Kid Talk: Four Ideas for Increased Connection

14 04 2016

Speaking with children is a bit of an art. As adults, we spend a lot of time thinking and speaking with our adult vocabulary. Children need simple words, shorter sentences, essential truth and vivid examples. This isn’t too difficult to accomplish, but takes some conscious thought and consistent effort. Just talk. Keep it simple. No need to baby-speak. Don’t muddy the waters with complicated ideas. Pass on what is most important. And, by the way, learning the habit of communicating simply will help you understand difficult concepts too.

Jesus used simple language.

-Rick Warren

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance…

-Paul (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Simple Words

When you speak with children it doesn’t mean you treat them as less intelligent, but you will connect with them better when you use words that they are familiar with. Remember, they haven’t encountered nearly the amount of words you have as an adult. So turn phrases like, “eternal life” into “forever life.” It means the same thing when you elaborate on it in conversation, it’s more fun to say and it hits home. Try simply talking to children and not talking down to them or over their heads. Aaron Reynolds, a crazy good kid communicator, says it this way, “You’re just talking, just sharing something cool. Casual. Real. Personal. This tone draws them in rather than pushing them away.”

Shorter Sentences

The NIrV is a children’s translation of the Bible. It is a great example of how shorter sentences are easier to read. They are also helpful in comprehension. Shorter sentences help you take a breath between thoughts. Doing this increases your ability to process. Ephesians 1 contains a long and masterful sentence. But try reading that to a child. You couldn’t expect them to understand. Even adults will need to read that sentence very slowly and deliberately. Then to grasp it fully, adults would need to break it down into connected thoughts. Turn a big idea into a memorable and repeatable phrase such as, “God is super strong!”

Essential Truth

Stick to the most important things. Sometimes we just want to dump all of our knowledge into children’s brains, but brains don’t work that way, especially kids brains. So stick to the essential truth you want to communicate for the moment and repeat it in different ways. Paul received essential truth and passed it on. While much of his writing is complex, he nonetheless continues to return to what’s essential. Everything he writes about is expanding on the idea that 1. God wants us to belong to him and 2. He makes this possible through Jesus who died, was buried and came back to life. (Notice the simpler word choice of “came back to life,” instead of “rose again.”)

Vivid Examples

Remember that kids have difficulty thinking in abstract terms. So consistently bring in tangibles, visuals, everyday objects, common experiences. If you’re talking about water, go get some! If you want children to see what Jesus means when he talks about the vine. Show a picture or bring in a real one…with grapes to share! Jesus communicated simply even with adults. To talk about the Kingdom of God, an extremely abstract concept, he used seeds, sheep, trees, birds, dirt, pearls, and on and on.

Let’s just talk to kids this week and enjoy the simplicity that comes from that!

Lord, thank you for the simple truths of life.





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.





VIDEO: Nicaragua Family Rhythm Conferences 2015

3 11 2015

The teaching of Family Rhythm goes beyond good parenting practices, which it does well. Family Rhythm acknowledges the pain and disconnection, or you could say the absence of rhythm, in our relationships and holds out the hope that we can continuously move closer to better and better relationships by getting caught up in the simple Family Rhythm story (see here). Simple pattern changes over a long period of time can take us either down a path of asynchronous relationships or increasing connection.

Family Rhythm seeks to show families simple ways, ideas, patterns or habits that daily increase the peace and wonder they experience.

Close to 50 people came from around Nicaragua to hear this teaching. The encouragement we all shared as we worked together will, I believe, linger for a long time in our minds and hearts. Young moms and dads, grandparents, pastors, ministry leaders and others came with great enthusiasm and energy as we shared stories, experiences and ideas for daily improving the direction our families are heading.

Here’s a short video I put together that inspires me, as one mom put it, “to grow in the love of Christ.”





9 Tips for Teaching Kids to Pray

30 03 2011

Prayer is in essence a fancy word for conversation and connection with God. Teaching kids to pray can be tricky, but you can do it.

A few friends and I had a conversation about this not too long ago. We talked about the challenges of it and the frustrations that go along with it. For example, when teaching a young boy to pray at bedtime, what do you do with silliness? Or how do you get an elementary aged girl to open up and actually pray more than a sentence? What do you do when they start rambling? Is it okay to thank God for Ironman? Is it even possible to teach kids to pray? I believe it is even though I also am challenged with it at church as well. I love to see kids pray out loud even when they are tentative!

When I was in driver’s education I had an instructor. One of the things he taught us was to have verbal diarrhea. In other words, talk about everything you see as you’re driving down the road. Be aware of your surroundings. Be alert. This mindset can be helpful with prayer. Sometimes we just need to get the ball rolling. Creation is a great place to start. Go for a walk and have kids thank God for everything they see. Then have them come up with things on their own to thank God for.

Teach kids that the most important connection they have is not you or their friends, but God. Tell them they can talk to Him anywhere, all the time and about anything.

Tips to keep in mind:

Read the rest of this entry »








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