Vital Life Skills for Kids
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Josh and Jen MulvihillJen Mulvihill is a music teacher and homeschool mom to five children. She is married to Josh and together they are passionate about training children and families to know and love Jesus Christ. Jen considers it a privilege to be able to spend her days at home as a support to her husband and children. In her spare time, Jen can be found leading the homeschool band, which she launched in 2015, sewing, tending to her chickens and farm cats, and tackling a DIY project at their hundred year old farm...more
What do kids need to know for real life success? Josh and Jen Mulvihill dive into vital life skills kids shouldn’t live without.
Vital Life Skills for Kids
Josh: We are toiling for something as a parent; and the question is: “Is it the right thing?” and “Is it going to get us towards that end goal?” But at the end of the day, if our kids don’t love Christ, man, that hurts as a parent; it really does. So that’s really where our aim is with our kids; and I feel like we can weather a lot if there is a love for Christ there.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
If you could go back in time, and redo your parenting, what is just one thing that you would do differently?
Dave: My parenting?—or your parenting? Because I’d like to redo—[Laughter]
Ann: We’re not talking about me; this is you today. [Laughter]
Dave: The first one that comes to my mind is: “Seize the day.”
Ann: What do you mean?
Dave: “Seize moments.” I read somewhere you have 936 weeks, from the time your son or daughter is born, until they hit 18. I think I would have been more intentional with each week—
Ann: I feel like you were intentional; you’re saying “consistently.”
Dave: Oh, I just feel—what would you say?
Dave: I know you asked me, but what is yours? [Laughter]
Ann: I have 20 on my list. I wish I would have responded more to their situations instead of reacting. I think I reacted in fear, often, instead of responding, and had more of a questioning view of: “What makes you say that?” or “What makes you tempted to do that?” or “What are you struggling with?” I wish I would have gotten into the core of who they are as young men. That is one of mine; I have so many more I could talk about.
Dave: Well, we’re going to get some help today. We’ve got Josh and Jen Mulvihill back in the studio. They are, not only parents, but they are—in my mind, you are sort of experts on this whole parenting thing—so welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Jen: Thanks for having us.
Josh: Good to be here.
Dave: I say “experts” with a smile; because you are looking at me, like you’ve got five kids at home. And by the way, our listeners don’t know this: your oldest is actually watching the kids this weekend.
Jen: Oh, yes! Yes.
Dave: So you are at that stage.
Ann: He is 15.
Josh: We hope we have five when we come back home. [Laughter]
Jen: He does great.
Josh: He does fantastic.
Jen: He does a great job.
Dave: I mean, it is interesting when you talk about that; because I mentioned to you, earlier, that our oldest son—we found out years later—
Ann: —just a few years ago.
Dave: —would take the money we gave him—he was like 16.
Ann: He was 16; he could drive when we left them to go do a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. He was responsible; but we found, just a few years ago, that we would leave—this was back in the day—50 bucks for food for that weekend. We were all sitting around; the younger brother said, “Did you know that, every time you guys would leave—as soon as you would leave—CJ said, ‘Guys, get in the car. We are going to go buy a new video game with that money!’?” [Laughter]
I was like, “What?!” The younger one said, “Mom, we had no food all weekend. We were scrounging/scrounging through the cupboards, looking for food.”
Dave: In some ways, we had no idea; but it was a wonderful life.
But here is the thing: you’ve written a book about 50 things that you want your kids to know before they leave home. Talk about intentionality. I might have come up with three or four—you have fifty—and you list them in your book. But let me ask you this—let’s start here—"Do you have one thing that you wish you could redo?”
Jen: Hmm, I love that question.
Dave: That’s a tough one.
Ann: Is there something you wish Josh would have done? [Laughter]
Josh: Man, I think I/I think in the way I respond—I tend to be angry when kids—like, “I’ve got to get this done.” So mine is probably: “Lord, give me patience; give me grace; give me kindness.” I find myself, oftentimes, apologizing to our kids—or sometimes, to Jen—just on the way that I interact with them.
Ann: Me, too, Josh.
Josh: Yes, I think that’s my biggie.
Jen: I think I would say mine would be to say, “Yes,” more. You know, I think, sometimes, as a mom—and I have my day planned—
Ann: —your plan.
Jen: —and I’ve got things the way I think that they should be going. I think just saying, “Yes,” more instead of “No”; and being willing to go with the flow and let things play out. I could definitely be better at saying, “Yes,” more.
Josh: It’s fun to see how you mellow out a little bit, as you get older as a parent,—
Jen: It’s true; it’s very true.
Josh: —and just how the way we raised our first born—when they were just—put them in bubble wrap.
Jen: I know.
Josh: Now, as they are older,—
Jen: Our six-year-old, it’s very different.
Josh: —yes, things just aren’t as big as they were.
Josh: The thing that we’ve learned is: as there is relational health there, and when the foundation is strong, you can weather a lot. So much is out of our control as parents; it really is. There is a trust factor with your children—there is a trust factor with the Lord that comes into play—but there is also an element that: “These kids aren’t ours. They share our name—our last name for a little time—but they are given to us, on loan, by the Lord; and we really want to be good stewards of what He has given us.”
I think this is part of that: “Alright, Lord, You have entrusted us. What more have You entrusted to us, of great importance, between a soul that will last for eternity?”—just think about: this child will stand, potentially in eternity, next to us, as a brother or sister in Christ, like, “What a privilege to be able to have that kind of impact on people in this world.”
Dave: “Begin with the end in mind,”—What was it you were trying to raise? What was/can you give us some words as sort of a picture of like: “This is what our goal is…”?
Josh: I look at Psalm 127, which talks about children are arrows in the hands of a warrior. We are the warrior, and the kids are the arrows. This is kind of an interesting metaphor the Bible has chosen. That implies a number of things: with an arrow, arrows have a target. That means we’re kind of aiming for something with the arrows that God has given us; the question is: “What is that target?”
I think the Bible speaks to that to pretty good precision; I come back to a couple of passages—some that aren’t just parenting specific—I want to read Colossians 1:28-29, which gets at the: “This is what God wants for a Christian/a person in general,”—and then, of course, that applies to us with parenting; it says: “Him we proclaim,”—that is Christ—“warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom”—here is kind of the bullseye/the target—“that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” That maturity in Christ is our priority.
Then Paul says this: “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy”—which is an interesting way of putting it. Parenting is a struggle at times, if we are honest; but notice it’s struggling with all His energy—“that He powerfully works in me.” You know, there is this whole divine/human partnership thing happening that God is working—but I love that phrase, “For this I toil,”—and we are all toiling for something as a parent; the question is: “Is it the right thing?” and “Is it going to get us towards that end goal?”
I think Paul starts to get at here—“presenting everyone mature in Christ”—kind of what that end goal is. Maturity/Christ-like character is kind of what we are aiming at with our kids.
There is a passage in Psalms that I really love—it’s Psalm 78:7—which talks about how the goal in this passage, of telling one generation after another generation, so that—it says in verse 7—“…that there may be hope in God and obedience to His ways.” That hope is salvation, and obedience is walking with the Lord.
That’s really what we are getting at with our kids: when they leave, we will encourage them to obey the Lord; I mean, what a marching order—to walk with the Lord—and our goal is Christ-like character with our kids. There are a lot of other supplemental things that are important; but at the end of the day, if our kids don’t love Christ, man, that hurts as a parent; it really does. That’s really where our aim is with our kids; I feel like we can weather a lot if there is a love for Christ there.
You know, as I said, I think on our first day, if our daily activity choices and energy is going to things that are really taking us away from that, then we probably need to think about reprioritizing some things that are happening in our home so that end goal can be accomplished. Man, it could be educational choices; it can be sports on the calendar; it can be the way we correct a child in the home; it could be a whole host of many things that we do that really either help or hurt towards that end.
Ann: Well, I’m thinking—we’ve shared this before, but I think our kids were elementary school and middle school—and we asked the question: “What do you guys think is most important in our family? Just off the top—
Dave: Oh, don’t share that.
Ann: —I go, “What do you think our values are?”
Dave: This did not go well.
Ann: I had them go one at a time, but the consensus was sports: “Sports are what matter the most in our home.” I said, “What?!”
Dave: They all got that from Ann—they did not get that from me—that was all from Mom. [Laughter]
Ann: They said, “But Jesus is a close second.” [Laughter]
I think that is a great question to ask your kids: “What do you think matters the most to me and Dad?”—just ask them that. Teenagers will be brutally honest—and so will our kids—they’ll just be honest. I think that is a great question to ask; because here is what you guys are saying: “The world and our culture is going to sweep our kids away; and if we aren’t intentional, the culture is discipling our kids. So we have to step in to be intentional to guide them in the things, biblically, that matter.”
One of the things you talk about is developing a biblical worldview with your kids. I’m like, “Yes, we have to do this”; but most of us are saying, “I have no idea how to do that.” How did you guys do that?
Josh: I think with worldview, I think it comes down to: “What are the inputs and the influences happening in our kids’ lives?” So thinking through major influences: we’re thinking about education; we’re thinking about screens; we’re thinking about the peers that they have; we are thinking about—
Jen: —how they spend their time.
Josh: —parents, grandparents—even the church they are going to. All of those combined begin to shape the heart and mind of a child.
As parents, we want to be intentional. We’re not trying to isolate or get our kids into a little Christian bubble; but there is a balance between keeping out those things that are very damaging to a child—and there are—we could think about what they are in our culture right now, and putting some protective measures there; but also, allowing them to be exposed to the right kinds of people.
The Bible talks a lot—especially Proverbs, a book written for young people—about the kinds of relationships and influences that they have. We are wise as parents to—especially, in the early years—be very intentional about those kinds of influences. Then, as they get older, they can interact with the world from a position of strength, not a position of weakness.
As our kids have gotten older, they are engaged with the world on big issues that are happening, that we are seeing in our culture and politically, and are just kind of the issues of our day. We have the opportunity, then, as parents, just to talk through those in our home and to help them to navigate that from a scriptural perspective.
Ann: Jen, you are a homeschool mom.
Ann: So you are probably having those conversations all the time.
Jen: We are having those conversations all day long. In fact, I was in the car with our nine-year-old; and our nine-year-old said to me—he’s a sweet, sweet, tender boy—he said, “Mom”—we had been watching the Olympics; he said—“Mom, what does it mean to be trans versus to be gay?” We are having those conversations, even from a very young age, because they are seeing it. The world is, front and center, in front of our kids; so we need to be teaching them the truth. So, yes, all day long we are having conversations about: “What does the Bible say about the things we are interacting with?”
Also, just the act of reading the Bible out loud to your family/to your children invites conversation. It invites us to apply those words to what’s going on around us.
Dave: Now, is that something you guys do?—because I think so many parents, when they hear, “Well, I want to raise a son or daughter, who has a biblical worldview, who loves God, who loves others”—you said it earlier even: Psalm 127, Psalm 78—so they are like: “That’s my vision; that’s our goal. Here is how we do it: get them to church; get them in the youth group; get them around Christian kids; get them in a Christian school.”
Again, all those are great; but it sounds like you’re talking even bigger than that. You were a pastor for 20 years—so I know you are pro-church, and you want your family as part of the church—but you are talking about a different model.
Dave: You’re talking about parents being involved and living that out; right?
Dave: What does that look like in your home?
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Josh and Jen Mulvihill on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear their response in just a minute.
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Alright; now, you want your kids to have a biblical worldview, to love God, and to love others; but what does it look like to cultivate that in the home? Here is Jen Mulvihill.
Jen: In our home, it looks like our family worshipping together at different times in the day. In the mornings, we start together; and I read the Bible out loud to our kids. I’m not giving a sermon; I’m not asking them to look up the Greek or the Hebrew. It looks like me sitting everyone down, and we’re very cozy; and I just read out loud.
Ann: What do you read?—any certain Scripture?
Jen: Like, right now, we are reading through the book of Proverbs. We read through
1 Kings/1 and 2 Kings this fall. I tell you what: the Bible is exciting!
Ann: It’s exciting.
Jen: It’s exciting. So when—once your children actually realize that the Bible is not just some thick book that sits on the shelf—
Ann: —or a boring book.
Jen: It’s not boring; right?
Ann: I’d just say: “If your kids think your Bible is boring—
Jen: —“they probably haven’t read it.”
Ann: Yes; or “You are teaching it in a boring way.”
Dave: I’m guessing there are times when one kid is crawling on top of the other.
Dave: I mean, is it just this perfect family thing?
Jen: No, it’s not always perfect. I read in the mornings.
Then, in the evenings, usually at dinner time, Josh will read to our family. We also use a book called My 1st Book of Questions and Answers; it’s a little book—it’s very easy and approachable—that just asks questions of your children about the Bible. It has Scripture that follows up with it. Super easy—questions like—“Who made you?” The answer would be: “God made you; Genesis 1:1.” We do use tools like that to encourage our family to be in the Word together. It’s practical discipleship.
We sing—we get creative with how we are learning hymns—and we are singing prayers. It varies throughout the year and the season; but yes, usually, I will read in the mornings; and Josh will read in the evenings.
Josh: I aim for three times a week, by the way.
Jen: Three times a week.
Dave: Three times a week—what?
Josh: —that we are reading at night. I’ll feel like a rock star dad if I hit three. The combination of and the consistency—I think the—I don’t want anyone to beat themselves up about frequency.
I do think what matters is that our kids are seeing us in the Bible, and they are getting this/what it communicates to them is: “This is important for our home. My mom and dad read it; and it shapes our home; and it saturates our lives.” That, in and of itself, will carry great weight with our kids, that: “Mom and Dad prioritize this, and they made it a part of our regular family life.” Hopefully, that value and elevation of God’s Word translates into a value, for our kids, in that area.
Dave: Have you seen other families do this? I mean, it is a wonderful picture; I just don’t know how many families do this. Do you see this happening? I know you probably have a vision for this happening.
Ann: And you’re probably teaching it at your church.
Josh: We do; yes. I would train families.
Dave: So this isn’t that unusual.
Dave: This is something that can be commonplace if you choose to.
Josh: Yes. I had a family that came up to me—we had trained them on family worship/family devotions at home—and a mom came up when I was a pastor. She had her phone, and she was waving it at me: “Look, Pastor Josh, our family sat around and read the Bible together for the first time.” She showed me this picture, and they are all on the couch, with a big bowl of popcorn in the middle. She was so excited as a mom.
I just want to say this: “If this isn’t the norm in your home, don’t beat yourself up; it doesn’t mean anything bad about you as a parent. I will encourage you that the Bible is this life-giving/there is nothing like it that can bring some health to our home and some hope to our kids. God knows what our kids need to hear.”
It feels like our world has gone crazy today. There is nothing new that we are experiencing that is surprising to Him. As we read through the Bible, God knows what our kids need to hear; so we come across the subject matters that speak to the kinds of things that we’re navigating today, either relationally or culturally. The Bible is so, so relevant. As we read that—for us, it’s just in little snippets; we’re talking five to ten minutes—sometimes, maybe, a little bit longer. Sometimes, it’s like—as you said, it’s like: “Did anything land?”—[Laughter]—you wonder. Other times, it’s like: “Well, that actually generated some good conversations. I didn’t anticipate it would go that direction.”
It’s amazing to me what our kids are thinking. We were talking about dating the other day with our 12- and 15-year-old sons. My 12-year-old just started firing questions. We were reading through the book Ephesians. Ephesians 5—this was on marriage—he, as I was asking questions, like, “Can you date two girls at once?”—I’m like: “What?! Don Juan here!”—[Laughter]—like, “No, you can’t date two girls!” and “How old should I be when I start dating?” and “How do I know [she’s] the right one?”
This is/our 12-year-old kids are thinking these things; and just as we were starting to read through Scripture, it gave them the freedom to start asking the things they are thinking about it. Some—and they are going—our kids are going to go and look for the answers. If it’s not us, as parents, it’s going to be Google®.
Josh: It’s going to be somebody else; so we want to create an open and inviting attitude and environment: “Ask if you have questions.” This just invites some of that in just having some of the freedom there.
Ann: I think it really starts with us, as you said. Now, that our kids are older—so often, now, as men, they’ve come and said: “Man, your Bible was always out,” “You always had your Bible with you,” “Your Bible was all marked up.”
I would have told you: “My kids have never noticed that—ever,”—because they never said much of anything; although I would be reading my Bible in the morning, and they’d come and climb in bed with me. I’m underlining, so they’d want a piece of paper to underline too.
But that is where it starts; because when I’m learning something in the Word—and God’s Word is amazing—so when I learn something new, what’s my next step? I can’t wait to tell them about it, like, “Guys, listen to what I read today,”—
Dave: She does this all the time!
Ann: — like: “What do you guys think of this?”—and to have those discussions around the table, or at bedtime, or at breakfast. That’s our spiritual duty, as parents. It’s not something we have to do; it’s something we get to do. When we walk with God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we then exhibit the fruit of the Spirit; so our homes are filled with love, and joy, and peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. That’s different from the world.
Dave: Yes, and what I’m hearing you say is: “If we have a goal that our children will one day be men and women who love God, and love others, and we’re not, how do we expect that to happen if they don’t see it?”
Again, we can’t do it perfectly; but what I hear you saying is: “This is an overflow”; because I don’t think you guys are talking about: “We’re reading the Bible with our kids, because we are supposed to; and we wrote a book about it, and it is a good thing.” No, it’s an overflow. If anybody can sniff that out, our kids/they know if it is real—or if Mom and Dad are doing a process they were told to do—but when it’s real.
I think, for some of us listening today, it’s like: “You know, where I’ve got to start?—right here in the mirror.” It’s like: “I’ve got to start with me.” It’s like: “Wow; is the Word of God alive in my life? Do I cherish it and love it?” “Is Jesus alive in my life? If He isn’t, how do I expect that to be passed down to the next generation if they don’t see it in me? I’ve got to start with me.”
Ann: I think the thing I love about you guys, too, is that you’ve given us the tools because, maybe, some of us aren’t as diligent in writing out the plan; but you’ve done it for us. This gives us a way to think: “What are those things that I need to leave with my kids and train them in?” So thanks for doing that.
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Josh and Jen Mulvihill on FamilyLife Today. Their book is called 50 Things Every Child Needs to Know Before Leaving Home. You can order a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com.
If you are looking for studies for your group that help you feel connected and known, and help you love and know God more, check out our small group studies at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can use the code, “25OFF”; that’s 2-5-O-F-F to save on all leader materials.
You know, a lot of us experience the tragedy of not having a father in our lives. Next week, Dave and Ann will be joined by Blair and Shai Linne to talk about God’s providence in this same situation. We hope you can join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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