Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Training up "Pauls" and "Timothys"

While raising my children, I was aware that we always need to be a "Paul" or mentor to some people, while we need to be a "Timothy" or learner from others.  I tried to make many occasions for each of my children to be in both roles in their relationships.

I went to great lengths to have older boys over to impact the boys positively, and older girls over to impact the girls.  We had times where there were Bible studies and sharing times where my children could learn from those a little older than they were -- people they looked up to.  I'd ask questions and have them ask questions.  I also did "career training" that way -- have people over and ask them about their jobs so my children would be acquainted with many different job opportunities.

I also made sure that I made opportunities for my children to mentor others too.  I'd say, "Jesse, tell ____ about how hard it is for you to be in charge of this family," or ask questions that would get my children to share things with those younger than them.  They took turns helping their younger siblings with homework and playing with them.  We directed kids' plays where they would coach younger children in their roles and responsibilities.  They helped me in Rainbow Gang (for toddlers) and in Nursery.   They went with us to Cornerstone Schools in Detroit where we had adopted a student for several years.

Play "follow the leader" with them, and instill in them the important of learning to follow, and help them to realize that someone will always follow them.  Point out times in nature and as you go about your days when people follow those leading them the wrong way and what happens, as well as those that lead people do be better.  Let them know what an incredible responsibility it is in Scripture how accountable we are to the Lord as to how we influence those who "follow" our example.

Challenge:  Make sure your children realize they can learn from people a little older than themselves who have done things right and have achieved good results from their choices.  Make time for your children to "mentor" and "teach" younger children in various settings.  This will carry through when they're older and it will be a natural thing for them to "learn" and "teach," follow and lead!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A "Hairy Pickle"??!! and other stories...

When my children were very young, on a silly day we were singing songs, and suddenly I came up with "I was walking through the park one day, in the merry merry month of May, when I thought I saw a nickel and it was a hairy pickle!!!"  And I got very silly about it and carried on about could you just imagine a hairy pickle standing there, and of course, being so young, my children all thought it was pretty hilarious.

"Hairy pickle" then became our little "funny" word whenever I wanted to make one of my children laugh.  If they were nervous at the doctor's office, or mad or sad about something, I would tell them that I could make them laugh... and then "hairy pickle" always brought a smile.

Also, my children loved stories.  When they asked me to tell them stories, I always pulled out a pretty demonstrative story about whatever it was they were going through at the time.  If they were not cooperating going to bed, the story about "Susie Sleepless" inspired them.  Susie Sleepless didn't want to take a nap, and then her mom said, "okay, then, Susie, NO SLEEPING..."  Although our stories were way more drawn out, simply put, Susie Sleepless began to fall asleep on the swings, and then in the sandbox, and even fell asleep while she was eating soup and her nose went into her soup!!! Finally she BEGGED her mom to let her go to sleep!  

Then there were the bunny family, that coincidentally had five bunnies in a den, and they learned all kinds of lessons that my children were awe-struck by, and which indirectly applied to things THEY needed to learn!

Challenge:  Get a "key word" or phrase that just makes your child(ren) giggle, and then use it to cheer them up when you need to!    Inspire them with stories about animals or things they love. Make the stories teach character lessons they can grow from!   As they listen wide-eyed to the stories, later you will have opportunities to remind them what happened to the little animals in the story...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Object Lessons

I think one of the things that drives things home for me is to "see" them.  I love using OBJECT LESSONS.  Here are a few of my favorites; post any of yours!

*To remind my children that each day is a PRESENT and to enjoy their PRESENT, I kept a wrapped present on the counter for quite awhile.

*To remind us that we all wear glasses through which we see our world, and we need to see through rose colored glasses, I put a pair of rose colored sunglasses out.

*To remind us that our words could be "sweet" or "bitter," "sweet" words got a little honey, and "bitter" words got a little vinegar!

*To remind us that we needed to "invest" in other's lives so when we needed to "withdraw" there wasn't bankruptcy, we kept literal bank books with each of our names in them and recorded "deposits" and "withdrawals" for quite awhile.

*We had an "I can" -- a large can I pasted cut-out pictures of eyes all over -- out, to remind us that each person could help others.  When they said "I can!" and helped someone needy out, they would put their name on a piece of paper listing what they did and at the end of the month we pulled a name and gave a prize.  We did this throughout the summer.

*I had a geode rock that has a really ugly outside and a gorgeous inside out for awhile to remind us that it is what is inside that is most important.

Challenge:  Think of some "object" lessons to really embed good qualities into your family, and put the objects out for a reminder!  Let us know any good ones YOU use with your family!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Preciousness of People!

I wanted my children to appreciate the preciousness of people.  When we'd see people walking, I would have my children "make up" stories about people and their families, and what they were doing.

I was careful to show respect for others.  When an elderly woman was driving too slowly, I'd say, "Look at that cute grandma probably facing her fears on the road to go see her grandchildren!" and excuse people's errant driving behavior.  By my actions, I instilled in my children that each person, whether they were driving or doing right or wrong, did not deserve my hostility and could not turn me into a hostile person.

It was interesting but when I was in Hong Kong recently, I was very impressed by how respectful people were to each other.  Even when I would see many oriental people wearing face masks in the airport and public places, I never realized that it was out of consideration for others -- when people had a cold or cough or were sick they were mindful enough of others to wear a mask so as to not pass germs.  When I was in Hong Kong I did not see ONE -- NOT ONE -- piece of gum, paper, garbage, or graffiti, nor did I see ONE person having to clean up after other people!  

I think we need to continue to train our children to respect others.  This is done in a multitude of ways.  Train them to understand that no one should pick up after us.   If they try clothes on, to put them away so no one has to pick up after them.  To respect others' property and leave others' things alone.  To push their chairs in.  To respect wait staff and tip them appropriately. To show kindnesses to people, whether they are serving YOU or you are serving THEM.  

Challenge:  Work on teaching your children the preciousness of people this week.  Teach them to respect others, and to be kind to others.  Teach them to value people regardless of their station in life or their attitude back.  Teach them to make a difference when they know others may be going through hard times.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tips on Raising Financial-Savvy Children

Always wanting to raise bargain-conscious children, we wouldn't allow "capricious" spending.   When we went to a store, if they didn't know before we went to the store that they needed something, they couldn't buy it.   This helped them plan their purchases wisely and avoided buying something they'd later be sorry for or decide they really didn't need.

Also, I never wanted to rob my children of the incredible feeling of really wanting something, working towards earning money for it, and then finally being able to purchase it.  That process is so rewarding I never wanted to "jump in" and rob them of the satisfaction of earning and purchasing things and wanting them for awhile before getting them.

Another thing I did was to make them "put something in."  When we were going roller skating, I'd say, "everyone needs to put in $1."  I did this for a few reasons:  first of all, they had to learn how to CONTRIBUTE.  I DIDN'T need their $$ as much as THEY needed to learn to contribute.  Also, this gave me a good feel for if they really wanted to do something or buy something.  If they weren't willing to put in $1, why should I put in $8 or more??!!

Another thing we encouraged was when an offering was passed around, or someone was soliciting for a cause, if it was a worthy cause they PUT SOMETHING IN.  Whether it was a quarter or a dollar or more, they had to put SOMETHING IN.  I encouraged them that if everyone did that, just THINK of the benefits!

My husband also set up a savings plan early with the kids.  They opened their own bank accounts, tithed on their money, and saved.  We tried the 10% tithe, at least 10% savings, and then they could spend the rest.  

To encourage responsibility and to make sure they took care of and valued their car, when they were about 13 or 14 we sat them down and did some simple math.  Calculating about 10 weeks per summer to work, and telling them we'd pay half of their first car, we figured out that even if they made $100 a week towards their car, it was still only $3,000, allowing them only a $6,000 car.  We encouraged hard workers AND savers this way!

We also set budgets for big things.  For prom I would set a $300 limit.  How they spent it was up to them, but they could save on their dress and go big on their nail/hair etc. or vice versa.  I never wanted my children raised thinking they could "have it all."  We gave them clothes "allowances" once or twice a year and they had to budget extremely wisely to get several items.

We also made things our children's responsibility early.  They were responsible for buying their own clothes at 16 years old.  That way, when we DID get an item or two for them here or there, they were grateful because they didn't "expect" or "demand" it.

Also, for college if their grades were an A or B we covered the cost of the class; if not, they paid for the class.  This encouraged good grades.  When we are contributing towards college or other expenses, if we see them spending large amounts of money frivolously, we tell them we're going to stop helping out so much if they have that much extra money.  We paid for their first year of books, but they paid afterwards, which made them shop wisely and be smart about re-selling their books too.

We also made sure that birthday limits were $50 or something a little more if it was something they really needed.   Even (especially!) at young ages, we had between 3-5 gifts for them to open, and we spent Christmases giving gifts to needy families.  We really wanted to discourage extravagance and overindulgence (although when they got to their grandparents' houses it wasn't the same story...!)  When our children got older, we took our vacations at Christmas and made that our "gift" to them.

Although we made some exceptions to our standards, we tried to keep as closely as possible to these systems we set in place.  If we saw someone really struggling, we stepped in to help them get a car repair done or a software program for school.   I believe our children are wise shoppers, cognizant of the value of items, more grateful, and more balanced in their spending choices because of some of these methods.

Challenge:  Start teaching your children early about the value of money and how important it is to be wise with their spending.  Make up your own standards with your husband, and toss different ideas around that YOU want to incorporate into YOUR family -- remember to keep their futures in mind!  Teach them that money is a responsibility; since it is God Who empowers us to get wealth and we are stewards of the provision He has given us.  Teach them that money is to bless others with, avoid extravagance and overindulgence (which will only set your children up for disastrous discontented futures), and raise generous children!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Family Mission Statement

When my children were younger, we brainstormed as a family and came up with a "family mission statement."  My husband has always been "mission statement minded," so he wanted our family to have an idea of what we stood for as a unit.  We just re-visited our family mission statement and updated it.  Here are some of the things we did as part of our mission statement:

We came up with a vision of what our family was to focus on, what we were to be in our community.  Some examples from our updated mission statement (I can't find a copy of the earlier one right now -- if I do I will post some of the examples later!):

*To be involved in community service and church ministry.
*To mentor and be mentored.
*To step up to leadership positions.
*To maintain solid Bible study and prayer life.
*To acknowledge others' efforts in our lives.
*To continually cultivate an environment of excellence within our family.

And an additional 5 or 6 items.

We also stated our family's PURPOSE, and then listed individual strategies for each of us.  Then we listed what our vision was for each of our futures.

We then typed them out, shrunk them to wallet size, and gave them to each of our family to carry around (although I haven't gotten this far with our updated one yet).

If you aim for nothing you'll hit it every time...  I think it was great that even at young ages as a family we stated what we stood for and what our purpose was in the world.  I believe it strengthened our family and made us realize that we had a mission together.

Challenge:  Sit down as a family and brainstorm on YOUR family's mission statement.  Include each person's strengths, goals and visions.  And then hold each other accountable to your mission statement!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kindness Leads to True Change

When I was disappointed over something one of my kids did or mad about something that happened, I realized a valuable precept of God:

Romans 2.4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

I realized that if I truly wanted to see my children be sorry and change their attitude or behavior, it was going to be my kindness that would lead them to repent, truly be sorry, and change.

I know that whenever someone yells at me, or gets out of control trying to communicate to me, that my eyes go onto how THEY are out of control rather than looking at what they are saying about my wrong actions. I never wanted to do that with my children. I didn't want them pointing at me blaming me for the way I communicated; rather, I wanted them to look at how their actions were wrong and needed to change.

Challenge: When you want to communicate something to your child or teen that you want them to change, be sure that you don't communicate it in a way that distracts them from hearing what you are saying because they have disrespect or contempt for the way you communicate. Remember that it is your kindness that will lead to true repentance and change.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When Do I Love You Most?

Starting when my children were small, I wanted them to know how loved they were of the Lord. I would ask them, "When does God love you the most, when you're good or when you're bad?!" And at FIRST they would think when they were "good." I taught them that God loves them the same whether they are good or bad.

I tried to stress the same thing to them as their parent. I love them no matter what. Even though I may be disappointed over something they did, it did not change my love for them.

With consequences for misbehavior in place, I was able to grieve with them when they lost the benefit of doing the right things. For example, I would set a little fun game out before nap time, and explain to them that MY PLAN was to play the game with them after their nap. Then I would say, "now I hope you don't RUIN my plan by taking all this time to take your nap so that we don't have time to play the game together!" If they wouldn't cooperate, I didn't yell or get upset; I rather just got very sad that now I couldn't play the game with them because we spent all the time getting them to sleep.

By having "MY PLAN" set up and showing them that their actions could "interrupt" "my plan" for the best day possible, I believe I taught them how God's plans for our best can be "interrupted" by our actions. I also taught them that I was disappointed when I couldn't give them things I purposed to give them because their actions circumvented my gifts. I was disappointed with them also, because I too wanted to spend quality time playing with them which was now not possible.

Even as my children grew older, I grieved with them when their actions cost them something. When their actions made it so I had to punish them from going to the game or out with friends, etc. I believe that this showed them, from a VERY EARLY age, that it was not my desire to withhold things from them but to give them things. It was their misbehavior that stopped the fun!

Challenge: When you have to withhold something from your child because of their misbehavior, show them that you are disappointed too because you WANTED them to have/do what their actions made you withhold. Let your child FEEL your love for them is strong and sure regardless of whether their behavior pleases you. Set up systems that adequately reward good behavior and become a natural consequence when they don't cooperate. And demonstrate the love of God always because many times a child identifies with God's love for them by how their parents love them!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Starting off the day right...

When my children were very young, we determined to start each day off with a short Bible study together.  At first we did a little verse, talked about it and counted ladybugs in their little devotional book.  By the time they were 5 we advanced to reading a chapter in the Bible together each day, talking about it, and doing "popcorn" prayers where, beginning with the youngest, each person would pray about how they'd apply what we talked about to their life.

As they grew older, it was just a habit that was easy to keep to.  When we homeschooled, it was a great way to start the day.  When they were in school, they knew that they had to be dressed and at the table at 7:15 a.m. for the Bible study.  They couldn't be late or they had to write the chapter!  

Through the years, that little 15-25 minute Bible study became God's podium to speak into our lives as a family.  It seemed God always knew what we needed to hear, and as we read through the entire Bible twice together as a family, the lesson was usually very pertinent.

This little study time also gave us a strong spiritual connection into each other's hearts.  Praying together is really powerful.  Even when at times their whole hearts may not have been into it because they were focused on getting off to school, we had a lot of great discussion and insight and commitment during those times.  Also, even when everyone scattered and were off in different directions in their days, we had that awesome connection with each other each morning.

Challenge:  Take the time to begin the day with prayer and Bible study as a family as often as you can.  It makes it very easy if you start off when your children are young; then when everyone gets older they know it is possible to keep time open first thing in the morning to "get into the huddle" with the Lord before going out into the field!  Stay connected to the Lord AND to each other!

Working it Out...

When my children were younger and didn't get along, I would do a few different things to "encourage" them to get along better:

1.  I NEVER separated them -- that is not the "real world."  I knew that when they got older and didn't get along with a co-worker, no one would "separate" them but they NEED to learn to get along.  SO I put them in a very small enclosed place:  the bathroom or a walk-in closet even!  Then sometimes I had to stand outside the door if they needed a little "supervision"!  They had to work out a way to get along better, then come out holding hands and tell me their plan of action.

2.  If someone was getting "easily irritated" with someone else, since God's love is NOT "easily irritated," I assumed they hadn't invested enough into that person's life.  (Going by the principal that "where you treasure or deposit is, there will your heart be also" - Luke 12.34)
So I would have them do things specifically for the other person.

3.  When age appropriate, I would have them write a page or two paper listing a better way they could have handled the situation, why it wasn't handled correctly, and putting two Bible verses in regarding why their actions were wrong.  This made for some GREAT "keeper" papers!

Although these things took time, I was able to handle them systematically and without losing my cool.  Through these processes, my children learned how to handle problems effectively with other people.  It made a huge difference not only in how they handled problems between each other, but with other people as well.

Challenge:  As you handle problems amongst your children or with others, be sure that the way you demonstrate and teach your children how to handle the problems are ways they can build on as they get older!  Also guard against "punishment" -- you don't want to "punish" your child, but you want to train and teach them the correct way to handle situations in their lives.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

You Can Only Give What You Have...

I have observed that as I used different relationship “tools” to build my marriage and other relationships to be strong, I was in fact equipping my children with those very same tools to build their relationships! Picture each of your children having a large empty toolbox at the end of their beds. As you go through your days with them, you are filling their toolboxes with the tools you use for life situations. When your children leave your home, they take their “toolbox” with them, equipped for their lives and their futures with what you have given them.

Physically, this concept is easier to comprehend than spiritually. For example, when my baby began to cry because he was hungry, I knew that I needed to feed him. If I didn’t have anything to feed him, I knew I had to go get something right away.

I have found the same principle applies spiritually and in character attributes. When my toddlers began to become impatient or easily angered, I realized that in order to equip them with the character attributes they needed to get through their frustrations, first I had to demonstrate the attributes I desired to pass on to my children in my own life. As I taught him how I walked in victory in the areas he struggled with, I saw that if I had not learned how to deal with my frustrations correctly, there would be no way I could teach my children how to deal with their frustrations correctly.

Challenge:  As your children observe you, are you equipping them with the right tools to handle situations?  This week, count each situation you come across as a training ground to equip your children as they observe how you handle things.  Every little frustration, every set-back, every time YOU don't "get your own way," use as training to equip your child(ren) and put the right tools in their toolbox!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Daddy's Home!!!

I thought this would be an appropriate thought today as I rushed around all day and into early morning (it is now 1:49 a.m.!) getting things ready for my husband to return from a business trip.  I have had everyone cleaning up and sprucing up for him to come home to a clean house...

My kids are used to this.  When they were small, before Gary would get home, I'd have them start pulling everything together so he could come home to a house that was at least somewhat put together.  Then we'd often walk to meet him or wait in front, or at least wait expectantly.  When he came home it was "DADDY'S HOME!!!"    

There is no better feeling than to come home when someone is happy to see you.   Make sure you are always happy to see your significant other, and instill that in your children.  Prepare for them to come home; do something special!

Be enthusiastic, be over-the-top!  Pass on the excitement!  And when they get into the house, let your children see you and your husband or wife sit down and talk together for a few minutes at least.  It is good for the kids to see that you need a few minutes to talk before everything continues.

Remember, the best gift you can give your children is to stay in true love with your spouse!  

Challenge:  Make it an exciting event when your guy/girl comes home!  Have some little surprise ready for them!  Show them how you looked forward to seeing them!  Make every day special!  And let your kids see how you value each other!    Have a 5-minute "couch" time where you and your guy/girl talk about the day's events!  

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Opportunities for Giving

One thing I observed early was that children do not learn to give by simply practicing taking.  From the time my children were babies, I made sure they had many opportunities to give of themselves.  I purposefully focused on what they could do for others.

Whether we were all chipping in carrying different plates and bringing meals to families in need, making muffins for neighbors and bringing them over, visiting people and "cheering them up," singing and entertaining and handing out goodies at senior residents' homes, or just thinking of who we could call to brighten their day, we never let a few days go by without doing something for someone that involved their little hands and energies.

When we woke up we'd think "who can we be a blessing to today" together and come up with a plan for spontaneous giving.  We also had systematic giving set up to be on the make-meals committee at Church, minister to Gilda's Cancer Group once a month (a cancer support community), and once a month "Karen and the kids" would go to a senior residents home and entertain and pass out goodies.

Never wanting my children to be afraid of death, I also brought them early to funeral homes, and taught them what to say ("I'm so sorry about the loss of your _____", etc.) and how to act. 

At Christmas we always found a family in need and took the children shopping for their families and helped them wrap gifts together or brought things over to a family.  We gave sacrificially and we purposefully downsized my children's Christmases to only a few presents each (until they got to their Nana & Papa's!).  (Christmas makes children gross and greedy anyways, in my opinion, unless you really concentrate on others!)

I love what my friend Jessie is doing with her daughter, Kaylee (age 5 soon).  They "adopted" a girl from Haiti that is about Kaylee's age, and Kaylee sacrificially gives gifts, clothes and toys and together they send packages to their overseas girl.

I made sure that no matter how busy our schedules were, they knew that their sports and activities were for them, and it was important to "be a blessing" no matter how busy we were.

I think that my family learned early on to focus on others and to focus on how to be a blessing to others.  Looking for opportunities afforded many many of them.  And God knew all along the blessings our family would receive for He said:

Acts 20.35   In everything I have pointed out to you [by example] that, by working diligently in this manner, we ought to assist the weak, being mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed (makes one happier and more ato be envied) to give than to receive.

Challenge:  Who needs a blessing today?  What can you start doing as a family once a month to be a blessing to others?  How are your children involved in giving on a consistent basis?  Are your children aware of the needs in their family and community and what THEY can do to be a blessing at WHATEVER age they are?  Have fun with it and enjoy teaching your children to focus on others!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Life and Death are in your mouth!

Psalms 127:3    Children are an inheritance from the Lord.
They are a reward from Him.

Psalms 127:4 As arrows are in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.

Having had five children in the span of 5-1/2 years, I can attest to both of these Scripture verses!  Yes, each of my children is a reward directly from God.  And although I wasn't VERY young, I can see that our children ARE like arrows in the hand of God's warriors!

I have been asked to share some of my insights I gained from raising my children in a blog, so I am starting today.  Please feel free to contribute as you see fit!  

Our words are SO IMPORTANT when raising children!  The Bible tells us that:

Proverbs 18:21    Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.

Too many parents make excuses for words they say to their children that kill or poison.  It is SO IMPORTANT that parents be mature and able to know how to handle their mouths.  With the Holy Spirit in control, we need to stop making excuses, and rise up to maturity and NOT allow any words to come out of our mouths that will injure or hurt.  

We want to teach our children the right things to say, yet too many adults are not even accountable to saying right things.  Remember that you have been EMPOWERED for every good work.  Stop making excuses and begin speaking LIFE into your children daily!

Challenge:  Purpose to speak ONLY good things about your children.  Purpose to NEVER pass on bad information about your children, whether they are present OR absent.  Purpose to be SILENT when you know you are not going to speak anything good.   Purpose to speak every good thing you can think of, as often as you can!