Even when we try and reduce our busyness and stay at home more we still find ourselves in the car often. This time can be wasted time or it can be used to our fullest advantage.
When Peter and I were engaged I had yet to meet his folks so we took an all day drive up to the family farm. One of the things I remember about that trip is the amount of talking we did – and that isn’t unique to us, that is what engaged couples do. The thing that took me by surprise though is that we talked a lot about farming. It was on this trip and many others over the years that followed, that I learnt about soil erosion and how that affects a farmer, I learnt about good grass, bad grass, fat cows and their breeding cycles, bull control, good country/poor country, planting & harvesting seasons and so forth. I learnt the things that Peter was passionate about.
We have this opportunity with our children every day that we get in the car and yet our eyes are so often on the destination, on the chores that we need to accomplish that we miss the relationship building opportunities, we miss the discipleship moments.
Over the years we have used travelling time, be it a short 15 minute run to town or an hours drive to visit friend, or a day’s travelling as we drive to the city, we have used this time to train our children and to build memories.
Use time in the Car to Train your Kids
When Nomi was a baby we would spend whole days in town. We had preschool for Josh, Nomi had doctor appointments and we would wrap up the day by going to the pool (crazy idea but that is what I would do regularly!!) By the time we bundled into the car to head home the kids would be far beyond. They would be snarky with each other, they would be grumpy. Often we drove home with the two kids (4yo and 3yo) with their hands over their mouths (this was to remind them if they couldn’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all) or they would be sitting on their hands (which was to remind them that their hands were to be used for blessing others not hurting!) These were physical reminders that gave them practice in the things that they needed to learn.
Another situation we often enforce (even now with older children) is complete silence as we drive home. This is like Room Time, or rest time. We get so overwhelmed (or hyped up) or we become so tired while we are out and about that sometimes we just need time to ourselves. The car is as good a room as any. If we were home, they would be in their bedrooms, so we just use the car as a room. This also works when we are out and about and they need to ‘find’ their self control. They go to the car – it offers privacy and space to do some thinking.
There is so much we can do in the area of training our children while we travel – we can question our children to see what they know and understand, we can tell stories that have a lesson to learn, we can paint scenarios for them to consider, we can practice the things we are learning.
Use time in the car to Educate your Kids
Driving in the car also gives us opportunity to continue our children’s education – to engage their brains.
- We listen to stories or seminars on CD or someone reads aloud
- We play language, math or general knowledge games
- We have discussions
One of our favourite things to do is to see pictures in the clouds. We only have clouds in the sky for the ‘wet season’ so we enjoy them when they are there.
I like to ask one child to talk about something he is reading. Though it is a good time for me to catch up with his thinking it is also good for all the children to listen and ask questions. It is an opportunity to be together as a family, and show interest in each other’s interests and learning.
If we are heading into town to do town chores then it is a good opportunity to talk to the children about that aspect of life. We may talk about banking, the building industry, services versus providers, the fireman, the postman, the baker. The children need to understand how all these things fit together, how Daddy’s money fits into the picture, how technology has made our life easier (harder?). They need to be aware of the decisions processes that go on in our head, how we compare one company to another, how we organise our way around town, how we prioritise things. As we discuss what is going on in our head, it opens up all sorts of conversations with our children.
Our children always, always, take a book with them when we go anywhere. This has been helpful for the times I get caught up either in a shop, or with someone I meet in the street. The children can use their time wisely by reading.
Use time in the Car to Build Memories
We live in a remote part of Australia and driving long distance is a part of normal life. We have learnt that the drive is as much a part of our holiday (or day out) as the destination. This means we consider each other’s needs during the day instead of the attitude that we grin and bear the drive and enjoy life when we get there.
When we head out of town, driving to Darwin for our holidays, we always play a particular CD. We play one CD leaving town, and then just down the track we play another CD. Always! This is tradition! We reverse the order of these two CD’s on our return trip. Music plays a big part in us enjoying our travel.
One of the things that we do, is encourage photography so if someone sees a great shot then we stop. I always tell the story that my Grandma used to say “Oh, that would have made a lovely picture” 10 minutes after we had passed by. It drove my dad nuts! So we have decided to say it then and there and the driver, if possible, will stop.
Use time in the car to Build Relationships
We can take this opportunity, of being in a car together, to get to know each other just like Peter and I did way back when we were engaged.
- We can talk to the children about the things that are precious on our heart, our beliefs, our dreams, our hopes
- We can invite our children to share the things that are on their heart
- We can take a moment to address heart issues (this is best done one on one)
- We can teach about God – either drawing from the things we drive past or from something on our heart
- We can tell stories of our past, building their heritage
Talking and shared experiences are the building blocks in getting to know people. We need to get to know our children, and our children need to get to know us.
Driving in the car may simply be a necessity in your life but I encourage you to start seeing it as a tool you can use to reach your discipleship goals in your family. Take a moment this week to think through the driving opportunities in your family and how you can use them train, educate, build memories and strengthen relationships.
Do you want to be Heart Focused in all you do?
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Relationship based Activities for Learning: We can fill our day with these relationship based activities and know that learning is happening because of our family life.
How can it be Wasted Time when it changes the Heart: When parents value heart lessons they change how they use their time and how they value their time.
Organising my Week to meet my Goals: When I know my goals I can start organising my week to meet those goals instead of just following someone else’s system.