I’ll admit, it is easy to focus our time and attention on our children’s personalities and development and behaviors and skills and busy schedules and overlook the fact that we should be teaching and nurturing in our children the quality traits that matter most to God.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22
After I had the revelation that I was focused more on my children's physical development than their heart and their spiritual and character development, I decided I wanted to became much more intentional about teaching my children about the fruit of the Spirit. I knew I could do mini-lessons and cover one fruit of the Spirit a day or a week, or to memorize the verse, but I decided instead that I wanted to be intentional to mention each of the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22 by name as we went about our day in the hopes that my boys would incorporate those godly qualities in their daily lives and vocabularies, as well as notice them in others.
"Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:7
By talking about God's love for my children, God's commands, and the fruit of the Spirit throughout the day, I made sure those quality traits that matter to God, the fruit of the Spirit, would be well hidden in their hearts and hopefully blossom in their own lives.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
When we abide with God, we bear the whole fruit of the Holy Spirit–we don’t just produce a few of these godly character traits if we are in Christ.
It is not our role as parents to control our childrens’ behavior so that they exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. We can pray that our children would grow in the fruit of the Spirit, but ultimately only God and the Holy Spirit have that power. But we can nurture and help bring out the fruit of the Spirit that already reside in our children’s hearts. It is a powerful and humbling honor as a parent to help nurture the fruit of the Spirit that already resides inside them.
When you see your child exhibiting any of the fruit of the Spirit, tell them. You don’t need to tell them that it’s a fruit of the Spirit unless they’re old enough to understand, but you can use the words that are listed as the fruit of the Spirit. Talk about them frequently enough that they begin to include these godly characteristics in their daily vocabularies in addition to their lives.
Examples: “Oh, that was so kind of you to think of giving your brother your lollipop.” “I saw you tithed at church today, you are being very faithful with your money.” “You were so gentle with that little baby!” “You waited in line so patiently!”
Our children are little sponges who are always watching and always learning and so make the most of every opportunity to point out when you see a fruit of the Spirit being used in real life. Discuss while watching movies and reading books the fruit of the Spirit you see characters using. This helps them to identify these godly characteristics not just in their own lives, but in others as well.
Examples: “Did you see that man hold the door open for us? That was very kind of him!” “Yes, he was angry, but did you see how he used self-control and he didn't hit her back?”
Pray with your children that they would grow in all the fruit of the Spirit. If your child is struggling in a particular area, pray about it together. For example, if your child is struggling with impatience, you could pray together that your child would grow in patience. Then, when you see your child exhibiting patience in their day you praise them and praise God that your child is growing in that fruit of the Spirit.
This establishes in their hearts and minds that it is God’s power working in us that allows us to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, not something they can do in their own strength.
Also include in your own prayers that your children would grow in the fruit of the Spirit, and watch as God answers your prayers!
Read Galatians 5:22 together as a family. Display Galatians 5:22 in a prominent place in the house or in your children’s room. For example, we have this wall decal displayed in our home, where we can see it daily. The more your child sees and hears this verse, the more likely they will be memorize it and have it hidden in their heart.
What ways have you found to nurture the fruit of the Spirit in your children?