Archive for August, 2012

Raising Honest Children

August 30, 2012

   We all want to raise our children to be ‘honest people’, and we know that they see many examples of dishonesty in our society.  Still, we’ll want to be able to believe our kids when they speak to us, we need to know that we can trust them – and trust depends upon our children telling us the truth.  I’ve read a good bit about what we can all do to insure that our children grow into honest adults and I found an article by Mary VanClay which provided me some really down-to-earth and seemingly practical and do-able strategies I think I would support. 


  1. AVOID LABELS!  Calling your child a ‘liar’ will probably bring forth a defensive and probably dishonest response.  Separate the child from the assumed lie – “I don’t like lies, but I love you!” 
  2. DON’T ASK QUESTIONS WHEN YOU ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER.  If you do, you might be setting the child up to lie with one word.  “Have you finished your homework?” when you know the homework is not done, will probably bring forth a ‘Yes’ answer and then the child may believe he/she needs to stay in that groove.  Try this instead, “I’d really like to see your homework when you’re finished.”  And, I really liked Mary’s statement if the child brings up a lie directly “That sounds like a story to me.  You know, you won’t be in trouble for telling the truth.”
  3. FIND OUT WHY YOUR CHILD IS FIBBING.  This can be difficult when you’re first facing a search for the ‘why’, but it’s an important search.  Many parents have found that using the sentence leading words – “Could it be that you  ________?”  Your query needs to be as non-judgmental as you can muster, and when the child learns that you want to help him/her find better ways to reach that end, you can discuss many important aspects of being honest.  
  4. AT THE PROPER TIME, TEACH THE VALUE OF ‘LITTLE WHITE LIES’.  When Grandma’s present is not age appropriate and is not valued, the child can learn to say, “Thanks for giving me a present, Grandma.” 
  5. TEACH YOUR CHILD THAT LYING DOESN’T WORK.  Accidents will happen when children are active.  It’s so easy to say, let’s see if we can fix that, or clean that up, or make restitution.  And, let me emphasize the importance of using the pronoun ‘WE’ in your statement to the child, and then work together to Teach your child that lying doesn’t  work.  Give your child a way out – a way to make things right and the child will learn there’s no advantage in lying.
  6. SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. This seems to be so obvious when you realize that your child is watching you all of the time to see how to become an adult.  Remember:  The best way to teach honesty is to be honest.   Set a good example. 

   I’m remembering now at least two instances when I did it right and that pleases me now:  1) Jamie was hitting tennis balls against my garage door, a door with four glass panes in one panel.  “You’re going to break one of those,” I warned.  He came into the house a bit later to say, “You were right, Dad!”  The new glass cost Jamie $1.23 and together we fixed it.  2) Katie rushed into the house perspiring and excited, “Daddy, I broke your wall.”  We looked at it and sure enough she rode her little bike right into the dry wall between two studs and the dry wall lost the encounter.  We fixed it!  You couldn’t find where it was broken now. You’ll be happy and rewarded when your kids are driving and that they are honest.



Our Creative Children

August 24, 2012

Creativity: The dictionary says it’s using imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of artistic works.  Sir Kenneth Robinson has written books on this topic – very good books!  Many say that our test oriented education system is destroying creativity.  So, how do we bring this back into the mainstream so that creativity continues to give us a kind of change/growth we can applaud, appreciate, and celebrate?

I’ve heard the late Neil Postman speak and define creativity as ‘seeing something which serves one purpose as having potential in another, sometimes unrelated, new purpose.  For example, Postman told us that the very first book to come off the Gutenberg printing press in the mid-1490’s was the King James Version of the Bible.  This allowed for many people, who otherwise had to rely on the clergy to read and interpret the messages contained in the Bible, to be able to read this book for themselves and determine the meaning of the text.  It must have been an enormous book with many pages.  Imagine what might happen if someone were to have dropped this book and the pages scattered across a large area.  Putting that back together might have taken some time, and I’m guessing that this happened from time to time.  Sixty-five years (Yes, 65 years!!) after the appearance of this Bible, someone asked, “Why don’t we number the pages?”  An act of creativity – a child can put it back together now!! 

Today’s young people have exercised much creativity in their use of the new technology to communicate and do many other things.  They have emerged as the ‘innovators’ in the use of technology for everything imaginable.  And, if only we’d loose this creative energy in our schools instead of narrowing their field of understanding to just a few facts, we might see another revolution in communication, in construction, in writing, in controlling aspects of our world which now require slower and less reliable human interventions.  

My thinking in this area came to me as I read this morning’s Express/News, the San Antonio daily paper.  We all can use our creative talents to find new ways to provide much needed energy for this fast-moving society – energy from inexpensive sources: wind energy, natural gas energy, solar energy.  And, this article jumped off the page to me as I read the article showing us the way to generate electricity by using something which already exists in the city and in cities across our land.  Read this introductory paragraph:  “Under San Antonio are pipes carrying a small river’s worth of water to meet the needs of the city. The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) now is attempting to tap into that flow to generate electricity.  This week, SAWS and Lucid Energy, an energy development company based in Portland, OR, announced an agreement to install small turbines inside a new 24-inch pipeline that will bring water to San Antonio from Gonzales County.  If estimates are correct, the three turbines will save SAWS between $16,000 and $38,000 a year by generating electricity it otherwise would have to purchase.  . . .  The turbines take advantage of the fact that the water from Gonzales County is lifted and then allowed to flow downhill as it makes its way to storage tanks on San Antonio’s Northeast Side.”  At this time the cost of ‘lifting the water will be greater than the turbines can generate, but the start-up of this process will be refined, it will capture energy which would otherwise be lost, and in time we’ll find ways to create even more energy.  And, some water sources will not require lifting, thus creating an inexpensive way to get electricity with no further costs. 

Our country needs creative people – innovators.  Let’s turn our kids loose to learn and to ‘see’ things differently so that we can continue to lead the world in Creativity!

The times, they are a’changin’

August 17, 2012

The word ‘change’ in short means to “ .  .  .  make or become different.”  There are many more variations on the meaning of change, ie: make change with currency, or change a baby’s diaper, or give up something in exchange for something else and there are more.  For our purpose here, I’d like to use that first general definition:  to make or become different.  

How many times have we heard or said, the one thing we can be sure of is ‘change’?  With each new generation, with each new invention, with each new process, with the passage of time, things are going to ‘change’.  And, each of us in time comes to realize that we have minimal control over how many of these significant changes come about or how these changes will affect our lives.

So, I asked you to send me some thoughts to help me organize my thinking about this important element in our lives.  A man from Virginia that I respect very much suggests that  the context and the vocabulary used to define this process can make ‘ .. a vital difference in persuasion’.  The term can be oppressive when used as a command:  ‘ .  .  you will have to change . . .’; and this can be destructive in relationships with significant people in our lives.  We probably will not get very far using this approach in bringing about positive changes in our kids.  And, then Frank tells us:  “But, now, ‘growth,’ or ‘grow,’  . . sounds akin to ‘Let’s eat!’  He continues:  “Either we happily look for and take the challenge of opportunities for growth, or we sit there, satisfied enough with being inert.  Here I always remember Will Rogers’s wry wisdom:  ‘Even if you’re on the right track, if you just sit there, you’ll get run over!’”  Thanks, Buz, for sending this along!!

Another person I respect lives in Kansas.  You’ll see the similarities in his response to that first one.  Gary writes, “The word ‘change’ is like fingernails on a blackboard to me.  It creates a barrier to what is going to be said next.”  He continues:  “The word ‘improve’ does not create that barrier.  Improve means doing something different to better the person or the end .  .   ‘Change’ (on the other hand) means doing something different that may or may not better the person or the end . . . Each requires setting aside the old and adopting something new.  When we ‘improve’, the new application is better in the end; when we change,  what we set aside may have been better.”  Thanks, Gary, for sending this along!!

And, a third response addressed ‘change’ this way:  “Change can be a challenge; people don’t like having to change . . . So here are a few thoughts about the positive aspects of change:  “Education is the perfect career for the person who delights in change.”  She goes on  to list the number of potential changes from which an educator might choose:  teaching different age learners, different subjects, work at home or in a formal setting, work with a large group or one-on-one, work in research developing tools or theoretical principles of learning.  She suggests that how people adapt to changes would be a topic for another blog – and I think she’s right on here!  Thanks, Chris, for sending this along!!

It seems to me that we will experience much change in our lives, and that how that affects us can determine much about the kind of life we live, the vocation we choose, the people we select as ‘close to us’, where we live, and most of all our attitude toward life itself.  Things will change – are you geared up to ‘grow’ with the challenges of changing?  Or will you sit in one place on the ‘right track’ for the biggest part of your life?  Have you realized that every one of you becomes a teacher/educator at some time in your life?  It’s true!!  Whenever someone asks you a question, you become a teacher!  And, if you’ve had children in your life, you know that the questions are going to come – sometimes out of the blue and sometimes those questions create a degree of discomfort in us.  Time to know that we can choose the direction of how those changes will live in our lives – improvement?  or just ‘change’?  Your choice!

This final thought was the last line in Frank’s message:  “(the)  Final pearl that applies literally and figuratively:  ‘These muscles were meant to MOVE.”

The school year is starting – between now and May we will all experience many changes/improvements.  Are you ready?  Can you ensure that the changes in your life are ‘growth promoting’ and ‘improvements’?  You are in charge of this!

Teaching our kids to pay attention

August 9, 2012

     Today we are becoming more aware of the importance of ‘Those Early Years’ in education and people are lining up to take advantage of these programs or in some cases to block the spread of this relatively new emphasis on getting the most out of a public education.  Pre-K programs are springing up in many places just as the head start programs blossomed in the 1960’s and studies are now appearing in the professional literature about the advantages of Pre-K and similar programs designed to prepare our children for the regular school experience.  Experienced educators continue to search for ways to familiarize students with the skills necessary to succeed in our schools and welcome any suggestions for essential elements that will be helpful to our kids. 

With that in mind, consider the conclusions of a study from researchers at Oregon State University which suggests “ . . that kids who pay attention and persist with a task have a 50% better chance of completing college.”  I’m quoting from ‘Education Week’:  “The study, published online yesterday in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, asked the parents of 430 preschoolers to rate their kids’ abilities to pay attention, follow directions and complete tasks.  The kids were then assessed at age 7 on their reading and math abilities, and again at age 21.

“The researchers discovered that “children who were rated higher by their parents on attention span and persistence at age 4 had nearly 50 percent greater odds of getting a bachelor’s degree by age 25,” a university news release said.

“Our study shows that the biggest predictor of college completion wasn’t math or reading skills, but whether kids were “able to pay attention and finish tasks at age 4,” early child development researcher and lead study author Megan McClelland said in the release.

The researchers stress that the good news is that these behavioral skills can be taught, so parents have another way to help their kids be successful in school.”  I’ve read through several articles on ‘teaching your children to pay attention when they’re very young’ and for the most part the ‘experts’ go on and on about things we have discussed before – things all of us knew were important, but sometimes ignore.  Rather than take you to a parent’s oriented publication which lists 24 things you might do, let’s be practical.  For starters, what can you do as a parent to help the child learn to pay attention?

  1. Take the time to request and wait for the child to attend to you.  In that voice that you reserve for those special moments when you want to communicate something important, you start with the child’s name and then wait until the child pays attention maintaining eye contact throughout that time. 
  2. Say what you want the child to hear in as few words as possible and be clear that these things are non-negotiable.   As the child gets older, you’ll encourage that child to have a ‘hand in deciding’ elements of what we’re discussing. 
  3. Reduce as much as possible any distracting elements.  Distracted children are not paying attention.  If the distraction continues address that separately.  
  4. Whenever possible include action with words demonstrating the importance of paying attention and to finishing things we’ve started.
  5. Take your time and learn to be patient.  The child doesn’t have the background knowledge that you have, and they have much shorter attention spans.  We need to remember that we’re meeting the child where he/she is, not where the parent/teacher is.  And, repetition will be necessary.

Whenever we work with children in this very important area, we need to know that children learn best when the work is engaging, that it encourages some of what we might label ‘fun’, that the child stays ‘on task’ and that at the end we do something which will cause the child to know just how important he/she is to you and that you know that this child will be successful.  As we learned from ‘Mary Poppins’ in that popular song of just a few years ago, “Just a spoonful of sugar, makes the medicine go down!”

Discovering Abilities in Others

August 3, 2012

     One of the tasks of teachers and parents, in my opinion, is to see and point out the potential strengths and abilities of others around them – especially the kids they serve.  I’m going to assume that everyone of us can recall one time at least when someone invited us to try something new – something which later on became one of our strengths.  The coach who advises a young guy or gal to try this or that sport or this or that position on the team, may invite the child into a lifetime of pleasure.  That teacher who frequently asks students, “Have you thought about doing this?” may be opening a door which leads to a vocation — one the youngster never even considered.  In this time when many of the jobs which will be held by today’s elementary students don’t even exist today, we can make a huge contribution to a child by inviting a child to try something new, different and unusual thus opening one or more doors for that kid! 

     Lou Holtz, a very successful coach and now sports commentator says it best: 

“It is a fine thing to have ability,

but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.”

     So, have you established a close enough relationship with your child or your student so that you can see that spark which may lead to great things.  For encouragement in this area, I would ask that you take a look at the young lady who has just won the top spot in the Olympics in gymnastics.  This Gabby was a child who climbed on things, jumped over things, ran when she could have/should have been walking, did all the things that active kids do.  And, someone suggested that she try out for gymnastics.  Thanks be to God that someone discovered that ability in our of our Gold Medal Winners in the 2012 Olympics.