Thursday, December 21, 2017

Be still and Be Christmas

At this time of the year there is so much to compete with our celebration of the real Christmas. As parents we run ourselves ragged creating the perfect celebration with gifts, baking, visits, and daily antics for the elf on the shelf. It can be easy to forget why we celebrate. 

Here are several simple things to help you and your children celebrate the wonder of His birth.

If you have a nativity or crèche, use the pieces to tell your children the Christmas story. Tell them the story each day at supper or bedtime. Even preschool age children are old enough to begin to understand the story as it is told in Luke chapter 2. Let them become familiar with these words so they recognize them when they hear them in church.

Find an inexpensive nativity set and let them play with it as they learn to tell you the story.

After your children get good at telling the story of Jesus birth, send a video clip of them to relatives as a video Christmas card.

Sing a favorite Christmas hymn each time you ride in the car. Your children will soon become familiar with these precious songs.

Plan on Christmas worship, not just for the opportunity to wear fancy Christmas clothes, but to worship together as a family soaking up the story of Christ's birth.  Sit close to the front and whisper the story in your child’s ear as the service progresses. 

When we stop the season's busyness long enough to focus on the Christ Child we can teach our children an important faith lesson. No matter what the world does with Christmas we will focus on the precious little One who came to save us from our sins.

 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

Monday, November 20, 2017

When Children Go Public

Jason Watson (the dad in this picture link) has done a series of these funny videos on How to DAD. This one is “How to Take Kids to a Restaurant.”  I wish I had these clips when I was a parent of young ones, not because they are helpful, but because they are hilariously true. It is often a relief to see someone else struggle with the same issues. In a funny way – this guy gets it.

It is a challenge to teach good public behavior to our children, but a challenge worth aiming for. When we teach good manners we encourage our children to be conscientious. In order to be conscientious children must think about the feelings of others (other people want to eat their meal without hearing me shout), remember commonly accepted rules of behavior (people take turns), and keep their bodies under control (walking feet and quiet inside voices). These skills match up with abstract thinking, working memory, and regulation which are all essential skills for learning, playing, and getting along with others. Conscientious children do better in school in almost every category.

Good public manners are not about squelching your child’s exuberant spirit. They are about developing a brain capable of using those natural talents successfully.

Here are some things to remember as you work to help your children to be conscientious:

Mean what you say: Don’t make unreasonable threats. Just set expectations and follow through when necessary. Be as consistent as you want your children to be.

Take them out: It is embarrassing to walk through a group of people with a screaming child, but you will likely not have to repeat it too many times. You should know that most of the people you pass on the way out admire you. The only parents to blame for their child's lousy behavior are the ones who do nothing.

Practice at home: In school your children practice fire drills every month. It is not done because the school is likely to have a fire. This practice is so that if a fire happens a safe exit will be almost second nature to a worried group of children. Practicing good manners at home will also help conscientiousness to be second nature. The more practice you have at home, the happier your family will be as good manners promotes empathy and caring.

When you see a restaurant with a polite note about expectations for child behavior, do not assume your children are not welcome. Instead, see this as an opportunity to help your child learn. It is reasonable to expect reasonable behavior from children in a public setting. Not only that, good manners translate into good friends and good learning.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Five Reasons to be Wary of Youtube for Kids

Something is Wrong on the Internet by James Bridle, is possibly the most disturbing article I have read in a while. 

However, if you have children who routinely watch videos on phones or other screens, I strongly urge you to check it out. Bridle explains how an innocent video clip of a children’s song can morph into something rather disturbing. Click here, or on the picture above, to see a rather distressing example.

The process involves key words, algorithms, bots, trolls, and ads to create videos that start with something fairly wholesome like Peppa the Pig and lead a child to rather disturbing video fare. For instance, Peppa's visit to the dentist becomes a story of dental torture and crying children,

To briefly summarize the article here are 5 warnings about kiddie content on the internet (esp. YouTube):

1. Even “good” videos are grouped together to create an hour’s worth of content. This just encourages more screen time.

2. Much of what is out there is not educational and probably not even entertaining. Videos of someone unwrapping surprise eggs may mesmerize children but they are little more than ads or fuel for other ads.

3. Children are exposed to many more ads then they would see on a typical television show and they are especially susceptible to ads. Constant advertising not only creates a fake “need” for an item it can also promote depression when children are left feeling a constant need for that next thing that will make them happy.

4. When algorithms find popular songs and topics they get grouped together in order to create more clicks. These combinations can be used to create parodies, purposely gross, or even obscene material that is not appropriate for the original audience. These videos will come up with the relatively harmless ones and are easy for a child to click.

5. Children should NOT be watching or playing with any screen without parent supervision.

Screen technology is changing our world and doing many wonderful things, but we have so much to learn about what harm it might do to children or to parenting healthy families. Furthermore, producers of this  material do not, in any way, have the best interests of our children at heart. Use screens wisely and don’t let them come between you and a good conversation or activity you could be having with your children.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Teaching About Martin Luther

Luther's epitaph in Wittenberg, Germany

For many children the name Martin Luther should be followed by “King, Jr.” They may have seen a picture of the Reformation Luther, but may not know as much about him as they do his more recent name sake. Here are some things to teach your children about this remarkable man.

  • Luther was almost 10 years old when Columbus set sail toward America. 
  • The 95 Theses were about the teachings of the church that Martin Luther knew were wrong. He wanted people to think about them and discuss them so they could have a better understanding of God. 
  • Martin Luther used the newest technology of his time – the printing press with movable type – to quickly get his message to many people. He was a best-selling author. 
  • In addition to books like the Small Catechism, Martin Luther wrote hymns so people could teach their children about God. 
  • Martin Luther stood by the truth he found in the Bible, even when it meant his life was in danger.
  •  Martin Luther helped us to understand that we are saved by grace which is the love of God given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that faith alone saves us (not good works).
One more thing:

  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s father changed their names to honor the original Martin Luther.