Joel and I certainly have many shortcomings as parents, but one thing we have (so far) done successfully is teach our children how to pray.
When Bria was tiny, we started having her say her own prayer after we said family prayer each night before bed. She's now 9 years old, and she and the other girls still do this in the family setting. So, basically, either Joel or I will say the family prayer, and then the kids each say their own prayer. I don't know how much longer this will last, but for now, I really love it.
I love learning about my children in this manner. If I didn't already know Bria was a germophobe, I would definitely know it from her prayers. I have also learned just how much she desires to make the right choices, and that she is listening to me, even when I'm sure she isn't. I have seen (heard) Chloe's generous nature through her prayers. I know how much Sophia loves each member of her family because of the way she prays.
Of course, doing our prayers in this manner has also made for some pretty funny times. Each of our children has gone through a speed-prayer phase, a prayer-refusal phase, a silly-prayer phase and an unintelligible-prayer phase, among others. Then they start recycling the phases and we just have to continue teaching them what is appropriate prayer etiquette and what isn't.
Chloe has recently gone through a longest-prayer-ever phase. Every night her prayers were running over ten minutes, and for a six year old, that's a pretty amazing accomplishment, as I'm sure you realize. She managed to be thankful for just about everything in the world, my favorite being each family member's individual talents: "I'm thankful for Daddy's talent for conducting orchestras, and Mommy's singing opera talent, and for Bria's violin talent and my drawing and piano talents and Sophia's talent for drawing, too...." She would then invoke every pertinent blessing upon our family that she could possibly think of.
One night in particular, during one of Chloe's epic prayers, a very important football game (basketball? I don't remember now) was about to start and her prayer just kept going and going and going. I opened my eyes just in time to see Joel, my husband who would never, ever do something irreverent during a prayer, opening his laptop so he wouldn't miss the beginning of the game! Bria caught him, too, and promptly closed it. When Chloe finally said Amen, and it was time for Joel to say the family prayer, he pulled the shortest-prayer-ever trick that the kids usually use. When he finished he announced that Chloe's prayer had covered anything he needed to say and got down to the business of watching the game.
Lately, Sophia's prayers have been melting my heart. It doesn't matter if I am in a bad mood at the end of the day, I can't help but smile when I hear her pray. Just the other night it was precisely like that--I'd had a hard day and couldn't wait until the children were safely in bed, when Sophia said her prayer. I don't remember everything she said, but at one point she said with such excitement and with such great authority in her adorable little three-year-old voice, "And Jesus LOVE us!" that it completely melted my heart and sweetened my sour mood.
Indeed, there is nothing like the prayer of one of my children to save me from my own bad attitude.
And when it comes right down to it, those prayers save my life.