Christian Parenting Challenges #3

Believe it or not, the spring trees are starting to bud here. How were things in your home this week? Need some encouragement or fresh ideas? Here are this week’s social media challenges to help.

Monday: Do you have goals for your kids? Your number one goal shouldn’t be for them to be happy or to go to college. It should be that they spend eternity in Heaven. If you put as much time and effort into preparing them to live a Christian life as you do on their baseball swing or grades, chances are great your kids will grow up to be strong, active Christians.

Tuesday: Did you know your kids can wear clothes like this and still be immodest? Modesty (and immodesty) is as much about an attitude as it is clothing. Both boys and girls should be taught how to avoid sending sexual messages to those around them. (Yes, the other person has responsibilities, too.)

Wednesday: One day your kids will start dating. They need to understand anyone they date is a potential future spouse. Dating people they know they would never want to marry can cause all sorts of problems. Start talking about dating and marriage long before they are old enough to actually date. The more prepared they are, the better those dating years will go.

Thursday: Facebook algorithms keep you from seeing many of our posts and no longer allow us to post direct links to our blog. You can make sure you don’t miss anything by going to our website parentinglikehannah (.com) and signing up for our newsletter. You will receive three emails a week containing everything we post and we don’t sell or share your information with anyone. (Please help us out by liking or commenting on this post.)

Friday: What do you see? An oil slick on a road or colorful art? Perspective makes a difference – even about God, the Bible and Christianity. For example, are you making your kids think God’s commands are somehow keeping them from having fun or God’s way of showing His love and attempting to protect them from the earthly consequences disobedience can bring? How you frame things for your kids will impact their faith, so prayerfully consider your perspective before passing it on to your kids.

Christian Parenting Challenges 2021 Week #2

People are starting to get vaccinated against COVID. Although things may still be rough for awhile longer, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is also still time to make needed changes in your Christian parenting if they are needed. Here are some ideas and encouragement to get you started.

Monday: “We all have negative urges, but we don’t have to act out those urges” Mr Rogers. Or better yet, “In your anger, do not sin. Let not the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26 Teach your kids to live this verse and they will grow up to be the peacemakers mentioned in the New Testament.

Tuesday: When is the last time you hugged your kids or told them you love them? Kids need multiple hugs and “I love you’s” a day to be emotionally healthy. Those hugs impact their spiritual health, too. They won’t realize it, but the way you love your kids will often be how they view the way God loves them. Since God IS love, pour love on your kids.

Wednesday: There is a parenting myth that kids are like succulents…just turn them loose in the world and they will do fine with very little adult intervention. Kids may be able to survive that way, but they rarely thrive. Your kids will need a lot of your intentional time and energy if they are to grow to become the faithful, productive Christians God wants them to be. You can’t just “phone it in” and expect great results.

Thursday: Did you know your kids need free play? It’s good for every area of their growth – even spiritually. Read our blog post this week to find out more.

Friday: I don’t know the people who lived in this log cabin, but I know from family stories that families in log cabins with no electricity, running water or bathrooms were often happy, content and grateful to God for having food on the table and a roof over their heads. Your kids don’t need what they think they need. Those are mostly wants. To these families even throwing away a sock with a hole and buying a new one was a luxury, yet they were often content and grateful. Raising content, grateful kids stops entitlement in its tracks.

Tips For Raising Empathetic, Loving Kids

One of the goals for Christian parents should be to raise kids who truly love other people like Jesus did. Heart issues always seem to confuse parents the most. How can you know what your kids’ hearts are really like? How can you influence them to want to be like Jesus, including in how they treat others?

You can make all sorts of rules about how your kids are to treat others. You can tell them every Bible story and have them memorize every verse about loving others. Yet, you could still raise a child who doesn’t love others like Jesus. Or worse yet one who is unkind or even mean or spiteful.

Thankfully, science has done some research that can help. It turns out raising children who love like Jesus involves parents loving their kids like Jesus. What does that mean practically in how you parent your kids? Here are some of the top things they found parents did that led to their children being more empathetic, loving, kind and helpful as they grew.

  • Facial expressions and emotions. Studies have found that as young as infancy, children who can interpret facial expressions and emotions easily, show more early signs of empathy and even caring than children who struggle recognizing emotions in others. Genetics can play a role in the ability to recognize and interpret emotional states from facial cues, body language, vocal tones, etc. If your kids struggle, spend time showing them photos of various expressions associated with emotions or act them out yourself. Make it a game. Work with your kids until they show the ability to identify even subtle emotional clues.
  • Share your emotions in age appropriate ways. You don’t want to burden a toddler with every negative emotion you feel. On the other hand, hiding your emotions or pretending your only emotional state is happiness does not help your child develop empathy. They need to understand when they say something hurtful to you, it makes you sad. No need to be overly dramatic, but it is one way of teaching them their words and actions impact the emotions of others.
  • Work on developing the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain associated with executive functions. The prefrontal cortex (primarily) or decision making, executive function part of the brain is one of the last to develop. There are activities you can do with your child that can help this area of the brain develop more quickly than it would on its own. Why is this important for empathy? Studies have shown that if the prefrontal cortex is underdeveloped, seeing someone in pain may create distress in a child, but not the desire to actually help the person in pain. A more developed prefrontal cortex allows the child to move away from the emotional state enough to create and execute a plan to help the person in need.
  • Work on self control. Studies found that children who were shy and/or well behaved showed more empathy than those whose behavior was “uninhibited”. One can assume, this is in part because those children are more likely to notice someone in need.
  • Explain “stranger danger” carefully. You absolutely want to teach your kids skills that will keep them safe from predators pretending they need help locating a lost puppy. On the other hand, those incidents are rare and need to be differentiated from the need for them to help people in real need in ways that are age appropriate for them. These will sometimes change as your kids grow older. Your kids should never get in a car with a stranger at any age, for example, but they can be taught to go run get you to help or offer to make a 911 call. Studies showed that children raised with an extreme fear of strangers refused to even help peers they did not know.
  • Encourage facial mimicry games with infants and toddlers. Researchers think there may be a connection between the ability to mimic another’s facial expressions and the ability to connect emotions to facial expressions. It may seem natural to you to laugh when your baby laughs, but that may be because your mother did the same for you as an infant. Playing games like peek-a-boo and encouraging mimicry when interacting with your baby can also increase empathy.
  • Respond to your child’s needs appropriately. Secure attachment to parents and the responsiveness of care givers to the needs of infants and toddlers plays a large role in the empathy development of children. If your child spends a great deal of time in a day care situation, it is imperative you find ways to monitor how responsive caregivers are to the needs of your child. This does not mean catering to every whim of a three year old. It does mean, however, that you acknowledge his or her expressed need and explain in loving ways why you aren’t letting him or her have or do certain things. Remember a child’s needs also include loving, consistent, firm boundaries.
  • Maternal warmth. Personally, I believe this is important from both parents, but the study only examined maternal warmth. Those hugs, snuggles, kisses and “I love you” a million times a day make a huge difference in how empathetic a child becomes.

You can’t control your child’s heart, but you can influence it. Teaching your child about Jesus and how God wants him or her to love and care for others is crucial. Adding the above elements to your parenting toolbox, as well as demonstrating empathy for others in your own life, will make it much more likely you will raise a loving, caring, empathetic child.

Fun Ways to Have a Grateful Family All Year

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. If your family is like most, gratitude is one of the themes for the day…at least during the prayer for the meal. In the U.S. Thanksgiving is quickly followed by a season that is characterized more by greed than gratitude. Once your kids are in that mindset, it can be tough to remind them to be grateful.

There are some fun activities you can do all year that can remind your kids to be grateful daily and not just on Thanksgiving. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Grab a large clear container (preferably unbreakable). Place it somewhere where everyone will see it at least a couple of times a day. Beside it, place slips of paper and a pen. If you have pre-writers, you may want to make the slips of paper a bit larger and place markers or crayons next to it. Encourage everyone in your family to write or draw something to be thankful for at least once a day and place it in the jar. To get everyone in the habit, for the first couple of weeks you might want to have a time each evening when you share a Bible verse and each add your entry for the day. Then periodically have a blessings time. Pull out all of the slips and read what people wrote or drew. Then have a prayer of thanksgiving.
  • Throughout history there are stories of people whose lives were saved or changed forever by an ear of corn, a crust of bread or an encouraging word. Periodically pop some popcorn or bake some bread. As you are enjoying the treat, take turns sharing the ways people have blessed you by helping or encouraging you in some way. Make the time even more special by writing a note or making a thank you treat for some of the people you mention.
  • Draw a five by five grid on a piece of paper. Each square should be large enough to write or draw something in it. You will need at least one copy for each person playing the game. Usually, kids love this game, so be prepared to make more grids! Make a set of slips of paper, each having a letter of the alphabet on it. If you have young children, you may want to leave out letters like “q”, “x” and “a”. On another set of slips of paper write categories of items for which you can be grateful like food, clothing, places, etc. If you have older children, you can make it more challenging by adding categories like books of the Bible, people in the Bible, adventures, books, etc. Start by pulling five letter slips. Everyone should write one letter beside each square going down the left side of the grid. Then pull five category slips. They should each go above a square across the top of the grid. When you say “go”, everyone starts completing the grid as quickly as possible. So if the first letter were “c” and the category, “food”, someone might write “cucumber” in the square where the two intersect. Set a time limit…slower for the first round, then shorter as you need to make it more difficult. Have everyone add up their answers and check the answers of the winner. Encourage trying to improve each person’s individual score more than focusing on who had the most correct answers each time.

Doing fun things to encourage gratitude all year, should lessen greed and entitlement as it increases gratitude. It’s a great way to spend regular family time together.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #23

I don’t know about you, but I’ve entered my holiday “bubble” – beginning preparations for the next couple of months of modified family fun. It’s a lot more fun and rewarding than watching the news! Here are the social media challenges for this week.

Monday: Athens, Greece is where Paul preached his sermon to the Greeks about a god they did not know, who is the only true God. How well do your kids know God? Do they know any more of His character, power, expectations than those Greeks did before Paul taught them? Just like the parents of Israel in the Bible, it is your responsibility to help your kids to really know and understand God. It is your top priority. The church is there to help you, but it is impossible for them to take your place. Studies show your kids need you talking and teaching them about God multiple hours a week – not all formally…but praying, encouraging independent Bible reading and prayer, family Bible study, church attendance, conversations, serving others, sharing your faith and more. Is it hard? Yes, for many of you it may feel like the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. Will you do it perfectly? No, some days will definitely be better than others. But it will have been the most rewarding experience of your life on earth, when not just your kids, but all of your descendants are spending eternity with you in Heaven.

Tuesday: If things are well built, they can withstand all sorts of stressors for hundreds of years. If you can help your kids build a strong spiritual foundation, it will be easier for them to stay faithful to God for the rest of their lives. Better yet, they will have the tools to help their own children build strong faith foundations. What better legacy to leave your descendants than a spiritual one?

Wednesday: One of the unexpected benefits of COVID more experienced parents and researchers noticed was that it was giving kids and teens more crucial, meaningful time with their parents. As routines start to return to normal and the holidays approach, your kids still need a lot of quality time with you. Make needed adjustments in all of your schedules to make that happen. Your kids need the same amount of time of spiritual life coaching from you that an Olympic athlete needs in a sport from his or her coach. Making that time to coach your kids to be who God wants them to be can make an eternal difference in their lives.

Thursday: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11. Discipline isn’t fun for parents or kids. We all want to avoid it, but our world today reflects generations of children who weren’t corrected and create anything but the peaceful fruit of righteousness around them. Your kids and the world need you to do the hard stuff. Doing the hard stuff of disciplining when they are little usually makes the teen and adult years so much better for everyone. Help your kids learn how to yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness the world so desperately needs.

Friday: Mr Rogers once said that one of the universal fears of children is not having value in the eyes of their parents. Do you tell your kids you love them multiple times each day? That’s great, but children measure their value in your eyes in other ways, too. Do your eyes light up when you see them? Do you obviously enjoy spending time with them…especially doing things that are important to them? Do they overhear you talking about them in positive ways? Do you still hug them with the same enthusiasm you did when they were little? Whether you realize it or not, your love for your kids models what they will assume God’s love for them is like. If you are distant, they may assume God’s love is distant, too. Make sure you reflect God’s love for us accurately by loving your kids the way He does.