Monday, October 27, 2008

sigh. . .

Ok...this is still long and complicated. . .

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Let's Teach It! 3 (revised)

Many believe that rewards and corrections work best together. A correction is a teaching/training tool. It can be abusive but it shouldn't be. Some kids need more, some need very little. An effective, deliberate correction is much kinder than allowing a child to learn the hard way. (Touching a hot stove, running out into the street) and we all know kids who seem to have to learn the hard way.

My understanding is that teaching is telling, showing. Training requires the behavior. Training requires doing it over and over until you don't even have to think about it. You just do it. This means creating opportunities and looking for places to practice.

Reinforcing and correcting. How do we correct when a child blows us off? Do we say, "That's ok. It doesn't matter." Can we say that and still expect those qualities to grow? All those qualities matter if our faith is to be effective. It's not enough to just know.

You pay attention. You start small. You reward and reinforce appropriately. You correct appropriately. An interesting book is Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the Dog." It's not a long book, it's not a hard read. It's not just about dogs. It is about reinforcing and shaping behavior but people who are good with children, people, animals often do these things without even thinking about it.

How do we grow self-control and the other fruits of the Spirit in a culture that's constantly and deliberately sabatoging our efforts? Limiting exposure is one way but giving kids opportunity to make choices, rewarding and correcting them (or showing them where the reward and the correction is) will grow stronger choosing muscles, confidence, self-esteem, and wisdom than constant restraint and isolation. Finding ways to reward choices that differ from the rewards and choices that consumerism condones also helps grow those muscles. Being part of a family or community making those same choices also helps.

Life rewards aren't consistent and they're temporary so ultimately those choices have to come from the inside out. That's where training comes in. Living and choosing with a sense of what pleases God is the long-term goal. People-pleasing won't make it- Mom and Dad won't always be there. Your favorite teacher won't always be there. A peer group that shares your values won't always be there. God will.

Let's Teach It! 2 (revised)

Can a child at any age add goodness to their faith, knowledge to their goodness, self-control to their knowledge, perserverence to their self-control, godliness to their perserverence, brotherly kindness to their godliness, love to their brotherly kindness?*

Is it progressive? Faith + goodness + knowledge + self-control + perserverence + godliness + perserverence + brotherly kindness + love. Or do we do it all, all the time. Can we do this no matter how old we are? Christian education is full of knowledge exercises. How about the others? What's godliness? What do these qualities look like? What do they sound like? What do they feel like?

We have sports, games, service. We probably correct bad behavior because we have to in order to manage a classroom.

Do we reward children (or adults for that matter) for choosing to believe God? choosing to be good? choosing to know what the Word says? choosing self-control? choosing to be kind? choosing to love? Even if no one's watching? Even if no one else is doing it? Even if it's not convenient? Even if it doesn't feel good? Even if "I don't want to?"

Do we pay attention and reward the small day-to-day choices that grow these character muscles?

"I noticed that you let your sister have the biggest cookie."
"I noticed that you got really angry but you walked away."
"I noticed that you helped Sarah with her project when you wanted to play."
"I noticed that you gave Lee a hug when he was sad and it made him happy."
"I noticed that you finished your homework instead of nagging me to watch TV."

*15-20 years ago, I used a character curricula, Jan Black's "Growing UP God's Way K-6" This is a revised curriculum. I really liked the songs and remember thinking it would have been even better with a group of kids. I used it homeschooling. I don't know much about the new version.

Let's Teach It! 1 (revised)

Keep an eye on Kidology's CM Blog Watch. Better than reading the newspaper -lots to think about! They've been on-line longer than I have.

Here's an interesting article on self-control from this blog

I wanted to take it a step farther.

How do we grow self-control? In it's simplist form you reward the wait. You apply it to lots of situations. The reward should be better than the reward for not waiting - lots better! It may feel "controling" but the goal isn't parental control or adult control. The goal is self-control even when only God is watching. More than teaching - training.

Understand that a reward worth waiting for will be different for different children. If I don't care about candy, it's not a reward worth waiting for for me. If I don't like to be touched, don't hug me. If I don't care what anyone things, your approval means nothing.

Some will argue that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. It grows from the inside out. Scripture. It's true. But 2 Peter 1:3-8 is also scripture. Also true and it talks about growing it from the outside in. How do we do that?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Let's Teach It 1 & 2. Deleted. Too long. Too complicated.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

interesting baby resource

Really interesting baby resources.

Worth reading and useful but very scientific. "Very scientific" surprised me because I thought I was hearing more whole health, whole person, yearning for more intuitive living from the next generations. Maybe as Americans we can't help it - the need to support everything we do with reasons and science and research.

Or maybe we just want the best of both.

It's just interesting. People used to babysit to get to get experience with kids - college aged, single adults, young marrieds used to babysit for friends, family, neighbors. Gave the friends time out. Gave the babysitters experience with kids and grew some multi-generational relationships. People trusted each other and were trustworthy. Just an alternative approach. Of course, people were around kids more. There were more babies and kids to be around. Most people expected to be parents someday.

Different time. Different place. Different people.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I thought it was just my generation who was disillusioned with church but I'm reading more and more from 20's and 30's who feel the same way. I was surprised because I thought all the changes were appealing to this generation - a driving force for change (in lots of good ways, I'm not being sarcastic). We caught the tail end of the Jesus Movement. Another driving force for change 30-40 years ago. Seems God sends such forces every 40 years or so.

I miss worship most. Fellowship, sometimes. But we don't have young kids anymore. Ours our 19-27 and they'd be finding their way anyway, even if we were still actively involved with a non-virtual faith community. I think I would still want non-virtual faith community for my kids - despite it's imperfections. But we did that and I find my kids feeling the same way about church right now as we do, even though we thought we were pretty careful about our conversations. Our personal wrestlings have less to do with people (nothing to do with specific people) and more to do with ideas and institutions. We gave our kids opportunities immersed in their faith community and opportunities out in the world in equal parts. Some of my kids still have a couple of those relationships. Although I see some of them growing in their personal faith and one recently discovering pastors she enjoys listening to, most of them aren't interested in church right now.

Why do kids need a faith community? To see a diverse group of adults individually and as a community modeling faith. Peers with similar values and experiences. A history together. Opportunity to learn about the history of faith they won't get anywhere else. Traditional history and experiential history. There is no perfect place. There are no perfect people. There are wonderful people and people who drive your crazy no matter where you go. And God is God. God is the same. He doesn't change. Although giving is important I don't even think you can decide based on what you have to give and leave because you think you don't have anything to give but I don't know.

Why do our kids also need to be engaged in the world beyond the faith community? Because the longer you isolate yourself, the harder it is to step outside the door. If you didn't learn to love the world like Jesus does as a child - do you think it gets easier? Somehow, I think not.

Virtual is nice but the hard knocks of real life is what socialization, building confidence and self-esteem is all about. And that's where the scriptures come from and what scripture is for - real life. Hebrew identity wasn't me and mine. Hebrew identity included spouse, family, extended family, community. Even God is three and we are His children. Even God was the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob...and different tribes had different places. You're welcome to explore any of this in scripture and see what God will show you.

People used to keep the call to "not forsake the gathering together of the saints" by gathering with those within walking distance and sharing that life of faith and worshipping together and that was enough. And yes, a rift was eternal (not really but you understand.) You had your neighborhood in common - whoever lived there, whatever happened there during the week and maybe for generations. Today we drive and drive and drive into other towns and neighborhoods to fellowship with people hoping to find a place where we "fit." Some people move. Some people drive. Some people stop looking. That's all I can say because right now we're still among those who have stopped looking. It just surprised me to hear so many families with young children saying the same thing.

I understand the whys but hey....let's worry!

Friday, October 10, 2008

No answers

I was reading Kidology's Blog Watch the other day and found myself thinking most about the "Lap-sitting Policy" article - not even about the article but the policy.

I need to preface this by saying that I truly truly truly understand (as a once un-safe child, a very watchful parent, and a careful teacher) the very real worries, concerns, and legitimate need for "appropriate touching" policies to protect children. I believe it's absolutely the responsibility of anyone caring for children to protect them. I also understand that, although I prefer to give parents the benefit of the doubt, that sometimes people outside the family need to protect a child from members of their own families. I also imagine that for anyone who truly loves children to be falsely accused of inappropriate behavior it must be devastating. People have spent more hours than I want to count defining rules and boundaries for policies like this (hopefully) because they love kids.

Having said that, it still deeply grieves me that children left in the care of others have to be deprived of appropriate tactile caring in order to protect them from the inappropriate. It bothers me. Different generations and cultures define "appropriate" differently. And I don't think "common sense" - is a universal anymore. I had a lengthy discussion about this with my daughter. She's a 3rd year student currently majoring in psych and criminal justice and (not to put her in a box) she's been leaning heavily towards counseling. She would be a WONDERFUL counselor.

So patient with my banter and wise beyond her years, her recurring comment was that one of the primary reasons for setting policy is to take away the subjectivity - no question about what's appropriate and what isn't. No question about whether or not someone crossed the line. We tend to set the boundaries well within the boundaries so there isn't even a chance of someone mis-reading what's happening - observer, grown-up, or child. Understood.

I would never want someone to get away with mistreating a child nor be falsely accused of something they had no intention of doing. But part of me worries about the long term. Maybe I would feel differently if young children were only in an environment that requires such policies for 1-2 hours/wk, but most children are cared for under guardian policies like these during the better part of their waking hours. What I recall as educator, parent, and child is that developmentally, children need touch (appropriate and in adequate amounts) from their primary care-giver for healthy social, emotional, and mental development. The short range affect of our policies is safety. But what will the long range affect be if these policies are in operation in a child's life most of their waking hours?

Relationships are so subjective but so necessary. Trust is important. Safety is important. Appropriate physical affection is important for children. Is the only way to grow trust and protect those we love to keep adding policies, rules, and regulations? Are institutions so much a part of our children's lives that we have to worry that appropriate touch at home might be falsely labeled as inappropriate? If my 1st or 2nd grader climbs into my lap for stories and tells his teacher - is that a problem? What of my pre-adolescent - a time when kids keep jumping back and forth between wanting to be a child and wanting to grow up - girls who need a timely appropriate hug or kiss from a responsible dad or uncle or grandfather? Will I have a social worker at my door? Will that be misconstrued by people who have never known lots of appropriate physical love?

We set policies carefully restricting our physical contact with children, at the same time media images equating love and care with sex constantly bombard pre-adolescents, teens, and adults - families. So we enforce a very strict touch policy with children only to launch them into a world that equates caring and loving with something sexual. What alternatives can we offer? Are we launching pre-adolescents hungry for appropriate physical attention into this environment? Can we legally model something different? Maybe we can now. How about 20 years from now?

My fear is that we keep trying to put bandaids on bigger deeper issues that we can never solve or resolve with band-aids but I don't know what the answer is. Something is breaking and we can't let it break.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

more blogs and resources

Another resource: If anyone's interested, Group is promoting their 2009 National Youth Ministry Conference in Columbus OH.

Reading Kidology's Blog Watch. Check it out! Kidology is always finding new sources of information, inspiration, and thought-provoking material and it's rich with ideas.

Here's the short list of a great bunch of reads. Websites to add to "blogs" & "resources".

Children Matter

Disciple Blog

Jonathan Cliff

and more!

If Money Gets Tight

When money gets tight, what happens to kids? If one or two parents lose their jobs what happens to kids? What will go? As faith communities, are there ways we can prepare for that or help people prepare? Should we?

As individuals and as individual families, we haven't experienced a depression before. I don't know how much we can look back at the last one and compare. Not sure the average person spent as much money or as large a % of their income on entertainment, enrichment, and childcare as we do for our kids. Not sure families were as dependent on those things as we are today. It would be an interesting thing to find out. Think about the social side of all this, too.

As we tighten our belts, what will go? What will go in the lives of individual children and groups of children? Will they need something to fill that space? What will it be?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


from Matthew 6:1-4

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Some people I know who aren't part of a church, as far as I know, decided to go in together to shop and give Thanksgiving dinners to needy families this year. As a group we have no real identity.

So that got me thinking about this passage - anonymous, secret. If we give to people and make sure they know which church we come from or even who we are for that matter . . . If we give or do anything under our church logo or even "in the name of the Lord". . . (though, I understand. That's the ultimate goal) Have we done what this passage in Matthew tells us to do? Have we given in secret?

The child in me always liked the idea of God seeing and knowing in secret and knowing that He would reward me for the good things He saw me doing, especially if nobody else knew. Knowing He always knew the bad, and it wouldn't stay a secret, made me pretty careful about my choices.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


I have a friend with two very young sick kids. Not sure if you can use these for a whole classroom or not but here are some new-to-me sites if you or parents you know have sick kids home for a long time. My mom used to have what she called a rainy day box of toys or activities that we could only play with on a rainy days when we couldn't go outside. Prayer is good but consider care packages for sick families - not just a meal. Include simple crafts, games or ideas for kids who have to stay in bed.

Consider creating rainy day boxes or sick-for-a-week boxes (get-well- soon- boxes?) as a pre-flu season teen, college, parent or grandparent group activity. Parents can plan ahead. It gives other life-stage groups opportunity to think about people in a different life stage than their own. Life stage groups tend to be more"us" centered than outwardly relational. Not everyone is a parent but most of us were sick kids once.

Here are some websites. There are lots of children's magazine websites and parent magazine websites with craft and game ideas. You may even find some with specific ideas for sick kids. You may also find local sites with ideas and activities (Rochester's Kids Out and About)

[You already know Kidology has oodles of games and activities for children's ministry!]

Highlights for Kids

Wee Ones

Pockets (Upper Room) has print and play games. (paper pencil games),

Print-N-Play toys - (notice that there are restrictions.)

Pencil Paper Games for older kids

paper pencil games
. This site has a game called Sprouts I haven't seen before.

print and play games. This one is fun!

There are also puzzle maker sites to create cross-word puzzles and word games. But you probably already know that.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Banned Book Week?

Libraries are celebrating banned book week. This (I believe) comes from a university student publication. You can find more info if you google "banned books" or "banned book week."

In my typical rambling, indecisive, empathetic, let's look at this from everybody's perspective complicated style ...

. . . There were lots of books, TV, and videos our kids didn't have access to. We took them to the library regularly. We didn't buy a TV until my oldest was 10. When we got the TV we started with lots of controls (not dials, controls) - but that's another post. Emphasis on "started." By the time my youngest was 10 the other four complained about all the things she got to do that they never got to do - yet another post.

I believe God gives commands he expects to be obeyed. But I also believe He gave us a free will and we live with the consequences of our actions. It doesn't appear that God protects us from everything. It doesn't appear that He severely disciplines us for everything. When God does intervene in a way some would consider parental discipline, His intervention probably saves us from a worse fate. But I don't see God as terribly consistent unless you look at the effectiveness of random reward (ie. slot machines) and punishment. I see Him as patient, faithful, constant but not necessarily consistent. So I asked my husband how he sees God's reward and punishment system He said, "That's why God created parents."

I value the freedom of speech and freedom to choose (so far) available to parents, individuals, and organizations in this country. I think that if we value our own freedom we will be very careful what freedoms we take from others. As much as I recoil from big government and government controls, and people I don't agree with telling me what to do I'm also grateful for law enforcement that allows me to live a relatively safe existence. I don't particularly want to live in an anarchy.

When the kids' high school (an upstate NY city high school, ethnically diverse) was celebrating 100 years I had the priviledge of reading 100 years worth of student written school newspapers? Alot of them were missing but there were enough in the cabinets to see how high school humor and perspective changed over 100 years. Let's just say that the first 80+ years of high school humor was a far cry from what we would consider politically correct today. Culturally different. Most of those papers came out with a minimum of faculty oversight (censorship). They valued freedom of speech but apparently it was tempered with a measure of respect. I don't appreciate humor at someone else's expense but it's fun to be around people who know and care about each other enough that they can laugh together.

Banned books. Just because something appears in a book doesn't mean the book is condoning the behavior. There are fantasies and sci fi stories that people disapprove of for what seem to be obvious reasons but in their disapproval miss the ideas that the author is exploring in ways that can't be explored in more literal genres. Our God is a supernatural God. He is unseen and acts in ways that aren't "natural". There are also evil forces. I understand that a certain story about two male penguins raising a baby penguin is actually based on a true (as in non-fiction, it happened among penguins) story. Is it about life-style? Is it about caring? Is it both? Are you willing to read a controversial book with your child and talk about it? That kind of parent-child interaction starts the moment you pick up a book and look at pictures with your baby.

What we read, see, and hear influences how we think but sometimes depicting stories from real life complete with consequences makes a stronger impression, a stronger deterrent, than telling someone "don't do it". You can say scripture's full of "don't do it"s but it's also full of stories with consequences - stories most of our children (and teens) never hear, by the way - stories that would be banned in Christian schools.

But not every real life situation with all its graphic detail (or Bible story) is age appropriate for every child and household.

There comes a time when we can't protect our kids and the "when" of that may vary depending on child, family, circumstances, and life beyond our control. That moment may not be the same for every family or even every child in a family. Until that time, if I'm a parent, I have a job to do. Both parents and teachers have the priviledge and responsibility to teach kids how to choose and make wise choices. Kids need their parents and their teachers to be on the same team, not pulling them in different directions.

Sometimes you follow your head and sometimes you follow your heart. Sometimes you listen to someone older and wiser. Sometimes you go digging for information and read it from different perspectives. We want to teach children to choose wisely and give them the support network to do that. As we give them more and more freedom to choose, we have to be willing to respect their choices . If we find ourselves disagreeing with those choices maybe we need to back up and ask ourselves why they made those choices.

We also have to remember that they won't be living in and raising their children in the same world we grew up in. Someday they may find themselves having to make choices we never dreamed of - God forbid. They need the tools to do that.

There's a time to look at the tree and a time to look at the forest. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and a parents' right to choose are (to me) valuable freedoms. My most basic thought and feeling - I better be darned careful before I take those freedoms away from someone else, if I expect someone else to extend the same courtesy to me.

What do you think?