Sunday, September 26, 2010

Courage by Remembering

When Luke was a newborn, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Dallas.  We didn't sleep well in the same room with Luke. He kept making little baby noises that woke us.  So, he got the bedroom and we got the sleeper couch in the living room.  The sleeper couch with the metal bar that ran right under the middle of my back.  For a year.  I think if you look carefully, there may still be an indention!

When we moved and got a real bed, we said we would never forget what a blessing that new mattress was to us.  But, we very quickly stopped remembering God's gift of a bed and the difference it made.  I am so thankful that God is patient with me.  There are so many great things He does for me again and again.  And, I seem to forget faster than I notice.

Remembering what God has done for each of us is vital to trust and courage.  Certainly, remembering that He sacrificed His Son, Jesus.  But, also remembering all those other things He constantly does for me.

God's advice when we need courage is to remember what He has done for us, what our eyes have seen.  Deuteronomy 7:17-19 is an example:  "If you should say in your heart, 'These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?' you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt:  the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD you God brought you out.  So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid."

What do you remember that God has done for you, especially when you needed courage?  Remembering these, telling your children the stories, and letting them see God's Hand in small and big will help them trust and have courage.  Sometimes we want to insulate our children from the hard times, but the stories of God's provision and care when we follow Him and when things are hard are the stories that they will remember when they need courage.

Two suggestions to help our children.  First, step out with faith and courage so your children can see your courage and so you have stories to tell them.  Your example, not just in words but actions, is powerful in creating bravehearts.  What can you trust God for right now that takes courage?

Second, remember, somehow.  We are keeping a bulletin board in our hallway where we stick pictures and notes that help us remember God's care for us.  Every time I look, I realize how easily I forget.  And, I realize how many things I have probably not noticed or told myself that I would remember and didn't.  Maybe you use a bowl of notes.  Maybe a scrapbook or a journal.  Maybe it is the side of your refrigerator.  Our children need to see and hear our stories of faith and courage to begin their own.

Then, help them to find their own way to remember.  David remembered that God had delivered him from paw of the lion and the paw of the bear.  That memory convinced him that God would deliver him from Goliath.  Noticing God's care and power, then remembering, builds bravehearts.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Goldilocks Part Two, Discovering Giftedness

There are really two parts to discovering your child’s giftedness, otherwise known as "proper porridge finding” from the Goldilocks Principle on September 16. First, we discover, celebrate, and value each child’s uniqueness. Second, we help find classes and activities that fit.

Remember that this is a lifetime process (aren’t we all still discovering these things?). Most important is helping a child understand that he or she is gifted and that there is porridge out there that will taste good to each child. Sometimes we never get the porridge just right, but getting closer and closer encourages children to keep going that way.

Let me suggest some tools that you can use to help your child discover gifts. Here are some things to do and watch to help understand each child’s uniqueness:

Try. A moving ship can be directed by a small rudder. Help your child try a wide array of classes and activities recognizing that all won’t fit—he or she may even fail! But if you don’t try, you'll never know. Your child doesn't need to wait for someone else. You can introduce him to hiking, bike repair, reading, chess, serving the hungry, and a multitude of other activities.

Tests. Take advantage of evaluative instruments like Strengthsfinder, Do What You Are, spiritual gift inventories, personality tests, school testing that has career insights like Explore by ACT—any testing that your school or church has. You can find many others in books and online.

Terrific. What does your child do well? Note not only class grades, but the specific methods and parts of a class where she does well. And consider the huge realm of activities and work outside of class in the “real” world. Volunteering and working give chances to find these things.

Terror. Of what is your child scared to death? This is probably not his or her strength.

Tantalizing. What attracts your child? What sidetracks him from getting the things done he needs to do? What passions does he have and with what can you entice him?  (Eating probably isn't a gift, though!)  These attractions may point to gifts.

Tributes. What do people notice in your child? Help her value what people say she does well and celebrate it, even if she pretends it isn’t a “big deal.”

Time. When does he lose track of time because he is so absorbed (video games, TV, and showers don’t count!). On what does your child like to spend time? This is likely a strength.

Trials. What trials has your child withstood? What has she learned about herself and the strengths God gave? Often strengths show and grow when things are hard. Instead of just seeing the cloud, look for light on what can be learned.

Most important: just help your child find something he or she loves. And, if you can’t help him or her find the right porridge, know it is out there and that he or she is unique and gifted. Life can be tough. Having the hope of something that brings joy and purpose keeps children going, being a braveheart.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Goldilocks Principle

You know the story. “At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl. ‘This porridge is too hot!’ she exclaimed. So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl. ‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said. So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge. ‘Ahhh, this porridge is just right,’ she said happily and ate it all up.”

There is an important principle for parenting here. Let’s call it, “The Goldilocks Principle.” A child who is in a class or activity that is “too hot” or “too cold,” that just doesn’t fit how God made him or her will struggle and not enjoy it.  The child will become stuck and lose heart.  (Don’t forget, that hot bowl of porridge was just right for someone else—there is a person for every bowl of porridge! In fact in my research—yes, I really did research on Goldilocks and the Three Bears—one version says the first bowl was too spicy and the second too sweet for Goldilocks, maybe a better picture of what happens to children than too hot or cold.)

But, when Goldilocks found the bowl of porridge that was just right for her, she “ate it all up.” This is so much like our children. When they find a class or activity that is “just right” they eat “it all up.” They hardly notice the time, the effort, or the pain involved. They go for it enthusiastically, gobbling up the course or the activity.  They become bravehearts, ready to use and grow their gifts with passion.

Not long ago, I watched a group of girls gather in the dark at 6:15 am for powder puff football practice. Others thought they were crazy and would have hated it. These girls ate it up, they were laughing and running and banging each other like puppies playing with each other! It was a good fit. They had found some porridge that was just right. What to others may have been drudgery, they loved.

This is the Goldilocks Principle: Find the right porridge and a child happily eats it up. It is a major task of parenting and teaching: Help a child match gifts and passions with the right courses and activities, then watch in amazement as he or she flourishes. You could call this simply, “Cooperating with the Creator” since the goal is to look for that unique blend of gifts and interests that God has placed in each child and to connect each child with life’s options that fit the way he or she was created.

Every child should have something he or she loves to do, especially if most classes or activities are hard or don't fit perfectly.  Finding the right porridge somewhere in life keeps him or her encouraged and confident to keep trying with joy and heart.

Next time:  Eight ideas to help figure out the porridge for your child.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mindset: Fixed or Growth?

"In this book, you'll learn how a simple belief about yourself--a belief we discovered in our research--guides a large part of your life.  In fact, it permeates every part of your life.  Much of what you think of as your personality actually grows out of this 'mindset.'  Much of what may be preventing you from fulfilling your potential grows out of it."  Carol Dweck, in Mindset, says that people either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  And, this view affects all aspects of life such as business, school, relationships, parenting, and marriage.

Don't let the subtitle throw you:  "The New Psychology of Success."  Essentially what Dr. Dweck has researched is the simple premise of Braveheart that success depends on the courage to try.  The Braveheart idea is rooted in Colossians 3:21:  "Fathers, don’t exasperate your children that they lose heart." The opposite of a lost heart is having heart, a “braveheart" which is especially important in a world with fears at every turn where it is easy to freeze and not grow.

Dweck concurs that children are born with heart and it is something they lose:  "Everyone is born with an intense drive to learn...What could put an end to this exuberant learning?  The fixed mindset.  As soon as children become able to evaluate themselves, some of them become afraid of challenges.  They become afraid of not being smart.  I have studied thousands of people from preschoolers on, and it's breathtaking how many reject an opportunity to learn."  We can exasperate children so quickly by comparing their abilities to others or praising intelligence instead of effort, creating a lost heart with a fixed mindset instead of keeping the heart to try and discover.

Mindset is worth reading.  I flagged thirteen chunks to share, and there could be more.  The concept and Dweck's exploration of its effect in life is sound and points to the reasons a braveheart succeeds.  Dweck is not as strong on "how" you get a growth mindset, but goes there with statements like:  "The idea that they are worthy and will be loved is crucial for children, and--if a child is unsure about being valued or loved--the fixed mindset appears to offer a simple, straightforward route to this."  And, "It's not that growth-minded parents indulge and coddle their children.  Not at all.  They set high standards, but they teach the children how to reach them.  They say no, but it's a fair, thoughtful, and respectful no...What is the message I'm sending here:  I will judge and punish you?  Or I will help you think and learn?"

A major key for many of us, as Dweck says, is just understanding that there are two mindsets.  And, then considering which we are.   Then, we can keep the awareness active as we raise our children.  Knowledge that a parent can cause a child to lose heart or can help a child be a braveheart is a great beginning.  Our every word or action helps stamp one approach or the other in the mind of our children.  And, with this awareness, search Scripture for eternal truths of "how" to raise a braveheart, a child with a growth mindset and all of its benefits.

Before leaving behind my thirteen ideas I would love to quote, let me share a favorite on the value of praise in developing mindset.  From Dweck: 

"Parents think they can hand children permanent confidence--like a gift--by praising their brains and talent.  It doesn't work, and in fact it has the opposite effect.  It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong.  If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.  That way, their children don't have to be slaves of praise.  They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence."

Test Dweck's ideas (you can look at against truth of Scripture.  Be encouraged that research shows what God says works.  She has some great thoughts.  Let's build bravehearts with a growth mindset.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Child's Courage to Launch

The courage to launch depends on the security of landing.  Children who know they can come back home and land in a safe place are a lot more likely to have the courage to try a new venture (adventure?).  Whether it is the first toddle aimed at mom's arms stretched out like a basket to catch, or the trip across the country for college with a plane ticket home, knowing there is a secure landing helps the going.  The courage to go places, explore ideas, speak up, or make a difference comes more easily when a child has a safe place to land.

A first grader, Mary, didn't want to leave her mom and go to school.  One day mom drove in the parking lot and got out of her car to visit a friend while Mary was getting her things ready in the car, supposedly.  Mary hit the lock button and refused to come out.  Through heaps of cajoling, mom got the little girl to open the door and I helped her get Mary out.  Then mom left.  I was holding Mary as she kicked  my shins and yelled.

I got her to come inside, after mom's car disappeared down the drive.  We sat down, and with the help of a soft drink at nine in the morning, Mary and I talked calmly.  She really didn't want to leave her mom. 

We made a deal, with mom's permission.  Mary would come to school, but once a week she could go back home if she wanted.  At any time, we would call mom to pick her up and go home.

Mary went home once, the next week.  And, never again.  In fact, never again did she fight coming to school.  The comfort of knowing that she could return home safely gave Mary the courage to face all those things that we do in school.  It may not work this way for every child, but knowing she had a safe landing helped Mary face the larger world.

Building a safe place to return gives bravehearts confidence to go new places and try new things.  Is home safer than the world?  Or, just as jarring?  Is it a secure place from the hurts and pressures of school and the world? Or, just another battleground?  Home may be where the heart it is.  Home certainly is the launching pad for bravehearts who try, knowing there is a safe landing waiting for them.

Ultimately, the real safe landing is with Jesus.  The better a child knows Jesus, the more likely he or she will know that as He leads, He will also catch.  A trustworthy and awesome basket with arms outstretched, always there for those who know Him.  And freeing to boldly go on His adventure.