Social Development and Kids’ Activities

Social life. Social skills. Social anxiety. Social media. Social Security. She’s so social!

When we think of the “social development” of children, what are we talking about and what is the goal? It is a confusing issue for many. For example, as an educator, I have heard a lot of people talk about how home school children need to go to school at some point for socialization. Conversely, I have heard a home school parent say, “Have you seen those kids? I don’t want my children socialized by kids who are rude, lazy, out of control, and self-centered.”

What is socialization? For some parents, it means that children need to belong to a diverse group of peers for the sake of learning how to deal with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of situations. For others, it means that children need to be a part of a homogenous group where a certain worldview and certain social norms will be taught to and required of the child. Those are two different views of socialization, and those two types of schools will look and feel quite different. One has the goal of conformity and discipline of behavior and thought (think military boarding school), while the other has the goal of independence and creativity in behavior and thought (think large urban public school). Those are two very different forms of socialization. Continue reading “Social Development and Kids’ Activities”

Speak Your Kids Up

Here is a sneak peak at the book I am writing about parenting:

Kids need to see and hear their parents doing hard things, persevering, and being resilient. So, discuss life’s issues with your kids, and don’t dumb it down too much. They can handle and can learn a lot from some transparency. My wife talks to our kids, not as peers, but as very intelligent young people. Ever since our oldest son could understand language, she talked with him in a way that most people would assume was too advanced. She did not engage in baby talk after babyhood. It was full-on conversations. I laughed at her sometimes at the way she explained how and why everything worked. It seemed silly at times, but sure enough, she was right. The kid rose to her high level of language and cognition. And she does the same with our daughter who is physically and mentally disabled. She assumes too much perhaps, but she is absolutely right in raising the level of discussion higher than seems reasonable. And sure enough, our daughter’s language comprehension is far beyond what it should be. The point is that our kids can learn so much from us. They are much smarter than we give them credit for. So, teach them everyday about everything, and they will grow up smart and wise.

From the Mouths of Babes

This from a 6th grade teacher who I respect a great deal:

I teach a class titled Emerging Leaders, and we talk about “self awareness” to start the quarter. For the lesson I was doing, I decided that asking these 2 questions would be interesting.

1. Name one or two things that your parents to that make you feel awesome and that you will do when you have children some day.
2. Name one or two things that you will do differently when you become a parent.

Hold on to your hat, because I love these answers! Kids really DO need boundaries and DO want to spend time with parents, and they don’t want to fight with their folks. They want to be listened to. Enjoy.

What I love that my parents do:

Have a family night
Helping with homework
Take me to the movies
Shopping at stores that I like
I can tell my mom ANYTHING (good or bad) and they love me no matter how annoying I am
My parents will always love me, no matter what, and they will always be on my side
Me and my dad always play catch
My parents never stop loving me
They will ALWAYS go to my sporting events.
When I win, they always cheer me on
I will go shoppnig with my daughter and make her feel special
Having a night that we all do something together
Being proud of good grades
My dad wrestles with me when I’m down to cheer me up, and my mom rewards me for getting good grades and doing chores.
They make me eat healthy
My parents still rough house with me and play games
I like when my parents take me out to an attraction of some kind or when we go on vacation.
I will give my kids many opportunities
I will go shopping with my daughter
Go fishing
Go out to eat as a family
I will pass down a family “blanket”
Have a family night
Have a pet and take care of it together
I want to appreciate my kids
I’m going to listen to my kids before I ground or punish them.
I’ll give my kids allowance and rewards for good behavior.
I will let my kids start having decaf coffee at age 10
I will reward good behavior and punish bad behavior
I will go to the movies
Just spend time with me for an hour or 2
I will give my kids some freedom at age 11
I will be kind and gentle to my kids.

Things I won’t do:

I won’t tell my kids bad things about themselves
I won’t cuss at my kids
I won’t make them do so many chores.  I have other stuff to do like homework and sports
I will listen to my child’s side of the story before I punish them
I won’t be super strict about a lot of things
I won’t be too hard on my kids
I wont’ work super late. I will have time for my kids
I won’t make my kids eat something they don’t like
I will change how I punish my kids
I wont’ fight with my kids at all
I won’t yell at my kids or them them get in with a bad crowd
I won’t let my kids watch too much TV
My kids will get phones when they get to junior high school
I won’t yell and scream at my kids
I won’t make them feel bad by saying “I had nothing when I was your age or I have horrible parents”

 

Weak Language

 

We often chastise young people for using “strong language,” but there is an equal or greater problem with kids, especially girls, who use weak language.

Consider the use of the following “words” among kids, and consider how you can guide them to use stronger language:

like

just

kinda

sorta

maybe

y’know

know-what-I-mean

know-what-I’m-sayin’

well

um

and he’s like

and I’m like

and they’re all like

and um

I don’t know

duh

like yeah

 

It’s Never Too Late to Reconnect With Your Child

I could tell that things weren’t right with me and my boy. He was avoiding me. I was annoyed with him. We weren’t having fun, even when we were playing ping pong or shopping for soccer shoes. I didn’t know what to do. He was acting like a sulking 14 year old boy, and I was acting like a clueless 41 year old man. Too much time passed by, and it slowly was turning ugly. I was losing my boy. So, we had a family pow-wow.

Out of respect for him, I’ll leave out the details, but I have to say that it was not a pleasant conversation. It was just a conversation. Nobody yelled, but there were some tears. But eventually, after sharing a slew of thoughts and feelings, we reconnected. And boy did that feel good.

It’s never too late to sit down with your kid and just talk it out. Just don’t let things fester. Communicate. It may begin awkwardly, but it can end beautifully.

In a related blog post, Hands Free Mama writes about her renewing experience with her daughter. It’s a must read. Click here to read it.  Big thanks to her!

Parenting Digital Kids

Life Beyond the Screens

If you ask most teens what item is their most prized, important possession, they will say it’s their smartphone. In fact, I’ve heard teens say that if they could only take one thing on a deserted island it would be their smartphone, in spite of the fact that it would be useless once the battery dies. A lot of kids use their phones constantly and are addicted to the internet. They sleep with them and answer text messages in the middle of the night. They absolutely panic when they can’t find it or when someone takes it from them for even a second. They are quite open about it too; they admit that it’s a vital part of their existence.

 

The concern about technology’s impact upon the social, emotional, and spiritual development of our boys and girls is growing. “The average amount of time a preteen spends in front of a “screen” (including TV, DVD, video player, pre-recorded programming, video game, computer, etc.) is approximately 37 hours per week. This reality is in sharp contrast to the 7-14 hours per week recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.” (tweenparent.com)

Continue reading “Parenting Digital Kids”

Introducing Kids to Nature

How to Turn Kids On To Nature

I can’t tell you how many times one of my middle school students has melted down because he or she could not find his or her cell phone. They just come unglued.

Most kids are hooked on their screens. In fact, many of them are better named “screenagers,” addicted to digital images and text. They bounce from their cell phone screen to their television screen to their computer screen to their iPad screen, and in many cases their screens are all on at the same time. It’s quite an exciting existence to the average teenager. They can’t think of anything more interesting than laying on a comfortable couch in front of a satellite-connected high-definition TV, with their smartphone and X-Box controller on the coffee table, their iPad on the lap, and the computer nearby (just in case). If you think I am exaggerating, just ask a teenager if they think that sounds like a nice way to spend a summer day.

These screens are more like screen-doors or screen-windows than windows to the real world. You can see and hear things to some extent, but the clarity and depth perception is inferior. You are not fully in the world, even though you can hear and see and maybe even feel some of what’s happening out there. These digital doorways are virtual experiences at best.

The best way we can unhook them is not to take away all their screen time and tell them to go read a book. The answer is to get them hooked on something even more interactive and real than what’s on their screen. And what better antidote for digital addiction than fishing, hiking, or hunting?

Jake Hindman, an agent with the Missouri Conservation Department and a true outdoorsman, speaks to adults around the state about how to get kids interested in the outdoors. Here is a summary of his 3-point sermon: Continue reading “Introducing Kids to Nature”

The Nature Deficit

I go into nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in tune once more.”   –    John Burroughs

Image

I’m on vacation in Destin, Florida, and my extended family – all 14 of us – are spending each day building sandcastles, playing in the waves, cooking seafood, and sharing life’s problems. And I can’t believe how many teenagers (girls mostly) walk by with their smartphones in their face, oblivious to both the wonder of the ocean and the people with whom they walk.

The statistics say that kids spend over 40 hours per week in front of electronic screens, while they spend less than 40 minutes per week in nature.

Richard Louv is an author who understands this problem more than anyone, and he loves children enough to cry out for them, “Let the children play outdoors!”  His books and lectures are inspiring a national movement to leave no child inside.

Louv explains how this generation is suffering from what he calls “nature deficit disorder,” a preventable ailment of the body, mind, and soul. Kids just don’t go outdoors anymore. Just look out the window and count the children; Continue reading “The Nature Deficit”

Mister Rogers

I’m a huge Fred Rogers fan, so I was skeptical when I heard about the video remix recently done about him. I expected something satirical and mean-spirited, so I watched with my guard up. Instead, we have this.

There are so many things to learn about in this world and so many people who can help us learn.” – Fred Rogers

Thank you, John D. Boswell, for making this video. And thank you, Fred Rogers, for being a great man, a great teacher, and for leaving behind a great body of work for children throughout the world. Rest in peace, Mister Rogers.

How Do We Live With Our Cell Phones?

We are all in the midst of a cultural revolution, and it’s in the palm of our hands.  We are trying to figure out how to use all these internet-connected mobile devices in a healthy way.  We are fumbling in the dark, as we attempt to use new, powerful tools to live better lives. And yet very few, if any, people are able to proclaim, “This is how you do it.”  In fact, it may be a decade before we establish a healthy set of public safety laws and social morays related to digital devices.

As parents and teachers, we wonder how to handle the iPad, the DVR, and the smartphone in ways that are healthy for our kids. Some are eschewing these digital devices outright, due to a host of fears or utter frustration. Others are welcoming everything that Apple spits out, trusting that Steve Jobs and his successors know what is best for us.  However, most of us are somewhere in the middle, looking around, wondering who has some wisdom.

We look to others for answers, as we consider our own values, and very few people seem to have it figured out.

Now that summer is here, I will be writing more on this topic in the months to come, and I welcome any suggestions, comments, and questions on the topic.

I’ll be considering this train of thought: “What technology makes easy is not always what nurtures the human spirit.” (Sherry Turkle)

For more on this, visit Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk

Protecting Kids From the Inside Out

Unlike consumer products, parenting comes without instructions or guarantees. We all want our children to grow up happy, healthy, successful, and involved with positive-minded family and friends. However, our children live in a broken world, and it has a way of breaking young people, sooner or later, one way or another. But there is real hope because some young people do indeed grow up well. So, what’s a parent to do, in the face of the sinful human nature and a toxic popular culture, to raise a truly healthy young adult?

We tend to focus on what we can implement to protect our kids by setting appropriate boundaries, establishing positive activities, and providing safe environments in which our kids can grow. While those are all important aspects of raising “good kids,” they are not enough.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things of man. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Apparently, God is more interested in the inner life than the outer life, therefore we should be concerned primarily with the inner life of our children. Unfortunately, most parents focus primarily on the behavior of their kids – the outer life. Parents often react to symptoms, rather than causes. But outward behavior is not isolated from the heart of the child. Behavior is a reflection of the inner reality. Therefore, it is not possible to fix outward behavior permanently without dealing with the problems of the heart.

There is no formula for fixing problem behaviors in children, but an inside-out approach will be more effective than behavior management.

Growing Up Too Fast

A major source of the problem is that kids are growing up too fast. Continue reading “Protecting Kids From the Inside Out”

What Does it Mean to Grow Up?

This is the time of year when I start to see some signs of maturity in my 7th grade students. Many of them are growing up, and I’m actually starting to see it, much like the first shoots of daffodils this time of year.

In my English class we read a few coming-of-age novels. Recently, we read The House on Mango Street, and we discussed what it means to grow up. As a way to kick off the discussion, I gave them two definitions that I found from unlikely sources.

The first is just a comment on a blog by someone named Sarge927 who says, “A person “grows up” when he/she learns to take responsibility for his/her own actions and stops behaving as if the world revolves around him/her. Many people never truly grow up because they constantly blame others for everything “bad” that has happened in their lives or they expect everyone and everything in their world to conform to their point of view. People who are grown up will suck it up and pay the price if they get caught breaking the law, even if it’s just a speeding ticket, while those who are not grown up will try to find any and every way to weasel out of it. People who are grown up will give and don’t always expect to get, those who are not grown up will always ask “What’s in it for me?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

And then there is this classic from  a “Dear Abby” column, in which she defined growing up in the following ways:

Maturity is the ability to do a job whether you are supervised or not; finish a job once it is started; carry money without spending it and be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.

Maturity is the ability to control anger and settle differences without violence.

Maturity is patience. It is the willingness to postpone immediate gratification in favor of the long-term gain.

Maturity is perseverance, the ability to sweat out a project or a situation in spite of heavy opposition and discouraging setbacks.

Maturity means dependability, keeping one’s word, coming through in a crisis. The immature are masters of the alibi. They are confused and disorganized. Their lives are a maze of broken promises, former friends, unfinished business and good intentions that somehow never materialized.

Well said.

So, we all have some growing up to do, don’t we?

 

Stop, Look, Listen

Our kids, no matter the age, need us to be with them, explaining what makes one thing beautiful and another ugly, why one thing is important and the other trivial, and why this is quite right and that is all wrong. A relationship such as this is what makes the world a better place, one person at a time.

I am reading a book about finding life’s great truths in the humblest of places.  The Power of the Powerless is about the lessons learned in a family that cares for a child that has no abilities.  The book affirms life in a profound way. What at first seems like a horrible family situation is revealed to be a wonderful place to grow up.  Here is an excerpt.

“The more a parent points out things to their children, the more the children will take it upon themselves to select, identify, listen to, see, embrace.

“I was brought up in a house where the extraordinary was always discovered in the ordinary. I learned to appreciate the sound of water slapping against itself because my father, each Spring, took an iron rake and walked to the small stream that divided our property in two. Each Spring he pulled sticks, rotting leaves, and stones up from the water that broke free the flow of the stream. ‘Christopher, listen to the water rushing.’ So I listened.

Life imitates life. Children do what adults do. If parents are readers, there is a good chance that their children will grow into the reading habit. If parents embrace the enchantments of the heart, there is a good chance their children, too, will laugh.”

Christopher de Vinck, The Power of the Powerless

You win some; you lose some

Life is unfair – extraordinarily unfair. Sometimes the good guys lose, while the bad guys revel in their victory.  Sometimes, evil dictators prevail for decades, while innocent children starve and suffering saints are martyred.  Is this too much for kids to handle?  Dare we tell them the truth?

I think the truth sets kids free.  In fact, I think we do our kids a disservice by shielding them for too long from the fact that life is not fair.  Unfortunately, some kids never learn the lesson, and they are ill-prepared for the world.

Somewhere around eight years old is when kids need to be taught that “Yes, life is unfair.  Sometimes you get the raw end of the deal.”  That is a fact of life – everyday life.

And yet, kids also need to hear that sometimes you get the unfairly good deal.  Sometimes you win, when you shouldn’t have won.  Sometimes you find a twenty dollar bill on the street.  Sometimes you get way more than you deserve.  And yet, you don’t whine and complain about how unfair it is that you were unfairly rewarded.

And kids need to be reminded that they have gift, talents, and blessings that far surpass most kids in the world.  They enjoy so many wonderful things that others will never get to enjoy, for the world is full of underprivileged children: the poor, the disabled, the abused, the uneducated, and the weak.

Our kids need to see the truth about the inherent unfairness of life.

You win some, and you lose some, and it’s not necessarily fair.

Now, some people will take this truth and apply it to God.  They see the unfairness of life, and they think that it must also apply to the Creator of Life.  In other words, since life is difficult and unfair, then God must be difficult and unfair.

Philip Yancey wrote in his book Disappointment With God, “We tend to think that life should be fair because God is fair. But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life – by expecting constant good health, for example – then I set myself up for a crashing disappointment… The cross of Christ overcame evil, but it did not overcome unfairness in this life.”

Pastor Todd Wagner (of Watermark Church in Dallas) recently posted on Twitter, “God does not promise to give us whatever our heart desires. He promises that He is what our heart desires.”  It’s the good news of an unfair life.  Life is hard, but God is good – all the time.  Kids deserve to know this.

 

Loving Grandpa

One of my favorite 7th grade essays ever is this memoir about a grandfather. Ashley Aucker, is now a 25 year old, wife, mother, singer, and songwriter. She was a sweet, quiet little 12 year old in my 7th grade English class many years ago when she wrote this essay. It blew me away then, and it still moves me now. It’s a tribute to the power of a loving grandparent and the deep the inner lives of children.

The first thing I saw upon waking up were tears streaming down my mom’s face. My eyes were still groggy, but I could tell she has been crying a lot. She told me to get up and get dressed as quickly as possible. The one thing about mornings is that it is the most confusing time of day. Therefore, asking no questions, I got up and did as my mom told me. I threw on a shirt and jeans, brushed my teeth and hair, and ran out to the car.

“We are going to see Grandpa,” she finally told me on the way over to my grandparent’s house. I soon understood what was going on. Grandpa had had cancer for about two years, and this day he was struggling greatly, and I knew that this day he would breathe his last breath. Continue reading “Loving Grandpa”

Raising Boys to be Real Men

Boys are misunderstood.  Too often, they are disciplined and shamed by their teachers, parents, or grandparents because it is falsely assumed that good boys should act just like good girls.

Raising boys is a topic of numerous books, but one that stands out is Raising Cain, by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson.  I had the privilege of hearing them speak at a conference, and their wisdom impressed me deeply.  Here are my notes and thoughts from two of their sessions.

Emotions.  Give boys permission to have an internal life. Give approval to their wide-ranging emotions, as long as they behave civilly. Their tendency will be to hide their emotions at every turn, but this is not healthy. Help them use words to express their feelings effectively, since it is not in their nature or in their culture to speak openly about their feelings. So, give respect to their inner life, and speak about your own inner life. Share your likes, dislikes, fears, sorrows, regrets, hopes, and weaknesses with each other.

Activity.  Accept the high activity level of boys as a healthy part of who they are. Give them a safe place to express their need for action. Embrace their physicality as natural, normal, and in need of channeling, rather than suppressing.  Boys need to learn to manage their physicality, but they do not need to be shamed for their exuberance.

Speak to them.  Talk to boys in their language – in a way that honors their pride and masculinity. Be direct with them. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  And when possible, use them as consultants and problem solvers. They will love feeling important to you. It is important to communicate with them in a way that honors their wish for strength and respect.

Re-define courage.  Teach boys that there is more to being a hero than physically defeating an enemy. Continue reading “Raising Boys to be Real Men”

What is a Middle Schooler?


What is a middle schooler,
I was asked one day.
I knew what he was…
but what should I say?

He is noise and confusion.
He is silence that is deep.
He is sunshine and laughter,
or a cloud that will weep.

He is swift as an arrow.
He is a waster of time.
He wants to be rich,
but cannot save a dime.

He is rude and nasty.
He is polite as can be.
He wants parental guidance,
but fights to be free.

He is aggressive and bossy.
He is timid and shy.
He knows all the answers,
but still will ask “why”?

He is awkward and clumsy.
He is graceful and poised.
He is ever changing,
but do not be annoyed.

What is a middle schooler,
I was asked one day.
He is the future unfolding.
Do not stand in his way.

 

— Author Unknown

Middle School: Top Ten Things to Know

The following is an open letter from my boss, Steve Hall, Head of Middle School at Westminster Christian Academy, to our parents. It’s one of my favorite pieces about teaching and parenting young teens.

——————————————————————————————————-

Dear Parents,

The middle school years are a unique time of life.  It is crazy, wonderful, exciting and baffling. As a public service, I’d like to share with you some basic truths about the middle school student living in your home. In the style of the late night shows, I’d like to share with you the Top Ten Things You Should Know About Your Middle School Student

:

10.  Each student has one compelling mission each day: avoid embarrassment! It is true that most students believe everyone is watching them at all times. Each student believes a misplaced word, a stumble in the hallway or a failure to meet the unwritten rules of middle school culture — though, in reality, unknown to all — will be seen and remembered forever by all classmates. Parents, don’t take it personally if they don’t want to hug in public anymore.

9.  Although all outward evidence suggests otherwise, you are a very important person to your child, and your child feels more secure and valued when you care enough to talk with them about anything and everything. Don’t let the rolling eyes or mock disdain deter you. It’s one of those unwritten rules they have to follow as teenagers.

8.  You will require a haz-mat suit and gas mask to handle the unique aromas coming from young teenagers. You have never, ever encountered anything quite like a classroom containing the smells of sweat, an overabundance of body spray and perfume, wet socks and hot, breathing children following PE class. The truth is that kids are self-conscious about the changes that create these issues. It’s a time of a great deal of change in height, weight and appearance. Your child needs a proper diet, plenty of sleep and good hygiene. Be courageous as parents and talk about these changes. The more you talk about them, the easier the discussions will become. Continue reading “Middle School: Top Ten Things to Know”

Growing Up Too Fast

Our culture tends to throw kids in the deep-end of the pool without teaching them how to swim. Kids are given adult freedoms and privileges, without the responsibilities and training to help them handle it.  Now more than ever, it’s essential to give kids age-appropriate responsibilities, privileges, and freedoms.

Knowing exactly what is and is not age-appropriate is no simple task.  The unpredictable nature of adolescence makes it especially difficult. Every day I am amazed at how 13-year-olds are both incredibly immature and mature.  With any group of seventh graders, there will be some kids with tremendous maturity and some with absolutely none.  Even more amazing is how a single student can seem so mature one moment and so utterly immature the next moment.  It’s a paradox that makes my job as a father, teacher, and coach constantly interesting and challenging.

This is not a new phenomenon, but I think it has grown from a simple stage of development to a societal problem.  The problem is that many children are growing up too fast without developing properly.  Kids are growing up fast but not well; they are not ready to handle the adult things that they are getting in to so young.

David Elkind wrote The Hurried Child in 1981 and has updated it several times since, in response to the fast-changing world of media and technology in which kids live.  He discusses the effects of television on kids in great detail.

Continue reading “Growing Up Too Fast”

Parenting With and Without Fear

Fear is universal.  Columnist Dave Barry writes, “All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears — of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words “Some Assembly Required.”

We are all deeply motivated by our fears, and they influence nearly every one of our decisions.   Some fears are entirely legitimate, while others are unwarranted.  Some fears are healthy, while others are neuroses.   And while children are naturally prone to fears of all sorts, due to their lack of knowledge, adults are often victims of unfounded fears due to faulty knowledge or perspective.

Parents, in particular, are afraid of anything that poses a threat to the wellness of their children.  In their best-selling book Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner explore the fears that control parents (and grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc.):

 No one is more susceptible to an expert’s fear-mongering than a parent.  Fear is in fact a major component of parenting.  A parent, after all, is the steward of another creature’s life, a creature who in the beginning is more helpless than the newborn of nearly any other species. This leads a lot of parents to spend a lot of their parenting energy simply being scared. Continue reading “Parenting With and Without Fear”

I Wish You Failure

Once again, I offer an article from NPR’s This I Believe.  Jon Carroll started at the San Francisco Chronicle editing the crossword puzzle and writing TV listings. He has been a columnist for the paper since 1982.

Last week, my granddaughter started kindergarten, and, as is conventional, I wished her success. I was lying. What I actually wish for her is failure. I believe in the power of failure.

Success is boring. Success is proving that you can do something that you already know you can do, or doing something correctly the first time, which can often be a problematical victory. First-time success is usually a fluke. First-time failure, by contrast, is expected; it is the natural order of things.

Failure is how we learn. Continue reading “I Wish You Failure”

Powerful Blessings

There are countless ways that an adult can bless a young person.  In Trent & Smalley’s book, The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance, dozens of specific examples are given by people who were greatly blessed by their parents.  Here are a few of those testimonies.  Surely there is something here which can inspire you to better express your love for the young people in your life.

  • My parents would take the time to really listen to me when I talked to them by looking directly into my eyes.
  • We were often spontaneously getting hugged, even apart from a task or chore.
  • They would let me explain my side of the story.
  • My father would put his arm around me at church and let me lay my head on his shoulder.
  • They were willing to admit when they were wrong and say, “I’m sorry.” Continue reading “Powerful Blessings”

The Blessing

Most parents deeply love their children but do not express their love in the most effective ways.  For many children, they feel that their parents love them when… or if… or as long as…

It’s a shame that the love that lays in the hearts of moms and dads so seldom is expressed freely, clearly, daily, and without conditions attached.

Many are fortunate to experience love from their moms and dads and other significant adults in ways that give them a solid sense of acceptance and worth.  They grow up, knowing that they are loved “as is” and that someone is very proud of them.

Unfortunately, most kids strive for a blessing from mom or dad or other adult that they never quite get.  They suffer under a love that is either conditional or unexpressed or both.  As a result, they are not free to give and receive love as well as they need to.  It’s such a shame, since in most cases, the love is there, but it’s just not communicated, or it’s expressed only with strings attached.

In their book, The Blessing, John Trent and Gary Smalley explain how important the family blessing is to every young person.  “The family blessing not only provides people a much-needed sense of personal acceptance, it also plays an important part in protecting and even freeing them to develop intimate relationships… The best defense against a child’s longing for imaginary acceptance is to provide him or her with genuine acceptance.”  There is no substitute for honest affirmation at home.

So what does a blessing look like? Continue reading “The Blessing”

Building a Better Brain

  1. Snooze time
    It is essential that children get the proper amount of rest. Follow the recommendations of your pediatrician – at least eight hours per night. Not only will your kids be more alert and ready to learn, they will have much happier attitudes. Set a bed time for your child and stick to it.
  2. Exercise that brain
    Your child’s brain is like a sponge ready to soak up everything it comes across. Age appropriate games help to stimulate his mind and gain many varied skills. Board games, building blocks, puzzles, checkers and chess are just a few examples of games that also build smarts. Continue reading “Building a Better Brain”

I Believe in Encouragement

By Lauren Baum, in her senior English class at Westminster Christian Academy, St. Louis (Class of 2011).

Without any hesitation, he said, “I’d be better off dead.” Hearing those words come out of my best friend’s mouth tore my heart apart. He has repeated that phrase more than once, and my mind continually plays it over like a voice recording.

I met my best friend about three years ago. After knowing me for six months, he told me about his struggles with depression. Sadness was not the only emotion that came over me; I was shocked. He seemed so outgoing and happy all the time. I soon learned that he was physically and emotionally abused as a young child, prompting him to bottle up suicidal thoughts. I cannot begin to imagine the physical pain he has suffered during his lifetime.

He refuses to talk to others about his depression because he now distrusts adults, especially those in his family. Nevertheless, he feels as if I understand him and that I know the right words to speak. Consequently, when it comes to helping him, convenience is not in my vocabulary. It does not matter where I am or what I am doing, for he takes priority. Sometimes he just needs the assurance of my voice telling him that everything is going to be okay and that I will not let him down.

Many students at his school mock him when they notice the scars on his arms from cutting. As he sees it, other kids have every right to tease him and to look down on him. But no one holds such a right, so I encourage him to ignore the heartless kids who treat him less than human. When he feels the weight of judging eyes or hateful voices, I always remind him that I care about him unconditionally.  Just hearing me say I will always be his best friend seems to give him the security he needs to keep on going.

My best friend once told me that if he had not had me, he would not be alive. He said that my encouraging words convinced him not to take his life. I never took a bullet or rescued him from a burning fire, but, in his eyes, I saved his life. Our friendship has taught me that no matter the situation, a single kind word can impact someone’s life. With the fragility of life as it is, I believe in the necessity of encouragement.

The Power of No (Part 3)

Young teenagers often “cross the line.” It’s inevitable, so it should not surprise us. Yet, we should not just acquiesce to the lowest common denominator: “Boys will be boys.”

It’s our job as adults to help young boys and girls to live well and to move towards becoming young men and women. Adolescence should be a growth process, not a static state of being, or worse yet, a window of time in which to act like a dumb animal. Saying to kids, “No, you won’t do that,” is vital to a civil society.

Young men and women need adults to speak up, but it’s scary sometimes to be the bad guy.  For example, it can be intimidating for even a grown man to tell a teenage boy to pull his pants up, for goodness sake (click here for that story).

Being the bad guy is easier said than done, and as a parent, teacher, and coach, I often fail to hold kids to account. Continue reading “The Power of No (Part 3)”

The Power of No (Part 2)

Sometimes a bad example is as motivating as a good one. I had just such an experience last Saturday:

Electric guitarGuitar Center is now my son’s “candy store.”  There are so many flavors to sample: Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul, and Gretsch to name a very few.  Saturdays are the worst day to shop there because there are so many customers trying out electric guitars that it’s sheer dissonance. It’s a cacophony of mostly teenage boys trying to impress nobody in particular with their imitations of classic rock guitar heroes.

One particular 14 year old boy surprised me with his guitar skills, but it was his behavior that was truly shocking. In the thirty minutes that we were there, this boy must have picked up and played twenty guitars through a dozen different amplifiers, using every effect imaginable. He played at near-ear-splitting volume so that other customers could not hear themselves. Eventually, he sat down right next to my son and started wailing away and jammering on about the awesomeness of Marshall amps. Just as I was about to ask him to turn it down, his dad showed up and asked his son to leave. Continue reading “The Power of No (Part 2)”

The Power of No (Part 1)

Anthony Bourdain, is an American chef, author, and television personality. He is well-known as the host of the Travel Channel‘s culinary and cultural adventure program Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.

Tony is a rebel; it’s in his blood, and he has used that iconoclastic attitude in a largely positive way – as an aspiring international chef and as an entertainer.  In addition to his often-abrasive personality, Tony has a soft heart for people. There is a kindness in him that shines through, even when he is putting on a tough front. He is sweet and sour, you might say.

In his wildly-popular and critically-acclaimed book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, he recounts a crucial moment in his young life when he realized that the universe did not revolve around him.

My first indication that food was something more than a substance one stuffed in one’s face when hungry – like filling up at a gas station – came after fourth grade in elementary school.  It was on a family vacation to Europe…our first trip to my father’s ancestral homeland, France.

“I was largely unimpressed by the food…Centuries of French cuisine had yet to make an impression. What I noticed about food, French style, was what they didn’t have…I was quickly becoming a sullen, moody, difficult little bastard.  I fought constantly with my brother, carped about everything, and was in every possible way a drag on my mother’s Glorious Expedition.

Continue reading “The Power of No (Part 1)”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: