Delightful and Serene

The sun spills brilliant colors on my laughing children as they swing, dance about, and play in the sand.

What dreams they make with their hands — the imaginary castles and the cities.

I watch them quietly, daring not to disturb what seems so carefree.

The boys dig their hands into pools of water like it is the most incredible thing,

and my daughter falls asleep as she swings.

Why can’t all afternoons be as delightful and serene?

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Kitchen Tool or Toy? Both!

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The kids played with these wire racks from the kitchen and turned them into toys — spinning tops. I just love seeing the boys invent games with household items.

Kids really don’t need high tech or expensive toys. They are quite simple and can find ways to entertain themselves. I think it is us, as parents, who complicate things. ;)

Freely Play, Freely Learn

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Tuesdays give me alot of time with my youngest kids, Titus and Tiana, because Edric takes Elijah and Edan with him. While they attend their Taekwondo class and have moral ethics and how to be a gentleman “classes” with Edric, I get to play with my younger two.

Yesterday Titus and Tiana danced to music, we read books, played with toys, and they engaged in their own free play.

I am very much a believer in giving children the opportunity to have free play. Let them entertain, discover, explore and teach themselves. When it is free play time (which should be a good part of the day), intervene only when they ask for your help or need some guidance. Do not be quick to presume that they can’t figure things out for themselves. If parents frequently trouble shoot for their children when it comes to learning how something works or imposing their own concept of how toys should be handled or played with, we curtail the development of a child’s problem solving skills. We also inhibit their creativity.

What a parent can do is present options for toys to play with, sit back and be a quiet observer of how their child will respond to or approach a new challenge or learning experience. This will give you a whole lot of insight into their personalities. Titus tends to take things apart to see how they work. He finds other uses and applications for toys that were designed to be played with in a certain way. Tiana tends to pull things to herself and hug things she likes. She also pays acute attention to detail and will gravitate towards toys that are soft.

How fun it is to watch our children!

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“How Does The Baby Get Into The Mommy’s Tummy?”


I came across an interesting article that connected the rise in better contraception with the decline in parent’s indoctrination about the hazards of premarital sex, which, in turn, has led to the rise of out-of-wedlock births.  The study, which was done by economists, showed that paradoxically, even if better forms of contraception are made available to people, this doesn’t make women less likely to get pregnant outside of marriage. In fact, the opposite is true. With the rise of technological advancements in contraceptive measures, the less likely a parent is to talk or socialize their children to know the costs of premarital sex (daughters in particular). When a parent spends less time talking to their children about the negative effects of promiscuity, this has a profound effect on a woman’s perception about sex. It gives her a more permissive attitude towards it. From shame to game in one hundred years: An economic model of the rise in premarital sex and its de-stigmatisation (February 2010)

What is more disappointing is the fact that Christians are developing more and more permissive attitudes towards sex outside of marriage. An excerpt from a synopsis back in 2006 by William H. Gross on The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience which was written by Ron Sider, reveals that supposed “Christians” and “followers of Jesus” make claims about faith and conscience but live in total contradiction to what the Bible says. In the area of sexual disobedience for example, “ In the 1990’s, the number of unmarried couples living together jumped a lot more in the Bible Belt where evangelicals constitute a large portion of the population than it did in the rest of the country – over 100% versus 72% in the rest of the country. Josh McDowell said years ago that evangelical youth are only 10% less like likely to engage in premarital sex than non-evangelicals. Since 1993, 2.4 million young people have gone through a program called True Love Waits. Only 12 percent kept their pledge to wait until marriage for sex…The rate of cohabitation among born-again folk is 25 percent versus 33 percent for the general population. Fully 26 percent of traditional evangelicals do not think premarital sex is wrong, and 13 percent do not think adultery is wrong. Among nontraditional evangelicals, 46 percent say premarital sex is morally OK, 19 percent think adultery is morally acceptable. The percent of Christian men involved in pornography is not much different than the unsaved.” http://www.onthewing.org/user/Ev_Scandal%20of%20the%20Evangelical%20Conscience.pdf

These statistics are disconcerting but not unbelievable. I can hardly sit through a TV program (unless it is the news or some wildlife channel) without feeling sad about how blatantly sexual a lot of the content is. This doesn’t even include the kind of garbage that is accessible on the Internet – for free and in private! Societal and popular role models live without a sense of morality or conscience, or without reference to objective truth, making people believe that it is okay to pick and choose a sense of morality that is comfortable and in agreement with their lifestyle choices. People think that absolute truth is judgmental, prohibitive and outdated. Sigh.

When I observe the climate of today, I refer back to what God’s word says about these days.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly…”

My heart aches when I think of how people have failed to see that God intends to give us what he calls the “abundant life.” (John 10:10) His principles, his statutes and guidelines are not meant to deprive us of joy or pleasure. On the contrary, they are intended for our ultimate good and welfare. This is the approach I want to take with my own children. It is our responsibility to teach our children about sex – that sex is not a bad thing. It is a good thing in the context for which it was designed. And if we obey God’s principles and commands for right living, we welcome the blessings that come with obedience.

I love how King David put it about the statutes of God in Psalm 19:7-8:

7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The commandments of the Lord are right,
bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
giving insight for living.”

When people reject God’s way in favor of a more convenient perspective on lifestyle choices, the root issue is theology. What we believe about God defines what we believe about ourselves and the world. It becomes the basis for our moral standards and it determines the choices we make. More importantly, it determines our destination.

A.W. Tozer put it best when he wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God… the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God…Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ”What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.” (Chapter 1, The Knowledge of the Holy available for reading from this site http://www.heavendwellers.com/hdt_chapter_1_koh.htm)

Tozer’s words ring true for my own past experiences. When Edric and I were single and dating each other, we struggled with purity. We didn’t go “all the way” but we tried everything else. And to think, we were both Bible-believing Christians from godly families! The problem was, although we believed in God we were mistaken in what believed about Him. We had painted a picture of God – that he was loving, forgiving, and gracious, but forgotten that he is also holy and righteous. I praise God for parents who emphasized over and over again while I was growing up that obedience leads to blessing and that God is a rewarder of those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Two years into our dating relationship, Edric and I had a serious discussion about this truth with one another and acknowledged that our relationship was not glorifying to God. We wanted God’s blessing for marriage, but we were not letting God be in the center of our relationship. Therefore we did something very difficult and painful, we decided to break off our relationship and allow God to speak to both of us separately. Did he really want us to be married? Would our parents give their blessing for marriage if they knew the dark secrets about our relationship?

We did a second very difficult thing. Edric and I sat down with my parents and confessed everything to them. He also spoke with his parents. It was embarrassing and humiliating to reveal our sin but we did it in obedience to God – “be holy for I am holy,” he says. And part of pursuing holiness was coming clean about our struggles. At the time that we did this, Edric and I were no longer dating each other. But about six months later, we got back together with the blessing of both our parents to get married. God restored our relationship when we set things right before him, when we honoured him as God. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Mathew 6:33

I am not proud about the wrong choices I made when Edric and I were dating, but I am also thankful that God has used my failings to speak to the hearts of singles. As a parent, it has made me more aware of the real temptations and struggles that my children will face. And I want to do my best to raise my children to be sexually pure.

Sexual purity begins when our children are very young and must be taught, role-modeled and reinforced by us as parents.  After going through a book called Raising Sexually Pure Kids by Tim and Beverly LaHaye, I have summarized their insights on how to raise virtuous children and added some of my own. (You can read LaHaye’s full list on pages 31 to 59, Chapter 2 “How to Raise Virtuous Children.” Tim and Beverly LaHaye are also co-authors of the popular book, The Act of Marriage.)

Love them. This seems like common sense. But it cannot be overemphasized. A child that grows up feeling confidently loved and accepted by the most important people in the world to him will develop a healthy sense of self-worth. The LaHayes share that girls who had very good relationship with their fathers, who felt that they could “climb up on their father’s lap anytime they chose to and find his heart’s door open, seldom had sexual hang-ups in marriage. Girls who were rejected by their fathers in childhood often showed signs of frigidity within six to eighteen months of marriage or after the birth of their first child.” More essentially, a child who is unconditionally loved, frequently hugged, cuddled, and touched in a loving way is less likely to seek sex in the wrong places because their need for affection and acceptance is satisfied at home.

Provide Your Child with Two Loving Role Models. More often than not, parents are the first two people of the opposite sex that children observe. They need to see that their parents love each other. LaHayes call this the “best kind of sex education.” While sexual intimacy between husband and wife is reserved for privacy, children need to witness the tenderness exchanged between a husband and wife. Edric and I kiss and hug in front of our kids (not in a scandalous way!), but they see us be sweet and romantic with one another. They also know that we have date nights, special evenings where we go out as husband and wife.

In Hebrews 13:4 it says that “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

A married couple that is faithful to one another provides the example that a child needs to live out faithfulness to his or her future spouse. The LaHayes reveal that “many a girl has traded her virtue more out of revenge for her father’s unfaithfulness to her mother than as an act of passion.”

Start Teaching Your Children About Sex Early. Parents need to teach their children about sex before they learn it from the wrong sources. According to the LaHayes, “as they begin asking questions, give them clear and appropriate answers. Be honest. Use the proper nomenclature when referring to body parts and try to be relaxed…In early childhood, the most important thing for them to know is not all the details about sex but that he or she can come to you for them…What is important at this stage is to treat a child’s questions about sex as casually as we do his questions on any other subject.” Furthermore, “if they know the correct terms, they will be less likely to think there is something mysterious about them which can unnecessarily increase their curiosity.” (Read more from Chapter 3, “Even Toddlers Are Curios About Sex” on pages 63 to 70)

When one of our sons was three years old, he asked “how does a baby get into a mommy’s tummy.” Edric sat him down, man-to-man, and explained sex using the right terms. He was relaxed and easy going as he explained sex to our son and after the conversation, our son said, “Okay daddy, I’m glad we had this talk. What else can we talk about?” It was a completely normal conversation to him. And just like that, he learned about sex in the right context from the right person, and since then, we have continually affirmed the fact that sex is what happens between two people in marriage, just as God designed. It is something amazing and worth waiting for.

It may feel awkward to explain these things to our children because of the ways society portrays sex – dirty, carnal, pornographic, and very often outside the context of marriage.  But children need to understand sex as something beautiful, designed by God for marriage.  And loving parents can explain the Biblical perspective on sex better than school, friends, TV, books, magazines or the Internet.

Teach Them Who They Are. Children need to understand what it means to be a child of God. God has a special plan for their lives and part of that plan is the call to purity. They need to understand that safeguarding their innocence and purity leads to blessing. I have seen God redeem my dating mistakes but I have also seen how committing to purity has helped people to avoid the pain of my mistakes. My siblings, by God’s grace, committed to purity before marriage. Even my sister (the only remaining single among us), who is now engaged, has committed with her fiancé not to kiss her until their wedding day. We are all helping them to stick by this promise by holding them accountable and praying for them! My older brother, younger brother and younger sister all married godly spouses and are enjoying the rewards of their obedience and if I might say, we are all enjoying intimacy with our spouses, too!

Help Your Children Select Their Friends. As bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33), the wrong kinds of friends can have a profoundly negative effect on our children’s moral standards. Most of us would probably agree that many of the foolish things we learned were from friends!

Homeschool Your Children. A parent who takes on the responsibility of teaching their children protects them from the secular philosophies and amoral traditions that prevail in the world – especially in schools!

Make Innocence a Family Virtue. Be careful what you watch on TV and what your children watch on TV or see on the internet. We have avoided watching alot of shows, movies, and programs when we see things through the innocent eyes of our children. Edric and I will ask ourselves, “Why are we watching this stuff if our kids can’t be in the same room because of the content? We probably shouldn’t be watching it either.”

We also teach our children to avoid crass toilet humor and encourage the boys to speak like gentlemen.  When they pick up words from outside our home that are inappropriate we talk to them about why these words are not wholesome. One time, Elijah said to me, “I head a song in 7/11 and the words were really bad! The song used the _ _ _ _ word and I didn’t like it.” He was able to discern this because he had already heard this word before, asked us about it, and we explained to him why it was inappropriate.

Innocence is different than naivety. The Bible says in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.

I’ve counseled young ladies who have been wrongfully taken advantage of by men. I really feel for these ladies because the circumstances they put themselves in could have been avoided if they had thought through their actions. It is never right for a man to abuse a woman no matter what the circumstance, but women can also protect themselves by avoiding situations that make them more vulnerable. We need to teach our children to be wise and discerning about the way they conduct themselves, as well as the places and people they associate with.

Teaching our children to be modest is part of being innocent. Our children know what parts of the body are to be kept covered and out of site. The boys don’t run around without their clothes on (for the most part, but sometimes they forget). Edric is very particular about this with Tiana. He always tells me to put bloomers on her when she is wearing a dress. Even if she has a diaper on, as much as possible he says to “keep her diaper covered too.” I get it though. I feel that the virtues of modesty and innocence begin when a child is little and you can’t overemphasize this enough.

Do Not Give Children A Lot of Unmonitored and Unsupervised Internet Time. This is like a worm-hole for the evil one into the hearts of our children. All it takes is one wrong click or one wrong pop-up and they can develop an appetite for pornography. I’ve sat down with our older son and had a heart to heart with him about guarding his eyes. I said, “hon, there are things that people put on the internet that we are never meant to see – things like nakedness, violence, evil. If you ever see anything like this accidentally pop up on the screen while you are using the computer, I want you to run away from it.” As often as possible, we are at home when they use the computer and we have put safety measures on our virus protection software that prohibits bad sites.

Teach Your Children to Protect Themselves. Edric and I have told our children never to be afraid to tell us if someone ever touches them in the wrong way. We have told them that their private parts are to be kept private. Even though our children are still young, we warned our older two about the dangers of touching themselves when they became naturally curious about their body parts. But we didn’t talk to them in a threatening or embarrassing way. We simply said, “God designed those pleasures to be felt in marriage so do not let others touch your privates and avoid touching them yourselves.” My own parents taught us this when we were young, too.

Since we have househelp, I have sat down with them and told them about our house rules. And one of them is, “Don’t ever ever touch my children’s private parts. They will tell me if you do so because they know that no one is ever supposed to touch them there.” It may seem like a weird thing to do but househelp have to know that you are a protective and aware parent. Periodically, I will also ask my children if anyone is doing anything to hurt or harm them. After counseling and talking with people who have suffered continued sexual abuse from relatives or people they know, Edric and I have tried to pay extra attention to what is happening in the lives of our children. A majority of the time children undergo abuse, their parents never know or worse, choose not to know.

My mom shared that when she was five years old a boy her age proposition her to look at his privates. She said, “No!” and ran away. Dangers lurk everywhere. We don’t need to be paranoid as parents, but we need to teach our children to protect themselves and turn to us for help. I’ve even told our kids, “If anyone does something bad to you and tells you that you cannot tell us because they will hurt you or hurt us, don’t believe them. Mommy and Daddy will protect you.”

When I was young, I wasn’t very street smart. It wasn’t until later on (after I went through a crisis which I will share at the appropriate time) that I learned to be more aware of my surroundings and wary of people’s intentions. There is a difference between judging people’s motives but knowing that sin makes people do evil things.

One time I was in the mall and a man was following me wherever I went. (I’ve had creepy people do this before where they have brushed up against me or groped at me so it has made me more conscious of how to deal with situations like this.) Elijah was with me and I paid close attention to the guy until I determined for sure that he was following me. I looked at him straight in the eye and said, “Are you following me?” embarrassing him in public because I raised my voice while asking this. The man turned around and left.  Elijah was a little startled when he saw me do this and I took the opportunity to explain to him that we have to be aware and careful wherever we go. “Some people hurt others and we need to learn to protect ourselves. We need to be wise.” Then I encouraged him not to worry because God is always protecting us.

Warn Your Children About the Joys and Dangers of Sexual Attraction. When one of our sons revealed to us that he had crushes, I nearly fainted but it provided Edric and I with the opportunity to teach him about how to relate to the opposite sex. We talked to him about how to treat women with respect and how to guard his heart. We shared that it is normal to like girls and be attracted to them but that God wanted him to reserve those feelings for the person he will someday marry. Our son is still young so we will have to revisit these concerns again and again as he and all our other children grow up.

Teach Your Children the Law of Diminishing Returns. My parents taught this to us when we were younger. A relationship tends to move progressively towards physical intimacy. Eventually something as harmless as holding hands becomes less exciting than the prospect of a hug or kiss on the cheek. Eventually this too becomes less exciting than the prospect of kissing on the lips and so on.

When I used to give talks to the youth on sexual purity, I would say to them, “Don’t ask yourself how far can I get to the edge of a cliff without falling off?” Most people think they are staying pure by doing everything but the sex act itself. This is a fallacy. Purity is to be without blemish or stain. And, the closer a person gets to the edge, the easier it is to fall off it – plain and simple. That’s why the Bible says, “Flee sexual immorality.” Those who have already experienced premarital sex revert more comfortably to the same pattern when they date others. Therefore, parents need to help children determine boundaries when it comes to physical intimacy. I find that dating couples who avoid kissing on the lips, avoid touching anything below the neck and everything above the knee have an easier time staying pure.

Teach Your Children the Principle of Time, Place, Person. My parents always told my siblings and I, “all it takes to fall into sexual immorality with a person outside of marriage is three ingredients – time, place, and person.” If these three elements combine, the likelihood of falling into sin is that much greater. So logically, always keep one of those things out of the picture. For example, don’t be out alone and late at night with the opposite sex.

Ask Them To Make a Commitment to Purity. TMA Homeschool has a yearly Purity Ball in September for parents and kids aged 10 above. For a couple of weeks leading up to the ball, the parents and children attend talks on purity. During the ball itself, parents commit to purity themselves and to safeguard their child’s purity, and each child makes a commitment to purity. It is a very touching ceremony that makes parents cry!

Teach Your Kids to Spend Their Time Wisely. When kids are involved in sports programs, pursuing their hobbies and interests, prioritizing their studies, spending time with God, family, good friends, and contributing to ministry work, the chances of getting into a relationship too early decreases. First, there is not enough time. And second, they will find deep fulfilment as they develop their talents and gifts, grow in their relationship with God and with others, and maximize their youth for his glory.

Edric, me, Jeff, Candy, Dad, Mom, Carolyn, Jennifer, Peter, Jenny, and Paul

Pray for them and their future spouses. Ever since my children were in the womb, I have prayed for them to grow up to love and serve God. But, I have also prayed intentionally about their protection, innocence, purity, and future spouses. My parents did the same for my siblings and I and we ended up marrying God-fearing people who also serve the Lord.

I step back from time to time and observe how innocent my children are, how free they are from the pain of heartbreak and immorality’s consequences. It makes me want to do everything I can to protect their purity.  Staying sexually pure is a radical concept in this day and age.  And I believe the earlier we start encouraging purity in our children, the easier it will be for them to make the concept their own reality and value.

 

 

 

 

Ah, the Classics

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Titus is loving this book. Last Christmas Edric’s uncle (fondly called Tito Jojo by all of us) packed this very heavy book in his suitcase and brought it to the Philippines to give to our kids. I have read through the stories over and over again but the kids still enjoy them. Such is the magic of the classics. Today I read Harold and the Purple Crayon to Titus. It is one of his favorite stories, probably because he is so much like Harold!

Screen Media: The Modern Day Pacifier of Our Children

I must confess that today I didn’t really homeschool. Okay, the kids did a little bit of work here and there, but I was so exhausted this morning, I plopped the kids in front of my laptop. After coming home from the U.S. Embassy to process Tiana’s citizenship and staying up late last nnight to prepare all her forms and photocopy old passports, I didn’t get much sleep. And it didn’t help that Tiana woke me up with her “Mama” and “Dada” babbling at 6 am. And so when Edric and I got home from the embassy, I said to the kids, “Okay, you can do educational games today.” They were thrilled, of course. I put my eldest, Elijah, in charge of the games for everyone and I fell asleep on the couch for the next two hours.

After waking up, I felt kind of guilty for having pacified my children with screen media. I totally used the internet and my computer to entertain my kids for those two hours so I could enjoy some peace and quiet.  There is nothing wrong with educational games. In fact, when my kids play games on the computer from time to time it is a nice break for me, especially when I need to re-group or keep two kids busy while I work one-on-one with another child. Technology makes homeschooling in this day and age a lot easier. But, I am also wary of how convenient it can become for me to hand my kids my cellphone or the laptop just to keep them preoccupied. It shouldn’t be my default option to put them in front of a screen when I want some me-time or when I need them to sit still and quiet.  The reality is young children should not be exposed to too much screen media not only because it is addicting and sucks them into some sort of vortex (I’ve seen that dulled look on their faces when they are glued to a screen!), but because it is actually harmful for their development.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has established guidelines that recommend no televisions, video games, or Internet access in children’s bedrooms; no screen media for children under two; and no more than two hours of educational television a day for children older than two.”

“In the first 18 to 24 months of life, the brain is developing rapidly, primarily in response to environmental stimuli,” Strasburger says. “Stimuli that optimize the development of brain architecture include personal interactions, motor skills practice, and problem-solving activities. And the best way to teach these skills is not through screen media.” Read more from “TV Media’s Influence on Child Development” http://www.cleancutmedia.com/tv-shows/tv-medias-influence-on-child-development

The Illinois Early Learning Project published this online: “People who study children’s development have often suggested that video games and computer use simply do not match the learning needs of children under 3 years of age. At that age, children are still learning to coordinate all the parts of their bodies—their arms and legs, their eyes, their ears, the organs that affect balance, and so on. They change focus frequently and seem to need to move often. There is no good substitute for physical activity during this period of life. Video games and computer use are not good choices for promoting the essential skills that infants, toddlers, and preschoolers need to master—crawling, walking, talking, picking things up, taking turns, and getting to know other people.”  http://illinoisearlylearning.org/faqs/playage.htm

This article may be talking about younger kids but I feel that the principle applies to my older boys as well.

I am thankful for my husband, Edric. He is really great about keeping the kids busy in a productive way and he doesn’t believe in putting a screen in front of their faces to keep them entertained or behaved. Last Saturday when we celebrated my sister, Carolyn’s birthday at a restaurant, I was tempted to hand the kids my cellphone while we waited for everyone to arrive. I took a look around the restaurant and knew that they wouldn’t last longer than fifteen minutes sitting on their chairs. Praise God for Edric! He said,“Boys, let’s play a game. I will do actions with my hands and face and you have to guess what I am trying to say.” This turned out to be a really fun game for the kids and us. We would act out silly phrases like, “Don’t put this peanut in your nose.” And the kids would actually come very close to guessing things that! They also came up with their own actions and phrases.

Eventually, our family arrived and we had a wonderful lunch. The kids kept themselves entertained by playing pretend games and they did their best not to disturb people in the restaurant. We only had to correct them a few times.

In other words, we don’t need to hand our children an Iphone, an Ipad, a computer or let them watch TV to pacify them and keep them from being bored. They do just fine when challenged to engage in creative and active play and they can find ways to do so in a manner that isn’t disruptive.

I kind of veered away from this belief when I let them play online educational games today because I was so tired, but these moments are pretty rare. For the most part, I keep the kids away from too much screen media. As difficult as it is to have to say no to my persistent three year old son, who asks the most often if he can play computer or watch TV, I am trying to be vigilant. It helps alot that Edric is even more strongly opposed to the convenient pacifying effect that screen media has on children.

But here’s the thing. If you are going to have rules about computer and TV time and limit the use of these media, you need to present alternatives or replacement activities. Don’t just say, “no more TV” and then have no options for them to choose from. Say, “let’s not watch TV tonight but play a board game instead.” Or, “you can’t play computer right now but let’s do something with your art kit.” Or, “No TV this afternoon but we can read books!”

Express your desire to spend time doing something with them that is not screen media related and they will be interested in it because they get to have your time and attention. That’s what I do with my kids when they feel sad about not being able to play computer games or watch TV. I propose something else to do and hype it up by saying that I will be with them. I’m just thankful they are still happy to interact and spend time with me! So this tactic works for now. ;)

What Children Do When They Don’t Watch TV

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We dropped by Hobbes and Landes this afternoon and the kids picked out a 3-D puzzle set of famous architectural structures. They spent several hours finishing each one of the puzzles and really enjoyed themselves.

Ever since our eldest son, Elijah, said he wanted to be an architect we have tried to be intentional about the toys we buy. And so I was really thrilled when I saw this one at Hobbes and Landes. I did not expect the boys to finish putting all of the structures together today, but they did!

At least there are several boxes of these 3-D puzzle sets being sold at Hobbes and Landes. I might have to go back and get another one soon! For a little over P400 pesos I thought it was a good alternative to TV or computer games. :)

Can You Read A Story?

As often as possible, I try to read stories to the kids before they go to bed at night. We were pretty busy over the last couple of weeks because of family visiting from the U.S. But, I’ve tried to pick up this tradition with them again.

I will admit that there are days when I don’t feel like it, especially when I want to retreat to the quiet of my bedroom after a tiring day. But, it is so hard to resist it when my three year old Titus comes knocking on my door, peeks in and then says, “Can you read a story, mommy?” I look into that endearing face of his, full of anticipation and hopefulness, and I can’t say no. “Okay! Let’s read a story.”

He will pull me to the boys’ room, where my other two boys would have picked out their books for me to read and I will read through each of their selections.

Yesterday night we read “How the Leopard Got It’s Spots” by Rudyard Kipling. Whoa! I kind of dread it when Elijah picks out a Kipling story because my tongue gets all twisted trying to read things like this…

“In the days when everybody started fair, Best Beloved, the Leopard lived in a place called the High Veldt. ‘Member it wasn’t the Low Veldt, or the Bush Veldt, or the Sour Veldt, but the ‘sclusively bare, hot shiny High Veldt, where there was sand and sandy-coloured rock and ‘sclusively tufts of sandy-yellowish grass. The Giraffe and the Zebra and the Eland and the Koodoo and the Hartebeest lived there: and they were ‘sclusively sandy-yellow-brownish all over; but the Leopard, he was the ‘sclusivest sandiest-yellowest-brownest of them all…”

[leopard closeup] How The Leopard Got His Spots
by Rudyard Kipling
http://www.sff.net/people/karawynn/justso/leopard.htp

The amazing thing is that Elijah comprehends this stuff while I sometimes get lost in all the strange vocabulary.

Tonight was a much easier night. I read a short story about loving Grandpas, which Titus picked out. And then I read the story of Disney’s Dumbo, which took me back to my childhood. I remember how Dumbo made me cry when I was kid…the part where his mom was taken away. That used to feel like a really upsetting part of the story. As I read to the kids, they sat around me, wide-eyed and riveted. When Titus discovered that Dumbo could fly, he was thrilled! I was, too! I had forgotten that part. We ended with Edan reading parts of the Bible stories of Samson and Samuel.

I closed the last book and took in the site of my boys. They were smiling as they climbed into their beds and pulled up their covers. Well…Elijah playfully rolled around on the floor for a bit.

“Goodnight boys, I love you,” I said as I shut the door behind me.

And as I walked to my room, it dawned on me, I will miss evenings like these when they are all grown. I will miss hearing them come up to my bedroom and say, “Can you read a story, mom?”And so for nights like these and those yet to come, though tired or spent or needy of quiet or rest, may my answer to their question almost always be, yes!

How Are Your Generation iY Children?

I am reading an incredibly enlightening book called Generation iY by Tim Elmore. He defines Generation iY as people who were born between the years if 1984 to 2002. But I do think that the same insights and cautionary warnings Elmore shares can relate to the young children we are raising today and how we parent them.

In one of his chapters he talks about the paradox of Generation iY. “Most young people today are advanced biologically. They reach puberty one to two years earlier compared to thirty years ago. They are also advanced cognitively because they consume more data than ever. Kids 3 and 4 years old, go to school and are exposed to huge amounts of information. Socially, they are also advanced, with dozens of friends they connect to at school and via the Internet (and cell phones, if I might add). However, when it comes to emotional maturity, they are NOT advanced. Studies show that a significant percentage is emotionally backward.”

He claims that this is largely because kids are being exposed to too much too soon and not to their ultimate benefit. Elmore cites a survey done by USA Today, revealing that parents: allow Internet use without supervision (75%); dress kids in inappropriate clothing (74%); overschedule kids’ lives (63%); give kids cellphones (59%).

Even if it may seem like young kids today can handle the internet, loads of information, adapt quickly to the fast-paced world we live in, and seem willing enough to be pushed to learn earlier than ever before, their emotional health is being neglected. I believe it when Elmore says that “giftedness does not equal emotional maturity in children.” Time and time again I have talked with parents who want to accelerate their child through grade levels because their child seems “advanced” academically. But the reality is a child must grow in all areas of their life, and cognitive development is just one aspect. As Luke 2:52 says it, “in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man.”

One of our sons scored in the 98th percentile across all areas of learning during his last achievement test and can perform way above his level, especially in reading.  However, he needs to be guided in mastering and tempering his emotions. He gets frustrated easily with himself and others, and can come across a little bit like a “know-it-all” if he is not careful. The truth is he knows a lot of information, but he still needs training when it comes to dealing with failure, disappointment, persevering when it gets tough, following through, and the like. These are key character traits that will help him achieve true success in life. As a parent, I know that he can be “pushed” and accelerated, but I also know that somehow, it will be to the detriment of his emotional maturity.

We cannot put our kids in a bubble and cut them off completely from the Internet or technology because this is the world they live in, but we can focus on developing our children’s EQ. Elmore states that “in school, success is about 75% IQ and 25% EQ. In the real world success is 25% IQ and 75% EQ. If our children are to successfully pass through the tollgate and move into adulthood, we must focus on improving EQ.”

So how can we, as parents, encourage maturity in our children? Elmore shares practical tips for parents of adolescents in pages 69 to 79 of his book. I’ve contextualized some of them here for younger children and added some other suggestions, too.

1. Let your children interact with different age groups. This will help develop “empathy muscles.” Growing up, I remember how my parents applied this with us. As often as possible, they brought us along with them to their bible studies, ministry activities, engagements with leaders and teachers, and sometimes, counsel people with us present. We got to spend time with all types of people, from all walks of life. This helped us with our relational skills. We were taught how to engage others in dialogue, to ask questions and listen, to learn from people and their experiences, and to be sensitive and tactful, but truthful at the same time. Our eyes were also opened to the needs and circumstances of people who were less fortunate.

2. Teach practical skills, such as budgeting, planning a trip, maintaining a vehicle, cooking, etc. Most children today get pulled into the virtual world without learning how to function and live in the real world. I know of people who get so hooked on Internet gaming, they forsake all other responsibilities and priorities. Their accomplishments in the virtual world do not translate to success in the real world.

Children still need to learn self-help, domestic, and practical skills that will allow them to manage the homes they will eventually live in. These skills can be honed through very simple ways. For about a month, I got each of my sons to take care of a plant and record its growth daily. They had to water their plant, make sure it had enough sunlight and measured its height with a ruler. It taught them responsibility and the rewards of responsibility as they saw their plants grow. When I was a kid, my siblings and I had all sorts of animals as pets. We had to feed them, care for them, and look out for their needs. I even had a pet monkey who was very demanding of my time and attention! Other important skills my parents passed on to me were cooking, baking, cleaning, sewing, painting, carpentry, yard-work, laundry, etc.

3. Build in opportunities for service. One of my good friends who also homeschools held a birthday party for her special needs daughter. However, instead of making it all about her daughter, she had a show put on for down syndrome children and their families and gave them bags of groceries (many of these families were impoverished). She asked her daughters, her niece and nephew, and our kids to help distribute the goods to the families. It was a learning experience for my kids who often see parties as a time to take home candy bags and be entertained.

Elmore believes that getting kids involved in serving others on a regular basis is one way to help them grow in emotional maturity. A friend of mine who struggled with depression was better able to get out of it when she started volunteering to help victims of Typhoon Ondoy. Since then, she has made it a point to look for ministry opportunities where she can serve. Being others-focused has helped give meaning and purpose to her life.

4. Give opportunity to practice maturity. We have done this with our older son Elijah. He gets to be in charge of monitoring TV and computer time on the weekends and it teaches him to be mindful of his own involvement in these activities. And, he knows that he is accountable for his younger brothers, too. I also delegate to him the responsibility of watching his baby sister, Tiana, on days when I need some extra sleep in the morning. He does a great job at it, too.

Every now and then Edric will make one of the boys “leader of the day,” giving each of them the responsibility of carrying out his instructions. He will say something like, “You are in charge of making sure that ____________ today.”

Sports also gives kids the opportunity to practice maturity. My siblings and I all joined athletics programs after we were homeschooled — from soccer, to volleyball, to basketball. Being a part of a team, disciplining the body, working towards a goal with others, learning to share the spotlight or even give it up when you aren’t always the star, dealing with loss and disappointment, and persevering under pressure were some of the things we had to adjust to.

Homeschoolers don’t have to wait til they attend conventional school to be a part of a team. There are lots of clubs out there that would gladly welcome home school kids because they have so much more time to practice!  I know champion swimmers, golfers, gymnasts that are homeschoolers. My kids are part of a Taekwondo team. They are just starting out but it has already helped them to grow in maturity.

5. Model emotional maturity as parents. I added this one. Many emotionally problematic people whom Edric and I have counseled are this way because of their emotionally immature parents! Children watch the way we deal with and react to circumstances in our lives and it makes a positive or negative impact in theirs.

One of our sons has been into playing Beyblades.  On one occasion, he and Edric were playing with Beyblades and battling it out with these tops. When Edric wasn’t looking, our son screwed on an old, worn out part on the top Edric was using so that it spun out of control and broke apart. Our son ended up winning the round but Edric became suspicious when he picked up the top and examined it closely.

Edric asked our son in a concerned tone,”Did you destroy my top?” Our son’s celebratory mood turned quiet and he suddenly looked guilty. “Yes, daddy,” our son said with his head bowed down. And as his eyes started to tear, he said, “I sabotaged your top.” Several thoughts came over Edric. First, where did he even learn that concept. Second, how could he even think of doing something like that?! So Edric asked him, “Why did you do that?” “I didn’t like it that you kept winning,” our son replied. When Edric realized that this was a serious heart issue, he knew he had to address it properly. “It’s good to push yourself to win and to try hard, but you can’t win like this. This is not real victory.” Our son listened intently, still trying to stop himself from crying. “Wouldn’t you rather win when your challenger is performing at their best?” Edric went on. “And when you love someone, you won’t do things that hurt them. I felt very hurt when you sabotaged my top.” As our son processed all of this and realized that he had been wrong, he turned to Edric and said, “I’m sorry, dad.” He hugged Edric and cried repentantly.

Here’s the thing though…When Edric asked our son where he learned the concept of “sabotaging,” I was one of the culprits! Apparently, our son thought it was okay because I had said to him one evening, “Let’s team up to beat Dad in 7 Wonders (a board game)! I will help you get the cards you need so Dad can’t get them.” This was not technically cheating because it was a kind of strategy but it wasn’t a good way to win. It was a bad example to our son. I was being a sore loser so I wanted to try an underhanded way to defeat Edric. Unfortunately, our son interpreted the immaturity I displayed as “win at all costs!”

6. Prioritize the SQ. I thought of adding this as well because Edric and I constantly experience how emotional maturity happens more easily when our children enter into a love relationship with Jesus Christ. It is this relationship that gives them the motivation to change and grow in emotional maturity. Our children are not perfect and neither are we (that’s stating the obvious!). But, our children are, by God’s grace, moving towards maturity because the Holy Spirit transforms them, convicts them, and gives them the desire to do what is right.

Jesus Christ gives our children the “SQ” — spiritual quotient. He puts his Spirit in them and leads them to spiritual and emotional maturity.

Titus 3:4-6 “…He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…”

7. Teach your children to wait. Yesterday’s Sunday Service led by Pastor Joby Soriano was a reminder that our children need to learn to delay gratification and practice contentment. When they want something, evaluate whether it is a real need. Our children may live in a world where everything is instant, but they still need to learn the value of waiting as well as entrusting their desires to God. If they really want something, encourage them to pray about it, but don’t give it right away. Teach them to appreciate what they have. Pastor Joby’s message was wonderfully titled “Gratitude Changes Our Attitude.” AMEN to that!

Here’s one practical way we have practiced this with our kids. When our children open their presents during Christmas time, they aren’t allowed to play with every single toy right away. They get to unwrap and see their presents, but they will only play with a select few and everything else gets stored away. During the rest of the year, they get to choose a new toy to play with from time to time. Since they get a whole lot of toys they end up having new toys to play with for the rest of the year (even if they got all of them over Christmas). This keeps them from getting bored with all their toys and it makes them more thankful for the toys they do get to open and play with.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks!”

Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Our children may be growing up as part of the Generation iY, but they can overcome the obstacles and challenges that define it if we, as parents, help them grow in emotional maturity. :)

Cookies!

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Sunday night bonding while baking :)

The Big Mistake

I made a big mistake with one of my kids when we were at the beach. After an entire day of dealing with his negative attitude and moodiness, I did exactly what I tell other parents not to do…l lost my temper. There was no shouting but my tone was highly exasperated and I grabbed hold if his face in an abrupt way to turn it to mine when I was addressing him and his attitude. “You need to stop acting this way!” I said in a very stern way.

Having grown up in a family where moodiness was not allowed (because we were taught that you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and control your emotions), I tend to get frustrated when my children fuss or complain. The irony is that when I allow myself to get frustrated, it is just as bad as being moody because I am not controlled by the Holy Spirit either!

However, when I’m spirit-filled, I tend to deal with my kids’ pouting or sulking in a more constructive way. But I was not spiritually prepared when my son started acting up. He complained about not being able to swim at the beach because the red flag had been raised by the resort due to strong winds and waves; that the water slide at the pool was under repair; that the kids’ play room was closed and being renovated; and finally, when he swam in the pool he found it too cold. I tried to encourage him to think positively and make the most of what we were able to do since the resort was still an amazing place to be at. I also reminded him of his Bible verses and told him, “Look, we are all having fun! Just make the most of it. You are the only one upset.” (Bad, bad style!) He was so difficult to convince. He sat at a corner by himself trying not to cry. The irritation in my heart was building up so I just let him be and didn’t want to deal with him. Later on in the evening, when he started complaining about being tired and sleepy, I finally gave in to my pent up irritation and snapped at him.

That was the worst thing I could have done because it only added to his heightened emotions and he started crying. When I asked him why he had acted so negatively (which really was uncharacteristic of him), he said that he felt sad that things didn’t turn out the way he wanted them to. So once again I tried to reason with him so that he could properly process his emotions, but he couldn’t get over his disappointment. So I said, is there anything else wrong? “When you grabbed my cheeks…” He said, in between sobs, “I felt really hurt…” Sobbing again.Then he flung himself onto my lap and started to really cry.

I had really wounded my son’s heart when I scolded him in the wrong way. My intentions were to let him “snap out” of his moodiness but my method was not positive. So I looked at him in the eyes and I said the only thing I really could and should’ve at that point, “I’m sorry, hon. Mommy was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that. Will you forgive me? I did it because I was irritated and I was irritated because I felt disappointed that you were being so negative today. But that doesn’t make my actions right and I need to ask for your forgiveness. Will you forgive me.” He teared up again and said, “Yes.” I also said to him, “I want you to know that I will love you no matter what.”

After he had calmed down and accepted my apology, I then explained that we need to “trust God when things don’t always turn out the way we want them to. He is in control and he has reasons which we don’t always understand.” (The next day, he was fine and thoroughly enjoyed himself.)

If I could’ve relived what happened, I would have done it like this…as soon as he felt that his expectations were let down, instead of quoting bible verses and telling him what he should do, I would have just hugged him and said, “don’t worry babe, we are still going to have fun.” And I would have just held him for a while. He’s the type that appreciates affection and that would have made a big difference. I also would have avoided pointing out the fact that he had a bad attitude while everyone else did not. This did not make him feel any better.

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Our children will not always process experiences or circumstances in the way we want them to, but that doesn’t give us the excuse to become frustrated and temperamental towards them. This is not an effective way to encourage them to Christ-likeness. Instead, we need to ask ourselves, what do they need from me right now? We will eventually get the opportunity to guide their thinking and emotions, but most of the time, that happens only after they get what they really need and want from us — a hug or a kiss, a kind word, affirmation, or just our presence and silent support.

I failed in this area when I got irritated, but I also learned that a sincere apology and humbly asking for forgiveness gives you a fresh start with your kids (for as long as you don’t make losing your temper and getting irritated a daily habit!).

 

Truth Be Told

Edan and Elijah really enjoy the board game we play called 7 Wonders. It has been one of our recent bonding activities and they get highly competitive when they play. At the beginning of the game, you have to pick a “wonder” card which can be one of the following — Temple of Artemis, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Pyramids of Giza, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Statue of Zeus, Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse at Alexandria.

Edan’s favorite card to use is the Pyramids of Giza, but since you randomly pick a card to see what wonder is assigned to you for the game, he wanted to make sure that he got the pyramids by “peeking” a little at the cards when they were face down (which you are not supposed to do). After he picked the Pyramid card, he started jumping up and down saying, “yeah! I got it!” Edric had a suspicion that Edan had actually seen the cards and asked him, “Edan did you see where the Pyramid card was before you picked it?”

Edan thought for a moment, and then looked up at him, “Yes, daddy. I’m sorry.” It was a moment to deal with the trait of integrity so Edric said, “I’m very proud of you for telling the truth, but you don’t get to use that card. You have to put it back and draw again. But since you were honest, I think that God will reward you.” He also reminded Edan of the verse they had memorized…

1 Peter 5:8
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

“Remember, Edan, it is the devil that tempts us to do the wrong things. You need to be on the alert.”

Willingly, Edan returned his card and understood that it was more important to be honest. Edric reshuffled the cards and let Edan pick again. To his surprise, Edan picked out the Pyramid card! It was such a great lesson for Edan because he learned that God rewards integrity and it is always better to tell the truth.