For Parents

Know nothing except... a lesson in teaching my kids

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You want the best for your kids. Admittedly I want my kids to be little geniuses that create astonishing advancements for the good of mankind. Because who doesn’t want their kid to succeed? Who doesn’t want their kid to ace their exams, stand head and shoulders above the rest, and lead the world in making it a better place? I often find myself pressured to produce greatness in my children. As a homeschooler, I have seen the kids who graduated at 15, became lawyers at 18, and are on their way to presidency by 25, and I think “yup, I’m doing it all wrong. My kid isn’t a concert pianist, or a rocket scientist, or a brilliant mathematician.” And I hang my head.

I succumb to comparison. I get sucked into my own schooling goals for excellence. And pretty soon a drive that was once a healthy desire for strong academics becomes unrealistic expectations, lack of vision, and frustrated teaching.

“God, I can’t do it. I can’t be the teacher or the mom I need to be. I didn’t check all the boxes. I’m not reaching my goals. I’m not being the person I want to be. My kid isn’t being the kid I want him to be. I’m failing. Someone can do this so much better, with so much more grace.”

It was one of those days. Two kids under two demanding all my attention, while my older two are trying to wade through their homework and barraging me with frustrated questions. Then God directed me to these words...“Know nothing... but Christ.”

Paul writes to Corinth as a spiritual father who wants to teach those under his care. There are many things Paul can teach them. Yet he chooses to forget everything else but one thing- Jesus. “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He goes on to say that he shared Jesus in such a way that demonstrated the power of the Spirit, ensuring that their faith would not rest on human wisdom.

I resolved to know nothing... except Jesus

This whole chapter blows my mind. It challenges every priority I set forth and shifts every aim to center around Christ first.

What if all I ever achieved was to demonstrate the love of God? What if my kids never really excel at basics like reading and math, but they leave my home as adults living and loving like Jesus? What if all they really know is Christ?

Paul continues to say that there is wisdom to be gained; that we can strive to grow in knowledge, and our wise Creator has endless wonders for us to explore and discover in our schooling journey! But Paul qualifies all our wisdom and knowledge seeking with this important first premise- first, know Christ.

Know His heart. Know His boundless love. Know Christ’s humility that serves generously and heartily. Know Christ’s deep compassion that moves us beyond complacency. Know Christ’s great grace that washes away our failures and equips us to forgive one another. Know Christ’s goodness that calls us to enjoy Him in all the beauty displayed in the world around us.

Know His Heart.
Know His boundless love.
Know His humility that serves generously and heartily.

Know Christ. For as we know Him, we will indeed grow, and seek knowledge, and gain wisdom. As they know Christ, my children will desire to unveil the wonders of God through applied study. And then, when they are ready to tackle the world on their own, and find their own voice, they will tackle it with love, and servanthood, and goodness. Their voices will be the ones to sing praises, and speak life, and cry out for justice until it appears. They will not only know things, they will do good things with what they know.

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As we Know Him,
we will indeed grow, and seek knowledge, and gain wisdom.

So maybe the boxes won’t all get checked. Maybe we won’t reach all our goals. Maybe my kid won’t be a genius. But if I can love like Jesus, and walk in grace toward my children, and invite them to know Christ, then even in my failures they will know more goodness than any math book could ever give.

They will not only know things,
they will do good things with what they know.

It Ain’t Stranger Danger Anymore

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“Don’t talk to strangers” doesn’t work anymore. It used to be the cure-all of how to protect your kid. But if a child is lost, they will need to talk to a stranger. If your child ever wants to make friends they will need to talk to a stranger. In fact we talk to strangers all the time. It just doesn’t make sense to make an all encompassing rule of “never talk to strangers.”

Instead we need to teach children who is safe. They need to be on guard for manipulative or deceptive adults. who they can trust, and how to be safe. It has been found that a large percentage of abuse and assault comes from family, friends or acquaintances. That means that they are more likely to be harmed by someone they know than a stranger. We need to equip our kids in a new way.

Check out this website for more information on rethinking stranger danger, and this website for help concerning abuse. Here are some important guidelines for what to teach your child to help them be safe.

Look out for tricky adults.

 

  1. Teach kids to recognize tricky adults.

    • Tricky adults never need help from a child.

    • Tricky adults ask you to keep secrets.

    • Tricky people might be someone you love very much. Even people we love can do bad things, so never feel bad about telling the truth about people you love.

    • Tricky adults will lie. They might pretend to know your parents, to be someone important like a police officer, pretend there is an emergency, or act like they can boss you around. Always check with your parents before trusting anything a stranger says.

    • Tricky adults often seem very nice and friendly, give you things, or promise nice things.

    • Tricky adults will ask you to do something that might make you feel uncomfortable, and then they will tell you it is good or nice.

  2. Mothers with children are safe. I tell my children that if they are ever lost and need help they can go find a mother with children. I give this caveat- go find a mother with children. Don’t go with a mother that comes to you. They can also trust a uniformed officer.

  3. Create a code. Give your children a secret code word that can be given to trusted adults when picking them up. Teach your children to ask for the secret code word before going with the adult. This will help guard children against tricky adults who create false emergencies. If you need to send someone to pick up your child in an actual emergency, the trusted adult can share the secret code word and the child will know they are safe. 

  4. Name private parts what they are. No silly names. Teaching your children the proper anatomical names empowers your children with language to explain and understand. If they begin using silly names, you will know that someone has been speaking to them other than you.

  5. Allow kids to say no. Even to Aunt Philomena. If kids are corrected for saying no to adults for unwanted affection, then their ability to understand boundaries is affected, and they may feel wrong for expressing discomfort for affection they have received. You don’t want to hug Aunt Philomena? You don’t have to. You don’t want to kiss Grandpa George? That’s ok.

  6. Encourage your kids to show affection. Are you contradicting yourself, lady? Didn’t you just say kids can say no? Encourage your kids to show affection, but do not force them. By teaching your kids what healthy physical relating looks like and feels like you are enforcing a lifelong health of relating. Don’t put no-touch policies on your kids. Instead encourage the right kind of touch. Good touch fosters good touch. No touching philosophies encourages acting out, frustrated bodies, and incapable relating. For younger kids (e.g. 2-7 years), if you notice bad touching from peers, (such as aggression or unwelcome behaviors) counter the touch with correction and a better response.

  7. Teach kids to respect no. Teach your child to respect others boundaries. If another child doesn't want a hug, encourage them when they listen, or affirm that they must respect that child's boundaries. This helps your child to recognize and resist abuse, and be an advocate for those being mistreated.

  8. Trust your child when they express concern or uncomfortability. Listen to them. Ask them questions, and let them know they can share anything with you.

  9. If your child has been mistreated... 

    1. 1-I love you, and always will. 2-You are safe. 3-It's not your fault. The moment that a child shares an experience abuse, you must affirm your love for them, let them know they are safe with you, and that they have done nothing wrong. Often when a child has been abused they fear sharing what has happened, and wonder if they will still be accepted if a parent finds out. Abusers are manipulative. They often threaten harm if they tell what has happened. They also try making a child think that they initiated the contact, and therefore that they are responsible. 

    2. If they share an experience or you discover that they have been mistreated, ask questions to get as many details as possible and write them down. (E.g. What happened, who was involved, where was it, how often, for how long has this been happening, etc.) If the child is not in immediate danger, then wait until they are rested before speaking to the police so that they can speak clearly.

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It is scary to consider your child being in danger. Worrying does not help, but being wise and teaching kids does. Above all be aware of your children and keep conversation open. Make the time to connect with them, and don't be afraid to ask hard questions. 

I love you.
You are safe.
It’s not your fault.

"Did you have fun?" Asking better questions

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Kids come home from a friends house. “Did you have fun?”

Kids finished playing in the pool. “Did you have fun?”

Kids pile into the car, seat belts fastened, sweat dripping from foreheads, breathing heavily from a good run, jump and slide. As we pull out of the playground driveway I ask yet again, “did you have fun?”

I know why I say it. When it comes to playdates or outings where we were not with our kids, we often use the quick “did you have fun?” to check-up on what transpired outside our watchful eye.

But what am I really asking them?

Did you get satisfaction from what just happened? Were your desires met? Did you get everything you wanted from this experience? Did you benefit? Did you get treated the way you wanted? Were you catered to? Were you satisfied?

“Did you have fun?” asks about personal fulfillment. And that is a good thing- but there are better things. There are better questions. Because we are not aiming to teach our kids to be concerned about themselves. We are aiming to teach our kids to be concerned about others.

Human beings seem to have little trouble looking out for ourselves. We are pretty good at wanting things that please us. “Did you have fun?” puts the focus of our activities on personal pleasure. It implies that an activity was successful, worth our time, or worth trying again if we “had fun”.

I’m not knocking fun. As Dr Suess would say, “these things are fun, and fun is good.” Fun is good. But the question “did you have fun” implies a passive reception of fun. As if your kid should have been on the receiving end of the fun. But they can be the generators of the fun. In fact, usually that’s when the fun happens.

Did you make it fun?

So the first shift I propose is this: Did you make it fun?

With this small shift in focus we give our kids the opportunity to consider others. They become responsible. They are no longer at the mercy of the experience- they create the experience. They are capable to change their situation. They have a choice in the matter. They are empowered to make a situation better. They can change pouting, negativity, or lack into an opportunity for “fun”. They can even make it fun for the others involved, not just themselves.

And this brings me to another question. Because sometimes things aren’t always fun. Sometimes things are hard. Sometimes we give and we don’t receive, and that’s ok too.

We can ask a bigger question.

“Did you love well?”

Another mom shared this doozy of a question with me. What a beautiful question. What an important question. What an important task.

Did you love well?
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Suddenly we are not the center of the universe. Suddenly our activities are not just about us. We are challenged to love. Even if it wasn’t fun. Even if it was hard. When we ask our kids this question we ask them to consider their actions in light of others. And even though they might be young or small, they can make any situation valuable and important. They can love, and love well. 

These questions can open up conversation with your kids, and give you the check-in you were intending. If you worry that a playdate might have gone awry, or someone could have mistreated your child, then "did you have fun" or "did you love well" might give you a hint, but you'll have to dig deeper. But these questions do serve to change our kids perspective about playdates and their role in the world. They are agents of change and an influence of good. 

They can love their neighbor. They can share. They can sacrifice. They can be the greater good, no matter the circumstance. And that is worth asking. It is worth asking our little ones. It is worth asking ourselves. It is worth implementing. For when we love well, we change the world.

 

Another day at the superstore

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Another day at the superstore. Screams. Running into traffic. Full body resistance to sitting in the shopping cart seat. So many things to complete in a day- errands, work, diapers, laundry, cleaning, dinner, dishes, and on, and on, and on it goes. And in the midst of these many tasks our children obediently, thoughtfully participate in the family life, by cleaning, caring, assisting, sharing, and generally being pleasant people.

Ha.

Granted sometimes our little ones are angels. So easy to love. But then there’s the other times. A lot of the time, there’s the cold, hard, reality of tactless humanity in the mix. And not just their tactless humanity. Because God knows, I am rarely a little angel.

So here I find myself in the superstore parking lot, starting sentences with phrases like “oh come on” and “get your butt…” and “I’m so sick of…,” and it goes downhill from there.

What a prime example I am for my kids.

Ha.

It was in the middle of one of those other times- the tactless humanity times. I finally loaded the car with superstore bags, because yes, I am one of those people who forgets all 50 of her save-the-planet-canvas bags at home. I completed my errand; success! Except one kid is now crying. One is sticking a tongue out. Another is bemoaning the existence of car seats. And I am angry. I am not exhibiting behavior worthy of replicating. Mom needs a timeout.  

In the midst of all this there was grace. Unmerited favor. Grace washes over me, and I hear a still small voice. It whispers to my knotted up heart.

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Seek peace and joy first.

I was not seeking peace, I was seeking my to do list. I was not seeking joy, I was seeking adherence. I was not seeking peace, I was seeking “QUIET!!!!” I was not seeking joy, I was seeking “get along, already!” and “stop it!” and “hurry up!”

Seek peace and joy first.

I knew what it meant. It meant sacrificing perfection. It meant giving up on my agenda sometimes. It meant being content when things weren’t finished, to do lists went unchecked, and libraries get full funding for a new wing. It meant I would need to exhibit all the things I was expecting from my kids. Patience. Kindness. Self control. Love.

And what a trade off-- a clean house traded for a happy one; a vibrant tasty meal salted with tears traded for chicken nuggets with smiles; a carload of groceries and screams at 3pm for a carload of groceries and giggles at 4.

That’s the best deal on the planet. I’ll take that trade.