CHORES, CHILDREN AND CHARACTER: The chores we did as a child are a fond memory for most of us. Sadly, children today are missing the valuable character qualities that regular chores build. They’ve become lost in our quest for leisure and labor-saving devices. But assigning chores is a most productive way of teaching responsibility and accountability to your children.
- Start Early. (Even a 3-year-old can set a table, though it may take tree times a long).
- Don’t discourage volunteers (Between the ages of 8 and 12, children go through an especially helpful age when they want to model their parents).
- When possible, co-operate with the interests and abilities of the child in assigning chores. Children take a lot of pride in getting good at something they want to do.
- Divide and rotate both the less desirable and the most popular tasks equally among all the family members.
- Spell out each task in writing and make clear what the standard of performance is for a job well done. leaving this up to individual interpretation creates problems.
- Create and display a chart where assignments and performances are logged.
- Don’t spare praise. If you spend more time criticizing a poorly done job than praising a good one, you’re actually rewarding the negative behavior more than the positive performance. Lavish compliments are fun to give and never hurt anyone.
HOW TEACHABLE ARE YOU? Surprise your children tonight by asking them to tell you about something they’re currently studying in school – some new mathematical or chemical formula, a new literature book they are reading, etc. Select a topic you know little about, and really get into it.
INSTANT “MOTORCYCLE”: remember how you used to turn your bike into a “motorcycle” by fastening cardboard squares to the frame with clothespins so that they wrapped against the spokes? Maybe it’s time your child discovered the trick.
MOTIVATION PLUS: To spark interest, let your kids choose and lead the family devotions for a week. Tell them they can be as creative and imaginative as they want, as long as you approve their plan. Motivation and responsibility grow through this experience. Use it frequently.
CALL YOUR WIFE at 10:30 a.m. sometime this week and say in these words, or others more natural to you, “I was just thinking of you, and wanted to say that I’m immensely pleased that you are my wife…. You’re wonderful!”
OLD SAYINGS: After dinner tonight, quiz your children on how many old sayings they know and understand. Write out the first half of the adage and ask them to fill in the rest. Sayings such as: “Don’t put all your eggs in …,” “All is fair in love and…,” You’ll be amazed at what answers turn up and the discussion that follows. Then try giving the first half of Bible proverbs, such as “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is…” (Prov. 21:6). Let them look up the answers, then talk about them.
PICTURE MEMORIES: Tonight after dinner, haul out the family photo albums, home videos and Life Journals for an hour of reminiscing. It’s lots of fun, great for reinforcing family unity and recognizing growth. Follow it up with a short planning session for your next outing. Add a little popcorn and make an evening of it. (By the way, if your youngest child is getting shortchanged in the photo department, it happens in most every family, so keep working at it!)
TAKE A MOMENT: Jot a note to your child’s schoolteacher. Thank him or her for the interest poured into your child and express your appreciation. A similar note to a Sunday school teacher, sports instructor or anyone else involved regularly with your child can really make his or her day. Everyone needs sincere praise and encouragement.
THE OBSERVATION GAME: This is excellent for teaching children of any age to observe details (yourself, too). After you’ve been to a place or event together (even just a trip to the grocery shop) test each other on memory of details that were there, i.e. “Did you see the man wearing a hat and shorts?” With older children, test for things like inner qualities, personality traits and nationalities. “Did you see the married couple that was smiling all the time?” “Did you see the Japanese man with his son?”
LIBRARY SEARCH: If you haven’t been to the library with your kids recently, go for an hour this Saturday. Help them find one good historical fiction and one hobby or craft resource they can absorb in the next two weeks. If the library has a video department, check one out for your next family night at home.
THE STORY FACTORY: Try some “add on” stories with your family after dinner or when you’re driving somewhere. One person begins (“Once upon a time…” will do), and the next person adds a phrase, character or action. Keep on going till it draws to a natural close or you’re all on the floor with laughter.
MAGNIFIED FUN: If you don’t already have one, pick up a large, high-powered magnifying glass at a stationery store on the way home from work tonight. Spend a half-hour with your children, rediscovering your backyard, their hair and skin, food and clothing, insects…just about everything.
TO BETTER LOVE HER: If your wife hasn’t said it recently, certainly a book or marriage counselor has: “It’s the little things that count!” And it’s true. Your wife doesn’t really want a dozen roses every day. Just one rose a month will do. It’s the small but consistent remembrances – the little touches – that fan the flame of romance in marriage, that say as nothing else can: “I love you” … “Your beautiful!” … “You’re the only one for me”. Surveys indicate that the absence of romance and love rank highest as a source of depression in woman. 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands…live with your wives in an understanding way…”. Certainly part of such “understanding” is to know her so well that you sense just what special expressions, gifts or touches will be the “little things” she’ll cherish and thrive on. Become a student of your wife. Watch and listen for the important clues. For starters, consider some “little things” like these:
- Write and post her a love letter.
- Leave a note for her on the pillow, in the cupboard … anywhere!
- Turn off the TV in the middle of your favorite TV program just because you’d rather visit with her and know about her day.
- Buy her a small gift she wouldn’t buy for herself, like a music box or a special teacup or mug, and give it to her on an “unspecial” day.
FRISBEE GOLF: Grab a frisbee or two, some bath towels, your family and head for the backyard or your local park. Lay out a golf course as large as space will allow, using the towels spread on the ground as “holes”. (The frisbee scores upon landing if any part is touching the towel). The person with the fewest throws in completing the course wins. You can team little folks with older ones to make the competition more even.
A SENSE OF SPECIALNESS is one of the great gifts we can give our children. In Psalms 139:13-18 God describes how special we are to Him. Use the passage as a springboard for some family sharing about each other. Ask each member to think of two special qualities about each member of the family and then share them. Watch out; it could be an emotional evening.
LOVE LETTERS: If you haven’t written one to your wife recently, take 20 minutes and do it right now. Talk about her most endearing quality and thank her for being your wife. Give it to her personally with a kiss on the cheek and a twinkle in your eye.
IMAGINATION: Get inside your child’s imagination with a “Pretend that you’re a” game. Select an object and ask your son or daughter to tell you how it feels to be that object. For starters try: a swimming pool, a tall building, a car, a tree, a bus, a church building or a door mat. Concentrate on feelings and emotions.
BED TIMES: Maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as a bedtime storyteller. But it’s one of the best and most entertaining ways to pass along values to your children. The tales you spin become treasured memories to both you and your child. Storytelling is quite easy if you keep these simple concepts and ideas in mind:
- Nature stories are a natural. The can be about animals, tree or phenomena such as waterfalls, volcanoes, even thunder and lightning. For example, an “I met a Frog…”story could be approached this way: a. Look up on frogs and discover some facts, misconceptions about them and special abilities. b. Decide what facts use and give at least one of them personal significance to your child. c. Make up the story by imagining that a frog you met is talking to you. d. Try it out. The more you tell it, the more interesting it will get. e. Then write it down for your children to read or illustrate with drawings.
- “Look at That Over There” stories can be about man-made things like bridges, paintings, pianos, airplanes, clocks or medicine.
- “Give Me Three Words” stories begin by letting the children pick three words like “little girl, grandma, vacation,” then you weave a story from them.
- “Do you remember the story of…” stories take the characters from a familiar children’s tale and give them a new adventure of your own making.
As you launch into your story, concentrate on describing the people, places and objects in detail (color, movement, size and shape), include some humor, choose a moral that the child can apply and let it come to a natural conclusion. So, suppress your fears and give storytelling a try. You’ll look forward to bedtime as much as your children will.
EXPLORING: Remember that side street or back road you always wondered about…that quaint shop you’ve never checked out? Your wife and children probably have such places too. So, set some limits (such as mileage, time and expense) and let each family member choose where he or she wants to take the family “exploring”. Go each Saturday morning until everyone has led an adventure.
INSTEAD OF TV TONIGHT, invest an hour after dinner “reminiscing’ about when each family member: 1) had the most fun; 2) felt the most embarrassed; 3) cried the hardest; 4) was so tired that; 5) never worked harder; and 6) felt the closest to God. The family scrapbook can embellish the sharing or jog your memories. And close by thanking God for the love, privileges and protection He has given each family member.
LAST THOUGHTS OF THE DAY remain active in your child’s subconscious all night – certainly a prime reason for resolving any tensions in your relationship before your child falls asleep. Turn the “last thoughts” principle to your advantage each evening this week by expressing to your child (1) one specific character strength he or she has, and (2) recalling an action your child did that day that made you proud. Bed times are not the moment for punishment or criticism.
PING PONG BASEBALL: Grab a ping pong ball, roll up a newspaper for a bat and try a little game of “Work-up” in the living room. There are no strikes, and the ball must be hit or you’re out. Adjust rules to fit your children’s ages and skills.
MEALS are a great learning environment for younger children. They can practice the alphabet, multiplication tables or spelling word. Vocabulary can be increased by naming animals, historical dates, famous people…even places and geography. The possibilities are endless.
TABLE SENTENCES: One person starts and each person around the table adds a word till the sentence is finished. There’s no penalty for completing the sentence. The next person starts a new one.
A LITTLE SQUEEZE can communicate a lot of love. When you bow to say the blessing, join hands and give the person on your right a little “love” squeeze. The important point is clear: A little love given brings some in return.
CREATIVE ANALOGIES can sharpen verbal skills and bring out thoughts and feelings sometimes hard to express. Start with everyone stating the relationship between a personal characteristic or feeling and some other familiar phenomenon. For example: “I’m as thin as a stick” or “I’m as happy as a lark”.
THE RETURN: After dinner tonight, suggest that your family go again on a favorite vacation or outing – this time by memory. With everybody contributing, try to recall all the steps and events that happened, beginning with packing suitcases and the car, incidents en route and the chronology of each day’s events until you returned. Get out your photos taken on the trip. You’ll discover this “walk through” will trigger lots of warm memories, and this time the trip won’t cost a cent.
GRACE AT MEALS can easily lapse into a lifeless routine. You can enliven these important prayers by adding variety: 1) Slow down the prayers so each thought is emphasized. 2) Discuss the prayer’s key ideas during the first moments of the meal. 3) Pray at the end of the meal. 4) Have each family member offer a short portion of the prayer. 5) Start eating without prayer and when someone notices, lead a discussion about why a prayer of thanksgiving is important, how specific it can or should be and what causes grace at mealtime to lose its significance. 6) Try singing grace and holding hands for variety.
WHY NOT precede breakfast with some physical exercise together? Have each member of the family lead one “waker-upper”.
PRACTICAL PRAYERS: It’s difficult for children, even adults, to see prayer as a direct course of action in meeting needs and solving problems. Concentrate this month on guiding your child to pray for specific circumstances in his life and the lives of others in your family and his circle of friends. Keep a simple log next to the bed, with requests and God’s answers. Watch their enthusiasm about prayer grow!