Teaching Kids About the Little Things and God

Teaching Kids About the Little Things and God - Parenting Like HannahOne of the Bible stories that fascinated me as a child was the story of Gideon. It was amazing to me that how a man drank water from a stream determined whether or not God would use him in an important battle. Or that a young boy’s lunch not only fed 5,000 people, but became an example of how God can take our little things and make them into something amazing.

It is so important for us as Christian parents to teach our kids the importance of the little things in life. Sometimes it really is important for our kids to “sweat the small stuff”. Our kids need to know God expects us to obey all of His commands and that He will indeed notice if we choose to ignore and disobey this one little command. Or that one small act of reflecting God’s love to someone can open that person’s eyes to God’s presence. Or that one harsh word can create a scar in another person’s heart.  Or that when they thank someone or tell someone how talented or special they are, it can show them God’s love in a tangible way or give someone the strength to keep going.

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Thanksgiving In A Box

Thanksgiving in a Box - Parenting Like Hannah
Photo by Benn Wolfe

About this time every year, many parents begin searching for service projects to complete as a family. They want a project that will help their children understand how grateful they should be for the blessings God has given them. They want a way to serve others and share their faith at the same time.

A great way to introduce your children to grateful service and faith sharing is to involve them in a project during the upcoming school holidays. During these days with no school or extra curricular activities, many families find they have free time to fill. Rather than just turning on the television, I challenge you to do this special service project with your family. To make it even more fun and challenging, see if you can pull it off without the recipient knowing who served them, but still find a way to share your faith with them!

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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.

Children and Complaining

Children and Complaining - Parenting Like Hannah
Where I want to go after a bad day!

Complaining and whining are two habits that seem to come naturally to most children. They are also two of the things most likely to drive a mother to send everyone to their rooms in an effort to avoid the assault on her ears and nerves. For generations, parents have had children memorize Philippians 2:14 with varying degrees of success. Although whining and complaining can be stopped by various consequences, it is the root of complaining that concerns me the most.

You see, at the heart of every complaint is the idea that it is easier to talk about something than to actually do something. Think about it. It is easier to complain about exercising and eating right than to actually do it – even though it is what is best for our bodies. It is easier to complain about someone than to do the work necessary to improve the relationship.

Training your children to act rather than complain, is teaching them to be the sort of active Christians God calls us to be. Can you think of a time when Jesus or the Apostles sat around just complaining? If you are mentioning a time, look again. Most likely, you will find they are actually teaching and correcting these people – not complaining about them behind their backs. (OK an argument could be made for the Pharisees, but hang with me – I think it still meets the action criteria).

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Fun With Kids and Work

Fun With Kids and Work - Parenting Like HannahChristianity is actually an interesting mix of grace and work. Step outside of any preconceived ideas and take a look at the New Testament with fresh eyes. When you do, it becomes obvious we cannot save ourselves and we are saved only by and through the grace of God.

On the other hand, Jesus and the disciples worked like crazy. Yes, they attended the occasional dinner party and fished from time to time, but they also worked hard. They were constantly traveling from place to place teaching, healing and serving others. The Apostle Paul even continued to run his tent making business while he preached. Even the early Christians were so busy working deacons were created to help handle some of the work load that had fallen on the elders.

The problem in life is that most people ride the pendulum. If they believed work was required too much when growing up, then they preach only grace – Christians can sit back and have fun – no work expected. If you grew up in an environment with too much grace, then your pendulum probably swung the other way. The truth lies in the balance. We are saved by God’s grace, but God wants and expects us to work in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons – for our own good and the good of the Kingdom.

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