This is a great post explaining why we should use biblical words in our parenting.

Did You Really Tell Your Three Year Old He Made a Foolish Choice?

Last year my family did the Whole 30 Challenge with our, then, three year old. I shared with you some tips for doing the Whole 30 Challenge with a toddler, and lately I’ve started getting some comments that I certainly did not expect from the post. What was probably one of the most rewarding experiences of the challenge for us is one of the things that some have begun to take issue with.

I’ve been around blogging long enough to know that once one person takes an issue with what you write, they share it with their like-minded friends and you start getting waylaid with comments and emails. Of course, this can be a good thing as well. Sometimes people agree with what you say and share it with their like-minded friends. Both responses always sharpen me and take me deeper into the teaching of grace, and for that I’m thankful.

But in this case, I was caught a bit off guard. I’ve run the gamut of emotions, but mostly I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and praying through my stance on using biblical words with my toddler.

First, I’ll share with you the section of the post that has caught the attention of some “concerned” mothers. I suggest reading the entire post for context, but I’ll just share this section for ease of conversation now:

Week 3

At this point, he knew what we could and could not eat. He got a little weary of the whole process. The new had worn off, and he started getting a little whiny for donuts and goldfish at church.

He broke down and chose goldfish for snack at church. He told us about it at home during lunchtime.

The minute the words escaped his mouth, his little face fell. We asked him if he thought this was a wise decision or a foolish decision. He sheepishly answered, “Foolish, Daddy. It was very foolish. I’m sorry, Mommy.”

Then, we talked about what forgiveness and grace means. We told him that Mommy and Daddy struggle in the face of temptation too, and we even gave him examples from our own lives when we had given in to temptation. We told him that Mommy and Daddy need Jesus just like him, and even though we make foolish decisions, God is a merciful God who loves us very much. We recited John 3:16 together.

It was a great opportunity to present the Gospel to Samuel in a way that he could understand. I believe for the first time, he truly understood sin and showed great sorrow over it. We told him that we forgave him for making a foolish choice, and explained that God forgives us too when we ask him to forgive us.

We thanked him for telling us that he made a foolish choice, and we all said a sweet thank you to Jesus for grace and mercy. We prayed for Jesus to help change us from the inside out so we could make wise choices that bring Him glory.

This moment made Whole 30 worth it all, in my opinion.

Here’s a couple of the comments I received regarding this section of the post:

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 7.50.12 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 7.50.23 AMThe word “foolish” seems to be the stumbling block here. As I take a step back, I can certainly see why this would give pause or concern to some, but if we look past our initial gut reaction and personal prejudices with the word “foolish,” I think we can gain some clarity.

Our son made a foolish choice when he chose the goldfish. Not because eating goldfish is a sin. Trust me, we have our fair share of goldfish from time to time. No, his choice was foolish because he knew the established rules and he disobeyed his mother and father knowingly and purposely.

This is a great post explaining why we should use biblical words in our parenting.

Why We Choose to Discuss Foolish Choices with Our Toddler

Foolish is a biblical word.

As a family, we seek to use biblical words in our home. We certainly don’t get it right all the time, but it is our prayer that by using biblical words our children’s hearts (and OURS) will be convicted. Because when we use words from the Bible we are speaking the inspired word of God in our home.

Yes, sometimes these words are big words packed with big meaning, and yes, we will have some ‘splainin’ to do. But that’s okay! Deuteronomy 6:4-8 says,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 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. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

Using biblical words in our home gives us the opportunity to talk about God’s word with our children.

In this case, we talked about foolish and wise choices.

These weren’t terms that came as a surprise to our child. It wasn’t the first time he had heard these words used in this context.

We talk about foolish and wise choices all throughout our days because if you’ve been a parent of a toddler or teenager for just a second, you know they give you a lot of opportunities to talk about foolish choices versus wise choices.

By using these words with our children, we get really honest about what’s happening in our home.

And when we read verses like Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice,” or Proverbs 10:1, “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is sorrow to his mother,” our children begin to make the connections between their lives and the Bible.

I can’t tell you how many times our son’s ears have perked up when he hears words like foolish and wise read aloud during family devotions. He knows these words, recognizes them and has examples from his own life that he can connect to the words he hears Daddy or Mommy read. He remembers when these words were used in his life, and will recall them in discussion around the table of eggs and burned toast.

“Ohhhh! Being wise was like the time I didn’t write on the wall even though my friend was doing it! But the foolish choice was like the time I ate a goldfish when I knew it was against our rules.”

Our number one goal as parents is not to build happy, self-confident children.

Our number one goal as parents is to make Jesus known in our home. For our children to understand how the Bible relates to their personal lives and for them to know that they, like their parents, are in great need of a Savior is our most important task.

Our number one goal as parents is to equip a Christ-confident child with a working knowledge of the Bible so that he can find his eternal joy in the God of the Bible.

In this case, our son was prepared for the decisions he would have to make in Sunday school class. I’ll admit, not all three year old children will get it, and each parent has to make the decision for their child when distinguishing between a foolish decision (sin) and a childish decision (not a sin).

If this were the first week of the challenge, perhaps this would have unfolded differently, but it wasn’t. It was the third week, a week when all the rules were understood, and we all were tempted to toe the line of choosing something that was not good for us. This too, has a biblical word, and it’s called temptation, and we talked about this as well with our child throughout the challenge.

Was this challenge hard? Yes, it most certainly was – for many reasons. But I wouldn’t trade this conversation with my son for a million goldfish!

Because in the end, this isn’t about goldfish versus donuts.

In the end, this is about training our minds to obey Christ (or Mommy and Daddy) so that in the day when neither choice is a good choice, we can stand alone if need be for the truth … for what is right and God glorifying.

It is about an eternal mindset.

It is about trusting in the only hope we have – Jesus Christ. Yes, even for our food choices. Even as little children. It’s not about instilling rules and regulations on our children, but introducing them time and time again to Jesus. We want to place their little hands into the hand of Jesus over and over again until hopefully one day they choose on their own to reach out and take His hand themselves.

It’s true, my son was sad that day. Ashamed even. But he knew grace in a way he had never known it before. He knew forgiveness from Mommy and Daddy. Yes, he had to feel bad for a little while, but in the end, he heard about the hope that we have in Christ.

Our children need God’s word, in this case big words that even as adults we don’t like to hear. They need these words, and they need us to tell them the truth. The real truth. Not something watered down.

We can tell them the truth because we know there is hope. We know there is more to it than feeling good about ourselves, about being “good people.” Being a good person isn’t enough. We need Jesus and that’s the bottom line for us.

And we pray every day that our children will understand the teachings of their parents. We plow forward in faith trusting that God’s word will never return void. We have no idea if our children will come to saving faith, but that’s not the point. The point is that we will equip them in grace and in truth because we love Jesus and want to make Him known.

What about you? Do you use biblical words with your children or do you shy away from them?

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  1. First of all, the new site looks great! Second, I agree with using biblical terms for things. Teaching our kids to recognize what the real problem is, and that it’s not just that they disappointed mommy or made a friend upset but that they are disobeying God’s commands is important. Not only because we want them to recognize their need for Jesus, but also to teach them to ask for grace and help to obey.

    Glad you’re back 🙂 I missed you here!

  2. This is GREAT!! I totally agree with you and am so encouraged by this! How Wonderful for your three year old to already have such an invaluable understanding of eternal matters. ????? I also speak biblical language into my toddler. My usual concentration is on the fruits of the spirit. For example, instead of saying “you’re such a good boy”, I try to remember to say “you’re so patient”, “you’re so kind”, etc. When I began my walk with Christ, I was in my late teens and found the language of the bible, quite foreign and hard to relate to. My prayer for my son is that he’ll be able relate to and apply biblical concepts in his own life, from the beginning. I know from experience that a greater understanding of the Word creates a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father. ??? Thank you so much for sharing! You’ve given me inspiration on how to broaden our biblical vocabulary at home!

  3. I am behind you 100%. I wish I would have understood how using biblical words in my conversations with my children would be such a wonderful benefit. One Sunday at church when the pastor was reading a passage from the Bible, my son became very excited. At first I wasn’t sure why his eyes were shining and there was a huge smile on his face. Then it came to me that this was a passage of scripture that he had memorized. The connection was so real for him and he was so excited that he was able to recognize what was being preached about that day. I can see that using biblical words would do the same thing for a child. Just like switching on a light bulb. Oh, if only I would have known or thought about this concept when my children were young. We do teach our children that needing Jesus is the bottom line. Using biblical words is just the most awesome concept though. Love it. I will be using it with my last two who are 8 & 10. God’s word never returns void. Thank you!

    1. Christine, it’s never too late to start even with your older kids. I’m sure they still bring their struggles, worries, joys, accomplishments to you. You could begin using biblical language in your conversations with them now and who knows, by the time they have their own kids it may have taken root in their lives and be something they do when they have their own kids. It’s never too late, mama!

  4. This is great! I’m not a follower of yours so i’m not up to date on everything but I google-searched you to find the toddler fruit of the spirit curriculum! Which I just bought to use with my kids and 6 – 2 year olds when I start teaching Children’s Day Out soon! My pin from way back must have been linked you your old site, anywoo… I think it’s great that you took the time to respond in this post and hopefully let the naysayers see the gospel in all this. I’m going to have to pin this too to read everything in detail because it’s close to the end of nap time! Thank you for sharing your heart. Thank you for going against the world and pursing Christ.

  5. This is such a timely and encouraging post! I’m going through Shepherding a Child’s Heart and parent’s handbook by Tedd Tripp. He talks about using biblical language in it and I have recently started doing the same. Instead of “being nice” we talk about God calling us to be kind to one another, etc. It’s hard to shift my own mindset to thinking and speaking in biblical terms, but I know God will use this in our family.

    I remember reading your original post and thinking how awesome it was that your son knew the difference in a foolish and wise choice. Keep speaking God’s word to your kids! It won’t always be popular, even in the Christian community, but we are called “repeat them again and again to your children”. Thanks for having the courage to write this and for sharing your heart. I’m glad you’re back, you never fail to challenge me and open my mind to things I had never considered.

  6. I really wish that negative nannies would keep their opinions to themselves. Unless 1. You are putting your child in real danger or 2. You ask what people think, I just don’t know why people feel entitled to comment on every little thing. I don’t always agree with everything you write and that is okay, but in most ways you inspire me! Why harp on the few things that we don’t agree with? I understand holding someone accountable but I don’t think that was the motivation behind these comments.

    1. I didn’t reply to the original post, because I just came across it today, but honestly I was concerned when I read it, and was tempted to respond. I know it probably does sound like a bunch of negative Nancy’s (so much of the internet is these days!), but I really do think it comes from a place of genuine concern. I just had a talk with my sister-in-law, who was brought up on the mission field, and she was telling me about how she felt shamed by the missionaries her parents worked with, because of the language they used. At the time, she became very good at doing what was asked from her and what she thought God wanted from her, but she also hid a lot of pent up stress and anxiety that resulted from it. So this post felt like a bit of a trigger, as I’m sure it did for many people who have been in similar situations.

  7. Loved, loved your post! It’s really encouraging to read this. In a world where people usually think children should be given everything they want to make them “happy”, it’s really refreshing to read about someone who’s more concerned about the child’s eternal life than a moment of sadness. Of course we want to make them happy all the time…but not at the expense of their relationship with Jesus. Really, teaching our child to love Jesus should be our most important goal, as parents.

  8. Thank you for this. I also use word very close to yours, wise choices and unwise choices with my son. I try hard to put God and the Bible in front of everything and raise him to be a man of God. It’s not always easy and I feel that I fail daily. Thankful for Grace and that God gives it to us so that I may give it to my son. It’s hard raising a child of God in a fallen and dark world. Thank you for your post and encouragement. It’s hard watching our boys grow up, but it’s easier knowing that they are growing in the Lord.

  9. Amen! Thank you for responding to their responses. I couldn’t agree with you more! My son is a year an a half and I already try to use biblical words when talking with him (though he doesn’t quite know what I’m saying yet… Probably more training for mommy at this point ?). I loved your examples. So excited for your return… Hope to see more posts like this!

  10. I pray that the Lors gives you patience and understanding in regards to dealing with so many comments and so many opinions. I have been using the word foolish with my children for years ( 6 and 7 yr old ) it not only is a biblical word but it is much better then the alternatives that I often hear people use such as stupid and dumb and so on. I think many are missing the point here. It is not about the goldfish, it is about two people trying to build character and biblical thinking into a child. Proverbs 22:6 lTeach a child in the way they should go and they will not depart from it.” This can only be done at an early. I also believe Luke 16:10 can also be applied here “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” I commend you for the principles you are trying to install in your boys. Be encouraged and do not lose heart. God bless you and your beautiful family.

  11. To hear of a little one connecting his own life with the Word of God is exhilarating, inspiring! This subject of mindfully relying on and teaching God’s Word daily with my children has been very consuming to me this summer. My eyes watered as I read your story over my cup of coffee with my boys at my side. Thank you for sharing. I just finished reading Priolo’s book; Teach Them Diligently. It is refreshing to learn of tools and examples to help us faithfully use His sufficient Word to actively, daily, demonstrate to our children how to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and that He has “given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness”. May your son be richly blessed by your efforts to teach him of our Great Savior.

  12. Well I must say, speaking the Bible is a brand new concept to me, that I had never heard of until I read this post. I am not a mother, so I can’t apply this to my own children but I came to a realization that I can still apply this to my own life, in speaking to those around me. What a great opporunity to share the gospel with people. If I started using “foolish” in my daily vocab, people would begin to question me on it, and there is a slighty open door there to share the Good News!
    Also thanks for your website. I recently stummbld accross it and I have been so blessed by Intentional By Gace.
    God Bess 🙂

  13. I love this post and fhe beautiful example you set for your son.

    An honest discussion about wise and foolish choices, sin and grace when the stakes are very low (breaking rules about SAD vs W30) instead of when they are high (drug or alcohol use) seems ideal.

    Perhaps this approach better than the “goldfish crackers make you crazy” discussion we have before church every week.

    Thank you for sharing.

  14. I think it is awesome that you and your family did Whole 30. You inspire me to use more biblical terms with my 4 year old.
    One thing I believe may have hit a nerve with some parents is it challenges us about our food choices and biblical teaching to our children.
    You are doing a great job raising your boys, and thank you for sharing of your life and home with your family.

    God bless you

  15. I will admit that when reading the first post I was shocked and concerned that a three year old was called foolish. But after reading this and understanding the context a little better I love it! We’re trying to teach our children the same thing and I forget how much children can understand. 🙂 Thank you!

  16. I love your blog and your love for Jesus. I have such mixed feelings about this post.
    I think the part about your 3 year old choosing goldfish for a snack and being told it was foolish could have been avoided completely by just bringing your own snack to church. Many do this with allergies and the fact you were making him do the whole 30, could have been explained to his teacher. I also think as a parent you have to except that not everyone eats whole foods and should take that into consideration ahead of time. Sitting at a table with other children eating goldfish and telling your child to make a choice sets him up for failure. Providing him a snack would have avoided this all together.

    I am not opposed to using biblical terms in the household. We use some.
    I think the important part is the emphasis on healthy eating and our bodies being the temple of the Lord…however the Lord also want us to have fun in our life and an occasional treat is exceptable.

    Also we have to remember that being in Christ means he gives us freedom and be aware of the dangers of legalistic living…he give us freedom and not a list of rules. Teaching your son he was wrong for eating fishies sounds a bit legalistic and unrealistic for a 3 year old.

  17. In my house, with my 3 year old, we say “was that a good decision or bad decision?”. But I love using the word foolish, because it is biblical. He totally understands and is learning more everyday! You must be doing something right for your son to come home and confess his sin, knowingly, and talk through it. Thanks again for sharing your experience! Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness. 🙂

  18. I just randomly stumbled upon your blog while looking for some whole food recipes, and after reading the “how we did the whole 30 challenge with kids” post plus this one, I will be reading more. I think you handled both the “goldfish situation” and the “goldfish situation flack” beautifully; what a wonderful example of parenting you provide.

    It seems like people are missing the point that your three year old clearly understood: you were not telling him that “eating goldfish is foolish”; you were saying “breaking the rules is foolish”. While God gives us freedom and forgiveness, we cannot deny that there are rules we should follow – both our Christian morals as well as legal laws, and using this as a teachable moment – both for following rules and more importantly, about God’s grace – is a great thing.

    Children whose parents can never tell them “no” or who do not establish any boundaries or rules are far worse off in the long run than the three-year old who was told disobeying is foolish (and they’re far worse off than the three-year old who doesn’t get to eat goldfish for 30 days, for that matter!).

  19. I think you’re amazing. My heart ached when I was reading your previous post comments and people came down on you for the goldfish incident. I have a son with autism, I suffer from thyroid issues and anxiety and my husband is emotionally unavailable. I wish I was as courage and as committed as you to changing my family’s eating. You are an inspiration.

  20. Thank you for your posts. I had never thought about biblical language when my own children were small. What wonders abound for parents today! I think the people that took issue with your original post were probably awesome, loving, encouraging parents, and I don’t think it was just the ‘words’ you used that raised those negative comments. I feel that many parents are quick to judge the parenting of others, which helps to justify their own parenting style. I am amazed how quick some parents are to condemn a wonderful, loving mother for choosing not to breastfeed, or not using cloth diapers! I have many regrets about my own parenting when I had littles…I was not perfect by far. I loved my children to the ends of the earth, I fed them, I cleaned them, I played with them, and mostly I did the best I knew how. I think that our jobs, as adults is to support other parents without condemnation. What works for some parents, is just not possible for others. And, somethings work with some kids ans not others. Everyone can be successful at parenting, especially if you keep God’s love in the front of your heart! And, a side note…kudos to you and your family for jumping on the Whole30 Challenge. We are about to start this journey…I definitely would have done it years ago, if I had had the information I can access today! +In Christ all things!+