Teachable Moments

The ABCs of What Kids Believe

How do you know what a child believes about God?  If you want to know, just ask them!  When one Sunday School teacher who was teaching through the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23) asked their 5-8 year old students what they thought “peace” was, the responses were varied; here are some of my favorite answers.

  • My Mom says “it’s when everyone is asleep, but her”
  • Sharing one of your favorite toys and then, not hitting your friend even though they sat on it and broke it
  • When everyone gets exactly what they want to eat at dinner
  • When my Dad gets to sit in his chair and control the remote control
  • Grandpa said without quiet, there is no peace and since it’s never quiet in our house, peace doesn’t exist

These children’s God-knowledge brings a smile to our face; out-of-the-mouth-of-babes we discover what we have taught them.  Life observations that often occur in everyday conversations reveal our child’s everyday theology.  As they grow older, staying on top of these perceptions is key so we ensure our children are building a foundation of solid truth about God and who He is, how He works and how they can know and love Him.  To discover what our children are thinking and remain influential in their spiritual faith formation, consider the following A, B, C and D.

A.  Ask questions and listen well before you give advice.  No matter how old they are. Do you want them to respect you?  Then, model respect to them first by giving them an opportunity to explain themselves. Try not to jump in too soon so they have the time and space they need to make themselves heard.

B.  Be in consistent conversations. Theology is a process of learning and growing both in orthodoxy (beliefs) and orthopraxy (living out our beliefs).  This requires conversations every day whether we are walking, relaxing or driving to church (Deuteronomy 11:19 ). Hint: if a conversation isn’t going well, think about walking away and trying again another day; remember – faith formation is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line.  Winning an argument could cost you future conversations and thus, your influence is diminished in their lives. 

C.  Communicate with them over dictating to them.  Fear can lead us to try and control our children (preschoolers and young adults alike).  To live by faith, not fear, be self-aware of your stress and worry, take a deep breath and seek to respond with calm wisdom, avoiding knee-jerk reactions.

D.  Depend on God in prayer.  We won’t be “quick to listen and slow to speak” unless we are depending on God’s Spirit to guide our thoughts, calm our hearts and produce the fruit needed for godly influence.  Ask God for His peace that passes understanding for in that stillness, we will sense God’s voice guiding and leading us.

What do our children believe?  Building a solid theology that informs our children’s everyday lives comes in all shapes and sizes, just like our children.  As children grow, it will come to mean different things to them and they’ll have different questions. Approaching our everyday conversations about their everyday theology can be as simple as A, B, C and D.

Here are some final thoughts on peace to encourage you as you parent:

  • Silence is usually associated with peace, unless they are yours and are upstairs playing – then silence is suspicious…
  • Peace is only one drive-through away when your child doesn’t need a sippy cup because they have finally reached the magical age of drinking through a straw.
  • I could get a medal for world peace and not feel as accomplished as potty training a child.
  • Peace is that glorious moment in the morning when no one is conscious but me!
  • Of course my children experience peace – ​I’m the one up most of the night overthinking their lives for them…

Blessings to you and the precious children in your life.  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

What To Do About Mean Kids

I wanted to destroy her and she was only 7.

And yes, you know exactly what I am talking about if you have ever had a mean child hurt your own child in any way.  Don’t deny it – there lies a lion ready to pounce in each parent’s heart.

I had an idea I could become quite upset when another toddler took one of the small balls away from my little boy at a McDonald’s playroom.  I also didn’t like it when, during preschool, another child pushed my child down on the ground so they could get in line in front of them. But, my true inner lion came out one Spring day when my daughter was in second grade.

On this particular day at recess, one supposedly sweet little, pony-tailed girl decided she was now the Queen of All.  This cherub marched out to the slide, climbed the ladder to the top and loudly declared who would be allowed to play with her.  This wasn’t necessarily so bad until she followed her declaration by choosing one little girl, MY little girl, and while pointing her stubby finger, loudly proclaimed, “And you – you may not play with me”.  

On that day, a certain kind of social innocence was lost by all the little girls in the second grade as they realized Mean Girls weren’t just in High School. And me, I learned how to tame my Mother Lion instincts.  (Disclaimer:  no child was hurt in the first rendition or the retelling of this story, no matter what you might think)

Recognizing my first instincts were neither appropriate nor truly helpful, I devised a plan on how to help my daughter deal with Mean Girls, or Mean Kids.  (Note:  it worked great then, and it still works great today; it works with men, women, boys and girls, all ages and no matter where you find them – at your church, at another church, your job, your Facebook or for those who murmur behind your back) 

The “What To Do About Mean Kids” Lesson Plan

#1.  Don’t Pretend It Is Better Than It Is
Mean is just plain mean and it never feels good.  Don’t be the proverbial ostrich and put your head in the sand –  call it for what it is and admit how it feels. Telling yourself or your child that it didn’t hurt, what they said or did wasn’t that bad, or they should just have a “stiff upper lift” aren’t helpful comments.  What happened was wrong – period. And it hurts.

#2.  Everyone’s Human
Some people are mean most of the time; meanness defines them.  But, it is also true that everyone is mean at some time. No one gets a pass from never being mean.  So as we face the home truth that we ourselves can be mean, it helps to remember, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)  Judging someone else as all bad while we ourselves are not all good is hypocrisy and that doesn’t help the situation. The situation is bad enough, try not to make it even worse

#3.  Justice For All
Do not feel guilty for wanting the Mean Kid to get their just desserts.  God is a just God and being made in His image, we are people who desire and seek justice.  If something is wrong, we want to see it made right. A desire for the Mean Kid to be punished is healthy and your child wanting the other child to pay for their meanness is normal.  We may not get to decide what the consequences are, and nor should we seek revenge; but, do not brush justice under the rug.

#4.  Be Angry, but Don’t Sin
Anger is not a sin, but what we do with it and what its origin is can be sinful.  Eph. 4:26 says to be angry and do not sin. Watch your words; watch your actions. Don’t retaliate.  But at the same time, don’t believe that being angry against meanness is something that you need to change. Feeling anger over sinful actions of Mean Kids is not sin.

#5.  Check Out:  I’m Sorry
If the Mean Kid says, “I’m sorry” which they may be asked or forced to do, then you have to decide if they are sorry they got caught, if they are sorry there are consequences or if they are sorry that they have hurt someone.  Is it their actions which make them sorry or anything else that results in their apology? If the “I’m sorry” is sincere and the Mean Kid takes ownership of their actions and responsibility for their consequences, then we must forgive and allow for an opportunity for that repentance to be lived out.  True repentance is a change of heart resulting in a changed life. Grace gives opportunity for true repentance to show itself.
However, not every Mean Kid will be truly repentant.  They will say “I’m sorry” but not mean it.  We must ask, “What then?”

#6.  Be Friendly, but Not a Friend
Be careful about Mean Kids.  Even with an apology, be cautious as to how much trust you give them.  Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Wisdom means we allow time to show us what is true.  Forgiveness means someone is given the chance to make things right; yet –  forgiveness does not automatically include trust. Trust is believing in the reliability of someone or something.  The Mean Kid has shown themselves reliable in being mean. That is what you can trust. Until they show you that any words of contrition are true (this is your act of forgiveness), then be the wise person scripture urges you to be.  Forgive them, but don’t trust them. This can be lived out in the phrase, “Be friendly, but not a friend.”  Who I am is not determined by the actions of others.  I will remain kind, gentle, patient (fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22,23) – friendly.  But that does not mean that we are friends.  

What do we do about Mean Kids?  

  • See meanness for what it is
  • Keep perspective
  • Seek justice
  • Be angry and don’t sin
  • Receive an Apology
  • Don’t give trust away cheaply
  • Act godly to everyone (be friendly) – even to Mean Kids

Dear Reader, the world is full of Mean Kids.  How we handle these challenging situations can often show the world what it is to love Christ and to live by God’s word which gives us the wisdom we need to handle Mean Kids.  We practice this in our own lives and model it for the children who are watching us.

May we be able to be friendly to all, even the Mean Kids in our lives, while exercising wisdom.

Blessings to each of you, dear friends.  Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

How To Actually ENJOY Your Child This Summer

Summer Trivia for 1000:  In the 2013 Disney movie “Frozen”, Anna and Kristoff asked Olaf to show them where to find Elsa.  What reason did they give for needing to find her? (answer at end of blog post)

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This article is about summer and yet, she has started off talking about a singing Snowman from a winter movie! That’s confusing on the best day of the week, let alone today when we’re trying to figure out how to hit a home run and slide into summer.”

No worries, friends. I hear your pleas for clarity. If you remember the movie, you’ll remember that our friend, Olaf the snowman, loves summer. In fact, he breaks into a song about summer that lists some typical summer activities that are actually favorites of mine, maybe they are of yours as well (don’t peak if you like trivia quizzes; instead, how many can you list from Olaf’s song, “Summer”?):

  • blow the fuzz off dandelions
  • soak up the sun and get a tan
  • lay around in the sun and have a cold drink
  • enjoy the summer breeze that blows away a winter storm
  • play in the sand

But, are these activities the key to enjoying the summer with your kids?  If we come up with a “to do” list, is that what will make us all happy?

Maybe – I’m a fan of “to do” or “bucket” lists.  Especially if we try and get creative with some new ideas OR we relive the traditions of old that are tried and true.  Either works for me! But, I suggest, the activities are only as good as the people who are involved in them – and if you hate what you’re doing, it doesn’t fit your budget, or requires more time and energy than you really have, even the best laid picnic is better left for the army of ants.

So, how do you actually enjoy your kids this summer?  Think about your kids, think about yourself, and think about what brings your family joy. Your fun has to fit your family, or you risk “family fun failure”.

1. Think about your kids

No two kids are alike and so, no two kids are going to like the same thing.  Activities can’t be measured as a “one size fits all” event.

Take for example, our family trip to Walt Disney World when our kids were in their middle school years.  My daughter and I love to be the first one at the park and the last to leave, and throughout the day, we will see every character and ride every ride.  The men in our family, however, are a whole other story. They can only go so far until they must be done! So, after 2 days of park hopping, the third day became a “down day” and the guys stayed back at the hotel, while my daughter and I hit the park on our own.  Separation meant everyone got what they wanted and everyone had a great time! Keep these rules in mind when thinking about planning your summer events:

  • Know your child’s limits.  And if you have more than one child, consider each child’s limits.  Always be willing to adapt the activity to fit your child(ren); don’t try to force your child(ren) to always fit the activity.  
  • Know your child’s joy.  What makes your child(ren) smile?  Is it a quiet activity, a loud activity, high energy, or low energy; are there lots of other people around or will your family find some time alone?  All these unique characteristics should be considered for each member of the family.

2. Think about yourself

Parents are people too!  If the best activity for your child is a nightmare for you, then it’s a bad choice. A family activity needs to fit the whole family and that includes parents. Consider your resources of time, money, and energy and take into consideration what you can legitimately offer to the event.  You might have heard it said, “If mama (parents) ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy!”  Think about these things to assess your happiness quotient:

  • Know yourself.  Embrace your limits.  Know your personality.  Realistically, you are the adult; you need to adapt to the activity more than your child(ren) do.  The activity should be kid age-appropriate more than adult age-appropriate.  But, that does not mean you always have to “put up and shut up”.  Be a part of the plan!
  • Know your joy.  What makes you smile?  Is it a quiet activity, a loud activity, high energy or low energy; are there lots of other people around or will your family find some time alone?  All these unique characteristics should be considered for each member of the family – this includes you, o parent!

3. What brings your family joy

What is the purpose of fun?  It builds a memory.  It strengthens our family bonds.  It gives us a needed rest from our world of work.  And it brings us all a common joy!

King Solomon said, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (Eccl. 2:24).  Joy is an emotional experience that lets us know we are enjoying the blessings of God; we not only enJOY the activity, but we are grateful to the God who has given it to us and we are grateful for the people we are doing it with.  To have fun – truly enJOY the summer – keep these wise verses and one quote in mind:

  1. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:4)
  2. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Phil. 4:4)
  3. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1Thess. 5:18)

Quote by Olaf the Snowman, “Some people are worth melting for.”  Show your love and appreciation for your family this summer by willingly doing something they want to do, even if you don’t.  (Way to be wise, Olaf!)

Dear friends, it’s summer and it’s time to enjoy this amazing season God has created. To do this, consider everyone in your family, kids and adults alike, and then create opportunities for your family to play together.  No matter what you do – visit a museum, play a board game, go swimming and camping, or enjoy a day at the movies – remember to give thanks to God who gave the opportunity to you as well as enjoy and give thanks for the people you are doing it with. May all your summer days be sunny and bright and full of enjoyment for each member of your family.

Sunny Blessings coming to you!  Elizabeth

Answer to Olaf Question: Elsa needs to bring back summer!

Teachable Moments

Kids, Jesus, and Dr. Seuss

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”
― Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

When you tell a child a story, the more details you give them, the more the story comes alive.  Take the invincible Dr. Seuss and the incorrigible Cat in the Hat with the irrepressible Thing One and Thing Two.  Has making a mess ever been more entertaining or more terrifying? I suggest not!

“Oh, what will she do to us?
What will she say?
Oh, she will not like it
To find us this way!”
―Said by Fish, 
Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

Fish Fear – who hasn’t had “fish fear”?! It seems Fish Fear is our fear as who isn’t terrified with the idea that when Mom comes home, if she finds this mess, she will not like it – at all.  The sense of pervasive anxiety that riddles the poem brings the juxtaposition of ‘the laid-back, let’s-not-get-too-upset-for-long Cat in the Hat with the life-is-just-one-disaster-away Fish’ to life.  

In telling children bedtime stories like Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, the same influence of bringing fanciful narrative to life also works with the non-fiction, historical stories of the life of Jesus.  Scripture needs to be more than trivial pursuit, a collection of stories, or bullet points to obey. It is our responsibility to bring Scripture to life for our children, and I would suggest, especially Jesus!  Making Jesus real to our kids as well as engaging both their heart and mind are key to any child’s long-term spiritual formation.

Let’s look at the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-17).  If we explore this narrative, there are several details which can help bring this well-known event to life.  Remember, to help children be “in the moment” of the triumphal entry, we as adults need to do our study so we can pull out all the hidden treasures.  Here are my top 3 points that will help children engage with Jesus as He begins the week prior to his crucifixion:

  1. There’s a donkey!
    A domesticated member of the horse family, this working animal is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as well (1 Kings 1:33, Judges 10:4, 2 Samuel 16:2, and – what is quoted in the gospels for Jesus’ entry – Zechariah 9:9).  Donkeys are known to be peaceful animals overall as they are not easily startled and, coincidentally, peace is what donkey-riding represented for Middle Eastern world leaders who entered a city. You would ride a horse to battle, but a ruler would ride a donkey if they were coming in peace.  The donkey was not just a mode of transportation for Jesus, but truly embodied the idea that this King came in peace! And indeed, Jesus is “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
    Ask your children: What does it mean that Jesus is our “Prince of Peace”? Jesus brings peace between us and God. He did this as God who died in our place to pay for our sin and when we repent and place our faith in Him, He becomes our King and we are now children of His kingdom.

  2. People asked questions!
    Scripture says, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the WHOLE city was stirred and asked,“who is this?” (Matthew 21:10).  Can you imagine? An entire city whispering and murmuring and asking each other, “who is this?”.  What a buzz must have filled the air! Such curiosity, such excitement, such interest. It’s something to imagine, isn’t it?  What did that sound like and look like? But better yet, that same sense of “wanting to know Him” – does it fill our lives today?  Do I consistently ask, “who is this Jesus?
    Ask your children:  “Do you want to know Jesus?  Who He is? What is He like? Let’s explore and learn every day more about Him – He is infinitely amazing.  It will take more than a lifetime to know and love Him. Let’s not lose a moment!”  Make sure as you interact with your children about Jesus that it is not just facts and attributes that you discuss, but show your children your heart of fascination about Him.  Develop a sense of wonder that you can pass on to your children. Motivate and inspire them to want to get to know Jesus more. If I were to ask your children, “how does your Mom or your Dad feel about Jesus?”, what would they say?  And if I asked them, “are your parents curious to get to know Jesus more?”, would your children say that you are indeed a follower who pursues knowing Christ?

  3. Children were shouting!
    Jesus turned over tables, healed the blind and the lame and offended the religious leaders of the day.  What a day! And how did the children in the temple respond?  They saw the wonderful things He was doing and SHOUTED. They didn’t quietly nor with hesitation discuss their feelings; no – they SHOUTED their praise, recognizing Jesus for who He was, “Hosanna to the Son of David”.  Hosanna can be translated “Praise God” and some believe it refers to the salvation that Jesus would procure for the Kingdom He is ushering in. Hosanna has its roots in the Old Testament in which it can be translated “save” or “salvation”.  One thing is for sure, these temple children recognized the importance, the impact, and the influence that Jesus brought and they had no hesitancy to shout it out loud, even to the indignant acknowledgment of the chief priests and teachers of the law.  If Dr. Seuss’ Fish was fearful, these children are fearless!
    Ask your children:  “If you could shout one thing at the top of your lungs about Jesus, what would it be?  What would be the one thing you would want Him to know? What would be the one thing you would want others to know?  God is so great He is worthy to be shouted about, isn’t He?!”

Dear Reader, how exciting it is to know Jesus and to have this amazing opportunity to pass on our knowledge and our love for Jesus.  Let’s pass on a life-long curiosity and sense of wonder. Let’s help the next generation get caught up in the details and pursue discovering “who is this Jesus?”.

Blessings to you! Fondly yours, Elizabeth