Focus on the Family Broadcast

Making the Most of Teachable Moments

Making the Most of Teachable Moments

Author Kara Durbin describes how parents can take advantage of ordinary, everyday situations to instill biblical values and character in their children.

Original Air Date: February 19, 2014


Child #1: John 3:16.

Child #2: For God so loved the world …

Child #3: The whole world …

Two Children: Everyone!

Child #4: Anyone …

Child #5: That’s a lot of people.

Child #6: That He gave His one and only Son …

Child #7: His only Son …

Child #8: That whoever believes in Him …

Child #4: Will not perish …

Group of Children: But will have eternal …

Child #9: Life!

Child #10: Wow!

John Fuller: And, those voices are from a national TV ad that Focus on the Family produced featuring that well known Bible verse, John 3:16. I’m John Fuller and welcome to Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president Jim Daly. And, Jim, I’m smiling as I listen to that spot– your boys were actually part of that, weren’t they?

Jim Daly: Yeah, they were. In fact, Troy was saying “Life!” right at the end and he’s about to get his driver’s permit! So, I’m thinking, wow! Where has has that time gone?

John: It’s been a while… The years have clicked by…

Jim: They have. And, you know, John 3:16 is such a great verse, which has changed so many lives; probably everyone listening, when you came upon that verse, it is just so pure truth, right from the heart of God. This is Focus on the Family and we’re gonna talk about incorporating Scripture in our every day parenting and we’re glad you’ve joined us to do it. And, John, one of the most important objectives we have here at Focus is the spiritual training of our children. And it starts with the Word of God, the Bible.

And, by the way, next week, Thursday, October 5th is Bring Your Bible to School Day. And our goal is for about half a million students to participate this year. You can sign up and download a participation guide for the event.

John: And you can do that at the website; we’ll have all the details about Bring Your Bible to School Day at

Jim: John, parents are the biggest influence in a child’s life and we need to be thinking about how we can get Scripture into the hearts of our children. A while back we talked with Mrs. Kara Durbin to help us teach Scripture in a unique way; I think so the kids will get it! Kara has a degree in Elementary Education, she has two children, a boy and a girl, and she’s written a book called Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments.


John: And to begin the conversation today, we asked Kara why it’s so important for busy moms and dads to take the time, to be intentional in teaching Scripture to our kids, starting at a very early age.

Kara Durbin: That is a great question, and I think it goes back to the moral relativity that we have in our society today. If you look at the way people make decisions is, if you can justify something, then it must be okay. And as Christians, we have the Bible as our basis. And my eyes were really opened to that way back when I was student teaching in fourth grade. And we were reading a novel and the question for the kids was, was it okay for the character to steal something?

Jim: Hm.

Kara: And hands started popping up, and not one kid said, “Miss Durbin, it’s actually wrong to steal.” Not–

Jim: What–

Kara: –one kid.

Jim: –what did they say?

Kara: They came up … I can’t even remember what the story was and why they–

Jim: If the person was hungry, they–

Kara: –were … yes.

Jim: –should be able to steal.

Kara: You know, and some of ‘em sounded good and you know, but I realized that we’ve got to prepare our kids for a biblical basis.

Jim: Hm.

Kara: And so, that was eye-opening that as we come upon teachable moments, we’ve got to make use of those and help connect the Scripture to God’s Word, so they know where our basis is.

Jim: It does take, though, intentionality. I know even with my own kids, you’ve got to be thinking about seeing those teachable moments–

Kara: Yes.

Jim: –and applying Scripture in that moment.

Kara: Yes.

Jim: Because it … you know, even for us as adults, it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. We’ve gotta think it through a bit. How do you seize those moments?

Kara: Well, let me start with what teachable moments actually are. Teachable moments are basically any time you use situations to dialogue with your children about what has been seen, heard or done. And I think the Bible even talks about teachable moments in Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7, when it says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 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.” And a modern-day example that probably everybody can relate to is … and when you’re sitting in your family room with the TV on–

Jim: Hm.

John: Yeah.

Kara: –and something flies out of a character’s mouth that you wish they had not heard. Now, sometimes that’s appropriate to just let it slide, if you think it went over their head. But other times you know they’ve heard it, and if you’ve got a kid like mine, you’re gonna hear that again. So, you think, oh! We gotta deal with this. So, if you can pause it, you can. If you can’t pause it, you might think, you know, talking over this program, I might not have their attention. You can follow up with that teachable moment later at dinner or bedtime and bring it up. So, maybe the character used a bad word. You could look up the topic of cursing and find the verse that says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth.” And–

Jim: Hm.

Kara: –talk about how our words should be glorifying to Him. The verse also, “May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be pleasing.” And was that character pleasing? Or maybe the character was disrespectful. And you know that respect is something we have to help encourage and help our children strive for, especially in this day and age. And so, you could find under the topic “respect,” “Show proper respect to everyone.” And those verses will help you connect that. How could that character have been more respectful? What would you have done in that character’s shoes?

Jim: Kara, you know, it sounds simple when we’re talking about it here, and all of us that are parents have had the experience of doing that at the 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old level, that conversation usually goes pretty well and the kids get it and they’re excited. And then you start getting to the 10, 11, 12 age and they’re maybe pickin’ up 20 percent. You’re not sure if you’re connecting with that older child. Talk about that distinction between the ages. Do you approach things differently?

Kara: Absolutely, yes. The preteen years that you’re referring to, an example that it might look like is, a friend of mine had a daughter, Jessica … has a daughter, Jessica. And she was upper elementary and she had been caught in a whopper of a lie.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Kara: And so, Jessica burst into tears when her mom confronted her and said, “You’re never gonna trust me again.” And the mom thought, okay, I don’t want her to lose heart. I want to help rebuild this. So, she looked up the topic of trust and found the verse that talks about, “Whoever can be trusted with little, can also be trusted with much. And whoever is dishonest with little, will also be dishonest with much.” So, rather than take that negative, you know, dishonest that she had been caught in, she turned it positive and gave Jessica hope and through the power of God’s Word in that verse, was able to say, “Showing trust in those little things, just like the Bible says, will help you rebuild trust as we go forward. So, all is not lost. God gives us His Word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

Jim: Hm.

Kara: And it can be positive. We don’t want to use God’s Word to beat our kids over the head. We want it to be positive. Now, I don’t have teenagers yet, mine are 9 and 11, but I’ve talked with a lot of parents of teenagers to find out what parenting with Scripture looks like as you go on into the teen years. It’s a priority; it needs to be a priority. What I’m hearing over and over is, that the younger years are really when we do need to lay that foundation and not to miss those opportunities. But a mom of three teenagers at the time I asked her this, I asked her, “What is her best tool in her spiritual parenting toolbox?” And I waited eagerly and she said that it is praying Scripture for her children, praying topical Scripture for–

Jim: Hm.

Kara: –her … for her teens. And she said that’s because whether she could get through to her teen on a particular topic, she knew she could get through to God.

Jim: Hm.

Kara: How great is that?!

Jim: Yeah.

Kara: So, I think that’s true for toddlers, as well as teens, you know–

Jim: Sure.

Kara: –any age. Sometimes, even though we try and we … you know, we want to instruct them, as we should, and as we can, and as we go along, sometimes we’re just gonna need to take it in prayer. And-

John: Uh-hm.

Kara: –so, you might go to the topic of peer pressure. That’s one that every teen deals with, really any age deals with. And you’d find the verse that says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”

Jim: Hm.

Kara: And so, you could turn that into a prayer, proactively or if you know they’re already dealing with that. “Dear Lord, please help Sam not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” And God’s gonna hear that on behalf of your–

Jim: Hm.

Kara: –your teens and your children.

John: You … Kara, you’re touching on something that I think a lot of parents struggle with and that is, they get that there are some principles captured in the Scripture and God’s Word and they want to tap into those principles as they parent. But they either don’t know the Scripture very well or they don’t feel comfortable, ‘cause it seems kinda Sunday school “teachish”–

Kara: Right.

John: –you know, tea … a little too “teachy”–

Kara: Right.

John: –uh … for them. Uh … so … so help that parent know what they could do uh … to … to just start to help their children lay a foundation of faith, let’s assume that they’re a little bit younger, without feelin’ so intimidated.

Kara: Right. That’s a great question. I had a mom come up to me after a speaking engagement and say, “You know, my kid looks at me like I’m from another planet any time I try to talk to him about God’s Word, any time I … we read a Bible story or um … uh … you know, I pull in a Scripture with a situation.”

And what I encouraged her is, any time we do something new, whether it’s trying to help our family eat healthier or start a new exercise plan, we know that those things, they don’t feel normal at first. But you create your new normal. You don’t let yourself stop doing something that’s good for you just because it’s … it feels awkward. You–

Jim: Hm.

Kara: –push through it and you do what’s right. So, it may be just a matter of creating your new normal with your family. Talking with your kids, say you know, “We have not been spending as much time in God’s Word as I would like. And here’s what it’s gonna start looking like.” And it may be a little awkward for all of us. You as the parent can confess that, but say, “We want to have God’s Word in our home, just like Deuteronomy says. ‘When we sit at home, and when we walk along the road.’” That may be in the car, you know, um … we don’t walk along the road much anymore, but we’re sure in the car a lot. And we’re gonna use those as teachable moments. So, don’t be afraid to use Parenting with Scripture to find topics to … to make it uh … a part of your daily life.

Jim: One of the things we experienced—this is kinda funny actually—’cause I started reading a Proverb to the boys, you know. That’s what … one of the things that … ‘cause there’s so much wisdom in Proverbs. I thought that’d be a great place to go, so–

John: Uh-hm, yeah.

Jim; –I love Proverbs 3 … is a great life verse, you know, “Don’t lean on your own understanding, but trust the Lord in all your ways and He will set your path straight.” Uh … those kind of verses and so, I started reading through Proverbs. There’s some pretty dicey stuff in Proverbs (Laughter)—

Kara: Yes.

John: Rather adult themed content.

Jim: –especially for 7-, 8-, 9-year-olds. And (Chuckling) I started having to say, “Oh, let’s go a little further ahead, okay.” ‘Cause we were ready to talk about the women of the night and those kinds of things. And so, you have to be a little careful with some of Scripture, don’t you?

Kara: You do, but you um … can learn to be appropriate with it and um … it … that … we’ve had some of those times where we’ve been reading along and um … I was kind of grateful my kids weren’t able to read yet (Laughter), because they’re lookin’ on the page with me and I just kinda glided over that. But …

Jim: But one thing you said I want to reiterate; I think that idea of not being so fortress- like in our mentality, that we’ve gotta lock everything out. You’ve gotta teach your children how to deal with the world around them and I like that, you know, certainly you want to shield your kids from abuse—media abuse, if I could call it that. And I think Jean and I, I don’t know about you and Dina, John– but Jean and I, we do a pretty good job of that. And within that situation, you know, we have paused the television and said, “Listen, that ad was inappropriate and here’s why as Christians,” and then we fill in the blank.

John: Yeah.

Jim: It can become a teachable moment and so often though, there are other times when, you know, I’m tired or whatever it might be and I just kinda let it slide. You gotta be careful about that, don’t you?

Kara: Yes and that’s okay. I mean, I don’t want anybody to get the impression that I’m just constantly the mom that’s walking around quoting Scripture. I think, you know, before I was an author, you … I kinda idolized, oh, well, they just really know how to do it. And I just want to encourage everybody listening. I’m a normal mom. I’ve got normal kids. We’re not perfect and I don’t have all of these verses memorized. I wrote it because I needed it as a reference. Certainly we should have some of God’s Word in our heart, but I’m just like every other mom or dad, looking out for those teachable moments. And they do pop up in a … just a lot of ways. If you—

Jim: Hm.

Kara: –keep your eyes open, I can promise you won’t make it through the day without one popping up. So, you’ve talked about media. Think about all the billboards and commercials and videogames and all the … and magazines, all of those things can offer teachable moments, but also situations with siblings and friends.

Jim: Hm.

Kara: If your kid gets in the car after school and says, “Oh, Shelley got in big trouble at school today.” Well, you’re in the car. That’s the Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7. Instead of walkin’ along the road, you’re in the car, and say, “Oh, well, what would you have done in that situation? And what does God have to say about that?” And then you can … you … you know, please don’t pull out your Parenting with Scripture, and look up while you’re driving along the road (Laughter), but say, “Hey, you know, when we get home, let’s find what God has to say about that and discuss that at dinner.”

Jim: Hm.

Kara: So, whatever that is, that, that … that friend got in trouble with, you can bring it back to God’s Word.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Kara: That is making use of that teachable moment. That is parenting with Scripture and pulling those Scriptures in to help them understand in a positive way, to go before, because we’d rather learn from other people’s mistakes.

Jim: You talk about being that normal mom, and you know, regular kids. Where did that point occur where you decided, wow! Okay, how do we do this better? Was there a moment that you remember going–

Kara: Yes.

Jim: –uh …

Kara: My sister was telling me how my nephew had lied about something, and she was telling me how she talked with him about, he shouldn’t lie, not only because she said so, but becauseGod said so, and then used a verse about honesty to back up what she was saying. And I thought, wow! That is so neat that she had that verse for that situation.

And I knew she knew how to do that, because that’s what our mom did with us. And so, we had seen the positive impact of parenting with Scripture in our lives. We had seen the results. And I knew I wanted to parent like that, as well.

So, I began looking for topics and Scriptures and matching them up as uh … and as my list grew longer and longer, I thought, this is silly. There’s gotta be some sort of topical reference out there. Why am I re-inventing the wheel?

And what I found is, there are a number of topical Bibles and references, but there was nothing specifically and concisely geared toward parenting. So, that’s when I decided to put this book together, so that it can just be a quick easy-to-use reference. It’s only two pages per topic. So, when you are in that moment, you can just run to it and find um … and–

Jim: Hm.

Kara: –have it easily accessible to see what God has to say.

John: Jim, I told you before we came on the air that not too long ago, my son, who has some special needs was just lookin’ at my and he said, “Dad, a kid I have to sit next to worships Satan. I don’t like him at all.”

Kara: Wow.

John: Now that was a teachable moment, Kara, and I’ve gotta tell ya, I’ll be honest, I didn’t immediately think of John 3:16, “yeah, well, you know, God loves him…” But I did try to speak into his life with biblical principles. There are some really uncomfortable moments that we, as parents, have to deal with– that may be a little bit different, but what do you do, when you encounter something and you’re … and it doesn’t … the Scripture doesn’t come to you. You don’t have a book in front of you, but your kid’s lookin’ at you for some sort of insight or guidance.

Kara: Well, I think first of all, it’s okay to tell your kids, “I don’t know right now, but I’ll find out.”

John: Hm.

Kara: And you can talk to other godly parents and go to resources. So, first of off, we’re not gonna have all the answers. But I find that it is such a blessing too, when I have a chance to go to God’s Word, that He always has something better to say than I could come up with. And that’s the beauty of God’s Word. And so, for example, my daughter takes horseback riding lessons and she one day at the lesson, the horse got spooked, and it started bucking, and she was terrified.

In an effort to avoid getting thrown off of the horse, she strategically threw herself off the horse to try to stay out of its way … terrifying. So thankfully, she was okay, but her nerves were really bruised. And that night, as we were all in bed, I heard this little knock on the door. And she peeked in and said, “Mom, every time I close my eyes, that just flashes before my eyes, and I can’t go to sleep.”

Kara: I didn’t know what to say. I was like you. I thought, okay (Laughing).

Jim: Yeah.

Kara: How do I … how … what do I do? And so, I grabbedParenting with Scripture. Like I said, I wrote this. I don’t remember all of it. I have to look it up just like everybody else. And so, I said, “Okay, well, let’s go snuggle in your bed and let’s see what God has to say.” And we found the topic … well, actually, I looked up “fear” and I kept flipping through and I [went], “Why didn’t I write about fear?”

Jim: (Chuckling)

Kara: And then I looked in the cross-referenced index and found it’s actually under “courage,” which is, you know, that’s the positive way of looking–

Jim: Right.

Kara: –at fear. And we found Psalm 46, which says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. And when I’m afraid, I will trust in You.” And God took care of her in that moment, but she also knew she was gonna have to get back up on that horse next week.

Jim: Hm.

Kara: That’s a terrifying thing, after what she had been through. And so, also under that same topic, Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything … through Him Who gives me strength,” and that was helping prepare her for the next week when she was gonna have to get back up on that horse. But my favorite one for that night–when my eyes fell on this, I just praised God—Psalm 4:8 says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Jim: That’s a pretty perfect–

Kara: Oh–

Jim: –Scripture at that moment.

Kara: –it was beautiful, and as we prayed and talked about those verses and I tucked her in, I left her room, thanking God for giving us His Word. Because I can tell you, I … nothing I could’ve said would’ve been as beautiful and as perfect as what God gave us.

Jim: Kara, you talk about doing this early in a child’s development, 2-years-old–

Kara: Uh-hm, yes.

Jim: –I think you started with your daughter and–

Kara: Absolutely.

Jim: –and that makes perfect sense. It’d be good to know, how do you approach that with a 2-, 3-year-old?

Kara: Sure.

Jim: I mean, ‘cause they’re barely talking at that point.

Kara: Yes, preschool is um … that’s one of my favorite ages. I still teach 3-year-olds in our Sunday school to get my preschool fix. And (Laughter) so, I love encouraging parents. It’s never too early to start. Even before they’re verbal, we know that they can throw tantrums and have attitudes, right?

John: Uh-hm.

Kara: So, practice that dialogue even though it may be one-sided, ‘cause they’re gonna be talkin’ before you know it. And so, join me in the Durbin minivan and we’ll put my kids back in the preschool phase and you’re on your way to a play date. And every parent of preschoolers will deal with the topic of sharing, right? Sharing is–

Jim: Now, I gotta ask–

Kara: –just one of the …

Jim: – -a question before you go on.

Kara: Yes.

Jim: Is your van clean?

Kara: No (Laughter).

Jim: Okay, good.

Kara: Oh, my goodness.

Jim: Yeah, this is a true story.

Kara: Are you kidding me? No, I used to look (Laughter) at my … absolutely, I used to look at my sister and sister-in-law’s van and think, “Oh, my.” (Laughter) And then I … you know, it’s …

Jim: So, sorry to derail you, but I want–

Kara: No.

Jim: –authenticity here.

Kara: No, no, we … you know, during those years we had Cheerios crunched up in (Laughter) all sorts of crevices. So, yes, just like everybody else. So, we’re in the minivan and we’re on our way to a play date and a conversation might go like this. “Kallie and Jake, hey, we are on our way to play with Daniel today. I remember last time we played with Daniel, we had trouble sharing, didn’t we? Oh, sharing is so hard sometimes. But what does God tell us about sharing? Does He want us to share or not share? Yes, He wants us to share. And we could pray right there in our minivan on the way to the play date, that God would help us to remember. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s always gonna go just (Laughing) perfectly.

John: Yeah, tell us … tell us it didn’t necessarily–

Kara: It doesn’t–

John: –end really well–

Kara: –necessarily–

John: –that day.

Kara: –end well, but it’s a start.

John: Yes.

Kara: And we …

Jim: Well, and it puts it in their heart.

Kara: It puts it in their heart–

Jim: That’s the goal.

Kara: –and it’s a proactive and positive way to parent.

Jim: It was … I was gonna ask you that though, because temperament must play into this though, the child’s temperament.

Kara: Oh, yes.

Jim: You know, we get lots of responses here to Focus where parents are doin’ the right things–

Kara: Uh-hm.

Jim: –but particularly as their kids grow a little older, their kids may not be responding in quite the right way.

Kara: Right.

Jim: And the parents still are doing the right stuff.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: But you’ve got to, you know, adapt for that. Talk about that child that, you know, may have a little hardened heart about this, maybe isn’t as in tune as he or she was at 4-years-old when mom was doing this in the minivan.

Kara: Right.

Jim: They’re a little older now. Maybe they are teenagers, 13–

Kara: Right.

Jim: –and when mom tries to do that, they’re kinda rollin’ their eyes.

Kara: Right. Well, we have some rolling of eyes at our house, I’ll be honest.

Jim: Well, that’s okay.

Kara: It started.

Jim: It can happen.

Kara: It’s okay; it can happen. And so, part of it is, you do have to keep up with age appropriateness. I’m not gonna say to my 11-year-old, “Now, don’t forget to share today.” You know (Laughter), where you have to roll with the times.

John: That won’t go over so well.

Kara: It doesn’t go over as well. But you know, um … I can’t even remember. The kids were pickin’ somethin’ out of the refrigerator and one of my kids got the last one of somethin’ that the other one [wanted]. And I said, “You know, is that honoring others above yourself.”

Jim: Ooh!

Kara: And so, you know, it’s just kinda putting it in questions. I think a lot of times instead of, you know, preschool we’re really more in the instructional phase. But as they grow older, pose them … ask questions and really get them to think.

Jim: No, that’s good.

Kara: And I think that helps.

Jim: It’s a good way to go.

John: And Jim, as … as we’re talking here with Kara, I’m thinking, there’s a little bit of conviction here for (Laughter)–

Jim: Everybody.

John: –the parent, yeah. (Laughter) ‘Cause I’m guessin’, Kara, that you might pull a Scripture out and tell your kids, and they kinda, if they haven’t done it yet, they will, when they become teens or uh–

Jim: Most like …

John: –like around that age, they’ll … they’ll kind of put it back at ya.

Kara: Oh, my goodness, yes, and that actually is a good thing, because what it helps kids realize is, we don’t outgrow God’s Word. It is something whether we’re 2 or 92 or 102, you know, as long as we’re here on this earth, it is here to guide us.

Jim: Hm.

Kara: And so, a fun way that, that worked out in our family recently is, we had to address the topic of anger, because sibling rivalry was flaring up in terms of anger. And so, we decided that was gonna be the focus for our family devotional time that week. And so, there’s lots of wonderful verses under that topic. You’ll find Psalm 37:8, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath.” And Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath–

John: Hm.

Kara: –but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Well, that sounds good, but how do you do that? And so, in the discussion section, I talk about the taking a deep breath and counting to 10. Now that’s something that a lot of adults are aware of. We don’t always do it, but it was interesting to me.

My kids had never heard that technique of taking the deep breath and counting to 10. So, the “Take Action” section was to challenge each other with one of those techniques up there, like the taking the deep breath. So, you can imagine the Durbin family sitting around our den all going (Sound of deep breath), one, two, three, you know, the

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Parenting With Scripture

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