Monday, May 26, 2014

Parenting: Reframe the Situation

This young man wishes for the days when he lived the carefree life of a four-year-old. Check out his sad, sad, story in this clip.

When our children experience failure, disappointment, stress, or betrayal they often feel as if the world might end. Children lack the perspective adults have. They have not lived the adage that “this too shall pass.” They only know the grief of this moment. We might think that teenagers, with more life experience, would be able to have a richer perspective, but often they do not. Perhaps this is because they are adjusting to recent changes in the brain that allow them to see the world from different eyes.

This is one of those times when we want to be careful to avoid reinforcing inaccurate thinking with piles of sympathy. We don’t want to laugh or offer to fix things.

Instead, we want to help our children reframe the situation, or help them find a better perspective. We can do this with a simple two-step approach: empathy and thinking question:

I am sorry to see you are so unhappy. What could you do to make things better?

I am sad to hear you are frustrated. What do you think your teacher wants?

I see you are angry with yourself. What can you learn from this?

Today feels gloomy. When were you sad in the past? Did you feel better the next day?

Take your children by the hand when they walk through tough times. Share your faith and remind them that God loves them and has a plan for them to grow and learn. 

Memorize this verse so it is in your parenting toolbox. This promise is for parents, too!

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, ESV)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Parenting: Growing Empathy

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  

(Ephesians 4:32, ESV)

I just love watching this short clip. You can almost imagine what is going on in the heads of these siblings. They have found themselves face to face with a huge problem and the big brother solves it in a sweet way.

When our children help each other, or help other people, they are practicing a skill called empathy. Empathy is not about feeling sorry for someone – that is sympathy. Empathy is being able to see things from the viewpoint of another person. Theorist have asserted that children cannot do this until they are around five or six years old, but recent research shows children as young as two are beginning to develop this skill.

Empathy is something we want to encourage in our children. We want to do this not only because it means they are growing up to be kind and caring, but because it is a cognitive skill in addition to being an emotional skill. If a child can set aside his own desires to think of others, he is learning to control his attention. If a child can imagine a situation from the perspective of a friend, she is learning how to think abstractly.

Who knew that caring for a sibling could help you learn reading and writing?

God knew!

Model empathy for your children and talk with them about why it is important. Look for their demonstration of empathy and notice it with a smile or a hug. You are planting and watering a seed that God will make grow.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Share Your Faith: Stubborn

“You stiff-necked people! Acts 7: 51a

This colorful verse is a small piece of Stephen’s speech. In these words, God reminds us that we are also stiff-necked and stubborn. We can use this verse to teach our children to have a stubborn trust instead of a stubborn attitude.

Here is a clip of a hamster doing what hamsters were designed to do

When hamsters live in the wild, they find food and stuff it in their cheeks so they can take it back to their burrows. This is what helps them stay alive.

This hamster does not live in the wild so it has nowhere to go with its stuffed cheeks. It sits in the corner with a full mouth and a stiff neck. This hamster needs to put down some of those carrots and trust that its owner will give it a new carrot tomorrow.

When adults use the term stiff-necked we are usually talking about someone who is stubborn. Someone who thinks they know better than the person who is in charge. When we are stiff-necked we are refusing to trust that our parents or our teachers know what is best for us. 

Instead, we say “no!”

“ No! I won’t make my bed!”

“ No! I won’t come inside!”

“No! I won’t do my homework!”

“No! I won’t say I am sorry!”

“ No! I won’t’, I won’t, I won’t!”

When we act this way we are not showing trust. God gave us parents and teachers to keep us safe and to help us learn and grow. Even if we do not like what they are saying, we need to trust and obey.

This Bible verse came from a speech to a group of people who refused to believe that Jesus was their Savior. They were stiff-necked and stubborn. They turned away from the gift of eternal life. Just like the hamster who can't even eat because his cheeks are full, these people stubbornly refused God's gift.

God loves you and He cares for you. The people in your life who care for you are a gift from God and you are a gift to them.

Don’t be stiff-necked, sitting in a corner with a full mouth of carrots, ignoring God’s gift.

Let God help you to trust in Him and obey.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Parenting:The Value of Struggle

This mama duck is patiently watching her ducklings climb the stairs. When I watch the video I get a strong urge to assist these little ones in their struggle. 

I love this example of a parenting lesson from nature. Take note how mama duck shows her own brand of empathy. She waits patiently, occasionally showing the way and then coming back, until all of her children are safely up the stairs.
Take note of what she does not do. She does not help them. She must know they can all make the jump with a bit of effort. I suspect that she would not have taken that path if the stairs were too much of an obstacle. Because she knows they can do it, she does not offer help.  

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me. (Psalm 139; 1-5, ESV)

This mama duck knows where they have been and where they are going. As in the psalm, she hems them in behind and before. She knows that part of caring for them is to let them struggle. They need to know that they can overcome obstacles or they will not survive.

Part of caring for our human ducklings is to stand and watch them struggle. We would much rather swoop in to rescue, but, if we do this we create two new problems.

Rescued children do not learn as much as challenged children and the lessons they do learn are not as strong. There is nothing like having to wrestle a bit with a problem to really fire up the neurons. A struggle teaches you about how to conquer the current problem and it teaches you how to conquer future problems.

Rescued children get dangerous messages. They learn they are not capable enough to solve problems on their own. They learn that struggle means you are less competent. They learn to fear challenge. 

We want children to know that with God they can solve problems. We want them to know that everyone struggles and if you do not struggle, it means you do not learn. 

We want children to embrace challenge.

We want children to know that their God knows them, knows their life struggles, and hems them in behind and before. They need to know that God has His hand on them, even when they struggle.

Be a mama duck. God has this under control!