The right kind of trouble for kids

Recently I was with a friend and her grandchildren for lunch at an open-air market, followed by a visit to a museum. The girls knew they were going to get a souvenir of our adventure together.

At the market, 8-year-old Sasha wanted a package of stars that glow in the dark. Her grandmother reminded her that she could get one souvenir, and that the museum had a great gift shop. Sasha insisted on getting the stars.

Of course, later at the museum store I walked with Sasha who began choosing from the array of wonderful items to buy, disappointed that she already had her souvenir. “That’s difficult,” I said, “what would have helped you make a better choice?” And we chatted about what she plans to do next time.

The right kind of trouble teaches how to handle frustration when the world doesn’t go your way.

Trouble helps children develop endurance. Endurance develops strength of character. Character strengthens our confident hope and this hope will not lead to disappointment. So it is exactly these teachable moments in which we want to be fully present with children.

Remain mindful—so that we stay connected. Be clear–so that we are spiritual navigators, teaching and modeling right speech, good intention, right action.

Notice and label when you are having trouble.

Brooke Brogle shares her experience:

She said to her young children: “I am having trouble! I have tried three times to fix the vacuum and it is just not working! I am going to take a break. I will come back and try when I am feeling calmer.”

Guide young children through their frustrations.

“You seem so frustrated! I see that you have been trying to build that tower and it keeps falling down! Let’s have a snack and then try again together.”

At 19, a young woman completing her high school education had these wise words.

“I am thankful for every bad choice I ever made and every person put in my path to give me a hard time. I made many mistakes, but those same mistakes have made the person I am today. Life isn’t easy but it is worth fighting for.”

Tweetable: The right kind of trouble helps children develop endurance and endurance leads to strength of character. Click to Tweet 




Spirituality for highly creative kids

creative boyAll kids are by nature creative. But if you have highly creative kids in your life, you might recognize these common traits identified by Carolyn Gregoire and Scott Kaufman, authors of Wired to Create:

  1. an openness to one’s inner life
  2. a preference for complexity and ambiguity
  3. an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray
  4. the ability to extract order from chaos
  5. independence
  6. unconventionality
  7. a willingness to take risks

The big surprise

The big surprise in a creative kid’s imagination network may be that an openness to one’s inner life shows up as the strongest of all the common traits.

Child-centered spirituality nurtures the inner life of a creative child.

Here are some specific ideas for different age groups.

toys talkAGES 2-5

  • Praise originality. Turn off the talking toys once in a while and help the child make up silly voices for plush toys, action figures or dolls.
  • When an ambulance or fire truck speeds by, help children think of a way to express empathy in their own words to communicate good thoughts or prayers for anyone sick or hurt.
  • Book: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? Valerie Deneen suggests here that filling a kindness bucket is a creative way to visualize how the child’s actions affect others.

trayAGES 6-11

  • Mealtime game: Alice Honig suggests putting out 3-4 objects on the table; then ask, “Which one of these would you give up if you had to give one back? Why? What could you do with the other two things? Could you use them together? How? (Note: adults should participate as a player, not as an authority figure.)
  • Picklebums gives us Dress-Up Glasses as a way to choose to see everything in a positive or negative way. After creating the glasses, do several role plays  discussing what “being optimistic” means.


  • Suggest that they document their gratitude through art. What things are you grateful for in your life? Have you ever had a spiritual experience in your life? Document it through making a film, writing, painting, making a playlist of music, creating a collage, etc…. any type of work that represents these things.
  • Make something for someone else. You will honor those around you who support you. (Note: Both of these ideas from Fritz Perlz.)

What activities can you share with our readers to strengthen their inner life? Feel free to list them in the comments below this post.

Tweetable: Ideas here that engage a child’s spirit in creative activities. Click to Tweet

Spirituality for young athletes: What good is “almost winning?”

I have 4 nieces on my husband’s side of the family. All are high level competitors—two are professional cyclists and two played volleyball on athletic scholarships at UCLA and Hawaii.

Alison on bikeOne of my nieces, Alison Tetrick,recently reflected about “almost winning.” It spoke to me of child-centered spirituality and I’ve summarized her ideas here.

Our whole lives we are taught to strive to win, to be the best.

Be the best in sport, school, career and even family life. At one point some of us settle for the 80% or even just completion credit. If not, just use a clever filter and crop on Instagram and play the part. No one can be in top form all the time, right? But the athletes we idolize and the CEOs we google-stalk are all considered winners in our book.

We want to be winners too.

Honestly, that’s why I like being in sport. There are clear and concise deliverables.  Whoever crosses the line first, wins. Although it may not guarantee your Olympic bid, you had a moment of winning. But what about the people who really tried? Who gave their best effort? Whose struggle captured the crowd’s heart? The underdog with the compelling story? What about those who almost won?

Is there such a thing as almost winning?

For me, this concept goes back to my first-grade spelling bee. I remember prancing proudly into the house at 7 years old with my second-place ribbon, only to reach the realization that second place was really just the first loser. In this situation being the first loser may have been prevented if I had asked them to use the word in a sentence. I had difficulty pronouncing the difference between “ripe” and “wipe” so I spelled the wrong word. Even so, this is a lesson I will always remember.

Alison racingI have been on both sides of the results and scoreboard.

I have been the rider who even though was victorious, was close to being upset and the crowds murmured about the possibility of dethroning the queen. And I have been the rider who almost won with courage and gusto, but was just passed at the line in dramatic fashion.

The concept of almost winning has been floating in my mind since my return from the Aviva Women’s Tour in Great Britain. Almost winning a Women’s World Tour race and donning the leader’s jersey! Can you imagine!? But, I didn’t win.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Even if you didn’t win, you were a crucial part of sport. You showed courage and tenacity and maybe a little stupidity, but that is what it is all about.  Why else do you line up to a race?

Winning isn’t everything.  Almost winning is something too.

Even if it is just against yourself. You risked, you raced. You put yourself out there to either succeed or fail. That’s why we spectate and participate in sport. We don’t compete to just get a gold star for finishing. We compete to push our limits. To test ourselves. Sometimes the test is your overall effort, not the result. You know when you almost beat yourself, and when you played it safe.

I would rather almost win, than just survive.

Of course I can say that now with hindsight clarity. In the moment I wanted to crawl into a hole. The end result is only one part of the endeavor. You have to have courage under fire and be bold. By doing this, you will have a hell of a story, and you also may surprise yourself and those around you.

Race bikes. Use it in a sentence. Win. Almost win. Lose. But make it count.

Tweetable: For a young athlete in the family, a pro cyclist gives a different perspective on “almost winning” here.  Click to Tweet

God’s understudy: spirituality for kids in performing arts

theater curtainIs performing arts a passion for one of the kids in your life? Here’s an idea that may make sense to them as they continue to develop their spiritual life.

Be God’s understudy.

God’s understudy–learning, listening, practicing so we can stand in for God in the world around us. Say yes to continually learning your part and be ready at a moment’s notice to stand in for God.

What does that look like in daily life?

That might mean protecting someone being bullied at school, helping an elderly neighbor with yard work, or being careful to throw trash away rather than on the ground. It is living out two of the general moral rules we learn:

  • do no harm and
  • do good

Amid the diversity and magnificence of nature, we have work to do, and that is to take care of the oceans, of plants and animals, and of people, as we have opportunity.

stage-doorWhat similarities do you see to being a theatre understudy?

  1. Rehearsal does not exist. “You are responsible to know the role whether or not you get to do it on its feet. You have no other option than to live in the moment,” says Broadway understudy Bret Shuford.
  2. It feels a bit like skydiving.  Shuford continues, “Especially the first performance you go on, it’s a rush like nothing you’ve ever experienced. The scariest part is taking the first leap, but remember a beautiful, loving, cast and crew will always be there support you. You will surprise some people at what you’re able to accomplish in the role, and you may even surprise yourself.”
  3. Imitation is the highest form of flattery–sort of. An understudy has to replicate what the original star is doing, to a degree. “You have to honor the performance of the actor you’re covering,” explains Merwin Foard, who has covered 30 actors in 16 Broadway shows. “You don’t want to mimic… but you want to bring your own version of [the role] to life.”

high school rehearsalChallenging things, bad things, happen to the people around us.

Trouble and hardship are part of living. But faith means trusting that the God of heaven and earth loves us, walks with us, and sustains us through troubles. As God’s understudies, we hang in there with other people to make life more bearable, more livable and more joyful.

Tweetable: Our world could use more people who, like theatre understudies, stand in for God, in everyday life. Read more. Click to Tweet

Know any performing arts students who are spiritual? They may like the metaphor of being God’s understudy. Click to Tweet