A neighbor of mine shared his mother’s words of wisdom in our local paper. It got me thinking about how I’m passing along wisdom to the children in my life.
My neighbor’s (partial) list
- You don’t dress to impress. You dress to show your respect to others.
- Life’s not fair. Get over it and move on.
- Don’t let your career find you. Find what you were made to do.
- Knowledge comes from school. Maturity sometimes comes with age. Wisdom comes from the Bible.
- Something worth doing is seldom easy.
- Your logic can be perfect, but your facts could be wrong.
Obviously these are not the only words of wisdom that my neighbor lives by, but he’s found a way to frame life by a series of sayings leading to a satisfying life.
There’s power in wisdom
We want the kids we love to end up knowing how to judge rightly and follow the soundest course of action. We teach by example, springing from our:
Wait for a kid’s “hmm” or moment of silence
I usually know when I’ve made connection with a child. Typically it’s followed by a few second of silence as they process a new thought. Sometimes they look off into the distance for a moment. We can leave an even deeper impression when we make eye contact or touch their shoulder or arm as we’re speaking. I learned from Becky Bailey that “connections on the outside with others build neuro-connections on the inside.”
Wisdom is what I hope to impart to kids
When we open our ears and eyes to what kids are feeling, acting out on and thinking about, we build on their life experiences and their perceptions of the world. Our power lies in asking follow-up questions or making 10-words-or-less observations about what they’ve shared. This promotes wisdom in them, a legacy I find worth leaving.
Tweetable; Each day, so much information comes to us and the kids we love. Check out the benefits that Wisdom has to offer. Knowledge is necessary, but search for Wisdom like a treasure. Read more. Click to Tweet
Over the past 15 years, large strides have been made in the science behind how the brain develops and the settings and contexts that are conducive to learning. It’s brought exciting insights for enriching the human spirit!
Daily settings for increased brain development
Social relationships, emotional experiences and cognitive opportunities provide purposeful learning paths for the brain. Drive conversations causing kids to reflect upon, make sense of, and learn from the often misunderstood spiritual dimension. A child’s world may be seriously impoverished if we don’t.
As the brain develops, so does the human spirit.
The child’s spirit needs hope, and the comfort of knowing that a loving God is with them, watching over them wherever they are, wherever they go. Ask them, “When did you feel God’s love today?” They need to know what to do when they mess up and how to handle guilt. They want to know what God is like, and how to make a personal connection with God.
What we can do
Feed the child’s human spirit when, in responding to their questions and comments about God, we convey God’s love, affection, warmth and tenderness for the child. Make use of nurturing touch, empathy, empowerment, and unconditional love with children, to reflect the heart of our unseen God. Explore your own family’s religious or spiritual traditions to find accurate information about God. Where you find a disconnect here, go to trusted friends and sacred writings for wisdom.
Genuinely pursue a whole-child approach.
Not only are kids more likely to feel at peace with God, but they are more likely to care for others, and to pass that spiritual nurture down to future generations of children in their lives.
*(I read about the brain basis for integrated whole child development emerging from the lab of Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang in USC’s alumni magazine.)
By now, family members are accustomed to me asking for holiday Wish Lists or kids’ current clothing sizes in October. Why am I making preparations so early?
Sure, I get online and order before the Sold Out box shows up and I’ve reduced the stress level I caused myself with the “Help!–I need more hours in my day” cry.
But it’s nothing like that.
With preparations done, I’m free to carry a message of grace and love to the vast number of people who need it in December.
Done with our personal preparations, we can look, listen and respond to others who feel things like this:
- “The problem with all the Christian holiday displays is that…others feel alien in comparison. We’re the other Americans, the hyphened Americans. I love the multi-culturalism of our nation, the myriad ethnicities and histories. Let’s really celebrate it.” (Shahar Lubin)
- “I don’t mind the pageantry of Christmas….As long as my views [as a skeptic] are respected and the fact that I don’t attend church regularly doesn’t make me a lesser person in [a Christian’s] eyes, I’m perfectly fine.” (Ryan Johnson)
- “And worst of all, the endlessly expanding extravagance of gifts and parties actually makes these days incredibly stressful for millions of people leading to higher depression and suicide rates. Christmas kills, if inadvertently so.” (Edward Clint)
Be present for your neighbor and for those you don’t know well.
Walk in the opposite spirit. I’m with EJ Dionne who said, “I find it decidedly un-Christian to insist on aggressively pushing Christmas greetings onto those who own religious commitments are different from mine.”
With a headstart on preparations, we can keep an open mind and an open calendar.
A special ed teacher, writing in O Magazine, tells of being on the receiving end of a boy who was paying attention.
“One year a boy in my 5th grade class lost his mother in a car accident…..At Christmastime he saw the other students giving me gifts, so he came in with a two-liter bottle of ginger ale. He said he looked around his house and wanted to get me something special, and he knew I liked soda. I cried.
“Every year at this time, we are called to renew our hope that cold indifference and smug complacency can be overcome by a humble and gentle love powerful enough to inspire [us all].” (EJ Dionne)
Tweetable: Big rewards lie in store for people who make themselves buckle down and get holiday preparations done early. The reward I’m thinking of is not what you think. More here. Click to Tweet
Smile whenever you see courtesy in a child you’re close to. You are a walking, talking, indelible image of how to make your corner of the world a better place. Your courtesy efforts multiply because they are doing what you do.
Family members were happy to share these experiences.
- “The kids lower their voices when they are on their cellphones in public. When I was trying to learn to do this, I used to say that if I’m having trouble hearing someone, raising my voice doesn’t fix it.”
- “When my daughter is wearing headphones, I’ve seen her become more aware of staying tuned to social courtesies. When I accidentally cross someone’s personal space, I apologize and she is picking up on this.”
- “My family doesn’t show up at a party empty-handed, unless we’ve been instructed to. We bring a food item (but not always to serve then) or a plant. My daughter spoke up from the backseat recently when I completely forgot to do this so we stopped and picked something up.”
- “If our children are invited to a friend’s house to play, they also feel invited to help with the cleanup. That’s been a tough one to learn but it’s coming along.”
- “Since people offend me at times, once in a while when my child is with me, I’m open about my ups and downs on the road to forgiving. I generally let my son in on the conversation as I’m working it out and even ask him what he would do.”
- “My nephew was watching as someone started a rant with me about politics. Later I talked to him about why I did not inject my own political opinions but simply summarized this friend’s position to her, letting her know I heard her.”
What easy acts of courtesy can you add to this list?
“Courtesy is a small act but it packs a mighty wallop.” –Lewis Carroll
Tweetable: Pivot away from today’s disheartening rhetoric toward the elaborate courtesy your own children offered to many people they were with. Go here for a smile. Click to Tweet
Decompress …. Have some fun teaching kids this all-important life skill.
1. Finger-counting breaths
“A do-anywhere exercise. Create gentle fists with your hands, and with each breath, unfurl a finger from your palm. For example, on your first exhale open your left thumb from your fist. Pause and enjoy an inhale. On your next exhale, unfurl your left index finger. Pause and enjoy an inhale. Continue until you have two open palms on your lap.” Jillian Pransky
2. Attitude-changing breaths
Change the exercise in #1 to include a word(s) as the child breaths and unfurls each finger— like peace, quiet, I’m safe, God is with me.
3. Nature walk
Get out of the house for a 15-minute walk with children. Add more calm by asking the kids to point out natural wonders as they walk.
4. Legs up the wall
Children find a space along the wall where they can lie down. Begin by sitting upright along the wall with one hip touching the wall and legs extended out in front of them, parallel to the wall. Slowly lie back onto the ground/floor as their torso moves to allow legs to swing up the wall with feet pressed flat into the air, as if they were standing on the ground. Close their eyes, breathe naturally and listen to their breathing. Hold for 5 minutes.
5. Shake It Off
Find a fast, upbeat song to play. Tell children that when they hear the music, they should shake their bodies (for 30 seconds) as much as possible—legs, arms, torso, feet, hands, everything! Tell children that when the music stops, they will clap their hands as loudly as possible, three times. On the third clap, they will leave their hands together and bring them to their heart, close their eyes, take three big inhales and exhales.
Choose a prayer and pray it slowly. Here’s a sample: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8
Tweetable: Have some fun teaching children six exercises to decompress when they feel overwhelmed or stressed. Click to Tweet
“Sacrifice focuses on a goal. Deprivation focuses on poor me. Sacrifice lifts my head and lets me see the big picture. Deprivation turns my eyes inward so I see nothing but myself.” (Mary Hunt)
A reader in our blog community passed these thoughts along with a note: “If only this wisdom could be given to kids.”
Yes, but– for starters, sacrifice is giving up something valuable to me.
Human beings don’t do this easily.
For another thing, sacrifice costs me something.
Money, time, what I want when I want it. If it doesn’t cost us, how can it be a sacrifice? But isn’t there a reward in sacrifice?
The reward is perhaps the best way to introduce children to the concept of sacrifice.
I’ve taken kids to a shelter for women and children where they saw who was receiving their donations of clothing and toys… and these donations were not entirely their castoffs, but items we had chosen and purchased. The children had a lot to say on the way home as they processed their experience. Their spirits lifted when they saw that they had done something good. Maybe a little serotonin dropping into their circulatory system helps? I want them to know the good feeling they get after making the choice to bless someone else. Some children will decide they want to feel it again– and that it’s worth the sacrificed involved. My goal was to show them that sacrifice can produce a good feeling equal to the feeling they get when their own wishes have come true.
Show them the greater good.
Whatever children give up is generally only temporary. They will get more of it–sometimes sooner, sometimes later. To focus on the negative – the act of depriving oneself – doesn’t work well in almost any avenue of life. Better to pivot toward the positive – the achievement of something far more worthy than whatever valuable possession or enjoyment they gave up.
Tweetable: When a child sacrifices something valuable to him, in order to make life better for someone else, we can point out the rewards. Here are some ways to do that. Click to Tweet