Ravi Shah is wild about dinosaurs. He knows more about them than any adult I know (maybe with the exception of his mom), and he can rattle off a dizzying number of dinosaur facts faster than you can say “tyrannosaurus.” When I first met the lively 7-year-old, he led me to his kitchen counter, where he had arranged a showcase of claysculpted dinosaurs. Next to each of the orange and blue blobs of clay, he had attached a price tag—50 cents, 75 cents, one dollar. “I’m selling them for charity,” he told me matter-of-factly. “Want to buy one?”
Ravi’s passion for dinosaurs may not be unlike that of other boys his age, but what is different is his pursuit in giving. He’s been doing it since he was 2. As Ravi has gotten older, the Shahs have continued to teach him about giving and helping others. “We have a ‘new toy’ rule in our house,” Shah said. “Every time he gets a new toy, he must donate one he no longer plays with. We let him decide which toys he wants to give away, and then together we take the items to the Goodwill.”
Ravi’s giving doesn’t stop there. He comes up with clever ways to raise money for charity—from lemonade stands to concerts to selling more clay animals over the Internet (even in the first grade, he had his own website). “We give him ideas on different charities he can donate to, but let him decide where the money goes,” Shah said.
Many families are interested in teaching their children the value of giving, but they don’t always know the best way to do it. According to Susan Crites Price, author of The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others (Council on Foundations, 2001), it’s important to start young. “Habit gets instilled at an early age, and young kids can do a lot,” Price said. Preschoolers, for example, can go with the family to volunteer at a soup kitchen, or help pick up litter around the neighborhood. “That doesn’t mean that for teenagers it’s too late, but the earlier they start giving, the more it becomes a habit.”
In her interviews with parents and experts nationwide, Price found there are several keys to raising charitable children. Here is what she recommends:
• Make giving the rule, rather than the exception. “We teach kids to brush their teeth because it’s good for them. We also need to teach them to give and serve—because that’s good for them too.” If you find the right projects, Price says, they won’t complain.
• Show and tell. “While kids may see us volunteering and writing checks, we should also tell them why we are doing it.” This will help them make those decisions for themselves when they get older.
• Let them lead. “If we let children decide for themselves how to give their time or their money, they are more likely to enjoy it.” It’s good to give them ideas, of course, but better to let them choose
• Find volunteer projects. There are plenty of places to volunteer— schools, community groups, faith-based organizations, clubs, and more. But you don’t need to rely on outside groups for volunteer opportunities. “Kids can create their own volunteer experience — baking cookies for an elderly neighbor or spending time with a special needs child, for example,” Price says. “Look to your own community first.”
• Tie it to something they can see. It makes a better impression when you show kids what they’re giving to, and why. According to Shah, “It’s hard for kids to imagine that other people aren’t as fortunate as they are. Taking them to an orphanage (or another place where they can see people in need) lets them understand why it’s important to help.”
• Consider ways to give more. While no donation is too small, some parents will match what their child wants to give, sending the charity a more meaningful amount. According to Price, one parent even paid her child for his volunteer hours, giving him the opportunity to then donate the money to the same charity.
• Take the time to do it. Kids and parents are busy people. There is soccer practice, music lessons, school, and work—and, of course, getting dinner on the table. “Be intentional about the family giving,” Price recommends. “Make time for it. Make it a priority.”
If you want the idea of giving to stick with your kids, don’t just take time to
do it—do it often. Giving, after all, is more than a one-time event. “It’s really something that has to be a regular part of your life,” Shah said. “If they see you do it and hear you talk about it often, they will want to do it too.”
Text courtesy of Motivated magazine. Photo by David Katarina via Flickr.
There is no magic formula for parenting, no secret recipe for success. Just as I am an imperfect parent, I will raise imperfect children. I must lean hard into Jesus and walk by faith, following Him as I parent. My goal needs to be faithfulness. Faith and faithfulness.--Erika Dawson
Successful parents enjoy being parents. They enjoy parenting not because it's easy or instantly rewarding, but because of the sheer joy and privilege of cooperating with God in shaping another unique and precious life. Any parent of grown children will tell you that “they grow up so quickly.” Successful parents remind themselves of that and try to savor every day with their children. They immerse themselves in their children as much as possible and just enjoy them—even the days of dirty diapers, illness, and disappointments. They don't just love their children, they like them and look forward to spending time with them.
Successful parents don’t expect perfection, either from themselves or their children. Parenting is an art, not a science. Successful parents understand that, like themselves, their children aren't perfect either. This frees them to love their children unreservedly.
Successful parents don’t fear occasional failures. They understand that mistakes are a normal, even healthy, part of parenting. They make the best decisions they can, and when they're wrong, they learn from their mistakes and try to do better the next time.
Successful parents don’t expect to have smooth sailing. Children have their own opinions, personalities, and preferences. Inevitably, they cause us to say, “Where did that come from?” or “What were you thinking?” Our responsibility to provide them with limits and guidance will sometimes clash with their growing desire for independence. Successful parents aren't surprised by [difficulties and conflicts]; they expect them. But successful parents understand that their responsibility to their children is not to always please them or make them happy—it's to make the hard decisions that will be for their best in the long run.
Successful parents don’t go it alone.No one has the experience or answers to every parenting challenge. Successful parents aren't reluctant to seek out the wisdom of others. They know that, at the end of the day, the decision is theirs, but before they get there, there is plenty of wisdom along the way waiting to help them.--Richard Patterson, Jr.
One day a group of mothers was solemnly discussing the value of spending “quality” time with their preschoolers. The consensus seemed to be that, as bored as they were by pushing trucks along the floor, playing Candyland, or building Lego spacecraft, these activities were somehow sacred—deemed essential for purposes of bonding with their children. Suddenly, one mother’s voice rose above the others, “I’m sorry … I’m very clear about this with my older daughter. I just tell her, ‘I don’t play Barbies.’”
The nonapologetic nature of her remark stopped everyone in their tracks. … We began to talk about what “quality time” really meant. [We discussed how] quality time by definition can be so stressfully full of “shoulds” and “oughts” that you lose the feeling of doing something mutually enjoyable.
Sometimes the best time with kids is when there’s not that element of obligation or sacrifice. Spontaneous moments of pleasure feel more meaningful than hours devoted to Barbies and baseball cards. As someone once said, “Joy can be better caught than taught.”--Nancy Samalin with Catherine King
The surest way to teach your children something is through your own sample—not what you preach at them, not what you tell them they should do, but what you yourself believe and act upon.--Jesus, speaking in prophecy
When parents are brave enough to [apologize for] their flaws and lacks to their children, they serve as beautiful models of what it means to depend on God. When you are open and transparent before God and your children, you are saying that, “Even though I am many years older, I, too, depend on [Jesus], just as I want you to depend on Him.”
Another benefit of being open before God and your children is that it will motivate them to seek you out and talk about their real feelings. They are more likely to share their problems and weaknesses with you if they know that you have been down that same road yourself. They will reason, Mommy won't be mad about this because she had it happen, too. …
Show your child that you are depending on the all-encompassing love and strength of God in your life. Model submission to the Lord before your child and he will learn how to submit his own life to God.--Kevin Leman
Have you ever watched a mother duck with her little ducklings? Mother duck seems so cool, calm, and collected as she swims with her little ones on the pond, but all the while she’s watching out for them.
That’s an example of the calmness of spirit that helps your little ones feel secure. You will always have more things to do than you have time to do, and it’s so easy to get in a rushed, nervous spirit. When that happens, you can make a conscious effort to remain calm and to convey that to your children. When pressures begin to mount, stop for a moment, close your eyes, and ask Me to fill you with the perfect peace that comes from trusting in Me.--Jesus, speaking in prophecy
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.--Psalm 121:1–2
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.--Isaiah 40:29–31
Text courtesy of www.anchor.tfionline.com. Photo copyright: alexandralexey / 123RF Stock Photo
Adapted from an article by Mari Ferrell
Do our children today have entire days to explore nature and enjoy the freedoms of the outdoors? Is unstructured outdoor play becoming a relic of the past?
Have you ever noticed the difference in your children's behavior when they are outdoors rather than cooped up inside? My childhood memories are filled with games of hide-and-seek, flashlight tag, making firefly lamps, building clubhouses, exploring the "woods" (vacant lot) near our house, and making things from the "clay" we found in the backyard. My mother and her brother tell stories of leaving their house every morning in the summer and not returning home until dusk. Their days included craw fishing in a nearby ditch, wading in Dry Creek, and building hideouts in the tall prairie grasses.
Do our children today have entire days to explore nature and enjoy the freedoms of the outdoors? Is unstructured outdoor play becoming a relic of the past? Evidence is mounting that points to the fact that children are spending more and more time indoors, disconnected from nature due to the pull of the TV, internet, or video games.
Outdoor play has a calming effect
In my own children I notice a marked difference in their personalities when they are able to enjoy the pleasures of outdoor play. I have always believed that children should spend as much time outside as possible, hearkening back to my teaching days when I was often the only teacher who took her students to the playground on cold and misty days. I never had a complaint about the kids' behavior inside as long as [I was sure] they had plenty of time outside. When things seemed to be getting crazy it was always a sign that they needed to get OUT! I have noticed that it works exactly the same with my own three kids.
Studies have indicated that exposure to green space and nature has an especially calming affect on children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Even adults benefit from time in nature, which has been shown to help with relaxation, stress reduction, and mental restoration.
Outdoor play is fun
This past summer at my daughter's birthday sleepover I had 12 girls ranging from six to eleven years old spending the night. My husband just happened to be out of town. I was a little concerned about doing this all by myself, so one of my good friends stayed for a couple of hours to help me out. Then she got to leave her kids with me and go out for a nice, quiet dinner with her husband. I was on my own. It was (understandably) wild and crazy inside my house. Cake crumbs and ice cream drippings covered the floor. I knew the best thing for everyone involved would be for all 12 kids to go in the backyard so I could have a moment to clean up the sticky mess. (Editor's note: Of course, keeping a close eye on the children from a window, or having an adult supervising the kids outside would be safest.)
For a full 15 minutes one or another of them kept knocking on the door. "When can we come in?" "I'm tired," "I'm bored out here," etc. They didn't seem too sure about the idea of being outside in the heat. Finally the kitchen was cleaned up and I was ready for the re-entry to occur. But wait—what was going on out there? I stealthily opened a shade and peeked outside. They had a frog and some paper birthday plates and bowls, sticks and leaves, and were building a frog mansion. The mansion became more and more elaborate over the next several hours and the frogs multiplied. There needed to be lots of rooms, you see. And a swimming pool complete with a diving board. …
Around 10 p.m. I forced them to come in. The frog mansion project ended up being the most talked-about event of the party.
Exposure to nature is crucial to human developmentThere is a growing amount of research that shows the importance of time spent in nature to human growth and development. Extensive evidence indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health. When children do not have the experience of being outside, they are missing out on an important part of childhood. In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv explains, "Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses."
We should not think of outdoor play as simply leisure time, but as something that is as necessary to our children's development as a balanced diet or a good night's sleep.
Time in nature helps:
Exercise when young builds the body for life
Studies are showing more and more that exercising seems to have a tremendous effect on human growth and development‚ most importantly when you are a little child, but also all the way up into your early 30s, and, of course, exercise is beneficial at any age. Some of the effects of exercise, such as bone growth, affect you for life, and can only be gotten when young.
It's believed that children who get insufficient physical activity and exercise may not grow to their full physical potential. It's a fact that exercise promotes growth on top of the growth which is derived from sleep and nutrition. Exercise is directly linked to the size and strength of a person's bones. Children who get good exercise grow more and have stronger bones than those who have less or no exercise.
Bones, like muscles, grow stronger with exercise. Bone growth stops around puberty or at 18–20 years; density and strength still increase until around 30–35 years. Exercise is the greatest stimulator of bone growth. Additionally, it's the bone strength gained during the first 35 or so years of life that either prevents or contributes to osteoporosis, and to overall strong or weak bones in later life.
What can you do?
Make an effort to increase time outdoors. Find ways to expose your children to nature and green spaces. [In the summer] this can be difficult to do in extreme heat, but sometimes just a hose and a few water balloons, a small kids pool or tub, buckets of water, and bubbles will suffice. A rock garden, vegetable garden, or animal habitat could be a wonderful addition to your backyard. Last summer we went for nature hikes and biked on the greenbelt in the cooler parts of the day, stopping to see interesting things along the way.
A growing body of literature shows that the natural environment has profound effects on the well-being of adults, including better psychological well-being, superior cognitive functioning, fewer physical ailments and speedier recovery from illness. It is widely accepted that the environment is likely to have a more profound effect on children due to their greater plasticity or vulnerability (Wells 2003).
Research is providing convincing evidence of the significant benefits of experiences in nature to children. Findings include:
Whether you live in a house, apartment or condo, the potential for household injuries lurk around every corner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 11,000 people die at home every year from unintentional injuries resulting from falls, fires, drownings, or poisonings. By safeguarding your home, you can help prevent household accidents.
Reduce potential fire damage.
Minimize chances of drowning accidents.
Minimize potential poisonings.
By Apryl Duncan, About.com Guide, adapted
Teaching kids about world cultures helps them appreciate the differences in
people and their traditions. Let’s put down the textbooks and travel around the
globe without ever needing a suitcase, and use our imagination to teach children
about the diversities in our world.
Create a passport
International travel requires a passport, so start this foreign adventure by creating a passport. Show your children the reasons we use a passport and what they look like. Next, help them make a small booklet to serve as their passport. They can later draw, use a sticker, or glue a picture of the country’s flag to “stamp” the pages of their passport as they “travel” from country to country.
Now that they have their passports, they’re ready to travel the world. Print a world map and use pushpins to illustrate where countries are located. Every time you learn about a new country, use another pushpin on your world map.
Study the weather
Kids who live in Ohio won’t have to worry about tropical storms. But where will you find these conditions? How’s the weather in Dubai or Pakistan today? Weather is more than the basics of sun, rain, wind, and snow. Learn about the weather in other countries to give them the full experience of what it’s like for other kids who live there.
Create or wear the types of crafts you would find in different countries. Beadwork, clothing, pottery, origami—the possibilities are endless.
In Bangkok shopping centers, you can buy everything from religious amulets to pet squirrels. Search for jade or haggle for high-tech electronics in Hong Kong’s markets. Look for the horse drawn delivery carts when shopping in Ireland. Use online resources and find pictures and articles to learn about each country’s marketplace.
Cook authentic recipes
What does Japanese or Arab food taste like? What types of food would you find on a typical menu in Germany? Cook authentic recipes together. Find what foods are popular in the country you are studying.
Learn cultural etiquette
What we might do in our home country isn’t necessarily appropriate in other countries. Learning about each culture’s etiquette can be enlightening for everyone. Pointing your feet in Thailand is offensive. Your left hand is considered unclean in Pakistan and India, so pass all food or objects to other people with your right. Learn about cultural etiquette with your child.
Teach the language
Learning a foreign language is fun for kids. Fortunately, we don’t have to know how to speak every single language to teach our kids. Study a country’s official language. Learn basic words in both written and spoken form. Not sure how to pronounce the words? Visit the About.com language labs to hear correct pronunciations.
Teach your children about the history of holidays observed in other countries. When did it begin? Why? How has it changed over the years? For example, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom observe Boxing Day. Countries in the Middle East celebrate Eid. These holidays’ traditions include giving money and charitable donations to organizations and people in need.
Courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
By Laura Boggess
When I was small, I would run as fast as I could with arms outstretched, letting the wind collect under makeshift wings. I was an airplane, a bird, or a dragon, flying over vast kingdoms. When the moon peeked through the dark at night, these wings would take me from my bed up into the sky, through stardust and past fiery comets—the curtains of the heavens opening wide to receive me. And I would meet with God—fly straight into his arms and let him rock me to sleep in his great lap.
As I grew up, I learned the limits of our natural world. The world grew smaller, and God seemed light years away. I came to understand that faith is being certain of what we do not see,1 and my childhood nighttime meetings with an unseen God faded to a sweet memory. More and more, my knowledge increased and my faith grew; yet, more and more, I longed for that close communion of long ago.
A few years ago, I went walking with my two young sons on a snowy evening. I remember how they ran ahead, lost in the tumbling play that only brothers know, leaving me in a wake of laughter. I stood alone under that white sky and looked up. Was it true that I once flew through these same heavens; cheeks flushed and eyes pools of starlight?
When did I stop believing that with God all things are possible? Or, rather, when did my imagination become so small that I stopped expecting the seemingly impossible? When did my feet become so rooted to the crust of the earth that I let gravity weigh down my idea of who God is?
It could have been when I turned seven or eight years old. At least, that’s what Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development would suggest. He claimed that the preoperational stage of thinking, which spans approximately ages 2–7, is characterized by the development of symbolic thinking, memory and imagination—all of which allow engagement in rich make-believe play.
This thinking, based on intuition instead of logic, makes it difficult to grasp cause and effect, time, and comparison. Experts view this as a limitation, but my dictionary defines intuition as an insight into truth that is not perceived by the conscious mind. That sounds to me like the place where the Holy Spirit touches my consciousness—steering me this way or that. The world may view that as a limitation, but I wonder…
When our brains reach that stage when they are capable of logic, do the wonder structures in our brains have to shrink to make room? If so, how can we expand them again? How can we grown-ups, long past Piaget’s preoperational stage, recover the wild joy of wonder? How can I revisit that place where the Holy Spirit begins to touch my conscious and steer me again, offering his intuition and insight?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 that unless we become like little children we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, he said. What might that look like? How do I come to Jesus like a child?
One answer came that cold day in February—lifted with laughter on the snow.
But what would play look like in my grown-up world? In his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Dr. Stuart Brown says when we engage in true play, our sense of self-consciousness diminishes and we lose track of time. Play allows us to live fully in each moment.
I start to practice play, losing myself completely, standing at the window, watching a goldfinch peel a sunflower seed. Hours spent pulling weeds in the vegetable garden pass like seconds—the scent of the tomato plant leaves intoxicates. And when the sun shines on water, leaving a rosy trail behind her, I’m drawn into the passage of light through water.
Play reminds me how it feels to be a child—innocent, everything new. God is inviting me to play each time he points my heart to beauty.
That evening in the snow, my sons’ laughter echoing through the streets, I felt the internal prompting. I felt the invitation. Once again, I lifted my arms up to my sides—stretched out my wings. This fortyish mama let herself glide in circles, let the wind collect under makeshift wings.
And I flew. Straight into the arms of God.
Play looks different for each person. What simple, playful activities fit your personality and can help you connect with God more intimately, becoming like little children?
We work hard to create a world of structure and predictability for our children, with routines, a regular schedule, and consistent expectations. We aim to make their lives stable, safe, and secure. As they grow up, we hope that this early experience will center them, and that they will be solid in a world of flux and change. In addition to providing children a safe and secure beginning, we also have to prepare them for the ups-and-downs of life. One way is to foster a positive attitude towards change. Following are some steps that parents can take to prepare children for change:
1. Observe your children and note how they react to the prospect of change. Is there a pattern? Do they generally dig in their heels? Do they become anxious and fearful? Or do they look forward to new experiences? These patterns and attitudes can become the modus operandi as they grow into adulthood. The goal is to change negative patterns and attitudes now, before they become entrenched.
2. Talk with your children about their feelings before they face a new situation or impending change. Depending on the children’s age, temperament, and background, they may or may not be able to discuss their feelings directly. If children have trouble articulating how they feel, approach it indirectly. Perhaps bring up a parallel example from your own life and discuss how you felt at the time. With younger children, it is
helpful to use a picture book in which the main character goes through similar experiences.
3. Discover the picture your children formed of the change. Children’s feelings about an impending change directly correlate to their understanding of what is happening. If they are telling themselves that they will move to a new neighborhood, and won’t have any friends, it makes sense that they are feeling sad and fearful. Ask them what they think the future will hold once the change occurs.
4. Look for catastrophic thinking. Are your children envisioning a catastrophic outcome, a worst-case scenario? Are they using words like never, always, everyone, and no one? “I’ll never make any friends at my school.” “Everyone already has friends.” “No one will want to be friends with me.” These statements might feel like reality to your children, but they are not. Challenge these statements and help your children develop a more balanced view of what the future may hold. If you repeatedly challenge catastrophic thinking, your children will pick up the technique and will begin to use it, too.
5. Prepare your children in case some of their fears become reality. Suggest alternative ways of making friends. If they are very shy or there are other obstacles, adjust suggestions accordingly. Also, ask the children if they can think of solutions. Teaching a child to be proactive as a response to change will have immeasurable benefits over a lifetime.
6. Allow your children to grieve their losses brought about by a change in circumstances. Acknowledge the losses as real and comfort them in their sadness. If children do not have the opportunity to express their sadness, it can heighten anxiety and possibly lead to depression.
7. When appropriate, ask children to try to envision a positive outcome to the change. Encourage them to think of all the wonderful possibilities that a change might bring. This exercise teaches them to think optimistically.
8. Call attention to their successes once the change has occurred and the children have adapted. Remind them how they’d pictured the change, and contrast it with the reality of the situation. This will help them to “reality test” future thinking.
Article originally published in Motivated magazine. Used with permission. Photo by Mashael Al-Mehmadi via Flickr.