Teachable Moments

How To Help Your Child Grow Up To Be A Successful Adult

Our children are “future adults” and we want to parent them for “future success”.   How can we influence their ability to be successful in their relationships and chosen careers as they grow up?  Research says out of all the things our children need to know as they grow that contributes directly to their career competence are their relationship skills. 

Relationship skills are both traits and behaviors that enable someone to interact well with others.  They inspire good communication and conflict resolution. They enhance positive teamwork and can predict sustainability in a job.  Relationship skills make both the one who has them and the one who receives them happier to be doing what they are doing.

  •  Relationship skills aren’t just important to career success, they are important to our faith formation. 
    • The godly way of looking at relationship skills is to see them through the lens of the “one another” verses we find in Scripture; a relationship that values “one another” is a relationship that honors God.  
    • The term “one another” is found 100 times in the New Testament and 59 times refers to how we treat one another within God’s Kingdom.
    • How we care for one another not only allows our relationships in our careers and homes to flourish, but enables us to be a witness to the world of our transforming faith. 
    • God does not suggest “one another” conduct, but demands it.  They are imperative verbs – commands, not suggestions.
    • Just a few examples of “One Another” verses that personify good relationship skills are:
      1. Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10) 
      2. Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10) 
      3. Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) 
      4. Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11) 
      5. Accept one another (Romans 15:7) 
      6. Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16) 
      7.  Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25) 
      8. Serve one another (Galatians 5:13) 
      9. Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) 
      10. Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13) 
      11. Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)

Dear Reader – consider looking up all the “One Anothers” in Scripture and put them on your refrigerator, in your car, or on the mirror in the bathroom – anywhere you and your children will see them on a regular basis.  How do we teach our children to walk by faith AND help prepare them for the future?  “One Another” living! (also known as relationship skills)

  • Relationship skills are personified  in good communication.  In John Maxwell’s book, “Everyone Communicates, Not Everyone Connects”, John proposes that we need to do more than just talk to one another, we need to connect.  Career experts would agree – many companies will look for those who can relate well with others over a college graduate who has a high GPA but doesn’t have strong relationship skills.

    What are some of the points John Maxwell makes in his book that we can pass on to our children?  Here are 5 of his principles to get you started in thinking connection, not just communication.
    • Think “One Another” always.  (Maturity is the ability to see and act on behalf of others.)
    • Connecting with others requires effort.  Connecting requires initiative (go first); clarity (prepared); patience (slow down); selflessness (give); and stamina (recharge). 
    • Work hard with enthusiasm. (Vision without passion is a picture without possibilities.)
    • Be a person of integrity. (People ask three questions about their leaders: Do they care for me? Can they help me? Can I trust them?)
    • Prepare and don’t give up.  (Preparation yields confidence and passion yields conviction.​)

Dear Reader, I have heard it said, “The days are long, the years are short” and I believe it’s true.  In the midst of parenting, it can feel exhausting and all-consuming.  But before we know it, we are sending them out into the world. Remember to keep the end goals in mind as you parent today.  Work toward who your child is becoming and invest in their ability to relate well with others.

Blessings to you this week as you parent with a purpose to equip your child for their future adult life.  

Always yours truly, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

What Makes Us Special

“Mommy!  Why am I so special?”  was the question the little guy in front of me in the Walmart aisle was demanding his Mother answer.  His Grandma who was with him had just told him that he was so special, had pinched his cheeks and then kissed and hugged him enthusiastically.  Giggling and squirming aside, this little guy wanted a rationale for the explosive gestures of love he had just been showered with.  His mother went on and on about all his cute physical qualities, his amazing personality characteristics and how great he was as a son and brother; lists of attributes which set him apart was the basis of her reply.

Now on first listen, we may not think anything of her answer and in truth, there is nothing really wrong with it.  However, if we leave our “specialness” as people to what we are like, what we do, and what makes being in a relationship with us so wonderful, we actually miss the deeper theological truth we can share with our children.  Yes, tell them how great they are, but let’s not leave it at that.

What makes us special?  In Genesis 1 and 2, God lets us know that we alone in creation are made in His image; we are the object of His special love and the pinnacle of His creation. Being an image bearer sets us apart in some way, so now, we just have to figure out what that way is. Throughout the centuries, it is man’s communicable qualities with God, or his mission and function in the world or his relationship abilities that have been tied to image bearing.  And while all of these have merit, there is nothing that uniquely qualifies man to be set apart which is equally displayed throughout all the human race. We are indeed a diverse bunch!

What is the image we bear?  If we view Genesis 2 as an unpacking of Genesis 1, the one thing that emerges in Genesis 2:7 is that God breathed life into Adam; this can be translated the breath of life or perhaps even better, the Soul of life or the Spirit of life.  If we view this as what makes us special, then this explains why God sees all humans as equally valuable. Only humanity has what is required to be a participant in God’s special love (special providence).

If the soul qualifies us for specialness, then all external factors are secondary.  So whether our children are gifted intellectually or struggle, whether they have perfect eye sight or require braces to walk, whether they connect with everyone or are unable to attach to anyone, every person has a complete God-given soul which makes them equally valuable and a recipient of His redemption and glory; God’s general love applies to everyone.  

How do we communicate this image-bearing specialness to our children?  Children want to hear what makes them special and their unique qualities are great to articulate so it gives them an idea of how God has made them individually unique.  However, there is a specialness about them that has nothing to do with individual qualities but rather celebrates their uniqueness as a part of the human race. Connecting them to the whole of what it means to be human is just as important as what sets them apart from everyone else.  

Being made in God’s image, we as people are special because:

  • We are different from the rest of creation
    • See how beautiful the stars are and the flowers that bloom?  See how fun our puppy is and how cuddly our kitten?  We are more special than these.
  • God is Spirit and so are we; we have a soul.
    • We are the only part of creation that has the very breath of God (Genesis 2:7).  God took His very essence and placed this within us.  
  • As believers, our soul can be united with God.
    • We all sin; but God so values us, He removed the sin that separates us from Himself and unites our soul with Himself if we believe (John 3:16).  He does this for people alone – not angels, not mountains, not animals.  Only people are united with God spiritually
  • What makes me special is my soul, so it doesn’t matter if I’m not the prettiest, smartest, strongest or most popular.  I am already special no matter what anyone else says.
    • Everyone is worthy of compassion, time, attention and help merely because they are human.  Our worth is not based on our comparison to one another, but the mere fact that we have a soul, given to us by God.  We see this truth in the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

What makes me special?  When God revealed who He was to Moses, he said to tell the people that “I Am” sent you.  We could take this apologetic and echo it in our defense of our worth; I am special merely because I am.  That is enough. We are of infinite value and worthy of respect, and kindness and love merely because we are.

Dear Reader, how freeing it is for each of us and our children to realize our worth has nothing to do with what we can and can’t accomplish, or what our personality is or isn’t like, or what other people do or don’t enjoy about us.  My worth, your worth, their worth is untouchable. I encourage you to give your children a sense of their worth by not just telling them what makes them individually special, but why amidst all of creation, their worth is found in God’s design of them; they are image bearers with a soul and thus, they have an unshakable value.

Blessings to each of you!  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

 

Teachable Moments

Parenting and the Holocaust Part 1

As I write this blog, I am in Jerusalem.  I’d suggest that whenever you travel to Israel, you make Yad Vashem a “must-see” site.  I have wandered its halls a number of times and every time I observe the stories that tell of the Holocaust atrocities, I walk away inspired by how those captured into inhumane living and dying conditions found extraordinary ways to survive and thrive.  Today, I want to ask one question from my experience at Yad Vashem.

What can we learn from the men and women who raised children amidst such pain and grief while they survived in camps, ghettos, while hiding away or who joined the Jewish Partisans to fight against the enemy?

No matter what life throws at you, if you are a parent, you know that parents don’t get to quit.  This is true now and it was true for parents in the Holocaust. These parents protected, cared and fiercely loved their children.  Their children grew up to tell their stories and we can learn from 3 primary types of emotional memories that they shared. Their emotional memories can help us teach our children wisely today.

1) Conflicting emotions accompany memories

Children’s memories will contain conflicting emotions under normal situations, let alone situations rifled with crisis and trauma.  One story told regarding a daughter and mother relationship from one of the ghettos explains,

When we examine Anat’s (the daughter’s) narrative, for example, we see that in spite of the fact she was alone for long periods in the ghetto, witnessed the severe beating of her mother and had several other traumatic experiences as a very young child, Anat also had the positive experience of her mother always returning to her. In fact, her mother remained with her until the last day of her life. While there are signs in Anat’s interview that she also feels anger toward her mother, due to feelings of fear and desertion, these are interwoven with a deep admiration and a strong sense of protection by her mother.

This daughter’s memories evoked strong emotions that ranged from the very positive to the very negative.  This wide range of emotions allowed her to build an independent life as a woman, even informing her own role as a mother.

OUR APPLICATION:  Conflicting emotions accompany memories

Understand that two very different emotions can exist at the same time and those contrasting emotions then crop up in our memories.   Our children will have both good and bad feelings about their childhood and we shouldn’t be discouraged that they express both the good and the bad as they grow older.  Listening and working through the memories is what counts more than trying to hold onto a false remembrance of perfection.

2) Emotions interpret memories

For some Holocaust survivors, the emotions that accompanied childhood memories dictated the interpretation of events as an adult.  For example, some children who had one Jewish parent and one Christian parent survived because the Christian parent was able to rescue the child.  In some cases, the Jewish parent was taken away to be housed in a ghetto or deported to be gassed in a concentration camp. As adult children remembered the separation from the Jewish parent and that parent’s subsequent death, these adult children often resented the surviving Christian parent, even though the Christian parent saved their life.  Children remembered the division of the family and the horrible anguish of that moment of separation; that anguish later turned into anger and sometimes, even hatred toward the surviving parent.

OUR APPLICATION:  Emotions interpret memories

We need to be aware of how our own emotions get in the way of our recall of past life events

and inform our children how emotions can skew our perspectives.  Being aware of this will help us see life in a more balanced and true-to-life way; we need to make sure our emotions help inform our life, but we are not lead nor dictated by our emotions.  Emotions can lead us to wrong conclusions. What a great lesson to teach our children!

3) Emotions reflect the relationships within the memories

Some survivors explained emotional memories that while very painful, reflected the physical and emotional safety their parents provided.  Researchers who reflected upon one such survivor’s story said,

Even though most of his memories express negative emotions, the intensity with which he speaks leads us to believe that the ability to recall and willingness to openly express negative emotions connected to one’s parent during the Holocaust reflects closeness, even if the parent-child relationship was a problematic one.

OUR APPLICATION:  Emotions reflect the relationships within the memories

Even turbulent emotions show a parent-child relationship in which parents are engaged and caring about the child.  Even if parents are not always right, showing up and emotionally engaging with our children makes a big difference both when times are distressing and when the adult child looks back.  Let’s show up and engage and not worry so much about always having to be “the perfect parent”.

DEAR READER,  

We as families will experience painful times and while most of us will not experience anything close to what the survivors of the Holocaust did, we have the opportunity to learn from the rich emotional memories that survive; even the worst of history can teach us.  These brave parents who taught, protected and fiercely loved their children throughout the Holocaust can remind us of some significant truths.  May we honor their memories by learning from their lives.

Fondly yours from Israel, Elizabeth

 

Teachable Moments

What You Can Learn From a Snowflake

There has been so much snow this winter that even the local weatherman is tired of talking about it.  But while we have the snow for at least a couple more weeks, we may as well as make the most of it. Thank you to a wonderful article by Charles Q. Choi on LiveScience (2007) for all the great snowflake facts.

Just like snowflakes, children are both strong and fragile.  “Snowflakes are created when snow crystals stick together. Some contain several hundred crystals.” They are so strong, they survive atmospheric changes and winds yet, catch one on your finger tip and it can immediately melt away.  

Each child holds within themselves a strength that can help them overcome incredible odds; not all children, however, have the opportunities or resources to nurture that strength.  Psychologists call this internal working aptitude resiliency.  One of the keys to a child accessing and exhibiting resiliency is if they have adults who believe in them, coach them, and cheer them on toward goals they can attain.  While strength emerges, children need intentional care and gentle responses to help guide them into that strength. Carelessness can make a child weak and vulnerable with just an arbitrary word or action.  We should honor both the strength in the child and the gentleness required to nurture it.

Just like snowflakes, no two children are alike.  “The exact form each snow crystal takes depends heavily on tiny changes in temperature and humidity it encounters as it falls, resulting in extraordinary diversity.  “It is probably safe to say that the possible number of snow crystal shapes exceeds the estimated number of atoms in the known universe,” Nelson said (Jon Nelson at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan). While smaller crystals that are not yet formed may be the same, it would be impossible to find the two that might be alike.

Individuation is the gift of being and expressing one’s self as a unique individual. Children from the age of 2 realize they are their own person and start making choices to set themselves apart.  Have you ever asked a 2-year old what they want to wear to church? Many will enjoy putting together ensembles that reflect bizarre preferences that both delight and embarrass.  God in His infinite creativity, created each child in their own way, and the best way to celebrate our God-given differences is to both acknowledge and accommodate them when we can.  Next time you see a 2-year old with purple tights, a pink tutu and a cowboy hat, smile and enjoy!

Just like snowflakes, children can respond to the light of the gospel and reflect the grace of God in illuminating ways.  “Ice crystals in the atmosphere are also believed to influence the production of lightning by helping electric charges build up in clouds.”

The Spirit of God can move and work in the heart of a child. Teaching the gospel to children and giving them the opportunity to respond to the light of the gospel is key to their faith formation as well as to the well-being of the church.  All generations are important in the body of Christ. Teach children truths about God, pray for the Spirit to touch their hearts, and watch for signs of spiritual fruit. “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12a) – and this light is available to children as well as adults.  

Just like snowflakes, children are immeasurable in what they bring to this world.  “A typical snow crystal weighs roughly one millionth of a gram. This means a cubic foot of snow can contain roughly one billion crystals. A rough estimate of the number of snow crystals that fall to Earth per year is about 1 followed by 24 zeros,” Nelson told LiveScience.

Underestimating what a child can contribute hurts the child’s sense of self-efficacy (the belief that they can do something successfully).  If the child does not believe they can, then they won’t.  Just like one little snowflake may not weigh very much, in the right circumstances, it makes a huge difference  Encouraging children to achieve goals, work hard, contribute what they can and enjoy the ability to accomplish tasks are key ways to help foster a child’s positive attitude as well as motivation to discover and use the gifts and talents God has given them.  Children can make significant contributions to those around them given the opportunity to do so.

Dear Reader, we might as well make the most of this winter.  If you can’t beat it, join it – and discover from a little part of God’s amazing world what can be learned in our everyday lives.  One of God’s tiniest creations, the snowflake, can give us teachable moments about the tiniest ones amongst us – children. Let’s not overlook an opportunity to learn even at this time of year.

May your winter be white and your temperatures increase to above freezing!

Fondly, and warmly yours, Elizabeth