Why Kids Flourish at Camp

Posted on March 12, 2014 by Phil

Campers often describe camp as their “happy place”” or “the best two weeks” of their year. And, from my own observation, I’ve seen that kids and the counselors who work with them are obviously happy at camp.  They smile a lot. They look relaxed. There’s a lot of laughter.  So many fun things happen at camp every day that it’s no surprise it’s such a happy place for kids.

Recently I’ve read several books about the science behind happiness and the research that’s being done to determine the specific elements that cause people to “flourish” in life.  (See my reading list below.)

Traditionally, psychologists have focused on studying psychological diseases – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. – and their cures. But led by Martin Seligman  (University of Pennsylvania), a new breed of psychologists called Positive Psychologists have, for the past decade, been studying the positive side of people. They ask not what is wrong with people, but what is right.  They research what makes us do well in life and the reasons why some people thrive and find success and happiness in life.

Originally, Seligman had a theory of “happiness” outlined in his book Authentic Happiness, but he moved away from only using the word “happiness” to a new theory that focuses instead on well-being or “flourishing.”  Seligman determined that it’s inaccurate to use the term “happiness,” as some people simply don’t have the personality to appear outwardly happy to others, even when they are doing quite well in life.  I’m an extrovert who smiles a lot, so, objectively, people would probably say I’m pretty high on the happy scale.  But how do we account for an introvert who doesn’t show a lot or emotion or display the outward symptoms that we equate with happiness?  He may not smile a lot or appear outwardly happy, but, Seligman contends, he could still be flourishing.  So, instead of using a one-dimensional definition that’s dependent on momentary emotions and personality traits, Seligman developed a more thorough theory of well-being that moved beyond his original happiness theory.

Seligman’s uses the acronym PERMA to define his theory and the five measurable elements he has determined lead to well-being. As I read about each pillar of PERMA in Seligman’s book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, I kept having “ah-ha” moments.  “This happens at camp!” I would think. “And this, too!” In fact, as I read, I determined that ALL of the elements of flourishing that Seligman describes happen at camp. According to Seligman, “No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it.”

I’ve always been sucked in by inspirational quotes and quick sounds bites about how camp contributes to happiness, but I love knowing the science behind why kids flourish at camp.

PERMA at Camp… Read more…  from Sunshine Parenting…

 


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My Daughter Went Away to Camp and Changed

Posted on November 13, 2013 by Phil

How do I catch up?

By

When I look at my phone, I see my daughter leaving for camp on my home screen. She stands at the bottom of an airport escalator, an orange backpack over her shoulder. She’d cut her long, strawberry blond hair the day before, so the person smiling from under the carrot top doesn’t look familiar. But the image of a kid who just needs a backpack and a ticket is one I recognize. Some parents may have to nudge their children to camp. For the last two summers, our daughter has run out the door. “Yukon ho!” she yelled when leaving this year, an expression she learned from Calvin and Hobbes‘ main character Calvin, whom she now resembles.

I hadn’t been at the National Airport departure gate for her first trip as an Unaccompanied Minor. I was in the stands at my son’s baseball tournament. For pickup my wife and I flipped the load-sharing. She did baseball duty, and I flew to Minnesota, driving almost four hours to a packed-dirt road lined with birch trees that ended at the shores of Lake Pokegama: Camp Mishawaka. Thirty-six years earlier, I had been the 9-year-old flying alone from Washington to this place with a new haircut.

When I was at camp, my parents didn’t know what was happening to me. We weren’t allowed to use the telephone, so even on my birthday I just received word that they’d called to wish me a happy one. All they got on their end was a handful of sentences written in loopy script with scattershot spelling. Technology makes hovering easier now. For the last few weeks, my wife and I ended our days poking around on the camp website, scanning photographs for the flash of red hair among the campers playing capture the flag and canoeing. Now, as I stood on the soft grass at the edge of the compound, I was doing the same scan, watching my daughter fling herself around along with the other campers, passing time before the organizing ring of the dinner bell.

Keep Reading…

 


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How to Have Hard Conversations with Your Teen

Posted on October 9, 2013 by Phil

Sometimes they don’t realize it yet – that we’re trying to help, that we’re not terribly lost, that we might know something beneficial.

I remember my son looking up from a disappointing test grade, annoyed with my advice and yelling at me, “You don’t understand; math has changed!” I literally laughed out loud.

Then I looked at his study sheets. I didn’t recognize a thing. It was true. Math had changed.

This is not our middle school or high school anymore, folks, and it threatens our ability to relate. But, we can relate to the charged emotions our teens are facing. And we can better enter into the necessary, hard conversations at times by attending to those emotions rather than avoiding them.

I learned this the hard way. I can be a knucklehead as a dad. I’m great at picking up on things with other people, but it took me a little while to begin seeing what I was missing in my own family.

It’s easy to label our teens as acting out, or having attention-seeking behavior, or being manipulative, or focusing on themselves instead of God, and those may be valid issues at times. Still, when it comes time to address these issues and have hard conversations with your child, let’s replace the idea of our kids needing attention with the idea that they need a connection. And we can best connect with them by attending to the emotion before attending to the solution.

In other words, we need to slow down before we try to fix the problem.

OK, but where’s the spiritual part? In fact, a spiritual focus needs to be at the core, and it is, because the spiritual can’t really be separated from the emotional and still be healthy. When we acknowledge our son or daughter’s anger, or sadness, or excitement, or fear, we are with them right in the middle of the Truth. Even if they don’t realize it yet.

Cultivating honesty

So how do we get them to go there with us or let us in to that part of themselves? Basically, we have to cultivate honesty by rewarding honesty. Remember, truth doesn’t taste good unless it’s seasoned with grace. When there has been a breach in the family rules, grace says, “You’ll be in less trouble if you tell me the truth.” Then we have to back that up.

Reward their honesty. If we lower the boom anyway, we just taught them how to not trust us at all.

Cultivate safety in conversation by being safe at other times. So when you hear something inappropriate that your teen’s friend is doing, question out loud the behavior or decision, discuss the possible outcomes, but do so without criticizing the friend. If we model judgment all the time, we’re going to eventually create a lack of safety with our own kids.

Personality considerations

Remember to parent each kid as an individual. In our house when a consequence has to be levied, each child responds differently. One kid cries at the mention of punishment, one kid argues a position against the injustice of it all, one kid chimes “OK” and then skips down the hall, and one kid gets eyes like The Incredible Hulk. Each one is different, responds differently, needs different things. The Hulk calms down with a valid reason. The Actress wants to feel that no one is mad. The Lawyer needs time and music to relax her opinion. The Skipper apparently has her own magical fairy dust, so we just leave her alone with it.

I have found it to be incredibly important to find each kid’s “open window” for conversation. Find the time and place that makes them comfortable. It might be a consistent moment or time of day (bed time, after dinner). It might be an activity (going for a walk, playing catch). It might involve a certain structure (sitting at the table, written in an email first). Or, maybe it’s a location (coffee shop, park, the car). Whatever it is, we need to lean into those natural opportunities for hard conversations.

There are lots of roles we fill when communicating with our teens: Coach, Advocate, Crime Stopper, or Judge. It helps if I pay attention to what role I’m speaking out of in a specific conversation. Am I using the voice I intend? Am I being a Judge when it’s time to be a Coach? Am I being an Advocate when it’s time to be a Crime Stopper?

As parents, we have to concede that there are decisions and influences that we have already put into practice with our kids that didn’t work or missed the mark. It’s already in play. It’s too late for a retraction. It’s not too late for a course correction. When I have blown it, I have to make things right, repair the relationship, and move forward. And we need to give ourselves grace. We need to give our kids grace. We need to extend a love and a trust and an absence of shame to them that we haven’t even necessarily had for ourselves at times.

Death is hard

Death as a topic is unsettling. I could give you pointers on talking only about death, but under the surface of that is loss. And our kids are going to be facing loss for the rest of their lives. The formula is simple: “When there is loss – grieve.” Look at your kids and tell them to cry, shout, make a fist, hit a pillow with a tennis racket, mention who and what has been lost, and don’t avoid it.

Look at them and tell them, “Don’t let anyone rush your grieving process, including yourself.” Grieving a loss won’t hinder their life – it will free it up for the future. The space in my counseling office is regularly filled by people dealing with issues of unresolved grief that linger into adulthood. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Sex frequently makes the ‘tough conversations’ list

And given limited space here I’m going to refer rather than be too brief. There are lots of great resources to help you talk through issues of sex. Kevin Leman and Kathy Flores Bell’s book, A Chicken’s Guide To Talking Turkey With Your Kids About Sex (Zondervan 2009) is right in line with building trust, giving support, and cultivating safety. As far as your emotions, just pray for the ability to be the least anxious person in the room, no matter what.

Self-discipline hinges on understanding responsibility

And responsibility begets responsibility. Just help them bridge the gap between your desire for them to be responsible and how it fits into the greater good, the bigger picture, the endgame. Ask them, “Whose responsibility is that?” Ask to help them problem-solve a better way, or different way, to get something done. Allow them to discover how they are making a contribution, not just following a demand.

Remember, the emotional and spiritual can’t be separated. God created that, not me, not you, not our kids, not culture. God did it. So work with them – use them both to connect to your kids. Move toward emotions for connection. Move toward Scripture for solutions. Attend to both – emotion and solution – when you attend to hard conversations with your teens.

No, they may not rise and call you blessed. They may not understand why you are pouring into their lives in this way. You may feel frustrated and toxic at times. You’re human, you’re normal, I get it. So ask for help. Seriously, I don’t know how anyone does parenting without Jesus.

When I’m in the pit, Psalm 40 reminds me that He’s in the pit with me. When I’m walking the right road, Zephaniah 3:17 reminds me that He’s celebrating me. And when I’m at the top of my game and a bit arrogant, 2 Sam. 22:28 reminds me that He will humble me to keep me healthy and in step with Him.

He attends to me. He loves me well. Even when I don’t realize it yet. That’s our model for parenthood.

This article is courtesy of Parenting Teens Magazine.

Toby Simers is a therapist in private practice in St. Louis, Missouri. He spent 12 years in vocational ministry, graduated from the Willow Creek Internship program, and earned a Masters in Counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary. But more importantly, he’s a devoted and growing husband, father of two, and stepfather of two.


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A Nation Of Wimps

Posted on June 5, 2013 by Teeny

An interesting article from Psychology Today about kids in America today. 

Maybe it’s the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path… at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.

Or perhaps it’s today’s playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And… wait a minute… those aren’t little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

Then there are the sanitizing gels, with which over a third of parents now send their kids to school, according to a recent survey. Presumably, parents now worry that school bathrooms are not good enough for their children.

Consider the teacher new to an upscale suburban town. Shuffling through the sheaf of reports certifying the educational “accommodations” he was required to make for many of his history students, he was struck by the exhaustive, well-written—and obviously costly—one on behalf of a girl who was already proving among the most competent of his ninth-graders. “She’s somewhat neurotic,” he confides, “but she is bright, organized and conscientious—the type who’d get to school to turn in a paper on time, even if she were dying of stomach flu.” He finally found the disability he was to make allowances for: difficulty with Gestalt thinking. The 13-year-old “couldn’t see the big picture.” That cleverly devised defect (what 13-year-old can construct the big picture?) would allow her to take all her tests untimed, especially the big one at the end of the rainbow, the college-worthy SAT.

Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. “Kids need to feel badly sometimes,” says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. “We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.”

“Life is planned out for us,” says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. “But we don’t know what to want.” As Elkind puts it, “Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they’re geared to academic achievement.”

No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children’s outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they’re robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we’re on our way to creating a nation of wimps….

Click here to read the rest of the article.

By: Hara Estroff Marano
Psychology Today 


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Building Self-Esteem in Your Kids

Posted on March 13, 2013 by Phil

Camp Parents,
As you continue to figure to how to parent your kids, we hope that these words of wisdom from Focus on the Family can help…

This clever discipline method is less exhausting and more successful than ranting, raving, blaming, pleading, begging or threatening.

by Shana Schutte

When kids are small, they learn the ABCs. They’re happy to sing them in the bathtub, in the car and while they’re eating their Cheerios. But according to Dr. Leman, the ABCs are for parents, too — ABCs that build a healthy self-esteem in your child.

According to Leman, author of Have a New Kid by Friday, a healthy self-esteem is cultivated in children through Acceptance, Belonging and Competence.

Acceptance

Some parents who are turned-off by their child’s choice of music or clothes send a message to their kids that not only is their child’s behavior unacceptable, but that they are unacceptable. As a result, their child spends hours listening to their iPod, playing computer games or talking on the phone. Why? Because if a child doesn’t feel accepted by their parents, they’ll look for acceptance from their friends. However, when parents unconditionally accept their kids, they will be much less likely to seek acceptance from a peer group — and they will develop a healthier self-esteem. According to Dr. Leman, “Your unconditional acceptance of your child means everything in her development.”

If you want to send a strong message to your child that he is accepted, listen and ask questions to show you care about his interests and concerns. In short, develop a relationship with your kids. Dr. Leman says, “Without a relationship, your rules, your words and your actions mean nothing. The wedge between you and your children will drive them toward Acceptance and Belonging in a group outside your home.”

Belonging

Everyone, whether they are five or fifty, wants to belong. Many people go to great lengths to ensure that they are connected with someone who cares. How can you give your kids a sense of belonging? By creating a community within your family. To accomplish this, Dr. Leman suggests giving your children a vote in decisions, listening to what they say and supporting them in their activities.

In Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman tells a story about 15-year-old Melissa who was approached and offered a cigarette. Because she had a strong sense of belonging within her family, she didn’t need the cigarette and replied, “No thanks. We Crayburns don’t smoke.”

By creating a healthy self-esteem, a sense of belonging helps your child resist peer pressure and creates a set of expectations for your kids to attain. For Melissa, it was the expectation that her family doesn’t smoke.

Competence

The third way to build self-esteem in your kids is to give them the gift of competence. Children become competent when they experience life first hand. If you are an overprotective parent, you’ll need to fight the urge to do for your kids what they can do for themselves.

In his book, Dr. Leman writes:

“These days, parents are overly concerned with their child’s self-esteem. ‘I want Johnny to feel good about himself,’ a mother says. So what does a mother do? She goes out of her way to clear life’s roads for her child, to do things for him that he should be doing for himself.

She thinks she’s helping him with his self-esteem, but what she is she really doing? She’s sending a negative message: ‘I think you’re so stupid that you can’t do it yourself, so I’ll do it for you.'”

The way a mother eagle teaches her eaglets to fly is an excellent example of how guiding (without over-controlling) helps kids mature and develop healthy self-esteem.

When a mother eagle wants her baby to fly, she waits until her eaglet is 80% of his adult size. Then she sets him on the edge of the nest and pushes him off into the wild blue. She watches her baby bird freefall, then swoops down just in time to catch him on her wings. This exercise is repeated over and over until the baby eaglet learns to fly.

By doing this, her baby’s confidence (and self-esteem, if eagles had such a thing) grows. Imagine if she was overly protective. Her eaglet would never learn to fly; he’d never mature.

In the same way, kids mature and develop a healthy self-esteem by experiencing life first hand, even if it means that sometimes they make mistakes.

When I was 19, I decided to move to London, England for a semester. My mom must have worried about me, but she never let on. London, with 13 million people, was light years away from my small town in southern Idaho. Even though I know Mom was concerned, she was very supportive. She has said in response to that adventure (and many others that I have embarked on), “You have to raise your kids to be independent. Some people want to keep their kids under their wing. That’s not the goal; the goal is to raise responsible adults.” And responsible adults are made by giving kids the gift of competence. Dr. Leman would be proud Mom.

Of course, your little person will not be traveling independently overseas anytime soon, but as he exerts his independence, ask yourself if what you want to protect your children from is necessary. If it’s not a life or death situation (or harmful), allowing your child to make mistakes will help develop his self-esteem.

There you have it: the ABCs of building self-esteem in your kids. Granted, it may not be as easy as singing the song, but with a little practice, your kids can grow up to become confident and responsible adults.

Copyright © 2008 Shana Schutte. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


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The Wonders of Reality Discipline

Posted on February 13, 2013 by Phil

Parents,

Enjoy this excellent article from Focus on the Family

This clever discipline method is less exhausting and more successful than ranting, raving, blaming, pleading, begging or threatening.

I once read a newspaper headline that made me chuckle: “Red Lipstick Empowers Women.” The caption, coupled with a photo of Marilyn Monroe wearing a white flowing dress and painted crimson lips, made me think that perhaps I’d found the answer to the discipline problems with my elementary students. That’s been my problem all along I’ve been wearing champagne pink!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if changing lipstick was all it took to become more effective and empowered in handling discipline problems with children?

While child psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman is an out-of-the-box parenting problem solver who might buy into the lipstick method if it worked, Dr. Leman instead teaches parents about the effective “Reality Discipline.” This clever method of getting little “ankle biters” to obey is less exhausting and more successful than ranting, raving, blaming, pleading, begging or threatening.

It’s all about responsibility

The first thing to remember about Reality Discipline is that you want your children to learn to think for themselves and learn to become more responsible through guidance and action-oriented techniques. In an article from First Things First, Dr. Leman says, “Action-oriented discipline is based on the reality that there are times when you have to pull the rug out and let the little buzzards tumble. I mean disciplining your children in such a way that he/she accepts responsibility and learns accountability for his actions.” Here’s an example.

When my brother was in high school, my mother implemented Reality Discipline without realizing it. My little brother, Gannon, could sleep through a tornado (or a hurricane or tsunami) and my mother was tired of waking him up every morning and saying, “You’d better hurry, or you’re going to miss the bus.” Finally, Mom thought, I’m not waking him up anymore. He can be late. Just as she suspected, Gannon did miss the bus and was forced to walk the mile to school. Much to my mother’s delight, he was never late again. She didn’t have to beg, plead, give him ultimatums or nag Gannon one more time. Instead, she let reality do the discipline.

A little bit of ice cream can do the trick

One afternoon, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Leman explain on the radio how reality discipline teaches responsibility. He told an engaging story about a mother whose preschool son was driving her bananas because every day when she stopped to pick him up from preschool, he ran from her on the playground. She felt like a fool for being outrun by a preschooler while teachers and parents looked on. Desperate, she asked Dr. Leman for advice.

Dr. Leman suggested that if her son ran from her next time, she should ask another adult on the playground if they would be kind enough to keep an eye on her son for a few minutes. Then she should drive away, go to the nearest ice cream shop, purchase a cone for herself and drive back to the school to pick up her son. Then, when her little guy got in the car and asked, “Where’s my ice cream?” he told the woman she should cheerfully say, “Well you could have had some ice cream, but you ran away; so I had to go get some alone.”

One point for mom; zero for Junior. That’s Reality Discipline. No ranting. No raving. No warnings. Just cool, collected action with some quick, clever thinking to make your point loud and clear.

Sounds great, right? Here are some basic principles of Reality Discipline to help you get (and keep) the upper hand with your kids.

Don’t focus on creating a happy child

In his book Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman says that the goal of parenting is not to create happy kids; rather, it’s to create responsible kids. This means Junior will probably be pretty unhappy that he didn’t get an ice cream cone; he may even throw a fit, and rant and rave — but he will become more responsible and respectful. Don’t back down, but do stay cool as a cucumber. Remind yourself that it’s a battle of the wits and the wills, and you will win.

Understand your child’s reality

According to Dr Leman, if you want to use Reality Discipline effectively, you need to know what’s important to your child — what really moves him in his reality. Your child may value money, sports, a daily cookie break, staying up late or spending time with friends. Parents who know how to use Reality Discipline make creative connections between bad behavior and discipline through action rather than through warnings, nagging or threats.

For example, suppose you ask your ten-year-old daughter (who loves saving money) to take out the trash. She ignores you, and thirty minutes later the trash is still sitting by the back door. With a little creativity, you decide to implement some Reality Discipline. Instead of reminding your daughter about the trash, you enlist her younger sister to take it out . Then you take some money out of your ten-year-old daughter’s allowance and give it to her sister for a job well done. Can you imagine the peace and satisfaction that could come from being such a quick-witted parent?

Note: If you want to use Reality Discipline, you have to listen to your child. Then you’ll know what will move him to responsibility. The more you understand what’s important to him, the more ammunition you’ll have in your arsenal to “train up” your child in the way he should go.

Make sure that Reality Discipline is grounded in love

In Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman writes, “Show me a mean teacher, and I’ll show you a good one.” If you find that you are a permissive parent who is afraid of “pulling the rug out from under your child” as Dr. Leman suggests, remember that Reality Discipline is not unkind. Instead, when it’s motivated by love to help your child mature into a responsible adult, it’s a very good gift.

Copyright © 2008 Shana Schutte. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


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Winners or Losers?

Posted on January 16, 2013 by Sharon

I learned some amazing lessons about life when I was a starting forward on the worst basketball team in the history of the world. We were a sloppy group of pre-pubescent sixth and seventh graders who took to the gym floor on Friday nights in the ugliest uniforms you’ve ever seen. With “St. Mark’s” emblazoned in road cone orange across the front of our jet black polyester jerseys, our hearty band of clumsy wannabes would begin warm-ups hoping “tonight’s the night we’ll win our first one.” We never allowed the fact that we had difficulty putting the ball through the hoop during the pre-game lay-up drill to shatter our dream.

But the dream that refused to die never materialized as we showed up each week to play in a church youth league where every team but ours was manned by towering muscle-bound high school seniors and juniors. For two seasons, we never gained control of the ball on the opening tip-off. In fact, it seemed like we never had the ball. And when the final buzzer sounded, we never walked off with the scoreboard tilted in our favor. No team ever scored less than 100 points against us. Our scrappy team never scored more than 12 points in a game. In my entire two year basketball career, I poured in a whopping two points.

Do you know why I smile fondly as I remember that experience? Because it was fun. Our coach and parents never yelled. They always encouraged. They never made us feel like losers. If and when we scored, the entire place, would erupt with a cheer. Because of that, I can remember every detail of the one basket I made. I’ve forgotten my dozens of shots that missed. When the game was over, we always smiled. Playing for St. Mark’s taught me a lot about attitude, character, and the fact that basketball is only a game.

In the years since my days of basketball “glory”, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a chunk of time coaching teams and watching my own kids play organized sports. I’ve never taken my teams to a world championship nor are the odds great for my kids or any of their teammates to make a living playing games. Yet I wonder why the sidelines, stands, and team benches are peppered, sometimes covered, with parents and coaches who pressure and push their kids with a “succeed at all costs” attitude. These parents and coaches bully kids right out of childhood into the overwhelming frustration of a burned out “I have failed” existence. I must admit, there are times when I’m tempted to go with the flow of these attitudes. Have you ever felt the need to push a little bit harder so your kid’s not left in the dust?

Vincent Fortanasce is a psychiatrist, coach and member of the Little League Hall of Fame. In his book, Life Lessons from Little League (Doubleday), he relates how he asked parent’s at the initial team meeting about what they first ask their children after a game, if they had not been able to attend. The most common question was “Did you win today?” The second most frequent question was “How did you do?” Fortanasce writes, “What was my point? Simply that I wanted my team parents to re-focus away from ‘I want my child to learn to win,’ or the pursuit of perfection, to the pursuit of contentment and confidence; from ‘I want my child to be the best player on the best team’ – the pursuit of talent – to ‘I want my child to be a good sportsman’ – the pursuit of character.” He suggests that the more appropriate questions are “Did you have fun?” or “What did you learn today?”

Plato said, “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a lifetime of conversation.” A twist on Plato’s words ring true today: we can learn quite a bit about a parent in a few minutes of observing them watch their own child play. What do you see when you look in the mirror? As you evaluate the role you play in the lives of the kids you parent and/or coach, consider these questions:

Who’s out on the field? Unfortunately, some parents see their kids as a second chance to fulfill dreams they themselves never realized. Best selling recording artist Alanis Morrisette’s gripping song Perfect echoes the experience of too many kids: “I’ll live through you, I’ll make you what I never was/If you’re the best, then maybe so am I. . . you’ll make up for what I blew/what’s the problem. . . why are you crying?”

What’s on your mind? Mark understood when his talented 17-year-old son Travis asked to quit playing ice hockey. The win-at-all costs mind set of his coaches and teammates’ parents had finally gotten to be too much for Travis. Mark says that in youth sports today “the child’s welfare is becoming less and less important. The focus should be on instruction and developing character. But you wonder about some of the coaches and parents today . . . the bottom-line is that I never saw Travis smile when he played. . . I supported his decision 100 percent.” As a result of their decision, Travis Howe won’t be the third generation of the Gordie Howe family to play in the uniform of the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings. For the Howe’s, character won out over winning.

What’s in your heart? Are the desires of your heart to see your child do his/her best. Or, is your heart set on a standard or level of achievement that is impossible for your child to attain. When sports psychologist Rick Wolff worked for the Cleveland Indians, he was surprised to discover that there were a large number of major league ball players who didn’t allow their kids to get involved in Little League baseball. The reason: the pressure on kids to excel beyond their ability and potential. Instead, they encouraged their kids to skateboard, ski, or anything else to keep them from the unnecessary pressure placed on youth league baseball players. After all, it’s only a game . . . and they’re only kids! Let them play and have fun!

What’s coming out of your mouth? “Frustrated parents . . . can attack the umpires, berate the managers and coaches, and demean the players on the field with impunity”, writes Fortanasce. “Some go the full hundred yards in criticizing their children’s teammates – and even their own children.” I’ve watched young kids cower and teenagers become bitter in response. And even if they do respond with improved performance, are those critical attitudes qualities that we want to nurture in our kids? Children learn from example. If we’re going to scream anything, it should be words of praise, encouragement, and acceptance.

In this day and age of increased activity, it’s realistic to assume that most kids will spend some time during their childhood in a uniform participating in some kind of organized sport. Hopefully, you and I will be on the sideline cheering them on. It would be a good idea for all of us sports parents to pinch ourselves and come back to reality. We’d realize that there’s a greater chance of getting hit by lightning than of our child growing up to sport a world series ring, wear the Olympic gold, or skate around holding the Stanley Cup.

Our children will grow up with memories of their childhood sporting experience. Those memories will be either positive, or negative.

I look back on my role as a player on the world’s worst basketball team with a smile on my face. Why? Because it was awesome. When the dust settled, I know that I came away from that “losing” experience as a real winner. Nobody screamed . . . nobody pushed . . . nobody lived their dreams through me. I hope my kids will be able to someday look back and do the same. How about you?

by Walt Mueller
The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding


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The best ways to pray with children

Posted on January 9, 2013 by Phil

Recently in the prayer class I lead at our church in Oklahoma City, I was explaining to the new children why we take one Sunday a month from their regular lessons to focus on prayer. “We want you to know God, not just know about Him, and hear God, not just hear about Him,” I explained.

Eight-year-old Andrew, who has been in prayer class for several years, piped up to help get the idea across: “It’s like me and President Bush. I’ve seen him on TV lots of times, especially since 9-11, and read about him in the newspaper, and heard my parents talking about him. But I have never had a conversation with President Bush, so I don’t really know him, do I?”

Andrew was exactly right. If we want our children to know God and not just know about Him, we need to teach them to pray and pray with them. Children could do all kinds of worksheets about God and hear stories about Him, but it is when they talk and listen to God that they begin to know His heart.

Children need to know early in their lives that they can talk to God just like they talk to Mommy, Daddy, or a best friend. They need to understand that God is there and attentive to what they have to say. Instead of putting them on hold or playing a recorded message, God is always willing to listen – whether they are on the playground, at a friend’s house, in the car, or at church.

You can pray …

Heart to heart – Share with your child a time that you prayed and received the answer in a surprising or dramatic way.

On the spot – The next time your child comes to you with a problem or worry, instead of saying, “I will pray for you,” do it right then. Even if it is a short prayer, you will be demonstrating the important principle that God wants us to cast the care of all our concerns on Him and pray about everything.

Through the newspaper – Pass out sections of the newspaper and ask each child to come up with one concern to pray about.

Modeling: How to learn prayer

One of the first ways children learn the importance of prayer is hearing their moms and dads pray. Since Josh was born, his dad would pray for him each night at bedtime, asking for God’s protection and love to fill his heart. When Josh turned 2 years old, his parents added a short nightly reading from his Bible. Shortly after age 2, Josh began to join in by looking around his room and naming everything he could see to thank God for – blankets, puppy, Mommy, Daddy, new shoes, toys, the nightlight, eyes, ears, nose. He thanked God for the most interesting items! But it was not only Josh that was growing spiritually. Hearing her son’s simple prayers, Josh’s mom, Sandy, could not remember the last time she thanked God for her sight, hearing, shoes, clothes, and all the other blessings in her life.

Get out of the ruts of prayer

One way to banish the “nothing to pray for” or “prayer is boring” complaint is to get out of the ruts of prayer by using prayer targets and making prayer active. Use a game I call “Musical Prayers.” Place a chair for each participant in a circle. Tape a prayer target to each chair. Begin playing music and have everyone walk around the chairs. When the music stops, each person finds the nearest chair and prays for that need.

Use an inflatable world globe and pass it from person to person. When the music stops, the person holding the globe can choose a country and pray for the children in that country to know about Jesus.

Take your children on a prayer walk. Children are terrific prayer walkers because they enjoy movement and being “on site” makes the prayers more meaningful and concrete. To begin, walk around your neighborhood and ask God’s blessing and salvation on each family. Pray for the children in each home.

Give children the freedom to talk to God in different postures: sitting, standing, kneeling, marching, or bowing. When you have family prayer time, allow each person to choose a different posture in which to pray.

Pray a blessing

Praying a prayer of blessing on your child’s life each night at bedtime (or other times of the day) can bring comfort, reassurance, and hope to your child’s heart. Pray for God’s favor, protection, and peace. Thank the Lord for something specific – a gift, talent, or quality in your child. You can use a Bible blessing such as Psalm 5:12 or Numbers 6:25 or speak from your heart. When you pray scriptural blessings, you are speaking words that match God’s desire for your child.

Thanksgiving

An essential part of prayer is simply saying, “Thank You, God.”

Blessing basket – Fill a small basket with little slips of paper. Encourage family members to write or draw pictures of things for which they are thankful.

Best part of the day – Ask each child to say a sentence prayer, thanking God for the best part of her day.

Family journal – Keep a notebook full of things for which the family is thankful.

As you try different ways of connecting with God, children will learn that prayer is one of the greatest adventures in life – to call on the God of the universe and then to hear from Him. As Jeremiah 33:3 says: “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and wondrous things you do not know.”

by Cheri Fuller on Tuesday, September 27, 2005


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A Parent’s Primer on Internet Pornography

Posted on September 26, 2012 by Phil

Parents,

You may think that you already have a good grip on this somewhat uncomfortable topic. As a youth development professional, I strongly encourage you to take a few short minutes to check out this simple article with plenty of optional additional resources. We want you to be equipped…

“The Internet, mobile devices, and other digital technologies combine to create a world in which children and teens no longer have to look for and find pornography. Now, pornography is in the mainstream and it finds them.

As parents called by God to nurture our children through childhood and into a spiritually healthy adulthood, we have the responsibility to be keenly aware of pornography’s presence, its compelling draw, and the impact it has on our kids. When it comes to pornography, what they see and experience now will not only shape them in the present, but will continue to influence them and their relationships for the rest of their lives. Consequently, we must be diligent in preparing our children to understand, process, and respond to this horribly fallen expression of God’s good gift of sexuality in ways that bring honor and glory to God.”

Read more from Walt Mueller’s article.

Phil Berry
Assistant Director, Camp Ridgecrest for Boys
www.ridgecrestcamps.com


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Mission As Life: Is Your Parenting Hitting or Missing the Mark?

Posted on August 31, 2011 by Phil

It really depends upon what you are aiming for. Like most parents you long for your children to “succeed” in life. But what does that mean? Is it merely getting into the right schools, having the right grades, the right friends and the right skills so that they can get the right job?

Ask yourself this question, “Am I helping my kids develop the ‘right stuff’ from a Biblical perspective?” Are you, like an archer, carefully aiming your parenting to produce Godly children who will not only have a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, but embody God’s Kingdom values in the way they live their lives?

What can you do to help your kids develop spiritually? Merely sending them to church activities isn’t enough. Studies show that 90% of youth who have heavily participated in church drop out after 2 years in college. For many youth, the checking out begins as early as the age of 16. They find packaged religion to be irrelevant to the real world. What can you do to counter this trend?

1. Embrace God’s Kingdom agenda.

Whether you know it or not, you are now teaching them values that either conform to or conflict with God’s Kingdom. When you decide to participate in an activity that regularly interferes with spiritual responsibilities (church attendance, Bible study, spiritual service) you have taught them that personal fulfillment is more important than obedience to and fellowship with God. You are on display to them 24/7. They watch your every move, how you spend your time, how you spend your money. They listen to what you talk about. Do they see in you generosity, compassion, and a love of God and His Word? Do they see you ordering your life around God’s priorities? You are the first Bible they have read and they started reading right after birth. What have they learned?

2. Create the environment.

How does the environment of your home aesthetically and socially reflect God’s Kingdom agenda? Children swim in the environment of the home. Things dear to God’s heart can be reflected even in the way you decorate your home. Have you as carefully thought about the “value environment” in your home as you have how you have selected its decor? Think of how you celebrate holidays… what can you do to turn them into “teaching moments” that zero in on what God values?

3. Teach by using experience.

Jesus taught people by taking them places and exposing them to real life. The world and all its activity became a textbook of illustrations Jesus used to drive home Biblical truth. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to begin to serve Christ as a family. Go on family mission trips together. Serve in your local area together. God has placed gifts and abilities in your family and He expects you to use them.

The book, Mission As Life: Making the Kingdom of God Your Family’s Passion provides valuable insights and resources designed to help you raise kids to have the “right stuff” from God’s perspective. Your family is a microcosm of God’s church. God has gifted you and your children for serving Him. Doesn’t it make sense that you do that together as a family? Visit Mission As Life for family mission trip ideas and also get a copy of the book Mission As Life.

This article is a paid promotion from a LifeWay.com advertiser.


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