Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Serious Work of Role-Play

Role-play activities at home and school are significant learning times. Children are developing brain skills that allow them to pay attention, remember rules, and problem– solve. These skills are known as executive function skills, and they are essential for any learning.

In role-play  activities, children develop language and social skills. These are not skills learned in a circle-time lesson. Children learn language and social skills by interacting with other people. Role-play allows children to try new words and behaviors to get feedback from their peers.

Role-play also allows children to practice particular emotion-driven behaviors such as creating, fixing, nurturing, and teaching. These are also basic building blocks of future learning and work. Again, these cannot be taught with worksheets at tables. Instead, children learn through experiment, practice, and interaction. Role-play might be the most critical part of a young child’s day!

It is also essential to look at what role play does NOT do. It does not predict what a child will be interested in at a later date. Young children try on many different roles to learn from them and to see what fits and what doesn’t fit. My daughter loved playing with trucks and wearing construction hard-hats. As a three-year-old, when we passed road crews, she insisted that was what she wanted to be when she grew up. I did not put too much stock in this as I knew she also wanted to be a mermaid. As an adult, she is an elementary music and art teacher. However, playing with building toys and fixing toys as a child may have encouraged her to be interested in tools. She is the person in her family who is most likely to make a house repair, and I am proud to see that.

Role-play also does not push a child in a particular direction. It is not an indicator of gender confusion, nor will it encourage it. My son played with his sister’s dolls and dress-up clothing. He tried on many different roles, but it did not mess with his understanding of who God created him to be. I like to think that he practiced the skills of nurturing, which put him in a good position as a school IT person. He has infinite patience working with teachers and students when computers don’t work. I know this because I am one of those teachers.

When boys play with what we typically consider to be girlish toys or when girls play within boy dominated play areas, we might be tempted to worry that they are confused about their gender. In fact, true gender dysphoria is very rare and shows itself in much stronger symptoms. When children play, they are learning and growing, testing and trying, and developing in the way God designed their brains to mature.

Especially in a world where screens around every turn tempt children, role play is more important now than ever before. Parents and teachers should encourage role-play, as well as other play that involves children interacting with each other at every opportunity.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Reward Right

Using rewards is a common parenting technique and one that can work quite well.

It is important to remember to use rewards sparingly so that you don't train your child only to do things when there is a reward. Many of the things you want to teach your child are life lessons such as compassion, conscientiousness, generosity, and faith-building. If you reward these things, you run the risk of destroying their natural desire to do them. 

Likewise, if we always reward a child with a reward that they may like, but one that may not offer any other benefits, we are missing the opportunity to do more. For instance, rewarding a child with video game time gives them only passive entertainment. 

Consider some of these options of things to do with you that provide a reward and also some physical or social-emotional health benefits:

1. Baking
2. Reading a book
3. Playing a game outside
4. Completing a puzzle
5. Attending a play
6. Building, sewing, or creating something
7. Doing something kind for a neighbor
8. Contacting a grandparent for a visit
9. Surprising a parent or sibling with a note they will find later.
10. Creating something to give to friends

When we interact with our children, we improve their language, emotional regulation, and social skills. We also have the opportunity to share our faith. These small interactions will build a strong relationship with our child that will reap benefits long after the video game has been forgotten. 

Weary Joy: The Caregiver’s Journey
Concordia Publishing House
Available September 24, 2019 
Words of humor, encouragement, and faith for those who care for a loved one.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Growth Mindset Podcast

In this, the last of our series of podcasts on Cultivating Resilient Families, Pastor Will and I talk about baseball, hospitals, forgiveness, and  how to grow from mistakes that are dealt with instead  of hidden.  What a wonderful blessing that repentance and forgiveness cultivate a growth mindset in our children.

Thank you to Pastor Gary and Pastor Will at Faith Lutheran Church, School, and Touching Hearts Child Development Center for supporting parents in the most important work of raising their children in the faith.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Here is the link to the third episode in the podcast series on Cultivating Resilient Families sponsored by Faith Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. In this 30 minute discussion Pastor Will Miller and I talk about teaching children to find the blessings in life. As it turns out, the mindset of gratitude will bring back even more blessings for your child. God is good!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Parenting with Law and Grace

Here is the second podcast in a series called Cultivating Resilient Families. In this podcast, Pastor Will Miller and I explore the topic of best practices in parenting. We discuss how there is no one right way to raise a child because our children teach us what they need. We also discuss the importance of law (expectations) and grace (responsiveness) in our everyday dealings with our children.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Serve and Return with Jesus

My church, Faith Lutheran in Lincoln, Nebraska, is working through a unique family event this summer. Our Pastors are presenting a sermon series on parenting intending to cultivate resilient families. In addition to the sermons, we have special activities during the Sunday school hour designed to give parents opportunities to share their faith with their family. We are also sending home devotion boxes that provide a list of things parents can choose from as they teach the faith to their children. 

Because Pastor Will produces a regular podcast, I suggested we use this technology to serve the purpose of family ministry, too. This episode, called Serve and Return is the first in this series. Please give a listen and if you like it, pass it on.

As Pastor Will mentions in the podcast, it is not our goal to push guilt on to parents by giving a list of things that they should do. Instead, we want parents to see how God’s plan for parenting. God made parents the most influential teachers in the lives of their children. He also designed the brains of children to learn in spite of mistakes because brain development does not depend on perfect parenting. A child’s brain grows through interaction with parents over the course of the day, so a poor interaction, or a missed opportunity, will be balanced out by other experiences. We could say God created a child’s brain to be forgiving.

Serve and return is the name for those small interactions you have with your child each day. You might be giving a direction, correcting a behavior, praising, laughing, or sharing God’s love. Each interaction teaches your child’s brain what is important. The best thing about serve and return is when we weave faith into those experiences. We are telling our children we love them, teaching them how to live a healthy life in this world, AND showing them how God cares for them.