
  • In this world, who is the rich man and who is the poor man?
Relevant Scripture

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness, but to the sinner He gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Little House on the Prairie fashion

Have your children select two outfits to wear and two toys to play with for the duration of a week. Try to focus on being thankful for those items. Supplement this learning by reading a children’s version of this famous book series such as A Little House Christmas.

Take time to act out some of the stories and “play” Little House on the Prairie as a family. This could even include eating very simple meals. The questions for discussion will help your children further consider how much they have to be thankful for. Use this activity in conjunction with “Closet Clean-up,” also listed in this section.

Questions for discussion
  • Would you have liked to live in the days of Little House on the Prairie?
  • What was the hardest part of having only two outfits to wear?
  • What did you like about it?
  • Do you think that you would be satisfied with owing less clothing? Less toys?
  • Which toys and clothes would you like to give away?

Life has it’s share of spills

This is another suggestion that can be used to illustrate Luke 6:45.

Begin by showing your children a glass full of warm water and another glass full of hot water. Shake each glass and show how it spills all over the table. Then, explain that each glass represents a person and the water represents what is in that person’s heart. When life shakes us up, what is inside comes out.

Tell your children a story of two different people: one who has good things in their heart (generosity) and one who has bad things in their heart (selfishness). You can be creative and invent your own story, or use this one:

At the playground, Jenny begins to play with an unattended toy shovel. Brandon, who owns the shovel, is feeling selfish. He has a tantrum and yells some mean things at Jenny. Curtis is also at the playground. He sees how upset Jenny is. Curtis has God’s love in his heart and decides to offer to share his toys with Jenny and her friend.

Questions for discussion

Use the following questions to help emphasize the point that we need to make sure that our hearts are full of God’s love so that kind, gentle and respectful words come out of our mouths, even when we are “shaken.”

  • How would it feel to have hot water spilled on you?
  • Would you prefer to have warm water on your hand?
  • What kind of water did Brandon (the first boy in the story) spill?
  • What kind of water do you think Jesus would spill if He were at the playground?
  • What kind of water would you like to spill on others?
  • What could make you feel shaken or ready to spill hot water? (Ideas include being teased, losing at a game, or someone taking something that belongs to them.)
  • Who can help you when you feel hot water boiling up inside of you?

Together with your kids, brain-storm some difficult situations they are sometimes faced with. Imagine these are “real” scenarios, and role-play how you might respond. After each scenario, discuss which responses were appropriate, or how they could be improved.

Refer to the kids talk with God section for prayer examples and have each child choose a prayer that they can use when they are upset or angry.

Relevant Scripture

Luke 6:45 “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

Communication capers – the cow and the parrot

Begin by sharing the following knock-knock joke with your kids:

First person: “Knock, knock.”

Second person: “Who’s there?”

First person: “Interrupting cow.”

Second person begins to say: “Interrupting cow, who?” but is interrupted part-way through when the first person says, “Moo!”

Help your children to understand that although this joke is funny, it is not funny when we interrupt others in daily conversation. Continue the lesson by modelling two conversations between you and your spouse, or involving another adult.

In the first conversation, have one person behave like the “interrupting cow,” continually interrupting the other person. The second conversation, however, should demonstrate good listening skills. Ask your children to point out the differences between the two conversations. Emphasize that good listening skills involve facing the speaker and looking at them with undivided attention.

Introduce this next exercise by explaining that you want your children to communicate like a parrot, and not like an “interrupting cow.” Point out that people train parrots to talk by rewarding them for repeating back phrases spoken by their trainer. Explain that, like the parrot, your kids can show they have listened well by repeating back what someone has just said. Then introduce this “game” that allows your children to practice being “parrots” by reflecting back what others say. Take turns being the one who speaks first and the one who “parrots.”

Here are some examples for you to begin with:

Dad: “Please do up your seat belts before I start driving.
Child: “What I heard you say, Dad, was that you want us to do our seat belts up as soon as we get in the car.”

Child: “It would be nice to have hamburgers for supper tonight.”
Mom: “I think you are asking for hamburgers for supper tonight. Is that right?”

Mom: “I’m exhausted. While you were at school, I bought the groceries, paid some bills and met with ________.”
Child: “Are you tired from the all the running around you have done?”
Mom: “Yes. Thank you for listening.”

To further reinforce good listening skills say, “I think I can smell a cow!” whenever you notice your child interrupting. (Or create a similar gentle reminder.) Likewise, when your child “parrots” back what you have said, affirm them and let them know that you prefer the “parrot” over the “cow.”

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

Proverbs 18:13 “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and shame.”

God is my flashlight

A very common fear among children and adults is fear of the dark. Being careful in the dark is wise, as a person can trip or bump into hidden obstacles. However, being cautious in the dark is different from being fearful of darkness. When a person is afraid of the dark, they are usually letting their imagination get carried away. If a person continues to dwell on those thoughts, the fear only gets worse.

Offering an alternative focus can help your children overcome their fear of the dark. One helpful alternative is the three-part “fear stopper” handshake.

  • Begin by having your child hold your hand as you would hold hands if you were walking side by side.
  • As you swing hands, have your child say, “God is with me.”
  • Then face each other and hold your hands up to your eyes, pretending your hands are binoculars you are looking through. Look at each other and say, “God knows what hides in darkness!”
  • Finish by saying “God will protect me!” as you make a fist with one hand and gently “pound it” by punching your fist against the other person’s fist, “hammer-style.”

Complete this activity by reviewing these “fear stoppers” found in the Bible:

Relevant Scripture

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Daniel 2:22 “He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.”

2 Samuel 22:29 “You are my lamp O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”

Psalm 121:7-8 “The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”