S.M.A.R.T. Summer: A method kids use turns ideas into reality

S.M.A.R.T. Summer: A method kids use turns ideas into reality

Two months ago I moved to Northern California. Our backyard has a deck and lots of bare dirt. I was talking with some of the children in our extended family (ages 9, 7 and 5) about ideas for the dirt. The five-year-old suggested that we put in a “beaver pond.” Other ideas floated were for a butterfly garden, lizards, birdhouses, sunflowers, ladybugs and “a bird’s nest—tiny.”

As we talked, the youngest started making a checklist (I recognize those boxes with check marks!) and another was sketching out the garden design (see above). When I noticed their affinity for planning, I decided to turn their ideas into a S.M.A.R.T. goal for myself and show it to them. Maybe I could model for them one proven method of moving ideas into becoming a reality.

I chose the birdhouses as my example S.M.A.R.T. goal.

  • SPECIFIC: I want to add two birdhouses to my garden.
  • MEASURABLE:  To meet my goal I will gather materials to make 2 birdhouses and invite these children to help me make them.
  • ACTION PLAN: Go to the craft store for supplies. Arrange with their parents a good time to work on it. Brainstorm what we want to do to celebrate our completed goal.
  • REALISTIC: (for reflection afterwards) Did I reach my goal? What worked? What didn’t work?
  • TIME (BY WHEN?)  By June 15

Maybe one of them will want to try making a SMART goal for something they want to do this summer.

“Small victories, successfully implemented, yield huge results.” –Peter Walsh 

Tweetable: Free from school routine, kids can turn some of their own ideas into reality with S.M.A.R.T. goals. Click to Tweet

5 fun activities teach kids to think of others

5 fun activities teach kids to think of others

In an old issue of Psychology Today, I ran across an article featuring the words of Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Sometimes children seem so self absorbed and so preoccupied with gadgets and toys, we wonder whether they are aware of, or care about, what goes on around them. We like to tell ourselves, “Something” must be wrong with this generation.

Except there isn’t. The problem lies with us, the adults, who could be challenging them to think about others, and leading them to action.

Prior to going to Haiti to volunteer at a hospital, Dr. Rosen spoke to his daughter’s second grade class about the conditions there, showing them pictures of what life is like for children just like them. Following his visit, the class collected over 7,000 vitamins for him to give out.

“The empathy and genuine interest of these seven year olds was so impressive, and yet, upon reflection, not really that surprising. To help others in need is a very basic human instinct (though one that is not always acted upon).”

5 fun activities teach kids to think of others.

Author Cat Skorupski’s ideas I’m going to use with the kids in my life this summer:

  • Surprise parents by making a favorite food for each of them and present it at the next meal.
  • Do a chore without being asked. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s one that will resonate big-time with parents. The more annoying the chore, the better.  Make a movie of each child doing it and show their parents.
  • Raise money for a cause dear to someone’s heart. Showing that you care about something he or she cares about—enough to invest your time and energy—is a huge compliment.
  • Take a song you already know and write new words to it, making it about someone special to you! It doesn’t have to be complicated—heck, it doesn’t even have to be on-key. It’s the thought that counts! Then record it onto a phone or computer and send it to them.
  • Create a scavenger hunt. Hide affirmation notes around the house for a sibling or other relative to find. The notes could be hidden in sequence with clues that lead the hunter to the next treasure or they could just be hidden randomly.

Tweetable: Show kids how you care about others, then guide them do this directly on their own with 5 new ideas. Click to Tweet

Bless a child with the healing power of words

Bless a child with the healing power of words

boy-covers-noseOne of my family’s weirder slogans or expressions  — Self-Praise Stinketh – came into being on account of me. As the story goes, I said so many nice things about myself that they shortened it to SPS to save their breath.  Later in life, I had to ask myself, “Why did I do that?  Why was I constantly affirming myself?”

It dawned on me

Although my family loved me, they did not often compliment me or praise my accomplishments.  When I talked to my mother about it much later in life, she said they didn’t want me to get a big head or grow up to be arrogant. But she also expressed regret and said she wished she had done it differently.

Even though a caregiver may do everything for the best of the children, providing for their needs and more, showering them with gifts– the child will experience a void unless the caregiver’s actions are accompanied by spoken words of acknowledgement.

What are our hindrances to spoken blessings?

Sometimes, it’s fear. We might fear saying the wrong things. We might fear the reaction our words will bring: rejection, embarrassment, doubt, laughter or misunderstanding.

Ironically, for many parents, it is busyness – the countless loving things parents do for their kids – getting in the way of meaningfully saying the words.  Kids need to hear us say the words too.

We can learn this skill.

elem-class-teacherEducator Dr. Becky Bailey suggests five categories of what we might notice in children daily–at times like when they leave for school in the morning, before practice or rehearsal in the afternoon, at supper, before bedtime. This week, say words that:

  1. Affirm and approveCody, you held the door for Grandma. That was helpful.
  2. Commend and complimentAt the game I noticed how you were looking up while you were dribbling and passing the ball. Great game.
  3. Specifically speak love and affectionWith a song you make up, “Good morning, good morning, how are you today? I love you, I love you, I love you today.”
  4. Invoke hope and self-confidenceShayna, you planned the tasks involved in making that diorama. That took organizational skills. You have them.
  5. Answer pain and disappointment with support and faithI can imagine you feel embarrassed and deeply hurt by what was said. I heard Taylor say some very hurtful things to you. Go tell Taylor “I don’t appreciate being called names.”

Note: The concept of the blessing is taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing. Dr. Bailey’s examples are found in her book Conscious Discipline.

Tweetable:

  • Loving acts parents do for kids can get in the way of passing on encouraging words they need to hear. Click to Tweet
  • Bless children with the healing power of words. Go here for practical examples you can use right away. Click to Tweet

 

The gift of appropriate, meaningful touch

The gift of appropriate, meaningful touch

hand-pianoA dreaded part of my childhood piano lessons came on the days I got excused from school to go before an adjudicator for grading on my skills. I was very nervous, but I did well enough to receive small silver and gold pins signifying my competency.

At times I felt disappointed by my piano performances, and my mother seemed to know the words to say when I knew I messed up. But when her arm, slung around my drooping shoulders, pulled me close the real comfort set in. Touch can mean more than words.

Meaningful touch blesses a child physically.

father-sonWe can give almost every child a pat on the shoulder, a high five, a fist bump. Temperament is a factor in how much touch and what kind of touch a child wants. And the touch must be right for the relationship you have with that child, as well as being culturally appropriate.

  • Auntie gives a manicure.
  • An uncle arm wrestles.
  • A family friend sneaks up behind, covers your eyes with their hands and says, “Guess who?”
  • Grandma holds your hand in both of hers.

Obviously you can hug your own children but not every neighbor child or friend of your child. Follow the child’s cues.  Touch is meaningful when it is done for the benefit of the child, not our own. It symbolizes acceptance. Conversely, if someone refuses to shake hands with you or touch you, it symbolizes lack of acceptance.

Appropriate touch blesses a child emotionally.

If we are consistent about being a source of blessing to others, we will begin to recognize the number of biochemical changes taking place when we reach out and touch. Deep emotional needs are met.

With all the media reports of child abuse and inappropriate touching, we back away from touch. Realize, however, that avoiding healthy, appropriate, meaningful touch sacrifices physical and emotional health in a child’s life.

How can children feel the touch of God?

Obviously God, being spirit, does not touch us physically. God’s touch is inward. It is a lack of fear. It is the absence of anxiety. It’s the knowledge that no matter what noise, what disappointment, what complications surround you—you are held. We crave these touches because they will not come and go with each passing circumstance. These are God’s meaningful touches for us and the children we love.

kiss-childWays to bless children right now with meaningful touch.

  • Give a spontaneous hug.
  • Put your arm around a child while watching a movie.
  • Give a goodbye kiss on the head when kids are heading out to school.

Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas under “Ways to bless children right now,” are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.

Tweetable: How can children feel the touch of God? See how our meaningful touch can facilitate it. Click to Tweet

5 elements to help you bless others

5 elements to help you bless others

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 4th Annual Backpack Blessing took place in a Georgia church at the start of this school year.  The event involves taking your backpack into church, suggesting that God’s presence moves into all spheres of life.  A staff member told The Huffington Post that the blessing is meant to engage kids in the concrete reality of their lives, and to narrate that God is with them.

A symbol of God’s presence

compassIn addition to the blessing, each child was handed a compass as a sign of God’s presence in their daily life. The blessing given went something like this:

Bless these children and youth and their backpacks as they begin another school year. Keep them from fear. Guide them in the ways of justice and truth. When they are in new places and with new people, help them to remember that you will never leave them. May they always know that they are your children in the world.

Notice the five elements in this blessing, affirming the children’s worth, capability and connection with God.

  1. A spoken message
  2. Attaching high value
  3. Picturing a special future
  4. An active commitment
  5. A concrete object

In the context of childhood spirituality, a blessing can be given to a single child or to a group.

When applied in a family, a group living situation, a school classroom, or a fellowship (e.g. faith community, special interest club) these five ingredients always bring hope, warmth and healing.

Keep reading next week for specific ideas on special moments or rituals you can use to bestow each element onto the children you love.

Ways to bless children right now.

  • Compliment the child on a character trait you notice (a spoken message).
  • Slow down on a task like cooking to let us accomplish it together (an active commitment).
  • Check your photo albums to make sure each child appears in the pictures almost equally (attaching high value).

Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas under “Ways to bless children right now,” are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.

Tweetable: In the context of childhood spirituality, a blessing can be given or to a group. See the example here. Click to Tweet

When we missed the gift of genuine parental acceptance

When we missed the gift of genuine parental acceptance

home-repair-1563779Colton looked forward to his parents’ visit. He hadn’t seen them in almost two years. He’d saved up some small fix-it tasks to do with his dad. In the past this was their way of connecting, but his last few conversations with his father had not gone well. It’s not that they argued. Something just didn’t seem right.

As the two men worked side by side around the loft, Colton experienced frustration when he tried to talk about his life. Now 27, Colton wanted to show his father the kind of life he’d created for himself so his father would be proud. And his father was proud. But for Colton it was another unsuccessful attempt to get his father to show pride and express love in a way he could feel.

We miss hearing words of approval.

lonely-girlSome of us know we will never receive genuine acceptance from certain important people in our life. We know we will never hear their words of approval. Either they don’t cherish us as valuable or they, like Colton’s father, don’t possess the necessary skills to find the actions and words to express their esteem in ways we can receive them. Maybe they are mentally ill, passed away, a missing person, psychologically unfit, or brain damaged by an accident.

Reversing rejection

handprintOne of the most powerful ways of reversing rejection we’ve received as children is to give genuine acceptance to others. We seek to learn new words, experiences and rituals—precisely what this blog series is designed to provide.  Each week we offer a section of activities to bless children immediately. Share your results or ideas in the comments section.

Ways to bless children right now

  • With a young child, read The Velveteen Rabbit, which talks about how valuable we are.
  • Put a loving note on the child’s pillow.
  • Take the child and a friend out for a special treat.
  • Make and keep a promise.

Note: The concept of the blessing, along with Colton’s story and some of the ideas under “Ways to bless children right now,” are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.

Tweetable: A powerful way of reversing rejection received as children is to give genuine acceptance to others. Click to Tweet