I took my daughter, Helen (eight years old), and son, Brandon (five years old), to the Cloverleaf Mall in Hattiesburg to do a little shopping. As we drove up, we spotted a Peterbilt eighteen-wheeler parked with a big sign on it that said “Petting Zoo.” The kids jumped up in a rush and asked, “Daddy, Daddy. Can we go? Please. Please. Can we go?”
“Sure,” I said, flipping them both a quarter before walking into Sears. They bolted away and I felt free to take my time looking for a scroll saw. A petting zoo consists of a portable fence erected in the mall with about six inches of sawdust and a hundred little furry baby animals of all kinds. Kids pay their money and stay in the enclosure enraptured with the squirmy little critters while their moms and dads shop.
A few minutes later, I turned around and saw Helen walking along behind me. I was shocked to see she preferred the hardware department to the petting zoo. Plus, I thought the children had to wait till the parents came to pick them up. I bent down and asked what was wrong.
She looked up at me with those giant limpid brown eyes and said sadly, “Well, Daddy, it cost fifty cents. So, I gave Brandon my quarter.” Then she said the most beautiful thing I ever heard. She repeated the family motto: “Love is action!”
She had given Brandon her quarter, and no one loves cuddly furry creatures more than Helen. She had watched both me and my wife do and say “Love is action!” for years around the house. She had heard and seen “Love is action,” and now she had incorporated it into her little lifestyle. It had become part of her.
What do you think I did? Well, not what you might think. First, we went back to the petting zoo, since Brandon was by himself. We stood by the fence and watched Brandon go crazy petting and feeding the animals. Helen stood with her hands and chin resting on the fence and just watched Brandon. I had fifty cents burning a hole in my pocket; I never offered it to Helen, and she never asked for it.
Because she knew the whole family motto. It’s not “Love is action.” It’s “Love is SACRIFICIAL action!” Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive. When you love, benefits accrue to another’s account. Love is for you, not for me. Love gives; it doesn’t grab. Helen gave her quarter to Brandon and wanted to follow through with her lesson. … She wanted to experience that total family motto. Love is sacrificial action.--Dave Simmons, “Dad, The Family Coach”
Courtesy of Anchor; used with permission.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.—Proverbs 22:61
One day before long, your children will be grown and gone. You’ll be thankful then that you gave them what they needed when they were growing up. It wasn’t easy, you sacrificed a lot, but it was worth it! Joy, a missionary and mother of a large family, put it this way:
I’m looking at motherhood from another perspective now. I am beyond the initial years of diaper changing and midnight feeds, past potty time and a hundred scraped knees. I’m a grandma and a mommy rolled into one. My youngest children are still with me, but my eldest are married and have begun having children of their own. One blessed thought I want to share with younger parents as they face what looks like an insurmountable mountain of parenting is simply this: It’s worth it all!
I get a wonderful feeling looking at my children who are now young adults, because I see how the Lord has worked in their lives. It gives me peace and a fresh vision for the little ones still in my arms. … So during those hours in the night while you are keeping watch over a sick child, smiling when you want to cry, singing as you pray for patience, wiping little noses while you dream of someday doing great things for God, just remember that you are. You will never regret one prayer, one song, one loving word. Each small act of love reaches out to them and touches them for eternity. After all the years of taking it all by faith, someday you—like me—will be blessed at seeing what they have become. —Derek and Michelle Brookes2
Although love is essential to human life, parental responsibility extends far beyond it. Love in the absence of instruction will not produce a child with self-discipline, self-control, and respect for his fellow man. Affection and warmth underlie all mental and physical health, yet they do not eliminate the need for careful training and guidance.
The greatest social disaster of this century is the belief that abundant love makes discipline unnecessary. Respectful and responsible children result from families where the proper combination of love and discipline is present.
Discipline and love are not opposites; one is a function of the other. The parent must convince himself that punishment is not something he does to the child, it is something he does for the child. His attitude towards his disobedient youngster should be, “I love you too much to let you behave like that.” —James Dobson3
King Solomon, in Psalm 127, describes our children as arrows in the hands of a young warrior. … Hmmm, I reflected, So that’s how I’m supposed to view my children ... as arrows! They are designed to have direction and purpose, and they’re supposed to carry with them the possibility of making an impact and a difference.
I was just kind of carrying mine around in my quiver, hoping that one day they’d grow out of it and find a quiver of their own. … It quickly became obvious that the goals I needed to set for my children should cultivate their character rather than push them toward a particular career. I did not want to corner my youngsters into cozy little niches of my own design. Too many parents create boxes, then try to force their children to fit inside them. But those ill-fitting boxes hurt their kids’ hearts just as much as an ill-fitting pair of shoes would hurt their feet. Such stifled children sometimes end up with emotional blisters that eventually make it hard for them to walk or even stand up on their own.
I decided to cherish principles, moral fiber, and integrity above grades, athletic prowess, and tidy bedrooms.
To avoid establishing goals that were too restrictive or confining, I asked myself this question: Can my child either be a sitting judge or a standup comedian; a famous surgeon or a faithful garbage collector; an investment analyst or a lawn-care specialist—and still achieve the goals I have set for him? If I answered yes, then my goals were probably fair and my box was probably not too small.
I decided to accomplish my goal-setting by listing three to five qualities that I wanted to see emerge as distinguishing characteristics in each child’s life by the time he left home. I knew I couldn’t handle many more than that! I included traits such as honesty, generosity, commitment to family, contentment, and the ability to function independently. They varied depending on the personality of each child and changed somewhat over time—depending sometimes on my maturation as a mom. …
Completing this exercise provided definitive direction and purpose for my mothering. I found targets to shoot toward. If I noticed the negative traits I had chosen not to tolerate emerging in one of my sons’ lives, I knew it was time to intervene.—Gwendolyn Mitchell Diaz4
If you think of your children as small and unimportant, you will talk with them about small, insignificant matters. You will communicate trivia to them. And their growth will reflect this dimension of talk. You will leave behind a generation of stunted dwarfs.
On the other hand, if you see your children as future parents, future leaders, future men and women of God, and see them as growing daily toward this important role, you will do all in your power to shape their lives toward the grand objective of helping them become parents, leaders, and men and women of God.—V. Gilbert Beers5
Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. … Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.—Deuteronomy 11:1, 196
Compilation courtesy of www.anchor.tfionline.com. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
2 Power for Parenthood (Aurora Production AG, 2001).
3 Dare to Discipline (Tyndale House Publishers, 1975).
4 Mighty Mom’s Secrets for Raising Super Kids (RiverOak Publishing, 2001).
5 Parents: Talk with Your Children (Harvest House Publishers, 1988).
No one would argue that raising children of character demands time and effort. While having children may be doing what comes naturally, being a good parent is much more complicated. If you want to know how to raise a child, follow these steps.
Method 1 of 4: Developing a Healthy Routine
Put parenting first. This is hard to do in a world with so many competing demands. Good parents consciously plan and devote time to parenting. They make developing their child’s character their top priority. Once you're a parent, you have to learn to put your priorities below your children's, and to make the sacrifice to spending more of your day caring for them than you do caring for yourself. Of course, you shouldn't neglect yourself completely, but you should get accustomed to the idea of putting your child's needs first.
If you have a spouse, then you can take turns caring for the child so each of you can have some "me time." When you plan your weekly routine, your child's needs should be your primary focus.
Read to your child every day. Helping to nurture a love for the written word will help your child to develop a love for reading later on. Set a time for reading for your child every day -- typically around bed time or nap time. Spend at least half an hour to an hour reading to your child each day, if not more. Not only will your child develop a love for words, but your child will have a better chance of both academic and behavioral success. Studies show that children that were read to on a daily basis demonstrate less bad behavior in school.
Eat dinner as a family. One of the most dangerous trends in the modern family is the dying of the family meal. The dinner table is not only a place of sustenance and family business but also a place for the teaching and passing on of our values. Manners and rules are subtly absorbed over the table. Family mealtime should communicate and sustain ideals that children will draw on throughout their lives.
If your child is a picky eater, don't spend dinner time criticizing your child's eating habits and watching what he or she doesn't eat like a hawk. This will lead your child to have a negative association with family meals.
Get your child involved in the meal. Dinner will be more fun if your child "helps" you pick out food at the grocery store or helps you set up the table or to do small food-related tasks, such as washing the vegetables you will cook.
Keep dinner conversation open and light. Don't give your child the third-degree. Simply ask, "How was your day?"
Set a strict bedtime routine. Though your child doesn't have to go to bed during the same five-minute stretch every single night, you should set a bedtime routine that your child can follow and stick to it. Studies show that children's cognitive abilities can drop two full grade levels after just one missed hour of sleep, so it's important that they get as much rest as they can before you send them to school.
Your routine should include some winding-down time. Turn off the TV, music, or any electronics, and either talk to your child softly in bed or read to him.
Don't give your child sugary snacks right before bed or it'll be harder to get him to sleep.
Encourage your child to develop skills each week. Though you don't have to sign your child up for ten different activities each week, you should find at least one or two activities that your child loves to do and incorporate them into your child's weekly routine. This can be anything from soccer to art class -- it really doesn't matter, as long as your child shows a talent or a love for something. Tell your child what a great job he's doing and encourage him to keep going.
Taking your child to different lessons will also help him or her socialize with other children.
Don't get lazy. If your child complains that she doesn't want to go to piano lessons, but you know she likes it deep down, don't give in just because you don't feel like driving over there.
Give your child enough play time every day. "Play time" does not mean having your child sit in front of the TV and suck on a building block while you do the dishes. "Play time" means letting your child sit in his room or play area and to actively engage with stimulating toys while you help him explore their possibilities. Though you may be tired, it's important that you show your child the benefits of playing with his toys so he gets the stimulation he needs and so he learns to play with them on his own.
It doesn't matter if you don't have 80 million toys for your child to play with. It's the quality, not the quantity of the toys that counts. And you may find that your child's favorite toy of the month is an empty toilet paper roll.
Method 2 of 4: Loving Your Child
Learn to listen to your children. Influencing their lives is one of the greatest things you can do. It is easy to tune out our children, and a missed opportunity for meaningful guidance. If you never listen to your children and spend all of your time barking orders at them, they won't feel respected or cared for.
Edwin J. and Alice B. Delattre, book excerpts
Our children deserve to learn important lessons from us and to acquire important habits with our help. They need help in learning what matters to us. We want our children to grow up to be responsible adults. We want them to learn to feel, think, and act with respect for themselves and for other people. We want them to pursue their own well-being, while also being considerate of the needs and feelings of others.
Many parents will also want to share with their children deeply held religious and moral convictions as a foundation for ethical behavior. This booklet discusses habits of fairness, respect, courage, honesty, and compassion that responsible people share, and it can be used by parents with different beliefs.
As parents, we can give our children the best in us by helping them acquire habits and character traits that they can rely on in their own lives. If we help them learn to take pleasure in thinking and behaving well, they will have the best chance to lead good lives as individuals and as citizens in the community. This will be true no matter what unpleasant situations or bad influences they come across.
What do we mean by responsibility?
None of us is born acting responsibly. A responsible character is formed over time. It is made up of our outlook and daily habits associated with feelings, thoughts, and actions. Responsible people act the way they should whether or not anyone is watching. They do so because they understand that it’s a fight and because they have the courage and self-control to act decently, even when tempted to do otherwise.
We want our children to appreciate the importance of being responsible. We also want them to develop the habits and strength to act this way in their everyday lives. Learning to be responsible includes learning to:
Respect and compassion for others
As part of being responsible, children need to respect and show concern for the well-being of other people. Respect ranges from using basic manners to having compassion for the suffering of others. Compassion is developed by trying to see things from the point of view of others, and learning that their feelings resemble our own.
Respect for others also includes the habit of treating people fairly as individuals, regardless of race, sex, or ethnic group. As we mature, respect includes realizing that not all our obligations to others, such as caring for a family member who is sick, are chosen freely. And it includes tolerance for people who do not share our beliefs or likes or dislikes, as long as they do not harm others.
These habits are especially important because many of the wrongs people commit result from indifference to the suffering they cause.
Honesty means telling the truth. It means not misleading others for our own benefit. It also means trying to make decisions, especially important ones, on the basis of evidence rather than prejudice. Honesty includes dealing with other people and being honest with ourselves.
To understand the importance of being truthful to others, our children need to learn that living together depends on trust. Without honesty, trusting each other becomes impossible.
Honesty with ourselves involves faring up to our own mistakes and biases, even when we have to admit them to others. It includes self-criticism. The point is to learn from our errors and to do our best to correct them, not to dwell on them.
Courage is taking a position and doing what is right, even at the risk of some loss. It means being neither reckless nor cowardly, but faring up to our duties. It includes physical courage, intellectual courage to make decisions on the basis of evidence, and moral courage to stand up for our principles.
Courage does not mean never being afraid. It can involve trying to overcome our fears, such as a fear of the dark. But our children also need to learn that sometimes it is all right to be afraid.
Courage becomes especially important by the time children become teenagers. They often have to stand up against peer pressure to do the wrong thing, such as using drugs.
Self-control is the ability to resist inappropriate behavior in order to act responsibly. It relates to all of the different aspects of responsibility mentioned so far, including respect and compassion for others, honesty, and courage. It involves persistence and sticking to long-term commitments. It also includes dealing effectively with emotions, such as anger, and developing patience.
People with self-respect take satisfaction in appropriate behavior and hard-won accomplishments. They don’t need to put others down or have a lot of money in order to respect themselves. People who respect themselves also view selfishness, loss of self-control, recklessness, cowardice, and dishonesty as wrong and unworthy of them. As they mature, if they have learned the lessons of responsibility, they will develop a good conscience to guide them.
In addition, people who respect themselves respect their own health and safety. Similarly, they are unwilling to be manipulated by others. Patience or tolerance does not mean allowing others to mistreat us.
While we help children have high standards for themselves, we also need to let them know that failure is no embarrassment when we have done our best. For example, losing a game when we have played our best, and our opponents have simply played better, is no disgrace.
How Can Parents Encourage Responsible Behavior?
Especially when they are young, children learn best about responsibility in concrete situations. What they do and what they witness have lasting effects. Most of the activities described in this book are for you and your child.
We are always teaching our children something by our words and actions. They learn from seeing. They learn from hearing. They learn from overhearing. They learn from us, from each other, from other adults, and by themselves.
All of us acquire habits by doing things over and over again, whether in learning to play a musical instrument, to pick up after ourselves, to play games and sports, or to share with others. The best way to encourage our children to become responsible is to act as responsibly as we can in their presence. We must genuinely try to be the sort of people we hope they will try to become.
We can show them by our words and by our actions that we respect others. We can show them our compassion and concern when others are suffering. They need to see our own self-control, courage, and honesty. They need to learn that we treat ourselves, as well as others, with respect, and that we always try to do our best. As they grow older, they should have the chance to learn why we live as we do.
As our children watch us daily, as we talk to them, encouraging their questions and trying to answer them thoughtfully, they begin to understand us—and we begin to understand them. Understanding each other well is the best way to teach our children respect for our ideals of good character.
Using literature and stories
Children learn about responsibility through many activities, including reading stories. They learn by identifying with individual characters or because the message from a favorite story strikes a particular chord. Children can be touched deeply by good literature, and they may ask to have things read to them again and again.
Children can learn all sorts of lessons from stories. They might learn about courage by reading about David standing up to Goliath. Or they might learn the value of persistence and effort from The Little Engine That Could.
When they are older, reading can help prepare children for the realities and responsibilities of adulthood. It is usually better for children to read a good book about such things as war, oppression, suicide, or deadly disease before seeing these things up close.
Developing Judgment and Thoughtfulness
Judgment on ethical issues is a practical matter. Children develop their capacity for judging what is a responsible act, just as they come to appreciate the meaning of responsibility, through practice. Especially when they are young, children need to see moral questions in terms that are meaningful to them.
We can also help our children develop good judgment by talking through complicated situations with them. One way is to help them understand the long-term consequences of different choices. If they tell us about a story they have read, we might ask them to imagine what the result might have been if a favorite character had acted differently.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to know the difference between acting bravely and acting recklessly or how to balance duties when they conflict. As parents, we can help by making it clear, through what we do as well as what we say, that it is important in such situations to think carefully and honestly about what should be done, as well as to keep in mind how others will be affected by what we do.
Your child’s ability to reason about different issues, including ethical ones, will improve as your child matures. Just as reasoning can lead to a more thoughtful understanding of responsibility, or what actions to take in complicated situations, it may also become easier to rationalize selfish or reckless behavior. But if you have helped your young child develop strong habits of considering the welfare of others, honesty, courage, and admiration for worthy accomplishments, your child will have a solid foundation on which to build.
Just remember one thing: teaching our children about responsibility doesn’t mean that we can’t laugh or that we have to be grim. Our children should see that we can be serious about our principles, while still being able to play and have fun.
Excerpted from Helping Your Child Learn Responsible Behavior. U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement. 1993
[We] asked: What are our values as a family? What do we really believe? What is important to us? We came up with four words: gratitude, generosity, humility, and courage. We determined that we want those four values to define who we are as a family, and for Parker [my oldest son] and I, who we are as men.
So, I am always conscious of how do we cultivate gratitude. How do we model generosity? How do we stay humble and keep learning and stay hungry for more of God? And how do we live courageously? You cannot obey the will of God and not be courageous. That’s why God said to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous,” because if you are going to experience and stake claim to the promises of God, you are going to have to be courageous.
Those four words are words that begin to define us as a family. They are things I want to impress upon my children.--Mark Batterson
If you haven’t done this already, it’s a good idea to give some thought to what your personal or family core values are—to determine the ideals that fundamentally guide your personal choices, that represent the Christ-life and integrity that you want to demonstrate, and that you feel will lead to your having a full and purposeful life.
There are any number of ways to express your personal values and priorities. Some people do it in list form, keeping the points brief. Others write a personal mission statement. Some express what they feel identifies them as a person, the aspects of their life and goals that are most important to them.
Even if you haven’t previously given this serious thought, everybody has values or principles that fundamentally play into their decisions and thought processes, even subconsciously, and that are part of making them who they are, that form the fiber of their character. If you give this some thought and prayer, you’ll probably be able to recognize certain threads in your actions and thinking, points that you continually factor in to your decisions or base your decisions on, and this can help you to identify what values are core to you.
You might also recognize some points that you haven’t given the proper priority to, or factors that need more consideration, and you can adjust accordingly. If you haven’t done this before, then your list of values might be a work in progress; you might redefine it as time passes.
If we follow the thinking that the values in Matthew 22:37–40 are at the center of all we say, do, and believe, the basis for our choices … then any values springing from those two commandments will be in harmony with each other.—Peter Amsterdam
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”--Matthew 22:37–40
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.--Deuteronomy 6:6–7
Text courtesy of http://anchor.tfionline.com/post/values-life-lessons-and-truths/. Photo by Christine [cbszeto] via Flickr.
By Josie Clark
As I rushed around the streets of Morelia, Mexico, the stoplights were crowded with beggars. It was Christmas Eve, and I had gone out with my 10-year-old daughter for some last-minute shopping.
“Look at her!” Cathy drew my attention to an old woman who had stopped begging momentarily and was rubbing her cold, bare feet.
“She’s someone’s grandmother,” I thought aloud, “but instead of being home with her family, she is out here in her bare feet, trying to scrape together a little money for Christmas dinner.” Then an idea struck me. “Cathy, let’s go home and get together some food for her.”
It was already getting dark, so she probably wouldn’t be working that stoplight much longer. We raced home, found a couple of sturdy bags, and began going through our well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. Rice, beans, dried jalapeños, a jar of salsa, corn tortillas, a cooked chicken. It was easy to fill the bags from our abundance. A loaf of bread, jam, bacon. I tied the bags with large bows, and we headed off to find the old woman.
At first we thought we had taken too long and missed her. Then we saw her trudging slowly down the street, her shawl wrapped tightly around her, probably on her way
“Hello!” Cathy greeted her and continued in Spanish. “We saw you at the stoplight and brought you some food for Christmas dinner. We hope you and your family will feel God’s love this Christmas.”
The old woman looked at us with wonderment, and tears welled up in her eyes. Then she took Cathy’s hands in hers and kissed them. “Thank you. Thank you. God bless you. You are beautiful. You are a Christmas angel.”
She took the bags and continued down the street.
Our own Christmas Eve was festive, as usual, and the next morning Cathy opened her gifts. When I asked her if she was having a good Christmas, she replied, “You know, Mommy, seeing that old woman so happy last night, and having her kiss my hands—that was the best Christmas present I got. I think giving is the best part of
Courtesy of Activated! magazine. Used with permission.
By Gregory M. Lamb, Christian Science Monitor
Parents want their kids and teens to care about others—whether at school, in their community, or in need a continent away.
The good news is that children “are sort of hard-wired” to want to help others, says Michael Ungar, author of “The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids.” “They want to take on responsibility.”
While adults do wonderful things to help others, even more amazing is the number of children and teens who are “making a difference,” too.
"Childhood projects are a great time to sort of step back and let the child develop those skills, from time management to seeing the impact on others if they don’t fulfill their obligations," says Dr. Ungar, a family counselor and professor of social work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The bottom line: Support, but don’t shove. “Our kids are really watching us,” he says. “If we’re showing empathy to others, if we’re cooking a casserole for a neighbor who’s fallen down and broken her hip, if we’re doing those small things in our community,” kids will notice, he says.
Below, we highlight five outstanding young differencemakers—children and teens who have turned their care for others into impressive actions. They show that there’s no age barrier to becoming a force for good.
Wyatt: Making clay wiggle to save the oceans. Wyatt Workman was conducting his phone interview from a closet in his house.
It apparently was the 7-year-old’s private office, a place to speak with an inquiring reporter in some confidentiality.
The second-grader from Glendale, Calif., is a budding environmentalist, clay sculptor, book author, blogger, and auteur. His colorful, six-minute clay-animation movie (“Save the Sea from the Trash Monster!”) is attracting hits on YouTube and at his website, wyattsworks.com.
Next spring he’ll show his film at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., and speak on his favorite topic: cleaning up the world’s oceans.
"They want me to talk about the ocean," Wyatt says. "It’s going to be a big process!"
He’s contributing the proceeds from all his various artistic ventures to Oceana, a nonprofit ocean advocacy group (oceana.org).
Wyatt attends Wesley School in North Hollywood, Calif., which emphasizes community service.
As a 6-year old, he came home with an idea.
"I said ‘I want to make a movie,’ and my mom, like, freaked out," he says.
"He knew exactly what he wanted to do," says his mother, Timathea Workman. "He had me sit down for about 3-1/2 hours one evening while he dictated to me.
"He wanted me to write down all the things the characters would say and what would happen. Then he would work on the clay."
When Wyatt was ready, he’d call her in to take a photo with a camera, since his hands were covered with clay. The photos then were pieced together to create a stop-motion movie. (His cats—Chewie, Toulouse, and Marie—“helped out” by jumping up and making holes in the clay with their paws.)
Wyatt’s clay modeling (he’s made more than 70 sculptures of animals that he hopes to sell to fund ocean cleanup efforts) and moviemaking have led to additional ideas.
"I said, ‘we need one more thing to be cool,’ " Wyatt tells his interviewer. "And my mom said, ‘What’s that?’ And I thinked and I thinked and I thinked…. [Finally] I said, ‘I want to have a book.’ "
True to his word, still images from the movie will be published in book form, too.
"I want to be like Martin Luther King Jr. and do something to make the world a better place."
Alexa: Building schools for the disaster-struck. Alexa Peters loves drawing—and her dog, Cooper.
Now she’s turned that into a way to help others. The 12-year-old from Andover, Mass., has illustrated a picture book for children called “Cooper and Me,” the story of a young girl very much like Alexa who longs to take her dog with her to her first day of school (cooperandme.com).
Three dollars from the sale of each book goes to the Happy Hearts Fund (happyheartsfund.org), created by fashion model Petra Nemcova to improve the lives of children in countries hit by natural disasters. (Ms. Nemcova herself barely survived the tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004. Her fiancé was swept away by the floodwaters and perished.)
Alexa hopes to raise $10,000 to help build three schools in Haiti through Happy Hearts. “We came upon the Happy Hearts Fund through a friend,” says Monique Peters, her mother, who wrote the story for “Cooper and Me.” Last February, they contacted Nemcova, and she eventually visited Alexa’s home. Nemcova was so impressed that she made Alexa the youngest “ambassador” for her program.
In June, Alexa and her mom went to Peru to visit three schools supported by Happy Hearts. The children “love going to school. It’s their safe haven,” Ms. Peters says. Homes often have no running water, refrigeration, or indoor plumbing. “They appreciate everything. They have so little,” she says.
Alexa is planning to illustrate a new book, with the story set in Peru. It may center on a 12-year-old boy they met named José, who walks for an hour each day to a larger city to sell candy to support his family.
Alexa’s advice for others who want to make a difference: “Keep going. And if it’s something you’re passionate about, really follow that dream, and you can be successful.”
Dylan: ‘One Starts Many’ to clean up the Gulf. Dylan Stock was in first grade when the Gulf oil spill began last April.
His class at The Principia School in St. Louis studied the spill’s effect on birds. He even went to a hair salon to gather human hair to be used on booms to capture the spreading oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
But Dylan wanted to do more. He created a website, onestartsmany.com, with help from his mother, Carrie Silver-Stock. “I was really worried about the sea creatures,” Dylan says. “My mom asked me if I wanted to make a website, and I said ‘sure’. And I came up with the name One Starts Many.”
The website includes Dylan’s ideas on how to protect the oceans.
At a November fundraiser he collected $1,145 to send to two Gulf charities, Kids in Need During Disaster (kindd.org), which buys clothing for children in a fishing town hit by the oil spill, and the Audubon Institute in New Orleans (auduboninstitute.org), which treats stranded and injured marine wildlife.
With support from WitKids (witkids.org), a program that supports kid-based projects (its motto is “whatever it takes to make the world a better place”), Dylan traveled to the Gulf last summer on his own “fact-finding” mission, which included meeting New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
In September, the 7-year-old spoke to first-graders through fifth-graders at his school to tell them about his trip. He also invited them to become members of his new Ocean Club, which he established at the school.
The club already has helped to clean up a local creek.
"It’s inspiring for us that he felt like he could make a difference," says Mrs. Silver-Stock. She and her husband, Steven Stock, wanted "to nurture that in any way that we can," she says. And Dylan says he isn’t done.
"I think I’ll stay interested in the ocean for a while," he says.
Danielle: A kid-run network spreads peace. Danielle Gram spent her childhood in Maryland in the years following the 9/11 attacks.
"I really didn’t understand why people from different cultures wanted to kill each other," says Ms. Gram, now 21 years old and a senior at Harvard University.
After her family moved to Carlsbad, Calif., she continued to think about the concept of peace and how to achieve it. She read the nonviolent philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi and studied what Buddhism and Christianity had to say on the subject.
In 2006, together with Jill McManigal, a mother of two young children, Gram, then 16, founded Kids for Peace (kidsforpeaceglobal.org), a nonprofit, child-led group that inspires kids to work together toward a more peaceful world.
Today Kids for Peace has more than 75 chapters in several countries. In August, its Great Kindness Challenge, where children try to see how many acts of kindness they can perform in a single day, drew thousands of participants in 50 countries.
Members also sign a six-line “peace pledge” in which they promise to “speak in a kind way,” “help others,” “care for our earth,” “respect people,” and work together.
Beyond that, kids in each chapter design their own projects.
"We really want the kids to be the leaders," Gram says.
"The passion to create a less violent world has really followed me throughout my life," Gram says. But a family tragedy last year brought it closer to home. Her only brother was murdered while on vacation.
"The police still have no idea what happened," she says. "He was found stabbed to death on the side of a road…. It’s certainly been a struggle for all of us. But every single one of my immediate family members has a deeper conviction that nonviolence is the way to respond. We see my brother’s death as just more of an inspiration to make sure that no other family has to experience this."
Jordyn: Removing dangerous drugs from homes. Jordyn Schara was shocked “to see the insane amount of medication people have in their homes that have been lying around waiting to be abused or stolen.”
Unused drugs create two huge problems: They are abused by teens trying to get high, who then can become sick or even die. Or they are flushed down the drain and creep into drinking water. “It means men are taking birth control [pills] and children are taking heart medications,” she says. “It’s definitely not a good thing.”
But when the 14-year-old in Reedsburg, Wis., asked state officials what she could do to help, they told her she was too young.
That didn’t stop Jordyn. She founded a Wisconsin branch of Prescription Pill Drug Disposal (p2d2program.org). She organized a drug drop-off day for her town, and recruited pharmacists and police officers to supervise the event.
The drug return day was “extremely successful,” she says. “People lined up around the block to get in. That was just a really great feeling to know that people were willing to participate.”
Hauling away and incinerating the drugs costs about $2 per pound.
"I had to get a lot of donations and grants to support the cost of this program," says Jordyn, who is now a 16-year-old high school sophomore. "I was the youngest person [at 14] to apply for and receive a state grant in Wisconsin" to help fund her project, she says.
The Save a Star Foundation (saveastar.org) in Highland Park, Ill., donated a prescription drug drop-off box, the size of a street-corner mailbox, that’s been installed at the police station. Her project has now become an ongoing part of the community.
"Sometimes it’s hard as a teenager. You think that people don’t listen to you or don’t pay attention to you," Jordyn says. "But, honestly, if you do a service project, people will start listening."
Note to parent or teacher: Here’s a 20- to 30-minute class plan on thankfulness and overcoming whining and grumbling. (note that this plan is geared to children ages 2 to 6.)
Watch “Way to Wake Up.”
Discuss how it’s not fun to be around someone who whines or grumbles. Compare grumbling and whining to a smelly sock, or anything very unpleasant that your child dislikes being around. Highlight what kind of attitude people do like to be around.
Watch “Look on the Bright Side.”
Talk about how it can be easy to focus on the things that go wrong, but that happiness comes when you choose to focus on the good instead.
Read and/or memorize the rhyme on “Poster: Think on the Good.” A coloring page for this poster is available here.
Read “Bright Pebbles: So Much to Be Glad For.” Do the action activity on the last page of this article.
Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (TLB): “Always be thankful!”
Read “Poem: My Happy Sunbeam.” The coloring book for this poem is available here.
Play the song “Sunny Sunbeam” while the children get up and dance to it (and/or enjoy it throughout the day while doing other activities).
Watch “Video: The Power of a Smile.”
Optional activity: Take a piece of cardboard or stiff paper, and cut it into a large circular shape to represent a sun. In the center of the circle, write “How to Get to the Bright Side”—and list ideas of things your child can do when he or she is feeling down. String a hole at the top of the circle, and hang it in a place where this craft can be easily seen.
Lesson plan courtesy of My Wonder Studio. Image by Grant Cochrane, www.freedigitalphotos.net
— By Jorge Solá
My three year old son Manuel was playing an educational game on the computer when his six-year old sister Alondra demanded that he let her have a turn. Manuel’s
response was typical. “I was here first!”
I don’t know where Manuel picked that up, but it got me thinking. It’s a generally accepted principle of human society that those who “get there first” have more rights than those who get there after them. The first one to find a pearl in the sea, or strike gold or oil may claim it as his own. The first one to make a scientific discovery or invention may patent his find and claim any profits that may result. The first one to sit at a restaurant table has more right to it than the fellow who arrives later. The first one to settle in on a particular spot on the beach becomes the owner of that spot for the day.
In my children’s case, if one of them has been playing for half an hour at the computer, I tell him or her that it’s time to let the other one have a turn. Most other
parents probably do something similar. But if we applied that principle to every aspect of society, there would be absolute chaos. Can you imagine a landowner saying, “I’ve had this plot of land for quite a while, so it’s time to let someone else enjoy it”? Or can you imagine a man who has a good job giving it to someone else who is out of work and short of money?
Those examples are rather extreme, but what about little acts of selflessness? How often do you see people who have a seat on the bus or subway offering it to able-bodied others who have just boarded, simply because they look like they’d appreciate a chance to rest their weary feet? Are little sacrifices like that too much to expect?—Or do we fail to make them simply because we don’t see anyone else making them and no one really expects us to do so either?
It’s a matter of selfishness, when you get right down to it, and selfishness is part of our sinful human nature. But with God’s help we can break out of that mold,
overcome our selfish first reactions, swim against the tide, and do the loving thing.
If we give to him who asks of us, and if we don’t turn away from those in need, we will surely find that as we give, we will receive. Those are certainly revolutionary
concepts in this day and age.
If we would practice this kind of love, and teach our children to do the same, so many problems would disappear. The world would be a different place.
Courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission.
Note to parent or teacher: Here’s a 20- to 30-minute lesson plan on courage when faced with doing right. It highlights the following lesson objective: Recognize the need for courage in facing and confronting difficult situations; see that courage is a decision to move past fear and to persevere in doing right.
The general target age for this lesson plan is 8 through 12. You can, however, adapt, simplify, or expound on this lesson plan to better suit your child’s comprehension level.
Read “A World with No Courage.”
Discuss the importance of courage in your life and in the world around you. What professions can you think of that require courage? What actions in your child’s or your life require courage and the decision to be brave in spite of fear?
Read “March Hero of the Month: Gideon” (along with the full story about Gideon in Judges 6 and 7), and “Heroes from History: William Wilberforce.”
Talk about how these men were ordinary people, but both of them decided that they couldn’t stand by and do nothing while evil prevailed. While there might not be such an obvious display of evil in your child’s life, God’s commandments to love Him and others are the standard by which we live—and it sometimes requires courage to live by such a standard. List deeds of love that require courage.
Read “Hot Dog.” The missionary who decided to do what God showed him to do acted with courage. He might have felt shy, or hesitant, but he had faith to follow God’s voice. Highlight that courage isn’t just about doing things that seem scary in order to act “courageous”; it’s about doing what God shows you to do.
Read “Two Soldiers Conquer Thousands.” When we do what God shows us to do, He gives us faith and courage and providence for His will to be accomplished.
Memorize “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV)
Dealing with Dragons
Moral Values for Children: Courage
Florence Nightingale (Animated children’s video)
Joan of Arc (Animated children’s video)
Adapted from lesson plan by My Wonder Studio.