Monday, January 16, 2017

Confident Children

Parents who are concerned about their children’s progress at each stage of their development, as nearly all parents are, need to realize what an important role a child’s self-image plays toward that end. Children with positive feelings about themselves, who believe they can succeed, are far more likely to.
Children make their first judgments about themselves and their abilities in the context of their home. Parents can find opportunities every day to develop their children’s self-confidence, which in the long run will help them grow into well-adjusted, well-rounded adults.
Problem solving
Parents are often amazed to discover how capable and resourceful their children are in solving their own problems, with a little guidance. All children encounter problems; that is a necessary part of growing up. It is through dealing with such challenges that they learn problem-solving skills that are essential for success in life. It takes time and patience to help children learn to solve their own problems, but it is a wise investment that will pay big dividends when the children get older, their problems become more complex, and the stakes are higher.
One tendency of parents is to be too quick to fix the problem or provide the answer. That may meet the immediate need, but it hinders the learning process. It’s like the saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. Teaching problem-solving is more important and more beneficial in the long run than providing solutions. Helping children work through their problems also shows that you have faith in them, which boosts their confidence and self-esteem.
This is how God works with us. He could solve all of our problems with a snap of His fingers, but instead He usually expects us to reason things through, consider our options, and do what we can before He will step in and do what we can’t. He involves us in working out the solution and brings us along step by step, not to make life more difficult but to help us grow from the experience.
Insecurity issues
No matter how much parents love their children and try to meet their needs, situations will come up that cause the children to feel insecure, and insecurity is often reflected in behavioral problems.
Bad behavior needs to be corrected, but unless the parent understands what prompted it, the correction may hinder more than help. Was the misbehavior the result of natural childish experimentation—a bad idea that seemed good or fun at the time? Or was it the result of insecurity—trying to fit in, impress, or win new friends after moving to a new neighborhood or changing schools, for example? Bad behavior is only a symptom, so correction alone is like lopping off the top of a weed; it will soon be back. Parents need to identify and go to work on the root of the problem, the underlying cause.
Depending on the age and maturity level of the child, try to help the child come to his or her own conclusions by approaching it from the problem-solving angle. That may not be easy in the heat of the moment, but remember, the goal is to correct the problem, not to punish the child. By making a clear distinction between the problem and the child and then involving the child in turning the problem situation into a learning situation, it is possible to build rather than undermine self-esteem, even in what might otherwise seem like an impossibly negative situation.
Not all children misbehave when they feel insecure; some become withdrawn or underachieve. But however the insecurity is manifested, the first step in rectifying the problem is to recognize it, and the second step is to go to work on the cause from a positive angle.
Cultivate mutual respect
Mutual respect strengthens the bond of love in a parent-child relationship. It also engenders unity, obedience, and appreciation.
Respect within a family is manifested through consideration, understanding, thoughtfulness, a willingness to listen, and loving communication. And it works both ways; if you want your children to show you respect, show them respect.
Children learn by observation and imitate what they see. If lack of respect is the problem, it probably started with the child’s parents, peers, or other influences such as TV, movies, or computer games. Minimizing such negative influences is half the battle; setting clear guidelines as to what’s expected and then consistently upholding that standard is the other.
Ways that you can show your children respect include:
* Treating each child as an individual
* Being sensitive to their feelings; putting yourself in their position
* Not belittling them or using sarcasm when they falter
* Not intentionally embarrassing them
* Asking and suggesting, rather than giving commands
* Paying attention when they speak and hearing them out; not being too quick to provide your perspective
* Treating them as though they were slightly more mature than they actually are
* Giving their ideas serious consideration; thinking in terms of how you can help their ideas to work
Avoid misunderstandings
Sometimes it seems that children choose the worst possible times to misbehave, and sometimes it is not so much actual misbehavior as it is annoying behavior. When parents are under pressure, are preoccupied with other work or other thoughts, aren’t feeling well, or are simply not in a good mood, that’s bound to affect the way they interact with their children. Some things that are normally allowed or overlooked—a certain level of noise or rambunctiousness, for example—push the parent over the edge, resulting in harsh words, more severe punishment than the offense actually warrants, or “the look” that sends the message “You’re in trouble” but leaves the child confused.
Children usually don’t see the big picture, so when a parent’s frustrations boil over like that, they often assume more of the blame than they actually deserve, which can lead to even more damaging conclusions—“Mommy wishes I wasn’t here,” “Daddy doesn’t love me,” “I’m no good.”
Avoid such confidence-shattering misunderstandings by catching yourself short of the boiling point and putting the questionable behavior in context. “I would love to hear you sing that song again, but right now I need to concentrate on driving.” “I have a headache, so I’m going to have to ask you to not do that right now.” And if you don’t catch yourself in time, an after-the-fact explanation and apology will set the record straight. By giving the child an opportunity to be part of the solution to your problem, you will have turned a potentially damaging situation into a positive one.
Positive reinforcement
Praise is a superior motivator. Children thrive on praise. It’s more important and more beneficial to praise a child for good behavior than it is to scold for bad behavior.
There are times when admonitions and correction are needed, but by learning to preempt problem situations with praise and other positive reinforcement, you will build self-esteem in your children and find yourself less discouraged, exhausted, and frustrated at the end of the day. It’s a win-win parenting strategy.
The more you focus on the positive, the more things you will find to praise your child for and the less you will have to deal with bad behavior. Praise encourages actions that warrant more praise.
Be consistent, be sincere, and be creative—but be believable. For example, if the child tries to do something new with disastrous results, commend the effort, not the outcome. Or if the ill-fated attempt was meant to be a surprise for you, commend the thoughtfulness. Always accentuate the positive, and make the good memorable.
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Exodus 20:12 ESV / “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Romans 13:2 ESV / Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Real Fathers

Every child needs a father or father figure. Especially as he grows older, he needs a father even more than a mother. A father comes into the picture in a big way during adolescence, when the child needs discipline and strength more than ever. Fathers are usually the disciplinarian of the family, whereas mothers are inclined to be a lot more easygoing and lenient, especially if they have to handle the job alone.
A man can start being a good father by taking good care of the mother, even before the child is born. Then he needs to learn to help her with the baby. He needs to realize how taxing it is for her, and he should share the load as much as possible.
Childrearing is not always easy or fun, but if you have real love for each other and the child, you will do whatever is needed. It also becomes easier when you remind yourself what an amazing thing has happened: God has created a new immortal soul and placed him or her in your hands. With His help it is now your responsibility to see that child through this world.
I loved being a parent, and I spent hours at it every day. I fixed bottles during the night when my children were babies, and I fixed them breakfast when they got older. I taught them how to eat and how to dress themselves—all kinds of things. I got a lot of satisfaction out of it and a lot of reward.
I tried to spend at least an hour or two with my kids every day. I started reading them Bible stories as soon as they could understand speech. Of course when they were very small they couldn’t follow all of it, so the youngest usually dropped off to sleep first. I’d read from the King James Version and translate it into the Daddy Version, explaining almost every phrase. Then I’d act it out, and they were just fascinated.
Someday you’re going to be thankful that you had a part in those children’s care and training. You will have helped form another human being. That’s thrilling!
Are you equal to the task? No, but God is, and He will help you if you try!
A Parent’s Prayer
May we so live that all our children will be able to acquire our best virtues and to leave behind our worst failings. May we pass on the light of courage and compassion, and the questing spirit; and may that light burn more brightly in these our children than it has in us.—Robert Marshall
Ephesians 6:4 ESV / Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 ESV / Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Malachi 4:6 ESV / And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Saturday, January 14, 2017

God in Skin

I read once that a good father prepares us for our relationship with our heavenly Father, God.
My father may not realize it, but one thing that shaped my life was a conversation he and I had sitting on a hill overlooking our home the summer I was 18. He probably doesn’t even remember it—so simple and yet so typical of him and his wise and loving way of advising without overtly giving advice.
We talked about everything that day, and I found myself telling him about a boyfriend, the problems we’d encountered, and what our friendship might lead to. I don’t remember how I explained it all, but I do remember how awkward I felt. After I’d gotten it all out, I looked at him and asked plaintively, “What do I do now, Daddy? Tell me what to do.”
“That is a tough decision,” he began, “but you’re 18. You’re an adult now. I’m not going to tell you what to do, because you already know what you should do.”
I looked at him blankly. No, I wasn’t an adult yet—or at least I didn’t feel like one. I was only 18, and I didn’t have a clue. Wait a minute—yes, I did. In that situation I knew exactly what I should do. Not that I wanted to do it, but I knew. And I ended up doing the right thing largely because Dad believed that I would, that I had the capacity to.
Not every decision that I’ve made from that point on has been the right one, but that conversation helped me onto the path to independence and got me believing that I could succeed at life. Knowing that someone believed in me helped me later when even harder decisions came my way.
Dad has always made it clear that he not only believes in me, but he loves me unconditionally. No matter what choices I make, I will always be his daughter and will always have his love. Of all the gifts I have ever received from him, I am most grateful for that assurance.
It took me awhile, but eventually I realized that my father’s love and trust mirrors God’s.
God teaches us to walk and then lets us run on our own, believing we can succeed but always being there for us when we fall or need help. “You are a special person,” He tells us, “who can do something wonderful for Me and others.” And when we mess up, as we often do, He whispers, “Whatever you do, I will always love you,” and He helps us do better.
Thanks, Dad, for the gift of God’s love in flesh and bones!
1 John 4:8 ESV / Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Romans 8:37-39 ESV / No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 3:16 ESV / “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Friday, January 13, 2017

My Father’s Influence

Growing up, the last thing I expected to become was an editor. For starters, I was a miserable student—“miserable” in both senses of the word. From almost the first day of first grade, I struggled to keep up with the class, and language was never one of my better subjects—at least not until tenth grade. The difference-maker then was my dad.
He had been an Army war correspondent during WWII and then a newspaper reporter for several years. He had changed careers in order to better support his growing family, but journalism was in his bones. When he offered to type one of my handwritten tenth grade papers and saw how utterly clueless I was about writing, he clicked into gear. And when he explained what needed fixing and why, things started clicking for me.
Over the next couple of years my English grades improved, which gave my sagging self-confidence a boost, which helped me pull up my grades in other subjects. It would be another 25 years before I tried to do anything more with what Dad had taught me, but when I did, much to my surprise, I discovered that his passion for pushing words around a page had been contagious. So here I am, thanks in large part to my dad, doing what I now love to do, as part of a close and talented team, for a God I love and a publication I believe in. Who could ask for more?
That’s my story and that’s my dad. The two seem inseparable now, and I think that’s the way God means for it to be. Good fathers help make us who we are. They are one of His special gifts, and fatherhood is one of His special callings. The more I think about that, the more I wonder why we waited so long to do this, our first issue in tribute to fathers.
1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV / Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
1 Peter 3:16 ESV / Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
Galatians 5:7-9 ESV / You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

At Midlife, Is This As Good As It Gets?

God wants to equip you to meet these new challenges.
Question: I thought that after my children were grown and gone I would finally have time to do some things I’ve always wanted to do, but now I find that I’m worn out by the end of the day and tired when the weekend comes around. Is it all downhill from here?
Answer: Midlife requires some adjustments, but no, it’s not all downhill. The decline in physical stamina is natural and part of God’s plan. He uses these and other challenges of midlife to slow us down and get us to take stock of our lives and our priorities. He’s hoping, of course, that we will turn to Him in the process so He can be the ever-present help He wants to be.
As at every other stage, God wants to equip you to meet these new challenges. He promises, “As your days, so shall your strength be.” The strength He provides at midlife is the maturity that you have gained through experience. He wants you to further develop that strength of spirit and character, and you do that by involving Him more in your thoughts and daily activities. As for goals and priorities, He will help you sort those out too. If you will look to Him for guidance, He will give it to you. He may even help you find ways to do some of those things you’ve always wanted to do, and strengthen you accordingly.
If you aren’t in the habit of taking your problems to Him in prayer and receiving His solutions and strength in return, you may feel like you don’t know where to start, but it’s really quite simple: Tell God you’re making room for Him, and He will meet you there. Talk with Him, as you would with a friend. Then, like a muscle, your relationship with Him will grow stronger through daily use.
Midlife done that way can be the happiest and most fulfilling stage of life that you have yet experienced!
Psalm 46:1 (ESV) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
James 1:5 (ESV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Smiling at a Tree

Eighty-two-year-old Eloise sits in her nursing home room with Stage Six Alzheimer’s. She remembers her name but frequently doesn’t recognize her granddaughter. She is sweet and kind to all the nurses and has a special impact on them, although they appear in her room every morning as strangers. It is easy for them to be patient with Eloise; other Alzheimer’s patients sometimes act stubborn and cantankerous. In spite of losing her memory and spending most of her time alone, she is happy because she looks out her window and sees a tree.
Until a few years ago, Eloise was an accomplished landscape artist, and one of her specialties was painting trees. Once she had an extraordinary gift; now she is handed a crayon and draws lines like a two-year-old—lines that possibly represent tree trunks and branches.
I share her appreciation of trees. Growing up on a farm in upstate New York, I spent a good deal of time climbing trees and wandering among them, admiring God’s artistry. In the pasture across the road from our home, there was one especially majestic tree. One day my father explained that its symmetry was a mirror image of its underground root system. If there had been an impediment to the development of the roots, it would have been reflected in the part of the tree that was visible above the ground. The tree was beautiful because it had a well-functioning root system.
I have often thought about how trees parallel our lives. We go through cycles much like the seasons—bright new beginnings, like springtime’s pale green buds; flourishing times, like summer’s lush and gorgeous trees; resplendent times, like autumn trees flamboyant with color; and bleak times, like the stark beauty of branches shrouded by winter’s snow, which will eventually give way to spring and new life again.
We too need an invisible system of roots in the spiritual realm. Our connection with God is what feeds us and helps us to bear fruit in our lives. He nurtures us while we’re green and growing and fruitful, helps us yield to the loss of our leaves in the fall, and keeps us alive within through seemingly endless winters, so we’ll bring forth the miracle of new buds in the spring. When our spirits are firmly rooted in God and we are nourished by His Word, it shows in the branches of our lives.
I can understand why Eloise seems content to sit and smile at her tree as she waits for the eternal spring—heaven. She has lived a full, rich, loving, fruitful life, firmly connected to God through her personal relationship with Jesus, so even as her memories fade and her communication skills fail, her deeply rooted love and faith sustain her.
2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV / So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
Psalm 71:18 ESV / So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Psalm 71:9 ESV / Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

She Goes with Grace

While going through my mother’s personal belongings after she died, I found a bookmark that has meant a lot to me since. On it is a picture of an elderly Native American woman in a long flowing dress. There are mountains in the distance, and the moon is high in the sky above them. The woman’s eyes are closed. Below the picture are the words, “She goes with grace.”
I had heard or read a few accounts of how God has given people “dying grace” at the moment of their passing, or similar grace to others who have lost loved ones. I found this so true in my dear mother’s passing—that the Lord’s grace was more than sufficient. In answer to my prayers He even put His special touches of love upon what would normally have been a very difficult experience.
It reminded me of the answer the evangelist Dwight L. Moody gave two women who asked him if he had dying grace. “No,” he answered, “I’m not dying yet.” God gives that special grace at the moment it’s needed, not before.
My mother and grandmother were both Quakers, and I was raised a Quaker with loving values. My mother lived these values throughout her life, and it was largely her example of freely giving of herself for others that influenced me as a young woman to dedicate my life to full-time Christian service—a decision I have never regretted.
I had planned to make a trans-Atlantic trip to be with her for a scheduled joint-replacement surgery and to help during her recovery, but three weeks before my travel date my sister phoned to let me know that our mother had been hospitalized and knew she was not going to recover. I caught the next available flight and was at her side twelve hours later.
My sister, brother, and I gathered around our mother’s hospital bed, spending her last hours reminiscing about our happy family life and talking about how much she meant to us. Though my mother was heavily sedated, she was very much with us in spirit. It was a precious, bonding experience for the three of us siblings, which now strengthens our ties.
My mother didn’t fear death and was very thankful for the life she had lived, for she had lived it to the full.
At one point I whispered to her my deep appreciation for the unconditional love and moral support she had always given me, despite the fact that my chosen vocation had meant that she wasn’t able to see me or my two children very often, and now her three great-grandchildren were growing up on foreign fields of service as well. After I had thanked her, I asked if she would continue to help me from the “other side,” to which she nodded yes.
Just a few minutes before her passing, she opened her eyes and looked across the room toward the ceiling. I was sitting on the side of her bed, holding her hand, but she looked right past me. I leaned over to be in her line of sight, but it was as though she was looking right through me. That’s when I realized that she was seeing someone or something that the rest of us couldn’t see. I asked her who or what she was seeing, but she couldn’t answer. Instead, she closed her eyes, a peaceful expression came across her face, and she was gone.
I miss her, of course, but I’m very thankful that she passed on so peacefully and painlessly. The Lord gave me the grace to say goodbye to one of the dearest people in my life, until we are together again forever.
Death for a Christian is not really death at all. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.
Romans 10:17 ESV / So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
James 2:19 ESV / You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
Hebrews 11:6 ESV / And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.