Teachable Moments

Raising School Age Kids Who Thirst After Jesus

I wrote a book and I thought I’d give you a “foretaste” of what is in it.  It’s called, God Never Changes, But My Family Always Does, and you can buy it on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading it if you do.  I love how I got the privilege of really thinking through what it means to disciple our kids to become God-worshippers throughout their childhood and adolescence.

Each life stage of a child is examined through a theological lens and then, practically worked out in everyday moments of family life.  Today, I’d like to look at our Elementary Age Kids – also known as the School Age or Middle Childhood years. These children are ages 6 – 10 years old.

I suggest we consider this:

“God is present with us, engaging with us on an intimate, emotional level.  God is also truthful…He never lies. This understanding of God along with a strong theology of work, offers a firm foundation for parents who are navigating the school age years (ages 6-10) in which children derive their future identity, purpose and faith.” (Smith, CH 4)

What theology is most pertinent to this life stage?

  • Work – God gives work to us as a divine responsibility and can show our faith in Him through our attitudes, behavior and work relationships.  The amount of work kids do at this life stage increases rapidly and exponentially.
  • Truth – God is the author of all that is true.  Children are learning more and more and as they think critically, have to decide what is true and what is false at this stage.
  • Emotions – God is an emotional God and we learn about our emotions and how to handle them as we study His Word.  Children’s emotions become increasingly more complex in this life stage.

What key things should we know about School Age Kids (6-10 year olds)?

  • BODY – these children form habits physically that they will carry with them for years to come
  • MIND – learning to read, developing critical thinking skills, and showing a preference for a particular learning style emerge
  • HEART – taking on more personal responsibility, growing in their self-efficacy, and developing their self-concept and self-esteem all influence their family relationships and friends
  • SOUL – discovering Bible facts, asking lots of questions about God and doctrine, and discerning where they stand in their relationship with Jesus are key faith formation issues

How does our theology direct how we interact with our kids on a day-to-day basis?

  • WORK:  School for children is the work of middle childhood.  Learning to read is one of their biggest tasks and making the most of their literacy skills helps ground them in God’s Word.  How can we help develop a biblical worldview of work for our child as they learn to read and get their homework done?
    • Monitor your attitude toward your own job.  If you complain about work, you might expect them to complain about school.
    • Develop conscientious work habits; we are to do everything we do with excellence (Colossians 3:23) as we work for the Lord.  Everything we do should glorify God – our attitudes and our actions in work (1 Cor. 10:31). Do children see that working hard at their schoolwork is a way they can glorify God.
    • Remember:  work isn’t just getting something done.  It is the divine venue God gives us to be a model for the world of what it looks like to serve and love God faithfully.  Discuss this with your child and model it with your life.
  • TRUTH:  As children develop their critical thinking skills, they will be trying to decide what truth is and where they find it.  How can we help children know what is true and where to find truth?
    • “God can never lie and therefore, we can trust God Himself and His word.  We can trust God’s will, promises and law. All that God reveals is true.” (Smith, CH 4)  Discuss what truth is and where it comes from so children know that God is the one they should turn to in order to understand their world and how to live within it.
    • “We do not set ourselves apart from the world because we are in fear of it, but rather we set ourselves apart in how we understand our world because of what we know about God.”  How does using scripture as a lens change how you see your everyday life and global events?  Discuss this with your child.
  • EMOTIONS:  Children learn to identify more complex emotions and feel more deeply as they grow older.  How can we help develop our child’s self-awareness about what they feel and how to manage their emotions wisely?
    • “God isn’t shy about expressing how He feels toward His creation.  God is always completely involved and is transparent with His feelings, expressing them appropriately and effectively.  God is many things, but He is never indifferent.” How does knowing that – we have emotions because we are made after the likeness of God and He has emotions – influence how we look at our emotions and how we handle them?
    • “God will never sin (impeccability) due to His emotions and is not tempted to be anyone other than who He is.”  Consider how your emotions tempt you away from being faithful in living a God-worshipping life and turn to God in prayer, asking Him for His Spirit-given self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Show your child we run to God with all that we are feeling.

Dear reader, let’s keep an eternal perspective while interacting with our children.  Realize that the ultimate goal is for our children to know and love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength; don’t get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of raising school age kids that you miss the everyday Teachable Moments.  

May each of us be constantly redirecting our focus toward God and living a life that demonstrates what it means to worship Him moment by moment.  May our children notice and come to love Him too.

Blessings to each of you dear friends – thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

PS – This blog post is in honor of my dear friend, Dr. Mary Martin, who is following the call of God in her life by taking a new job.  While we may not be on the same faculty anymore, I have been blessed to work with you in the Elementary Education Major at Moody Bible Institute.  May God bless the work of your hands as you spread His truth by helping teachers and children love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  I miss you already, Mary. Love Always!

Teachable Moments

What Is the Recipe for Success Anyway?

There is no such thing as a spiritually healthy person who is low on emotional intelligence.  Knowing God and being filled with His Spirit will result in a growth of humility (Ephesians 4:2), self-control (Galatians 5:23), empathy (Romans 12:15), and giving relationships (Philippians 2:3,4). If we find we are low in any of these areas, we are not only low in Emotional Intelligence, but we need to stop and evaluate our walk with Christ.  

Paul challenged the Corinthians to take a deep look at themselves and see whether what they believed was really – what they believed.  Because whatever you believe, that is who you will become. We need to stop fooling ourselves if we say one thing but we are living in some way differently from that.  Emotional Intelligence is a body of research that assists us in taking that good long look that can result in a healthy relationship with one another and helps us examine our faith.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 
2 Corinthians 13:5

Because everyone loves to eat, the following recipe, The Recipe for Handling Your Emotions (Bake Up Some Emotional Intelligence), outlines emotional intelligence – what it is, how to develop it, and what the end product (life) looks and tastes like.  It takes some of the basic tenets of what E.I. is and lays them out, nice and simple, so we can put it together and then devour it later.

Share this recipe with your family over a meal and consider how to encourage one another in your own recipe for success in your relationships with one another and God!

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and handle your own emotions and be able to understand and manage  emotions with others. They can be categorized into two different sections:

  • Knowing Self
  • Knowing Others

Knowing Self involves self-awareness of one’s emotions, self-management of these emotions, and the ability to handle them to meet long term goals.

Knowing Others involves empathy and social skills based on our understanding of others’ emotions and being a team player.

Ingredients for E.I.

  • Self-awareness – you know your emotions and  how they affect your life
  • Self-management – controlling your emotional expressions
  • Motivation – work hard toward goals for self and in relationships
  • Empathy – care for others
  • Social Skills – effective communication 

Preparation

  1. Know Your Ingredients – understand each of the ingredients so you know what you are working with.  
  2. What do you have? – for each ingredient, record your self-perception; what strength or weakness do you think you have for each one?
  3. Measure Carefully – how much of each ingredient do you really have?  Answer some objective questions to see where your E.I. strengths and weaknesses lie; there are many online tests available.  
  4. Mix Them Up –  think about how all 5 ingredients are needed and work together; reflect and contemplate
  5. Cook Something Up – time to do something; create practical steps toward improving your E.I. ingredients
  6.  Serve It Up–  enjoy the outcome of what you have made! Celebrate how life tastes better with a good recipe for E.I.!
  7. Measure Your Success – all recipes need tweaking; what will you change to improve your E.I.? 

Tips

  • This recipe only works if you are honest with yourself.  Honesty means you must be vulnerable and take risks. 
  •  Growing in your emotional skills requires community; discuss E.I. with others and get their input 
  • Knowledge must be applied for growth to occur.  If you know where you need to grow, but don’t do something to grow, you won’t grow.

ServingUp Success

How do you know if your E.I. recipe is delicious?

  • You verbally express yourself well
  • You are highly empathetic toward others
  • Conflict is an opportunity to grow, not a threat
  • You benefit from criticism
  • You control your thoughts
  • You pause before answering, acting or expressing your emotions
  • You stick to your values
  • You are generous in your praise of others
  • You apologize humbly
  • You forgive and forget (are not bitter)
  • You build trust and inspire others

Happy Baking! Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Adulting is Hard: The Unexpected Cure of Self-Compassion

One of my favorite conversations I had with my daughter when she was in college was regarding the reality of adulthood. She and I were reminiscing about her childhood – the good old days.  After remembering days of sleeping in, an ignorance of how expensive life really is and a schedule that had a lot more wiggle room, she summed up her experience by saying, “Adulting is hard!”

Adulting Is A Time of Anxiety.  Even though my daughter’s days of college are over, as a college professor, I interact with college students on a regular basis and most of them would sympathize with the angst of adulting. For some, the angst grows into a disabling anxiety. Unsurprising, the majority of directors of university counseling centers report the number of college students with significant psychological problems is on the rise and the most commonly diagnosed mental health illness across colleges (and the US) is anxiety; a recent study showed over 40% of college students considered anxiety more of a problem than their relationships.

What causes this disabling anxiety? This is a tough, complicated question! There are many factors that contribute to a diagnosis of anxiety- biochemical, environmental, psychosocial, spiritual, cognitive – but there is one common theme that rises to the top over and over again.  Overly self-critical people are much more likely to suffer from anxiety than persons who have a more balanced assessment of themselves and handle their self-criticisms with self-compassion.

Anxious persons, including college students especially, demonstrate a significant lack of self-compassion.  This lack of compassion can result in obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, general anxiety disorder, and is even a possible precursor of PTSD, more so than those who have survived a war.  Not only do larger doses of self-criticism without self-compassion result in pathology, but it also can be a predictor of how well someone will respond to help. Self-compassion is key to overcoming problems, dealing with negative and erroneous thoughts, and is especially key to minimizing anxious feelings.  

What helps?  Self-compassion is an unfamiliar word to many.  To clarify its meaning, it is not really any different than compassion expressed to others.  Compassion (translated, “to suffer with”), whether for others or to ourselves involves:

  • an acknowledgment of suffering (admit when you are sad, hurt, stressed or have reached your limit)
  • an honest evaluation of pain which results in empathy (it matters that I feel emotional pain and I should extend kindness to anyone in pain (Gal. 5:22,23) even myself)
  • an understanding that all of us will fail at times (we are not super humans; we are merely human; we are saved by grace and kept by grace.  We don’t become perfect until we reach heaven. This is truth to live with daily.)

The myths about self-compassion produce unnecessary fears. To allay any fears, self-compassion does not promote self-love, worry, narcissism or pity parties.  Research clearly shows there is no cause for alarm here and that these fears are a myth; it may feel uncomfortable initially, but we need to look at what is helpful or right more than what “seems” godly.  But even as we understand what self-compassion is and is not, self-compassion is still typically an uncomfortable topic for some Christians.

Why is self-compassion so problematic for Christians?  I believe it is because we usually understand compassion exclusively in terms of our response to others more so than how we engage with ourselves.  Some may suggest that self-compassion be limited to secular psychology and it should be disregarded in biblical counseling as it is just another term for selfishness or our flesh; we are called to give compassion to others, but not to ourselves.

Why self-compassion should not be a problem for Christians. This type of thinking creates problems for believers as it is antithetical to Christian beliefs.  We are called to live consistently with scripture so we demonstrate what we believe in all areas of our lives.  Paul exhorts others to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) and Paul tells us we are to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4); notice this does not say disregard your life without a thought for yourself as you serve others.  Paul also encourages responsibility for self in Galatians 6:4,5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:11,12. It is incorrect for Christians to say compassion is meant for everyone else, but not for themselves.

Martin Luther’s self-compassion changed history.  Martin Luther believed that Satan’s attacks of condemnation against a believer’s soul were to be expected.  Our enemy attacks us relentlessly and would encourage our despair and hopelessness which we also heap on ourselves, then handle, in wrongful ways.  Martin’s self-condemnation without hope led to despair from which God in His good grace rescued him. Like Luther, as believers, we are wise to admit our suffering and take pity on ourselves as we embrace Christ as our Savior and Lord. Coming to salvation is the ultimate act of self-compassion.

Self-compassion…so what now?  If we begin our journey with an act of self-compassion, then why would we live the rest of our lives doing the opposite?  As we practice self-compassion, we then possess a peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4;7); the anxieties of this world are put into eternal perspective and diminish. What a witness this is to the watching world! And especially to our young adults who are just beginning to get the world of “adulting” under control.

Dear Reader, remember to practice what you preach.  As you extend compassion to a needy world, don’t forget to extend it to yourself as well.  May the peace of God be yours in abundance.

With His grace and compassion, fondly yours – Elizabeth

 

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