Spring has started here. You may be still waiting for the Spring thaw, but Spring is coming. Here some tips, ideas and encouragement from this week’s social media challenges for you to consider.
Monday: Spring brings hope to many. Your kids need to know they have hope even on the dreariest of winter days. Their hope is in Jesus. Finding ways to explain that regularly in age appropriate ways is key to helping them see and feel that hope regardless of how things are around them.
Tuesday:Research has found hospitality is a key component of homes that raise faithful, productive Christians. It doesn’t have to be a fancy party either. Having your kids’ friends over to play works just as well.
Wednesday: Time is fleeting. It has a way of being filled without us really knowing how. You have to be intentional with your time and use it wisely if you want your kids to have strong spiritual foundations and reach their godly potential.
Thursday: We don’t understand royalty today like it was understood in Bible times. That can make it very difficult for your kids to understand what it means to make God their King. God is not a ceremonial head of state living in palaces and having fancy crowns to wear. Your kids need for you to teach them what it really takes to make God King and Lord of their lives. They may not learn it anywhere else.
Friday: The Bible tells us creation points to the Creator. Spending time in nature can help you point your kids to God and give you lots of time for great talks on those hikes.
Snow in Southern CA and NYC. Spring like temps, then cold winds in Atlanta. The weather in January is volatile. Tired of being stuck inside? Need some encouragement or ideas? Here are this week’s social media challenges.
Monday: Did you know coffee beans produce coffee that tastes different based on what is grown around it? Your kids will start to pick up the behaviors, attitudes and even beliefs of the people with whom they spend the most time. Teaching your kids how to choose friends wisely (while still being kind to everyone else) is crucial if you want them to have a strong faith foundation and reach their godly potential.
Tuesday: Spring is coming, but there are and still will be people who are lonely or isolated long after COVID has passed. Winter can be especially challenging with bad weather and short sunlight hours. Take some time with your kids to plan ways to brighten someone’s day and reflect God’s love to them. Our Teach One Reach One Ministries website has lots of ideas, but something as simple as a Zoom call, handmade art or some muffins works great. http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/ (Look under Service Projects)
Wednesday: Did you know the Celtic cross is the result of a fear in Christians that asking the people to fully obey God would make them reject Christianity? So they let them keep their favorite pagan practices and mix them with Christianity. We know from the Old Testament (and the New) this is not acceptable to God. Your kids can’t decide to only obey the commands of God they like and expect to be pleasing to Him. Preparing them to obey God completely is the most important thing you can do.
Thursday: It’s highly unlikely this man’s parents knew he would grow up to write a nursery rhyme children would be told for almost a hundred and fifty years. You have no idea of the plans God has for your kids to do good works. You can only prepare them for whatever those things are by helping them build a strong faith foundation and discover and develop their gifts from God. Then encourage them to follow where God leads…you may be amazed in what He has in store for them!
Friday: Our neighbors have found a unique way of encouraging people who walk by their house. How can your family be like Barnabas in the Bible – known for encouraging others? Have a family brainstorming session and think of ways you can be encouraging as a family and as individuals. It’s a great way to reflect God’s love to others.
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.
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.
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.