Tag Archive for children

Build Forts to Build Mature Children

I lived near a very small (I mean, very small!) patch of woods for part of my elementary school and middle school years. I remember the joy of going “into the woods” and finding natural enclaves under bushes that I could make into “my fort.” A few minor adjustments and additions turned those branches into a naturally camouflaged hideout. I also remember “building forts” out of blankets, tables, and cushions in the house. As a father, I even joined my daughters in making forts during their elementary school years. In fact, fort building is a pretty universal activity among children.

Fort building flows from our children’s developmental needs and desires. During the middle years of elementary school, children start figuring out their nearby world. They want to understand how their home fits into the neighborhood and which streets and paths go from their home to other destinations. They also become more independent, developing a unique self, separate from their family and engaged in the world. All in all, it’s quite an adventure…and building an outside fort adds to the adventure. Even an indoor fort adds excitement to a rainy day and helps satisfy strong developmental needs like:

  • Fort building encourages independence. Children gain independence as they gather materials and build their forts however they like. They establish themselves as separate individuals by creating their own space in a unique design of their choice.
  • Fort building also develops practical skills. Children meet their “inner engineer’ and “construction worker” when building a fort. They learn what creates a sturdy fort, what protects against the wind, what holds materials together, what materials work best for various designs…. The list of practical skills our children learn while building forts goes on.
  • Fort building enhances cognitive skills like problem-solving, planning, and organization (which may come in handy when writing their high school papers).
  • Fort building also builds social skills like cooperation, negotiation, and teamwork.
  • Fort building provides unstructured play time filled with creativity and imagination. Unstructured play encourages self-discovery, self-control, and maturity (Read Make Your Child a Head Taller Than Himself for more on this).
  • Fort building establishes “my place,” a fortress against all the stresses and demands of the outside world. In this sense, fort building can relieve stress and build skills to manage emotions.
  • Don’t forget. Fort building is also just plain fun! We all love to see our kids having fun.

So, on a rainy day, encourage your children to build a fort in the basement, attic or family room. On a nice day, encourage your children to go outside, explore, and build a primo-fort in a secluded spot. Supply some materials and encourage the adventure. Then sit back and enjoy watching them develop skills while growing more mature!

Giving Children Freedom to Grow

Little Super Hero Rescue ChildWe 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.

Become the Catalyst for an Honorable Family

I often speak about honoring one another in the family. However, it is just as important (maybe more important) to become a person your family can honor. In fact, if we do not become a person worthy of honor, we set the whole family up for trouble. Consider what happened in Noah’s family when he acted dishonorably. Noah was a great man; but, after the flood he got drunk, a passed-out-laying-in-his-tent-naked-drunk. His son, Ham, found familysunhearthim, saw his father’s shame, and exposed his father’s dishonor by telling his brothers about his “find.” Noah had acted dishonorably by getting drunk. Ham had acted dishonorably by spreading the news of his father’s shame. These dishonorable acts ultimately resulted in Ham’s descendants living in servitude to their cousins (Genesis 9:25). The dishonorable actions of a father opened the door for his son to act dishonorably and for generations to live under the consequences of dishonor. Imagine the weight of that burden on Noah. You can avoid this heavy consequence by becoming a person of honor.  Here are several traits a person of honor exhibits. Read them carefully and start living a life of honor today…for your family’s sake!

  1. A person worthy of honor is humble. We admire a humble person. A humble person listens and accepts correction, allowing him to grow in character. He believes that others have important contributions to make and, as a result, listens carefully and takes those contributions to heart.
  2. A person worthy of honor is gracious. A gracious person gives his time and energy to help and support those around him. A gracious person forgives. He accepts that others make mistakes and patiently corrects misunderstandings. A gracious person accepts others in spite of any mistakes or misunderstandings. A gracious person is a person worthy of honor.
  3. A person worthy of honor shows kindness to others. A person of honor does not need a bumper sticker proclaiming “random acts of kindness.” Everyone around him observes his kindness and receives the benefits of his kindness. Acting in kindness is second nature to him. He loves to hold the door open for others, allow others to go first in traffic, or speak words of encouragement to the downhearted. Kindness is his modus operandi.
  4. A person worthy of honor accepts correction and discipline. An honorable person humbly accepts his own shortcomings. He realizes his imperfection and admits his mistakes. As a result, he not only accepts but cherishes the correction of others. He realizes that correction helps him grow and become a more honorable person.
  5. A person worthy of honor speaks the truth. We know we can trust the word of an honorable person. He does not tell even white lies. You can completely trust the person of honor because he has no hidden agendas. He lovingly speaks the truth.
  6. A person worthy of honor keeps his word. His “yes” is “yes” and his “no” is “no.” When an honorable person promises to do something for you, you know it will get done. He does not make idle promises or promises he cannot keep. This adds to our willingness to trust a person of honor.
  7. A person worthy of honor works to provide for himself and his family. An honorable person does not trick others to make a gain. He does not connive and conspire to get ahead. Instead, he works hard. He works hard in response to his love for family. He works hard so no one has to carry the burden of caring for his needs. He works hard for the joy of helping others in their time of need.
  8. A person worthy of honor is generous. An honorable person gives to others with no expectation of return. He gives simply for the joy of giving. This does not mean he gives frivolously. He shares from his abundance with those who have need; but, he does so wisely, as a good steward. He not only shares his material wealth, but he shares his time and effort as well.
  9. A person of honor stands firm in his beliefs. He is not easily swayed. You know where he stands and what he believes. There is no guessing or fear about what he believes or how he will act. He is open and firm. Although he stands firm in his beliefs, he does not become rude. Instead, he remains firm in a loving and polite manner.

 

To build a family of honor, become a person of honor. Practice these nine attributes to become a person of honor. Your family will honor you and thank you…and you will enjoy the benefits of an honor filled family for generations to come.

Family Fun Night is for the Birds

Yellow Billed HornbillSome people believe “this Family Fun Night stuff” is for the birds. Well…I agree. It’s a great idea. Head out to your local aviary and share a Family Fun Night with the birds. Now I know this may sound like a bird-brained idea, but you only need to check out your local aviary to see how much fun you can have with this flight of fancy. The National Aviary in Pittsburgh, PA (my hometown, btw) is celebrating “Owl-O-Ween” on October 18 and 25. Every day, you can watch the birds get fed…and, even participate in feeding them. To satisfy your artistic flair, you might pick your favorite colors for the penguins to use in creating an artistic masterpiece…and take the picture home! You can also celebrate your child’s birthday (“bird-day”) at the Aviary. To add soaring heights of fun to your flight, listen to “The Birds” as you migrate to and from the Aviary. Would it be too much to devour chicken sandwiches for lunch beforehand? Better not, stick with a burger. (My apology to the cows.) At any rate, Family Fun Night is now for the birds…and the ornithologist (bird-lover) in your family. Fly on over to the Aviary to see the unusual, the colorful, the graceful, and the bizarre (hey, that sounds like my family…I’m just saying!) and discover how a great Family Fun Night is for the birds.

Discover Your Inner Musician for a Family Fun Night

Everyone loves music. Whether you find the joy of music through singing, playing, dancing or cat musiclistening, we all have an inner rhythm and harmony. Really, it’s true. If your heart beats and you breathe rhythmically in and out, you have rhythm. If you can walk through a revolving door without getting hurt, you got rhythm. You experience harmony every time you interact with another person and “harmonize” your interests, pace of life, and conversation to keep everyone involved. Why not use your inner musician to have a great family fun night! Here are four “variations on the theme” of a musical family fun night.

 

  1. Go to a free concert. Each summer and fall, several communities offer free concerts. We enjoy the Jazz at Katz Plaza and South Park concerts in our area.
  2. Put on your favorite record at home…well, play your favorite CD…ummm, turn up your download…or just turn on Spotify. Whatever you choose, play your favorite music, grab your spouse or child, and enjoy a dance around the living room.
  3. Save up some money and purchase tickets to a concert by your favorite artist.
  4. Get together with your family (and friends if you want) and sing together. You can accompany yourself if you play the guitar, ukulele, or piano. If not, do some karaoke or sing along with the radio.

 

Come up with your own idea for a musical family fun night…any idea tailored to give your family a great musical fun night!

Bake Your Way to a Family Fun Night

Baking together is a great way to celebrate family.  Gather your family into the kitchen to bake a pie, a cake, cookies, bread, or all of the above. Decide ahead of time what you would like to bake and gather the ingredients. Let each family member participate in “the mixing of the ingredients” and “taste-testing” along the way (my job in the family bake off is often that of taste-tester!) When it is all put together, pop it in the oven.

Apple Pie

Let anticipation build while your masterpiece bakes. After all, the best part of this family fun night is yet to come. Enjoy the aroma of freshly baked pie. Watch the cookies melt into shape. Stand in awe as the bread rises. Let your mouth water and your stomach growl in anticipation of my favorite part of this family fun night. Finally, when everything the baking is done, slice up your treat and eat it warm, fresh out of the oven. Nothing is better than warm cookies that bend when you pick them up…or bread that steams when you slice it and melts the butter immediately…or hot pie that melts the ice cream. The anticipation of this treat is matched only by the satisfied taste buds that prompt smiling faces!

 

For a real adventure, double the recipe and give half of your family project away. Give a loaf of bread to a local shut-in. Take a cake to a local nursing home for the staff to enjoy. Plate up a dozen cookies for your mailman. Not only will you have a great family fun night but you will teach your children a wonderful lesson in generosity and kindness as well.  And, truth be told, nothing is more fun than giving to others as a family!

8 Fabulous Family Benefits of Thankfulness

Thankfulness is in season right now…however, it has benefits for the family all year round! That’s right; an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness benefits families all the time. Let me share a few of the research based benefits of thankfulness so you can use them to strengthen your own family.

      ·   Gratitude makes us happier. Did you know that taking 5 minutes a day to record your gratitude in a journal can actually increase your sense of well-being by 10%? That’s the same impact as doubling your income…and taking 5 minutes a day to keep a gratitude journal is a whole lot easier than doubling your income! So, if you want a happy family, take five minutes during supper or just before bed and let each family member name a couple things for which they are grateful. Write them down and keep a journal. Review it once in a while to remind yourself of all you and your family have to be thankful for.


·   Gratitude makes us healthier. Want to spend less on family medical care? Want to have a healthier family, allowing your family to get out and do things together? Practice gratitude. Those people who keep a gratitude journal tend to have fewer physical symptoms, less physical pain, more sleep, and increased sleep quality as well as fewer symptoms of depression. Interestingly, in one study a group of people with high blood pressure were instructed to “count their blessings once a week” and had a significant decrease in “systolic blood pressure.” 


·   Gratitude reduces materialism. Becoming aware of and expressing gratitude for what we have shifts our focus away from things that do not really matter. Practicing gratitude helps keep our focus on what does matter—like family, friends, health, and the multitude of blessings we already have. Practically speaking, when our family practices gratitude, family members will ask for less and whine less about “what I wish I had” or the newest gadget “I need.” Instead, we will joyfully share with one another from the bountiful blessings we already have and enjoy.


·   Gratitude makes us less self-centered. An attitude of gratitude focuses on other people—their acts of generosity, kindness, and benevolence. Gratitude focuses on what I have been given, implicitly turning my focus on the grace and generosity of others. As your family practices gratitude, the whole family will become more giving, generous, and other-focused. 


·   Gratitude also reduces feelings of envy. Have your children ever said, “But so-and-so has a…” or “But why does my older brother get to stay up later?” Perhaps you have even had that fleeting thought of envy—”Man, I wish I could afford a house like that.”  Gratitude is the antidote for those feelings of jealousy and envy. Model focusing your attention on those blessings you have…and expressing gratitude for those blessings as well. Teach your children to recognize their blessings.


·   Gratitude creates a happy past. The past we recall is somewhat a choice. We can keep the good or the negative aspects of our past in the forefront of our memory. By keeping a mental record of blessings in the forefront of our memory, we recall a more joyous past filled with blessings. As we express gratitude for what we have today, we prime our mind to remember the blessings of yesterday.


·   Gratitude strengthens your marriage. Marriage loses passion when spouses become less appreciative and interactions become more negative. Practicing gratitude is one way to counter the loss of appreciation and the increase of negative interactions. In addition, we admire those character traits for which we are grateful. So, being grateful for those positive character traits in our spouse and the positive things they do will increase admiration and adoration for our spouse. Increased adoration and admiration translates to more passion too. Not only is this good for you, but your children will feel more secure and have greater happiness as they witness their parents expressing gratitude for one another and sharing a twinkle of admiration and adoration in their eye as they talk of their spouse.


·   Gratitude improves decision making. In one interesting study, doctors were given a patient record that included a list of symptoms and an incorrect diagnosis of lupus. Half of the doctors were also given a token of appreciation to evoke gratitude. Those who were given the token of appreciation were more likely to expend more time and energy to confirm and then correct the misdiagnosis. The doctors who did not receive a token of appreciation were more likely to stick with the incorrect diagnosis. So, if you want your children to think through decisions more often and have increased flexibility to change their poor decisions into better decisions, give them “tokens of appreciation for” (AKA–show gratitude for, thank them for) their efforts and other positive actions. Practicing gratitude toward family members will motivate them to improve decision making. Cultivate the art of thanking one another daily…every chance you get!

Gratitude really does fabulous things for a family. This blog only reviews 8 fabulous family benefits of thankfulness. Check out a full 31 Benefits of Gratitude to discover even more benefits! In the meantime, why not use gratitude to strengthen your family? Model gratitude in your own life so your family can follow your lead. Teach gratitude by asking everyone to share something for which they are thankful. You can do this at dinner time, bed time, or any time when you happen to be talking with one another. Keep a gratitude journal, make a post-it gratitude list on the hallway wall, create a gratitude tree craft on the fridge…. You get the idea, be creative in keeping a gratitude journal as a family. Then, reap the benefits of a grateful family! 

Book Review: Raising Happiness

Dr. Christine Carter is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She has made a living studying happiness. Fortunately for you and me, she has taken her scientific expertise on happiness and applied it to the art of raising children. In her book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, she gives practical advice to parents who want to raise happy kids. Don’t get the wrong idea. She’s not talking about a simple gushy, feel-good emotion. No, happiness is “a set of skills, habits, and mind-sets that set the stage for a wide range of positive emotions” that will last a lifetime. Notice the emphasis on skills, habits and mind-sets that a person can learn and teach. As parents, we have a responsibility to model these skills and teach them to our children…and this book offers practical advice for doing just that! Not convinced teaching happiness will help your child succeed in this “dog-eat-dog world”? Consider this: happy people have higher incomes, greater academic achievement, more job satisfaction, and more friends. Happiness contributes to healthy lasting marriages; and, it helps us persevere through, and successfully cope with, hardships and difficulties. As you can see, raising happy children is a pretty good goal. In her book Raising Happiness, Dr. Carter offers practical advice that ranges from teaching gratitude and self-discipline, helping our children build a healthy support group, taking care of yourself, teaching optimism and more…all of which contributes to happy, resilient children! Each chapter explains the benefits of a particular skill that will enhance happiness (such as forgiveness) in a straight forward, easy-to-read manner and gives practical advice to build that skill in yourself as a parent and in your children.  She even includes several “try this” sections with tips, scripts and strategies distilled from the research that you can implement with your family. This book is not just about pie-in-the-sky research either. Dr. Carter has personally implemented these strategies in her own family life as a single, working mother who co-parents with her children’s father! She has field practiced it.  Overall, this is a great book with great advice for raising healthy, happy children who have all the skills necessary for a lifetime of success. You can read more about this book on Dr. Carter’s Website Raising Happiness or purchase it from Amazon through Our Favorite Picks under More Parenting Resources.

8 “Family Things” for Which I’m Thankful

It is that time of year. You know, the time of year when people think about gratitude… Thanksgiving. In fact, I have seen several people posting thanks on their Facebook page each day to celebrate a month of thanksgiving. So, if you will bear with me for a moment, I want to share 8 things about family for which I am thankful. 

     1.   I am thankful for my wife. My wife supports me in so many ways. She encourages me and helps me work toward my dreams. She gives wise input to all our decisions and steers me away from unwise choices. All in all, she brings out the best in me.


2.   I am thankful for my daughters. I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters. They are talented, kind, and compassionate. I am often amazed at their acts of kindness as well as their compassion. I am very proud of them…and thankful to have them in my life.


3.   I am thankful for my parents. I understand more and more each day how blessed I am to have grown up in the family I did. My parents’ love and guidance set me on a path that has led to my own joyous family and life.


4.   I am thankful for the sound of music that so often pervades our home. Not just the radio, but the singing, piano playing, guitar playing, oboe playing, horn playing…that I so often hear. Music has truly added great joy to my family life.


5.   I am thankful for the family dinners we enjoyed. We do not get to have family dinners every night…I often work evenings. We do, however, enjoy family dinners and lunches on a regular basis. Some of my favorite memories revolve around dinner conversations, laughter, and intimate times of sharing. Sometime I will have to share some of those dinner conversations…actually, my family says I better not.


6.   I am thankful for times we worship as a family. I remember Christmas Eve services, Thanksgiving eve services, Sunday worship services, and camp worship services in which we worshipped as a family. The joy of seeing my family serve in worship has also been a great source of gratitude.


7.   I am thankful for times we serve others as a family. I look back with great fondness at the times of serving in VBS, children’s programs, and a mission trip together. Those times of service provided wonderful opportunities for us to connect with one another, share our family love with others, and grow together.


8.   I am thankful for our family vacations. Some of my favorite family vacations have included the beach and camping. There is nothing better than sitting and playing on the beach as a family. The relaxed time of togetherness led to deeper conversations and great fun that I would not trade for anything.

As I write this out, it sounds a little gushy…sappy even. But we are called to be a thankful people. When we remember to view the world and our families through the eyes of gratitude, we find more joy and greater intimacy. So, for the goal of joy and intimacy I can sound a little gushy—how about you? What are you most thankful for in your family?

How to Get Fired As A Parent

Are you tired of being in the role of parent? Tired of all the decisions, responsibilities, and demands? Well, if you are tired of your role as parent, I have a plan to get you fired! That’s right—you can get fired from your role as a parent with one easy step. One step and you will have no influence with your child. One step and your child will just quit listening to you and start arguing, even rebelling. Here it easy, the one step to get you fired as a parent: 

 

Intrude into your child’s life. Make every decision for them. Communicate, directly and indirectly, all your doubts about their ability to make any kind of good decision on their own. Force your wise choices on them. If they want an orange, demand that they really want an apple. Remind them that you know what they need better than they do. If they want to hold to some crazy idea like “rap is the best music,” hassle them until they finally submit to your desired beliefs (after all, they are the right ones). Lecture them until you convince them of the wisdom and soundness of your ideas. As you put this step into action, you will get lots of practice. The more you hassle, lecture, intrude, and make every decision for your child, the more your child will rebel and do the opposite. Fortunately, their rebellion will simply allow you more opportunity to practice hassling, lecturing, and intruding. Before you know it your child will fire you. It will happen before you know…well, without you even knowing it happened. You will be so caught up in hassling, lecturing, and intruding that you won’t even realize you’ve been fired. You’ll be expending all sorts of energy on a child who has already fired you.

 

Of course, if you would rather not get fired as a parent…if you would rather have a positive influence in your child’s life…try practicing acceptance and listening. Accept that your child may have different ideas than you. Sometimes those ideas differ because they are children…they are simply the ideas of a young and less mature person. Allow them the freedom to discuss those ideas with you. Listen to their ideas. Become curious about their ideas. Explore how they came to have that idea. Help them think about the idea and help them follow it to a logical conclusion. Accepting and listening will give them the opportunity and freedom to mature and grow.

 

Sometimes your child may express an opposing idea simply to establish their own identity. They want to prove they are their own person; and, they do so by disagreeing with you. Accept their ideas and listen. Become curious about their ideas. You can still voice your disagreement. But allow them the freedom to disagree with you by voicing your disagreement politely and calmly. They will listen more readily to your explanation for your own belief when you remain polite and calm. By accepting that they may believe differently than you, you allow them the freedom to explore both ideas—your idea and their idea—rather than simply defending their own.  As they explore both ideas, they will mature and grow.

 

Whatever the reason for their disagreement, you keep your role as parent by accepting and listening. Your credibility grows steadily stronger, your authority becomes more secure, and your influence grows more compelling as you accept and listen to your child. Sure, you will still have to discipline…and when you do discipline your child will get upset. However, when they know that you also accept them and listen to them, they will become more responsive to your role as a parent…and more open to your ideas. And that is worth all the effort!

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