Archive for May, 2010

On Listening!

May 28, 2010

One of the most valuable qualities we can leave with our children is that they have confidence in their own ability to think things though, make decisions to lead them in positive directions, and to act on their decisions.  Charles H. Mayo along with his brother, William J. Mayo, created a medical center near my birthplace – the Mayo Clinic – that was the ‘mecca’ of medicine for years.  Presidents, celebrities, world leaders all visited Rochester, MN, to receive medical treatment at this world-renowned clinic!  I believe I’m alive today through the efforts of the doctors at Mayo!  And, Charles Mayo gave us this thought – a thought that will occupy our discussions for a couple of sessions: “The great contribution we can make is to prepare the oncoming generation to think that they can and will think for themselves.”

Let’s look at one way you can plant the seeds of confidence in your children – Listen to them!

The word ‘listen’ is often used but seldom examined to see its power.  In communication, many want to share (speak) still few are skilled at listening.  Listening means much more than ‘hearing’!  Listening suggests we are actively involved in what the child is sharing.  At any moment, if we are truly listening with our ears, with our eyes and with our hearts, we’ll be able to ask an intelligent question of the child to lead to more complete understanding or to reinforce what the child says by repeating the thought in other words.   In many textbooks this is called ‘Active Listening’!  Active listening focuses attention on the speaker – the child.  Active listening means putting our personal distractions aside, putting our own agenda aside and hearing only what the child is saying.

When you ‘actively listen’ to a child, the child internalizes feelings of importance – ‘What I’m saying is important!  Therefore, I must be important!’

Listening to your child will be much different from listening to the singing of birds and the chirping of cicadas – examples of hearing.  Listening to your child will place you into a very important interaction with your son or daughter – maybe even your spouse.  Can you give that a try?  Today??



May 25, 2010

One more word on routines – A time to eat! The schedules of many of today’s families can make arranging meal times a gigantic challenge.  Kids sometimes have many obligations after the school day, parents have evening obligations, mornings can easily be consumed by ‘getting ready for the day’, and before very long we resort to eating ‘on the run’!  The word ‘sinkies’ has been added to many vocabularies to describe the method of consuming food while standing at the kitchen sink.  So does this rush affect today’s kids?  Probably so.  And, solving this potentially growing problem will require some intensive planning and prioritizing.  We need to commit ourselves to some simple processes for saving time routines in eating.

One: Set aside time for at least one meal per day that the family eats together.  Hard to do?  Sure it is!  Important?  Yep, it’s important for many reasons.  For starters, a regular mealtime helps set the ‘body clock’ to a time for eating.  Even snacking can be built into this routine.

Two: As our children grew, we wanted them to grow into being ‘good eaters’.  That meant eating the food that was prepared for them and taking no more than they could eat.  At a cafeteria which we visited quite often a sign was prominently displayed at the beginning of the line:  “Take all you want, then eat all you take!’”  We used that same thought at home – kids took what they wanted and then were expected to eat what they took, and we encouraged them to try at least some of everything offered.  Just last evening, our delightful son-in-law, Josh, explained why he took so few green beans relating to us a story about a time when he was forced to eat them and was embarrassed in the process!  The hurt of that embarrassment lasts even today.

Three: Work to keep the mealtime an enjoyable time!  Punishments, embarrassments, guilt trips, harassing kids, scolding kids can ruin the joy of eating together and sharing a mutual joy.  Structure some activity that results in mutual sharing and listening.  We used ‘Good News and Little Upsets’ to accomplish this and we’ve learned over time that many families do this and the game has many names.  Here’s how it worked in our home:  After the food was passed and choices made, we’d ask everyone at the table to share one thing in the day that was upsetting.  (We allowed no responses to the speaker as this sharing took place – teaching all that everything the speaker shared might not be absolutely true, but it reflected how the speaker felt!).  When this was finished, we would, one at a time, share the happiest thing that happened during the day (the Good News).  Many times the first speaker would say, “I’ve got two!” or even more.  The rest of the mealtime was given to the highlights of the day.  I dined in a home in Canada and suggested we do this little exercise.  The dominant father resisted but agreed to give it a try after a nudge from his wife.  Their eleven year old boy shared:  “Today, I got 100 in my spelling test!”  and dad asked, ‘Don’t you always get 100?’ and the boy smiled as he said, “Yes, father, I do, but this is the first time I had a chance to tell you this and have you hear what I’ve said.’

May 23, 2010

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Bedtime: Calm or Troublesome?

May 20, 2010

One more thought on routines – this time the routine of having a regular, and predictable bedtime!  We now have research to help us understand the need for children to have eight hours of sleep per night!  Children rely on us to establish a bedtime such that they will get that much rest (sleep), remain healthy, and meet the obligations of ‘tomorrow’!  In some homes, getting the child to bed and to sleep can be one of the huge battlegrounds between kids and their parents.  First let me state that the parents are to decide the bedtime and this is one of those ‘non-negotiable’ items; however, we as parents must do our level best to keep this from becoming a power struggle!  No one ‘wins’ in these struggles!!  Since it’s going to be something we ‘put on’ children, let’s look at some way to skirt the potential battle – to think ahead and ‘head them off at the pass’ – to avoid a ‘fight’!  1) Assist the child to finish any unfinished business in plenty of time to meet the assigned bedtime!  If you know something needs to be done tonight, start early enough that the project is finished in plenty of time.  Your taking the initiative in this area provides an example for kids to follow – an example upon which they can plan their lives in the future. (May I digress for just one minute?  The unintended consequence of this planning to meet a time for completion of a task could well lead your children to grow up with a ‘sense of time’ which will serve them well! Being late is rude!  Being on time is the sign of a sensitive person who realizes that time is valuable!  In our society, some believe there is such a thing as ‘fashionably late’!  I firmly hold that if the time of arrival is 5:00, we need to be there just a bit before 5:00! More about this later!!)   2) Plan some ‘wind down’ activities for your child!  Let me repeat something I’ve said earlier:  “Know your child!”  When (If) you truly know your child, you’ll know what activities will create calm and which will excite the child and thus make it more difficult to go to rest! A bath can calm one child, excite another!  You must know your child!  Reading a story can have a calming influence on a child. As children grow older, a conversation may be a soothing, calming activity – also creates a chance for a warm, loving connection between child and parent.

Like anything else in parenting, planning ahead and leading the way can help kids and parents get and stay on the same wave length.  Be prepared at every turn to include daily routines into ‘Connection Activities’!

Playtime/Learning time

May 18, 2010

As a part of Friday’s message, I mentioned that we could incorporate ‘routines’ in play time for children and indicated that we can use playtime to help children learn how they can control their own lives and that this can create strong bonds between Moms, Dads and the kiddos!!  Today, we can examine one game which has the potential to empower children and teach them at the same time.  We played this little game during mealtime often in the evening when we didn’t have to hurry to do something or to be somewhere!  We called the game ‘True or Silly’ and we played it even before the kids had started their formal education!  In turn around the table, someone would make a statement and the others at the table had to determine if the statement was ‘true’ or ‘silly’!  Just for one moment, allow your mind to go to the number of possibilities – Dad says ‘There are three numbers between seven and ten!’  And, mom says, ‘True!’  And, Katie said, ‘Silly!’  So, which is it?  And, the discussion is important in many ways – to provide a groundwork for testing one’s position, to laugh when someone is wrong, to applaud when someone else is right!  Kids probably learn to listen carefully to the words in a statement and can start the process of critical thinking.  Parents have a chance to learn, too!  Shortly after Jamie started school, the game was on, and he said, ‘Dinosaurs eat rocks!’  We all agreed that this was most certainly ‘silly’!  But, he had learned that very day that dinosaurs, like many birds including chickens, had a ‘crop’ which was a little bag of stones into which food was sent to be crushed up before digesting it!  Imagine how he felt when he knew something that he could teach his parents.

Could you find a time when you play this game with your family?  Could this become a routine allowing kids to anticipate the fun of it and the lessons in it?  Could you imagine even the littlest amongst you fooling the rest of you?   Much can be learned in our ‘Playtime’!  Build it into your weekly schedule; enjoy this time with your kids as they learn and gain control of their environments!

Start now:  “True or Silly?”  “I can learn things from my children as they learn from me!”

On Routines for kids!

May 14, 2010

Routines for children!

I wonder how many of us realize that comfort and security often stem from the routines in our lives!  I find that even after nearly seventy-four years on earth, a disruption in my ‘routines’ causes me all kinds of discomfort – some of the discomforts so minor, they’re hardly worth mentioning, but some are really disruptive!  I find security in knowing that some things will happen at specific times.

And, my recent experience of bringing a dog, Ollie, into our home –he’s been here for more than a year now – has reminded me that he’s fond of and needs routines, too!  In the morning, after I’ve started the coffee, gotten Denise’s breakfast ready for her, and taken care some of my own personal things, I say to Ollie, ‘Let’s get the paper!’ and he runs to the back door, sits down and waits for me to open the door and walk up the driveway to get the morning papers.  After dinner in the evening, Denise and I sit a bit, recount the events of the day just past, and Ollie comes to my chair, sits down and does a little whimper!  ‘Do you want to go for a walk?” I ask.  He jumps for joy and goes to the front door to have our evening stroll.  He anticipates when there should be food in his bowl, he knows when it’s proper for him to go outdoors prior to our going to bed!  Just as the cage provided security to that puppy, this routine lets him know that his world is predictable, safe and comfortable.

So, wouldn’t one expect that the same thing holds true for our children? Routines let children know when things will happen, who is going to be responsible for things happening, and helps them to know that they have increasing control over their world.

So, let’s start at ground zero – when are routines most important?  1) A time to eat! This will allow parents to dictate when the child takes in food, and to some extent the kind of food a child eats.  A snack upon returning from school is appropriate and creates a valuable routine for kids! Parents can plan to have healthy – and delicious – foods available for this.  (Also, the routine creates a good time for an after-school discussion if at least one parent can sit down with the child!)  Also, a routine gives an opportunity for parents to discourage continuous eating of junk food.

2) A time to sleep! Having a regular bedtime helps the child to ‘set’ that body clock so that when that hour arrives, the child is sleepy and ready for rest!  Again, this provides an opportunity for a child to begin to control his/her own life! This also implies that there will be a regular ‘wake up’ time for our children!

3) A time for play! Here’s an area where children can really move into an ‘I’m in control of my life’ arena!  Play doesn’t need to include parents, but when that’s possible it contributes to creating strong bonds between moms and dads and the kiddos!

More about routines as we go ‘down the road’!  For now, give some thought to establishing and living by some basic routines.

Read to your children!

May 11, 2010

“My mother read me bedtime stories until I was six years old. It was a sneak attack on her part. As soon as I really got to like the stories, she said, “Here’s the book, now you read.”  –Octavia Butler

Maybe the best advice to give parents in terms of their children’s mental and language development is that we read to our children!   Many writers and scholars will tell us that their mothers read stories to them until they were able to read the stories on their own.  I know it sounds too simple, but I have no doubt that this reading to our children will pay enormous dividends in the future.

So, some questions to aid you in deciding how you – or someone you love – will do this!  1) When should I start? As early as possible – six months is not too early!  2) Where do I get good books? Some you’ll want to own so that they can be read over and over again – children will develop favorites and you’ll be able to ‘read’ them from memory, and if you decide to ‘skip a page or two’ your child will bring you up short!  (One writer recommended that you request books for shower gifts which will become family treasures!) 3) How often should I read? Every day – even if it’s just for a few minutes!  4) Where do I do this? Whereever you can sit with the child so that he/she can clearly see the book as you read!  5) Is the child just a passive part of this interaction? Nope!  Ask the child questions which stem from the story!  Do NOT turn it into a drill!!!!  The child should see this as a pleasurable  –  a play activity!  6) How long should these sessions be? Probably less than twelve minutes for most little ones.  As they mature, they’ll ask for more time – decide on the time together with the child – “Maybe another three minutes??” and then listen to the child’s desire!

I cannot emphasize strongly enough the value of this activity!! Read to your children!!

Our Children Are Watching Us!

May 6, 2010

One more message based on a thought from ‘Sandbox Wisdom’ by Tom Asacker.  Consider this: Read People and Situations…Children can see past the trappings of material success and see into the core of people. As we grow older we begin to label people, and as the saying goes, “labeling is disabling.”

As a parent, I have to realize that my children look to me for the proper way to ‘grow’, and ‘be’!  If I want my children to be quiet and respectful, I will be quiet and respectful.  If I want my children to be patient, I’ll be patient.  If I want my children to read, I must read!  We will forever be the most important role model for our children.

Now, if we place value of things above the value of people, we’ll teach our children that same principle!  And, when children hear us labeling others, they learn that this is acceptable behavior.  We will even learn to be careful telling the world things like, ‘This is my athlete,’ or ‘This is my musician’, or ‘This is my brain-child’!  Not only do these labels disable our children by closing off other potential talents, they create a situation laced with competition for our attention.

When I came to love Denise, I became aware that throughout her life she was identified as a scholar and also as a musician.  She really did not see herself as an athlete, that would be her sister, Debra.  Despite that label, I quickly learned that she was an excellent dancer and she really enjoyed dancing.  Good dancers are good athletes!  Denise did not spend much time learning about gymnastics, volleyball, football or basketball until after we had two children who are fine athletes!  Denise can now identify a ‘pulling guard’ from the stands as we watch a football game.  She knows when a volleyball player operates at a top level of performance!  She recognized what pitches the softball players are throwing effectively!  She has a lot of natural athletic ability, and she still loves to dance!

You don’t need to label your children, do you!  They need to know how much ability they have in many areas!!

The Dreams of our kids!

May 3, 2010

Once again from Tom Asacker’s book, ‘Sandbox Wisdom’:

2) “No limit Thinking! As children we believe that we might become president, a great artist, or a great explorer.  But as adults we begin to put fences around those dreams.”

How many times do we excuse this as ‘maturing’, or ‘facing reality’, or ‘getting older’?  While the dreams of children are very likely unrealistic in many ways, to aim high enables a child to act in a way which will be beneficial ‘down the road’.  As a young boy, I dreamed of the day I would play professional basketball.  My father never diminished those dreams by saying, “You’re not tall enough!” or “You’re not fast enough!” or “You don’t shoot well enough!”  Instead, he encouraged me to ‘act like a professional athlete (of course, he didn’t intend for me to follow some of today’s professional athletes who most certainly don’t live up to their ‘role model’ status.).  I ‘knew’ pro athletes did not smoke – I have never taken even one puff of a cigarette.  I ‘knew’ that pro athletes did not drink excessively – I have controlled my use of alcohol throughout my lifetime.  I ‘knew’ that pro athletes took care of their bodies – and I’ve done pretty well in that area!  These by-products of having those early dreams have served me well.

So, allow your children to have those dreams, foster them in such a way that your children will develop some positive life patterns – they’ll serve your son or daughter well in their ‘tomorrows’!  And, while you’re at it, allow yourself to have dreams as well, and strive to meet them.  Zig Ziglar, amongst many others, has encouraged us saying things like:  “Always shoot for the stars!!  It’s better to aim at the stars, and miss, than to aim at some old manure pile, and hit it!”  Always aim for the stars with ‘No Limit Thinking’!  Start today!  More on Friday!