School time has returned. Morning routines need adjusted to accommodate school’s early start. Afternoon schedules get adjusted to fit in homework and extracurricular activities. In the midst of these adjustments, I recommend one additional change to your routine. Your children will likely enjoy this small change. In fact, my daughter used to make this change because she thought it was fun. She climbed a tree, sat down in a nook between branches, and read her book. Why would I suggest you make climbing a tree part of your children’s daily routine? Because this kind of activity can boost your children’s memory and potentially increase learning. It’s true! A recent study conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Florida found activities like climbing trees, walking or crawling on a three inch wide beam, running through an obstacle course barefoot, or lifting and carrying awkwardly weighted objects can boost a person’s memory by 50%! Why do these activities boost memory? Well, these activities require at least two things: 1) an awareness of where your body is without stopping to look at it and 2) planning some route of movement. That skill combination enhances working memory… boosts your memory and potentially enhances learning. If that sounds like recess, I agree. It also sounds like we need to encourage our kids to climb a tree or run through an obstacle course after school. It might make their homework go faster…and improve the quality of work they complete. And, if you participate in these activities with them you will boost your memory too! So, rather than sitting back to watch your children climb a tree, get out there and join in—climb a tree, race through the obstacle course, boost your working memory and your children’s working memory while having fun with your children. How can you beat that?!
Archive for August 31, 2015
“Sorry” is an important word for a strong family. We all make mistakes. We all say and do things, accidentally or intentionally, that hurt other family members from time to time. Sorry helps bring restoration. I came across a quote that offers a tremendous summary of saying “sorry.” It not only shows how saying sorry leaves us vulnerable, but how it repairs and restores relationship. It elevates “sorry” to its proper place as a precious gift of healing. Hope you like the quote.
Sorry means you feel the pulse of other people’s pain as well as your own, and saying it means you take a share of it. And so it binds us together, makes us trodden and sodden as one another.
Sorry is a lot of things. It’s a hole refilled. A debt repaid.
Sorry is the wake of misdeed. It’s the crippling ripple of consequence.
Sorry is sadness, just as knowing is sadness.
Sorry is sometimes self-pity.
But Sorry, really, is not about you. It’s theirs to take or leave.
Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge.
Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won’t settle until things are set right and true.
Sorry doesn’t take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap.
Sorry is a sacrament. It’s an offering. A gift.” ― Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones
Practice saying “sorry” as often as needed with your spouse, your children, and your parents. Your family will grow stronger and more intimate each time you accept the responsibility of “sorry.”
We love our children. We will do almost anything to help them grow and become the amazing adults we see waiting to burst forth from the guise of childhood. We know they have greatness lurking beneath that façade of awkward teenage angst. But, our kids still need to be kids, not superstars. We need to let them play just for fun, not to perfect their swing or the B-minor scale. They need to sit around and relax, even get bored, so they can learn to entertain themselves. Our children need the freedom and space to explore their inner talent—to dance with it, wander away from it, and return to it in their own time with only encouragement and support from us, not pressures and demands. When our children know we accept them in their marvelous ordinariness and wonderful averageness, they gain the internal freedom to excel “just because they want to.” When they know we will encourage and support them in their awkwardness and failures, they are free to explore, takes healthy risks, and really grow. Under your loving support and encouragement, you might even see inner greatness blossom in your children as they mature into the amazing adults you see hidden beneath their childhood skin.
My family and I attended a beautiful wedding at Camp Christian last weekend. The wedding ceremony took place in the chapel. Then, everyone walked a short distance to the Millhouse for the reception. It was a beautiful day. The bride and groom, along with their families, have participated in numerous programs at Camp Christian over the years; so had several of those who came to witness the wedding. As a result, many of those attending, including the bride and groom, had a lifetime of memories and personal dedications made in this sacred place; which, I suppose, added to my contemplation that day. After Eric and Emily exchanged their vows, the minister spoke of God’s words after He had created Adam and Eve, man and woman. Throughout the creation story (Genesis 1-2), God looked at His creation and “saw that it was good.” That is, it was good until He created man. When God created Adam, He said “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). So, God created a woman. The Scripture tells us “God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Genesis 1:20) and then God saw all He had made and “it was VERY GOOD” (Genesis 1:31). God did not say “it was very good” until He had created both man and woman and brought them together. Witnessing Eric and Emily as they committed to living a life together, I began to understand why God waited until He had created both man and woman to say “it is very good.”
- “It was very good” to see family and friends gather together to celebrate and support this young couple in living out a lifetime of loving commitment. A wedding represents more than a man and woman making a commitment. It represents a community coming together to nurture and support a couple’s love…and that “is very good.”
- As this young couple gazed at one another with obvious adoration, “it was very good.” Love changes us. It nurtures our growth and helps us recognize our worth. When two people adore one another with such an obvious love, “it is very good.”
- When Eric and Emily committed to “have and to hold from this day forth, for better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…,” “it was very good.” Such a commitment proclaims a faithfulness and love that advances the kingdom of God. That “is very good.”
- Speaking of the kingdom of God…when this young man and woman wake up to serve one another in little ways throughout the day, they become ambassadors for Christ and this “is very good.”
- Each time they speak a word of encouragement to one another they act as God’s mouthpiece. And, that “is very good.”
- Every time they lovingly sacrifice their own desires to meet one another’s needs, they will shine like lights in the darkness. That “is very good.”
- When they speak of one another with loving affection (which they often do), they speak the very words Christ speaks of His Bride; and, that “is very good.”
- When, because of their love, they accept one another’s influence, they have born witness to the humility of Christ. (Need I say it?) That “is very good.”
- When other people see their in love a reflection of Christ’s love for His Bride (the Church), “it is very good.”
When Eric and Emily chose to “leave” their mother and father in order to “cleave” to and “become one flesh” with each other, they reenacted that sacred moment when God created a man and woman in His image. They set themselves apart as witnesses of His love and creativity. And, that “is very good.”
When Eric and Emily chose to forsake all others and cling to the one they have chosen, they advanced the kingdom of God through their faithfulness, love, sacrifice, and service. And, that “is very good.”
Yes, Eric and Emily, we truly enjoyed your wedding and the message you proclaimed through your marriage…a message of hope, commitment, and love. And, “It Is Very Good.”
H.G. Ginott made an important distinction between a child’s voice and a child’s choice in his book Between Parent and Child. Children need to have choices. Giving our children choices builds their sense of responsibility. It helps them learn that choices have consequences; so
they learn to choose wisely. Choices allow our children to become participants in decisions and take greater ownership of their choices as a result. Allowing our children to make choices also communicates our trust in them and their decision making…within the parameters of their maturity of course, which brings us to our children’s voice. Children need choices in areas that fall within their age appropriate responsibility, but they are not mature enough to make all their own decisions. So, in areas where children lack the maturity to choose wisely, or in areas that fall under a parent’s responsibility, our children have a voice only. Some examples might make this distinction more clear.
- A 4-year-old can choose which outfit to wear to a wedding based on two outfits pre-chosen by a parent. A teen, on the other hand, can choose an outfit from a broad array of outfits and limited only by parameters of modesty predetermined by parents. In both cases, the child and the teen have the opportunity to choose. But, the child only has a voice in the two wedding appropriate outfits chosen by the parent and the teen only has a voice in determining the parameters of modesty. These areas of children’s voice remain a parent’s responsibility.
- Children can choose how much of a particular vegetable they want to eat (one helping or two). But, it remains the parent’s responsibility to assure a healthy diet. So children only receive a voice in whether vegetables will be served at dinner. The parents make the choice.
- Children and teens can choose whether or not they want to go out for dinner and a movie with a group of their friends. A parent is responsible to assure their children’s health and safety. So their children only get a voice in determining the time they must be home from the dinner and movie. Of course this voice will increase as your child matures and, eventually, will become their choice when they leave for college.
- Children have a choice when using their cell phone. However, a parent is responsible for their children’s emotional health and safety. So children only get a voice in whether the parent has access to their phone and whether the phone is allowed in their bedroom overnight or remains in a family room for charging.
- One more. Children can choose which age appropriate shows to watch on TV. However, parents are responsible for their children’s physical and emotional health. So, children only get a voice in determining how much TV they watch each day and whether they can have a TV in their bedroom.
In areas that children have a voice, the parent makes the choice. Children can voice disappointment and even anger over the parent’s choice, but the responsibility remains with the parent. Children can even negotiate and give reasons for the change they desire. But, the parents remain responsible for the final decision because they have more experience and greater wisdom than their children.
The distinction between when your child gets a choice and when they get a voice is an important limit for parents to determine. You may or may not agree with the examples I listed above. Nonetheless, areas will exist where you can give your children choices and areas where you make the decision and they only receive a voice. Take the time to recognize that distinction and how it changes as your children grow. It will help you and your children grow together.
“A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her ears.”–Woodrow Wyatt
If Woodrow Wyatt is right, men and women have different keys when it comes to love. A key to a man’s love begins with his eyes. If this is true, you can use this key to increase intimacy with your husband. Dress nicely now and again rather than always slumping around in your “comfy clothes.” When you go on a date, pick out clothes that you know appeal to your husband. You likely did this while dating. Why not keep it up after you’re married? Make an effort to put on nice clothes, fix your hair, and smile admiringly at your husband on a regular basis. It will go a long way in unlocking his love.
A key to a woman’s love begins in her ears. Use this key to gain intimacy with your wife. Speak words of appreciation and adoration for your wife. Encourage her often. Verbalize your feelings of love on a regular basis. Let your words reveal your fondness and admiration for your wife. Speak words of love and affection, appreciation and adoration, fondness and admiration daily. This will unlock her love for you in amazing ways.
These keys have a flipside. They can create intimacy when used properly; but, on the flipside, they will create disdain if misused or ignored. Wives, if you make no attempt to look nice for your husband, he may begin to think you don’t care. He will feel unimportant because you “dress up for work, but never for him.” He will feel as though you rate him second to all those activities and places for which you dress up. He may even begin to feel disrespected. He may feel cheated and deceived because you “dressed up when we were dating but now you don’t care enough about me.” A man who feels disrespected will begin to drift to those places where he feels more respect. Don’t let this happen in your marriage. Use the key of his eyes to keep him close.
Men, if you neglect to speak words of affirmation and admiration to your wife, she will begin to doubt your love. She will feel unappreciated and unloved. She may even begin to feel worse about herself, inadequate and filled with self-doubt. If you call her names or call her character into question through the words you speak, she will begin to despise you. Her disdain for you will grow with every negative comment you make. Eventually, love will die. Don’t let this happen in your marriage. Speak words of love and tenderness. Use the key of her ears to keep her close.
Of course the eyes and ears are not the only keys to love. But, they do provide one key you can use to deepen the intimacy with your spouse and strengthen your marriage. The nice thing is…you hold the key!
My family and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to visit family in Illinois. While there, we visited the Lincoln Museum and Lincoln’s home in Springfield. As we toured a home in Lincoln’s community, I read a quote by Mary Todd Lincoln: “He [Lincoln] always said, ‘It is my pleasure that my children are free, happy and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.'”
Lincoln was apparently rather permissive with his children; but, he shows wisdom in this statement. We do want our children to grow up “unrestrained by parental tyranny.” Instead, we want them to grow up under the “loving parental authority” that will “bind a child to its parents.” Compare the two with me and see if you don’t agree.
- Parental tyranny would place unreasonable demands on children. Loving parental authority places reasonable and age appropriate expectations on children. Children still have chores and behavioral expectations, but they are age appropriate.
- Parental tyranny makes harsh demands. If those demands are not met, children receive cruel punishments that might include demeaning and belittling comments. Unfortunately, under parental tyranny, the parent is never satisfied with any job children complete. It never meets the unreasonable standard of a parental tyrant. Loving parental authority, on the other hand, encourages children, praises effort invested in a task, and acknowledges a job well-done. As noted above, reasonable and age appropriate expectations remain in place. If these expectations are not met, children receive age appropriate consequences designed to teach desired behavior.
- Parental tyranny uses coercive control methods such as guilt, threats, and belittling. Loving parental authority uses consequences designed to teach rather than punish. Consequences “fit the crime” and either flow naturally or logically from the misbehavior. For instance, if children do not clean up after themselves, parental tyranny may yell at them, labels them as “lazy” and “disrespectful,” “a pig” with “no sense.” Loving parental authority tells them they must clean their room before watching their favorite TV show or going out with friends…and does not “give in” because they feel bad.
- Parental tyrants dish out arbitrary consequences. Sometimes misbehavior receives no consequence, sometimes a harsh consequence, and sometimes a simple consequence. Loving parental authority offers clear and consistent expectations with clear and consistent consequences.
- Parental tyranny results in in an oppressive environment filled with harsh competition, fear, and resentment. Loving parental authority creates an environment filled with honor, encouragement, kindness, and grace. The environment created by loving parental authority is filled with joyful celebration!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a house that practices parental tyranny. I think Old Honest Abe was right. We need a home “unrestrained by parental tyranny,” a home in which loving parental authority rules the roost. And when it does, love will “bind a child to his or her parent.”
In my work with teens I have noticed many parents want to be their teen’s best friend, their “BFF.” But, our teens do not want parents as their best friend. They want us to guide, mentor, and discipline. They need us to remain strong parents they can rely on to maintain the structures and teach the values that keep them safe. Of course, this all flows from relationship, but not a peer to peer, friend to friend relationship. It flows from a healthy parent-child relationship. With that in mind, let me share five things that undermine a healthy parent-child relationship, and, in undermining that relationship, interfere with effective parenting.
- Dressing like your teen. Our teens do not want us to dress like them. They are differentiating from us, learning to be their own person. Dressing differently than us is a safe way in which to separate some. In fact, many teens become embarrassed by a parent who dresses like a teen.
- Socializing with your teen on social media like “one of the gang.” No need to constantly “like,” “retweet,” or “comment” on every post, tweet, or picture. Sure, parents need to monitor. We might even comment or “like” something, but don’t overdo it. Do so minimally. Let your teen have their individual space; and, make the time and effort to create a space for you and your teen to relate outside the world of social media. You can create space with your teen any place that provides the opportunity to look one another in the eye and talk instead of texting or messaging. Some great places to interact and talk with your teen include the car (when transporting all over town), a coffee shop, the front porch, walking the dog, playing a game…you get the idea. Make your main avenue for socializing with your teen some face to face contact.
- Siding with your teen’s boyfriend, girlfriend, or peer. In fact, do not even involve yourself in the drama of teen life. You can talk with your teen about relationships. Share ideas and ways to handle various relationships and stressors. In private conversations with your teen you might even point out areas in which you agree with their peers. But, look for areas of agreement with your teen. Your teen needs an advocate, an ally in the harsh world of teen drama. They also need someone who will help strengthen them with insight and wisdom for dealing with the drama. Offer your insight gained through years of experience. Encourage them to think about alternative perspectives. And, by all means, stay out of the minor teen drama. Let your teen learn to manage their social interactions on their own. Let them learn how to handle their own life drama independently.
- Telling your teen’s secrets. Your teen needs to know they can trust you and rely on you to keep their confidence. Don’t tell your good friend about the relationship struggle your teen opened up about. Don’t publish the “lovely talk with my wonderful teen” on Facebook after they tell you about an “interest in a certain boy” or tweet about “those teens who…” after they tell you about a rude comment made by a peer. Just keep it between you and your teen. When teens know they can trust you to keep the “little things,” they are more likely to come to you with the “big stuff.”
- Giving in on discipline. Teens need (and even want) parents who remain consistent and predictable in consequences. Loving and appropriate consequences help teens develop healthy boundaries and then internalize healthy limits. Give them this gift by thoughtfully and loving setting age-appropriate limits and consequences. Then stick with them. (See Four Benefits of Negotiating With Your Child)
The five actions described above will undermine your parent-child relationship and your influence on your child. Consider them carefully. Then, lovingly step back from any desire to become your child’s BFF and remain their loving, involved parent instead.
Did you see the article in Time magazine (7/23/15) entitled “In Praise of the Ordinary Child”? The author (Jeffrey Kluger) made several excellent observations. I would like to share two of his quotes along with a few comments.
- “There’s a difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation;” and, I would add, parents need to learn the difference. As parents we need to become students of our children. As students, we learn what interests our children, what they get excited about and what “turns them on.” We discover passions dwelling within their hearts and minds. In other words, we uncover what they find intrinsically motivating. With that knowledge, we help them find ways to satisfy their passion. Their passion might vary from music in one child to carpentry in another…or babysitting, cleaning, law, or any number of other interests. In some children, their passion may change weekly (or daily), making it hard for a parent to keep up. Still, parents help their children find and pursue interests that arise from within. Too often parents cross the line from encouraging intrinsically motivating activities to extrinsically motivating children to pursue some activity. We push our children to pursue the activity we see them perform well whether they find it interesting or not. Or, we strongly encourage them to pursue an activity related to our interests like sports, reading, or music. Many children will initially comply with our interests simply to please us (their parents). However, they day will come when they rebel against us and pursue something more intrinsically motivating to them.
- “We force kids to focus prematurely.” As soon as children exhibit a glimmer of talent in some area, many parents swoop in and compel they focus on that talent with all their time and effort. Unfortunately, focusing too early kills interest and joy. Eventually, children “forced to focus prematurely” will burn out, lose interest, and quit. Talent, on the other hand, blossoms under the guise of play. Our children benefit when we allow them the opportunity to explore and pursue talents and interests in a playful leisurely manner, slowly developing a greater focus as their interests grow stronger. Rather than push your children to focus prematurely, allow them to develop a focus over time at their own pace. You will likely find yourself pleasantly surprised at their growing interest and talent.
I really enjoyed the 2008 movie Horton Hears a Who. Of course, I love Dr. Seuss. Who doesn’t? He has given us wonderful children’s stories that include the deeper, more significant lessons of life for kids and adults alike. For instance, Horton the elephant offers a lesson every parent needs to learn. Horton states this lesson several times throughout the movie when he says, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant is faithful one hundred percent.” That is great parenting advice! Think about it with me for a moment.
- When parents mean what they say and say what they mean, they erase ambiguity by communicating clear and truthful messages. As a result, their children know what to expect. The rules are made clear; and the consequences for appropriate and inappropriate behavior are made known. Children know what is expected of them and what to expect from their parents and family. All this adds predictability to a child’s life. Predictability gives security for a child.
- When parents mean what they say and say what they mean, children learn to trust. They do not have to worry about false promises because they know promises are kept. They can rest in the trustworthiness of their parents’ word. Once again, when children trust their parents’ word, they gain a sense of predictability; and, predictability leads to security.
- When parents mean what they say and say what they mean, they discipline more effectively. Promised consequences occur within the stated time frame and in response to the stated misbehavior. As a result, children learn there are no “empty threats.” A promised reward comes to them within the stated time frame and in response to the stated behavior as well. There are no broken promises. In addition, children know the rules and expectations because their parents mean the rules/expectations they say and they say the rules/expectations they mean (to paraphrase Horton). With this knowledge, children respond more readily to reminders, requests, and limits. They find it easier to obey the rules and live up to expectations because parents have made them clear in word and action.
Horton is one wise elephant when it comes to parenting. We would do well to learn this lesson from him: to mean what we say and say what we mean. This great parenting advice, when put into practice, erases ambiguity, builds predictability and trust, increases security, and leads to effective discipline…especially when a parent “is faithful one hundred percent.”