Young Children: Learning Wisdom

28 01 2016

Younger kids are learning how they fit into the world.

-Jeff Land

Do to others what you would want them to do to you.

-Luke 6:31

Children at this age are exploring everything! They see, touch, run and jump. They test boundaries and make connections. They discover their unique place. Show them how to treat others. Explain to them that others like to be treated in a similar way they want to be treated. Encourage them to make decisions that benefit themselves and others.

Helping children make wise decisions is a critical goal for this phase of life.

Consider these ideas for helping young children make great choices:

  • show them how to jump, hop, throw or catch in a way that is pleasing to others and not painful
  • draw with them
  • dream up fantastic stories and join in their make believe games
  • use characters and stories to illustrate wise or unwise choices
  • imagine out loud how another child may feel in specific moments to teach empathy
  • don’t simply say what is wrong, but give positive and constructive alternatives
  • use repetition when teaching phrases to be remembered
  • be clear with appropriate boundaries and consequences
  • demonstrate cause and effect relationships (ie. lying hurts friendship and fun)
  • use words they understand and explain words they don’t know as visually as possible
  • laugh…a lot
  • attach words to describe how their actions affect others
  • allow separation during emotionally heated moments, then come back later to review and make sense of the situation
  • show the difference between preferences and moral absolutes
  • fists can hurt, but so can unkind words
  • model deep breaths and prayer in difficult situations
  • model, model, model (ie. forgiveness, thoughtfulness, mercy, kind responses, etc. will be mimicked by these young children)
  • be cautious of shaming children into “right” choices
  • celebrate great choices

Lord, help me guide them well.





Infancy: Building a Strong Foundation

19 01 2016

Experience plays a crucial role in “wiring” a young child’s brain.

-Judith Graham, Leslie A. Forstadt

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

-Ecclesiastes 11:5

Infancy is a marvel. While we may try to understand how a young life is formed, we might as well just throw our hands up in the air and say, “My God, your works are astounding! How can I begin to explain them?” Still, take great joy in the experiences you offer the littlest in your life. You are contributing to their worldview whether you admit it or not. Seize the opportunity!

A psychiatrist I spoke to once said that if an infant brain doesn’t get what it needs, when it gets older, it will not be able to develop it. That means if it lacks essential nutrients or attention or emotional support in extreme measures or traumatic situations, the effect on that child will be lifelong.

So I would infer that the converse is also true. What is gained at that young age will be a fixed part of that child’s brain development. What a great privilege and responsibility we have as parents, caregivers, friends and family in the life of an infant!

I’ve long believed that how we start anything, is foundational to how that thing continues. Whether it be a personal project or a race or a quilting pattern or the course we set for a ship, the path these take is heavily influenced by the first step.

So consider very carefully the influences in your infant’s life. You can’t control them all so don’t panic either. Leave your little one in the hands of God. But make positive efforts to provide a solid, foundational start as much as it is in your power.

Building realistic trust is your one focus at this stage. Meaningful connections are the pathway to building trust.

Consider these trust-building connections:

  • create safe spaces and be a safe person
  • provide different sitting/lying/cuddling positions
  • play and smile during tasks such as changing diapers
  • make a variety of facial expressions to communicate
  • provide basic needs consistently such as feeding, peaceful sleep environment, changing
  • hold your baby and allow other trustworthy people to hold as well (such as at church)
  • provide familiar items as metaphorical and literal building blocks for learning
  • recognize that babies reflect your behaviour, facial expressions and feelings
  • share a children’s Bible to hold, look at and listen to
  • begin hide and seek type games with objects or the classic peek-a-boo
  • show understanding toward emotions and identify with them (ex: “Oh, you’re so sad. I would be sad too.”)
  • sing songs repeatedly with enthusiasm!
  • be aware of your own anxieties which can transfer easily to your baby
  • build trust with others to help ease separation anxiety
  • help them form words using repetition
  • pray with them and for them out loud

Lord, help me give well to this critical life-phase.





The Still Butterfly

14 01 2016

There once was a butterfly that was as

still as a stone.

Her wings were

flat as a mat.

She was carefully laid inside a protective case. There were other butterflies also in the case and that case was placed in a cold, dark room. For many weeks, the butterfly lay still wondering what might happen next. She feared that she would be trapped there forever.

She began to stop dreaming of flying and only dreamed of crying.

She couldn’t imagine the smell of a flower or even rising up to the heights of a tower.

One day, she heard a creak.

Her heart skipped a beat.

A moment later, the case she was lying in popped open. She saw a glimmer of light. Could it be? Was it real?

Would she be free?

Light burst all around. It wrapped her like a blanket. Warmth travelled through her wings.

Blurs turned to shapes and

shapes became flowers and grass and trees.

Wonderful smells filled her up like a deep, refreshing breath, energizing her little being.

And her wings

trembled…shifted…fluttered…opened.

A moment later, her dark and cold prison became

bright and warm vision.

She looked back and what she saw she’ll never forget. With hands raised toward her, she saw the kindest, most gentle, most humble smile that could ever be smiled. She smiled too, because now she was

truly alive.

Jesus came as a man to set us free from the grips of darkness. Now you can fly as you were meant to.

[Fact: Did you know that butterflies can be preserved in an envelope in your refrigerator for long periods of time, even more than a month? The sunlight awakens and warms them and helps them prepare for flight.]





Develop: Leveraging Transformational Moments

12 01 2016

Development as a dynamic system [is] a perpetually ongoing process, extending from conception to death, that is molded by a complex network of biological, psychological, and social influences.

-Laura E. Berk

Jesus became wiser and stronger. He also became more and more pleasing to God and to people.

-Luke 2:52

Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-trees-strange-melted-leeroy

Developmental science touches on many facets of personal traits and change throughout the lifespan. The children you encounter from birth on up are experiencing profound, rapid and amazing changes. Our local culture and community shapes them. How can you influence the culture around you to help shape children in Godly directions?

Some influences are out of our control, such as genetic make-up or where we were born. Other influences we can leverage for greater effect such as the intentionality of our engagement with children and the timely words we use.

From the time a child is born, he is being constantly shaped. He is rapidly taking in new information and making new neurological connections. Every encounter with another human being provides new connections and leaves lasting impressions.

A parent has many, many opportunities to shape their child. Volunteers at church have limited, yet significant opportunities to reflect the heart of God and impress on children the value of a not-so-perfect church community coming together and relying on God.

Parents, tap into your child’s caregivers or small group leaders. Get to know the key people in your child’s life and find ways to build on that relationship.

Volunteers, seize those moments with parents to encourage them and reinforce the strengths of their children.

Lord, I marvel at the children you created! Their development is astonishing. Help me to provide strong stepping stones on their journey toward you.





Hear: Speaking So Children Want to Listen

22 12 2015

What would ministry be without conversation?

-Katey Hage

How can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?

-Paul (Romans 10:14)

Simply thinking that you believe in, fully trust and devote to Jesus is a strong starting point. True belief then leads to a transformation of lifestyle. This prompts us to speak so others can hear and want to listen. Speaking so children will listen is a challenge, but with love as your motivation, creativity as your friend and fun as your language, you’ll be well on your way. “Do you hear what I hear? A song, a song, high above the trees. With a voice as big as the sea.” Inspire some curious conversations with your words this week!

Think about ways you can speak words that connect with children.

Love. Love is the path that allows children to hear your words. Speaking words of kindness opens the door to the heart which builds relationship.

  • I’m so glad to see you today!
  • Jesus loves you!!
  • Come on over! I want to know what you think about…
  • Check this out.
  • That is a super idea! Can you tell me more about that?
  • You are amazingly awesome!

Creativity. Creativity just takes the typical and turns it into interesting.

  • So when the angel appeared to Mary, Darth Vader attacked Joseph and they had an epic light saber battle right?
  • I want you to know about God’s amazing plan. Let me tell you about a time when my plans flopped…
  • God always keeps his promises. I don’t. I remember when I promised…
  • Can you read this for me?
  • I’m so thankful that Jesus is my best friend. The other day, I was having a hard time with… and I remembered something Jesus said…

Fun. Play, quite literally, is a child’s language. It’s how they learn, understand and provides opportunities for communication.

  • Roll this dice. The number you roll will determine what action you must take. (Ie. whisper a phrase to pass around the circle, tell how you would respond to x situation, show on your face how you’d feel if x happened to you…etc.)
  • We’re not going to have any fun at all today. We’re not going to play any games or sing any songs or hear any stories. Boring, boring!
  • Take a look at this picture. What comes to your mind?
  • For each right answer, try to get this ball into the moving bucket.

What ideas do you have for increasing the quality of your communication with children?

Lord, use my words to spark true belief.





See: Using Visuals for Greater Impact

15 12 2015

…paint a power-packed picture for all those visual learners out there.

-Aaron Reynolds

Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.

-Jesus (Matthew 6:22)

God created this world with striking visual stimulus. He wired us to learn visually. Children learn especially fast and effectively when visual elements are woven into our conversations, teaching and stories. If you don’t have any props, paint a mental picture. But by grabbing some key objects, you can power home concepts that would otherwise be lost. Fill ‘em up with transformational light!

Common visuals that teach:

  • Stuffed Lamb, staff (agrarian themes, Lamb of God)
  • Sporting gear (training for the Christian life)
  • Art (draw, paint, craft, video)
  • Lighting effects (flashlight, turn off lights)
  • Costumes
  • Games (useful for recall)
  • Personal hobby items (relate with personal interests)

Object Tips:

  • Hold the item and describe it
  • Pass the item around if reasonable
  • Ask questions about it, explore it
  • Tell a story with it
  • Search for the word in the Bible to help illustrate

How to paint a mental picture:

  • Visualize it yourself first
  • Describe the details
  • Feel the emotions yourself
  • Express feelings strongly with your face and gestures

Here’s an example combining both elements.

God has a plan that can’t be stopped. Check out this basketball play (Use a basketball video replay or other sport that fits your style and the idea of changing plans. Alternatively, you could plan ahead of time and draw some movement using Xs and Os on a white board.) I love basketball. Take a look at this. The way it bounces and feels is awesome. Feel this for a moment (pass it around). Now the goal of the player is to move the ball into a good position to get a basket. The defence is trying to stop him and so his plans are constantly changing as to how he’ll get there. Frustration sets in when he gets stopped (show disappointment). But he doesn’t give up when he’s forced to move in a different direction (show determination). He keeps trying different options until he can score. Our life choices cause us to make plans, change plans and sometimes leave plans altogether. But no matter what, God’s plan to make a way for us to be forgiven can’t be stopped!

Isn’t that so much better than just talking about basketball?

Lord, your wonders abound. Help me show them to any children you put in my path.





Touch: Using Physical Affection for Greater Bonds

8 12 2015

…touch is as important to infants and children as eating and sleeping.

-Tiffany Field, Touch Research Institute

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.

-Matthew 8:3

When Jesus healed, he often also touched. He gathered children around him and placed his hands on them. He washed his disciples feet. At the most fundamental level, humans need physical affection. Much research has been done demonstrating powerful positive effects of healthy touch, including emotional and social bonding. Next time you’re around a child, share a…

  • side hug
  • high five
  • pat on the back
  • some crazy handshake!

Touch can also be a “touchy” issue especially with children. You’ll need to build some trust. For example, when you first meet a child, you could…

  • Ask them for a fist bump.

(They may be shy and turn you down, but there’s nothing to feel awkward about here.)

  • Smile and comment on something interesting about what they’re wearing.
  • Stay positive and welcoming.
  • If you’re with them for a while, engage them with some form of play.
  • You may want to give them a light tap on the shoulder and say, “It’s super cool to meet you!”
  • Next time you meet them, ask them again.

Even as a parent, you may need permission from your child if they’re feeling hurt or grumpy. Or you might have a child like mine who is constantly wrapping me up whether I want it or not! Parents could also…

  • Stroke a cheek for wake up.
  • Celebrate a success with a high-five.
  • Habitually hug at least once per day.
  • Give a piggy back or shoulder ride to bed.
  • Wrestle.
  • Snuggle and read together for five or ten minutes minutes.

What ideas do you have?

Build trust and share some healthy, life-giving touch this week.

Lord, your “touch” changes me. Use my touch to fill up a child’s love tank.

 








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 759 other followers

%d bloggers like this: