Slammed by the Holidays!

We hadn’t finished Halloween sugar rush and already the Christmas hype had started.  Even the Hallmark channel is showing non-stop Christmas movies.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but there is such a thing as too much!  -Especially for children, their eyes dance at the sight of the Christmas catalogs arriving.  
So what can be done to do to bring down the intensity, while preserving the wonder of Christmas?

  1. Limit exposure to the holiday madness. If you must watch television, pull out the videos that are not focused on a holiday at least until after Thanksgiving.
  2. Get outside and do something.  Rake leaves and jump in them with your child. Go to the park and view the glory that God made with your child. Walk to a neighbor who is shut-in or just lonely with your child, with the purpose of letting the neighbor know Jesus loves them.
  3. Take some time to enjoy giving “THANKS”. Make a card to thank a teacher, custodian, or pastor with your child. Plan a play date with a friend who has been helpful to you in the past and include the children (oh, did you think the play date was for the children, hmm funny.) Include a moment to thank the person for their helpful attitude.
  4. Encourage the attitude of giving over getting. Make gifts with your child to give to family and friends. Intentionally give them opportunities to express the spirit of giving. Help them to create lists of people they might bless with the true spirit of Christmas. 
  5. Read age-appropriate books to your children about the birth of the Savior. Isn’t that the reason we celebrate in the first place? Remember young children learn best through play, so Grandma’s antique nativity set may be beautiful, but the children are more likely to get more understanding from a nativity set that they can touch, move and use in pretend, symbolic play.

All of this said and done, don’t miss Thanksgiving because Christmas is coming like a train wreck. Have two happy holidays!

 

Playing Dress-Up

Dressing up like others is a common part of growing up.  It even helps us to work through some of life’s questions on roles that people play.  It helps us to regulate our behavior, to practice social experiences, and to create scenarios in which we can control the outcomes. 
I was watching a group of four-year olds who were playing house.  It was an interesting window into what the children were thinking and what they viewed as typical behaviors for the roles they were playing.  

Daddy: (Enters the play area wearing a large hard hat, which he tosses onto the couch) “Hey, woman! Get me a beer.”
Mommy: (Her fist on her hip turns to “Daddy” and says) “Get it yourself, I don’t see any broken legs on you.” (She returns to what she was doing and begins wiping the dishes with a towel). 
Daddy: (Murmurs under his breath) No body’s got no respect around here. (Rises and goes to the refrigerator.)

This short little skit was an interesting window into what these four-year-olds had obviously observed and considered as behaviors indicative of roles they were playing.  It certainly raises questions to families. 

  • What behaviors are we showing to our children?
  • What attitudes are we exhibiting before our children? 
  • Do they see what we would hope they would emulate? 
  • More importantly, are they seeing and hearing what God would want them to later adopt as a behavior pattern. 

Listen to the children, they will tell you what they think and know every time. 

 

Normal Family Life

I recently heard a mother say that she loved fall. It was the time her family slipped back into a routine. She said she longed for the normalcy of fall. Now fast forward. Here we are, two or three weeks into the fall “normalcy” and what do our homes look like? Book bags with papers jammed into the pockets. Notes from teachers, and even more scary, evaluations sent home from teachers who want a response back! 

If you are feeling like your child is not normal, let me just say this: Normal is a setting on the dryer. It does not in any way relate to children. Each child is unique and valuable. One of our primary jobs as a parent is to find the sweet spot on our child. How is my child special? How is my child great? Remember, they probably will be potty-trained by the time they leave for college. They will probably not take their pacifier with them to the first grade, but if they do, does that make them less of a person?

Look out when you think you have hit normal. “Normal”, besides being a setting on the dryer, is a mere illusion. It is what we think happens in other people’s homes, but not in ours. I have done hundreds of home visits over my career as an early childhood educator. Do you know what I find? “Normal” is chaos. “Normal” is no time to do the laundry because your child has soccer practice. “Normal” is the occasional fast food meal from the drive-thru. “Normal” is stress! “Normal” is not getting the baby a nap because you had errands to run. Don’t you sometimes wonder, if we are a royal priesthood, where the household servants are for the palace in which you live?

We are called to be a peculiar people and aren’t you glad! God did not call us to be normal; He called us to be uniquely fitted for His purpose. So, as you make decisions about what to do and what can be left for another day that seems to never come, reread Luke 10:38-42. If this had been a contemporary story, Jesus would probably have said to Martha, “Let’s just order a pizza, no big deal!” The King James Version in 1 Peter 2:9 calls us a peculiar people. I like that; I think Jesus may think normal is a setting on the dryer as well. 

The Wrestle That Saves

Wow, the family with the 6 month old baby made it to church! I don’t know how they do it.  First, there is all the stuff you have to carry: diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, pouches, and toys, extra clothes, burp pads, and don’t forget the pacifiers. Then, there is the fact that the whole family had less than three hours sleep.  Adding to this, their work obligation, and making time to go see the grandparents. There are meals to be cooked, not to mention the piles and piles of laundry that magically appear on a daily basis. This family fought all of those battles and won!


Arriving at church and settling into the pew, only to have the baby get fussy.  They try numerous things to calm the baby.  The pacifier, out comes the bottle, and moving the baby around to get into a comfortable position. No such luck, it isn’t going to work. So out they go, with an expression on their face that says, “Why did I even try?”


You tried because you know it is right.  Without the fellowship, we are weak and many fall away completely.  You go because you set a pattern for the behavior of your child.  You go because, there is nothing sweeter than teaching your child to know Jesus, how to pray, the basic Bible stories. You go because you are teaching the child values, the values you find dear. You go because you want them to grow up in the church. You want them to be cuddled by the crooked hands of the elderly woman who prays over the children.  You want them to be flirted with by the man who has grandchildren of his own, but takes the time to wink at your child. You go because you can’t do this alone or even with just your family. Raising children, especially Godly children, takes a boat load of Christian people with whom you are a fellow on the ship. 


Praise God, today you won the battle against Satan’s arrows! “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Psalms 122:1 KJV

 

Parental Spurs

Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.


If ever there was a verse written to parents, especially parents of young children it is this one.  Let’s break it down at bit.  Most people look at that last verse and say that it's about going to church every Sunday. While I make church attendance a priority, that is not what I think these verses are saying.  


The imagery of spurring, points me to horses. Picture it this way, we are in a horse race. We are closing in on the finish line. We glance left, we glance right, the finish line is straight ahead. What do we do? We spur our horse and he leaps forward with new force. 


Do you think the horse liked the feel of the spur piercing his flesh? I don’t think so. Similarly, our children do not like to be disciplined. There are times, however, when there is a need to pierce the flesh of the child’s spirit to move them forward toward love and good deeds. Of course, I am not suggesting you literally use a spur on your child. What I am saying is that all of us are prone to lag in the pursuit of love and good deeds, sometimes we need to be challenged to move forward.  Even more so for the egocentric young child, however a child craves discipline. She longs to know that boundaries are going to be in place and enforced. I think this is the way trust develops in young children. The scriptures use the metaphor of racing, but we cannot have a race alone. We are in this race together as a community of racers.  Some will make it to the end, others will not.  Who makes it to the end? It may be those who are spurred along in the community. Those who suffer the consequences of potentially falling behind...don’t let your children fall behind! Allow the community of believers, which includes you, to disciple your child to love and do good works and remember this call is to you as well, to preserve. 

Sweet Smells of Childhood

I asked a class of about 30 adults what piqued a pleasant memory of their mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather. Almost without exception, they wrote about a scent that brought back these pleasant memories.  Think about it. Does the blooming of the lilac bush in your neighbor’s backyard remind you of your grandmother? Does the smell of coal remind you of a hard-working grandfather? What about the smell of apples in the oven, does that bring back a memory for you?

The Bible tells us we should be a sweet fragrance to God. 2 Corinthians 2: 15 To God we are the aroma of the Messiah among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost. How do we teach young children to emit that kind of fragrance to God

  1. Keep prayers short and pleasant. Lengthy prayers over the meal with a hungry toddler are not pleasant for anyone.
  2. Make sure church experiences are related to children as pleasant. Roasting the preacher or congregants sends a message that church is not a pleasant place to be. If you must criticize, make it among adults not the community with children.
  3. Teach children to be thankful. Frequently say how grateful you are that God provided the sun, or your car, or the food you are about to eat. Be sincere, in your own expression of thanksgiving.  All good and perfect gifts come from God.
  4. Instill in your child the desire to be a part of God’s family.

Strong Relationships

There is an interesting hypothesis on building spiritual maturity among our children. The hypothesis says children who build strong, positive relationships with adults within the church family are more likely to remain in the church and more likely to score higher on measures of spiritual maturity. So, the question then becomes is it true?  The answer: The research of Tenelshof, J (2000) and of Barna, G (2003) supports the hypothesis. They found children who form a strong supportive, positive relationship with a church member outside of the family is more likely to continue to be a part of that faith group.  


What does that mean to parents? Children do not go to church gatherings without the support of families. Children do not form relationships with people they never or rarely see. Therefore, if we want children to be a part of our church family as adults, we need to supply them with opportunities to form these relationships with people outside of the family. 


The most secure relationships begin as infants and toddlers. Make sure the child has the opportunity to be loved on by the church family. Did you see the Easter pictures of children frolicking all over the hill behind the church building? Look at the faces of those children and of the adults who were there with them.  That is a beginning. Let’s help these children to know the love of their church family. If you are not the parent, go greet a baby. Coo to them. Show interest in what they are interested in as they grow. 


By: Tenelshof, Judith K., (2000). The Role of Secure Attachment in Predicting Spiritual Maturity of Student at a Conservative Seminary. Journal of Psychology & Theology, 00916471, Summer2000, Vol. 28, Issue 2. 

Barna, George and Hybels, Bill (2003). Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, Regal Publishing: Washington, DC. 

The Prayerful Baby

It is 3:00 am and you crawl out of a nice warm baby to rescue a screaming infant.  Prayer may be the last thing you are thinking.  You sit down to a full meal, artfully prepared and ready to be consumed by your family without much thought you bow your head to give thanks to the God who provided the health, finances, and the bounty of this table.  What of baby’s meal? Before baby latches to breast or open his or her lips for the bottle, pray a short prayer of thanksgiving.  You may not feel very thankful yourself, but that audible prayer is an example to baby. 

Here’s another example: You are on the way to the child-care center to drop off baby.  Baby is awake and happy, you, on the other hand are anxious and overwhelmed with whatever it is you face today.  An audible prayer for those who will care for your child while you are at work sets a different tone than that hurried, frantic dash across town even praying for your own day gives the day to Jesus to make of it what he will.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 

Do not long to be the perfect parent, let God have the power.    

God is My Father

It was the Sunday before Christmas and Sunday School teachers all over the nation were blissfully teaching the story of the birth of Jesus.  Seems like a picture for a Hallmark card does it not.  Not so this year.  

Child: “Let me get this straight”, quipped a fourth grader with his arms crossed over a not-so clean t-shirt.  “God was Jesus’ baby-daddy and this Joseph was his stepdad, right.”  

Teacher: “Well yes I guess you could put it that way.”

Child:  “Then I just got one question. Did God pay child support?  Cause I ain’t got no respect for no baby-daddy who doesn’t pay child support.”

I recently attended an area wide spiritual function.  When I looked around the room I saw a sea of faces I was surprised to see most were women and what men were there were well over 50. So where is daddy? Spiritual development is a joint effort for parents.  Like the child in my Sunday School class, I ain’t got no respect for a father who doesn’t pay child support.  I am not talking about a monthly financial contribution, though that is important too.  I am referring to a contribution to the child’s spiritual well-being.  Boys and girls are taught how to be men and women more from their father’s than from their mothers.  If this is true, what will the church look like in twenty years if this generation of father’s doesn’t pay the child support?  The church will be weak, fatherless beings floundering for a head. God is our heavenly father, how will we learn to respect him if earthly fathers fail to teach children what fathers should be? That doesn’t mean your earthly father must be perfect, it means the one he serves should be.  Matthew 11:27

Bringing up Baby

There are so many pressures on today’s families that to even list them would be a blog in and of itself.  Therefore families must set priorities.  Where are the spiritual priorities of your family?  Take a moment to consider:  Did I speak of Jesus to my child today?  Did I read them a Bible story?  Did I pray with them today?  Did I pray over them today? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then perhaps you should reconsider your priorities.

Research has shown us that during the first four years of life patterns of behavior are established.  It is during the first four years that their language and thinking patterns are developed.  It is during the first four years of life that their thinking patterns are developed.  So doesn’t it make sense that during the first four years of life, the spiritual patterns are developed as well? If that is the case, then what must we do to make that happen? 

  1. Stimulate spiritual development by doing things such as singing Bible songs, praying, and reading to your child, yes even to babies. 
  2. Reinforce the precepts of spiritual development.  In other words, explain why you do or do not do certain things.  
  3. Model Godly living.  Children are watchers and imitators of adult behaviors, make sure that what you are doing sets a good example. 
  4. When you make a mistake, own it, and change your behavior.  
  5. Speak of Jesus as you would any other friend.  

God doesn’t call us to be perfect, He call us to be doers.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew19:14 NIV