As we continued our 8-week video series from "Parenting by Design" by Chris and Michelle Groff and Lee Long and Mark Foster, we looked at Week 2 of the study this week. Week 2 identifies the "three E's of parenting: age-appropriate (and maturity-appropriate) experiences, our parental example, and lovingly leading our children on an exploration of the motivations driving their behavior.
I saw evidence in today's lesson that the authors of this program have not only consulted the ultimate guide to parental design, God's Holy Word, but they have also referenced some of the foundational paradigms of education as well. For example, in today's discussion, Chris Groff talked about early brain research in which the brain was dissected, making it difficult, if not impossible for research to be conducted on a living subject. However, in the past two decades, improved imaging capability has made it possible for researchers to study the brain while it is in action in a living subject. This commentary on the advances in brain research likely came from the early chapters of a book by Eric Jensen, Teaching With the Brain in Mind. During his discussion on leading explorative activities with our children, he mentioned the importance of listening to your child and repeating without emotion the child's comments. This practice is a mainstay of a discipline management strategy known as "Reality Therapy" espoused by Dr. William Glasser.
A worthy goal for our parenting is to have our kids move from dependence on us as parents to reliance on God. Our job as parents is to help kids move in that direction. Since it is "camp" time in many of our households, we took an informal survey this morning to determine the differences in parental control over our children's preparation for camp. Some parents reported that their kids were ready to pack their own bags and they allowed them to do so. Others were not comfortable with allowing their kids to pack their own bags. This is just one example of our willingness to allow our kids opportunities to experience independence. Remember, the experiences should be age-appropriate as well as maturity-appropriate. Otherwise, the learning opportunity will be wasted. For some kids, allowing them to pack their own bags for a week at camp would be a disaster. For others, it is a learrning opportunity. As parents, we are charged with the responsibility to determining the right time and the right experiences for our children. Decision-making and problem-solving are skills that are learned through practice. Like any skill, our kids need opportunities to master them.
NEWS FLASH: As I am writing this blog on Sunday afternoon, I have received a phone call from my youngest daughter informing me that she is stranded on Highway 21 on this side of Caldwell with a flat tire as she heads home. One side of me suggests that she is only 30 minutes away and that I should go handle this situation for her. However, the other side says to let her deal with this situation....it will be a great learning experience. She has AAA coverage and it is just a matter of making the call, showing her card (assuming she can find her card), and giving the technician time to find her location and mount the spare tire (also assuming that the spare is not flat). One side of me says, "Run to her aid." The other side says, "Let her handle this situation. Afterall, she is 25 years old." I share this with you as an example that these feelings of the need to control do not necessarily disappear even after your children "grow up." Of course, it IS HOT out there today...maybe I will let her take care of this--what a great learning experience.
Chris Groff asked us to view our children as "little scientists" running around conducting experiements as they grow. Certainly, there will be some mistakes. Some of these mistakes may even be painful. Yet, we must uderstand and accept that mistakes are part of the learning process. These mistakes can also be the basis for new growth and maturity. I appreciated the example shared by Kathleen and Bill Gutierrez this morning as they shared a story about their son and his involvement in scouting. It seems that Bill knew that his son would need certain materials (notebook, pen, etc.) in the meetings and that he also knew the start time of the meetings. However, he allowed his son to attend the meetings without the appropriate materials and even allowed him to go to meetings thirty minutes late in order to learn the consequences of failing to meet these expectations and to grow in his capacity to take care of himself and to act responsibly. Kathleen found out about the "experiment" and was not pleased that they were allowing their son to fail in these areas. However, as a result of his experience, their son has become responsible, bringing his own materials to meetings and scheduling the meetings in a timely manner. A hard lesson to learn? Possibly, but it was learned under the watchful parameters of a Mom and Dad who desperately wanted their son to learn responsible behavior. Years from now, they will be glad they allowed this to happen in order to teach a valuable lesson to their son.
James 1: 2-4 says: "Consider it all joy, my brethern, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."
The four essential ingredients of experience that encourage growth and maturity in children:
1. Kids should have age-appropriate problems to solve.
2. They should be allowed to try to solve these problems on their own.
3. They should be allowed to learn from the consequences of their problem-solving efforts, successful or not.
4. They should be given just the amount of support they need to solve the problem for themselves. In other words, it is healthy to struggle a little. If we take the problem from them, they learn very little.
The Bible tells us that trials develop perseverance, wisdom and dependence on God. When we recognize the eternal value of struggles, it helps us to walk alongside our kids with empathy and let them experience the consequences of their choices. Children who have opportunities to solve problems are more likely to develop responsibility, respect, resourcefulness and an understanding of the spiritual power available to them.
Chris and Michelle also discuss the values of chores around the house. According to the Groffs, chores teach teamwork, time management, resource management, and all kinds of other skills kids will need when they leave home. Kids also get a sense of accomplishment and value as they learn and use new skills. Is it possible that we are shirking our responsibility as parents when we don't give our kids these opportunities to contribute?
Here are some Proverbs cited in the workbook that relate to chores:
Proverbs 13:4 "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied."
Proverbs 18:9 "One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys."
Proverbs 21:25 "The sluggard's craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing."
The second E in our lesson stands for example. The way you live your life is influencing your kids. They are watching everything you do. As a result, you must model the qualities you want to see in your children. I like this quote from C.H. Spurgeon that was included in the workbook: "If we walk before the Lord with integrity, we shall do more to bless our descendants than if we bequeathed them large estates." Teaching the Word is important, but living the Word is more important.
James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Groff states, "You are your kids' first curriculum on the characteristics of a 'father'. Consequently, your example will influence how they perceive their heavenly father." WOW. What a responsibility! Here are some ways to be a positive model for your kids:
1. Model humility
2. Facing and solving problems
3. Giving and receiving empathy
4. Learning from consequences
The third E stands for exploration. In the Bible, God often asks questions to encourage His people to explore their hearts. Jesus wanted people to respond to God in ways that go beyond mere obedience. Isn't this what we want for our children?
Some Biblical examples of exploration are:
After Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit, God asks Adam, "Where are you?" (Gen. 3:9) and "Who told you that you were naked?" Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Gen. 3:11). Clearly, God knew the answers to these questions. He was not asking for His sake, but rather to cause Adam and Eve to explore themselves and their motivations.
In 1 Kings 1:5-6, "Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, "I will be king." So he prepared himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him. His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, "Why have you done so?" David is criticized for not asking his fourth son, Adonijah, thought provoking questions about his behavior.
This week, give your kids more age-appropriate choices/experiences and allow them to experience the consequences of their choices. If the chance arises, try exploration with empathy.
NEXT WEEK: Parental Authority
Welcome to Jason and Sumar Ballard who visited with us today. The Ballards have three children, Amy (12), Tristan (9), and Halle (7).