Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Children: Curiosity

A week or so ago I saw a pickle in a water bottle similar to this picture. It was on a table at church and was getting much attention. I believe the pickle in this picture is made of foam, but the pickle we were looking at was real. How did it get in there?

Now, that is curiosity!

We experience curiosity when we see something we cannot explain and develop an undeniable desire to find the answer.

This Ted Talk explores the benefits of curiosity to learning.

Developing a strong sense of curiosity in children is a great way to improve learning. (It works much better than learning game apps.)

Curiosity is asking a question AND digging for the answer. 

Curiosity is real-time learning.

Some simple guidelines for developing curiosity:

Ask don’t tell : When your child asks a question ask it back and see if you can get a hypothesis or two. Then you will know where their understanding is at.

Explore: Once you have a question, explore it with your child. Can you conduct an experiment? Can you interview an expert? What does the internet have to offer?

Follow: The answers to most questions offer opportunities to digress to different topics – go there!

Can you apply these suggestions to Bible questions? After you find the answer share it with your Pastor for additional insights.

Encourage a learning mindset!

Let the wise hear and increase in learning . . .The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs 1: 5 and 7

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Integrating the Faith: Mercy

I love this clip of a basketball team showing kindness to another team because it teaches an important lesson about mercy. A private school team regularly played against a team from a detention center. The detention center team never had people to cheer them on so some members of the team convinced half the crowd to cheer for the opposing team. It was a memorable event for all involved.

Parenting is all about training children to be kind, productive, and successful. It is easy to concentrate on behavior and the application of reward and punishment. We naturally want to discourage poor behaviors and encourage positive ones.

Yet, that is only half the picture. It is easy to argue that the team from the detention center did not deserve to be cheered – they have each been convicted of a felony offense! But, did you notice the effect the fan support had on the team members? It was memorable and touching. 

As children of God we receive mercy from our Heavenly Father. We are poor miserable sinners and do not deserve any of the blessings in our lives. God shows us mercy in that He sent His Son to die for us in spite of, and because of, our sin.

God loves us anyway.

Make sure your children know they are loved – especially when they have sinned. 

Mercy and forgiveness are the other half of the loving discipline equation.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:4-8

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Parenting: Praising Children

Praising children is a natural thing for parents to do. We see a good behavior and we want to reward it. There are both good and bad ways to praise children.

For some children, too much praise can create a dependence on affirmation. These children will come to need encouragement for everything they do. 

For other children, too much praise can just become noise and will be ignored. At this point praise becomes ineffective.

Praise that emphasizes performance, can backfire. Children constantly praised for being the best, scoring the highest, or for perfection will develop anxiety as they wonder if they can always be the best.

This article gives great advice on improving your game when it comes to praising children. Among the suggestions are the following:

Show you are paying attention:

            "I notice that you . . . " 

Emphasize the hard work:

            "Your extra time spent practicing paid off."

Start a conversation:

            "Tell me more about this project."

I would also add to the list the suggestion that you encourage children to be thankful to God for the talents and abilities they enjoy. No matter how you choose to praise your children, be sure they understand that you love them – no matter what.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Parenting: Noise

Children make noise. You did not need me to tell you that. 

Children make plenty of noise as they explore, play, and interact. In fact, they often find it a challenge to even come through a door without making noise.

Yet, noise is not necessarily good for children. The problem is not the noise of the slamming door, or excited argument. The noise problem for children is background noise that adults have learned to tune-out.

One part of the learning brain is called sensory memory. The function of sensory memory is to take in all sensory information and filter out what is not important. From adolescence on this part of our brain is fairly strong in its ability to filter out useless noises and tune in on speech. 

Yeah, I realize I just said adolescents are good at hearing voices over background noise, however, this does not include a promise that they are interested in listening.

For younger children this ability is not yet fully developed. It is harder for them to hear family conversation, for instance, while a television is playing in the background. For young children, still learning language this is especially important. As adults, if we miss a word due to a noise, our brains are able to fill it in and we continue with the conversation. Young children have more difficulty filling in missing words and often get off track which leads them to drop attention.

If children do not learn to pay attention to speaking voices it will harm their ability to learn.

Please consider turning off the television, (or the video player in the car). Replace this noise with good conversation that promotes language development and family relationships.

Turn off unnecessary media to help children give their full attention to conversation. 

As much as possible, maintain eye contact when speaking.

Make sure your children know that when they hear their name they should turn and look at the speaker. Do this gently as if there is background noise, children may not have heard their name spoken.

Read and talk with children to develop language.

All of these things will help your child to listen better and pay better attention in school, at home, in conversations with friends, and at church.

All bets are off with teenagers, though.

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. I Kings 19: 11-12