(Click here for part one)
Put yourself in their shoes
Try to view the world from your child’s point of view. Of course, the best way to see things from your child’s perspective is to pray and ask the Lord to show you. He knows your children inside and out. He understands exactly how they feel and what they’re going through, and He will show you if you ask Him.
With small children, it sometimes helps to physically come down to their level when you talk to them; squat, kneel, or sit on the floor next to them. On their eye level, you don’t seem so distant. Seeing the world from a child’s perspective also helps you understand why he sometimes feels intimidated when others tower over him, and most of the action is going on beyond his reach. To a small child high shelves may as well be ledges far up the face of a sheer cliff; adults seem like giants two stories high who fill their dwellings with equally huge furniture and facilities often completely inaccessible. An un-familiar house can seem like a land of giants to a tiny child. As much as possible, try to keep his things down where he can get them. You may not have a “child-sized” room and furniture, but at least provide stools (or sturdy boxes) for him to climb up on to get to the sink and other places he needs to be able to reach.
Realize that a child’s experience is limited
Even tiny misfortunes often get blown out of proportion in young children’s minds. Experience helps put things in perspective. You’ve learned through experience that certain things aren’t worth getting all upset or worried about. That cut finger will soon stop bleeding and hurting. Feelings of disappointment and loss will pass, and new joys will come in their place. Bad weather does eventually pass.
But small children don’t have your confidence that things generally work out in the end. They don’t have that frame of reference, because they haven’t experienced life enough yet. They need reassurance. They need you to explain things to them and comfort them.
Small children live in the moment. Now is where everything is happening. Now is all that matters. As they grow older, they will understand the principle of time and words like “tomorrow,” “later,” and “after.” Learning to survive disappointment—even everyday little things that seem so minute to us grown-ups—takes time and experience, and for young children it can be a painful process. It can also be painful for parents. It hurts to see your child get so upset, in-secure, and disappointed when his expectations aren’t reached, but you can speed up the healing process by showing sympathy and praying with him. It is just as important to encourage and reward him when he shows faith and confidence that things are going to work out.
When you know that your child is going to have a hard time with something, it is always good to prepare him a bit before the event so it does not come as such a shock. Anticipate a crisis coming on and try to preempt it: “Mommy is going to have to turn the video off soon because it is nearly time for your nap. You can watch for a little while longer, then we have to turn it off.”
Your example is your child’s best teacher
Parents tell a child but never teach,
Until they practice what they preach.
Children are great mimics. This is largely how they learn—by imitation. Children seldom forget what they see. They go more by what they see than by what they hear, more by your actions and attitudes than by your words. Your children are a reflection of you. Your own attitudes and example of faith become a standard to your children, and their actions and reactions will largely depend on yours.
Few others will have a greater impact on your child’s life than you, but the examples of others can have a big influence. TV viewing can have a pronounced effect on your child. TV is the modern world’s handiest, cheapest, and most relied-upon babysitter—but not by any means the most trustworthy or reliable! Many of the bad habits and ungodly attitudes that concern today’s parents when they see them in their children are the result of the children imitating the negative samples that they see on TV. It is wise to limit the influence of television, and monitor what your children—and you, in their presence—watch. What children see on TV and the bad examples that they see in others—especially children their own age or older kids they look up to—can quickly undo a lot of the good attitudes and behavior that you have worked hard to instill in them.
Pushing the praise button
Children thrive on being praised. It’s more important to praise a child for his good behavior than it is to scold him for his bad behavior. Try to accentuate the positive. Praising children for their good qualities is the best way in the world to get them to try harder to be good. Push the praise button, and they will do almost anything to please you. Sincere praise also helps them feel better about themselves, which is crucial to their growing up happy and well adjusted.
Excerpted from the book "Keys to Toddlers and Preschoolers", by Derek and Michelle Brooks. Copyright Aurora Productions. Used with permission.
The Importance of Early Learning
Toddler age (1 to 2 years) is probably one of the most difficult stages for parents or caregivers. Baby is growing up and has new powers and abilities to explore! Preschoolers (3 to 4 years) are of course more competent than toddlers in their physical skills and abilities, but they are also nearly always ready and happy for any attention and input you can give them.
The importance of early education can hardly be emphasized enough. It’s now an accepted fact that a child learns more than half of all that he will learn in his lifetime by the time he’s five years old. So it is important to begin teaching your little ones early and to teach them the right things during those first formative years.
Every single day is important, because learning new things every day is the main “occupation” of small children. They can usually learn a lot more with a parent’s guidance than if they are just left to figure things out for themselves. Motor skills, a wide range of practical skills, and language learning are the main areas to focus on.
Small children should not be overburdened with tedious scholastic preparation, but a surprising amount of groundwork and preparation for later learning can be done in these early years. They should not be forced to learn something they don’t want to learn—but you will find that there is very little that they do not want to learn about. They seem the most happy and contented when they are busy learning. They are such educational enthusiasts, in fact, that they can soon wear their tutor out!
Make it Fun, Make it Lively!
In order to capture and keep a little child’s attention, you have to put everything you’ve got into what you’re doing. The best teachers are those who make learning fun. Whatever children enjoy learning is what they will learn the quickest and the best. Great teachers are idea people who inspire children with a desire to learn. They have a knack for turning every situation into a learning activity so pleasant and enjoyable that the children almost beg to learn.
We parents may not be all that gifted, but there is a lot we can do. Children like to be kept busy. They like to do things, but they sometimes have a hard time thinking up things to do. So we have to continually think up new ways to channel their energies into productive endeavors. We have to have animation; we have to have enthusiasm—lots of action, lots of motion, and lots of sound effects! We have to really illustrate and put a lot of meaning and interest into what we’re teaching!
Excerpted from the book "Keys to Toddlers and Preschoolers" by Derek and Michelle Brooks. © Aurora Productions. Used with Permission.
By Sharmini Odhav
Before my baby was born, I tried to imagine what she would be like. When she wasn’t sleeping—which I expected her to do most of the time—I pictured her sitting serenely contemplating the meaning of life or contentedly observing me as I went about my cooking, cleaning, or other work, all the while learning the essentials of womanhood. Little did I know that sleep would be the very last thing on her mind.
She wasn’t nearly as interested in finding out what was on my agenda as she was in letting me know what was on hers. She wanted every second of my time, and nothing held her attention for more than three minutes. When she got fussy, she could keep it up for hours on end, despite my doing everything but fly through the air on a trapeze to try to amuse or distract her.
At times I felt like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, running in circles trying to clean and wash and fold and keep up with all of my other necessary activities while also caring for this hyperactive new addition to my life. There were times when I felt like I just couldn’t do it anymore, and I would throw up my arms and ask God why He was punishing me. How did other women cope? Was I the only one not, in fact, superhuman?
My first reaction was to try to do everything on the double so I could somehow cram it all in to what now seemed like a minuscule 24 hours. For the most part it seemed to work, and it gave me a rush to get more done than I had before. But babies somehow just can’t be rushed through like anything else. It must be God’s way of teaching parents patience. Trying to put a baby to sleep in haste, or commanding her to “be happy,” or expecting her to entertain herself for more than a few minutes so I could do something else just didn’t work. The usual consequence was a confused, frustrated, unhappy baby, and it would take even longer to put her to sleep or help her return to her happy self. It took me awhile to realize that the less attention I showed her, the more irritated she would become. Too often I found myself barking orders or whining back at her.
Eventually I asked myself why things were the way they were. What had I become? I didn’t want my baby’s first years to pass this way, and I certainly didn’t want to be that kind of a parent to my child!
Then my mom said to me, “You should make the most of this time with your baby, because before you know it, she’ll be grown up!”
I prayed for a change of attitude, and I got it. I learned to enjoy every moment with my baby—every smile that tells me that she’s happy that I brought her into the world, every time she nestles her head on my shoulder in trusting repose, every time her tiny fingers wrap around mine or stroke my cheek, every time I feel her soft skin or smell her baby breath, every miracle I witness in her infant life that finds me shrieking in excitement. I even enjoy her cries to have some need met because they remind me of the immense responsibility I have been blessed with—her little life entrusted to my care. And when I figure out what it is she needs or cradle her in my arms and she stops her crying or fussing, I’m left with the most amazing, satisfied feeling, realizing that I am the most important, loved, and appreciated person to her. I also imagine that the way I respond to her now will influence how she will respond to me later in life.
As soon as I stopped seeing my baby as an additional chore on my to-do list, the quality of my life improved. I realized how much I love her and what an incredible experience it is to be a mother.
Now I find myself looking for ways to spend more time with her, because I don’t want to miss one second of her life before it flies by. I’m thankful for this opportunity I have to pour more into her. I’ve learned that if I put everything else aside and attend to her needs, she rewards me by being a happy, contented, and attentive baby. When she finally goes to sleep, I have time to do some of those other things I wanted to. But until then, they can wait. She’s the most precious time consumer I could ever ask for!
When things get especially busy and I think I don’t have time to give her that little extra, I remind myself that quality time spent with our children is never wasted. The love we store in their hearts will last a lifetime and beyond. If we invest time and love in our children, we’ll spend the rest of our lives reaping the dividends.
* * *
Would you write your name
among the stars?
Then write it large upon the
hearts of the children.
They will remember!
Have you visions of a nobler,
Tell the children!
They will build it for you.
Charles and Carla Coonradt tell the story of an immense, 19,000-pound whale, Shama, that is taught in Sea World, Florida, to jump 22 feet out of the water and perform tricks. How do you suppose they teach the whale to do that?
A typical parenting approach would be to mount a rope at 22 feet high out of the water, and encourage the whale to sail over it. “Jump, whale!” Maybe get a bucket of fish up there, reward the whale when it does the right thing. Set goals! Aim high! And you and I know the whale would stay right where it was.
The Coonradts say, “So how do the trainers at Sea World do it? Their number-one priority is to reinforce the behavior that they want repeated—in this case, to get a whale or porpoise to go over the rope. They influence the environment every way they can so that it supports the principle of making sure that the whale can’t fail. They start with the rope below the surface of the water, in a position where the whale can’t help but do what’s expected of it. Every time the whale goes over the rope, it gets positive reinforcement. It gets fed fish, patted, played with, and most important, it gets that reinforcement.
“But what happens when the whale goes under the rope? Nothing—no electric shock, no constructive criticism, no developmental feedback, and no warnings in the personnel file. Whales are taught that their negative behavior will not be acknowledged.
Positive reinforcement is the cornerstone of that simple principle that produces such spectacular results. And as the whale begins to go over the rope more often than under, the trainers begin to raise the rope. It must be raised slowly enough so that the whale doesn’t starve, either physically or emotionally.
“The simple lesson to be learned from the whale trainers is to over-celebrate. Make a big deal out of the good and little stuff that we want consistently. Secondly, under-criticize. Children know when they screw up. What they need is help. If we under-criticize, punish and discipline less than is expected, children will not forget the event and usually will not repeat it.”
We need to make it difficult for children to fail, so there can be less criticism and more celebrations.
Words for Loved Ones
I received a letter in which a man told me of his childhood experiences. He had been a juvenile delinquent as a preteen and teen, but a dramatic change took place when his father began spending more time with him. Here are excerpts from this man's letter:
"From the age of eight to fourteen I was a very bad boy. My father would leave for work at 3:00 in the afternoon, and come home at 3:00 in the morning. He was asleep when I got up, and by the time I got home from school he had gone to work. I rarely saw him, except for a few minutes on weekends.
"I got into lots of trouble. I stole everything I needed or wanted, including cigarettes, candy, food, and money. I was incorrigible, and did poorly in school.
"At fourteen I was arrested for stealing again and sent to a reform school. My father's first reaction was to be angry with me, but later he came to the realization that he had been partly to blame for not being more of a father to me. He reevaluated his life and decided to help me.
"He quit his nighttime job and took a daytime one that paid less, so he could spend time with me every day. When I came home from school, he was there. He took an interest in how I was doing in school, and helped me with my homework. We joined a men and boys club. Instead of me hanging out at a dingy pool hall, we went together to a recreation center where we played pool, handball, and basketball together--all the things I liked to do. He bought me a season pass at the local golf course, and took me golfing three or four times a week. We were together all the time.
"As my father showed me love and understanding, it changed my life. My grades at school improved until I made the honor roll. I made new friends who were studious and didn't get in trouble. I had been tough on the outside, but on the inside I had been crying out for love, attention, and companionship. My father's love, as demonstrated by the time he spent with me, was the key."
All children need a father or a father figure--someone they know admires them, has faith in them, enjoys their company, and looks forward to being with them. All children need someone who they know will be there to feel for them and pray for them when they're deeply disappointed, to hold on to them when they're about to lose hope, and to celebrate with them when their dreams come true.
Are your children getting that kind of love?
We often see stories on TV of otherwise ordinary people--teachers, pastors, police, etc.--who have helped bring about remarkable changes in young people's lives, even the worst of delinquents, because they gave them their time.
One such news spot featured a woman who had opened a home for troubled kids--runaways, castoffs, prostitutes, gang members--those who fall through the cracks of society. In the interview she said, "The children that I serve are the most unwanted children, the rejects of the nation."
When the interviewer asked some of the kids what they were doing before they came to the home they answered, "Taking drugs." "Fighting a lot." "Pimping girls." "Shooting people for fun."
When talking about the kids, the woman said, "They've lost all hope. They've lost trust in adults. We adults are too busy. We don't listen anymore. No one has time for the children anymore."
When asked what the children need, she responded, "These guys? It's a very simple formula. You know what these kids really need?--Motherly love. They want role models. They want people who will be honest with them. They want someone to discipline them. They want someone who can teach them responsibility, consequences. Someone to hold them, hug them. I don't give up on them. If you teach them to give up easily, they'll give up."
One of the older boys hugged this woman and said, "She's my mom. Not by blood, but in a sense, she's still my mom. She takes care of me."
When the kids were asked what changes had come about in their lives as a result of this woman, the meanest-looking kid, the one who used to shoot people for fun, said, "Look inside of us. We've got hope. We've got dreams. We care too. Now I want to go to college."
This woman's closing message to parents was: "Love your children. Don't give up on them. Love them till it hurts. That's what love is all about--loving unconditionally, till it hurts!"
We can easily lose sight of the power of one individual. We can depend too much on society as a whole--its institutions, government, schools--so we as individuals don't feel the need to take responsibility for children, whether our own or some whose paths simply cross ours, who may need us.
You could be part of God's plan of love and care for a young life. Your love, concern, and friendship could make a world of difference!
Written by Maria David and reprinted from Activated magazine. Used with permission.
The Chinese proverb states, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This saying can be aptly applied to teaching our youth good problem-solving skills.
You may find that it will initially take an investment of time to teach these principles of problem solving to your children, but expect to reap long-term dividends as your children learn to solve problems and make wise choices for themselves.
Parents are often amazed to discover how capable and resourceful their children are when given the chance to solve their problems in their own way. All children will inevitably encounter problems of all shapes and kinds in their lives; that’s simply part of growing up. Through dealing with these challenges, they learn problem-solving skills, which are essential to success in life. Kids have unbelievable and largely untapped potential for finding good solutions to their problems. It’s wise to invest time in helping your child develop his or her problem-solving skills. Teaching children how to solve problems is an essential skill that is worth their learning while young, as it will greatly aid them in the future.
However, one tendency of parents is to too quickly rectify the problem or too easily provide the answer to the problem. If you try to solve all your child’s problems, you will stunt your child’s ability to solve problems on his own. Don’t take over the fixing of the problem unless you have to. Instead, help the child find the solution. This shows that you have faith in your child’s ability to learn to handle the problem constructively.
At first you will have to walk your child through each step of the problem-solving process, and it may take much more time to complete the process than if you had just solved the problem for him or told him the answer. But when you solve your child’s problem, you’re taking away a valuable opportunity for him to learn. The learning process, however slow, is part of a child’s development and growth.
Little Sara borrows her friend’s doll, but while playing with it, she rips the doll’s dress.
“Mommy, I ripped the doll’s dress!” Sara whimpers.
“Don’t worry, Sara, I’ll sew it tonight and you can give it back to Melissa later.”
Mom has fixed the problem and Sara is happy. But what did Sara learn from this encounter? “If I have a problem, ask Mommy. She’ll solve it.” So the next time something happens, she will promptly come to Mommy for solving the problem again.
In the case of the ripped dress, here’s how it could turn into a problem-solving learning scenario:
“Mommy, I ripped Melissa’s doll’s dress!”
“Oh my. Yes, that is quite a tear. Hmm, what do you think we should do about it?”
“Um, I don’t know. Tell Melissa I’m sorry?”
“Well, that would be good to do. But how do you think she’ll feel getting her doll back with a torn dress?”
“She might be sad.”
“Could we do something to help that?”
“Maybe we could fix it? Could we sew the dress?”
“Excellent solution! How about tonight you and I work on sewing the doll’s dress?”
Mommy has taught Sara how to find a solution to her problem. By helping sew the dress with her mom, Sara is also now a part of the solution. Next time Sara encounters a problem, she may still go to Mommy for help, but she’ll be aware that there will be a way to figure out a solution to the problem, and she’ll realize that she can and should play a part in the solution. As Sara practices this problem-solving method day by day, she will learn to figure out solutions on her own, and will have honed a valuable lifelong skill.
Not all problems in life are easily solved, and you will have to help your children understand that, as they encounter bigger challenges. But the daily steps you take to encourage their problem-solving skills will provide them with greater personal resources to cope with the more challenging problems of life as they grow older.
Teach your children to take responsibility in finding solutions to their problems, and in so doing, you will be teaching them a valuable skill that will benefit them throughout life.
© TFI. Used with permission.
I used to struggle more often than I wanted to admit to really enjoy my children. Sure, many little unexpected happenings turned to happy thoughts later--the sorts of things that fond memories are made of--but just as often I seemed to spoil the fun for my children before it had a chance to become a fond memory. But then something happened to help change that.
It started one Monday morning. No sooner had my husband gone to work, leaving me home with our two young children, than I found myself counting the hours till he would come home. By then it would almost be the kids' bedtime and things would be easier two-on-two.
Morning inched past, and finally it was afternoon. I had hoped to get some work done while the kids took their afternoon naps, but that hope vanished when my youngest, Ella, stayed awake, eager for attention and lively play.
When she finally fell asleep, I plopped myself in a nearby chair, but not a moment had passed before my two-and-a-half-year-old son bounced out of bed and up into my lap.
"I woke up, Mommy!" he announced as though that were a great accomplishment.
"You sure did!" I tried my best to sound positive, while thinking, There goes my afternoon. I guess I really won't be getting anything done today. I looked at my watch. "Two more hours till Daddy's home," I said out loud. "Let's go and get you a snack."
Evan stood on a kitchen chair and leaned against the counter as he helped pour milk into his cup. I would have rather done it without his help, but remembered something my mother had recently said. "At this age he wants to do everything himself."
"But that's so frustrating for me," I had complained to her. "Even simple things get complicated and take so much longer."
"It's for the best," Mom had told me. "Just think of it as education--all the things you go through with the kids that are part of daily life, like brushing teeth, washing hands, dressing, making snacks--it's all brand new to them, something new to learn and experience. Those little things teach them self-sufficiency, character, and style. Remember, you're the teacher and your kids are eager young pupils in the school of life."
So I had let Evan help me pour the milk. "There you are," I said as we finished.
"And I'd like some bread, please--with jam on it." He knew I couldn't refuse when he asked so politely and cheerfully.
I started toward the fridge, but Evan had beaten me there and was already pulling the jam from the fridge shelf.
I hope that jar doesn't slip through his little fingers and break, I thought, just as it did!
The jam managed to stay in a fairly neat red splatter on the floor, but the broken glass was a different story. It was everywhere, in a hundred pieces. I covered my mouth with my hands to keep the tiredness and frustration from spilling out.
"Never do that again!" Evan offered in a sorry and slightly worried tone.
I forced my thoughts into a short prayer. Suddenly Mom's words rushed back into my mind--"something new to learn and experience."
I swooped up Evan to the safety of my arms. "First we had better get some shoes on your bare feet, then I'm going to show you how to clean up a broken jar of jam."
Moments later, as I swept up the mess and Evan held the dustpan ready, I explained to my little pupil the dynamics of glass: how easily it shatters, and the best way to clean it up when it does.
Mom's advice was wise. By treating the mishap as a new learning experience for my little one, I felt calm and controlled. Instead of scolding my son and promising myself I'd never make the mistake of letting him get something from the fridge by himself again, I had taught him how to deal with accidents in a positive way.
We got another jar of jam from the cupboard, and went on to butter bread and spread jam together, make coffee for mom, and set it all out neatly on the table to enjoy together. That's when I caught myself actually enjoying the moment!
"You're such a good cook, Evan!" His little eyes shone. "Mommy is so proud of you!"
"Evan is so proud of you, Mommy!" he replied without hesitation. I smiled. Come to think of it, I was proud of myself too.
"I think I'll buy another jar of jam and make it a permanent fixture on the kitchen counter," I told Evan, "because enjoying you at this moment is something I want to always remember!"
Excerpted from Activated magazine. Used with permission.
1. Make the little everyday things count. Look for special things that you can share and enjoy together during meal times, bedtime, and any other time you get to spend together.
2. Little family traditions, whether simple or funny, strengthen bonds and create good memories. Adopt a family song or slogan (or make one up). Pick a meal that’s a family favorite, and serve it when you want to celebrate a special occasion.
3. Set aside a time of day that’s especially reserved for your children. Turn off the TV, your cell phone, and anything else that could be a distraction, and give your children your full attention.
4. Plan your “family times” ahead of time, so that they’re quality and fun. Your children can be included in the planning. Filling out a weekly or monthly planner with activities that you’ll do can be a fun activity in itself.
5. Take on a hobby that you can enjoy with your children. Find out what they’re interested in and get into a long-term project with them. Partake of a learning experience together.
6. If you have more than one child, besides your times all together, try to spend one-on-one time with each of them regularly. This special time with you will help them to feel individually loved and appreciated.
7. Read together. There are a great variety of children’s stories here at www.freekidstories.org. These and other stories can provide fun reading that will also teach children good moral values.
8. Have fun with your children! Don’t be afraid to let your hair down and goof around with them. They need and want those playful times with you.
9. Do something spontaneous and different every once in a while, such as having an impromptu picnic dinner, or driving out to the country on a weekend to spend the day in the sun.
10. Be affectionate. A hug, a cuddle, a pat on the head, are all expressions of love and care, and go a long way in boosting your child’s confidence and security. You need affection too!
Article © TFI. Used with permission.