Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankful Enough to Do Something

Thanksgiving and Christmas are great times for kids and Church At the Bay is helping them focus on generosity. We believe gratitude is a great attitude but it finds its best expression in unselfish action toward the needy.

All of us have felt the conflict about giving money to people at intersections so we gave our kids a viable option. Last weekend, after teaching the story of Jesus feeding 5000 with the bread and fish given by a boy, we led our 4th-5th graders to assemble zip-lock bags full of food for the homeless. Each bag contained a water bottle, granola bar, package of crackers, cup of fruit and a plastic spoon. We instructed them to lead their family to prepare similar bags and keep them in the car to give out whenever they saw a needy person.

One of our kids, 9 year old Zack, told his mother, "Mom, sometimes I just don't feel like I'm doing enough to help." He got very excited about this opportunity to make a difference!

Now we are encouraging them to donate their BayBucks to provide essential supplies to poor kids around the world through Samaritan's Purse. They can purchase baby chicks, farm animals, sports equipment, clothing, children's Bibles, and more to improve the lives of kids in desperate situations. This is a great way to connect attitudes with action. By focusing on the needs of others, they will be less focused on what they GET for Christmas and will experience at the heart level the real joy of giving. Then when we teach them that Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," they will understand what that means.

So parents, use these opportunities to shape you kid's heart. Instead of just being thankful for what they have, they will learn to be thankful for the opportunity to give.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This seems to be a hot topic lately, even though it has been going on forever. Just this week another parent approached me asking for advice about how to help their child deal with a violent situation. So let me try to give you some guidelines we share with our 4th-5th graders.

1. Don't allow yourself to be in a situation where you are alone. Bullies tend to go after kids when they are isolated from friends who can help. Teach your kids to stay with groups of friends and they will be less likely to be a target.

2. In the case of physical abuse, defend yourself, get away from the situation, and get to an adult who can stop it. Teach your kids basic self-defense techniques they can use to escape an attack. A good martial arts class will give them confidence to defend themselves and prevent intimidation. Most bullies are insecure cowards and will back down from somebody who displays confidence and security.

3. Tell an adult if you are being harassed- a teacher, bus driver, parent, or any adult who can intervene. Teach your kids not to retaliate other than to defend themselves. If you've seen the typical scuffle in a football game, you know the offender usually gets off but the guy who retaliates usually gets the flag.

I know some parents are reluctant to teach self defense tactics to their children for fear that it will encourage fighting. The exact opposite is true. First, self defense classes always focus on defense, not offense. They always teach kids not to initiate a fight. Your child will gain confidence and self-discipline that will be useful in many areas of life. Second, if you are working on shaping your child's heart, they will understand the proper time and motive for using their defensive skills.

Bullies rely on fear and intimidation. If your child learns to counter those tactics, they will probably avoid most bullying situations.

Finally, teach your child not to be overly sensitive about teasing. Let's face it, kids can be cruel and they can inflict emotional damage. But you can teach your child not to get offended every time somebody says something critical of them. Teach them how to reply with humor and defuse the verbal assault. You don't want them to become a whiner or a tattletale who runs to the teacher with every childish comment. Teach them to be secure enough not to be offended by every joke or juvenile word. There is a difference between bullying and teasing. You need to help them understand the difference so they can feel secure, safe, and confident in who they are.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Intentional or Accidental

One of the big challenges in parenting is to be more intentional and less reactionary. This principle applies to most areas of life- if you plan ahead and work your plan, you succeed much more than when you simply react to circumstances. Because very few of us have formal training in parenting, our default reaction is to do what we remember our parents did or just make a snap decision, usually based in emotion.

I thought about it this week while watching a football team practice. They were trying to anticipate situations they would face in the coming game and rehearsing how they would respond to that scenario. Then in the pressure and speed of the game, they would not have to think up a response because they had already decided what they would do. Their coaches had looked at film and reviewed scouting reports to come up with a game plan for how to handle the coming challenges.

What if we tried to do that in parenting? Imagine a mom and dad sitting down once a week and game-planning their parenting for the week. They could talk about where the kids were in their development, what issues were pressing at that moment, what events they would encounter, what was going on in school, etc., all the issues their kids were facing. Then they could talk through a strategy for how to respond when various situations developed. In some cases they could get together with the kids and teach them what to do in various situations and coach them with the game plan in mind, all the while giving life skills to their kids. That way they would be proactively training instead of reacting in the heat of the moment.

What about trying that? Think about having a weekly planning meeting and instead of reviewing game film, talk about what's going on in your kids lives and figure out some strategies to make them more successful. I'll bet you do better than just waiting for something to happen and I'll bet you grow closer together in the process. You might even want to pray for the kids as a part of this exercise. Now there's a novel idea!

I know this- the kids will see you as a unified team and won't be so inclined to
play one of you against the other. They will feel more empowered to handle things that happen. And if you monitor their behaviors and coach them along the way, not criticizing but coaching, they will feel like you are on their side instead of working against them. Remember to catch them doing right and reinforce that with plenty of praise and encouragement. What do you think?