Monday, August 26, 2019

Reward Right

Using rewards is a common parenting technique and one that can work quite well.

It is important to remember to use rewards sparingly so that you don't train your child only to do things when there is a reward. Many of the things you want to teach your child are life lessons such as compassion, conscientiousness, generosity, and faith-building. If you reward these things, you run the risk of destroying their natural desire to do them. 

Likewise, if we always reward a child with a reward that they may like, but one that may not offer any other benefits, we are missing the opportunity to do more. For instance, rewarding a child with video game time gives them only passive entertainment. 

Consider some of these options of things to do with you that provide a reward and also some physical or social-emotional health benefits:

1. Baking
2. Reading a book
3. Playing a game outside
4. Completing a puzzle
5. Attending a play
6. Building, sewing, or creating something
7. Doing something kind for a neighbor
8. Contacting a grandparent for a visit
9. Surprising a parent or sibling with a note they will find later.
10. Creating something to give to friends

When we interact with our children, we improve their language, emotional regulation, and social skills. We also have the opportunity to share our faith. These small interactions will build a strong relationship with our child that will reap benefits long after the video game has been forgotten. 

Weary Joy: The Caregiver’s Journey
Concordia Publishing House
Available September 24, 2019 
Words of humor, encouragement, and faith for those who care for a loved one.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Growth Mindset Podcast

In this, the last of our series of podcasts on Cultivating Resilient Families, Pastor Will and I talk about baseball, hospitals, forgiveness, and  how to grow from mistakes that are dealt with instead  of hidden.  What a wonderful blessing that repentance and forgiveness cultivate a growth mindset in our children.

Thank you to Pastor Gary and Pastor Will at Faith Lutheran Church, School, and Touching Hearts Child Development Center for supporting parents in the most important work of raising their children in the faith.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Here is the link to the third episode in the podcast series on Cultivating Resilient Families sponsored by Faith Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. In this 30 minute discussion Pastor Will Miller and I talk about teaching children to find the blessings in life. As it turns out, the mindset of gratitude will bring back even more blessings for your child. God is good!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Parenting with Law and Grace

Here is the second podcast in a series called Cultivating Resilient Families. In this podcast, Pastor Will Miller and I explore the topic of best practices in parenting. We discuss how there is no one right way to raise a child because our children teach us what they need. We also discuss the importance of law (expectations) and grace (responsiveness) in our everyday dealings with our children.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Serve and Return with Jesus

My church, Faith Lutheran in Lincoln, Nebraska, is working through a unique family event this summer. Our Pastors are presenting a sermon series on parenting intending to cultivate resilient families. In addition to the sermons, we have special activities during the Sunday school hour designed to give parents opportunities to share their faith with their family. We are also sending home devotion boxes that provide a list of things parents can choose from as they teach the faith to their children. 

Because Pastor Will produces a regular podcast, I suggested we use this technology to serve the purpose of family ministry, too. This episode, called Serve and Return is the first in this series. Please give a listen and if you like it, pass it on.

As Pastor Will mentions in the podcast, it is not our goal to push guilt on to parents by giving a list of things that they should do. Instead, we want parents to see how God’s plan for parenting. God made parents the most influential teachers in the lives of their children. He also designed the brains of children to learn in spite of mistakes because brain development does not depend on perfect parenting. A child’s brain grows through interaction with parents over the course of the day, so a poor interaction, or a missed opportunity, will be balanced out by other experiences. We could say God created a child’s brain to be forgiving.

Serve and return is the name for those small interactions you have with your child each day. You might be giving a direction, correcting a behavior, praising, laughing, or sharing God’s love. Each interaction teaches your child’s brain what is important. The best thing about serve and return is when we weave faith into those experiences. We are telling our children we love them, teaching them how to live a healthy life in this world, AND showing them how God cares for them.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Some Thoughts on Autism, Vaccinations, and Screens

I recently read an article talking about the massive increase in diagnoses of children on the autism spectrum. The numbers have been climbing – more like skyrocketing – for the last few years. There are more than likely a number of reasons contributing to this increase:

NO, it is not due to vaccinations. While the misleading information on this issue looks so slick and convincing, it is merely designed to bring parents to the point of fear. Here is how I know that vaccines DO NOT cause autism. MULTIPLE studies that checked for a correlation between the two show that children who are not vaccinated are just as often diagnosed with autism as those who are vaccinated. It does not matter what theories are proposed – the relationship is not there.

Some reasons for the increase have to do with definitions of autism and awareness, but a new intriguing theory suggests we might be creating some autism symptoms by exposing children to activities that delay their language and social-emotional development. These activities primarily involve screens. In fact, in some countries, when a child receives an autism diagnosis, the first therapy is to reduce screen use for the child as much as possible. This often reduces the symptoms to a point where the child requires little additional therapy. 

The reason screen usage might be contributing to the symptoms of autism is that it prevents children from engaging with other humans, and that is how children develop both language and social-emotional skills.(Deficits in these two areas are markers for autism.) Playing video games and watching YouTube will make your child good at screens, but will not help them to be better with communication or relationships.

I am NOT suggesting that keeping your child from screen use will prevent autism.There is no reason to believe screen use causes autism -- just that it might make some of the symptoms more likely.

I am NOT suggesting that you ignore an autism spectrum diagnosis and just reduce screen time.We will leave diagnosis to the experts and trust their suggestions for therapy.

However, I do feel comfortable telling parents that reducing screen time will not, in any way, hurt your child.If children never see a computer until school age, they will pick up the skills without a problem.

And I do know that if children do not develop communication skills, social skills, or emotional regulation skills in a timely manner, they will have big problems not only with relationships but also with anxiety and learning.

My advice? Get your children vaccinated and rethink your screen use and your child’s screen use. Let them learn how to be a human, first. Let them learn the way God designed their brains. We cannot improve on that.