Don’t Waste Time with Your Children

“Do you think you’ll always want a story and snuggle time before bed?” I asked my youngest child. Lying amid piles of his stuffed animals, books, and favorite blankets, my son turned to me and smiled. “No, Mom. Probably not.”

My kids are growing before my eyes. I recently realized that I am halfway through raising my oldest. To be honest, it’s sobering to realize how quickly time with my children is passing by.

Time Is a Vapor

Time is a strange thing. We can find ways to make things take less time. We can manufacture tools and devices to help us accomplish more in less time. But there is nothing we can do to manipulate or take control of time itself. It moves on at the same rate of speed it always has, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second. The highway of time has no rest stops — only non-returnable exits.

David teaches us this in Psalms 39:4–5,

Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.

James says something similar: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Paul cautions us in Ephesians 5:15–16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

When it comes to time with my children, I don’t want any regrets. I never want to say “if-only.” I don't want to take my time with them for granted and assume it’s an endless supply. John Piper writes, “Time is precious. We are fragile. Life is short. Eternity is long. Every minute counts. Oh, to be a faithful steward of the breath God has given me” (Life as a Vapor).

Time really is like money — it’s something God gives us to steward. We can invest in things that produce an eternal dividend or in things that end in bankruptcy. The question here is, how are we investing the little time we have with our children? Is it filled with an endless stream of activities to fill up the minutes? Is it used up by numbing entertainment so we can get other things done? When our job as parents is over, will we look back and wish we had used our time with them differently?

Investing in Eternity

As parents, we are charged with the responsibility to teach our children about all that God has done for them. In fact, we are to teach them these truths all the time and everywhere (Deuteronomy 6:1–2). Since our time with our children is limited, let’s make the most of it. Let us teach our children diligently, showing them the glory of God’s grace in Jesus Christ — and let’s do it when we sit in our house, and when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise.

Here are a few ideas about how you spend time with your children:

1. Evaluate the activities and busyness of your family.

If you made a pie chart of how you use your time, how much of it is invested in the eternal souls of your children? Does the time spent in mindless activities grossly outweigh the time spent in pointing them to Jesus? Are you spending more time watching them from the sidelines than you are sitting beside them with the gospel on your lips? Do other adults have more impact on their hearts than you?

2. Be methodical and intentional in teaching them the Bible.

Have planned, consistent devotional times with your children. Study God’s word with them. Pray with them. Memorize verses together. Check in on how they are doing spiritually. I think most of us would be surprised at how deeply our children can converse about their hearts.

3. Use everyday life issues as teaching moments.

We can often be distracted by the details of life and miss the numerous opportunities to instruct our children in the gospel. Sibling squabbles, complaints about school, problems with friends, discontentment while at the toy store — these are all moments that can be used to pour gospel truth into our children. Pray that God would give you a ready awareness of those moments. Be willing to set aside other tasks to invest in your children’s hearts.

Time is a vapor. Blink once and it’s gone. We all have a responsibility to steward and invest the time God gives us in things that produce lasting and eternal dividends. Let’s use the precious and limited time we have with our children by investing in their hearts. Life is short. By God’s grace, don’t waste it.