Watching the Olympics?

Is your family watching the Olympics?  Why or why not?  Some families have no interest in any sports and other families can’t get enough. I am not a huge sport fan.  Generally, the only sports I watch on TV are the Chicago Bears.  I enjoy watching high school and junior high sports live when I know a student on the team.  Of course, I watched my own children play team sports and consider it a special treat to watch any of my grandchildren play their sport.

downloadBut the Olympics rate in a category all their own.  Watching the Olympics happens in the comfort of my own home, usually in a recliner and without insects, or sunburn, or someone hawking food or raffle tickets. I don’t have to cart around a child or children to weeks of practices and games or pack healthy snacks for 20 other kids. It’s also FREE. All of these are simply a matter of convenience. There are many positive reasons for being an Olympic spectator.

The Olympics provide tons of opportunities for conversations on topics not often addressed. Don’t just dish out information, but do some research with your children to discover where Korea or the current host country is located.  Do you know anyone who served in the Korean War?  Ask them about the country and their experiences. North Korea is a current event in politics.  Do you know what that is all about?

The Olympics are filled with symbolism and tradition. Its history goes back to ancient Greece where the earliest champions were awarded laurel wreaths. What do today’s winners receive besides the medals?  What do the torch, the flame, and the rings mean?  Explain the differences between amateur and professional sportsmen/women.  How are Olympians a bit like both?

When I watch the Olympics I am always amazed at the perseverance of the athletes.  Their dedication can be an inspiration to us not just in athletic endeavors but also in other areas of our lives. Perhaps your child will discover an interest and desire to explore a new sport. Do you want to build a curling rink in your back yard? (Frozen Disney tune in my headMaybe you simply become a fan of ice hockey and discover the fun and excitement of the game.field day events

The Olympics have 3 top winners in every competition but that means there are hundreds or thousands who return home with an incredible experience but a defeat.  Maybe they fell on the ice or lost a ski or some other fiasco.   We can all relate to failure. But how is it handled? That is another great conversation starter.

How about the winners? How does their life change? They have not all handled the success successfully.  How many past Olympic winners can you recall? Sports and training have value and we can learn much from them but the character and integrity of a person outlasts the strength and skill on a snowboard or skates.

One summer when our four oldest children were between the ages of 13 and 6, we decided to turn the TV off for the entire summer.  I thought it was a good move until August rolled around and the Summer Olympics were being televised.  There was sadness in the house. Reflecting back I think a 2 month hiatus would have been sufficient.

Schools often have Olympic studies planned. The Olympics can be addressed in theDan basket ball subjects of history, geography, literature, writing, math, spelling, and current events. Why not read a book about an Olympian?

One more Olympic idea is all about food.  Strength and health come from physical activity and nutrition. Discuss a healthy diet.  Look up what Gold medalist, Mark Spitz, ate for breakfast when training. With the Winter Olympics in Korea, it is the perfect time to try some Korean food at home or in a restaurant.

I would love to hear if your family does anything special related to the Winter Olympics.


Kids and Resolutions

Resolutions involving kids usually have to do with one’s desire to in some way be a “better” parent. They often are something like the following:  I will read aloud more to my kids, I will be a better listener, I will be more patient with my kids, or I will do a better job of monitoring screen time.   I propose a different kindof resolution for 2018.

Goals, Smarat How about a family resolution? Together, make a plan that is S.M.A.R.T.  (see goal setting chart).   School age children (5+) through teens probably will be willing to participate in such an experience.   Start the exercise with some brain storming where all ideas are recorded and none are evaluated.     After collecting all the ideas begin to evaluate and eliminate.    Try to shrink the list down to two or three that everyone agrees upon.  Then further examine those to discover if each is truly a S.M.A.R.T. goal.   If your family is a democracy, then vote.  Perhaps parents could each have two votes so that the children don’t overrule.

A secondary idea is a family focus or theme for the year.  This is not my original idea, but I really like it.  This could also be chosen through the family brain storming and elimination method.    The possibilities are endless.  Here are a few ideas: Year of Joy, Year of Gratitude,  or  Year of Grace. “Grateful, Thankful, Blessed” is a popular saying.  Perhaps it could be a springboard for ideas.   The theme does not have to be a character trait or a virtue but could be something fun such as, the Year of Color or  the Year of Running.


Once the theme is chosen, a placque or banner could be created to be a daily reminder.   Perhaps a scripture could be chosen to be memorized.   Play an on-going game of who can most quickly identify references to the theme in music, movies, audio books, sermons . . . .    Commend each other for living and practicing your chosen theme.  Plan some activities, adventures or experiences to understand and apply the theme.

Use your creativity to discover ways to incorporate the theme in your family life.  Establish some fun reminders to keep everyone on track.  Don’t become rigid or legalistic.

January is a great time to establish a yearly family theme or resolution.   But they can happen at any time. Some other “start” times might be the beginning of summer, a new school year or school semester, any holiday, the first of any month, or whatever time works best for your family. January is not the only time we can begin something new.

We all appreciate a fresh start or a do-over sometimes. I think this is the appeal of a new year.   God, by his grace, gives us this when we confess our sin and He forgives us.   A tangible way to demonstrate this to our children is to forgive or do away with the punishment our children deserve. Yes, it is important for them to learn about consequences and be responsible for their behavior. But, I also believe that somewhere in their learning there is a prime opportunity to offer forgiveness so that their hearts can be softened rather than become more rebellious. This could happen in the Year of Grace.

May this be a great year for your family.

Out of the mouths of babes

Do your kids crack you up? How many times have you chuckled at the amusing things they have said?

When my children were little, especially ages 3- 8 they said funny things every day.  They were often comical because they arrived at conclusions based on their observations and their very limited knowledge.  They were trying to make sense of their world.   The world is very complicated with words which have multiple meanings.   Sometimes this results in uproarious declarations.IMG_3410

Parents of young children have very busy lives.  Even as a twenty-something I knew if I did not write it down, no matter how amazing or endearing it was, I would forget it.   I frequently wrote notes or information on slips of paper and threw them in the drawer containing their baby books.  Later, sometimes much later, that bit of information would actually be entered into the baby book, but without the notes, their books would have been rather empty.

I had the same problem with “funny things”.  I knew I wanted a record of them.  I kept a small journal easily reachable in the drawer in the kitchen.  My bedroom nightstand would have been a safer location, but it would have gotten lost under a stack of old greeting cards and random stuff.   The one and only unstuffed kitchen drawer worked well.

I would write in the journal as soon as possible.  Repeating the saying to spouse or grandparents also helped me retain the information and they enjoyed hearing about it, but I would still forget unless I wrote it down.   As my children aged they enjoyed and laughed at the things they said when they were younger.

The following are a few of my favorite entries:

4 kidsJan. 14, 88 – Momma told Tommy (age 4 1/2) he was good looking and someday the girls would be after him.  He said, “I’ll go out with them and then dump them with a dump truck.”    (Tom married his first girlfriend after dating for 5 years and they are presently expecting their 6th child)

July 21, 88 – David, age 5, said to momma at bedtime, “Men know more than women.”  “What do you mean?  I asked.  “Men know more about women than women know about men.”  (David married at age 21 and has two daughters)

1/8/89 – Debra, age 4, looking out the window at the big pine trees said, “Look, Ma, hotdogs in the trees.  We can climb up there and eat them. “    (Debra is still willing to climb a tree or eat hotdogs.)

1/4/87 – Danny, age 8, said, “Tonight was the best church service  I was ever in.” “Why?” asked Mom.  “Because I could read all the words in the hymnal.”      (Dan is a pastor in a church without hymnals.)

Mar. 2001 – Seth, age 5, said, “I know when I want to get married – June 1st when I am in college.” Why, asked mom.  “It’s close to Christmas.”  ( Seth is 21, in college and single.)

I wish I had written down more of the great things my children said.  Perhaps you would like to record more than just the witty announcements.  Outlandish statements, anecdotal examples of their character, or maybe declarations of future careers could be included.  You probably are already taking lots of photos with your phone, write some notes too.

There are numerous online sources through which one could inexpensively and simply print quotes and add adorable pics in a bound book format.   It could be a sentimental keepsake, golden or teen birthday or high school graduation gift

The format is inconsequential, just write it down somewhere.  You will always be glad you did.



Did you hear what he said?

He walked past our house twice a day.  He was a businessman who rode the commuter train to Chicago.  He always smiled and said hello as he passed.  One day he stopped.  Pointing to our infant son in the stroller he said to me, “It is very important that you always talk to him.  And never use gibberish or baby talk.  He needs to hear you speaking clearly and correctly.  He will learn to talk from listening to you.  Good day.”  That is the only conversation I recall having with that neighbor.  I don’t know if he was a father or perhaps a grandfather.  I appreciated his wisdom.   He made a lasting impression on me.  That baby in the stroller is now a 38 year old father of

It often seems that expectant or new moms wear a sign.  It says “WANTED: Unsolicited Advice.”  Unsolicited advice is freely given from family, friends, and even complete strangers. Be gracious as you listen and be discerning.  It may be useless information, but some of it may be very helpful.   Anyone may know a better way to do something.

Talking and listening are important skills in parenting. Children must learn to do both and you are their primary teacher.   Talk to your infants all day long.  Tell them what you are doing as you do it.  Tell them about the objects in your/their environment.   Talk about everything and anything.   They are always listening! By the time they reach the age of three they will be doing lots of questioning.  This is all part of the learning process.  Try to be patient as the majority of their questions will begin with the word, why.

Here are a few ideas for teaching your children to be attentive listeners:

  1. Ask your child to look at your while you are talking to them.
  2. Be clear and direct so that there is less opportunity for misunderstanding. Most young children do not understand subtlety.
  3. Ask them if they understand what you have said and maybe to repeat any given instructions.
  4. Young children need to be told one thing at a time. As they age they can manage a list of instructions.
  5. Clearly define the time expectation connected to any order or requested action with words such as; now, soon, today, after, tomorrow….

Learn to attentively listen to your child. Pay attention to their choice of words, tone, body language and facial expression.  Ask clarifying questions.  Do not be critical or condemning.  This can shut down communication.  Two of my children were very sensitive to what they perceived as a loud or angry voice.   Sometimes I had to whisper to prevent them from completely shutting me out.   Each child’s temperament is different.1240127_10153310501223342_8421696981290091493_n

Ask your child not only about their interests, desires and needs but also engage your child in age appropriate conversations about things outside of their typical sphere.  Ask their opinions.  Commend their ideas and strategies.  Question how they feel or what they think about a topic or a specific problem.   Request their suggestions when you are facing a difficulty.  You may be amazed at their thinking and suggestions.  They can learn to problem solve and even compromise.  These types of exercises engage and expand the mind.  They are also developing incredible communication skills, which will make them a better spouse, parent and employee.

As our children grow into teens and young adults our conversations with them become more vital not less.   The topics of conversations may change but conversing needs to happen every day. Parents need to listen to their children and children need to listen to their parents.   Smartphones and technology may be a distraction from truly listening to each other in the way their grandparents did with us.

I encourage you to think about who you have really listened to today. Were you genuine? Did you have a phone in your hand? Did you make eye contact?  Did the person talking to you walk away frustrated? Listening is an important skill we can continue to improve upon, even as adults.