Monday, February 27, 2017

Teens in Tight Situations

Teenagers get into trouble. This is news to no one. It is sort of a teenager’s job to get into trouble. They are at an age where they are finding out who they are and what they value. They remember lessons from their parents, but need to learn some of them all over again.

This is an age of taking risks and that is the hardest thing to watch as a parent. We know the consequence of the risk they are taking. They only see the fun. When teens take risks that put them close to trouble they may not see a way out. This is when they need to be sure that their parents have their backs.

This blog post has a great idea called the #xplan. The parents in this family have made an agreement that if their teen texts them an X they will call back and claim he needs to come home now and that he will be picked up. This allows him to leave an uncomfortable situation without social embarrassment. 

This is important because while teens remember what they have been taught, they have also moved into a world where peer opinion is more important than parent opinion. With an #xplan a teen can remember wise words of parents and follow that advice without social risk.

The blogger goes on to say that he and his wife have also promised to pick up their teen with no consequences or questions. I understand the promise to not express anger and to refrain from consequences. (Do you really want to punish your teen for following a bad choice with a good one?) However, I do encourage you to talk this situation through on the ride home. Make sure that the situation provided its own teaching lesson. Make sure your teen knows how frightened you were and how glad you are. Reinforce the good lessons you have taught.

God has rescued us time and time, again. Each time we come to Him in repentance He offers forgiveness. This is an important lesson for every teenager and parent. Life has consequences – parent love is forever.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Your Child's Brain on Music

Some fresh research from the University of Southern California is giving us a bit more evidence for the benefits of music on the development of a child’s brain. The researchers are two years into a five year longitudinal study and are already finding enhanced brain development in areas of the brain used for language development and reading for children involved in music instruction.

It is a small study (fewer than 40 students) but began with brain scans to show the starting point of each student in terms of brain function in specific areas. 

It will be interesting to see if the advantage is the same, less, or greater when the study has reached its five year term.

Studies like this do not “prove” that music instruction will make your child a better learner, but it does give us a picture of the connection between how our brains process music and language. 

Some families have the time and money for music lessons. Other families prefer different activities. You are certainly not damaging your child if you chose to spend money on sports instead of music. However, if you are trying to decide if music lessons are worth it – this research suggests they are.

Music is a gift from God and should be practiced and enjoyed simply because it is worth it on its own. This is especially true when we combine music and faith teaching. I remember saying memory work as a child when learning hymns for the Christmas service and feeling the need to sing it rather than say it. Music and language are strongly connected when it comes to memory. The liturgy sung in church, which is often Bible verses set to music, is a weekly reminder of God’s love for us and a beautiful peaceful way to nurture faith.  Likewise songs sung in Sunday school, youth group, or in preparation for a performance are providing double the benefit in terms of learning. 

What music can you add into your week with your children? What could be better than to close the day by singing a song of God's  love.? Can you sing easy parts of the liturgy during your family devotions? Or, the next time you  are traveling in the car pop in a CD of kids songs familiar to you and sing them with your children.

Music is an easy choice, for learning and sharing your faith. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is Siri Smarter than a Parent?

At first glance it appears that this little girl is holding a conversation with a phone. She talks to Siri and is delighted when Siri talks back. She even understands what is said and responds appropriately.

It might be easy to assume that this child is developing language skills by interacting with a phone.


Take another look at the video. After each time she interacts with Siri, she tells her parents about it. She has to interpret what is said as if her parents didn’t hear. Her actions of playing with the phone fit into a separate world than her conversation with her parents. The phone may be amazing, but it is not worthy of real conversation.

Our children want, and need, our real conversation. The kind of conversation that happens when you are telling a story, answering  a question, analyzing the school day, helping with homework, reading or working together. 

This conversation develops language skills, social skills, and thinking skills. Not to mention the fact that you are building up serious relationship points that you will want to have banked for when your child becomes an adolescent. A teenager will be more likely to talk with a parent who has spent previous years in conversation. Talks between teenagers and parents can make all the difference on the trajectory of the life of an adolescent.

Voice command technology, such as Siri and Alexa have much potential to change the way we live our lives, but they will never replace conversation between parent and child. It's one thing to let Google Home answer a tough science question. It's a totally different thing to let Siri be the one to say "I love you" to your child. Nothing replaces a parent.

Talk to your child; even if you don’t know all the answers. This is how you share yourself. This is how you share your faith and your values. This is how your child grows into the adult he or she is meant to be.