How Do I Disciple My Children When They Don’t Listen to Me?

How Do I Disciple My Children When They Don’t Listen to Me?

Throughout the Bible, there are verses that remind us of the importance of parenting. From training our children in the “way they should go” to not provoking our children, a grand responsibility is placed on parenting. Our roles as parents go beyond providing safety, food, and shelter. The Lord also leads us to disciple our children to be followers of Him. Even when we consider the final words of Jesus, we are asked to “Go and make disciples.” Now more than ever it’s our responsibility to start within the walls of our home to share the Gospel and encourage those whom God has entrusted in us to follow Him wholeheartedly. 

The concept of discipling our children can prove difficult when children are not listening the way we want them to. When our children have reached a place of disrespect or disdain for spiritual matters, it can be even more daunting. However, with prayer and strategy, the Lord can give you the grace needed to help your children embrace their journey with Christ. 

With this in mind, here are 7 practical ways we can lead our children closer to God, even when they aren’t listening well.

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  • 1. Lead by Example

    1. Lead by Example


    The most effective way to disciple anyone is by example. When we recognize that our children are always watching and taking notes, we must hold ourselves accountable. In my own home, I have seen how when the atmosphere is tense between my husband and I, our children will begin to argue amongst themselves. Even more so, when we read our Bible, they may ask what we are reading in the moment. I am assured that the times we prayed for our waiters or gave to a person in need, they noticed. When we make an effort to be overwhelmingly kind and reflect God’s heart towards others, we allow our children to see our faith in action. As Paul tells the Corinthian church to follow his lead as he follows Christ, we as parents must work on our own path first if we want to see our children grow closer to the Lord. 

    Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:11)

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  • 2. Quality Time

    2. Quality Time


    Spending one-on-one time is vital for creating an atmosphere of mutual respect. This can be tough if you have multiple children. However, each child deserves an opportunity to have you to themselves. In this time, they should be able to freely express themselves, their fears, and frustrations. Even more so, this gives you the opportunity to share your heart and faith to encourage them. There are times we need to rise up to be a disciplinarian and other times where we need to be a cheerleader for our children. In other words, quality time is not just about getting them to know Jesus. Instead, it’s your way of saying, “you matter to me.” 

    Before having this time alone, be sure to pray for God to give you opportunities to show His love. As you develop a deeper bond with your child on everyday matters, this will open the door for you to share God’s love on the heart issues later. When we neglect quality time with our children, we can become stuck in a cycle of only “talking at” our children and nagging them into making the right choices. Instead, focusing on the actual relationship will provide the trust needed on both sides to help them along their journey with Christ.

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  • 3. Two-Way Journaling

    3. Two-Way Journaling


    Depending on the age of the child, two-way journaling can be an excellent way to help strengthen relationships and share emotions. To start the journaling process, simply purchase a notebook that can be passed back and forth. In the past, I used a simple spiral notebook. I started the first entry sharing about my day and what I was looking forward to. At the end of my journal entry, I asked my daughter a question like, “How can I pray for you?” or “What are you looking forward to tomorrow?” Afterwards, the journal would be placed under her pillow to respond and share about her day. She would reply and leave it under my pillow the next day. This journaling method gave us something that was our own and allowed us to share more intimate matters that may have embarrassed her in person. 

    Two-way journaling allows both parties to speak without interruption and be open. In our home, it was a way for me to encourage my daughter in the Lord in a less abrasive manner. Instead, we were able to strengthen our relationship. Many times, we became so focused on making rules, we forgot the importance of relationship. This way of communication creates a safe environment and memorable experience for all. 

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  • 4. Invest in Their Interests

    4. Invest in Their Interests


    Each child has unique interests. Most children will not list church as their favorite place or the Bible as their favorite book. It’s important to meet them where they are, even when they aren’t listening. In other words, we have to find what helps our children to shine and see how we can allow God to meet them there. For example, if our child thrives in a group environment, seek a great youth group or sign them up for an AWANA program. If your child loves science, create your own science club with students from the neighborhood or church. 

    When you invest in their interests, they will be more likely to want to participate in yours. I have found we can disciple effectively through everyday interests and interactions, if we are intentional. Although we can be direct in our influence, it’s also okay to be subtle and ask God for creative ways to share Him. One of the best ways to share God with them is to acknowledge the interests and gifts He’s given them.

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  • 5. Find Positive Friendships

    5. Find Positive Friendships


    Depending on the age of our children, we can be very instrumental in surrounding them with positive influences. There are times when they may not listen to us but will be open to hearing from others. Finding other families at church to do life with or neighbors who reflect the values of your home are crucial. Within our home, we seek to be very intentional about having friends over whose parents believe as we do. Although there is room for having friends who are non-believers, when it comes to discipling our children, we recognize that every moment matters. Truthfully, one interaction could cause a trickle-down effect in a child’s life. We should seek to find friends and other families that can be a source of encouragement and God’s love, even when we aren’t around. 

    Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Corinthians 15:33)

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  • 6. Pray with Them

    6. Pray with Them


    We have a responsibility to pray with and for our children. As we pray for our children, we can hear from God on what to do and how to proceed. However, when we pray with our children they are encouraged and taught to pray for themselves. With prayer being such a vital part of our Christian walk, a part of discipling them is encouraging them in this manner. 

    Even if they aren’t a fan of prayer, when they present an issue, reserve the right to grab their hands and say, “Let’s pray about this.” Often when our children are sick, we choose to immediately pray with them in the moment. The goal is to teach them that God is always with us. Always remember, some aspects of discipleship will be in these moments of putting your faith in action.

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  • 7. Teach Them the Word

    7. Teach Them the Word


    As parents, you can’t be afraid to teach your children the word of God. There are so many ways to do so these days. Devotionals, Bible-apps, magazine-styled Bibles, and themed Bibles all make it very easy to teach the Bible in a practical setting. Without teaching the word of God, we cannot expect our children to follow the right road. As we teach, we are not just doing so as a form of correction. Instead, we do this to encourage them to be who God has called them to be. Choose devotionals to share with them that might lead them to recognize opportunities to share and hear from God. You may be surprised how their faith and words can encourage you.

    Altogether, even the most challenging children can come to know God for themselves. Our job is to seek the Lord in how to guide them. Overall, when we focus on deepening our relationship with them, we will find opportunities to share our faith more readily. Even when we think they aren’t listening, they are watching and taking notes. Let us lead our children in love, faith, and action. When we do so and remain prayerful, we can trust God will handle the rest.

    Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

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    Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life.  Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.

    Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life.  Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.