Saturday, January 30, 2010

day thirty-one: start young with Bible stories and lessons—product reviews for felt books and “the bible time nursery rhyme book”

"The Tower of Babel"

"Come!" said the man,

"Let's make ourselves a name!

"Let's build ourselves a tower.

And get ourselves some fame!"

"Let's all work togehter

And make the tower high,

So it stretches up to heaven

And reaches to the sky!"

But God above was watching

As the men worked on the tower.

He saw they wanted greatness.

He saw they wanted power.

He wasn't please with what he saw.

He knew it wasn't good.

He said, "I'll mix their language

So they can't be understood!"

So when a workman tried to talk

With other workmen near,

Funny words and babble sounds

Came drifting to his ear.

"Tee...lee! A-lah-doo-ween!"

"What is that? What do you mean?"

"Pim-pam! A-dack-a-too!"

"Well, I give up! I cant work with you!"

No longer could they talk,

And no longer could they build.

They couldn't work together,

So their hammers soon were stilled.

They couldn't live together,

So they scattered far apart,

And that's how the languages

First got their start.

I love picture books! Well, really, I love most books, which is why we have well over a thousand books in a fourteen hundred square foot house---bookcases in nearly every room! On the weekends, I want to try to post a review/introduction (or more) to products (books, videos, audios, etc.) that we have used with our children throughout the years to teach them Bible and character. The materials I will highlight are readily available online (I’ll include links)—and Positive Parenting does not sell them. We simply love them!

I am going to start this weekend with three products (two today and one tomorrow) for babies and toddlers that were our first favorites. We used these three items with all of our seven of our children—and I am sure that they will use them with their children too. By the way, all three of them make beautiful baby shower gifts!

1. Felt Bible Activity Books—Betty Lukens’ felts are popular in day cares, preschools, and Sunday schools. We have had them for twenty-five years. They are beautiful and fun for children of all ages. Our kids used to love to re-enact Bible stories on the sofa with them (though we had felt boards too). The sets that I am recommending here are activity books. They are eight by eleven inch (or so) felt books that have pockets on the backs of the pages for storing the felt pieces that you use on the colorful fronts. In addition to Bible stories, they also have nature, first lessons in colors, etc., and much more. These are ideal for use when your toddler needs to sit quietly on your lap. We recommend saving them for just those occasions to make them even more special. Downside: They come unassembled. You have to cut them out yourself (though sewing or other “tools” are not needed).

 (under $15)

2. The Bible Time Nursery Rhyme Book---When I looked this book up online, I had trouble finding it—and there was a lot of chatter about it being unavailable now or in the near future. Not sure about all of that, but I do know that all of my children have adored this book, as did I. It contains Bible stories and other biblical concepts (God loves us; we should obey, etc.) in rhyme. It’s worth looking for and purchasing this book. Your toddlers and preschoolers will love it!

Note: We also had the Christian Mother Goose book and audio book, but I always enjoyed this rhyming book more. The rhymes felt truer and more rhythmic to me. (looked to me like it was still available used for around ten dollars and listed varying prices for new)

Friday, January 29, 2010

day thirty: train your children to empathize with the needy, the weak, and the disabled

“One heart is worth it all; one life; one family…touched by the love of Christ expressed through a caring church.”
                          One Heart Disability Ministry

One of the things that we never allowed our children to do was to make fun of the weak or the disabled. Calling somebody “retarded” or “crippled,” or some such other name was strictly forbidden. However, we didn’t just not let them speak ill of or make fun of those people, we taught them to show love and compassion to them.

From their earliest years, when we saw somebody who was needy, we would explain to the children that we do not know what that person goes through. That we cannot understand that person’s pain and suffering. And that we should lift those people up, not tear them down.

If you read much of what we have written, you will quickly learn that we feel that one of the most valuable parenting tools that we have at our disposal is that of discussion. This is especially true when it comes to empathy training. We have always discussed people’s hurts with our children (at appropriate ages), and even charged them with the duty of making this world a better place through their Christian love and charity.

All four of our grown children are heavily involved in ministry. Joshua (our first born) and Kara (our fourth born) are involved in ministries to homeschooling families through our family ministry and through the Academy of Arts (teaching Christian drama to youth and children). Our second and third kids are both in full time ministry to the needy. Kayla will be joining the ranks of full time missionary, training other missionaries in HIV care and prevention upon her college graduation in May. Cami is our church’s disability ministry director (One Heart Disability Ministry). She and her husband work tirelessly holding services each week for over a hundred individuals in the Fort Wayne area with cognitive disabilities.

Obviously, if our children felt that they were supposed to work full time in secular careers, we would be proud of them. We have always wanted them to do what God has called them to do. However, the fact that they are so adept at seeing others’ needs and trying to meet them brings us great joy—regardless of whether that is a full time ministry, part time ministry, or just what they do as Christian adults above and beyond their occupations.

Yes, “How do you think that makes that person feel?” is the beginning of empathy training. Teaching our children to see people’s needs with true compassion is the continuation of that empathy training.

We are not programmed to be selfless. We are not programmed to automatically think about others. We are born with a sin nature--a selfish nature. As parents, we have to make a conscious effort to get our children’s thoughts off of themselves—and onto those around them.

Many years ago, when the older children were ten through fourteen, we took a trip to Chicago. We spent a long weekend visiting museums, swimming at our motel, and, of course, talking. We had many opportunities to see those with needs and discuss these situations. Before we left that weekend, we had written a song (amateur poet, here) that described what we saw and felt that we still sing today—and that reminds us to look around us and see the hurting people—and try to find ways to help them.

                            “I Prayed for You Today”

I prayed for you today, though I didn't know your name,
I saw a hurting look, so I had to stop and pray.
I prayed for you today, when I saw you on the street,
Playing on your trumpet, for everyone you meet.

(Chorus) I know it doesn't seem like much, just a simple little prayer.
But I want you to realize there is a God who cares.
I know it doesn't seem like much, I wish I could do more.
But the very best thing that I can do is take you to the Lord.

I prayed for you today, when I saw you with your cane,
Your yesterdays have flown right by, and now you're old and lame.
I prayed for you today, when I saw you on your porch,
You looked so sad and lonely, so broken and forlorn.

(Chorus) I know it doesn't seem like much, just a simple little prayer.
But I want you to realize there is a God who cares.
I know it doesn't seem like much, I wish I could do more.
But the very best thing that I can do is take you to the Lord.

I prayed for you today, when I saw you with your friends,
Trying to be popular, trying to fit in.
I prayed for you today, when I saw you at the zoo,
Being a daddy all alone is difficult to do.

(Chorus) I know it doesn't seem like much, just a simple little prayer.
But I want you to realize there is a God who cares.
I know it doesn't seem like much, I wish I could do more.
But the very best thing that I can do is take you to the Lord.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

day twenty-nine: teach your children to look at their own faults—not the faults of others

"And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye?" Matthew 7: 3 & 4

When I looked up this verse to include in today's blog, I was reminded of last year when my cottage class students were to write their own "modern day" version of this passage. They were extremely creative with it, using "normal" things like sand and boulder or grain of wheat and loaf of bread; however, one student went a little overboard with the creativity when he wrote, "Why worry about the Spam in your friend's eye when you have an entire hog in your own?" Wow, my students crack me up sometimes!

I want to share an exercise that has helped our family. Our associate pastor, Don Williams, and his wife (head of Renew Counseling Center at our church) recently spoke together on a Sunday morning about marriage. During this message, Nancy had everyone take a piece of paper and fold it in half. On the left side, you were to write a list of things that someone (i.e. your spouse, but we discussed this with our kids in terms of their relationships with each other, too) does that you do not like. Then on the right, you were to write your response to each of these acts (the way you usually respond).

Finally, you were to tear the page down the middle and throw away the half that listed your spouse’s (or sibling’s!) faults. But keep the list of your responses. That list is yours to work on.

Of course, we had a few moments of humor with this at the dinner table that day as Kara, our then-eighteen year old, announced that “it wasn’t hard for me to choose who to put on my page—or to think of the things HE does to annoy me….” with the three “he’s” sitting around wide-eyed, begging her to tell them which one of them she was referring to!

However, Nancy was exactly right. We cannot do anything about the list on the left. We cannot control that person. We cannot make that person change. We cannot “help” that person do the right thing. But we can control the list on the right. That is ours alone to conquer. That is a list of “to do” items—to change, to respond differently, to quit, to alter, to improve. That list needs to be our focus—not the other person’s list of faults that you made.

Ever since I can remember, Ray has coached the children in relationships in this way—you cannot control what the other person does, but you can control yourself. I hear him on the phone, weekly it seems, talking to one of the married kids or one of the college girls, reminding them of this truth. I listen as he tells the boys once again, that only you are responsible for your own actions—and you alone choose whether you want to invest in somebody (i.e. your sibling) or hurt that person.

Nancy’s exercise was a visible, tangible way to see this. When you rip up the other person’s faults and throw them away, you are symbolically and physically saying that you will not try to change that person. When you embrace the remaining list—the one that enumerates your faults (your negative responses), you are saying that you want to change—to do the next right thing, to work on that relationship—and your part in any negative aspects of it.

We must continually remind our children—and ourselves—to focus on our mistakes and not the mistakes of others. To be the first one to initiate reconciliation in relationships. To be the one who decides that this other person is more valuable than my being right. To be the type of person who works on the list on the right hand side of the page—and discards the list on the left.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

day twenty-eight: take time for "rockies"

“The lullaby is the spell whereby the mother attempts to transform herself back from an ogre to a saint.”
                          Florida Scott-Maxwell

How true that quote is! I can remember being in the worst of moods or utterly despondent, and as I sat down in my rocker with baby in arms and sang a lullaby—the world got just a little bit sweeter.

I enjoyed rocking and nursing our newborns so much. Then as they grew to be older babies and toddlers, I would often rock just a teeny bit before bed and naps. (We trained our toddlers to go to bed without being rocked, walked, or driven to sleep.) However, the real “rockies” were first thing in the morning and after naps. Our toddlers knew that we would go straight from the crib to the rocking chair. What sweet memories!

With the advent of “proppable” bottles and hurried lives, we have often lost the art of “rockies” and “read alouds”—two of my favorite activities with my children. I am so thankful that I had these times with my older children—which made me want to continue them with my littles as well.

We even had our own Reish Family Lullaby that I wrote halfway through childbearing—and that even my older kids would sing to the boys when they held them and rocked them—and I am sure that they will use it with their own children someday too. I will share it below. Feel free to put it with your own tune—and enjoy your “precious babies.”

                        Precious Baby

             Precious Baby, how I love you,

             How you make my heart to sing.

            Precious Baby, how I love you,

           Oh, the joy your young life brings.

          How have I become so blessed…to hold you oh so near?

          How have I become so blessed…to have you, oh my dear?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

day twenty-seven: have high expectations for things that are in your child’s control—and no expectations for those things that are not

"There was a time when we expected nothing of our children but obedience, as opposed to the present, when we expect everything of them but obedience."
                             Anatole Broyard

The evening wore on with Kayla, our seemingly-near-genius eleven year old dyslexic and dysgraphic, still sitting at the dining room table, her eyes puffy from crying, and Mom and Dad hovering nearby demanding that she “just write that paragraph.” Kayla was smart; there was no reason why she couldn’t pen a simple paragraph. She read widely, at least a chapter book a week, though usually much more than that, and she knew more information than any eleven year old I had ever met. And yet writing a puny little paragraph appeared to be out of her reach. However, we, her parents, persevered—she would do this because we told her to. She was too smart not to be able to do what we demanded of her.

Not our best parenting moment—and thankfully, we learned from Kayla about expecting things out of our kids that they simply are not able to produce. Kayla became a modern-day success story—once we learned to focus on her strengths and downplay her weaknesses. Within four years of that evening, she was co-writing curriculum for fourth graders with me (with a computer to type on and spell check to correct her spelling). Within five years of that evening, she wrote a children’s chapter book, a biographical compilation about missionaries. Within seven years of that evening, she received perfect ACT verbal scores---not once, but twice (not bad for a child who learned to read at age nine and write at age twelve!).

It took us a while, but through Kayla’s dysgraphia and dyslexia—and through a strong-willed little son who tried to convince us that he could not learn to obey(!)—we discovered a crucial parenting truth: have high expectations of the things that are in your child’s control and no expectations for the things that are not in his or her control.

We parents have a tendency to do as the quote above infers: we have grandiose ideas about what our kids should be able to do, and these things are often not in their control, while we overlook the simple things, like obedience and respect, which are fully in their control.

We learned that it was unfair, and unwise, to expect our children to do things before they were ready to do them. These things, like pottying, learning to read, writing, spelling, penning, and other “normal” activities, are all based on readiness. Yelling, begging, cajoling, and punishing will not make them happen any sooner than they will likely happen for that child without those “motivators.” It is far better to wait for readiness for these things and keep the diaper on, continue reading aloud to the child, and proceed with letting the son or daughter dictate what he or she wants to write—until he or she is truly ready to do those things.

We also learned that it is unfair, and unwise, to not expect our children to do things that do not require readiness. These things, like obeying the first time, being kind to others, showing respect to adults, are all based on training. If a child is nearing two years old, he can be trained to come when he is called, to not harm another person, and to not scream or tell his authorities “no.” There is no “readiness age” for starting to develop good character.

Expect great things from your kids—for those areas that are in their control. Have great patience with your kids—for those areas that are not.

Monday, January 25, 2010

day twenty-six: affirm your kids with terms of endearment

“Parents need to fill a child's bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can't poke enough holes to drain it dry.” Alvin Price

One simple way that we have found to tie heart strings with our children—and increase self-esteem is to talk to them with terms of endearment. I realize that not everybody is comfortable being so “gushy” as I like to be—but regardless of our comfort level, I think all of our kids can benefit from being “made over” and “built up” sometimes—even at times for no reason.

Here are three ways to get you started:

1. When your child enters the room (regardless of whether he has just done what you want him to or not), how do you respond? Try some of the following room-entering sayings or actions:

     *”How’s the best ___ year old son/daughter in the whole world?”

     *”Here comes the princess of the fourteen year olds!”

     *High five as he walks by.

    *Grab her hand and give it secret squeezes.

     *”Here comes the best husband in the world--next to his father”….my new favorite to use on my married   son!

    *”One of the sweetest daughters in the world has just entered the room.”

    *Give him a one hundred watt smile.

    *Upon waking: “Boy, I’ve missed you so much all night!”

    *In the mornings: “I am so happy I get to spend the day with you!”

    *”Here comes the sweetest daughter-in-law!”

    *”Here comes Mr. Diligence or Miss Sweetness or Mr. Helpful…etc.”

    *”Hi, Sweet Girl. Where have you been all my life?”

   *”Do you belong to anybody…’coz I’d like to keep you for my very own!”

2. Nicknames and terms of endearment set your child apart from everyone else. We have more nicknames than I can remember, but nobody here seems to mind them!

     *Nanny is the nickname of our hard-working, first born daughter.

     *Millie Mercy is our nickname for our daughter Cami who’s a softy with her younger brothers

     *Jaby Baby is our first son’s nickname.

     *Kare Bear is Kara’s nickname.

     *Hi ya, Si-ah is what we often say to Josiah.

     *HOY, SOY, DOY are nicknames for my family members: husband of the year; son of the year; daughter of the year.

    *Baby, sweetie, honey, dolly are nicknames for every sweet child I meet!

3. When your child is leaving for the evening, be sure to bless him and send him with your love.

     *”I can’t believe you’re leaving for the whole evening; I’ll be so lonely for you!”

     *”I hope you have a wonderful time…but not better than you would at home with me!”

    *”Call me halfway through the evening…I’ll be lonely for you!”

    *”I love you, and I can’t wait until we’re together again!”

    *”I don’t know how I’ll make it through the evening!”

Silly? Maybe some...sometimes. But they usually get a smile--and often even a hug--out of the "kids" in my life. Our kids are worth being silly and gushy over, don't you think?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

day twenty-five: love what your kids love

         "The Colts are goin' to the Super Bowl!"
     quoted everywhere in Indiana right at this moment....

Okay, I admit it--I don't always love what my kids love. Right now we are at my Dad's watching the Colt's play in that game that decides who gets to go to the big game in two weeks. And I have been working, flipping through channels in another room, and even dozing a little. Five of my seven kids love the Colt's--and football in general. They wear our throw pillows in their clothes as football pads and play knee football in the living room. They have "real" football gloves to play football in the yard. And no Christmas is complete without their traditional mud football game—my sweet, feminine nineteen year old daughter included! So I guess you could say that I tolerate what they love (i.e. let them go to Grandpa's to watch it!)--but I don't exactly love it.

One parenting technique that we have utilized throughout the years is showing an enjoyment, interest, or at the very least, appreciation for what our kids love. When Joshua was hooked on basketball a dozen years ago, Ray spent the last hour of the night with Joshua playing ball in the driveway nearly every night. When Kayla was crazy about sewing, I tolerated two years of sewing lessons with her to "love what she loved." When the four older kids were into speech and debate, we coached the team and traveled across the country to make it possible for them to compete. When Josiah couldn't get enough of law enforcement information a couple of years ago, he and Ray went to a four hour class every week about it for three months.

One thing that we caution against when we are “loving what our children love” is thinking that attending their events and activities is a substitution for time spent with them—or even that it is “family time.” When we were heavily involved in speech and debate competitions for several years, the time we spent on it was time spent on our kids—but it wasn’t necessarily time spent with them. And it for sure was not family time. As we traveled to competitions, we were usually all in different parts of the building, busy coaching, timing, competing, and judging. Evenings at the events were spent with the entire team, not with just our family. It was great—and it showed our kids that we were serious enough about helping them develop their talents and skills and about enjoying their interests—but it was not quality parent-child time by any means. Our kids need a lot of both—our support in their activities as well as time with us.

Loving what your kids love takes a great deal of time—and patience! I remember spending four solid hours reading poetry in the Indiana room one summer day when Kayla chose that for our special time together. I vowed within myself that on the “kids’ days” I would not work, read my own personal things, or write. I would just do whatever that child wanted to do. Genealogy and Indiana history are definitely not my things. However, I wanted to keep my vow to “love what the kids” loved as we spent one-on-one days together that summer. Thankfully, another one of the kids chose hiking and another an afternoon movie!

When we love what our kids love, it shows them that every aspect of their lives is important to us. When we take the time to enjoy their interests with them, it shows them this even more. Go Colts!