“So, kids, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?” you ask.
“My family, my house, my friends, my dog and Jesus.” (Same answers as last year….)
If you think your kids might be open to some deeper thinking this year, we’ve provided a handful of conversation starters about gratitude. We invite you try any or all of them and put a little bigger dose of gratitude in your Thanksgiving season:
When our kids do something they’re not supposed to, or ask us for something they can’t have, often our reflexive response is a simple, quick, “No!” And our kids’ reflexive response to “no” can be frustration, resentment, or even a meltdown.
But a look at the Bible gives us another way to respond to our kids — one that still enforces boundaries, but helps kids to grow in wisdom even through the “no”.
If you want your kids to respect and value your “no’s!” work harder on your “yeses!”
It’s good to teach kids the various “No’s!” in life. The best foundation for doing this is to help them habitually experience the resounding joy of the “Yes!”
- If you want your children to say “no” to mistreating each other, create experiences — lots of them — in which they are on the same “team” having fun together. Celebrate the fun with them. Verbally affirm it: “You guys seem so happy when you’re having fun together.”
- Or, if you want your children to say “no” to too much screen time, help them find ways to experience the joy of real-world experiences. If they like adventures, go on a hike or a camping trip. If they like movies, help them make one.
- Or, if you want your kids to value saying “no” to too much unhealthy food, do lots of things to enjoy finding and preparing healthy food together.
The older they get the harder it is, so start early and often!
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In a New York Times article, a journalist recalls how he once commented to Steve Jobs that his kids must love the iPod. Surprisingly Jobs replied bluntly, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” Jobs knew firsthand the potential dangers of technology.
But how did he avoid having a mutiny on his hands? His kids’ friends probably expected that anyone in the Jobs family would have the latest, greatest stuff, and that time at their house would be an electronic frolic from start to finish.
Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs, shares Jobs’ secret of firmly prioritizing thoughtful, engaging, real-life interaction with his kids:
Jayden has been struggling to sit still at the table. Each time he gets antsy he gets a warning. “If you keep that up you’ll get a time out!”
He settles down for a moment and dinner carries on. But the stimulation of a busy family meal with all its sights, noises, smells and tastes is overwhelming to his nervous system. No memory of past consequences can override this barrage of input. Rational thinking gives way to overstimulation every time.
Jayden can either use his own movement to make his body feel a little more comfortable in the midst of the craziness, or he can look for a big dose of attention to override the chaos. He has a valid need for both movement and attention. Lucky for Jayden, he knows how to get a “two for one.” So he squirms again.
“That’s the last straw! If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, it is NOT OK to fidget and squirm at the table. You get down and set the timer for five minutes, and don’t come back until you can sit still and eat!”
It’s the same punishment as last time. It won’t prevent the next time.
Ever watch your kids’ moods ricochet like a pinball off the latest circumstance? Ever feel like your own moods are a magnification of whatever is going on in your child at the time?
Charles Swindoll challenged us all with his famous statement, “…life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
How can we each grow our abilities to “make lemonade out of lemons” or learn to persevere through challenges? Answer: focus on our small successes! Even if they are small, when we can value and even celebrate successes, it “fertilizes” them and they grow to become a larger presence for the next challenge.
Is dinner at your house a bit crazy? Perhaps it needs a little injection of purpose.
When the meal is all about getting kids to settle down and eat their food, it’s bound to be a struggle. But when it’s about meaningful stories and questions, it can take on a whole new tone. Consider Tim’s discovery.
Zeke and Andrew are two teenage boys in a family that started building a tradition of reading the Bible together during Advent when they were pint-sized. Each night they lit the candle, read that day’s page from their advent book, and some scripture or a brief devotional. Then they moved the figurines for Mary, Joseph and donkey a tiny bit closer to the manger scene until the last day when baby Jesus was added! Though they are no longer little children, Zeke and Andrew still make sure this remains a nightly tradition at Christmas!
With more kids than ever dropping out of their parents’ faith, it’s critical for parents to put some traditions in place that the kids will value – and they DO value traditions far more than parents realize.
During Advent (the days leading up to Christmas) is a great time to make some special preparations in your home to welcome Jesus as your special guest. Here are some ideas from three families with kids of different ages who took time together to prepare their hearts to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
It is truly a God-given desire to feed your child healthy food. Unfortunately this good desire can easily go awry when your child turns up his nose at what you consider to be essential nutrition. A child’s rejection of certain foods is often rooted in sensitivity to smell, taste or texture, but whatever the cause, it often ramps up to an intense conflict if you get determined that “My kid WILL eat her brussel sprouts.”
When this happens your child may believe, “If I eat that yucky green stuff, Mom won and I lost.” At that point, it’s no longer about sprouts — it’s about winning and losing. Plus, all the intense, furrowed-brow attention you gave your child in the conflict just “fertilized” their avoidance of that food.
Research consistently shows that attempts to make children eat certain foods are more harmful than helpful! One study even revealed that children who were rewarded for eating a new food were less likely to eat it the next time it was served than were children who were simply presented the food!
Parents tend to view picky eating as defiance or manipulation, and so they tend to respond with increased attempts to gain control. But this just aggravates the situation at the moment, and fuels further difficulty in the future. Turning the tide on this dynamic requires that parents create an emotionally safe and fun environment in which kids can learn about and explore their food options — without pressure to eat!
Here are some practical tips to make this easier for all of you at dinner:
Have you noticed that Christmas aisles seem to be stocked earlier and earlier these days? Commercials for Black Friday “doorbusters” are rampant, and there is even controversy about some stores beginning their sales on Thanksgiving Day.
The holiday materialism debate is not new: on one side, many families have incorporated Black Friday into their family gatherings. On the other side, many families join with Charlie Brown, who in 1965 first groaned about “Christmas going commercial”.
Don’t get us wrong — Christmas gifts can be a fun way to show love and appreciation for family and friends; in fact, one of the five “love languages” is gift-giving! But we need to be careful: if we feed into the messages of the marketers and give our kids everything they want for Christmas, gifts can become a detriment.