Making the Most of Teachable Moments
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A trip to the zoo. A forgotten homework assignment. A gift for a homeless man. A trophy from a track meet. A lie to a parent. What do these situations have in common? They are among the myriad teachable moments that typically occur in the life of a family. Lessons about values and character sprout up continually throughout each day, and as we identify them, we can use them to teach our kids moral values. An astute mom recognizes that both pleasant situations and frustrating ones are of value when it comes to passing along a life lesson.
In the Psalms, we read David’s prayer: “Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.” We moms can pray a similar prayer: “Lord, help us recognize the opportunities You give us each day to teach our kids valuable lessons, so they will grow in character, integrity, and wisdom.” Teachable moments can be far more effective than simply sitting down and discussing the importance of kindness or giving to the poor.
How do you spot a teachable moment? First pray for God’s direction. Then begin looking at each encounter and experience as an opportunity for learning. Now don’t go around making a lesson out of everything you see and do. You don’t want your kids to roll their eyes and, with exasperation, say, “Not another lesson from Mom!” On the other hand you do want to light a fire for learning as you spark their interest and offer wise words or important life lessons. Here are five everyday occasions that offer a lesson waiting to be taught:
1. Going Places Together — Whenever we go somewhere together as a family—on vacation or to a local park, the zoo, a restaurant, the movies—there are opportunities for growth. Patience, self-sacrifice, an appreciation for God as our Creator, and contentment are just a few of the lessons to be learned on a family outing.
2. Mistakes — We grow and learn from the “oops” in life. Forgetting,
misjudging, or miscalculating can be frustrating and painful, but those times do offer lessons to be learned. We learn, first, that no one is perfect—not us nor anyone we are around. We also learn the importance of forgiveness toward others (because we need it ourselves), being careful, taking responsibility, and not rushing through a task. When your kids make a mistake, remind them that everyone makes mistakes. Help them see how they can do things differently next time. Most important, try to allow them to experience the natural consequences of their mistakes so they learn from them. From forgotten homework they learn responsibility. From a bad decision they learn to think more carefully next time. Each of us can grow wiser from the times we stumble and fall and pick ourselves up again.
3. People in Need — What do you do when you see someone holding out a hand begging for money or food? Do you pass by shaking your head, or do you use it as a teachable moment? You may want to buy some food for the person and even have a conversation. You can teach your kids loving-kindness when you reach out and care for another human being who is hurting. And it’s not just the homeless who have needs. A friend may have lost a loved one or experienced a personal struggle. Teach your children how to reach out in compassion to a hurting friend by first joining in prayer for that person and then by talking together as a family about how you can best meet the needs. Finally, allow your kids to participate in the help, thereby giving them hands-on experience in caring for others.
4. Wins and Losses — When our children don’t perform as well as they’d like and struggle with the pain (whether in sports, piano competition, or grades in school), we can make these teachable moments. First allow your children to grieve and cry over the loss, but eventually help them discover something they can learn from the situation. The lesson may be as basic as we will not win or come out on top in every situation in life. There may be lessons to learn about forgiveness, dealing with anger or jealousy, or creative ways to do things differently next time. Winning can present growth opportunities as well. Lessons about being gracious and thoughtful of the other contestants can evolve from OR be prompted by a win, as well as lessons in pride versus humility and in thanking God for the abilities and talents He has provided.
5. Discipline — It may seem like a negative setting for a teachable moment, but we can’t overlook the opportunity to teach and train our children whenever we must discipline them. When our child is caught in a lie or untruth, we have the occasion to teach the importance of honesty. When our kids disobey, we help them learn the responsibility of obedience not only through our punishment but also with our words. When a son or daughter speaks disrespectfully either to you or to another person, it is your chance to teach about respect and kindness. Don’t look at disciplining your child as a huge frustration OR pain-in-the-neck. Instead see it as an opportunity to help your child learn important life lessons.

Martin Luther said, “Family life is a school for character.” Consider every occasion in your family’s life together as a great occasion to teach your children values and character. And the more time you spend hanging out with your kids, the more you can take advantage of these moments. Never underestimate the power OR importance of the precious time you spend together and of the teaching opportunities that will emerge.

This is an excerpt from Bright Ideas for Busy Moms by Karol Ladd on sale on Amazon!

Motherhood Makes Us Beautiful
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I was headed down the road called It’s All About Me – that is until the title of “Mom” was added to my resume. When our first daughter Grace was born, my world began to change for the better. Oh don’t get me wrong, I was stretched beyond my limits, but it was a good stretch (and I’m not just talking about my belly).

 

Motherhood has taken me down roads I never thought I would travel. It’s the toughest job I ever loved. Through the joy of caring about another person’s life more than my own, I’ve learned to:

 

Love deeply

Pray fervently

Think creatively

Live flexibly

Discipline wisely

Speak kindly

And most important, give generously of my time, energy and love.

 

Yes, being a mom has made me a better person as I’ve traveled down the road of selflessness and joy. Through it all, I have recognized my need for God’s strength, wisdom and patience as I pour myself into raising the next generation. What about you? What have you learned as you traveled down the delightful and sometimes frightful road of Motherhood?

 

For more encouragement as a mom, check out The Power of a Positive Mom

 

Riding the Storms of Adolescent Hormones
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You thought you knew your child.  He or she was a respectful and caring sort of young person.  Life was going along on a fairly smooth road.  All of the sudden, out of the blue, your nice calm drive down Parenthood Lane is shaken by an enormously unpredictable rocky patch, full of hidden potholes.  Welcome to Adolescent Avenue, a place where the unseen reality of emerging hormones begins to rock your placid family’s world.  Sorry to say there is no detour around this rocky road, but through wise strategies and discerning shock absorbers, we can ride through these years without too many bumps along the way.

Please don’t dread these years.  There can be such joy during this time.  Often we only hear the bad side of the adolescent stage, but it is important for us as parents to recognize the good points as well.  Young people during these adolescent years can be thoughtful, energetic, concerned about right and wrong and feel things deeply.  They tend to be a little idealistic and emotionally sensitive.  Our goal as parents during this time should be to help nurture their good qualities and help them develop their gifts and talents, and also to help them steer away from negative behaviors.

This is an essential time for us to reassure our kids of our unconditional love for them.  We need to build their confidence during this period of time, helping them understand some of the physical and emotional changes they are going through.  Remember our adolescent child is on a rocky road too, sometimes not understanding why he acts the way he does.  As we recognize what is going on inside our kids, we are better able to respond to their words and behavior.

Each child handles the adolescent years a little differently.  Early adolescence occurs around ages 10 – 15, but some girls may show signs as early as 8 years old.   This is a time of change in our kid’s lives as they begin to develop patterns of thinking and behaving which may be with them for years even on into adulthood.  They begin to think a little more abstractly and start forming a moral code.

“Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents.  They’re starting to separate from Mom and Dad and to become more independent,” says Dr. Barbara P. Homeier.  “At the same time, kids this age are increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them and they’re desperately trying to fit in.”[i]

At times a young teen may feel his or her mind, body or mouth are out of control.  A young teen may experience a surge of anger over a seemingly simple suggestion or request.  Often they act in ways they didn’t intend to act, or say things they didn’t really mean to say in the heat of the moment.   Feelings of self doubt and inferiority reach an all time high, and they care immensely about what their peers think.  Dr. James Dobson tells parents, “An adolescent’s sense of worth as a human being hangs precariously on peer-group acceptance, which can be tough to garner. Thus, relatively minor evidences of rejection or ridicule are of major significance to those who already see themselves as fools and failures.[ii]

Pillow or Punishment

An adolescent’s anger and frustration may stem from a wide range of internal or external struggles.  They may be acting out their hurt over not having anyone to sit with at lunch, or they may be frustrated about their performance at football practice or perhaps they are upset from the embarrassment of being ridiculed by a classmate.  Their angry outbursts may not be a result of disobedience and they may not intend to be disrespectful.  Often they are hurting and need to be reassured they are loved unconditionally at the time.  This is our time as parents to be a pillow to them.   Our cushioned response to their prickly surface will help them through these difficult years, much more than a harsh, angry reaction.

It is certainly human for us to react unfavorably when someone is rough around the edges, angry or frustrated, especially if it seems like their emotions are directed toward us.  Our natural desire is to set them straight, cap off their anger and fix their problem.   What we really need to do is respond gently and allow them to work through their anger in a positive way, and discipline if necessary.  Don’t try to deny their feelings or tell them they shouldn’t feel that way, instead recognize they feel the way they do and listen to them and try to point them in a new direction.  There are times when they have done something embarrassing or make a mistake and they think their world will fall apart because of it.  They need to be warmly reassured, “Everyone makes mistakes.  Forgive yourself and move forward.”

Your son or daughter may not feel like talking, but some questions may open them up such as, “Can you tell me something that happened today that is making you feel this way?” or  “Tell me one good thing and one awful thing about school today.”  Gently ask, gently listen and gently point, with no expectation of how they will respond.  That’s what being a pillow looks like as a mom.

What do you point them to?  Begin with activities or interests they enjoy or can experience relaxation or some degree of success.  Whenever you can put them in a confidence-building situation do it.  Pointing them toward something positive helps them work through the pain or frustration they may be feeling.  Consider:

Music, playing an instrument or singing

Journaling or drawing or painting

Favorite Sports (shoot hoops, throw football or baseball)

Woodworking, baking, scrap-booking

Reading, going to library or bookstore

Walking, running, hiking or biking

Animals (horses, pets, etc)

Rest

 

Notice I didn’t say television, shopping, eating or video games.  We want our kids to find positive productive outlets for their anger and not form unhealthy habits in dealing with pain or hurts.  They will begin feeling better about themselves if they are doing something creative or energizing.  The best dose of medicine for both adults and teens is to reach out and help another person who needs help, whether it is a friend, or family member or kids in the local Special Olympics.  Now I know those opportunities are not always readily available, but they do offer your teen an opportunity to step outside their own problems and see the bigger world around them. We’ll talk more about reaching out in compassion in chapter 15.

Being a pillow to our kid’s emotions doesn’t mean we are a punching bag allowing them to walk all over us in disrespect.  No, in fact it is our responsibility to help them learn and discern the difference between appropriate and inappropriate ways to express anger and this lesson begins as they learn how to treat us.  Being a pillow means we respond rather than react to their somewhat irrational behavior, but when they cross the line of disrespect we must have clear consequences.  Don’t be unreasonable, but decide as parents what those lines of respect should be for your family.

You may want to consider Household Rules of Respect such as:  No degrading or demeaning words to any family member.  No curse words.  No slamming of doors or objects.  If voices are raised they are sent to their room until they can return calmly and state their case in a softer tone.  Make sure your rules and discipline are clear, so they are not shocked or surprised by the punishment.  In general, try to keep the rules for your teen to a minimum, so you don’t have to tell them “No” all the time and exasperate your kids in the process.

Recognize right now they are probably not going to respond with a happy attitude to your rules or discipline.  As long as your daughter or son is not disrespectful or violent with their response, just let the pout-y attitude pass.  As pillows we must learn to grow slightly callous to their reactions, knowing that what we are seeing on the surface is really reflecting the turmoil on the inside.  Our understanding will help settle them whereas a rigid and demanding reaction will deepen their lack of confidence and fuel their anger.

 

More on adolescence next week.

This is an excerpt from my book Defuse, A Mom’s Survival Guide to More Love Less Anger  


[i] Barbara P. Homeier, MD.  http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/growing/adolescence.html

[ii] Dr. James Dobson, Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide, (Wheaton, IL; Tyndale House, 2000) p.213.

Inspiring Kids to Love God
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You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.

—Deuteronomy 6:5

What is the most important life lesson we can teach our kids? Maybe you are thinking kindness, forgiveness or compassion toward others. One could also argue that obedience and respect are paramount to becoming a wise and mature adult. Yes, all of these are important qualities we must teach our kids as they grow and mature. But what is the one thing we don’t want to miss? The lesson above all lessons?
God told the Israelites the most important message to teach their kids—and thousands of years later, it’s still the most important lesson.

No, I’m not referring to the Ten Commandments, although we do want to teach those to our kids. I’m referring the Great Commandment. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4–5 NKJV). Jesus reiterated this in the New Testament when a lawyer asked Him which was the greatest commandment. Jesus answered, “The first of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29–31 NKJV).

Isn’t it interesting that in a culture where we parents are so busy making sure our kids are on the best soccer teams or in the best schools and learn gymnastics at age three or start art lessons at five, we often overlook the most important lesson of all? God told the Israelite parents it was their job to teach their children to love God. Interestingly, He begins by implying this great truth must be a part of their own lives. God said, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6–7 NKJV).

Practical Ways to Build a Love for God

God is serious about parents teaching their kids to love Him. The passage says we must teach them diligently, so we need to be intentional about teaching our kids to love God. It shouldn’t be a haphazard whim, nor should this instruction be solely left up to the church or Christian school. First and foremost, it is our job as parents. We must look for those teachable moments at the dinner table, when we are going to the store, while we are sitting down to read, or when we tuck our children in bed at night.
How do we build a love for God in our family? The answer is actually quite simple: by teaching our kids who God is. What are His attributes? What does God say about Himself? We find the answers in the Bible. You can begin reading Bible stories to your kids at an early age. There are many children’s Bibles available at Christian bookstores or online retailers. Some of my favorites include the Beginners Bible, My First Study Bible, and the Day by Day Kids Bible.1

As your kids grow older, encourage them to begin reading the Bible on their own. Ask them to accompany you to the bookstore, and include them in the process of selecting their own Bible. There are many teen Bibles on the market today. Talk to your kids about what you are learning about God in your own Bible reading. Allow your kids to see you reading God’s Word and know your love for His Word. Discuss the Bible and God’s attributes at the dinner table and share tidbits with them throughout the day. One of my favorite devotionals to do with the family at the dinner table is Sticky Situations by Betsy Schmitt.2
When we recognize who God is and His love for us, we can’t help but love Him in return. He is the sovereign and holy God, Creator of all things. He is merciful, gracious, and kind. He is the Good Shepherd who tenderly cares for His sheep. I am continually amazed to think that the King of kings and Lord of lords hears my prayers and cares about me. The Bible teaches me how wonderful He is. When we saturate ourselves with the truth about God’s goodness and love, it can’t help but overflow from our actions and words and pour into our children’s lives.

Join me next week as we will talk about teaching our kids to pray.

This is an excerpt from Karol’s book, Defuse: A Mom’s Survival Guide to More Love Less Anger

Simple Spring Ideas for Family Fun
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Spring is a time of new beginnings. The freshness of the season and the celebration of our risen Lord offer wonderful reasons to enjoy this season.

Spring Activities:
Decorate Flower Pots – Purchase several inexpensive clay pots. Place the pots on news paper and spray paint them or hand paint them. Once they dry you can add rickrack, stickers, trim and/or glitter. You can write a Bible verse or a poem on them with sharpie pens.
Pleasant Planting – Visit the local nursery and allow each child to have a designated amount they can spend on a plant. Give them 20 minutes to find the one they want. Younger ones will need your assistance, while older ones can read up or inquire about the care involved with the plant. Take the purchases home and work together to plant them either in the ground or in their newly decorated pots. Teach the kids responsibility in taking care of the plant and watering it regularly.
Kite adventures – Go for a kite flying adventure and be sure to take the camera. It’s more fun with the whole family! After you enjoy flying kites, return home to create a colorful construction paper kite. You may even want to put a picture of your kite flying adventure on your newly constructed craft kite. Top off the day by watching Mary Poppins.
Clouds – Take a bed roll and pillows outside and lay down and look up. Watch the clouds and point out figures and pictures that you see in them. After a while you may want to come inside and make a cloud picture using blue construction paper, white chalk or cotton balls and glue.

Spring Recipes:
Easter Morning Rolls
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups softened vanilla ice cream (softened)
Lightly stir ingredients together until just moistened. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Fill ¾ full. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes. Yields 16 -20 muffins. We use these muffins as an Easter tradition at our home and talk about how the rolls symbolically represent Christ, the bread of life. The muffins have two ingredients just as Christ is made up of both God and man. The white color represents his purity, and the flour is self-rising (which represents our Easter celebration of Christ rising from the dead).

Flower Face Sandwiches
Bread
Favorite sandwich ingredients
Flower shaped cookie cutters
Celery or Zucchini strips
Spanish olives (stuffed with pimento)
Small tomatoes or carrots
Make several of your favorite sandwiches then cut them into floral shapes using your cookie cutter. Add veggie strips to be the stalks of the flowers. Create a face on the sandwich using sliced olives, tomatoes and/or carrots.

Ice Cream flower pots
4 – 6 Small Clay flower pots (thoroughly washed)
1 gallon Vanilla or Chocolate Ice Cream
2 cups Chocolate cookie crumbs
Gummy Worms (optional)
4 – 6 Plastic flowers
Soften ice cream. Line bottom of pots with wax paper or foil. Pour softened ice cream into pots (adding gummy worms if desired). Cover top of ice cream with cookie crumbs. Stick one plastic flower in the top of each pot. Place ice cream flower pots in freezer for several hours.

This is an excerpt from Karol’s Book A Positive Plan for More Fun, Less Whining. On sale now! Click the image below:

Positive Mom Book: