Taking care of our children’s physical needs is important, but helping them grow spiritually and develop strong character is at least as vital. It is our job as parents to shape our children’s values as they grow, to give them a sense of right and wrong, and to provide them with an inner compass that will guide them through life. None of us will ever be perfect parents, nor will we raise perfect children. But one thing’s for sure: if we don’t teach them our values, other people will teach them theirs.

Summer is the perfect time to fan the fire of your child’s faith and help him grow stronger in character. Every day you have natural opportunities to instill spiritual truth and principles for wise living in your children. But what’s even more important than seizing teachable moments is setting a good example. The old adage is true: more is caught than taught. Kids won’t buy a double standard. If you tell your children to live one way but you behave in another way, the message they will get is that you don’t really believe what you’re telling them is important.

The following are 15 ways to teach your kids values over the summer.

1. Be intentional. Set aside some time, either with your spouse or alone, to make a list of the values and character qualities you want to pass on to your children this summer.

2. Start a collection of good books that teach strong character qualities and values to your children. Enjoy them as a family--read aloud to kids of all ages. Start a summer reading club with some of your children’s friends.

3. Help your child get involved in religious youth group or Bible study. Peers with like values can encourage each other to live up to high standards. Volunteer to have the kids meet at your home. Ask if you can chaperone events and trips.

4. Bring back family dinnertime. Eating together is an unparalleled opportunity for family discussion of issues both large and small, and the passing on of values. Encourage conversation by not allowing TV and phone calls during dinner.

5. Talk casually and consistently with your children. When you run an errand in your car, take a child with you. Sometimes staring through a windshield is a non-threatening time to talk about important issues.

6. Take advantage of changing seasons to remind children about God’s good earth. Go fishing, camping, fruit-picking this summer. Eat outside when possible. On a star-filled evening, lie on a quilt in your backyard and look at the heavens. Visit a farmers’ market or roadside stand and delight in the various fruits and vegetables God made. Go for a walk in the woods. Talk about the many miracles of nature that we take for granted: the variety of colors and shapes, how God cares for his creatures, how all things hold together, the miracle of growth.

7. When you’re swimming, running, or riding bikes together, comment about how good it is that God gave us muscles to enjoy these sports. Thank him spontaneously.

8. Point out the small ways God is at work in your life. A miracle is not always spectacular. It might be a miracle that you get through a three-hour car trip without sibling arguments. It might be a miracle that you finish a project on time or that there’s money in the bank to pay the electric bill.

9. Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere in your home so your kids and their friends will want to hang out there. They’ll have a safe, fun place to go, and you’ll know what they’re doing. Keep plenty of snacks on hand, and be willing to put up with some mess and some louder-than-pleasant music if they’re older.

10. Help your kids network with other kids who have like values and ambitions. Before our boys started high school, we hosted a party during the summer for kids they had met from other schools who would soon be attending the same high school.

11. Teach your children the importance of valuing the personal property of others. Have a house rule that family members—Mom and Dad included—are to ask before borrowing something that belongs to someone else.

12. Create your own set of family rules concerning acceptable behavior. Set a goal for every family member to strive to live by them—Mom and Dad too. For example, a child’s rule might be, “I will not leave my wet bathing suit on the floor.” One of Mom’s rules might be, “I will try not to go ballistic when you leave a wet bathing suit on the bathroom floor.”

13. Volunteer as a family in your community. The most popular activities include helping older people, working with youth or religious programs, assisting in summer sports or school programs, and serving the homeless.

You could also do something as simple as saving aluminum cans, redeeming them at a recycling center, and donating the profits. Or you could volunteer to help paint or weed and mow the lawn of a nonprofit organization’s building. This is a memorable way to teach kids the importance of giving to others.

14. Be aware of the effects of viewing violence on TV. It increases aggressiveness, instills fear of becoming a victim, promotes indifference to victims of violence, and stimulates appetite for more violence. Decide how much you will allow your children to watch TV each day, and stick to your decision. Decide what they can watch as well. Make sure they turn on the TV to see a specific show, not to just see what’s on.

15. Build a movie library. Start a collection of DVDs or videos that entertain your kids and teach them strong values at the same time.

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