Archive for June 28, 2012
A research team at the University of British Columbia published a study involving toddlers and generosity. In this study, each toddler received treats (like Goldfish crackers). A few minutes later, one group of toddlers was asked to give one of their treats to a puppet. Another group was given an extra treat to share with the puppet. The study revealed that the toddlers who shared their own treat with the puppet displayed greater happiness than the toddlers who were given a treat to share. In other words, the toddlers who made a personal sacrifice exhibited greater happiness than those who did not. The toddlers found the generosity of personal sacrifice emotionally rewarding. One author of the study said, “Forfeiting their own valuable resources for the benefit of others makes them happier than giving away just any treat.”
Two thoughts came to my mind when I read a summary of this study. One, Jesus said that unless we become like little children, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This study reveals an important lesson we can learn from children–it is better to give than receive. And, giving that includes some level of personal sacrifice elicits happiness. Generosity in the family contributes to joy. Families that practice sacrificial generosity will reap the reward of intimacy. Individual members of the generous family feel more significant because of their opportunity to impact others; more connected because they share something that is personally meaningful; and happier because (as this study suggests) sacrificial giving produces happiness…which brings me to my second thought about this study.
We, as parents, contribute to our children’s happiness when we encourage them to give to others…especially if it means they have to make some personal sacrifice. Sometimes we have trouble watching our children make a personal sacrifice. We hate to see them “lose something” they truly enjoy or lack something they really like having. So, we “protect” them from that feeling by giving them the “thing” to give away. Then, it is no skin off their nose. They do not have to make the sacrifice. We walk away feeling better because we do not have to see our children struggle with personal sacrifice. However, this study suggests that when we take away their opportunity to make a personal sacrifice, we rob them of happiness. We deprive them of the complete happiness that comes from making a generous personal sacrifice for another person. On the other hand, when we force them to give to others, we rob them of the joyous reward they might receive from freely offering a gift…and we plant seeds of resentment. But, when we model personal sacrifice in our giving…when we encourage them to give generously…when we present opportunities for sacrificial giving…we increase the opportunity for our children’s happiness.
What are some ways you can model personal sacrifice in giving? In what areas might you encourage your children to give generously?
2. Become sidewalk chalk artists. You can purchase inexpensive sidewalk chalk at the dollar store. Then, let your children’s creativity flow as they draw on your sidewalk and driveway. Don’t worry; the chalk will wash away with the first rain. If the rain doesn’t come, simply wash it off with the hose. For those who are very artistic and want a real challenge, try drawing some 3-D pictures like the ones found at this link. Other ideas involving outdoor art include making murals with butcher paper and markers or building sand castles and sand sculptures at the beach, or simply sitting on the porch to color. For a little inspiration, check out these sand sculptures.
3. You can find outdoor concerts during the summer months as well. My family and I went to an outdoor symphony concert (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) early in June this year. My children and I also enjoy going to the outdoor jazz concerts downtown throughout the summer. In addition, several area parks have outdoor concerts during the summer months. These concerts are often free and always casual. Pack a snack, go to the park, and enjoy great music and one another’s company.
4. Go to a local farmer’s market this summer as well. You can share fresh fruit and other goodies, often at a relatively low cost. If you would like a little more activity, find a local “pick your own produce” farm in your area. Go to the Pick Your Own site to find a “pick your own farm” in your area. Enjoy time as a family picking strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or other fruit. Bring the fruit home and include your children in preparing it the way you like it. Then the best part, enjoy eating it together.
5. Summer evenings are filled with opportunities for fun. You can have a picnic in your yard. Enjoy a small campfire. Make some smores. Catch some fireflies. Put up tent and sleep outside. Enjoy stargazing. Play capture the flag.
6. You don’t have to wait until evenings for outdoor fun in your yard. Put up a bird feeder and watch the birds as they come to eat. Identify the types of birds you see. A hummingbird feeder provides extra special excitement as you watch hummingbirds flutter at the feeder. You can also plant some flowers that will attract butterflies.
7. What about those rainy days? Get your child a library card and go to the library on rainy days. Libraries often have various activities throughout the summer. Our library had a rabbit the children could visit, lunch reading dates, various book theme parties, and book discussion groups for older children. Check out your local library to see what they offer. While you are there, get a few books to read on your vacation.
8. Bowling is another rainy day activity. Visit kidsbowlfree.com to learn how any child under 15-years-old can bowl two games every day this summer for only the cost shoe rentals. I’m not a great bowler, but I have a great time playing, talking with my family, and sharing the time it takes to bowl (and even making fun of my lack of skill). It is a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy.
9. Churches have Vacation Bible School during the summer. These activities range from programs that last 2-3 hours per day for a one-week to 3-week day camps at some of the larger congregations. You can check with various churches in your area. This is a great activity for children to attend. They learn a lesson about Christ, have a snack, and do crafts as well as have a great time with good adult supervision.
10. Finally, don’t forget to just enjoy some down time. Make sure you and your children have time to do nothing…time to relax and recharge. Let your children rest. Take the time to enjoy resting with them. When they say “I’m bored” reply with “Good. That gives you the chance to come up with something fun to do on your own.” Let them figure out how to entertain themselves. Enjoy watching how their creative minds come up with something out of nothing to have some of the best times of the summer.
These four brief steps begin the process of putting on a positive face of anger. A positive face of anger allows you to reveal yourself and build intimacy. If you struggle with anger in your family, I encourage you to read Taking Charge of Anger by W. Robert Nay, PhD. Dr. Nay describes the faces of anger in more detail and offers a comprehensive and effective method for learning to manage anger…an excellent investment in your family!
Family shepherds also use discipline to guide their children toward maturity. Discipline involves teaching… teaching the values of mature, healthy living. Discipline begins early in life and focuses on four important lessons:
2.The impact of behavior on others. Family shepherds help their children learn how their behavior impacts those around them. If your child’s loud behavior bothers others in the restaurant, let them know. If their bossy behavior makes their sister upset, make sure your child knows. Don’t do this in a harsh, demeaning way. Lovingly point out how others respond to their behavior. Gently point out if their behavior made their sister cry or others in the restaurant feel uncomfortable. This allows them to develop empathy and actually see the nonverbal cues other people present to them about their behavior. Of course, family shepherds also point out when their children’s behavior has a positive effect on others and themselves. They let their child know when their behavior makes their sister smile and when other restaurant customers admire their behavior.
3.The pain of misbehavior. Guidance through discipline also means allowing children to suffer hardships, struggle with decisions, and experience the pain of natural consequences. Unfortunately, family shepherds hurt right along with their children. Parents hate to see their children struggle. When they see their child in pain, they feel the pain too. Some parents, in an effort to protect their child from pain and to limit their own pain, prematurely save their child from some consequence. This interferes with their growth and maturity. So, even though it’s hard at times, let ’em suffer now and again…it’s good for us all.
4.The benefits of good behavior. Parents discuss the long-term consequences of behavior as well as the short term consequences, the benefits as well as the detriments of behavior. Family shepherds will help their children learn how behavior impacts reputation, opportunity, personal esteem, contentment, and achievement.
Grace crushers tend to hold legalistic expectations. Parents in grace crushing families make demands that exceed their child’s developmental ability. They control their child with rewards and punishments, demanding that their child “give in” to their expectations. Grace crushers make their child’s decisions for him. Disagreement is viewed as disrespect and punished, leaving their child little opportunity to develop his unique personality. When their child does assert his independence, he is crushed with shame-inducing statements like “I’m glad your grandmother isn’t alive to see that” or “I work all day to make your life better and you treat me like this!” Or, the child may be forced into submission with fear-centered statements like “If you keep this up, I’ll call the police to take you away” or “I don’t have to put up with this, I’ll just leave.” Such comments crush a child’s spirit rather than teach appropriate behavior. They produce resentment, fear of failure, feelings of inadequacy, and a constant need for approval.And, the demanding, controlling behavior of grace crushing parents teaches the child that he is not trusted and his parents do not believe he is adequate, capable, or trustworthy. In an effort to gain independence and prove his adequacy, the child in a grace crushing home eventually rebels. As Josh McDowell says, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”
Grace manipulators,on the other hand,focus on relationship to the neglect of rules. They spoil their child. Parents in grace manipulating families believe that simply accepting one another and maintaining a peaceful relationship will lead to a child with self-control and positive character. They hate to see anyone suffer pain. Rather than watch their child struggle with not getting what he wants, they give in to his wishes and desires. In so doing, they protect him from beneficial pain and rob him of opportunities to learn. They also deprive him of self-respect and self-assurance by making life “easy.” Many grace manipulators even accept the consequences of their child’s behavior instead of allowing their child to suffer those consequences, like staying up late to finish their child’s school project rather than allowing the child to suffer any consequence. Ultimately, parents in a grace manipulating household become a slave to their spoiled child’s schedule, desires, and wants. They eventually grow resentful of their child’s constant demands and wonder how their child developed such a sense of entitlement. They will even be surprised when their child rebels in response to unmet selfish desires.
Grace-filled families recognize the importance of relationships and mature character. Parents in grace-filled families believe that mature character is more important than immediate comfort and personal satisfaction. Grace-filled parents believe their child is capable of learning from consequences so they do not bail him out. Instead of crushing their child with consequences, they love him by using consequences as a learning tool that deepens relationship over time. So, they develop appropriate “rules to live by” and build strong relationships. Consider these points about grace filled parents and discipline.
2.Grace-filled parents clearly focus on behaviors, not character, when giving a consequence. They do not attack their child’s character. There is no name calling, demeaning comments, or threats.
3.Grace-filled families believe the best about others, even the misbehaving child. “Love believes all things, hopes all things and bears all things” even when dealing with misbehavior. Gracious families believe that family members truly do want to grow more mature. They believe that family members ultimately do want to please the family with whom they have an intimate relationship. They have a deep-seated belief that their child is capable of learning, growing, and maturing.
4.Grace-filled families empathize with a person’s discomfort and pain without protecting them from the consequence. They remain available throughout the consequence, allowing the person to experience grace and truth. This involves communicating an understanding of the discomfort of consequences while maintaining the consequence. Doing this effectively balances the hard line of a consequence while, at the same time, expresses the soft emotion of empathy.
5.Grace-filled families teach appropriate behavior as part of the discipline process. They begin by evaluating the negative behavior, even considering the impact of the negative behavior on the child and those around him. It is important for all of us to realize the impact of negative behavior on our lives and the lives of those around us. Then, grace-filled parents teach more appropriate behaviors through discussion and problem-solving.
6.Grace-filled families talk about potential problem situations ahead of time in order to prevent problem behaviors. Once again, these discussions revolve around potential consequences as well as family values and beliefs.
7.Grace-filled families always work to restore relationships whenever negative behaviors threaten to destroy relationships. They follow consequences with a reassurance of love for the person.
Don’t be afraid to discipline. Discipline confidently…with grace!
Give each family member a sincere compliment.
- Tell each family member one character trait that you see in them and appreciate. Give an example of how you have seen that trait in action.
- Thank each family member for two things they did for your family this week.
- Tell each family member something they have done that makes you proud of them.
- Write a short note telling your family how much you love them. Hide it somewhere that they will find it during the day.
- Do a chore today that is usually done by another family member.
- Give your spouse and your children a 6-second hug today. In fact, give them two 6-second hugs-one to start the day and one to end the day.
- During dinner (or call a family meeting), tell your family three ways in which they make you happy.
- Give each family member a small gift or card that you know they will like. Maybe they will like a bag of M&M’s, a homemade card, flowers, or a home cooked meal.
- Mail each family member a card. Yes, I said mail. Isn’t it exciting to receive a surprise card or package through the “snail mail?”
- Give up the last bite of ice cream, the best seat, or the last cookie…and let a family member have it instead.
- Tell each family member one thing you respect about them.
- Find a sincere reason to say thank you to your spouse three times today…do the same for each of your children.
- Give each family member a back rub or massage this week.
- Tell your spouse how attractive you find them…be specific about what you find most attractive.