Parenting: The Short Version

Concerned parents and guardians often ask us how to handle certain situations, learning challenges, etc. With online opinions from “experts” and those claiming educational expertise so prevalent, there are many voices adding to the often conflicting dialog regarding Early Childhood Education. To help them sort through the noise, we have compiled a list of the three most foundational principles of parenting:

1. Trust God‘s Choice: Children are a gift. Given by God. And each child has an earthly assignment. A divine purpose. It is not a mistake that you have been given this child. Nor that he/she has been given you as the parent. Knowing this, no one is more qualified to make better parenting decisions for this child than you. And although you may read books on parenting to become more skillful in this area, when all is said and done, you know best what the child needs and what it will take to make him or her prosper.

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2. Trust Your Heart: Above all else, above being on a sports team, self-defense classes, or music lessons, it is vital that your child know that you want to spend time with him. This may sound like a given, but we have had grown children tell us more than once that this is the one thing they missed as a child. On the outside, their parents did all the “right things.” But on the inside, the child always longed for that sincere heart connection where the parent honestly just wanted to spend time with the child.

3. Trust Your Intuition: A parent is equipped with a special anointing for knowing. It’s a gift. Part of the initial equipment. And this “knowing” can be cultivated through prayer and practice. Children cannot always articulate or explain what is going on. And lack of experience and immaturity prevent them from seeing clearly. So becoming sensitive to the leading of the Lord and trusting your spirit to inform you concerning what you need to do completes your parenting package.

Enjoy the journey!

The Skill of Classification

One morning I was reading to a group of mature 4 year olds. When I introduced the book title and was explaining its meaning, a hand in the back row shot up.

I called on the young girl and she asked with a worried look, “Is that a GOOD word or a BAD word?” After I explained the definition, gave examples and reassured her that the word was indeed a good one, she relaxed.
She had obviously been instructed in appropriate vocabulary and was developing an organizational system about the word’s proper use. This skill, known as Classification, is predominantly a math skill. We see it in toddlers as they sort blocks by shape or color. And we see it in children as they line up cars according to some common characteristic.

To read more about this skill, “Cultivating an Inclusive Mindset” and “Literacy and Homeschooling FAQ.”

When Life Gets Tough

When life is not going as planned, we need strategies to survive. What better principle to teach our children than how to make it through the tough times?

Here is a way to begin …

  • First, it helps to remember that whatever you are going through, you are not alone. God is with you.
  • Second, do not compare yourself, your life, or your current circumstances with anyone else.  We are all dealing with “issues,” even if they don’t show … even on social media.
  • Third, one constant truth is that “everything changes.” It’s the nature of life on earth. And until we pass on, life will remain in a constant state of flux. So as challenging as life may seem right now, remember that circumstances will change and your light will brighten.

In the meantime, to help bring you out into the sunshine, here are a few strategies to ponder …

1. Be thankful in all circumstances – not thankful FOR the trouble, but thankful that you are coming OUT of the trouble. Even if you can’t see how right now. By finding one thing to be thankful for, you shift the focus – even if you have to be thankful for something as mundane as the grass. It is a way to begin.

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2. Forgive. Carrying around unforgiveness contaminates our peace and eats away at our bodies. Even if it is ourselves that we must forgive.

We have all done foolish things. Made inappropriate comments. And asked ourselves “What were you thinking?” We have all been cheated on, lied to, stolen from, hurt, and betrayed. Living in this world – a world dominated by selfishness and deceit – is part of our earthly experience. We should not be surprised when man lets us down. But we must not carry around the wrong and burden ourselves with such a heavy load. Let it go! Let … it … GO!

3. Be kind. The other day I received the nicest email from Roger, a website visitor. It was a short “Thank you for keeping this website up-to-date … I continue to learn …” That was it. A thoughtful gentleman just letting me know that I had touched a life. His gratitude moved me deeply.

Isn’t that why we are here? To encourage and serve one another? Just ask Roger. His kind words made my day!

“And be ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another …”

It will help us – and our children – through the tough times.

A Soft Place to Land

Holidays are times intended for celebration. And as we prepare, we hope that the gathering goes well – even though in some families, some version of the dreaded Uncle “Smart Mouth” will be there.

We all want to avoid family division and strife. We all want to nurture and retain lasting relationships. And whatever their ages, we all want to stay connected to our children’s hearts.

But for some families, strife is a reality. And it is the time before and after the meal that contain the most volatile interactions.  One key word can strike the heart of its target and open wounds not visited for 12 months. Like sharp arrows, the words of well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) relatives can pierce a soul.

As hosts, parents, or watchful guests, what can we do to minimize the damage that cryptic and subtle jabs can bring?

I once heard a man in his forties talk about when he was a teen. He would come home drunk and as he stumbled through the dimly lit living room, his waiting mother would quietly engage him in conversation. She would say, “Sit with me here a moment while I tell you the most amazing thing I just read.” There was no lecture. No reprimand about his slurred speech or unkempt appearance. No condemnation. Just whispered gentleness.

The man said that it was this example set by his mother that made him the man he is today. He said, “I knew I had done wrong. And I knew she was disappointed in me. But she made sure that she was a soft place to land. She wanted my heart and protected it at all cost.”

As we walk through the holidays, let us remember that our focus is to capture hearts by being a soft place to land. It’s a predetermined choice. A mindset surrounded by kindness and gentleness. To listen, encourage, and yield to compassion. Let us be a soft place to land. Our children, and their friends, are watching.

Making Memories

The holiday season fills us with warm memories. Grandma’s butter cake. The smell of cinnamon. But not every home experiences the joy of the season. Not every family gathered around the dining room table on Thanksgiving experiences unity. Not every house knows peace. And although you and I cannot fix every family, we CAN make a difference in what a child remembers about this season. How? By helping to make a memory. Because holiday memories are made by design.

As you know, holiday celebrations differ, depending upon a family’s heritage and faith. Inside our homes we all have the right and the privilege of expressing our faith or lack of faith, with conviction. But outside of our homes, the space is reserved for the children. For every child’s eye should delight in the joy and happiness that the holiday season brings.

Inside our home in 1957 – the year the Soviet Union launched the first orbiting satellite, Sputnik – my Aunt attached a small gold covered gift to every box she wrapped. She said it was our “Sputnik.”

But outside of our home – the space which was dedicated to neighboring children – my father built a life-sized manger and nativity scene. Whole families would make the trek through the snow up to the grove of hemlock pine to view the holy scene. Under the low-hung branches stood a concerned Joseph, while Mary knelt at the baby’s side. Animals were scattered in strategic spots peeking out from behind the hay.

Across the street, a sleigh waited for gifts while next door, blue stars were suspended to light up the landscape. Up and down the street, candles glowed in windows, flags flew, and snowmen proudly stood at attention. And in this rich and diverse heritage of celebration, our neighborhood thrived.

If you have not yet added the holiday spirit to your front door, consider sharing the joy of the season with those in your midst. Add a little bit of who you are to the scene. And in the process, you may just be making a memory.

Editor’s Note: If you need a little help explaining Santa to young children, here’s a letter from the man himself that will do it for you.

Halloween’s Open Door

Halloween is day that people either love or hate. There is not much middle ground here. Either folks go all out dressing as witches and vampires, or they avoid it at all cost, preaching the origin as pagan and demonic.

No matter what side of the issue you stand on, it’s a holiday we all have to deal with. Your children may be dressing as biblical characters and going to church, or they may be plotting their course through the neighborhood. No matter which direction they scatter, it is important we remember that this is an opportunity to minister love.

On the other side of your door will be innocent young children, or the worldly souls who may be lost and forgotten. They may be scared or greedy. Too young or too old. Too timid or too aggressive. Whatever the case, they are ALL God’s children and in need of love. Kindness. And generosity.

This is our opportunity to plant seeds of kindness in children we may never see again. It is a once-in-a-lifetime open door to add value to a little life and a not-so-little life. So plan a strategy in which they will never forget your house and the love that lives there.

The world will come to our doors. They will be looking for candy. The question is, what will they find? Will it be a smile and gentle conversation, or will it be a dark door with curtains drawn. From that night on, our houses will be labeled. Will they be known as the houses where love dwells? The choice we make will last a lifetime.

New Parts

Recently we went camping, setting up our temporary digs in an RV park near a large city. Our next door neighbor was an elderly man, staying for six weeks so that he could take advantage of the excellent medical facilities nearby. Several weeks into his stay, I asked him how he was recovering from cataract surgery.

“I can see as if I were twenty years old again!” He replied. “With my new eyes, new teeth, and new hearing aids, I feel like Mr. Potato Head.”

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Being made new on the outside is certainly cause for rejoicing. But being made new on the inside is even more freeing.

You know that fleeting feeling of newness that comes when you have done something well? The confidence that comes from seeing that you are becoming the best version of yourself ? You 2.0?

The question is, are we teaching our children to feel like Mr. Potato Head, too? Are we allowing them, on the inside, to replace malfunctioning parts with new ones? Replace mistakes with new opportunities for success? Replace bad memories with good ones?

When a child does something wrong, it is important that we let him know that he can be made new again. That he can receive new eyes, seeing himself successful and well-loved. New ears where he can hear good words about how he is valued and capable. New joy that comes from doing something well.

Let us remember today to give ourselves – and our children – new inward parts, new confidence, and new opportunities for success.

What Do YOU Think?

Feeding fear – inadvertently – can mark our children’s perception of life.

We periodically check the statistics on this website to see how many times each page was viewed. From this we can determine which articles are of greatest interest. The other morning I powered up my computer only to find that no stats had been calculated during the night. The lack of information frustrated me and finally, about midday, I emailed the hosting company and they quickly fixed the problem.

The incident caused me to wonder, though, what would happen if I monitored other areas of my life – like television viewing – as closely as I did my website stats?

  • What if I monitored, for example, how many times during an hour of prime time, I received the notion that sickness and disease were imminent?
  • How many times I received the idea that indigestion was looming and sleepless nights would require a sleep aid?
  • How many times the side effects of chemotherapy would pass through my consciousness?

Exactly what was I feeding my mind, anyway? I decided to find out.

The results: The next evening I tallied the commercials during an hour of prime time viewing. To my surprise, in addition to the heartburn, skin rash, medicate-your-child, flu-is-coming-and-you-are-going-to-get-it dialogue, there was a barrage of coming attractions filled with terror, violence, and sexual promiscuity. I was filling my mind with 60-second snippets of mayhem and perversion, of fear and death! All things contrary to God’s Word.

Each evening the life of God was being siphoned out of me and replaced by all things negative! Even more shocking is when I did the math. If I watched just one hour of prime time television each evening – containing at least 6 “you-could-have-this-disease” or “look at this terror” ad – and multiplied it by 365 days, that would mean that in the next twelve months, I would be told 2,190 times that sickness and disease were coming or that I should be afraid. And if I watched 2 hours … well, you get the idea.

When I realized what was happening, I decided to make a change. I decided it was time to cherish the mute button. It was time to preserve my peace by allowing my thoughts to meditate on good things.

Now every time a negative commercial appears, I have my own 60 second commercial. I thank God for his protection, or that we are all well and whole, or I just close my eyes and rest.

Conduct your own survey. Tally up what you are receiving – what your children are receiving. What do you think?

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

You Are Valued

We want you to know that we pray for you – our website visitors – every day.

We value your visit, your time, and your life.

More importantly, God values you too. He has brought you here today to remind you that He has both a purpose and a plan for your life. Never again will you be alone, unappreciated, or uncovered by prayer.

GOD BLESS YOU!