Did you know the average North American child now spends about seven hours a day staring at screens and mere minutes engaged in unstructured play outdoors? Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth. Regular exposure to nature can help relieve stress, depression, and attention deficits. It can reduce bullying, combat obesity, and boost academic scores. Most critical of all, abundant time in natural settings seems to yield long-term benefits in kids’ cognitive, emotional, and social development. Of course, spending time outdoors is important for adults as well!
Growing up, Scott Sampson—the paleontologist and CEO of Science World in Vancouver, Canada — went on annual camping trips to the Rocky Mountains with his family. However, he said in a recent TED talk, “This was not where I fell in love with nature. That happened close to home — looking for rocks in the backyard, playing kick-the-can in the neighborhood, bushwhacking in the local forest.”
Sampson recommends three steps we can take with our children to connect with nature.
Sampson also wrote a great book on the same topic https://www.amazon.com/How-Raise-Wild-Child-Science/dp/0544705297?tag=teco06-20
What if there was a study dedicated to unearthing the secrets to a happy and purposeful life? In fact, just such a study has been carried for the past seven decades with students at the Harvard Medical School. Starting in 1939, the study examined the childhood events and circumstances that impacted the quality of relationships and happiness in life as the students aged. Connecting with them every two years, one of the clear messages from this study was that professional success in life comes from having done chores, rolling up one’s sleeves and pitching in to do even the unpleasant things. Having the attitude of “contributing to the whole” goes a long way in the work place.
The word chores often has a negative connotation for children. But really, chores are contribution to the family. When we approach it from the point that chores help make the family run, children can feel more important while contributing to the wellbeing of the family. Children need to be needed and learning responsibility through chores builds self-esteem.
Start small with young ones. Preschoolers can help set the table and it provides a good math lesson. Ask, “How many forks or plates do we need?” Three and four year old children can carry their own plate and cup over to the sink after a meal. Kindergartners can help with laundry, folding small towels and match up the socks. It is important to do the tasks together with them and give lots of praise, appreciating their effort. Don’t tell them what they did wrong. Model the best way to do it and praise even it is less than perfect.
With older kids, you can make a list of the chores that need to be done and let them have a choice, let them rotating them each week. One way to help children elementary age and above understand what it takes to make a family run smoothly is to post a large piece of paper on the wall. Ask everyone to contribute by writing down all of the things that keeps the family running. Leave it there for a few days and make sure to include items like jobs to make the money, shopping for groceries, planning meals, taking the car to the garage, etc. Then, hold a family meeting and talk about the items on the list. Discuss who does various jobs and how it is too much for mom and dad. Everyone is needed to contribute and ideally, discuss how each of the children/youth can help the family
As kids get older, they can handle more responsibility. This is an excellent time for them to learn life skills that they will need when they are on their own like doing laundry, cooking meals, helping with meal planning and grocery shopping, making a budget and planned activities for a family vacation and so much more. Make sure that they know how important their contributions are and that you couldn’t do it without them.
Regular chores are not paid. They are contributions to help the family run smoothly. Being paid for chores robs them of the dignity of holding up their fair share of the family work load. However, you can have a list of extra chores that they can get paid for--you can even ask them to put in a bid for various task.
Give kids a time period to complete the chores; for instance, have them finished before the soccer game on Saturday morning or before dinner time. With younger children, ask them would you like to do this before or after dinner? Giving an allowance is important so that they get the real world experience of learning to budget.
As kids get older, they can have more responsibility & accountability. If they forget to do their chores, maybe they have to pay you for doing their chores. This is one reason for them to get an allowance. Or if they are younger, they can pay with toys or with a chore of your choice before they can do something that they enjoy like watching a show.
Most importantly, appreciate the effort they are making and connect it with how it helps the family work better together!
Today, almost one-half the world’s population is 25 years old or younger. Ready or not, they will lead our world into the future. Members of Generation Y (Millennials born between 1984-2000) and Generation Z (Centennials born between 2001-2018) are hungry to change the world and as parents, teachers and mentors, we can help them.
Both generations are influenced by less than ideal parenting styles (overparenting, paranoid parenting, permissive parenting, etc.) They also are greatly impacted by the advances in technology: immediate access to world events often difficult to process, availability creating distractions & addictions, loss of real conversations and relationships, instant gratification expectations, and so much more. Simon Sinek, British-American author, motivational speaker and organizational consultant, summarizes how these challenges impact millennials as they enter the workforce in a Ted Talk here tinyurl.com/y7a9txzz
Dr. Tim Elmore, president and found of Growing Leaders, is passionate about understand the emerging generation and helping adults—parents, teachers, coaches—teach them how to become leaders in their families, schools, communities and careers. As an author and speaker, Dr. Elmore shares four proven parenting strategies. You can read the whole article here tinyurl.com/y7jmc2xt
Four Strategies for Parenting Generation Z
By Dr. Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders Ready for Real Life
So, let me suggest some parenting ideas you might use as you lead your kids:
1. Don’t freak out
We need to let our kids take appropriate risks in our “safety first” world. But, when they choose something odd or even crazy, stay calm. Whatever you do—don’t freak out at the seemingly strange decisions teens feel empowered to make today. From tattoos, to piercings, to decisions about friends, to gender fluidity—kids growing up today are living in a very new world. If we don’t react emotionally, but talk to them respectfully, we earn the right to help them think through the long-term implications of their choices. This is our role: wise and steady leadership. Equip them to think long-term; think big-picture, and think high road.
2. Affirm them accurately and specifically
Generation Z kids are privy to the hyperbolic praise Millennials got from parents. Everything was described as “awesome”—even when it really wasn’t. Adult leaders should be thoughtful with their encouragement, praising teens with words that reflect the genuine performance of the teen. They’ll actually believe us if we do. Also, we must affirm “effort”—which is a controllable—instead of what’s uncontrollable. Instead of saying to a female, “You’re gorgeous,” why not say: “I love the strategy you used when you planned your student council campaign. It was spot on.”
3. Be clear about their equations
I discourage having a ton of “rules,” and encourage you to remind kids of life’s “equations.” Equations are simply outcomes for wise or poor behavior: if you do this, that is the benefit; if you do that, this is the consequence. As a result, students begin to learn that life is full of equations. Upon entering adulthood: if you don’t pay your rent, you lose the apartment; if you do pay rent on time, you get to keep it. Such equations will equip Generation Z kids about how the world works. Make the equations clear and be sure to follow up on them.
4. Model consistency
One of the most conspicuously absent elements in our world today is consistency. Nothing seems to be consistent—except inconsistency. Uncertainty is everywhere. Change is happening all the time: couples divorcing; jobs changing; rules are updated; TV shows are terminated…even our Internet connection can be spotty. Parents and teachers must be consistent in their verbal and visual cues. Kids feel secure when consistent leadership is exemplified.
Did you know that each of us has a superhighway within our bodies that carries information between the brain and the internal organs and controls the body's response in times of rest and relaxation? It is the vagus nerve. Maybe you have heard of it before, but if you are like me, you don't know much about what it is and what it does. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from your brain through your neck and ear and down to the body. It connects your brain to many important organs throughout the body, including the gut (intestines, stomach), heart and lungs. In fact, the word "Vagus" means “wanderer” in Latin, which exactly represents how the nerve wanders all over the body and reaches various organs.
Researchers have discovered that keeping our vagus nerve in good health helps us better manage stress, stay out of fight-or-flight response, and keep in overall good mental and physical health. Learning to pay attention to our bodies is part of surrendering to the fact that we need to take care of ourselves so that we can be better partners, parents, children, friends, and co-workers. We cannot have deep connections with each other when we are stressed and ready to snap at the next frustrating thing that our child or spouse does or says.
There is so much information available on the internet for you to educate yourself more about the vagus nerve and why it is important to you. Google it for yourself. But I would like to leave you with some simple ways that you can support a healthy vagus nerve for yourself and your family.
Recently, I heard a sermon based on the passage in Matthew where Jesus is talking about not pouring new wine into old wineskins. The scripture in Matthew 9:16-17 continues, "If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
Because we’re unfamiliar with ancient practices, sometimes it’s difficult for modern readers to understand Jesus’s parables. In those days, people used animal skins-like goatskin-for storing liquids. Fermented drinks like wine expanded, and since an old wineskin would already be stretched to its limit, the new wine would tear the seams. Of course, Jesus wasn't just talking about wine and wineskins--he was making a very specific point. He was here to do something completely new.
If his disciples or others tried to make sense of what he was speaking about through a lens of old expectations and regulations, they’d miss the amazing thing that was happening. Through Jesus, God was beginning the process of redeeming the world to Himself. And if people expected this to look familiar to what God had done before, they wouldn’t understand.
Although this lesson was being taught about matters of faith, I believe that we can apply this to the many relationships in our lives--with our spouse, children, parents, siblings, co-workers, boss and ourselves. What kind of lens am I looking through to see the people that I care about and interact with? How do my preconceived ideas about how they will act/react or what they really think about a situation color my relationship with them? How much do I try to manage or control the outcome of a conversation? In addition, what concepts about myself limit my ability to care for and love myself and others?
Surrendering is an important step in beginning to change attitudes and concepts that no longer serve me. This starts with an awareness that maybe there is a different way for me to approach or think about things. Begin to identify attitudes and words that get a strong negative reaction from others. Recognize when I am taking things personally and consider that similar past experiences may color my perception. Strive to see situations, people, and myself from God’s point of view. Acknowledge that all that I can really control is my response to others, not their decisions.
I'd like to ask you to do a small experiment. Make a tight fist while focusing on some part of yourself that you have difficulty accepting--your reactivity, anger, strong feelings, unworthiness. Let your other hand represent you wanting to work on/fix this issue. Try to force the first hand open by trying to pry it. It will likely be a battle. But stop for a minute, shake out the open hand. Now, approach your fist with empathy and gentle, loving energy. Using compassion, encourage your fist to begin to open.
Let this love and compassion be your new approach to surrendering control and creating greater connection in your relationships. If you didn't have a chance to read the first post in this series, click the link below. Stay tuned for more on Surrender and Connection.
There is a story of a man who went into a gift shop that was filled with beautiful rocks from all over the world. He noticed a bowl of small, polished stones on the counter. The sizes ranged from about one to three inches in diameter. They were so highly polished that a myriad of colors was clearly visible and incredibly beautiful.
He asked the old man behind the counter where these beautiful stones come from and the store owner replied, “We got them from the stream outside.” The customer quickly informed him that he had been in the stream and there were only ugly rocks there and asked, “How is it possible that these exquisite rocks came from the stream?”
The old man took him to the back of the shop and showed him what a rock tumbler. It was a large cylindrical container set on electric rollers that turned the cylinder over and over. He said that when he put the rocks in the tumbler and let it run for about a month, they came out like the rocks on the counter. The man still found it hard to believe and asked if that was all he did. The old man laughed and said, “We do one more thing. We pour some special oil into the tumble with the rocks.” He laughed again and said that one time he forgot the oil, and when we opened the tumbler, it was full of dust.
Discovering the beauty within each of us and our family members means being willing to examine our limiting beliefs, allowing ourselves to grow, develop and becoming more than we are right now. If I think about my life, it has taken a lot of challenges and bumping up against situations and people to become more beautiful, more polished. Sometimes that means working through disagreements with my family, friends, and church community. It also involves wrestling with my own pride and stubbornness and recognizing what stands in the way of being my best self—allowing my higher self, the light, and God to shine through me. If our path in life includes a rock tumbler of sorts to help us work on our rough edges and find our inner beauty, perhaps the oil in the tumbler is love and connection within our family and community.
This is the first blog in a series. Check back next week for more.
As a kindergarten teacher, I had a marble jar, often called the “Good Choices Jar.” The idea behind the jar was simply that I put marbles in when the students were helping each other, making good choices and cooperating together. When students were hurtful or mean, marbles had to be taken out of the jar. A filled jar of marbles meant a “Good Choices Party” that the students helped to plan.
In Brené Brown’s novel “Daring Greatly,” she shares a story of her young daughter, Ellen, coming home from third grade sobbing. After helping Ellen to feel more calm, Brené was able to figure out that Ellen had told some friends something in confidence but by the end of recess, the whole class knew. They were laughing and making fun of her. When her daughter announced, “I will never trust anyone again,” Brené was struggling to find a way to help her.
It turns out, her daughter’s teacher used a marble jar in her classroom, so she used the concept to explain how trust is built. She told her, “Trust is like a marble jar. You share those hard stories and hard things that are happening to you with friends who over time you’ve filled up their marble jar.” They talked about what marble jar friends look like. This is the key points that Brené and her daughter came up with:
Wouldn’t this be a great conversation to have with your child, youth or even young adult? We can guide our children in making friend choices and understanding the role that trust plays in those relationships. To see the whole Brené Brown TED talk on this, https://brenebrown.com/videos/anatomy-trust-video/
Trust is built one marble at a time.
As many families are preparing their children to start a new school year, I would like to share some parenting advise on how to help your child get off to a good start. Great teachers are amazing! As a former teacher for 25 years, I found that one of the best gifts parents can give teachers involves good parenting. The most wonderful display of our appreciation is to send them students truly ready to be respectful, responsible, and eager to learn. No doubt this gift also benefits our children, who will rise to the top when equipped with such character attributes.
A tradition has developed in many schools whereby parents feel compelled to provide a tangible expression of their gratitude toward teachers. The original motivations for this tradition are unclear. Some may have been prompted by genuine appreciation; others may have been spurred by guilt and attempts to atone for the unruly classroom conduct of their children; some may have darker motivations where it was hoped a small payoff would “grease the wheels” a bit toward a better grade for their child.
While I’m sure that most educators truly appreciate the gesture, I’m not sure how many apples an average person can eat. I wonder how many of those cute little picture frames, paper weights, plaques, and other cute thingies eventually get regifted.
Of course, all of us dedicated educators want to be appreciated for our hard work, long hours, and willingness to be exposed to every germ known to humankind. It’s nice to be appreciated for the fact that we choose to love kids even when they behave badly and produce noxious fumes. It’s great to be appreciated for the fact that we take classrooms full of kids with different needs, abilities, behaviors, and troubles and turn them into high-powered learning teams.
Listed below are just a few things you can do to support your child's readiness to participate, learn and grow in the classroom.
If you are like many conscientious and concerned individuals, you have already seen the movie Sound of Freedom. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend this eye-opening and powerful movie based on the true story of Tim Ballard. There is some controversy around the movie and, as is the case of many true stories that are turned into movies, some facts have been changed or altered. However, this movie brings the very real issue of child trafficking to center stage. My question to all of us is: What's Next? What Can I Do? After walking out of the theater, I felt it is important for me to not just feel upset, concerned or even outraged about what is happening--I need to do something.
So I did some research. Child victims of trafficking are recruited, transported, transferred, harbored or received for the purpose of exploitation. They may be forced to work in sweatshops, on construction sites or in houses as domestic servants; on the streets as child beggars, in wars as child soldiers, on farms, in traveling sales crews or in restaurants and hotels. Some are forced to work in brothels and strip clubs or for escort and massage services.
Did you know that child trafficking affects every country in the world, including the United States? In fact, the United States is a source and transit country, and is also considered one of the top destination points for victims of child trafficking and exploitation. Children make up almost one-third of all human trafficking victims worldwide.
Below are some resources that I would like to share with you. I know that the list isn't complete, but I invite you to join me in getting educated in what we can do. Check out one or more of these resources and talk with others to find out what else is out there and how we can support.
20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking
Below are some of the ways suggested to help. Go to the link at the bottom of this list for more details.
Here are some organizations that are already working to support parents in earning a living wage, helping children to attend schools to get an education, training professionals, advocating for children and much more.
The true story behind the movie with Tim Ballard and host Lewis Howes.
My dad, who passed about a month ago, was a great support when I was writing my book "7 Gifts to Give Your Child." As a pastor and as a parent, he had many life stories that he shared with us and in his sermons. At 68 years, he published his first book of short life stories. The youngest of ten children, he became the family historian and gathered stories of his relatives which included settlers who moved west to stake a claim in the 1800s and a Quaker family whose home was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad route in North Carolina. While helping my mother sort through my dad's belongings, I came across a selection of stories that he had written after his books were published. I would like to share one of them here that reminds me of what is important in life.
Our Lives Reflect Our Values By Millard Osborne
While waiting for our car to be finished in the service area of the Toyota dealership, we were in the visitors' lounge. Among those who were also waiting was a man who appeared to have come from his place of work to have his vehicle serviced. Wearing his tool belt and a yellow hard hat, he sat across the room from us, so we had no direct conversation with him.
Eventually, he was paged indicating that his vehicle was finished. But before leaving the lounge, he approached us with a broad smile on his face. He stopped directly in front of us and extended his right hand in a gesture of appreciation. His first words were, "I want to congratulate you." At first, we were puzzled by these words from a total stranger. I pondered the meaning of this unexpected greeting. Had we won the lottery or maybe the daily drawing for the door prize?
When I asked him why he had singled us out of all those in the visitors' lounge, we learned that he had been watching us. It seems that he had made some assumptions about us as an older couple. He guessed that we were married and said that he could see that we cared for each other by the way we interacted. Maybe he had observed us as I had gotten coffee and granola bars from the vending machines that we shared together.
He was particularly interested in how long we had been married and asked questions about our family. In turn, we asked about his family and learned that he was a native of California where we were living. He continued to express admiration for the joy and satisfaction we showed for our years of marriage.
Looking back on this surprising encounter, we realized again how our actions and words communicate the deeper message of our lives more clearly than we may be aware of--even to a stranger in a yellow hard hat.