Tag Archives: teachable moments

52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids: When You Need to AIM [Answer It More]

52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids When You Need to AIM

We wanted our children to ask questions–and lots of them! We wanted to be their answerer as much as possible. Thus, we “trained” them to ask questions–by answering them freely and endlessly.

Ray is the best answerer I have ever met (honest!). He is the one who made me come up with the little acronym that we teach at our parenting seminars. I have watched him day in and day out, year in and year out, answer a question. Then he paused and continued on with more answers and more answers and more answers.

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Be Proactive! Be a Problem Solver! (Partial Reprint)

“When a child is allowed to do absolutely as he pleases, it will not be long until nothing pleases him” (Anonymous).


If you don’t want your kids to get muddy, don’t let them play in the mud! But if you’re like us, and think there are many more important things in life than if kids get muddy, go ahead and let them play! The key is to be proactive–decide ahead of time what you can and cannot tolerate!



One of our favorite Preventive Parenting tips is that of becoming a problem solver. As parents, we can complain that we do not like how something is going or how our children are behaving–or we can decide to solve the problem at hand. 

We have found that many things that seem insurmountable–getting kids up and around on time in the mornings without too much stress, having the evening meal on the table at a certain time, and being sure that our kids are reading a lot–are easily taken care of when we decide to solve the problem–rather than just complaining about it or wishing that things were not as they are.

Let me give you some real life scenarios that I have recommended or heard of lately to get your “thinking skills” and “problem solving strategies” working:


1. Kids up running around in the morning, getting into things, etc.,  before Mom has had a chance to get herself ready–and prepare for their rising! 

Make a “nobody up until you are told you can get up” rule. Our preschoolers were not allowed to get up whenever the pleased. 

Just like they had to go to bed at a certain time, they also were not permitted to get up at random times. We had tape players in their bedrooms with radio dramas and talking books available–and also had them put their favorite books on their headboards. They were allowed to read or listen to tapes in the mornings, but they had to wait for me to get them up before they got out of bed.



2. Kids outgrowing their naps but fighting with each other when Mom and other littles are trying to rest. 

We can come out and referee fights, yell at our kids for waking the baby, etc,. or we can make a quiet hour–a time in which only quiet activities are allowed. For us, these quiet activities were in a tub marked Quiet Hour–and were items that did not need any assistance to use.

 In the case of fighting after outgrowing naps, the two who are fighting must have Quiet Hour in separate rooms–and if Quiet Hour is violated, it’s back to naps for them.




3. Kids not ready in the morning on time, stress and fighting, etc

Implement morning routines–a set list of things that each child does from rising times until breakfast, or whatever the end of morning routine time holds. Figure up the amount of time needed to get those things done, subtract that from leaving or ready for school time–and make that time the Morning Routine time. (Read more about morning routines here.)





The point of this post is that so many things that cause us stress, fights, poor relationships, nagging, etc. can be handled through problem solving–proactive parenting–parenting in a way that we prevent those times, as opposed to always putting out fires because we did not prevent them to begin with.

Proactive Parenting provides a much more peaceful environment in our homes. It allows us to work on the discipline issues that are really crucial–and to ward off punishment, etc.,  for situations that can be handled ahead of time, rather than in the heat of the moment. 

As an added bonus, Proactive Parenting teaches our kids how to solve problems, come up with options, get a handle on things before they become too big, etc.,  as they watch us model these skills for them.

Teaching Children HOW to Learn


Speaking about “Building Study Skills and Comprehension” at a conference



There are many aspects of teaching a child how to learn, one of which is working to increase our children’s comprehension. When people have good comprehension, they can learn anything, anywhere, anytime.

There are three primary ways that we have worked to increase our children’s comprehension: (1) Discussion with parents and those more knowledgeable than the child; (2) Good questions following reading or discussions; and (3) Provide a rich background of experience.


The first two of those go hand-in-hand. Discussion of everything with our children from very young ages has given our kids experiences in areas that they would normally not have experiences in. It gives us the opportunity to teach all the time—and gives them learning hooks that they create with the discussion material to bring into other learning situations.
Good questions, not just rote questions, help the student think more deeply about subjects and allow you to observe his thought processes and help them along. Lastly, a rich background of experience gives your student the edge in learning any subject. Like discussion, it gives a child more knowledge, more background, more information to bring into future learning scenarios.


I am adding some information about teaching children how to learn, good materials, links to articles, etc., in the sidebar of this article for those who would like to study this further. Just being aware of always teaching our kids how to learn, how to study, how to research, how to further their understanding is a big step in teaching kids how to learn. 


SIDEBAR….


                        Tips and Links for Teaching Children How to Learn




~People often ask us what we would have done differently in our homeschool. One of the things I would have done differently is that every child, every year would have done a thinking skills book of some sort from the Critical Thinking Company: http://www.criticalthinking.com/index.jsp?code=c





~Dozens of articles on reading instruction, readability, creating an environment conducive to reading instruction, choosing readers, and much more!http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/search/label/reading%20instruction


Discipline: Punishment/Chastisement VS Consequences/Reality Discipline

It has been important to us in our child training that we understand (or at least try to understand!) the difference between foolishness (willfulness) and childishness (underdeveloped character). The differences between these two types of behaviors in children are crucial in disciplining properly. This is truly one of the biggest mistakes that we see parents make. For example:

(1) A child who spilled his milk at the table is disciplined in the same manner as he was earlier in the day when he struck his brother

(2) A child who forgot to shut the door and the dog got in the house is disciplined in the same manner as he was when he talked back to his mother

(3) A child who didn’t thoroughly clean his room is disciplined in the same manner as he was earlier when he lied to his dad about using one of this tools

In our child training, Ray and I have tried to determine whether a behavior was rebellion against us (as in outright disobedience or disrespect) or childishness (as in forgetfulness, procrastination, sloppiness, etc.):




1. Foolishness


   a. Rebellion


   b. Disobedience


   c. Disrespect

  d. Lying

2. Childishness


   a. Undeveloped or underdeveloped character


   b. Forgetfulness, procrastination, irresponsibility, etc.


   c. May turn into “foolishness” if left unattended




We do this because disobedience requires biblical discipline whereas childishness requires the second aspect of child training we have used: reality discipline (or consequences). 

I like what an attendee at a recent seminar told us that she heard about this topic: Punishment is only for the Four D’s:

1. Disobedience (i.e. not forgetfulness or overlooking routine at first)

2. Disrespect (i.e. direct disrespect to parents or those in authority–not disagreeing with you respectfully or having their own thoughts!)

3. Deceit (lying, stealing, telling half truths, etc.)

4. Destruction (purposely hurting things or people)

                            Which Behavior Is This? 

Discerning between disobedience and childishness can be so difficult! Even after nearly thirty-one years of parenting, Ray and I still continuously ask each other which behavior a child is displaying. 

Difficult or not, we must do it. The Bible says that we are not to exasperate our children. Two sure ways to exasperate them are to punish incorrectly, as in anger, etc., and to punish something as disobedience, when we should be training through consequences.

 All parents are faced with this. A child dawdles when we call him to come get ready for bed, and we wonder whether this is just childishness or if it is real disobedience. When our son leaves the dog out of the kennel for the third night in a row, and the pooch potties on the new carpet, we ask ourselves if our little guy is disobeying or forgetting. 


In a nutshell , if a child is disobedient, disrespectful, or rebellious, we have a heart issue—and a serious discipline problem that needs handled in a serious manner—and quickly. That is, the Four D’s need punishment/chastisement, not consequences or reality discipline.

If a child is forgetful, slow, unreliable, etc. (especially a younger child), it is usually childishness—and we can “train” that undeveloped or underdeveloped childishness out of a child through consequences and reality discipline.

Besides disciplining these two types of behaviors correctly, we also need to watch our response to these behaviors. Simply put, not putting the hose back in the garage after the child watered the garden should not be met with the same response by the parent as lying about putting the hose back in the garage!

It is like responding to a child’s red streak in her hair in the same way as we do if that child uses God’s name in vain. There is simply no comparison. And the same should be true in our response to childishness vs one of the Four D’s.

For more information on this, please check out Discipline at our blog–or host a Raising Kids With Character seminar in your church or parenting group or homeschooling group. (Our RKWC seminar is a Christian parenting seminar for all Christian parents as opposed to our homeschooling workshops that we do for homeschool groups. All parents, homeschooling or not, can benefit from Raising Kids With Character!)


Taming the Television Part II of II

“There are games to be played, living room football to be conquered, talks to be had, words of affirmation to be spoken, talking books to be listened to, stories to be read, lessons to be learned, foods to be cooked, lego castles to be built, crafts to be made, tales to be told, songs to be sung, and hearts to be won. Turn off the television and turn on relationships.”



Today I bring you more tips for Taming the Television. I pray that these will help you to make the most of the time you have with your children. You will never regret the hours upon hours you spend discipling, mentoring, nurtering, heart training, and playing with your kids–take it from a mama with a thirty year old! Smile…


7. Replace television with something else—you!

About thirty years ago we went to a parenting seminar in which the speaker told a story of a dad who wanted to get rid of his family’s television. His children balked at the idea. He told them that he was taking away the television but giving them something else. They asked him what this something else was, and he replied, “Me!”

Everyday his children would call him at work, anxiously awaiting his arrival home. “What are we going to do tonight, Daddy?” And each day he gave his children something far more valuable than television: he gave them himself.

Don’t just remove television, certain nights of tv viewing, or tv time without replacing it. There are games to be played, living room football to be conquered, talks to be had, words of affirmation to be spoken, talking books to be listened to, stories to be read, lessons to be learned, foods to be cooked, lego castles to be built, crafts to be made, songs to be sung, and hearts to be won. Turn off the television and turn on relationships.



8. Have the children earn television hours.

This has been suggested to us many times when we speak about time management and time with your children, so it must work well for some folks! I have heard of various ways to earn tv time—same number of hours reading as watching, getting so many minutes per chore, earning minutes by doing things on time (i.e. homework done by six equals 30 mins tv), etc.




9. Watch out for preschoolers’ screen time!

This isn’t a method for controlling as much as an admonition. Your preschoolers will grow to dislike simple pleasures very quickly if they watch television and movies all day. We had a “no movie during the day period” rule most of our lives. (The exception to this was one hour of educational dvds, like Reading Rainbow, Doughnut Man, NEST videos, etc. for one hour after naps with one particularly trying child.)

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of television for two year olds through preschoolers and none at all for children under two. There are so many more educational, meaningful, physical, and fun things for two, three, and four year olds to do besides watching television!

We teach the concept of “setting children’s tastes” in our parenting seminar–and it is so real and so true and so impacting that we want to shout it where ever we speak. Just like my two oldest kids despise pop because we “set their tastes” by not ever giving them any when they were little, so we set all of our children’s tastes for continual entertainment by bombarding them with it when they are young.



10. Make a “no turning on the television without permission” rule.

 I am amazed when children come into a house and turn on the television. I have seen semi-pornography on commercials for television shows many, many times when we are at someone’s house watching football or in a motel viewing television. I would never consider letting our kids have the remote control to a tv and flipping through the channels. They just see way more than they should see at their ages (or more than I want me or my husband to see!).



11. Be careful not to use television as a babysitter too much.

I know preschoolers and toddlers are demanding. I had six kids twelve and under all at home by myself twelve to fourteen hours a day every day—without television (or even computers!)! However, continually putting little ones in front of the television is simply not healthy for them. Their attention spans will not lengthen like they would if they were listening to talking books, listening to you read aloud, “baking” a play-dough pie, or building with Duplos. Use the television as a babysitter only when it is absolutely needed—and try to find other ways to entertain toddlers as much as possible.




12. Limit daytime viewing for everyone.

 We always told our kids that daytime isfor learning and working—and evenings are for resting, fellowshipping, playing, and family. It is extremely hard to control the number of hours our kids watch television when they watch from seven to eight before school and again from four to six after school—to start with!




13. Pay attention to how much time children spend using all screen media.

In a study recorded in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the hours of actual screen time logged by children versus the hours that parents estimated were significantly different. In our media-driven age, we should be aware of all of our children’s media/screen time—not just television*. In order to control the amount of time our children sit in front of entertainment screens, we must be realistic and honest about the amount of time they truly are being entertained by any screen.




14. Do not put a television set in a child’s bedroom.

The aforementioned study discovered that children with televisions in their bedrooms watch significantly more television than children without. Furthermore, parents monitored television habits much less when there were many television sets in a household—and especially when the children’s rooms contained televisions.


15.  Turn the television off when it is not being used for purposeful viewing.

 The study previously cited found a negative association between the use of television as “background” and children’s time spent reading. Quite frankly, reading is a simple pleasure that many children do not enjoy—background noise of television is not conducive to enjoying this pasttime that takes a great deal more effort than simply viewing and listening.



16. Pinpoint other nonscreen, in-home activities that your children enjoy.

When discussing the idea of reducing television viewing time in your home, you might have a family meeting and draw up a list of other ideas of things the family can do instead of watching television. A website devoted to helping families reduce their dependence upon television, The Television Turnoff Network (http://www.televisionturnoff.org/), lists one hundred alternatives to “screen time” that parents can suggest to their children.





Family time is worth fighting for. The relationships that can be developed when some of the distractions are removed are incredible. The amazing things that we and our children can do with the time that we are not watching television are worthwhile. Don’t let your children set out to spend nearly fourteen years of their lives watching television!

*Jordan, Amy, PhD; James C. Hersey, PhD; Judith A. McDivitt, PhD; Carrie D. Heitzler, MPH. “Reducing Children’s Television-Viewing Time: A Qualitative Study of Parents and Their Children.” Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. Feb 2010.

Taming the Television (Plus!) Part I of II**

“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it. “ from New York Times, 1939



With so many new year’s resolutions involving time–family time, controlling time, more time with those we love, less wasted time, etc., I thought I would re-work parts of a lengthy series I did on here a few years ago–this time titled “Taming the Television.”

When Ray and I speak or write about allowing more time to be with your kids, we are always asked how we have so much time for our kids, especially in light of our business and ministry. And the answer lies in not where we get the time (we all get the same amount, remember), but where we allocate the time we have been given.

Thirty-two years ago this summer Ray and I were married in a little country church. The best marriage advice we received (and followed) has also become our best parenting advice: do not get a television. Somebody told us not to get a television set for the first year of marriage but instead spend time together, talking and getting to know one another, developing intimacy and romance. We took that advice—and have been “stationless” for most of the thirty-two years of our family, though we did get a vcr and eventually a dvd to watch movies. (We tried getting stations one year, but didn’t like the way it dictated our evening schedule and stole time from us. We just got a television and Netflix about a month ago–and so far, so good!)

With the advent of computers, dvd’s, i-pads, and other electronic devices, we have other things to contend with for our attention—and our entire family loves movies—however, we have found that by not being able to get television stations (via antennae, box, cable, etc.), we have gained the most-sought-after commodity: time. The latest statistic on television viewing in America is twenty-eight hours per week, per person. Even if we and our children watch three movies a week (which is a stretch many months), we still have twenty more hours every week than the “average” American.

We cannot tell people that they should get rid of television as it is all bad. Nowadays, more than ever before, there are tons of good, interesting, entertaining things to watch. Educational and informative programs abound. Good movies are available at the flip of the remote. However, one thing has stayed the same: television (and now internet or internet television) is the greatest time robber of all things that vie for our attention.

Getting rid of television programming is not an option for most people, I realize. After all, it’s an American institution! However, I propose to you that even getting control of the television could potentially yield you more time than you would know what to do with! And would give you literally hours each week to spend with your kids.

Consider the math for a moment. If a person is the “average” American watching twenty-eight hours a week of television, over an eighty year life, that person will have watched 13.29 YEARS of television—28 hours a week x 4 weeks x 80 years=116,480 hours….divided by 24 hours in each day equals 4,854 hours, which equals 13.29 years of twenty-four hour days. Imagine the relationships we could build with our children; imagine the things we could learn; imagine the good we could do—with even half of that time, say six and a half years—given to us. Makes me want to control my time just a little better!

Today and tomorrow I will give you many ideas and tips for Taming the Television–some that we have used successfully and some that we have heard of others using. Here we go:


1. Set weekly time limits.

 Even with the ability to only watch movies for at least thirty of our thirty-two years, we have had to set weekly limits when it seemed that every day someone wanted to watch a movie! We have usually had the four to six hour movie rule per week—and found that this was enough for the kids to watch a thing or two that they wanted on dvd (currently Monk on dvd) and a family movie or two.

This varies with kids, too. A couple of our kids really like watching movies; our three boys recently went an entire month without watching anything, even though they were allowed to watch if they asked. Now they got a television series on dvd and have watched several hours in one week. It is the spirit of this rule—not the letter—that we try to follow. It is about being in control of your life (and teaching your kids to be in control of theirs)—not about a certain number. We balance this time out so that it is enough entertainment to enjoy being entertained, but not so much that it controls our lives.*

 2. Set television days.

We had a rule for over a dozen years that other than educational dvd’s (we use some teachers on cd/dvd for school), movies could only be watched on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I prefer the #1 idea as sometimes the children wanted to watch, watch, watch simply because it was the weekend.*



 

3. Decide ahead of time what programs/times/days the family will watch television each week.

 Many child development experts recommend this—and call it the “family viewing schedule.” Write these programs/times on a calendar or schedule, and only turn the television on during those times. This method provides you with conscientious, purposeful viewing—not just, “Wow, we’re home, so we should turn on the television.”



 

4. Cover your television or put it away unless it is purposeful viewing time. We have our television on a rolling cart in my bedroom closet.

This worked for us for most of our family’s life because if we had a television to watch movies on, it was not  hooked up to anything to keep it in one place (i.e. cable or box, etc.). I know this might not work if you have it hooked up to receive programming, but our family loved this. We just sat in the living room and talked for hours—no television calling out to us, no “favorite programs” causing us to work around them. If you do have your television hooked up to something, you might consider having it in an armoire or other close-able cupboard. Again, the out of sight, out of mind concept works wonders, especially for younger children.





5. When you do watch movies and television, watch it together whenever possible.

This will allow you to keep tabs on what your children are seeing/hearing, but it will also create opportunities for lively discussions. We love to talk about movies that we have watched. We love to quote lines from them back and forth to each other. Watching together allows you to share the entertainment, not just passively watch shows separately.

Obviously, we cannot do this all the time. The boys were on a Psyche kick  (on dvd)with one of their sisters. They only watched it when the four of them could all watch it together—and Ray and I seldom joined them. We didn’t have the time then to devote to watching it, and we knew that they were watching it together, so that worked out well.

Family viewing will be more of an event than an everyday occasion if certain shows or time slots are dedicated to family television watching or movie watching rather than just evening free-for-alls.



6. Declare certain days “tv-less days.”

 If you cannot get rid of television programming all together, the “tv-less days” seems to be the next best thing to me. Decide what evenings/days are people’s least favorite days to watch something, and make those evenings no television evenings. Cover the television up—and don’t even consider turning it on. If you manage to have three evenings a week without television, you will likely cut your family’s viewing by one third, at least. Just imagine evenings together without anything distracting everybody. If you do this, follow our family’s “replacement” rule—if you’re going to take something away from your kids, replace it with something else. (More on this tomorrow!)



Well, I am out of time and space. Tomorrow I will post tips for television viewing reduction for children specifically. Same bat time. Same bat channel. (Sorry–I just couldn’t resist.)


*Note: With the ability to watch things online, watch dvd’s, stick a dvd in the laptop, etc., we have found it especially important to include all viewing in these time or day limits. Thus, the four to six hours a week includes anything they watch—unless they watch it at Grandpa’s for an overnighter or go to their brother’s to watch football or something.





Does your nursery have a Bible?

Nursery Bible

 I still smile as I envision this beautiful picture Bible, The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, by Kenneth Taylor, sitting atop my nursery dresser, part of the decor of every one of my nurseries–from the pastel “Care Bear” motiff nearly thirty years ago to the last one, a dozen years ago, with toys and hues of deep green and navy. It didn’t matter the color scheme or decorating theme, this Bible was at home in every nursery.

I smile even more, though, when I think back to the hundreds of mornings in which I snatched my little angelic being from his or her crib (after we put the toys in the toy basket in the corner of the crib–you can never start teaching “chores” too early!), telling that child how much Mommy loves her, how much Daddy loves her, how much Brother loves her, how much Sister loves her, and how much Jesus loves her.

I wrapped that sweet bundle in that day’s favorite blankie, and the two of us got cozy in the nursery’s rocking chair. Depending on the age, we would nurse, rock, sing, recite rhymes and verses (or sing verses), and talk about how amazing she was, how soft she was, how great she was going to be in God’s kingdom.

When the feeding and singing were done, it was Bible time–actually, it was “Little Eyes” Bible time–for that is what my toddlers and preschoolers called this precious nursery Bible. (I get misty-eyed thinking of the toddler snatching that Bible off the dresser and following me around with it, saying, “Little Eyes Bible, Mommy?” I have to keep myself from wishing I had stopped what I was doing and read more often…)

After a story or two (the stories are short, just perfect for toddlers or young preschoolers), the “Little Eyes” Bible would get propped back up on the dresser, that cherished spot where this beautiful nursery Bible stood for nearly two decades. And we would start our day, busy, full, precious days that nearly always began with the nursery Bible.


Note: For a thorough review (and where to purchase the original version of this Bible used), see the following link from an earlier blog post: http://charactertrainingfromtheheart.blogspot.com/2010/01/day-thirty-two-start-young-with-bible.html

Helping Kids Back to School–Homework and Textbooks (Reprint)

“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” Robert M Hutchins





I wanted to add some more thoughts to yesterday’s “study skills with textbook previewing.” These are in no certain order or age group—just some things that haven’t really fit in the last couple! (How’s that for organizing and study skills???)

1. Taking the textbook preview further


There are a number of ways that you can take the previewing of textbooks that I discussed yesterday even further with your children for more comprehension of the material:


a. Do his first few assignments out of the book with him, pointing out the things again that you observed in your first preview. This will help him see that those things are not just good things to know, but also helpful for completely homework quicker and more accurately.


b. Help him prepare for his first test with his textbook and you by his side. Show him how he can use the glossary, sidebars, table of contents, etc. to quickly fill in his study guide or quickly determine what the most important aspects of the chapter are in order to prepare for a test.


c. As you are previewing a text (for the first time or an additional time), use a large sticky note to record what you find. Write the title of the text at the top, then make notes about what it contains as far as study and homework helps. Stick this in the front of his textbook and help him refer to it when he is doing homework or test preparation. You could even record a plus and minus system, such as


+++ means something is going to be really helpful—a +++ beside the Table of Contents, for instance


+ beside a word he writes in the front of his book tells him that this might be somewhat helpful—Example: +Some graphs


– No study questions at end of chapter—again, he can make a list in the front of his book (on a large sticky note), etc.




d. Help him “label” different sections of his book with sticky notes along the edges. For example, you could put a yellow one at the beginning of each chapter and a pink one on the page that has definitions for that chapter, etc.








2. Prepare your younger student for textbooks by using user-friendly non-fiction books


Maybe you are not in the textbook stage with your kids; however, you can begin preparing them for those all important study skills that I described yesterday with quality non-fiction books. If kids at ages five, six, eight, and ten, learn to navigate around Dorling Kindersley, Eyewitness, and Usborne books (among many others), they will be heads and shoulders above other children who have only been exposed to fictional stories (more on the benefits of fiction later!).


These outstanding non-fiction books have literally hundreds of topics that interest kids, but they are so colorful and alluring, you do not feel like you are “teaching” at all. Additionally, they have many aspects that your child’s future textbooks will also have: glossaries, Tables of Contents, sidebars, graphs, pictures, inserts, definitions, bold font, italics, etc. Reading these to and with your children when they are younger will provide a natural step into textbooks later on.




Note: We teach our students (in our home, our cottage classes, and in our language arts books) a simple memory device for remembering fiction and non-fiction:




Fiction=fake (both begin with f)






Non-fiction=not fake (both begin with nf)

Christmas in the Car–reprint

Tonight as we drove home from an extended family Christmas gathering, reading aloud and singing, I was reminded of an old article I wrote for our newsletter several years ago—Christmas in the Car. I will post it in its entirety below—gotta sneak in those family times any chance we get as our kids get older!

Christmas in the Car
From 2004:

If your children are growing up as fast as ours are, and if you travel distances to church, piano lessons, grandparents, etc. as we do, you might want to try some of our “Christmas in the Car” tips. Basically, every year I see the holiday time slipping away from us. The girls are taking college classes; off to Spanish or piano; teaching their own guitar, language arts, and piano students; working at their jobs; and more. Every time I think we’re going to have a sing-along/reading time tonight, someone announces that she has a Spanish test tomorrow and has to study all evening! Thus, our “Christmas in the Car” time was born.

We spend a great deal of time in the vehicle each week—driving to lessons, church, grandparents, etc.—all forty-five minutes away from us minimum. Being the efficiency expert that I am (of sorts!), I began utilizing this time in the vehicle to keep some of our holiday traditions alive. Try some of our “Christmas in the Car” ideas—and keep those traditions going strong:

*Sing carols as you drive.

*Listen to Christmas radio dramas (Focus on the Family has good ones), Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue Christmas stories, Christmas books on tape, Adventures in Oddysey Christmas stories, etc. as you are driving.

*Sing your way through the Christmas story. Start with “Mary, Did You Know?” and move on to “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” then move onto anything having to do with the shepherds (“The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High”). Next move into the birth/after the birth with “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger,” and “We Three Kings.” Lastly, sing of the joy of his arrival: “Joy to the World” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

*Tell the Christmas story in one sentence increments as you go around the van, person-by-person. (This gets interesting with the little ones who might have them fleeing Herod’s wrath before Jesus is even born!)

*If a passenger can read without being sick, you might read your way through a favorite (pictureless) holiday book. We enjoy reading Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado and The Birth by Gene Edwards. Everyone looks forward to reading another chapter the next time we get in the van.

*Likewise, we read “devotional” type books about Christmas while we drive. This year, we are enjoying short chapters in the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (see review). We have also enjoyed Christmas Stories From the Heart, The Christmas Reader, and more in years past.

*Use the driving time to memorize the Christmas story from the book of Luke. (We like to assign one verse to each person and go from person to person.)

*We enjoy memorizing all the verses from a certain Christmas song each year. In years past, we have memorized “Away in a Manger,” “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and “We Three Kings.” We can still sing most of the verses today!

*Drive by Christmas lights on your evening travels.

*Go through a drive-through or walk-through nativity while driving by one.

*Deliver goodies to those in route.

*Play “20 Questions Christmas-Style” or “Name That Christmas Tune.”

*New game: A person picks three things about the Christmas story that are really true or just thought to be true (or embellished, such as the little drummer boy playing for Jesus), and the others try to guess which two things are really in the Bible and which one is not. This is eye-opening.

*Sing whatever Christmas song you are reminded of by the decorations you see—stars, snowmen, angels, etc.

*Make up your own humorous twelve days of Christmas song, with each person getting to add their own items to the list as you sing around the van.

*Play the ABC Christmas game—“What I love about Christmas is A for angel, B for baby, C for candy, etc.” Go around and each person starts with A and tries to remember what was previously said. (This is a spin-off of the “I went to Grandma’s and I took A for applesauce, B for blankets, etc.)

*My personal favorite: Have someone write your holiday cooking and shopping list and holiday menus down for you while you drive and dictate to them. (Be forewarned: No comments about the spelling or penmanship are allowed when the child is done writing for you!)

Only By Comparison–reprint



This week I am going to run a lengthy article that I wrote several years ago about comparing our children’s behavior with others’ behavior—and the results of that comparison. If you have read Training for Triumph newsletters or articles at our TFT website, you might have already read this.

Even though it is long—and is a “re-run”—I think it’s worth repeating. As Christian parents, we can get caught up in the comparison game very quickly, without realizing the dangers of it—the dangers from thinking we are inferior AND the dangers of thinking we are superior. Thanks for joining us!

                “Only By Comparison”

                                        By Donna Reish

  
Many years ago I found a comic strip that became our family’s mantra. In it, Blondie and Dagwood sat at a restaurant with their four children. The kids misbehaved mildly—spilling drinks, bickering over the orange crayon, and asking for something expensive. However, in the background of the Bumstead’s restaurant booth, other little ones were out of control everywhere—swinging from the chandelier, standing on the table, throwing food from high chairs, and screaming. A couple approached Blondie and Dagwood and commented on how well-behaved their children were, to which the tired parents smiled and then turned to their offspring and said those words that ring too true: “Only by comparison.”

 Through our years of parenting seven young children (especially once we had four or more eight and under), we were often stopped in public (as many large families are) and told that our children were behaving well. They sit so nicely. They don’t talk in church. They aren’t fighting when they get in or out of the van. And through the years we have told our children two things: Only by comparison and If your behavior was really good, someone would pay for our dinner like they did for the Prides. (Mary Pride, homeschool and family author, wrote in an article over twenty years ago that someone paid for her family’s meal not once, but twice, on the same vacation, due to well-behaved children.)

Those two lines became our family’s jokes through the years—we only look like we have well-behaved children because compared to biting, screaming, thrashing kids, you guys are great! People only think you are being quiet because compared to the noise level around us, you kids are practically whispering. And the old—when you guys are really, really good in a restaurant, we’ll know it because someone will pay for our meal.

Without even saying (or thinking) the phrase, Only by comparison, Christian parents today often pat themselves on the back, rejoice, and sometimes, dare I say it, even gloat—because compared to much of children’s behavior that is permitted today, our kids are doing okay. And we develop a false sense of security in our children’s Christian development and a Pharisaical attitude about our parenting.

Our kids might fight and say mean things to each other, but at least they aren’t doing what the neighbor kids do—cussing each other out and squealing out of the neighborhood at twice the posted speed limit. Our kids might not listen and respect the pastor as much as we would like for them to—but at least they’re not texting other teens and playing games on their cell phones during the service like the kids two rows up are doing. Our kids might not work as hard as we think they should on their chores and household responsibilities, but at least they do a job or two each day—unlike a nephew or niece who never does anything around the house. And on and on it goes. And yet it is all only by comparison.

Case in point one: A couple of years ago Josiah (then ten; child #6) had a bad case of strep throat and ended up dehydrated and very sick. He was admitted into the hospital for eighteen hours to rehydrate, gets some iv antibiotics, etc. He went in at eight pm and came home the next afternoon. In the course of eighteen hours, for some reason still unknown to us, Josiah received an award—patient of the week. Now, remember he was only there for eighteen hours—and at least ten of those were spent sleeping. During the eight hours he was awake, I had to tell him at least a dozen times to quit asking so many questions when a nurse came in the room. (“Where does that lead to?” “How does that give fluid?” “What’s in that fluid?” etc. etc.) What did Josiah do in eight hours of precocious questioning that warranted him the “patient of the week” award? Nothing—that’s the point. He didn’t do anything bad. He didn’t complain, fuss, fight with me or the nurses, throw fits, argue, or disagree. He got an award not because he did anything great—he got an award because he didn’t do anything bad. Talk about low expectations! Josiah is a great kid with tons of character; however, this award didn’t make us especially proud of him. We would have been proud of him if he had gotten an award for helping the nurses straighten the parent room or for encouraging another sick child or for cleaning up his toothpaste in the sink. But he got an award simply because he wasn’t bad. Only by comparison.

More recently, I was editing at McDonald’s (my favorite editing spot, believe it or not) with Jacob, then age nine (child #7). He was taking a “recess” from his school work and went to play in the play area. After a little while, he came back out to me with an elderly lady following close behind him. He said, “Mom, this lady wants to meet you.” I introduced myself, and the lady said that Jacob was being such a good boy in there that she had to come out and find out for herself what his mom had done to raise him that way. She went on and on about well-mannered he was, how he didn’t fight with the other kids, etc. etc. Then she questioned me about how we “kept him from being like the other kids in there.” She then shook both of our hands and left, telling us that she was going to tell everyone she knew about this little boy and his homeschooling mommy. After she left, I asked Jacob what he had done to earn him such accolades, to which he replied, “I didn’t do anything, but the kids in there were really bad today, so maybe I just seemed good because they were being really bad.” Only by comparison.

The problem is widespread in Christianity—and it has invaded our parenting, forcing our parenting standards to go down lower and lower—lower than they were, but still a notch above the person or persons we are comparing to! Too often Christian parents base their performance in parenting on how poorly someone around us is parenting—and we try to at least hover above that level.

This ought not to be! Christian parenting should not be about looking, seeming, or feeling better than those around us. It should be about excellence. It should be about high expectations. It should be about pleasing God in our parenting—not others, and certainly not ourselves!

I have a list (of course!) of suggestions for those of us who seem to be sliding down into “normalcy” or “sub-par” parenting due to false and unhealthy comparisons. (And even after nearly twenty-eight years of “doin’ the Christian parenting stuff,” I still fall into that trap myself at times!)

Tips for NOT sliding into the “only by comparison” parenting model:

1. Prayerfully seek God on your current parenting approach. Is it based on how children around you act? Are you basking in the fact that your kids’ behavior is better than another family’s kids’ behavior? Do you relish the idea that compared to other young people, your teens are not “really that bad”?

2. Do you treat others whose parenting skills are not as well-established (or whose are different) as yours in a condescending or “holier than thou” way? I think we would be surprised how what we see as “confidence” or “certainty” in our parenting approach can appear to others to be pride—and actually hurt them (and unnecessarily cause them to suffer from the “comparison syndrome”).

3. Do you feel yourself slipping into a mediocrity or “only by comparison” mentality? Purpose to measure your parenting—and your children’s behavior—by God’s Word and character, not by those around you. You know in your heart of hearts that absence of bad does not necessarily mean good. God wants us to strive to live our lives fully for Him—and raise our children to do the same, not just to live in such a way that we avoid “the bad.”

4. Try to steer clear of the “putting out fires” approach to parenting. Yes, we do have to solve problems, but we should be teaching, training, and discipling all the time—not just correcting negative behaviors. Use teachable moments to instruct in righteousness, such as pointing out how others feel (empathy), discussing helpfulness and opportunities to serve (selflessness), talking about taking the high road (decisiveness), illuminating good morals (virtuousness)–encouraging godly character in our kids’ everyday lives.

5. Focus on our children’s interactions with each other and us. The way our children treat their parents and each other will eventually be the way they treat others in their lives in the future. If they are consistently selfish or hateful to a brother, they will likely not have good relationships with co-workers. If they are disrespectful to us, they will probably not respect their future spouse. All relationship and character training begins at home. It is a constant magnifying glass to show us parents exactly what our children are becoming.

6. Fill their lives with stories of good—not just stories of absence of bad. We have made it a practice to read biographical material aloud nearly every school day for the past twenty years. Reading about how Hudson Taylor gave up his daily comforts of a soft mattress and rich foods or how Amy Carmichael put her own life in danger to save children or how William Borden gave up great riches to bring people to Christ will eventually leave their mark on your children. (They also give us points of reference for discussion: Remember how decisive Hudson Taylor was before he ever left for China? What did William Borden discover about worldly riches?)

We have found out through the years that the only by comparison parenting mode does not result in good parenting—or well-behaved children. However, our second mantra, if your behavior had really been good, somebody would pay for our dinner, eventually did pay off. When Joshua turned fourteen, he chose Red Lobster for his birthday dinner (back when we could afford sit down restaurants for birthdays!), and we enjoyed the meal together—only to be approached by a couple who commented on the children’s behavior and slid Ray a $100 bill* for our food. The kids were ecstatic—and we were pretty happy parents. The children felt they had finally done it—they had, had good enough behavior to earn a free meal. And we were not out the money for an expensive meal. I wouldn’t want to get in the habit of paying my kids for good behavior—but I sure enjoyed this windfall!