Discipling Your Kids When the Going Gets Tough


One of my favorite things to do as a young kid was to build one of those model airplane kits. Sometimes it would be a famous airplane from the past. At other times it would be a modern jet fighter, sleek and fast. Either way, the process for building the model airplane was the same: open the box, get out all the pieces, and follow the instructions to put it together. Every time, and I mean every time, my expectation was that my creation would look exactly like the picture on the box, and every time my airplane fell far short of that perfect picture. Inevitably, some parts would be missing, or the paint got messed up, or the stickers didn’t go on right. At times, I’d get so frustrated with all the mess-ups and imperfections that I’d chunk the whole thing into the trash can and just give up in defeat. Because I was so tied to perfection, what was meant to be a fun activity turned into a frustrating disappointment.

Here are three practical reminders to help you succeed in having quality influence in the lives of your kids and not give up when things get hard.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective.

The reality is, the demand for perfection doesn’t come from the Lord and it doesn’t come from our kids. This is a pressure we’ve placed on ourselves; one that, if we’re not careful, can lead us to grow discouraged and give up.

It’s inevitable that the conversations we have planned with our kids won’t always go the way we expect. We can easily get frustrated when it seems that they’re not paying attention or if something unexpected happens to derail our plans. It’s helpful here to remember Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” As we apply this truth to parenting, Paul is calling us to keep our focus on serving Christ as we seek to disciple our kids.

The truth is, when we are seeking to teach them about Jesus and show them what it looks like to live as one of His followers, we’re not called to do it perfectly every single time. Rather, we’re called to be faithful and diligent at it, not giving up when things don’t go quite the way we might expect.

Find the key to connection.

My wife and I have three daughters. As they grew, it was pretty fascinating to see how each girl had a unique personality and her own range of interests. Our oldest was naturally curious and drawn to the outdoors; our second daughter was very artistic and a deep feeler; and then the youngest came along with a love for the spotlight and many big dreams.

In order to have quality interaction with our girls, I couldn’t just deliver information the way I thought best. That might work for me, but it often resulted in a miss for the girls. Proverbs 25:11 teaches us that “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” This verse helps me, as a dad, know how essential it is to find ways to connect to my daughters and their distinct perspectives on the world around them.

So how do we discover what works best with our children? Be a learner when it comes to your kids. What is their style of play? Are they super expressive, or do they keep most of their thoughts inside? How long is their attention span? Over time, as your kids develop and you understand them better, try out some new ideas for connection. If they work, great. If not, don’t give up! Try another approach.

Parenting your children and having quality spiritual influence in their lives doesn’t happen in one big conversation. Rather, it happens in hundreds of interactions and in all kinds of settings.

Make your plan in advance.

I’ve never been a big planner. I find myself instead living in the moment, responding to the people and situations around me as they present themselves. This approach seemed to work fairly well for a good portion of my life, but when it comes to investing quality spiritual influence in the lives of my children, I couldn’t just count on the spontaneous approach.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be ready to reflect on God’s Word or the Christian life in all the random moments of life. Deuteronomy 6:7 instructs parents to find ways to point our kids’ eyes to Jesus at all kinds of moments throughout the day. That said, there is still wisdom in setting some priorities for how we will use our time, including times spent investing in our kids spiritually. Proverbs 16:3 reminds us, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

Because life is busy and full of various responsibilities and interruptions, I’ve found some success in planning a monthly calendar for things like date nights, family fun nights, and one-on-one time with each of my daughters. Once each month was planned, I’d put the calendar up on the fridge. This had the dual purpose of building some anticipation for our time together and helping me stick with the plans and priorities we had set in place.

As our lives unfold and our kids grow, having quality spiritual influence in the lives of our children is also something that can grow and change. Rather than being something that overwhelms us or brings feelings of frustration or disappointment, tempting us to throw up our hands and quit, this is a privilege and opportunity for us to grow into. It’s helped me to release my expectations of perfection, to find those unique ways of connecting with each of my children, and to make decisions ahead of time instead of waiting for the moment. Let’s keep at it, and trust that the Lord will use us as His instruments to develop lives of our kids.




Arise & Shine Fellowship(ASF) is located in central Dallas (DFW) Texas. We are the people who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, He is our Savior and Lord (John 1:12, John 3:36, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 2:8-9).