Motivating Children To Learn

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have positively splendid learning days every single day…where our children have voracious appetites for reading, rise to the challenge of difficult assignments, and approach life with an insatiable curiosity to discover, know, and develop new skills? Wow. Wouldn’t homeschooling be a dream?! Okay, okay, every single day may be asking for too much. But I think it’s fair to expect that the good days can outweigh the tough ones.

Every homeschooling parent will encounter days when his or her child is not thrilled about studying. It’s completely normal. If this sort of de-motivated behavior starts trending, then a parent may have to take drastic measures to fix the problem. But the occasional attitude hump and bump along the way is to be expected.

Here are some helpful questions to ask…How do we kick-start our children’s internal sparkplugs? What is within our control to change, alter and improve? Could it be aspects like our perspective on our kids, the methodology we use, the materials we have chosen, or the environment we have staged for learning to happen? Is it something outside of our control? Like our children’s physical conditions, their attitudes, or heart issues that are spiritual in nature?

Answering the above questions will allow us to isolate factors that contribute to our children’s frustration or de-motivated approach to learning. For example, author George Harris, said, “When a child is given the right degree of difficulty in his studies so that he enjoys the challenge and experiences a feeling of accomplishment, he will improve in those subjects and carry those positive feelings into other areas of his life. A bored and frustrated child, on the other hand, will feel like a failure; that feeling too, will be carried into other areas of life, causing him to be afraid to try new things or learn new subjects.”

Dr. Raymond Moore says that a home teacher is confronted with the onus to make classwork and all learning for a child both challenging and exciting so they will want to return to it again and again. Is this possible? Shouldn’t our children simply swallow the bitter pill…that learning is hard work and they must accept this as their reality and get over their negative attitudes about it?

I’ve tried that approach. “Just do your work because you have to.” On the one hand, there are moments when this is applicable. But it’s very tiring to force a child to learn when he isn’t interested in doing so. Can you imagine multiplying this sort of scenario 5 days a week x 10 months in a year x 13 years of homeschooling (if I homeschool from K to 12)?! I would give up in the first year for sure!

With a little creativity, I believe every child can be ENCOURAGED to learn and homeschooling can be a positive experience for both parent and child.

After experimenting with several approaches on my kids (they tend to be the guinea pigs for all my homeschool experimenting, especially when it comes to curriculums and methods), I came up with a simple system that has been working so far. I’m saying “so far” because seasons come and seasons go. Sometimes, what works for one year won’t do for the next. What works for one child will have zero effect on another. But I praise God that SO FAR, this system is producing desirable outcomes.

For the longest time, I have placed post-it tabs in my children’s books. These tabs mark the “stop” points for each day of work. For example, if I want Elijah to cover 5 pages of his math book, I will stick a post-it tab on the fifth page. When he sees the tab, he knows what he has to cover. I also put several tabs in each of their books so they can go past the tab and proceed to the next one if they are feeling particularly inspired and energetic about their work that day.

Using tabs as markers lets my kids know their daily goals. But this school year, I added another component to this tab system:

  1. The kids complete their assigned task(s) for a certain subject area by working until they reach a tab. (The number of pages is pre-determined by me or agreed upon with my kids.)
  2. After doing so, they pull off the tab and bring it to me.
  3. I will check their accomplished work and sign the tab, indicating the date and subject area as well.
  4. They will take the signed tab and stick it beside their name on a wall chart.
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  6. This process repeats itself with every subject.
  7. By Friday, the kids count the number of tabs they have collected during the week and they can do one of the following: get 5 pesos for every tab or accumulate at least 20 tabs so they can draw from the MYSTERY JAR. (they may combine their tabs with their siblings’ so their points are higher).
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  9. The MYSTERY JAR is filled with fun rewards that they get to pick from. (1 mystery jar draw = 20 tabs.)

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Last week we didn’t get to do more than 3 days of homeschooling, so the kids pooled together their tabs and drew from the jar. They pulled out a prize that read, “Date with Mom.”

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When Friday came along, I took all the kids to High Street for lunch and we also went to the bookstore. That was our “date.” My mother-in-law joined us, which doubled the fun.

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This week, the kids collected 60+ tabs which entitled them to 3 draws, 1 of which allowed them to have an extra draw. Here’s what they drew from the mystery jar:

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Somehow this tab thing is encouraging my children to go beyond their daily requirements. They use the tabs as a means to compete with one another (in a healthy way), and they look forward to redeeming mystery prizes for their hard work.

I hear them yell out, “I want to get more tabs!” and I see them dig into their books with eagerness. It’s a lovely sight to behold for this mother of five! I’m grateful that my kids are generally easy to teach, but witnessing their added spunk and gusto energizes me, too!

Simple ideas like this one can help to motivate your child, especially when they are younger. Ideally, however, you want to get them to the point where they really enjoy learning, no matter how hard it becomes. I’m beginning to see this happen in my eldest son, Elijah. While the tab system inspires him to get his tasks done, he likes to learn with or without this system in place. As an older child, he feels fulfilled when he grows in knowledge and wisdom, and he enjoys the challenge of learning.

Eventually, I’m hoping that his younger brothers and sisters will be the same way. Edan is showing signs of progress in this area. Nevertheless, I will keep up this tab system, until I have to come up with something else. After all, my kids aren’t the only ones who need motivating. I do, too! And getting to teach motivated children motivates me!

Caught On Camera

This past week, homeschooling solutions asked me to take video answers to questions posited by other homeschoolers or would-be homeschoolers. Since my week was pretty hectic, I had to find time to get the videos done at home and then send them so they could be uploaded for the launch of their site.

I asked Elijah to help me out because he is my go-to person for tech-related concerns at home. He set up the camera and positioned it for the light using a chair and books. And then he told me what hand signals he was going to use to let me know when to start talking and stop talking.

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It took a couple of takes to figure out what worked and how to eliminate unnecessary noise. But since it was done by amateurs like us, the videos came out very “home-made” in their feel.

At first we were laughing and having fun as we did this project together. But after a while I began to feel really tired. We had to tape 10 answers. And more often than not, each time we did one, we had to retake. So I began to feel agitated and impatient. When Elijah would make a mistake, like knock the camera or accidentally delete a previous take, I would complain.

But when I viewed a couple of the takes where I switched from interview mode to correcting Elijah, I watched my facial expressions and tone, and I was like, “yikes!” Is that what I sound like and look like when I am irritated?! My poor kids!”

I am glad I got to see myself in action because I didn’t realize how my smallest gestures of negativity get magnified when they are captured on camera. Afterwards, I was more mindful about being patient as we finished the remaining taping sessions.

Lately I have wondered why my kids use a harsh tone with one another when they are upset. They don’t shout but I can hear the annoyance in their voices and it has surprised me. Well, now I know why. My kids speak to one another using the same mannerisms they see in me!

I remember a story of a mom who was upset that her daughter yelled at her. When she was asked if she also screamed at her daughter, the mom replied, “Yes, but that’s different. I am the mom.” (Hmm…it’s not different.)

If we want our children to respect us and respect others, they need to see us demonstrating the same thing, especially to them. We all have habits or reactions that seem harmless until they are caught on film. How much more thoughtful we would be about what we say and do if we knew people could watch the highlight reel of our ugly parenting moments on national television!

Here’s a noteworthy consideration: The Bible tells us that people will “give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

It also tells us we must correct one another with a “spirit of gentleness.” Galatians 6:1

On a side note, Elijah didn’t even use his glasses while he was helping me because they were broken. (I was the one who accidentally hit them in the car a few days ago.) So he was straining his eyes to look at the camera screen just to help me. What a sweetheart! I took a photo of him today with his glasses. He wore them to an event this morning because they were his only option but they sat crookedly on his nose since one side of the glasses popped off when they broke. And he had to tilt his head to one side to keep them from falling off! He didn’t even complain. He was his usual jolly self. Sigh. It’s images like this that inspire me to be more loving, more patient, more spirit-filled. Children are so tender… (And we will be getting new glasses tomorrow!)

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Vomit

It’s not a pretty title but it’s my descriptor for what happened this afternoon, in the car, on Edric’s leg, on his leather shoes, on his hand, and laptop bag. Of all the people to vomit on, I wish it hadn’t been Edric. No it wasn’t my throw up. It was Titus’. He gagged on the lettuce in his tuna sandwich while he was sitting on Edric’s lap.

I saw it project out of Titus’ mouth like it was happening in slow motion. All I could think of was Noooo. Stoooop. And then the jarring sound of Edric’s voice interrupted the freeze-frame scene. “TITUS!!!” He yelled his name and there was silence. The vomit was out.

Who was to be pitied? I was torn. Edric couldn’t clean himself because Titus was on his lap. But Titus was tearing because Edric had shouted his name. I felt badly for both.

I can deal with vomit. As a mother, I have conquered worse. But Edric wasn’t prepared to take on the regurgitated mess that was oozing down his handsome pair of slacks and staining his leather shoes. For one thing, he had some of it on his hand.

Yet my heart also went out to Titus. Although he had no vomit on him (let’s call him vomit-free), he was hurting inside. I wanted to start preaching to Edric about our family bible study two nights ago. Edric had asked the kids to memorize and apply 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It begins with LOVE IS PATIENT, LOVE IS KIND. Furthermore, we attended a worship service last Sunday where the preacher spoke about RESPONDING AND NOT REACTING.

The acronym he shared was P.R.A.Y. – Pause, Resist your first instinct, Ask God how you should respond, Yield to his will. During Sunday service Edric had repeatedly whispered to me that this was a perfect message for him.

I suppose expecting Edric to apply this when Titus threw up on him was a little much. But it was the shouting that really disappointed me. That part wasn’t necessary. However, correcting Edric in front of the kids would have been the worst thing to do. So I just waited for the Lord to convict him. In the meantime, I cleaned the vomit off with wet wipes, praying in my heart that Edric would say sorry.

Praise God for whoever invented wet wipes! They are a mom’s best friend.

Very shortly after, Edric asked for Titus’ forgiveness and embraced him. Titus felt the liberty to express his hurt and they were reconciled as father and son. Edric knew he had been wrong to raise his voice…vomit or no vomit.

Interestingly, that same evening while I was baking salted caramel cupcakes for our friends, I had a wonderful chat with a dear sister in the Lord. It just so happened that the topic veered towards her husband. And she shared with me an insight about marriage that ministered to me.

“When I got married my dad told me to let my husband make mistakes.”

One incident that she narrated was particularly hilarious. Many years ago her husband was in charge of a fundraising activity for their church. He successfully collected seven thousand dollars. At the time, there was no account to deposit the amount in and he didn’t want to put it into his own bank account, for integrity’s sake. So while he was responsible for holding on to the cash, he stuck the bills in a sour cream container which he put in the freezer for safe-keeping.

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I know this guy. He is intelligent. So as crazy as this freezer idea was, I know it had nothing to do with his IQ. He did, however, fail to mention this very important detail about the sour cream container to his wife (my friend).

One day his mom came over and cleaned out their freezer while they were away. Like any loving mother, she thought she was doing her children a good deed. The sour cream container was thrown out! She just assumed it was trash.

When my friend found out that her husband had “deposited” the money into their freezer and lost it, she was incredulous. She couldn’t believe that he had stored it in their freezer!

But being the supportive, godly and faith-filed woman that she was, she encouraged her husband by saying, “I think your boss is going to write you a check to replace the money.”

Amazingly, her husband received a check from his boss. Furthermore, because her husband was man enough to come before their church congregation and explain what happened to the money, God redeemed the situation. Donations poured in, so much so that the church had to turn down cash at a certain point.

When my friend told me this I was encouraged. There are occasions when Edric’s decisions or actions trouble me. Because I love him deeply and recognize the impact his choices have on our family, I get nervous and worried when I feel like he isn’t applying godly wisdom or Christ-likeness.

The vomit incident was a case in point for me. I really wanted to hammer Edric down with statements about what he did wrong and why it was wrong. Why did he have to get angry at Titus? Why didn’t he consider how yelling might wound his spirit and upset the rest of us who were witnesses to his reaction? Would the kids think he was being a hypocrite for teaching one thing and then doing the opposite?

Had it not been for the prodding of the Lord to be cool and calm, I would have spewed out my own form of verbal vomit. But thankfully, Edric came to his own realization about his shouting. Surely this was the working of the Holy Spirit in his own heart.

Here is where I want my friend’s story and this vomit incident to converge. God is in control of our husbands. When we are tempted to panic and instigate a “coup” to overthrow or undermine their authority, we need to step back and remember whose authority they are under.

Edric is accountable to God. If and when he gives in to thinking and behaviors that don’t please God, I know that God is going to minister to him and discipline him if necessary, for his good. If I don’t let God deal with Edric in his own way and time, then I may become the reason for my husband’s greater failures! I may become the blockade that prevents him from experiencing God’s work and victory in his life!

As I think about what my friend’s father told her — be willing to let your husband fail — I must answer certain questions. Do I trust that God loves Edric? Do I trust that he is control? Do I trust that he can turn his failures into the best opportunities for godly instruction and growing in wisdom?

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It may not happen in an instant or overnight. And sometimes the changes I hope for may take years and years of prayer. Yet my confidence is in this promise “that He (God) who began a good work in his life will complete it.” (Philippians 1:6)

And might I add that Edric used to be much more hot-headed. Small inconveniences would spike a great rise in his emotional temperature. But through the years God has caused him to change remarkably in this area. He is much more patient and careful about his words and actions. In fact, our eldest son, Elijah, told him recently, “Dad you have really changed.”

This blesses me. It’s a miracle when spouses change for the better, a miracle that speaks of God’s handiwork. When people ask me if a husband or wife will change in a marriage, hoping that marrying them will be a catalyst for positive change, I tell them, “Don’t expect that YOU can change your spouse, but GOD can. That’s why he needs to be present in your marriage.”

Tonight, Titus was the last one to finish his dinner. I saw him sitting by himself looking very much alone on our balcony. The back drop of the expansive night sky made his six year old frame look especially tiny. When Edric noticed that he was in need of company, he stayed with him. I watched the two of them engage in conversation and laugh together until Titus was done. I thought of what a tender site they were as father and son.

A wife and a mother can mop up vomit with wet wipes. But only the God of the universe can mop up the vomit of our lives. He does things like turn the heart of a hurting son back to his father’s and a father’s to his son’s. He alone can redeem the stink and mess that we make. The question is are we willing to surrender our lives and the lives of those whom we love to him so he can do so?

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When Bullies Become Friends

IMG_2752It’s always interesting to see how my kids will respond to children who pick on them. Although it doesn’t happen often because it isn’t easy to gang up on five children (okay Catalina doesn’t quite count yet since she is still a baby), the younger ones do get their share of unpleasant encounters with the bullying kind. When this happens Edric and I find ourselves having to weigh the appropriate response. Should we intervene? Should we tell them to fight back? To extend grace, to turn the other cheek and be Christ-like?

The other day Tiana came running out of Playdium in Fun Ranch sobbing. “I want to stay with you, mom. I don’t want to play anymore.”

This was uncharacteristic of her. At the time I didn’t know what was going on so I encouraged her to go back in. She obeyed but thirty minutes later, she was crying again.

Upon investigating the matter, it was brought to my attention and the other moms who were with me (my sister and two sisters in law), that there was a boy who was yelling at my children and their cousins. He was also throwing objects at them.

Tiana, my sweet 3 year old, was especially affected. Had her father been around he may have handled the situation differently. He is especially protective of our daughters!

I asked the kids to point out who the boy was, and I saw this cute five year old who was complaining to the attendant on duty that he was the one being victimized. As I watched him gesticulate and make all kinds of dramatic statements about the kids who were bothering him, I found it hard to believe that this same little boy could harass a group of 8 children, half of whom were larger than he was. But my kids confirmed that he was indeed the culprit who was being nasty to them.

From the outside of the play area I called to him, “Come here, what is your name?” He answered without hesitation. I asked him, “What happened?” He explained that he had built something that some kids had knocked down. It hadn’t been my kids or their cousins but he had blamed them. That’s why he yelled and threw objects at them. My children looked on as this boy gave his defense. They must have realized what I had, that he wasn’t really an unkind boy, that he was merely acting on an assumption.

Author and speaker, Craig Groeschel said, “hurt people hurt others.” Sometimes it’s worth it to find out where a “bully” is coming from. That afternoon I wanted to teach my children how to reach out to this boy who was in need of some friends to play with.

“Would you like to play with these kids?” I asked him. His furrowed eyebrows relaxed and his expression softened. “Yes.”

“If you want other kids to play with you, then don’t shout at them, okay?

He nodded his head.

I was still leaning over the rail as I introduced him to my kids and their cousins. Elijah immediately invited him to build a tower. And they all ran off to enjoy the rest of their time at Playdium.

My job is done here, I thought to myself. The kids got my cue.

I watched them run around the different obstacles together with this “bully” turned friend as part of their troop. At the end of the hour, he told them they were his best friends.

He was a very nice boy who had been misunderstood. I am not saying that all children who bully others are this sweet under their rough and tough exteriors. But I think it pays to try and understand what the root cause of their behavior is and what they are really after.

My nephew was in a big school and a boy drew on his shirt during class. But this same boy ended up wanting to be his friend. My nephew was kind to him and they became good friends during the course of the year.

Kindness may not always win against bullies but it’s worth trying as a first response. If it doesn’t work and a child keeps harassing your children, then do what we do…our kids have Muai Thai classes to defend themselves and those they love if necessary!

In the car, I told the kids that I was proud of them for playing with the boy.

“If someone isn’t nice to you then reach out to them, if they still are unkind, it’s not your problem anymore. At least you tried. We represent Christ so in our responses to people, we must treat others in such a way that they will be attracted to Christ. Now, if they fight you and try to physically hurt you, you guys do Muai Thai! You can defend yourselves!” ;)

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Brattiness Is Not Allowed

My daughter, Tiana, likes to have her hair braided. She calls it “curly hair” because after the braids are removed, her hair looks curly. Her “ate” or yaya helps fix her hair. But her ate didn’t braid her hair this morning because we were in a hurry to leave our hotel to get to the underwater river tour in Puerto Princesa.

Tiana whined about it while sitting on the bed. “I want curly,” she insisted with a bratty tone. Of course I didn’t let her get away with this sort of attitude. When we were in the car, I told her to apologize to her yaya and ask for forgiveness. I also told her to hug her.

I am very sensitive to the way my kids talk to and treat our househelp. For the most part they are kind to them, especially my older kids. They know how much we value the hard work of the girls that are in our home. But sometimes Tiana can be demanding even if she is a sweetie. Whenever she treats them disrespectfully, I don’t allow it. It isn’t right. I want her to hold those who serve us in high regard. Furthermore, I want to avoid raising a daughter with an entitlement mentality…someone who expects royal treatment. Noooo way!

Tiana went up to her yaya like I asked her to and asked for forgiveness. “I am sorry, ate,” she said. She also gave her a big, sincere hug. Her yaya is super sweet and hugged her back.

As much as I love my kids, I will not defend their bad behavior. When they do something inappropriate to a person, no matter who it is, I have to deal with it. It’s my job to train them to respect all kinds of people. Of course I have to model it, too.

Tiana didn’t get to have her curly hair today but she did just fine without it, especially when she knew that brattiness is not allowed!

Having girls is a joy but I always have to remember that raising two princesses isn’t about letting them have a princess-mentality!

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Sweet Beedie Dies

What a sad morning.

Beedie, one of Edan’s cockatiels, died at about 10 AM. We were all pretty devastated. But Edan was especially despondent. When I pulled Beedie out of the cage and showed Edan his lifeless body, he walked away, up the stairs to be alone and cry.

I cried, too.

Beedie was the sweetest bird. And my heart ached for Edan.

Edan’s a pretty dutiful boy. He had a routine with his two cockatiels. Every morning he would change the water, feed them, and spend time playing with them. Beedie was his favorite because he was very good-natured. Whenever Edan would extend his fingers to him, Beedie would willingly climb on and chirp a happy tune.

I wish I hadn’t been the last to see him alive. He wasn’t doing too well early this morning. My dad used to breed cockatiels and parakeets so I knew that Beedie had all the symptoms of a sick bird. His head was bowed down, his eyes were closed and he refused to eat or drink anything. I didn’t expect him to survive for very much longer. But it was still hard to see him keeled over, his claws curled under him, with one eye shut and the other half open. He wasn’t breathing anymore. Geedie (Edan’s other cockatiel) looked on in a lonely sort of way.

Although I’m not entirely sure of what made him sick, I have a theory.  About two weeks ago I told Edan to quick tossing his cockatiels up into the air to make them fly. They came from the pet shop with their wings clipped so they couldn’t fly very far at all. Edan thought he was “helping them” learn how to fly. But I kept telling him that birds instinctively know how to fly. My fear was he was stressing them out by forcing them to fly when they obviously couldn’t because their wings were clipped.

Well, he forgot that I had told him this. A few days ago, Edan experimented with flying lessons again and Beedie accidentally dove into the pond in the garden because he couldn’t flap his wings very well. Edan freaked out and called Elijah who ran over to rescue Beedie. When the kids reported to me what happened, I reminded Edan that he wasn’t supposed to throw the birds up into the air. I also expressed concern that Beedie might get sick.

I know birds bathe in water but this was dirty pond water. And I’m pretty sure Beedie gulped in some of it. His feces were loose and the wrong color before he died.

Birds are really sensitive. And once they get sick, it’s not very likely that they will recover.

As a mom, I really wanted to spare Edan from experiencing the loss of his bird. But I couldn’t. I even prayed that he would live. But God didn’t let that happen.

To empathize with Edan, I held him for a while as we both cried about Beedie. We looked at the picture on my phone when we got him from the pet store and that made us cry even more.

This afternoon, I tried, in a very gentle way to ask Edan if he learned anything from this unfortunate experience…especially in the area of obedience. At the time he was hanging out with his cousins and his reply was, “Yes mom, but I don’t want to talk about it in front of my cousins.”

When it was just the two of us, I asked him again and he admitted to me that he should have obeyed and taken better care of Beedie, specifically, he should have NOT thrown him into the air to fly or twirled him around. As he went out the door of the study room, he also added, “The punishment of sin is death.” I actually laughed when he said this because I didn’t expect such an insightful comment from him. We both smiled at one another.

Obedience is a principle that my children will have to keep on learning as they grow up. The first command we teach our children is to obey. When our kids are younger, we emphasize it a lot. We even spank for disobedience. But as they get older, we don’t force them to obey. By about 6 or 7, they usually get obedience, and they understand why it is important. The next stage of their instruction when it comes to obeying is developing a conviction for it.

We want them to connect obedience with blessing. And when they don’t obey it’s beneficial for them to experience the consequences of their choices, even if hurts to watch this happen as a parent. My parents taught my siblings and I, “you are free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of your choices.”

As an 8 year old, Edan experienced a life lesson I hope he will not forget. It was painful for him to loose Beedie. But it would be more painful for him in the future if he didn’t internalize obedience this early on.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

For homeschooling today, I asked Edan to write a tribute to Beedie so he can remember him…

Beedie was my Cocktail and he died today. We had him for 18 days. He was a kind bird. I loved him so much…. He was also loving, and happy. He was my pet. Everyday we would play together. I would clean his cage every day. He was a child bird, not yet an adult. In the morning he would call out for me.

But today he was very sick. When I checked on him, he was weak and he wouldn’t eat or drink. A few hours later he died. I felt sad. I will miss him very much. I had lots of fun with him. He was my favourite pet….

_____

WAAAAHHH (THAT’S ME…) 

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A Father’s Priority

My husband, as amazing as I think he is, scored 0% for his auditory skills on a learning styles assessment. This has nothing to do with intelligence. It has everything to with how a person takes in and retains information.

Up until he took the test, I could not understand why he wouldn’t remember appointments and commitments we discussed or conversations we had. I would say, “But we talked about it. You said yes.”

“Nope. I don’t remember.”

“How can you not remember? You were looking right at me when you said yes.”

“Sorry hon, I really don’t remember.”

Grr.

After he took the learning styles assessment it all made sense. I became a smarter communicator by changing the delivery mode for any pertinent decisions or content we had to discuss. I switched to texting, messaging, and emailing for appointments, schedules and reminders.

It worked! He would give his confirmation and feedback via the same channels. It also gave me physical proof to show him in case he said, “I forgot.” He he.

This past week we celebrated Edan’s birthday. A week prior Edric and I discussed that his afternoon would be blocked off for Edan. I did consider the possibility that he might not remember but I was like, “Nah, this is our son. He won’t do that.”

Well, he did. The day that Edan turned 8, Edric booked five major meetings.
I found out while I was lying in Edric’s arms sharing a moment of sweet exchange about how much we missed one another. It turned pretty sour for me when I found out that Edric had left no room in his day to spend with Edan like he said he would. For Edan’s sake, I felt hurt and disappointed.

It turned out that Edan wanted to go to the pet store with his dad to buy a falcon. Okay…a falcon. Where would we find anything remotely close to a bird of prey?! Obviously the falcon was a fantasy of an idea. He was willing to settle for a bird that he could put on his finger and hold. Edric and I were pretty confident that Cartimar would have something that matched that description.

When I discovered that Edric had back to back meetings I thought Cartimar would have to be postponed. But Edric was convinced that he could find a way to get there and back and still make his meetings. I was pretty doubtful. Cartimar wasn’t around the corner. It was in Pasay. Nevertheless, I kept things optimistic at home for Edan’s sake.

He approached me several times to ask, “What time are we going, mom?” Buying that bird was like the dream of all dreams for him. But I had to wait on Edric to do some magic with his meetings.

Edric might have messed up initially (which he admitted to and apologized for), but one of the things I really appreciate about him is he will prioritize his family. No matter how busy he gets, when he knows me or the kids need him, he will make a way to meet that need. When he saw how excited Edan was and how Edan’s anticipation was hinged on his availability, he told me, “This is important to me, I will find a way to take him.”

By 11:30 AM Edric picked us up and we headed to Cartimar. And there was no traffic! We were in and out of Cartimar in about two and a half hours, and Edric even joined us for a late lunch.

Of course we didn’t get Edan a falcon like he originally wished for. He was willing to settle for two cockatiels. One he named Beady and the other, Geedy.

A side story…In Cartimar we ran into a friend of Edric’s family who was a pet store owner himself (for dogs) and he helped us negotiate the price of the cockatiels. He was God-sent. Normally, he wasn’t around but he happened to be there that day. So we knew that we weren’t getting duped as rookie bird buyers.

Edan developed an immediate attachment to his new pets. As for me, I was so impressed with my husband. First he displayed some pretty attractive bargaining skills. But more than that it was following through with his commitment to Edan that really blessed me. Edric found a way to slide his afternoon meetings upwards.

As a boy of few words, Edan is not the kind of child who will express gratitude with intense emotion. So when he does, it means a lot. In the car, he was sitting in the front seat with the bird cage on his lap, and he swung his head around to say, “You are the best parents.”

During lunch, when I explained to him that his dad moved his meetings just to take him to Cartimar, his eyes sparkled with pride, “Daddy is the best daddy!”

I know Edan was thrilled to get his two cockatiels. (As I am writing this he is with them at home, acting the part of loving parent.) But the joy he felt when he picked out those birds wouldn’t have been complete if Edric failed to be present. I know Edan. He might have taken the big let down like a toughie but it would have curdled inside him, and his countenance would have shown it.

Sometimes parenting can seem so complicated. I get all kinds of questions from friends and readers about how to deal with difficult children. And I know what it is like to be confronted with character issues in my own kids. But it’s really not that complicated. When my kids start acting up, character-wise, I know it is often a deficiency on the part of Edric and I (in the area of our parenting).

I am not saying this is always the case but our children tend to be responders. The way we raise and treat them; what we model, praise, hold dear; how we communicate that we love and cherish them, these make impressions that lead to desirable and undesirable behaviors and attitudes on their part.

Edan’s heart, like all my other children’s hearts, is delicate and fragile. It would have been deeply wounded if Edric had not prioritized him on his birthday. Edric didn’t need to spend 24 hours with him to make him feel significant. Two and a half hours to and from the pet store, and the prize of two cockatiels in a cage were enough to send Edan to the moon. He felt really special.

A father’s time and attention will do that. I see how hard it is for Edric to balance everything he does. It’s no easy juggling for him to be a husband, dad, TV host, motivational speaker, director of a homeschool program, head of family ministry, and discipler and mentor to other men. But somehow he is able to be around when it matters most. He knows that a father’s priority is his family, and his children know for certain that they are.

I pray that Edric will remain this way. It’s only by God’s grace that he is this kind of a dad to our kids. But he is going to be a dad for a very long while yet, and there will always be something competing with his priorities. The same goes for me as a mother. Edric and I have to continually ask ourselves, what must have precedence in our lives according to God’s word?

As I watched Edan delightfully engrossed in the responsibility of caring for his birds, and listened to him chatter away as he described their personalities…Geedy is “stubborn” and “wakes up early”, and Beady “eats all the food” and “likes to sleep”, I was reminded that it is always worth it to communicate to our children that they are the most important people in our lives.

pri·or·i·ty
\prī-ˈȯr-ə-tē, -ˈär-\
noun
: something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first
priorities
: the things that someone cares about and thinks are important
: the condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first

(http://i.word.com/idictionary/priority)

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When Your Children See Half-Naked Women On The Cover Of A Magazine

“Don’t let Hollywood have a monopoly on what our children learn about sex” Dr. Peter Tanchi

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Our children don’t learn about purity today. They learn about immorality. Just turn on the TV or surf the net or heck, drive down Edsa. It’s hard NOT to be assaulted by the sexually charged environment we are in.

The other day, my ten year old, said, “Mom, they have pictures of half-naked women over there.” This happened at the grocery and Elijah came up to me looking disturbed as he made this statement. He was referring to the magazine rack display which was positioned in full view of everyone who was exiting the store. The most scandalous of them all were at his eye level.

Edan was over there too but he was looking at something else. When Elijah asked him if he saw the magazine covers, he was like, “Huh?! What pictures?! I didn’t see anything.” He was telling the truth. He didn’t notice them at all. Elijah, on the other hand, is getting older and more cognizant of what is inappropriate in women’s dressing. All the visible skin was shocking for him.

We talked about how women are not supposed to show off their bodies that way, that it is not pleasing to God. I also told him that he shouldn’t marry a woman that projects herself in that manner. I don’t even know why I added that, but he very emphatically responded, “I will never ever ever marry a woman like that!” GOOD. I hope he feels the same way ten years from now.

I know we cannot keep our children in a bubble. In fact, Elijah told me he has seen similar photos of women on billboards. Of course it upsets me that society doesn’t care at all that children are continually exposed to lewd and provocative pictures of women and even men. There may be some sanctions imposed on marketing and media companies but still, our children’s innocence is threatened so often.

I was upset about the magazines in the store, but it was my mom that went the extra mile. My mom was with us doing her grocery shopping, too. Immediately, she called the manager and said very nicely but with conviction, “You shouldn’t display magazines like these the way you do. Please find a way to cover them. It doesn’t speak well of your store and it’s not good for children.” And one by one she flipped over the magazines. No one stopped her and the manager acknowledged what she had to say.

I didn’t know if the store would do anything about it. But I was proud of my mom. (Elijah was, too.) I thought to myself, yah, you tell them, mom!

The good news is just today my mom dropped by the same grocery and she informed me that there was paper pasted across the bodies of the cover models. You can still see the names of the magazines that are being sold but no more half naked women visible to the public. She commended the manager for taking action on her request.

When Elijah and I found out that the grocery had “censored” the magazines, we were both thrilled. It was encouraging to know that people (represented by this grocery) still respect convictions. There are still people out there who know, deep inside, that it’s not okay for young women to be posing with a tiny strip of fabric to cover their private parts. Elijah, in his candid manner, just called it out and it was like, oh, right, hello, these women are not partially clothed, they are pretty much naked.

This is not an attempt to go out into the streets with a sign that says, death to all who let themselves be photographed wearing nothing but a tiny strip of fabric, death to all those who photograph them, death to all those who buy these photos, and death to all those who sell them. I am not so guiltless, not about the above, but about feeding my carnal appetite for immorality. There are times when I switch on the TV and get intrigued by the plot of a movie or show that outrightly condones sleeping around. And occasionally, I will surf the net and look up some Hollywood gossip and find it entertaining. I am ashamed to admit that there’s something interesting about all the garbage that goes on in the lives of famous people. By God’s grace, I don’t have much time to do any of the above these days. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t have the curiosity for it…a curiosity that needs to come under the control of the Holy Spirit.

I am writing this entry because I want to challenge all of us to practice and model holiness no matter how hostile the moral climate is today. I told Elijah, “We must never be ashamed to have high standards when it comes to purity. We don’t have to be like everyone else and think, well this is just the way it is.”

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NASB)

Personally, I need to be more aware of how easy it is to buy into the unbiblical standards that are becoming more and more “accepted” in our country. But God’s word says, As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “Y ou shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16 NASB)

If my mom had not said anything about the magazine rack, I probably wouldn’t have. I would have just let it go and thought, well, that’s just the nature of things. But because my mom spoke to the manager, I was blessed by her desire to protect my kids and every other person that comes in and out of that grocery store.

Society may continue to head in the wrong direction by promoting and celebrating immorality but we don’t have to become a causality of this inertia. We can say something when there is opportunity to do so. We can take a stand when necessary. We can hazard being ridiculed as outdated and boringly conservative. We can hold on to the belief that purity is God’s design, that sex is supposed to happen in marriage, between a husband and wife. Why? Because our children are watching and others, too. They want to know what to believe, what to value, what to uphold. If we guard, protect, and live out what is good, true, and holy, and if we are a testament to the blessings of doing so, then our children and others will have the courage to do the same.

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Stop and Pay Attention

My dad is an incredibly busy man. With all his ministry work, meetings, trips out of the country, message preparation, business concerns, and parenting and grandparenting, I am amazed at how he manages everything with such balance. It is most certainly God’s grace in his life. But he has also mastered the ability to prioritize what is most important. No matter how busy he gets, he will make time for my mom, my siblings, our spouses, and our kids.

The other day he was in the middle of preparing for his preaching series on the book of Genesis but the kids wanted to show him something.

“Angkong, come see what we made!” They were so excited to bring him to their Magnatile creation. He was practicing his message on me but he followed them into the room.
 

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They had built this amazing entrance that looked like stained glass with Magnatiles (a plastic toy for building and construction). My dad went in and out of the opening to appreciate it and applaud the kids.

I watched the way he cheerfully interacted with my kids and acknowledged their “masterpiece” even though he had to focus on his message. The kids beamed. It mattered that their creation was validated by him, that he gave them his time.

My husband Edric is also a good example to me. He is great about giving me license to interrupt him or bug him. When I call him he will answer unless he is taping or doesn’t have his phone around. If he is in a meeting, he will pick up my call and ask “Is this urgent?” If it is, he will drop what he is doing to attend to me. If it isn’t, he will tell me when he is available to talk or ask me to call him again later on. But I really appreciate it when he picks up the phone and let’s me know that I am a priority.

I want to be the same way with my kids. Sometimes, I can be dismissive towards them when I’m in the middle of an activity. Or I am half-present while typing on my laptop or surfing the Internet on my IPad.

It may not be necessary to leave every single thing I am doing when my children come clamoring for my attention. But the point is to STOP and PAY ATTENTION by putting the IPad down, turning off the TV, hitting the pause button on the remote, setting the book aside, or getting off the computer so I can look at my children in the eye and let them know that I am engaged and 100% present when they come to me. I want them to know that they are always worth my time, that they have special access to me. As the most important people in my life, they should be convinced that they are!

Praise God, They Don’t Drool Forever


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Titus used to drool everywhere. He would drool on toys, on furniture, on people, on himself…In fact, he had to wear a bib until he was about four years old! The saliva would just dribble down his chin. Good thing he was a cutiepie because his cuteness offset the drooling.

For a while I wondered if it was something neurological, so I did some research about it. There were some studies that indicated a connection to neurological disorders.  I was also a little concerned because his speech ability developed later than his siblings. He had a hard time articulating his thoughts in a coherent way. His memory was not too good either and he had difficulty holding a writing instrument.

So here was a drooling, not-too-communicative, writing and memory challenged child who was highly curious and got his hands into everything. I could have been worried and stressed but I decided to relax. I knew that these things didn’t have to define his future or his success. God had a plan for him. (He has a plan for him.)

If he had gone to a preschool he might have been labeled all kinds of things but at home, he was free to develop according to God’s time table for him.  I was able to enjoy him without feeling pressured by standards and measures. My role (and Edric’s) was to provide him with an environment and climate that encouraged his growth and was accommodating of his uniqueness.

For his drooling, I would tell him, “This is how you swallow your saliva.” And I would literally show him how to sip it in and swallow. But I did it like a game, something fun, making the sipping sound exaggerated. I taught him how to keep his jaw closed so his mouth wasn’t gaping open.

No one was allowed to make fun of him or make him feel uncomfortable and self conscious about his drooling. The kids were instructed to be understanding and I wasn’t negative about his problem. I would just remind him to close his mouth and swallow his saliva everytime I noticed that his jaw was hanging open.

Well I am happy to say that when he turned four he didn’t need a bib anymore. I know most babies outgrow bibs by two but I was thrilled when he learned to control his drool and keep his mouth closed!

As for his memory, Edric got him to memorize bible verses along side his brothers. At first it seemed impossible for him to commit verses to memory. But Edric would work with him using actions and eventually Titus was the one telling his older siblings what words came next.

When I had to teach him sight words and he couldn’t get them, I made up songs for him and it worked! Since he was inclined to music, this aided his retention.

With expressing his ideas, I tried to be extra patient when I would ask him questions. This gave him time to think through his answers. He wasn’t rushed or made to feel like his silence was unacceptable. He was allowed to process his thoughts.

Eventually he learned how to use the right words and phrases to say what was on his mind. His vocabulary expanded and he became very vocal and opinionated. Of course, he is still growing in his ability to articulate himself.

When I remember Titus as an adorable drooling baby and observe him today, I am just amazed at how much he has grown and developed. By God’s grace, he is a happy, obedient, independent, easy going, kind, intelligent, and confident 5 year old.

We still have a long way to go with training and discipling him to become the man that God wants him to be. In the meantime, I live with the continual hope that Titus’s future (like all my other kids’ futures) is full of God-given possibilities. I focus on the positive, not the negative.

When my brother was a child, he used to stutter. It didn’t manifest itself in his speech but it was apparent when he would read aloud. As a result, he was very self-conscious about reading in public. In fact, he would have a hard time reading in front of our family. When he was asked to read bible verses, he would struggle through them. However, no one made a big deal out of his problem. We didn’t even think of it as a problem. Amazingly, he preaches and teaches the Bible today. He is a great Bible teacher. Through God’s help, he was able to overcome his difficulty. 

My mom used to say, “Don’t see people for who they are now but who they can become in Christ.”

Through Christ, our children can do all things if he wills it. By his grace, they can overcome their present limitations, character weaknesses, childish thinking and behavior. So we need to connect our kids to Christ, and fix our faith on Christ who is in them. And with hopeful expectation, our part is to train them, to speak to them with life-giving words, to love them towards Christ, to disciple them in the area of character, and to use strategies that encourage their growth. If we do this then we can entrust their strides, successes, and accomplishments to the Lord. God knows exactly who our children need to become in order to accomplish his purposes.

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Correcting Children With Love

Titus, my third son, was reacting to having to eat Adobo for lunch a few days ago. It was reported to me that he had a bad attitude about his food so I had a talk with him. I took him aside, away from his brothers and sisters, and asked him, “Do you love Jesus? Is he in your heart?” He nodded but he didn’t want to look me in the eye.

In the gentlest voice possible, I encouraged him to tell me what went wrong. I wanted to find out, from his perspective, why he wasn’t happy about his lunch. He was hesitant at first but I told him, “You can tell mommy anything,” and I took his face in my hands to look into his eyes.

I know Titus. He can seem strong-willed and stubborn but he is a sweet son inside. I trust in the work of the Lord in his heart when he seems difficult to reach. But it is important that I approach him with kindness in my tone. If I bear down on him with irritation or badger him, demanding that he explain himself, he will withdraw from me all the more.

All my kids have different needs when it comes to training and discipleship but I have noticed that it is easier to influence them towards right attitudes and behavior when I do the following:

  1. Assure them that they are loved no matter what.
  2. Listen to their perspective without criticizing it.
  3. Ask them questions about their perspective and how they can change for the better…Ex. Is it right or wrong to have that kind of attitude? Is it right or wrong to treat others that way? This allows them to come to their own conclusions and convictions about sin.
  4. Communicate to them that I believe in the good work that Christ is doing in their lives and the positive change that will ensue because they love Jesus.
  5. Hug and kiss them.

Fifteen minutes later, Titus was with me in the kitchen, eating his Adobo with a smile on his face. All he asked for was a little more sauce to be put on it and he didn’t resist being told to eat it.

The key to this process of correcting wrong attitudes and behavior in my kids is Jesus. I cannot have these sorts of dialogues with my children if they don’t know Jesus and do not have a relationship with him. So as early as 3 years old, Edric and I share the gospel to them. And afterwards, we continue instructing their hearts so they grow spiritually.

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Although we are authoritative and set rules for our children, we aren’t tyrannical. We leave room for the Holy Spirit to operate and give our kids the opportunity to respond to him. When they don’t, then we know they don’t really have a personal relationship with Christ and we need to help them get to that point. Or they may claim to have one but they have to grow in the knowledge of him. It’s our responsibility to pass on this knowledge to them by encouraging them to read the Bible, having devotions as a family, praying for them and with them, and studying God’s word together.

When parents ask how Edric and I manage to parent 5 kids, we have nothing to boast about. It is the Lord’s work in the lives of our children. They have a personal relationship with him. This makes them receptive to instruction. We can only do what is within our control – love them, spend time with them, invest in their lives by being present during these tender years, model Christ-likeness and ask for forgiveness when we don’t. But, the grace to love God, to follow and obey him (and us) is ULTIMATELY the working of the Holy Spirit.DSC00797

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NASB)

 

 

What To Do About Santa

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

I should’ve published this earlier but just got around to it this evening…

In our home we don’t make Santa a part of our Christmas celebrations. Our kids don’t believe in Santa. Some people will shoot me for saying this. I know that Santa Claus is a huge part of Christmas for a majority of families. Personally, we don’t want our kids to buy into a fallacy and get really disappointed in the future when they realise that he doesn’t exist.

We aren’t anti-Santa like he is some sort of Satanic figure. (Same letters in Santa also spell Satan?!) If families want to make Santa Claus a part of their Christmas tradition, that’s their call. He’s a cute, cuddly man in a red suit who loves children.

But if you would like to know why we don’t encourage our kids to believe in him, then read on…

1. He isn’t real. I already said that right? We also don’t celebrate Easter by glorifying the Easter Bunny.

2. Since he isn’t real, it’s lying to say he is.

3. How long will you have to defend Santa if he isn’t real?

4. We treat Santa like we would any other character that is just “pretend.” The kids know that he is a part of Christmas celebrations around the world (not ours) but they think of him like they would ginger bread houses, elves, and flying reindeers. It’s all pretend. Our kids are pretty logical, too. How can one man be in a billion places at one time unless he has divine powers?

I wrote this short article as a response to a question that a reader asked me about Santa. Personally, I believe there are some things worth dying for and there are other things that are subject to debate. Whether it is wrong or right to include Santa Claus in Christmas traditions is something I will leave for the theologists out there to determine. After all, we could question other things…like what about Christmas trees? What about gift giving? We aren’t extremists.

So our conclusion…Santa Claus is a nice guy but in our home, it is our personal conviction that raising our children to believe in him and his magical powers would mean we would have to deceive our kids. More importantly, we don’t want Santa Claus to have center stage or to eclipse the central figure of Christmas in our home — Jesus Christ.