Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Trust and Waiting

This NPR article talks about a new version of the famous marshmallow test. In the original study researchers were looking for children to show delayed gratification by being able to wait patiently for a second treat while not eating the first treat that is within reach.

Today’s children do not do very well on this test with fewer than half of them able to resist the temptation of the treat in front of them. For those who are able to wait, the skill of patient waiting leads to better academics and success in life and school. The ability to delay gratification – or put off a small reward in favor of a larger one later – is a desired skill, indeed.

The NPR article talks about the difference between kids in the U.S. and Germany when compared to the children of rural Cameroon. Apparently, waiting patiently is a super skill for these children and it is most likely linked to parenting style.

While we can’t move to Cameroon in order to raise patient children we can make some changes in our own parenting to encourage this same effect. Here are three differences that can be addressed:

Nurture a positive attitude: In situations that require waiting you can empathize and redirect by helping your child to find the silver lining:

“It’s no fun to wait in line, but won’t these groceries taste good when we get them home?”

Now, don’t follow this up with a bribe, or coaxing. Just let your child know that waiting is a part of life.

Parents know best: Children learn to trust parents who are able to tell them what the best course of action is. Bargaining, bribing, and arguing are all things that might work in the short run, but leave a child wondering who is in charge. That just creates anxiety which in turn encourages more argument. The child thinks, "If my parent isn't in charge I guess I need to be."

Be predictable: Children look for patterns in behavior and are happiest when they can predict what a parent will do – even if that action is not favorable. If an activity is not healthy, affordable, or timely, then don’t give in to pleading. 

The bottom line:  your children want to trust the person who is in charge. This helps them to feel safe and learn. They are too young to lean on their own understanding!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3: 5

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Children and Trust

This cute clip shows the wonder of young children and magical thinking. Where did that plastic centipede go?

One of the first cognitive tasks of a child is to learn to trust. The world is a crazy place and the brain wants to make sense of everything that is experienced. Infants begin to develop a trust relationship with caregivers very early on. Sometimes this is referred to as an attachment. A child with a secure attachment learns to trust that parents will respond to needs. 

A secure attachment extends to include the confidence that parents will give good explanations for what is experienced. This trust is essential to any kind of learning whether that be at home, in school, in church, or anywhere important to the child. A child without trust is a child who’s brain finds it difficult to learn.

Magical thinking is aided by this trust. Young children have a less developed sense of logical thinking. They tend to believe what they see because they cannot access the abstract thinking necessary to imagine something else – in this case the possibility that Dad has learned a clever trick. As this young one gets older she will begin to suspect there is another explanation and then the “magic” becomes a fun game.

Emotional trust muscles need to be exercised on a regular basis. Children need to know they can trust their parents to respond to their needs (ahem, put the phone down if your child is near). They need to know that you will continue to love them even when they do something wrong, or something bad happens. They need to trust in that relationship you are building with them.

Teaching your child to trust in Jesus is also important. Anxiety levels rise when we believe we are in control of our lives. Quickly we learn that we cannot rely on ourselves to make things turn out okay. Children who trust in God will move through life with more confidence that they have help and that someone wiser than themselves is in charge.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Resilence and Unconditional Love

Most parents can imagine the backstory to this photo. Someone heard the word “no.” Perhaps a behavior correction or maybe a request was denied. The result was anger and anger must have its retaliation; communication between parent and child is suspended.

Not only that, but the anger is big enough for a two day suspension. That’s a big anger right there.

A note like this makes us smile – especially if you are a busy parent and think two days of suspended conversation might be less of a punishment than what this child expects. I remember those days.

My attention goes to the last line; a bit of an afterthought meant to reassure:

P.S.S. I still love you

Here is a child who understands how unconditional love works. This brand of love is not an “if, then” love that waits until conditions are met.

It is not a “because” love that attaches itself to a characteristic of the receiver.

Instead it is an “anyway,” “even though,” and “in spite of” kind of love that continues on no matter what.

This is the kind of love we receive from our Heavenly Father and it is the kind of love that children need in order to grow, learn, and become resilient.

They need to know that they are loved even when they fail, even when they are disappointed, even when they hear “no.” They need to know that love continues. 

Unconditional love creates a safety net that allows children to take risks, fail, and learn from mistakes. It is a love that offers forgiveness and learning. It is a love that sustains during difficult situations.

And its true power starts when a child learns that “my parents still love me even when they say ‘no.’”

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are. I John 3:1a