Kids, Prejudice and God

Kids, Prejudice and God - Parenting Like HannahWhat have you taught your kids about prejudice? Maybe you read them James 2:1-4. Perhaps you have told them all people are equal in the eyes of God. If you are really intentional, you may have had discussions about how they are to treat everyone with love – no matter who they are.

If you asked your kids how they would react if they came across people treating someone with prejudice, they would probably tell you all of the absolutely correct things they would do. Studies have shown though, when placed in a real life situation, hardly anyone reacts in the godly ways they claim they would. Most sit quietly by without saying or doing anything.

There are some concrete things you can do with your kids to improve the chances your children will treat everyone equally. You can raise kids who are the few who actually do what they think they will do when around others treating those who are different from them poorly. Your children can learn to serve and share their faith with others with the same godly empathy and love Jesus modeled for us.

There are a lot of things you can do to help your children treat everyone the way God expects from us. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Teaching Kids How To “Read” People

Teaching Kids How To "Read" People - Parenting Like HannahThis probably never happens in your home, but have you ever had one of those parent miming conversations? You know, when one parent is taking a very strong conversational path with the kids while the other parent is desperately signaling to switch topics immediately. Which, as the signals are ignored, get more obvious and often end with the signaling parent muttering “don’t you know ‘this’ means stop talking?”

Your, I mean the “clueless” spouse had failed to read the signals properly, creating an awkward parenting situation. While your marriage and your kids will survive quite a few of those moments, there are other times when it is crucial our kids have learned to “read” the non-verbal signals others give them.

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Beautiful Resource for Teaching Kids Empathy (and Missions)

Beautiful Resource for Teaching Kids About Empathy (and Missions)One of the cornerstones of Christian education should be the teaching of empathy – especially in relation to serving others and sharing our faith. Instead our attempts, if any, seem to be closer to teaching pity. Empathy involves the ability to really and truly understand as much s possible what life is like for another person. Many times empathy is difficult. How can our children care about what happens in a country they may never visit?

I am always looking for new resources to help children develop empathy. Recently, I was given an opportunity to review a book entitled, In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World by Gabriele Calimberti. This book is a dream come true! It is rare to find a somewhat affordable coffee table book which is also useful. The author has not only managed to capture beautiful photographs, but also introduces us to grandmothers all over the world and their signature recipes.

Each section features a photo of of a grandmother in her kitchen with the ingredients laid out beautifully. The accompanying photo is of the finished dish. Turn the page and you are treated to a short summary of the grandmother’s life and circumstances. The fourth page in each section has a recipe you can try in your own kitchen.

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Fudge and Faith Sharing

Fudge and Faith Sharing - Parenting Like HannahIt may sound a little crazy, but your favorite fudge or Christmas cookie recipe may be the very tool you and your kids need to share your faith with others. The most effective faith sharing is often within the context of a relationship. Yet many of us are so busy, we don’t seem to have the time to even meet non Christians. Establishing a relationship with them seems an impossible dream. Enter fudge.

We have great relationships with a lot of our neighbors in a time when many don’t even know the names of those who live near them. One of the best things I ever started in our neighborhood, was making a few extra goodies at Christmas and giving them to our neighbors.

I know you are thinking Christmas is busy enough without adding one more thing to your list. The trick with neighbor relationship building that leads to faith sharing is you can keep it simple. In fact some years, I have gone really, really simple!

A recipe of fudge only takes a few minutes to make and can provide enough goodies for several families. Buy the inexpensive clear holiday themed treat bags at a craft store or big box retailer. You can even add a personal note if you are really industrious. The point is not what you give or even how much. It is the very act of caring enough to give that will open doors and hearts.

I will be honest. The first couple of years, we had one or two families who eyed us a little warily and I’m guessing the goodies went right in the trash. Over the years as we consistently made a point to touch their lives on a regular basis, many of these neighbors have become more like family. We have had numerous opportunities to share our faith with several of them.

So pull out that fudge recipe. This year I knew was going to be super crazy, so I actually made a batch of apple butter and canned it back in November. Many baked goods freeze well and can be baked when life is a little slower and pulled out during the holidays. Have your kids help you craft your goodies. Definitely, deliver them as a family and spend a couple of minutes catching up with every neighbor.

It may be a few weeks, months or even a few years before you actually share your faith with any of them, but you have begun opening doors that will give you those chances. The best part for me was watching the tradition catch on with other neighbors. We now have several families who spread cheer to each other throughout the holiday season which only adds to the closeness of the entire neighborhood. So get baking and let me know what happens!

Teaching Empathy to Young Children

Teaching Empathy to Young Children - Parenting Like HannahEmpathy is often thought of as the ability to imagine life from the perspective of someone else. Yet for a Christian, empathy needs to be so much more. You see, the Bible tells us over and over again not to just imagine what life is like for others, but to do what we can to reflect God’s love to them, serve them and point them towards God.

The earlier children are exposed to the ideas of empathy and serving, the easier it is for those ideas to become a part of the very fabric of who they are. Parents often begin the process of teaching empathy quite naturally. You have probably  told your young child to “be gentle” because if they are not it hurts the other person. Or you may have told him not to “be mean” and hurt another child’s feelings.

What can you do for more complex ideas? How can you explain autism or Alzheimer’s to a very young child? How can they understand what life is like for a little person or someone whose home was destroyed in a fire? For very young children, the answer can often start with a picture book.

Picture books are great ways to begin to introduce complex ideas. The words are simple and the pages are filled with pictures that help your child visualize what is happening in the story more accurately. (I am in the process of creating a list of empathy building picture books, but I will give you a few I have found so far at the end of this post.)

Once you have read the book together, talk about what happened. How did the people in the story feel? What makes your child think they felt that way? Why did each person feel the way they did? Did some people change during the story? How?

If your child is more mature, you may start introducing the idea of what they might feel like if they were that person. What would their day be like? Would they interact with their friends differently than they do now? What challenges would they face? What would make them happy?

Once your child has practiced with picture books, introduce the stories in the Bible as empathy building stories. How do your children think the lepers felt? What was it like to be the lame man by the Pool of Bethesda? Why did Namaan act the way he did? How did Jesus or the people of the day treat the people who were struggling with something?

Once you have read and discussed a book or Bible story, you are ready to begin tackling the second part of empathy – acting on the knowledge your child now has. Do you know someone who has the same issues as the person in the book? Is there an organization that serves the people in the book? Does your church help people with similar issues? Find a way, to meet someone like the person in the book you read and discover a way you and your child can make a positive difference in his life.

If the person asks you why you want to meet her and why you want to help, share how you want your child to learn how to reflect God’s love accurately to everyone. You may be surprised to learn the people you have come to help also have a lot to teach you and your child about love.

Want to start the picture book empathy project? Here are a few books I found that you and your child might enjoy:

My Brother Charlie – autism

Great-Uncle Alfred Forgets – Alzheimer’s

Alex Is My Friend – little people

Rainbow Joe And Me Rainbow Joe And Me – blindness

A Chair for My Mother 25th Anniversary Edition (Reading Rainbow Books) – fire victims

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan  – Lost Boys of Sudan

If you have found other picture books you and your children have enjoyed and which helped them develop empathy, I would love for you to leave a comment with the name of the book and the author. It may help others create an empathy library.