Help Your Children Build Their Social Skills

It’s summer and your children should be out meeting new people and working on their social skills.  What can parents do to encourage their children to become more social?  Telling them “Go out and make friends” just doesn’t do it.

I recently came across an article entitled Social Skills Activities for Children and Teens: Evidence-based Games and Exercises by Gwen Dewar Ph. D. at the website below which contains 17 social activities for children that all derive from research.  Dr. Dewar states that “to develop and grow, kids need first-hand experience with turn-taking, self-regulation, teamwork, and perspective-taking.”  She presents many wonderful ideas for activities for your children, from toddlers to teenagers. What I like so much about this article is the amount of research that she references to support the suggested activities.

One of the interesting activities is to help children learn how to read facial expressions better.  People who read expressions well have been found to be more helpful towards others.  Dr. Dewar provides a separate link to another online article on facial expressions and that article delves more deeply into why having children learn to read facial expressions is important in developing their social skills.  There is quite a bit to learn!

Another interesting activity (remember that there are 17 in all!) is to have children read a story with emotional content and then ask the children to talk about it.  Dr. Dewar concludes as follows based on the research: “When kids participate in group conversations about emotion, they reflect on their own experiences, and learn about individual differences in the way people react to the world. And that understanding helps kids develop their ‘mind-reading’ abilities.”  At the same time, children learn about their emotions and the emotions of others.

I suggest that you read the entire article and then select an activity to do as your and your children’s schedules permit.  There is a lot that they can learn and have a fun time as well.  

For more information, please CLICK HERE.

In Spelling Bees, All Children Are Winners!

We have all seen them – a child standing on a stage, before a room full of people, being given words to spell.  Each child patiently attempts to speak clearly into the microphone to spell the word.  Many of those words are very difficult to pronounce, much less spell.  We think – what a smart and brave child to be standing up there in front of all those people, trying so hard to accurately spell.  What I would also encourage you to think about are the many benefits to having your child participate in a spelling bee.  Here are just a few:

1.    It helps to enhance your children’s vocabulary, as they learn more words and become accurate spellers.

2.    It helps children learn better grammar as they not only learn the meaning of new words but also learn to use them properly in sentences.

3.    It helps children to develop poise and confidence.  Being able to stand in front of a group of people, think on your feet, and handle pressure are important skills that take time to develop. 

4.    Since it’s a competition, competitive skills are being developed as well.  Friendships are being built and competition brings excitement.

5.    For those children who do not win, it gives them the opportunity to figure out what they could have done better as well as how to lose gracefully. 

If your child wants to participate in a spelling bee, it is very important that he gets the support he needs both at school and at home.  It takes discipline, diligence and hard work.  And, the rewards are tremendous!

Gaining Respect by Displaying Exemplary Behavior

The idea of respecting parents and other elders is practically engraved into the minds of all children everywhere from a very young age.  It is certainly important that they know to respect those around them, but it can be hard to put into practice when they are not being shown the respect they too deserve. Yes, deserve! Just as adults deserve politeness and deference, so do children.  Respecting children not only shows them how to treat other people, but it also increases their confidence and self-esteem.

Respect should be given out of love and not just as a result of an adult’s power. Punishments or bribes should never be the driving force behind obtaining your children’s respect.  Each person has value, whether young or old, and respect should be extended in recognition of that value.  Children deserve as much respect as adults because they are valued in the eyes of God.

1 Timothy 4:12 speaks of a message given to Timothy from his mentor, the Apostle Paul.  It was about setting an example for those around him by his maturity of speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Timothy was a young church leader at the time and his youth may have caused some in the church to deem him imprudent.  That is why this message was so significant.  While we cannot be completely clear as to what these people thought of Timothy, we do know that it was important for him to understand how God had called him to present himself as a dedicated follower of Christ and a leader.

Though children and adults alike should regard one another with esteem, this verse discusses certain attributes to be found in young people that build respect:

  • Children are to speak positive words into the lives of others, praise God, and express gratitude for their blessings. That positivity should also extend into their actions.  Negative or curse words do not bring glory to God or establish that the person speaking them is mature.

  • Volunteering for church events and following through on commitments are examples of the conduct of an exemplary child.

  • The described ‘purity’ extends to spiritual purity as well as physical. Do they mean well in all their actions? Is their faith in God strong? The answer to these (and similar) questions should be “yes”.

Just as Paul advised his protégé Timothy, God wants the same from your children. He wants them to know that regardless of their age, they are worthy of respect.  Importantly, they are to carry themselves in a way that is pleasing unto Him and as they do so, they will gain more and more respect from those around them.

Helping Your Children Not To Be Their Own Harshest Critics

Sometimes our children are harder on themselves than others are with them.  It is important to listen to what your children say about themselves and be able to help them stop their self-criticism as soon as possible.   Encourage them to build self-esteem.

In her online article on Focus on the Family’s website, author Shana Schutte writes that there are basic ABCs to building self-esteem in children. Start with the letter “A” which represents “acceptance”.   Children must feel accepted unconditionally by their parents!  If they don’t, they will withdraw and become self-critical. 

The letter “B” represents “belonging”.  Children must feel as if they belong in their family and are a critical, appreciated part of their family.  When peer pressure takes place, a child who feels a deep sense of belonging to her family, will find it easier to resist doing an act that she knows is not right.

The letter “C” represents “competence”.  Your children also need to feel as if they are competent and able to do what they would like to do.  Be there for them and encourage them, but do not be an overprotective parent. 

I also believe it is very important that children learn Bible verses that describe how much God loves them and how God sees them.   Search for Bible verses that your children can memorize and then use these verses to refute any negative feelings your children may have about themselves.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.

When Was the Last Time Your Family Had A Game Night?

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Children love spending time with their parents, especially fun time.  What better way than to have a family game night to enjoy the time together and help your children to learn and develop new skills?

Games teach children many different, yet important things.  From colors to shape recognition to new words to social interaction, there are so many benefits.  Some games such as chess teach logic and strategic planning.  Children also learn that there are basic rules that must be followed in order to play and win. 

To start off, select one night a month that fits into everyone’s schedules.  Once the date is selected, stick with it and do not make excuses to cancel it.  Plan for the night as a family so that each person has input.  Will there be food? What game will be played? How long will the game(s) last?  It is easy to search the internet to find games that will be suitable for your family.  Consider both board games and physical games such as Twister (which was one of our family’s favorites). 

Be sure not to give up if the first family night is not as successful as you hoped.  The key is to plan and keep everyone involved.  It will become one of your and your children’s fondest memories.

Helping Your Children Become Entrepreneurs

We should encourage entrepreneurship spirit in our children beginning at a young age.  Children are very creative and having a dream to establish a business and be self-sufficient and successful are very positive goals.

My parents were small business owners.  I saw how they struggled to make ends meet when their business was established and then the benefits they reaped as the business grew.  After I graduated from law school and returned home to practice law, the seeds they had planted in me for entrepreneurship began to grow and I established my own private law practice.  My parents always encouraged me and my sisters to be self-sufficient and follow our dreams.

Later, as a mother with two sons, I hired them to work in my office to do general office tasks after school and on the weekends.  By working with me in that business environment, they were able to experience hands on training about what it is like to own your business and the dedication and hard work it takes to be successful.

Many children do not have the opportunities that I and my children had but parents can still open their children’s minds to the possible business opportunities that are available.   Children frequently ask for money so why not think about ways to help them earn money rather than just giving it to them.  If your children’s school has classes that teach entrepreneurship, encourage your children to take them.  If there are after-school activities and clubs centered on business ownership and development, again, encourage your children to participate.  

Of course, the typical business idea for children is the ubiquitous lemonade stand.  However, there are many websites that have ideas for children’s businesses.  At the end of my blog, I will give you a website with some very creative suggestions.

The key component is the parents’ involvement to help start and run the business, as children cannot possibly do it themselves.  Please do not start a business and then give up because you allow other tasks or activities to take precedence.   Many factors must be considered before starting a business with your children, including the time commitment involved, the availability of financing, and the general logistics of where and how it will be operated.  As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.  

Please visit this website for some business ideas for children: click here

Raising Your Children to be Problem Solvers

Among the skills parents should teach their children, problem solving is often overlooked.  A person’s ability to solve problems quickly and effectively plays a huge part in the way he handles challenges, and ultimately, the path of his life.  Providing children with the tools and experiences to be proficient problem solvers prepares them for the problems that will inevitably show up in their personal and professional lives.

In her online article for the PBS website, “I Figured it Out!”: Helping Kids Become Tenacious Problem Solvers”, author Deborah Farmer Kris gives some expert advice in nurturing our children’s imagination and creativity.   First and foremost, we must encourage our children’s curiosity.  When they are young, children constantly are asking the question “Why?”   Instead of reacting to this question as a burden, parents should enthusiastically respond “Let’s find out!”  By responding in this manner, we show that their question is to be respected and that there are ways to find out answers. 

Second, Ms. Kris recommends that we do not give answers to a problem to our children right away or step in too quickly to resolve it.  We should help them reframe or clarify the problem and search for answers.  Ask such questions as “Have you tried this already?” or “Tell me more about the situation.”  Help them to think about the challenge and come up with their own solutions.  I’m a lawyer and law schools use the Socratic method to train students to think critically.  A law professor always asks questions of the students, forcing them to think critically and search for the right arguments.

Third, honor their “tenacity”, the ability to continue trying to find solutions for a problem rather than giving up easily.  You can say, for example, “That was a challenging puzzle, but you stayed with it.”

Fourth, help your children to be good observers.  Encourage them to look for clues or search around for material needed for a project.  Spending time in nature is a good way to develop good observation skills as they can use their five senses. 

To read the full article, click here.

Who Are Your Children’s Role Models? Part 1

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The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines “role model” as a person whose behavior is imitated by others.  The entertainment media is constantly providing us with information about the so-called “stars” and role models - whether they are actors, musicians, singers, or other public figures.  Often, we see children and youth emulating the dress and behavior of these “stars”.   As Christians, we should have our own “stars” for our children – persons who are different, yet extraordinary role models.  And, these “stars” must start at home.  This week’s blog centers on the role models whom our children should have in their every-day lives.

            When I found this image for this week’s blog, I was very impressed and happy.  It says a tremendous amount in very few words, and I encourage you to  take your time to read it and talk about it with your spouse and other family members.  Please set aside some time to do so.  As people who are not Christians look to the world’s “stars” to give them inspiration for living, we Christians must choose a different standard – one that glorifies God. 

Small Ways to Boost Your Children’s Self Esteem

I have written before about boosting your child’s self-esteem, but today I will be discussing a few additional points as this is such an important subject.  Self-esteem is simply how a child feels about himself.  It is vital that children feel good about themselves because it makes them better problem solvers, better learners, and more appreciative of themselves and the people around them.

Since self-esteem is so integral to a child’s development, here are a few things you can do to boost his confidence.

1.    Do not pile on the praise. This may seem counterintuitive to what you believe.  Simply praising your child for everything he does is not helpful.  And, research shows that it may backfire.  Concentrate on praising effort.   Your praise may appear fake if a child knows that he did not perform well so instead, acknowledge when your child is making mistakes and encourage him to keep trying!

2.    Let your child make mistakes.  When teaching a child something new, be patient and monitor what she does.  Then, let her do it on her own so that she can learn from her mistakes.  Too often, as parents, we do not want our child to perform mediocrely.  How can she learn if she does not keep trying to do better.  

3.    Encourage independence. Once your child knows the difference between right and wrong and understands the consequences that come with certain decisions, let her make some for herself.  Often, this can show how much you trust her and respect her choices.

4.    Do not give harsh criticism.  I often hear parents calling their children names such as “lazy”, “messy”, “disorganized”, etc. What we speak over our children will come to pass.  They will begin to think about themselves just as you described.  So, select descriptive words that are encouraging rather than discouraging and look for things that they do right, rather than what they have done wrong.

Though these steps may seem simple, following them will go a long way in building healthy self-esteem in your children.

Kids Health provides more information about the benefits of high self-esteem in children and what you can do.  Read the entire article by CLICKING HERE.

Help your Children Plan and Prepare for their Exams this Exam Season

It is exam season and your children might either be freaking out about it or blissfully oblivious as their exam dates get closer with each passing day.  Regardless of their state of mind right now, exam season is always a stressful time.  Parents can play a significant role in relieving some of that stress by assisting their children to prepare for their exams.

Before beginning, parents must understand the type of learner their children are.  Of course, each child is different.  Is she a visual or hands-on learner?  Is he a mix of both? Does she work better alone or in a group? How long is his attention span? Talk with each of them about it and come up with methods for exam preparations that are the most conducive to his learning style(s), not yours.

Many parents, including me, assist their children before a test. Some use flashcards, others ask probing questions, while others make mock exams - the effectiveness of each technique is completely determined by each child’s learning style.

I have written some tips in a couple of articles on this blog about spending time with your children and being involved when they do their homework, that can be applied to helping your children study for exams.  The most important takeaways from these blogs should be scheduling, location and your overall involvement.  Studying in a clear - somewhat secluded- area helps your children focus on their tasks without distraction.  Planning a schedule to study for each class gives a sense of order during a time that may be chaotic for most students. Parents can assist by checking up on your children every once in a while to observe their progress or assist with a problem.  This shows them that you care about their academics and it gives them the chance to share what they have learned. It also gives them the opportunity to ask questions on what they may not thoroughly understand yet.

That is not all! According to an article on the U.S. Department of Education’s website, one of the best things you can do for your children is to talk to them about their exams. Find out what subjects they are confident and not-so confident in. Speak with them about the areas they think they need to focus on. Speak with their teachers and present these inquiries to them, too.  Use your newfound data to help your children set up a study plan that strengthens their weaknesses and enhances their strengths.

Be sure to confirm with their teachers the correct exam dates and ensure that they start studying well in advance.  Children can get confused about dates, especially if they have not written them down.  Also, having a longer time span for them to go over the information for each subject, gives your children a better chance of actually learning and comprehending the information rather than just memorizing it.  Comprehension signifies that the information can be applied to many different situations; however, memorization makes it much harder to do so.

Parents know what exam season is like. We all have been through it. We can use our experiences, along with these tips, to ensure that our children handle studying and taking exams better than we did and are more successful.  You can find the U.S Department of Education’s article for more tips on how to help your children by clicking here.

Do Not Be Worried about Your Children’s Futures

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:34

As parents, we are often consumed by preparing our children for the future. Whether it be enrolling them in as many extracurricular activities as possible to round out their academic resume or teaching them to be self-sufficient for adulthood, we want them to be completely prepared for everything that the future has to bring.  All this focus on the future, though, can cause high levels of stress for both you and your children and make it very difficult to just bask in the here and now.   

God does not want us to be anxious about anything.  I like what the words on the image for this week’s blog say: “Pray more, worry less”.   No one truly knows what the future will bring, but, as a Christian, you should feel comfort in knowing that God has already established a plan for the lives of each of your children.  

Try doing the following:

  1. Understand that not every trait your child has now, will carry over into her future.  For example, if you notice that your child is forgetful or seems unmotivated at times, it is unlikely that her attitude will persist throughout her life because behaviors change. Of course, you should talk to her about her conduct to ensure that she is fine and motivate her to do better, but do this to help your child in the present, not necessarily for the future. She does not need to hear your theories about the detrimental affects her present behavior may have on her future. She needs her parents’ assistance in dealing with whatever is going on at the moment.
  2. Spend time with your children (uninterrupted by the distractions of technology). This could be a planned outing or an impromptu hangout session. Making time for your children shows them how much you love and value them.
  3. Stop yourself from worrying.  In Matthew 6:34, Jesus taught His disciples about concentrating on what is happening today, and not worrying about what may happen tomorrow. 
  4. Pray.  Daily, ask God for guidance and comfort. 

Sharing Jesus With Your Children

As a lay children’s minister for many years, I loved teaching children about Jesus in my church’s children’s ministry.  We used a variety of techniques, from puppet shows to funny skits, to dressing up in clown costumes to fun parties.  Everything was centered on the Word of God. Of course, I was trained to do what I did and relied upon the creativity that God gave me as well.

Many parents find it hard or uncomfortable to talk about Jesus with their children.  But, it shouldn’t be that way as parents are the first teachers of and role models for their children.

When talking with children about Jesus, I recommend to focus first on how much He loves them and wanted to be around children.  Describe some of the instances in the New Testament about Jesus and children.  When the disciples tried to keep the children away from Him, Jesus stopped them and made sure the children were allowed to come to Him.  He said that the kingdom of God belonged to them too.  Matthew 19:13-14; Mark 10:13-16.  One day, He took a child in His arms and told the people that if anyone receives a child in His Name receives Jesus and God, the Father.  Mark 9:36-37.  To illustrate the importance of children, He also told the people that children are not to be despised as their angels in heaven continually see the face of God.  Matthew 18:10.  And, He loved children so very much that He said it was not the will of God that any child should perish.  Matthew 18:14.

I further recommend that parents not limit talking about Jesus and spiritual issues to just Sundays.  All during the week, look for instances to talk about the goodness and love of God such as the beauties of nature; food to eat; a good home to live in; nice clothes to wear; and fun toys and games to play with.  Talk to them about how forgiving God is. The subjects are endless.  What is important is that your children see and hear about God every day. 

When you need assistance, surf the internet to find out what you can do.  There is quite a bit of information available to help parents.          

How Can Christian Parents Build Self-Esteem in Their Children?

Although my quote for today’s blog is not from the Bible, I believe it to be nonetheless very appropriate about self-esteem.  Just what is self-esteem? Essentially, it is the way a child thinks of himself/herself.  As Christian parents, what can we do to build self-esteem in our children?  We, of course, do not want them to grow up to be conceited and self-absorbed but there is a balance between healthy self-esteem and an inflated ego that we should understand.

First, we need to know and fully appreciate how God sees us and there are a number of Bible verses that show us that God sees us as very special. For example, Genesis 1:27 says that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him”.  Psalm 139:14 says “(f)or You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  In Ephesians 2:10, we are described as “God’s masterpiece”. Since He created us as such valuable, superior beings, we should see ourselves that way.

Second, it is important to make clear to our children that they should not rely on anyone’s praise from day to day to have self-esteem.  We, as parents, may praise our children some days, but not on other days.  Also, other people may not praise them, but in fact, may say negative things to them.  Their self-esteem and confidence should derive from God, who is always consistent and loving, and not from humans.  Help your children learn and memorize Bible verses that mention how special they are.  It is the Word of God that will serve as the foundation of their confidence.

Third, each child has different strengths.  Focus on building those strengths.  Remind them that all their gifts and strengths come from God. James 1:17 (“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights”).