Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thinking out loud

The week has been full to overflowing, and my thoughts are sloshing around like water in a bucket so, taking a tip from a fellow blogger, I am going to simply share a list of questions on my mind today, and let you think about them too! Feel free to respond.

  1. Why am I surprised when the moon, which has a strong enough pull to move the oceans, also makes
    kids crazy?
  2. Wouldn't it be nice to know how to predict what will stay with your children and what will be forgotten?
  3. How can we integrate more time with nature into everyone's lives? (This thought was provoked by the information that second grade students from Minneapolis and St. Paul just released 75,000 ladybugs in the Mall of America to help keep their plants aphid-free! I love the ideas of ladybugs at the mall!)
  4. Why are great gifts of artistry so often accompanied by mental illness or addiction?
  5. Do chicks pecking their way out of eggshells or plants bursting out of seeds suffer pain or discomfort? In other words, is all growth accompanied by pain?
  6. How can we better control the power of the internalized expectation? (This is provoked by information from a study that says having a college fund, regardless of size, increases the likelihood of college graduation by 45%. We should figure out how to harness this power because we also know that if we expect failure we are also likely to get it!)
  7. How do we stop being so "parochial"? Comparing the news reported by the BBC and the news reported by ABC makes me wonder if Nero's "bread and circuses" have arrived in the United States.
  8. What do you call the mindset that is neither competitive nor collaborative? Perhaps the word does not exist because the mindset doesn't either? Are there implications for relationships in this?
Sorry for the half-baked ideas. Perhaps one of them will reach completion before next week! In the meantime, send me any insights this generates for you. I'd love to hear your thoughts, stories, or examples.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Sense of Proportion

As I write this, it has been less than 24 hours since the explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line. The television has kept us abreast of every development, every story of heroism, every tragedy spelled out in gratuitous detail. What do we tell our kids about events such as these?

I was very touched by this meme that popped up all over Facebook almost immediately. I think Mrs. Rogers was a very wise woman. Reminding children to focus on the goodness going on in the midst of the terror helps them get a sense of proportion. There was a bad person who planted explosives at a race, but look at all the good people who are there to help! I think this is a great message to send to your kids. This will not, unfortunately, be the last time you will need to point this out to them. 

Remind them that we can do something to help too; we can pray, even when we are far away. And we can look for things to be thankful for in the midst of the disaster: the kindness of strangers, the emergency workers who know just what to do, the dogs who can find bombs, all the people who weren't harmed. Your list will be different from mine, but it will comfort you and your children to look for things to be grateful for in the midst of a tragedy.

Point out to your children that while this is the only thing on the news, there are many other things going on in the world at the same time. In this particular instance, one large event that went virtually ignored in the news was a major earthquake in Iran. The death toll is expected to exceed one hundred. Those people need our prayers every bit as much as the people of Boston. Help your child understand that the magnitude of media coverage is not a true indication of the importance of an event.

This is also a great time to talk about showing kindness to everyone. Acts of kindness will nearly always earn respect from most people. How many acts of violence are committed by people who have been scarred by abuse or bullying or neglect? If your child is popular, she has the power to influence others to be kind. If your child is picked on and bullied, it is important to help him learn to stand up for himself and to recognize that for every person who bullies him, there are far more who don't. Keeping a sense of proportion is vital. 

Lastly, be sure to model your faith in the midst of a frightening event. Pray with your child for the victims and emergency personnel. Pray for the "enemy." Talk about how we need not fear death because we know there is a new life beyond this one. Share what you believe. Tell your children what gives you courage and peace in hard times. God will use evil to bring good, and one of those good things is an opportunity to share your faith with your children. Faith, not the media, can establish a sense of proportion in the midst of the unthinkable.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Daddy Sang Bass. . .

Sitcoms are filled with references to how mothers influence their children but precious little attention is given to how dads influence their kids. Yet the marks dads leave, even if they are absent, are huge. Fatherly influence is important to both boys and girls and goes way beyond genetics. Here's a very small sampling of ways that fathers influence their children:
  • Preschoolers with actively involved fathers have stronger verbal skills.
  • Children tend to embrace the food preferences of their fathers.
  • Children with actively involved fathers display fewer behavior problems in school.
  • Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.
  • Fathers role model what it means to be an adult to adolescent sons.
  • A father's presence or absence significantly impacts a child's security.
  • Fathers who attend church regularly are more likely to see their children continue in the church as adults.
  • A young girl's positive relationship with her father fosters better relationships in the workplace and with authority figures in adulthood.
Sounds like a very tall order! What is an actively involved father? How do we get all these benefits for our kids? Let me propose a ridiculously simple exercise to get you started: Sing in church!

Active participation in church means more than standing up and sitting down at the appropriate times. It means folding your hands and closing your eyes during the prayers, and encouraging your child to do the same. It means singing along with the hymns. Not all of you sing like Blake Shelton or Josh Groban. No problem. Just sing along as best you can, and you will get better. More importantly, your kids will want to sing with you. Reading along with your kids in the hymnal, whispering the meanings of words they don't know, or singing your favorite choruses in the car after church will make a big impression on them. When you don't sing along it says to them that you are not involved, and they will copy you.

What follows is a generalization that will not hold true in every family, but it is still worth thinking about. Most children spend significantly more time with their mothers than with their fathers. This makes a dad an object of greater mystery and interest than a mom who is far more available. Your kids are watching. Intently. They know what you do, and they imitate it.

My mother deliberately taught me a thousand things before I started school, including how to love my kids. My dad taught me to tie my shoes. Guess what I remember in exquisite detail? You got it! Learning to tie my shoes still ranks as a big achievement because it earned my dad's approval.

So sing to the Lord. Sing with gusto and enthusiasm, in tune or out. Sing out your wonder and awe at the amazing child entrusted to you by God Almighty. Someone is watching you.