Connecting Emotionally

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This last week has been an extremely challenging week. My son and I tend to have good days and bad days, but for some reason we have been having several bad days in a row. If you want in on the secret of why, I’m glad to tell you. Someone had sent me some links for a seminar done by Cinda Osterman. I have been struggling for quite some time trying to figure out how to be a parent that truly reflects Christ to my children, while at the same time being a firm and loving mom, and being in charge of my home. My son really struggles with needing to be in control of my home. Even though he is five, he is very determined to control the house and to parent us.

A few weeks ago after watching Cinda’s series on Vimeo, my husband and I decided to rededicate our lives and family to Christ. I decided to start getting up at 5 a.m. and doing my worship in spite of the obstacles to do so. Of course, the devil didn’t want to lose us so easily, so he is fighting us in any way that he can. My son and I are the biggest area he can attack in my life. At first he tried the kids waking up at 5 a.m. Seeing me persisting in my worship, he wasn’t happy with that and stepped it up a notch. The following Sabbath there was an announcement at church that the pastor was holding a class that was meant to improve your intimacy with God. I was not prepared to stay, but I decided to stay anyway, as I needed to take the class.

During the class I tried hard to listen and keep under control my two very energetic kids. But, I ended up leaving halfway through as it just wasn’t working. (Of course the devil wanted me to be discouraged.) I asked God what He wanted me to do, and after talking to Pastor, he said that he would find a way to make it work because he knows how much I not only want the class but need the class. (Of course the devil wasn’t happy once again.) I was learning to persist… The following Thursday my daughter got “the runs.” Not only did she get them, but it was dripping out of the side of the diaper and going through three pairs of pants from diaper leaks in two hours! I cancelled everything on my plate and gave lots of baths that day. Friday, it was just as bad. To be honest, I have no idea where it all kept coming from as she wasn’t really eating.

Sabbath morning I woke up and was planning on not going to church. As I was doing my worship (the kids were finally sleeping through my morning worship), the Cradle Roll teacher texted and asked if I was going to be there. I texted her back and said that I was thinking I didn’t want to go because of the issues with Abby for the two days before. As I wrote the text, I don’t know how to describe it — God spoke to me.

“Bitsy, You believe that I am God, right?” I was kind of surprised by the question.

“Uh, yes, Lord!”

He replied, “So you believe that I can do anything, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well you say you believe it, but you won’t act on your faith.”

I was a little confused for a minute. “But Lord, I can’t go to church; there is no shower there, and what if it’s contagious?” (Half of our congregation is older; they don’t recover so well from things like this.) “And, how am I going to sanitize a mess that is dripping down her legs and running onto the carpet, especially in the middle of church.”

So he responds. “Bitsy, you need to make a decision. You either believe I am God, and I can handle this, not to mention do anything you need — and you go to church; or, you don’t believe Me, and you sit there all day and miss out on Me showing you my power. Not to mention not allowing Me to build your faith in Me, which you are always asking me to do. So, what are you going to do?”

Talk about a slap in my face! But, He made it clear the way that I have always wanted Him to. So, I decided to go. When I did, Abby woke up and came out. “Mommy, I’m poopy!” I, in my still lacking faith, looked in her diaper. He had already answered my request! So, we went to church.

It’s hard to be like a little child, but each day I am reminded of the trust that we are supposed to have in our relationships with Christ. The trust that my children model to me helps me to understand more of what I am supposed to be like toward Christ. The issue I see is that I need to be emotionally connected to Christ in order for my children to be emotionally connected to me. How do we achieve that? I am still learning that myself. However, here are a few tips that I have found, both for becoming emotionally connected to my children and to my Heavenly Father.

1. Take time… Take time to pray, even if it doesn’t feel like it works. Believe it will. Take time to have devotions and to have quiet time focusing on God. This is totally exhausting to do as a mom of little ones, but it is a huge blessing in dealing not only with life but with marriage and parenting as well. Try to cut out the nonessentials. Make your number one priority your children. Then, pray for the strength to keep it that way. God has really impressed upon me that their relationship with us and theirs with Christ are the only things we get to take to Heaven with us. We have a huge role to play in the bringing up of our children, and if we ask, He will provide the strength to fulfill that promise.

It is so hard to reprioritize, but over the last several months God has helped me to see the most important priority is my children, and to be quite honest, I have had to pray that He will change my heart and help me to enjoy being with my children. (They have been so challenging that I am ashamed to admit I have wanted to be done with parenting.) As I have prayed daily for the last three weeks, and have been focusing on Him, He is giving me His grace to change; and I, in spite of our challenges, am starting to enjoy the precious moments with my kids. In fact I am taking time daily to spend time with them and emotionally connect. As I spend this time emotionally connecting with them, I am also finding that the problems we are having are getting easier. He truly fixes all things if we are patient and willing to submit to Him.

2. Pray over each of your children… If Daddy can also do this, it is a special blessing. Pray to claim promises for them. Every night before they go to sleep, I go in to tuck the kids into bed. I am so tired when it comes to bedtime, that we do worship and they get into bed. I put my hand on my child, and I pray individually with them. I claim Jer. 29:11, and if there is something they are particularly strugging with, I claim promises that help with that. Since I started that three weeks ago, the kids will not go to sleep without it, and they both have a hard time being patient and waiting their turn. There is comfort in knowing someone is praying for you.

3. Focus on little things… Focus on the little things that are done right, that the kids need encouragement in, or that they might need a little extra help in. There is a reason that God says the little things are important. This is because the big things are built up of little things. Notice the little things that your kids do to try to please you. Take the time to teach them the little things that are so often overlooked. When they see that you are happy with the little things they do, then they will realize that in their work and their play, their desire will be to help us and please us.

4. Be thankful... We have started a blessing book, and each morning and evening with worship we all say three things we’re thankful for. It’s amazing the happiness that it has brought into our house. I read a quote and I wish I had written it down, but I didn’t. Anyway, it says by counting the blessings the Lord has bestowed on us, we are building faith in Him. I want my children to have a firm foundation of faith in the Lord.

5. Take His word at face value and believe what He says… Sometimes it seems so challenging yet way too simple. Being children of God is a real challenge. Each day we have to wake up and truly believe that He has our back. Because of how things may look or how badly things go that day, it’s often hard to understand how He has our back. However, He promises that He does, and we must trust Him in spite of our feelings. If we ask He will show us what we need to learn from each situation, and sometimes He even tells us about the prevention of things we may not have been aware of.

6. Be vulnerable… This is the hardest part for us as humans, each day struggling to go through without having to be vulnerable…without having to reveal the challenges, struggles, and pain we are experiencing…without showing our children what our hearts are actually dealing with and the fact that most of the time we are feeling the same way they are, but we just won’t admit it. As I have started to show them how I handle the struggles I am dealing with, they are learning and open and asking about the struggles they are having. They are asking me how to handle things, and are interested in being led by me. They are beginning to understand that on the outside we look like adults, but sometimes on the inside we really feel the same way we did as little kids. It helps them to see we really do care. Remembering that we are all in this battle together helps a lot. And, I am starting to allow my children to respectfully say, “Mommy, do you need to have some time with Jesus?” That helps me to know that I am not being Christlike and I need to surrender to Him.

As we press forward this next few weeks, my prayer is that God will open our eyes and help us to see the things we need to cut out and the things we need to add, and help us to see things we can implement in faith to connect more emotionally to our Lord and Savior and to our families and all of our relationships.

Early Childhood Stages of Development – Trust Vs. Mistrust

What is attachment and how important is it to the developmental stages of early childhood? Attachment is a lasting emotional relationship that begins with infants and ties the infant to one or more persons in their lives. Attachment is important to social development and the relationships a child forms in their early years.

Erik Erikson’s theory of attachment began in his first stage of development, called psychosocial theory — the stage of attachment he labeled as Trust versus Mistrust. This stage of development not only is linked to the child’s heart, but also other processes including the engagement of the brain. A healthy attachment early on in a child’s life will provide a good foundation for intelligence later on in their development.  Positive attachment experiences give an infant a sense of well-being and security.

Research has shown that signs of infancy attachment exist from birth, though babies take longer to show their attachment then adults do. Some signs of attachment may be that a baby will recognize their mother’s smell and voice. When they are going through the attachment phase they may be less fussy, more interested, and alert. Some babies will go through a stage where they show distress with someone they don’t know. Usually, babies who don’t show stranger anxiety have had a secure and trusting attachment with multiple caregivers. Another milestone babies may experience is separation anxiety at being separated from their primary caregiver.

Some issues or challenges that may arise with attachment may be temperament. When a parent and child have a good match in temperament, it promotes a closer attachment. When there is a mismatch in temperament, it can hinder the attachment. Counseling the adult to adjust to the baby may help them in their attachment. Some examples of attachment mismatch include an active parent with a calm baby or the opposite. A serious mismatch occurs when the parent keeps pushing the baby to respond to them when the child truly is not interested or comfortable. Parents have to adjust their expectations of the baby when their temperaments to match. Caregivers can help parents understand that there is nothing wrong, and that it’s the parents’ job to understand the baby and respond accordingly rather than trying to make the baby change.

Another mismatch may be when a baby is born with a developmental issue.  Some of these issues don’t foster attachment, like when a baby has a neurological issue that makes them not want to cuddle, have pain when being touched or held, or be unable to control their facial muscles to smile. In these cases it’s important for a parent to be understanding and find other behaviors that signal attachment.

Parents who encourage independence or individualism will teach their children early self-help skills. They teach their babies to sleep alone in their cribs or to feed themselves. Their goals are self-assertion and self-expression, with the end result being self-esteem. Parents who are more focused on collectivism or interdependence will encourage their children to have stronger connections or mutual dependence. They are not as concerned with independent skills. They may hold off on teaching skills like self feeding or sleeping on their own to foster the attachment and closeness of doing it for them.

I personally am a parent who focuses more on independence, but with a loving and nurturing attitude. I love to cuddle and love on my babies, but I’m not about to coddle them. With all of my children, I had them helping with chores at an early age. I was flexible with their abilities and development when teaching these things. I am of the mindset that I’m not about to cater to everything the child wants when they want it. While I understand that is not necessarily what the other side is thinking, I am just more of that mindset.

How does this all play into your interactions with your children? I believe it is important to connect to our children’s hearts, not just when they are little, but all throughout their lives!

Public Speaking and Homeschooling

Do your kids love public speaking?

Can you picture your kids being up on stage talking and presenting?

Do you picture your kids being good leaders one day?

How many hours a week, or a month or a year, have you spent in building public speaking skills with your children?

Running a clinic with multiple doctors and staff requires my wife and me to review countless resumes and interview many people. Many people flunk their interview within seconds simply because they were either not able to hold eye contact, were overcome by anxiety, or were not able to think critically under pressure when answering questions.

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking, and it is one of the most common phobias in the world. Whether people realize it or not, their career and life decisions are often decided by their public speaking skills. Some people may choose to pursue a career where they will interact with many people daily. Some may choose to do the opposite, where they will work in private, or have less interaction with people. If your kids learn to speak in public today, they can prepare themselves to speak properly in public, and to manage the fears of presenting in front of others for the future. To put it simply, your children’s future careers may depend on these skills.

We all want our kids to do well when they grow up. We want them to be confident enough to be on stage, especially when God opens doors for opportunities to influence others. We want them to be leaders. Our family intentionally decided to invest in public speaking skills and stage presence skills when homeschooling them on a daily basis. I’d like to share some ideas you may find useful in your homeschooling journey.

MEMORIZATION

There are three benefits of memorization. The first is emotional health benefits. Remember that the brain is a muscle that must be exercised. There is a part of the brain called the hippocampus which is in charge of making and keeping memories, and partly responsible for managing emotions. People with Alzheimer’s disease have their hippocampus fail first and severely before other parts of the cortex fail. People with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizoprenia have a hippocampus that shrinks gradually.  The hippocampus also is now known to control the hormone estrogen, which controls emotions and mood changes.

By training yourself and your kids to memorize things, it may prevent you and your children from depression, anxiety, mood changes, Alzheimer’s, and other mental illnesses!  

The second benefit of memorization is, as your children spend time memorizing passages, tables, and poems, they learn to focus. Studies have found that students who were required to memorize from an early age often go on to have more capacity to focus on educational tasks as high school and college students. Researchers from the National Institute on Health and Aging have found that adults who went through short bursts of memory training were better able to maintain higher cognitive functioning and everyday skills, even five years after going through the training. Practicing memorization allowed the elderly adults to delay typical cognitive decline by seven to 14 years!

The third benefit is increased confidence.  When a child learns to do something difficult, they earn a great sense of accomplishment. This is especially true where plays or presentations are concerned; children often receive praise or even applause after they recite a poem or act in a play, which increases their self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.

Start with a simple task such as memorizing short Bible verses. This is something you can even do with a two-year old. Ask them to do it while standing up before meals and during morning and evening worship times. Ask them to keep their eyes focused on you and to speak clearly with a smile on their face. I make it more personal and understandable by modifying some of the Bible verses so they can understand the meaning of them. Here are 12 simple verses that you can use for each month of the year or the first six months of the year (two verses a month, depending on your child’s ability to memorize):

    1. Numbers 6:24 The Lord bless you and keep you.
    2. Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
    3. Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world.
    4. Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey Mommy and Daddy in the Lord.
    5. Matthew 28:20 Jesus said He is with me always.
    6. John 10:11 Jesus said He is the Good Shepherd.
    7. Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
    8. Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.
    9. Philippians 4:13 I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
    10. Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
    11. Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I will trust in Jesus.
    12. James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Some kids who are kinetic learners will find it easier and enjoyable to memorize Bible verses while doing an activity such as running in circles, hula hooping, dancing to a song, doing signs or hand gestures, etc. Make sure to repeat these verses daily during dinner time or worship time.

Older kids can start memorizing a whole chapter of a Bible or a long passage. Have them present to you during morning or evening worship, or in the middle of homeschooling session in between subjects. Even better, parents should also memorize these passages and maybe even do a competition with the older kids!

This will not only help them understand important spiritual lessons, but also help their brain cells to handle large amount of information which improves their cognitive functions. Here are a few ideas of important Bible chapters or passages that older kids and adults should memorize:

    1. Numbers 6:24-26
    2. The Ten Commandments – Exodus 20:1-17
    3. The Beatitudes – Matthew 5:1-12
    4. The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:5-15
    5. Psalm 23 & 46
    6. 1 Corinthians 13
    7. Romans 8 & 12

REGULAR GIGS, AWARDS, AND REWARDS

As mentioned previously, when children receive applause and praises, their sense of self-worth and confidence are also increased. Even better, treat them with rewards or awards every so often.  

  • Have them present what they just learned from science or history lessons in the morning to the rest of the family during evening meal.  Ask them open-ended questions: “What did you learn about amphibians this morning? What did you learn about the Egyptians today?”  
  • Morning and/or evening worship times are perfect for them to present a Bible verse or chapter.  
  • Have the kids present what they memorize in front of church as part of the worship program or Adventist Youth program.  
  • Challenge other kids in their Sabbath School class to memorize verses and passages as well, and have them present during church service.  
  • Have your kids present their school project or what they learned this past week to their grandparents or family friends when they visit.  
  • Make a calendar with goals of which passages to memorize for the month and for the rest of the year.

USING VISUAL AIDS AND PROPS

Just like with a science presentation, help your kids with their speaking presentation using visual aids and props. I have been invited to be a judge at the local schools’ science fairs, and it’s always interesting to watch how some kids with average project can shine because of their public speaking skills, while some kids with average or amazing projects end up not winning because of their presentation skills. Younger kids can start with simple objects, while older kids may use slideshow software or props.  

Have your children be involved in a play at church or school where they get to do speech as a character. Preparing for a role, and preparing visual aids and props — both of these activities teach them to be prepared for their presentation in advance, which will help lessen their anxiety.

JOINING A PUBLIC SPEAKING CLUB

Toastmasters International or other local groups are often found in local libraries or churches. Look up Toastmasters International to find a local chapter. You’ll be surprised how much you and your older children can benefit from attending this weekly meeting of various people from all walks of life who simply want to improve their public speaking skills.  They will give you constructive criticisms, and they will help you to be a better speaker.

Our children at the time of this writing, are eight and four. They do fairly well being up on the podium or on stage with other kids at church or at a dance recital.  However, they still have some stage fright when they are up there by themselves. They are getting better at it, though. The oldest one actually recently asked when she could do special music all by herself. And, both of them enjoy doing mini presentations during evening dinner from what they learned in the morning.

I hope this article is helpful to you and your little ones. We have the responsibility to train our children to be pillars of the church and to be leaders wherever they go in life. Leaders are not necessarily bosses. Leaders are influencers. Everybody is a leader when you can influence others around you.  With the Great Commission as our task, we must equip our children with public speaking skills to reach others and to spread His love.

Maranatha!

Arthur P.

Stepping Back and Assessing

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“Love suffers long (is patient), love is kind, love does not envy, love wants not its own, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh not evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails,” 1 Corinthians 14.

Boy, some days it’s really hard to act like Christ. I will admit that I tend to do fine in public. Trying to keep a good appearance and being a fit representation of our Savior is always on my mind while I am out (especially when my son will not listen to me and I really want to paddle his behind — or wonder why I ever decided to bring him into this world). But, for some strange reason, when I walk through my front door everything seems to change.

Getting frustrated, angry, pouting, yelling, and sometimes out of control, I hate to admit, is not just a kid problem in my home, but it’s a Mommy problem too. I do so well until I’m pushed to my limit, and then I lose it and yell or get frustrated. The problem with that is we are to be an example in behavior to our children, as we are what they see. Whether inside our house or outside our house, we are called to show the principle of love, no matter the situation. Lord, help me as I really struggle with this on a daily basis. I am seeing some changing as time goes by, but, being a perfectionist, it’s not as fast as I want to see!

At ages five and two, my two kids are always copying everything they see — especially in Mommy’s and Daddy’s behavior. My son’s favorite saying right now is, “But, you get to, so why can’t I?” We get so sick of this question all day long…all evening and often after the kids are already in bed. “But, you get to stay up, so why can’t I?” How many times do you find yourself asking these questions to God? I think if you really analyze your life, you will find you ask questions like this more then you realize you do.

Having children is teaching me to see myself in a whole new light. I now understand why Christ says, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 18:3.

A lesson in Child Rearing 101 for Bitsy: The questions I get annoyed with by my kids asking over and over again are the ones I tend to ask God. Each day I find myself asking one of those questions in an adult way. “Father, we’re having a huge financial issue. Why can’t you just send us a check in the mail?” Or, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?” Or, “Why did you give me kids? I feel so out of control right now.” But, no matter our circumstances God asks us to be like little children, to have the grace to be corrected, the ability to apologize, the quick forgiveness I see in my children when I have made mistakes, the simple trust and appreciation our kids so often have for us.

The Lord of all Wisdom understands our needs. He understands our children and our child-like questioning. He has broad shoulders to allow us to question and vent and help us with our frustration. Having little people copy exactly what we do in our daily lives challenges us to be able to change the way we handle situations and ourselves. You see, I believe children were given to us, not to change them into what they need to be, although that is a part of what our job as parents are, but to change US into what WE need to be — to challenge our daily lives and bring us back over and over again to the areas we need to work on, each time learning to surrender that issue to Him more and more. No, the training of my children is not so much intended for them but for me. It doesn’t help that God places a heavy responsibility on us to be parents, as our children are on loan to be raised for Him.

I really struggle as a parent because I take the responsibility very seriously, and I am sure that you do as well, as it is a huge responsibility and one that even the angels would give anything to have as well. Not only do we have the responsibility of helping our husband, keeping the house running smoothly, keeping meals on the table and laundry done and all of the other responsibilities of running a home, but we have the 24/7 jobs of wiping noses, missing sleep in the night, being tugged in more then one direction if we have more then one child, and somehow, among all of this, we are trying to look good for our husbands as well. I want to challenge you today. When we are struggling with the responsibility of parenting, are we really trusting that the Lord will work everything out for good? When we rely on Him, our strength is renewed and He will show us what to make as a priority for each day.

God has recently brought to my attention that a lot of my overwhelming issue with being a mom is that I am not truly trusting the Lord. I don’t take a few minutes each day to really spend time asking the Lord how I did for the day, assessing things I need to change, and surrendering those to the Lord for a clean start in the morning. The problem is fitting it in with all of the craziness going on in life with two totally crazy little ones who beg to have Mommy’s attention all the time.

With all of this I want you to be encouraged. Change is a slow process. My favorite author once penned, “Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” Sometimes, to be honest, I wonder if my lifetime is going to be long enough as I have so many faults that need corrected, and the more I try to fix them it seems the stronger and more frequent they become. Why? Because when I am looking at my problem, I am forgetting to look at Christ, the one who overcomes all of my problems.

Each day as life gets busy and time seems short, let’s choose to take one day at a time, living in the moment and enjoying each and every second we have with our precious little ones. It takes three weeks to form a habit, so just hang in there and keep going. If you fall, get back up and keep going. When you finish the three weeks, add another task and work on that for three weeks. Our children are very forgiving, and I’m so grateful that God put such forgiveness into our little ones, as He knew they would need it with me.

So, in closing, let’s determine to take five minutes at the end of each day to step back and assess ourselves, our family, and our children. We will be walking on the road next to our Master.

Blessings as we start this new habit together!

What About Socialization?

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Scenario #1: Imagine standing in front of someone, with a smile on your face, extending your right hand to shake that person’s hand, and after 10 seconds or after 10 minutes or after 10 crickets died, that person does not extend his/her hand to meet your hand mid-air to shake it, and just gives you a blank stare or a weird smile. Cringe!

Imagine if that person is your child…at his or her current age…or 20 years in the future. Often times homeschooled kids have been labeled as socially awkward or simply weirdos in the eyes of “normal kids.” At least, that’s the stereotype. That’s also often the main question that we, as parents who choose to homeschool, receive — “What about socialization? Don’t you worry your kids will have trouble dealing with other kids or peers?”

I grew up attending public school K­-8, an Adventist boarding school for academy, and then an Adventist college for undergrad. My wife went to public schools K-12, and then attended a small Christian college. We definitely do not know what it’s like to grow up homeschooled. We have, however, had the privilege of working with and caring for hundreds of homeschooled children in our clinic in central Kentucky; and, for the past several years, we also have been homeschooling our two children, ages eight and four.

It is interesting to observe in our clinic that there is a clear distinction between homeschooled children and public-schooled children in regards to behavior, and the homeschooled children, bar none, are always the best behaved children we daily observed in our clinic. Ironically, families with four or 10 (yes, 10!) homeschooled children often sit and communicate in their best manners to our staff and doctors, while public-schooled children, very often, though not always, are some of the rowdiest kids, lacking in manners and discipline, according to our staff.

I also enjoy carrying on a conversation with most of these homeschooled children. Most are able to display critical social skills that many public-schooled kids rarely display these days: being actively engaging in two-way communication with involved responses, being able to maintain full eye contact, being able to shake hands and smile, having self-­awareness, having empathy, being able to manage emotions, etc. This is obviously a generalization, very subjective, and mostly from my own personal observation, my clinic team’s observation, and our team’s coping strategies while working with these children.

My staff often have trouble getting sufficient information from public-schooled children (and their parents) during consult, evaluation, or treatments, as most of them would typically reply with short answers like, “Yes,” “No,” “Kinda,” “I don’t know,” or in many cases silence or blank stares.  There is a good chance that many were on behavior-modifying prescription drugs.

The New York Times best-selling author and internationally known psychologist whose books were translated into 40 different languages, Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., made popular the term emotional intelligence (EI): “the capacity of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).”

Another psychologist, Dr. John Mayer, developed the Mayer­-Salovey­-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), and found that high-EI people have better social relations; are perceived more positively by their peers; have better family and intimate relationships, better academic achievements, better work performance and negotiation skills; and have higher life satisfaction and self-esteem.

So, how does having better EI relate to homeschooling and the Great Commission, which is to “go and make followers of all people in the world,” Matthew 28:19? This is the question that repeatedly stops me in my tracks many mornings when I spend those precious times homeschooling our kiddos. How shall I, as a parent and as a teacher, shape the minds of my children to be stewards of Christ in reaching out to the world?

Scenario #2: Imagine attending a church service at a location you’ve never been to before — perhaps one you found on a phone book or your phone’s Google map during your road trip. You notice that even though everyone is smiling, chatting with each other, dressed up nice and fancy, with cool music playing, none of these people actually come to you, shake your hand, ask how you are doing, ask your name and where you are from, or pretend to show some interests.

Has this happened to you? Here’s a sad fact. This has happened to us quite a few times. Strangely, we felt so embarrassed for the church. Did we show up like beggars? No, we were dressed up nice and appropriately. Did we smile at all? Yes, we did. Did we try to greet people? Yes, we did, but there was no further communication than a brief smile, a brief handshake, and a “Hi.”  Thankfully, there were many more churches and members in other places who went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. Not surprisingly, almost always they are the ones who attract new members and grow as a church in quality and in quantity.

Have you experienced this personally when you travel? What would you do differently? What would you tell your children? If you were the pastor of the church, president of the conference, president of the General Conference, what would you do?  Since we are already identify with the church, it is easier to dismiss the fact that as visitors we were being ignored.  But what about real visitors, non-members?  Visitors will be more likely to attend a church when they make connections with members within the first few visits.  How can the church reach the outsiders, the neighbors, the world, if the church does not have the proper communication skills?

Churches who are too busy with itself and not reaching out to the community around them on a regular basis are dying churches.  Families who are too isolated and not spending time interacting with other families and community around them are also unhealthy families.  How can we promise Christ that we will help the Great Commission if we refuse to deal with strangers, if we refuse to go outside of our comfort zone, if we refuse to interact with the world, if we refuse to let God’s light shine through us in this dark world?

I strongly believe that the communication skills and social skills begin at home. Obviously, there are growing numbers of children with autism or genetic or developmental issues that must be handled differently with specialists who are trained to assist them. But, in general, children copy what they see, not what they hear. If their parents are lacking in social skills, they will more than likely end up with similar social skills, and end up socializing with friends or people who are also deficient in social skills.

Many children and even teenagers are not familiar with standard communication manners, which obviously differ from one culture to the next. But, these nonverbal communication manners are critical in determining one’s progress in society. We have interviewed countless of people who have applied for work at our clinic, and often times people, young and old, “shoot themselves in the foot” within the first 60 seconds of interview because they were never taught or never developed and practiced critical communication manners such as proper eye contact, handshake, and posture, as well as managing anxiety, etc.

With these two scenarios in mind, I thought it would be useful to share some EI-­specific exercises that will help parents in developing their children’s social and communication skills:

1. Intentional Communication

a. When was the last time you actually sat down one-on-one with each of your children to talk heart to heart about various issues? Do you set aside time to do this on a regular basis? Does your family do a weekly team huddle to review the previous week’s and upcoming week’s agendas, challenges, and things to improve?

b. Take time to explain and show your children, even as young as age two, how to properly greet people, maintain eye contact, and give a proper handshake. You can practice this at church or when meeting strangers.  If you realize your own social skills are lacking, do not hesitate asking other parents with great social skills for help.

c. Explain and show your children (typically age four and up) the importance of proper body language during communication, and how certain body language or posture can lead people to think of you differently (i.e. “Which person looks like they are interested, and which one looks like they are not interested or not happy?” Person A: sitting with crossed arms and crossed legs. Person B: sitting straight, leaning slightly forward, hands on thighs, legs relaxed.)

2. Self Awareness: Ask your child to evaluate or label his/her current state of emotion throughout the day, while you mirror their facial expression or the state of emotion to convey the true meaning of certain emotion words that may be new to your kids. This will help increase their emotional vocabulary and help them understand the full range of emotions they experience throughout the day. This will also help your kids to express intimate, loving emotions which are essential to maintaining close personal relationships.  Ask questions like these:

  • How are you doing, Shawn?
  • What are you thinking about, Sarah?
  • Are you mad, Jack? (stiff lip, bulging eyes)
  • Are you excited, Lisa? (raised eyebrows, big smile, high tone of voice)
  • Why are you sad, John? (sad face, mirroring kid’s face)
  • Is she sad or happy?
  • What should you do to help you be happy again?
  • You can choose to spend the rest of the day whining and crying in a foul mood, or you can choose to forgive her and choose to be happy for the rest of the day. Which one?
  • Is he being nice or naughty?
  • Did Joseph feel like this when his brothers were mean to him?
  • Was Jesus happy after he shared bread and fish with all those people? How do you feel after sharing your things/food with your friend?

3. Managing Emotions: Emotional maturity, in biblical context, is about being in control of our emotions so that the fruits of our thoughts are in line with the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22,­23…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self­-control). Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But, to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not easy.”

It is ridiculous to observe online drama on Facebook posts, or bloody digital wars among keyboard warriors, let alone in real life. People get upset over silly little things and crave for drama, for gossip, for attention. The bottom line question to always remember is, “Does this attitude, behavior, response, action, bring me and others closer to my God-given purpose or not?”

Check out these ideas:

  • Use the Unfollow button or even Unfriend button, on Facebook friends  whenever they post things that are not in line with the fruits of the Spirit. (This one is for yourself, but it sets a good example of personal boundaries.)
  • Hold your child or sit next to him/her during a tantrum or a stressful situation in silence. “I know you are upset. I will sit here with you until you are done crying. But, you can’t yell, hit, talk, or do anything mean. We will sit here until you are done crying and until you are ready to be nice again.”
  • Walk outside and get some fresh air or do 10 burpees with your child. If your child is depressed or fearful, his cortisol level is typically up and the oxygen level in blood is low. To counter this, do some aerobic movements such as burpees or jumping jacks or simply dance. Many times when my daughter was upset about something, I would just pick her up and dance with her, or we would do burpees together, and most of the time she would crack up or giggle and feel better, and we would be able to continue our day in a better mood.

These ideas will teach your children the concept of managing their own emotions and not doing or saying something they would regret later.

Dr. Mary Kay Clark wrote, “Homeschooled children benefit the community because they are not shaped by peers but by parents.”

American talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger observed, “…home­schooled students are able to successfully adapt emotionally, interpersonally, and academically to their first, and most challenging, semester in college. That is probably because, having had the consistent teaching and support of a family and a community, they have developed strengths and convictions that provide a bridge over the troubled waters of a multitude of challenges and temptations.”

E.G. White wrote in That I May Know Him, p. 39., “How interestedly the Lord Jesus knocks at the door of families where there are little children to be educated and trained! How gently he watches over the mothers’ interest, and how sad He feels to see children neglected…. In the home characters are formed; human beings are molded and fashioned to be either a blessing or a curse.”

A blessing or a curse!

This is where homeschooling shines! This is why we chose to homeschool. We want our children to have our values and beliefs, not their peers or teachers’ values and beliefs. We must ask ourselves these questions daily:

  • Am I intentionally equipping my children with tools for His services?
  • Am I managing my own emotions well? What are my excuses?
  • How many times a day do I spend time on my knees with my children?
  • Am I reading them stories from the Bible that they may understand how different people deal with different situations, and how they allow God to mold their characters?
  • In front of my children’s eyes, do I interact with my family, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers, showing fruits of the Spirit?
  • Do I post inappropriate un-Christian things on Facebook that I wouldn’t want my pastor or children to see or read?
  • Are the words that come out of my mouth and my spouse’s mouth full of blessings or full of curses? Do they build my children up or tear them down?
  • Am I preparing my children to be able to socialize with confidence, or am I shaping them to avoid strangers, to be remote, and to ignore the Great Commission?

May we all continue to communicate better and be a blessing to others.

Maranatha!

Arthur