Starting next week, new blog posts will go out every two weeks, rather than weekly. My focus is being pulled in many directions right now. Because. . . .
The pace of life speeds up
Personally, I am still adjusting my weekly schedule around a new job at a Hilton hotel property in Sonoma County’s (CA) wine country. I began teaching life skills at a transitional living house for single homeless women and children in Marin County. And I’m putting the final touches on the Child-Centered Spirituality book. There’s a lot to be done yet before publication.
The pace of publication
The book cover looks amazing. I’m thrilled with the graphic concept, which will be repeated inside through call-out boxes. The final edit work is almost ready to be sent over for formatting.
I’m downright excited at the thought of getting this book out into the world! If all goes as planned, it will be available November 1 on Amazon. Perfect for holiday gift-giving!
If you want to be the first to know when it’s ready for pre-order, be sure to pop over to the Home page and sign up. You will receive a complimentary PDF: Why Childhood Spirituality Matters.
The proper focus can change our pace
Everything I do, in every channel of my life, is part of a legacy that I’m making for my child. For my children, if I have more. I’m not motivated by much, certainly not money – but I’m motivated by that.
Eberhard Arnold 1883 -1935
Every child is a thought in the mind of God, and our task is to recognize this thought and help it toward completion.
Tweetable: Child-Centered Spirituality’s blog posting changes from weekly to every 2 weeks now. Check us out. Click to Tweet
One consistently underrated motivator for kids is the moral or spiritual motivation. We’re trained to think kids won’t care about doing the right or courageous thing for its own sake. But what is almost every classic kids’ movie or book about? The classic clash between good and evil and being on the right side of the battle, even when it’s hard. There’s something intrinsically motivating about being good, brave or honorable.
Motivator: The self-sacrifices of 9/11
First responders, a group of airline passengers, and many more on 9/11 touched our global society through their internal motivations, their moral convictions driving their actions. The powerful drive to do the good and right thing was laid brick by brick in childhood. In a crisis moment the curtain was pulled back on their heart, soul, conscience (call it what you will) propelling them to a level of moral greatness the world recognized.
Motivator: A Little League coach adds another brick
Over this past season, I watched a Little League coach lead his team of 9-year-olds in giving affirmations to teammates in a post-game ritual. There goes another brick into the boys’ ethical foundation: the importance of seeing the good in others. By blending a kind of balance between their physical and moral growth, this coach makes a deposit that will bring a return for the rest of their lives.
Dimensions of the spiritual foundation
Authors Charles R. Ridley and Robert E.Logan identify dimensions that can become cornerstones in people’s spiritual foundations. Over the next several articles here we will offer conversation starters and activities that can be done on the run if you’d like to motivate kids to add some more bricks to the foundation of their internal moral motivation.
- Community transformation
- Authentic relationships
- Personal character development
- Generous living
- Sacrificial service
- Spiritual responsiveness
- Experiencing God
- How am I feeling challenged as I try to instill moral values in children?
- Which of my efforts has been working well and I want to continue?
- What isn’t working in my interactions with them about their motives?
- What do I have to offer by way of personal examples of my intrinsic motivations?
- Who else in our family’s circle of relationships demonstrates intrinsic motivations I respect? What am I doing to get the kids together with them?
Tweetable: Strive to balance physical, intellectual and spiritual development of children. Go here for ideas to solidify moral (spiritual) development. Click to Tweet
Many times, a personal story sheds a brighter light on the subject than moralizing. Rather than telling a child facing a question or decision what to do, telling them a story from your own life can be much more helpful. It helps them think creatively and gives them the confidence that they can come to their own solutions.
When children raise questions, our ideal response is to hear them out and invite more dialog. Lisa Miller uses something like: “You bring such important questions to the family;” or “When I was a child I wondered that, too. I am so happy you are sharing these thoughts with me.”
Consider what spiritual stories you can tell the children in your life.
A friend of mine (mother of three teens) who does this says, “It could be about a time you failed, a time you needed God, a time you doubted God, a time you were surprised by something you couldn’t explain, a time when you sensed God communicating something to you. And consider what beliefs of yours came out of these experiences.”
Questions to help adults remember our spiritual stories we can share with kids:
- What beliefs define your decision-making process?
- What do you believe about how you will relate to people? Strangers, enemies, wrongdoers, immediate family, etc.
- How do you relate to God?
- When have you had times of doubt when God felt very far away?
- What/who are your trusted sources that informed your spiritual progression, growth and wisdom?
- What gives your life purpose and meaning?
- How did you arrive at your present spiritual place?
Our spiritual stories don’t have to be noble or positive. The power comes from it being real and being yours.
Note: Some of the ideas for questions were inspired by Tom Rapsas on StoryCorps.
- Tell kids your spiritual story. They’re still forming a moral compass and our experiences inspire. Click to Tweet
- Seven questions here that help adults remember our spiritual stories we can share with kids.
The tightrope walk may be an apt analogy for one’s teen years. Exhilarating and risky, these years are better navigated following some serious practice time/strength training and a safety net.
“Researchers are beginning to discover the importance of being a spiritual person, especially for teens,” according to Larry Forthun, associate professor at the University of Florida.
What spiritual components comprise practice time/strength training?
- At least one positive friend. Scott, a high school senior, lives with his sister and her boyfriend. Scott found a supportive church youth group. These friends encourage him as he works on submitting college applications and they understand when he says his connection with God is a top priority.
- Nonjudgmental adult(s) with whom to talk freely about emotional, spiritual, intellectual questions or doubts. One such adult said, “We are in an unending narrative of life, in and between generations, passing on to those younger than ourselves, for good or not, whatever we have to offer.” (M. Labberton)
- A form of self-expression (e.g. art, music, writing). “I never would have guessed that, for the quiet girl whose torturous words spilled out like poetry, life is a spiral of family arguments and evictions–a daily battle against the scourge of hopelessness.” (Sandy Banks)
What are the descriptive qualities of a teen’s safety net people?
The Search Institute suggests these qualities:
- Not afraid to discuss spiritual questions, even if you don’t have all the answers.
- Listen to and respect what the teen has to say, even if you do not completely agree.
- Be a good role model of your own spiritual beliefs, practices, and commitments.
- Nurture the teen’s gifts and talents by allowing them to express their spirituality through journals, music, art, etc.
- Help connect the teen with spiritual leaders and mentors, other than yourself.
- Encourage teens to surround themselves with positive friends who strengthen their spiritual growth.
Note: Some ideas for this post were taken from one of a series of documents of the Department of Family, Youth & Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, 05/2011.
Tweetable: Great ideas here for how to be a safety net under the tightrope of a teen’s spirituality. Click to Tweet
Their future brightens when we bless children with a sense of assurance that they have what it takes to accomplish their goals, to push through challenges and heartaches. We do this through acknowledgement of the child’s worth. We back it up with our own investment of time and presence to see it through. I’ve heard one of my mentors, Becky Bailey, do this so well:
- Of course you can pass the test next week. Let’s study together.
- I know you’re scared, but you can do it. I believe in you.
- That’s a great goal. Go for it!
- Okay, the training wheels are off. I’ll be right beside you, but you can ride the bike alone.
John Trent summarizes the concept like this: “Words that picture a hope-filled future draw a child toward the warmth of genuine concern and fulfilled potential. Instead of leaving a child to head into a dark unknown, our words can illuminate a pathway lined with purpose.”
God’s hope-filled future
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Ways to bless children right now with a hopeful future – Examples:
- Observed behavior: Sensitive. Statement: God has given you such a sensitive heart. I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up helping a great many people.
- Observed behavior: Helpful. Statement: You are such a good helper. You’re going to be such a help to your family. OR You will help many people finish important projects because you are so helpful.
- Observed behavior: Good at math. Statement: You know that math better than I do. I think that’s great. You’ll pass tomorrow’s test with flying colors. You may become a research scientist or a chemist—and maybe change the course of the world.
Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas under “Ways to bless children right now with a hopeful future,” are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing. Becky Bailey’s ideas are found in her book, Conscious Discipline.
Tweetable: Their future brightens when we bless children with assurance that they have what it takes to succeed. Click to Tweet
I remember playing the fortune teller game as a kid. We would take a piece of paper, write dreamy messages and fortunes on it, then fold it origami-style to predict our future—you will be rich, you will be famous.
Now I try to bless the children in my life with words that picture a future filled with hope.
It’s different from predicting their future, but it can transform the way the future unfolds for the child. Dr. John Trent writes, “With words of a bright future they can begin to work on a particular talent, have the confidence to try out for a school office, or even help guide others into the full potential God has in store for them.” They begin to believe in the positive, hopeful future you paint for them.
Anticipating a hope-filled future is not the same as choosing a child’s future.
Our intent is to encourage children to be the best they can be, not to force them into paths that we followed or wish we had followed. (Not, for example, “You’ll be a wonderful engineer someday!”) Adults who put that kind of pressure on children miss giving them a blessing. To bless a child, encourage the child by noticing intentions and actions. Then follow it up to help the children achieve whatever they decide to be or do.
Isn’t a hope-filled future for children just a pipe dream for some?
No. Over and over in sacred writings, we see God’s offer of blessings toward humankind. These blessings are not directed at making us wealthy, healthy or even happy all the time. There are many different kinds of hope-filled futures.
Regardless of life circumstances God offers inner, spiritual blessings: peace, contentment, fulfillment, wisdom, love, forgiveness, mercy, or an ability to see the holy come bursting through the everyday.
What words are you using to predict a bright future for the children you love? Next week, I will share your ideas and mine as well.
Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas here, are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.
Tweetable: Anticipating #hope-filled future not the same as choosing a child’s future. Food for thought offered here. Click to Tweet