(This article is not for young readers.)
It's been said that idle time is the devil's playground or similarly that idle hands is the devils workshop.
I could not agree more. With 8 children I find that keeping them busy goes quite a long way to keeping them out of trouble. While I do believe that it is beneficial to have a time of rest from work and to enjoy some free unscheduled time in one's schedule, I also believe that God has given us time, that it is a gift, and that we should be wise stewards of it. Below is a verse characterizing what can happen when someone (in this case, widows) have too much idle time:
Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. 1 Timothy 5:13
One of the things that our generation did not grow up with were cell phones. We did not have the opportunities to text our friends about every little detail or gossip that came our way. Today's children know how to text as fast as they can speak. Many news reports have been exposing stories all across America regarding children and teens who have taken to the new rage of 'sexting' their friends on their cell phones during their free time and in the school classrooms. It is alarming to realize that something that seems so harmless as a phone could create so much trouble. Our children become victims and casualties of visual and sexual assault while so many around them--the teachers and parents, did not have a clue. In todays world, our children could be sent offensive images while they are sitting in a church service!!! (And the sad part is, most parents would not even know.)
The use of leisure time should be carefully prayed over and planned out by the parents. Too much leisure time can only lead to trouble. It is wise to make sure children have something to put their hand to throughout the day and a schedule of planned activities carefully prayed over and thought through by mom and dad is priceless-especially for those who find children with too much free time on their hands. Nothing is more irksome to see than a child or teenager whining "I'm bored."
Teach your child to work. So many teens do not even know how to clean their rooms, let alone other areas of the home. Teach them these things and you will be teaching them life skills, good character and responsibility. I can't tell you how many mothers have written me, lamenting how they wished their parents had taught them the basics of caring for a home/cooking, etc. so they would not have to struggle so much now.
Parents are often afraid of teaching their children to work around the house because they do not want to 'rob' them of their childhood. This could not be more false! If we are training our children to care for themselves and a family one day, the time spend in their childhood learning these things are priceless. I believe if they are not taught they are being 'robbed' of proper training.
If a child's time is unsupervised the child will find ways to fill it himself. Maybe hanging out at the mall wasting money that could be saved, or too much time on themselves such as spending hours on how they look (fixing their hair, picking out clothes, reading teen magazines that promote such behavior). They might dwindle away hours watching tv, movies or playing video games of which have no eternal value. They can also be drawn to premature relationships with the opposite sex and further enticed by other worldly influences.
Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. Proverbs 19:15
Children who contribute at home feel an inward sense of worth as they contribute to the family unit. Teaching your child the value of time, how it is a gift of God and not to be wasted frivolously. We are managers of the short time we are here on earth. The question we should be asking is: How can we use this time to advance God's kingdom on earth and bring glory to Him while we are here?
If we find our children has extra time after school and housework, set your sights on teaching them life skills. Can they prepare meals, sew, garden, mow, do laundry repair broken items, car maintenance etc? In their spare time they could always be reading through the Bible and through good books that inspire or teach them. I love the idea of having them involved in ministry, or what I like to call Kingdom Work.
Whether it is within your home, neighborhood or church, through letter writing or prayer--there is always a need for something. There are widows who would love a phone call or lonely neighbors who could use a visit. There are new moms who could use a meal or new neighbors that would love some welcoming cookies. Have your children be outward focused, and not inward, and see the blessings they will reap by doing so!
My last thought is this....PRAY. Ask the Lord exactly what you should be doing as a family and to guide and direct you in these matters for not every family will look the same. Ask Him to show you and your husband what needs to be changed in your child's life so that you can permanently close the door on the devil's playground and use their time wisely as a platform for serving our King.
(She Looketh Well Series, Part 4)