Archive | March 2012

Instilling Godly Qualities in Your Children

Webster’s definition of a quality is: a peculiar and essential character; an inherent feature; or a degree of excellence.

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

How exciting to think that you can be a part of helping your children reach a degree of excellence. As we can see from the above verses, it is not natural for people to have good behavior. It is up to parents to mold their child’s character. How, in a world that is becoming less and less Christ-like, can parents do this? With God all things are possible, but parents must do their part.

Parents need a plan to instill good, godly qualities in their children. Hopefully, you have done your time study and have written down people in your life who are on your team and those who may be teaching things that do not go along with God’s Word.  If not, I highly suggest that you do it. It will help you become more aware of who is influencing your children and what their influence is.

Any good teacher has a lesson plan. They know what they want to teach and they have a plan to do it. Remember in Deuteronomy 6:7 that you are to teach your children what God has command you. Below are steps to get you started:

*Write down qualities that you would like to see instilled in your children such as honesty, kindness, generosity, responsibility, etc. The best place to find these qualities is in the Bible. It is very important that you make an actual list. When you have a list, you are more aware to look for examples.

*Find verses that go along with a specific trait that you want your children to have. Memorize those verses together. You can even make up a little tune and start singing it if they are doing the opposite of what you are trying to teach them. If they are being mean to a sibling or a friend, you can start singing, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

*Read stories from the Bible and other books that talk about the behavior you would like your children to have.

*Be on the lookout for people displaying the quality and bring it to their attention. Qualities are abstract and need concrete examples for your children to understand them. If someone holds the door open as you enter a store, tell the person thank you and then say to your children, “That person was being kind and thoughtful. God loves it when we think of others.” Also, take notice when your children do what is right and compliment them, “It was very thoughtful that you stopped and waited for your brother.”

*Be their example. You cannot pass to your children what you do not have. People learn more from sight than they do from words. Your actions need to match what you say. If you yell or have an attitude, how can you expect your children to be kind and tenderhearted?

*Pray for one another and ask God to help each one of you where you are struggling.

In future blogs, I will go over some of these steps in more detail. Today, pick a quality and start teaching it to your children.

By: Linda Svacha 🙂

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Create a Team

Did you do the time study talked about in the previous blog? I’m sure that you found that the many people and things that “talk” to your children do not have the same goal as you ~ to pass God’s legacy to your children. After completing your time study, the next thing that you want to do is to consciously put together a team of players to assist you in reaching your goal. You want people and things that will help your children know God in an intimate way.

Having people who have the same goals and values that you do for your children is vital. Football is a great analogy. Football is a team sport and so is being a Christian. Winning teams have good, disciplined players with the same goal in mind ~ to score as many points as possible and win the game. If a team is not on the same page; does not know the rules; or is not in shape, chances are they will lose the game. Satan is the opposing team and is out to get the hearts of your children. Believe me; he has his team in place. His whole objective is to stop your children from knowing God. He has many people and resources that he uses to help him accomplish his goal. He uses the media, friends, neighbors, teachers, and family members. You can use those same resources.

Look around and ask yourself, “Who can I get on my team that will invest their time to aid me in passing God’s legacy to my children?”  Look for people strong in the faith, who read God’s Word, and stand on what it says. You also want to gather people who will be there for you. Once you have made a list of people (family, friends, teachers, church members, neighbors, babysitters, etc.), then you need to share with those people that you would like them “join” your team. Talk about ways that you can come together to accomplish your goal. Constant communication with team members is essential. Communication helps to make sure that everyone understands their part during every play.

You also need to be consciously aware of who is on the opposing team. Make a list of people in your child’s life who do not care about God and His commands. Once you do that, ask yourself, “How much influence do they have on my children?” You want to make sure that people who are not Christians have as little influence as possible in their lives, especially during the formative years.

Once you get your team together, you want to come up with qualities that you desire to pass on to your children and then make sure the people on your team are helping you with that. I will discuss more on how to do that in the next blog. Today, sit down and make your “player” picks. Also, continue to pay attention to what people and things are saying to your children.

By: Linda Svacha 🙂

Passing God’s Legacy Begins at Birth

Passing God’s legacy to your children does not just happen. It takes a plan, skill, and commitment. I pray that these blogs will help you gain the skills you need to accomplish that goal. God tells us in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 how to get started: “5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6) And these words I command you today shall be in your heart. 7) You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8) You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9) You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (bold font added by me)

Ron Luce, founder of Aquire the Fire, said that 80-85% of our teens are leaving the church after youth group. Why is that? I believe there are a number of reasons. A couple of the main reasons are because many families do not take the time to talk about God in their everyday life and because of the breakdown in communication in the home.

God has given the responsibility of passing His legacy to the next generation to the parents. It begins at birth. God should be so intertwined in your life that He is like another member of the family. The youth group is part of your “team” that will help you to pass His legacy to your children, but God has given you the job.

God shows us in the above passage that passing down His legacy is a 24 hour/7 days a week job.  Take note of the word talk that is in bold. Many families are just “so busy” that they do not even have time to just sit around and talk, let alone talk about God and life issues. Time together should be a top priority in your home.

Many people and things are talking to children: relatives, television, internet, MP3 players, friends, teachers, etc. Who or what spends the most time talking to them? What are they telling your children? Do a time study to see exactly who or what is talking to your children every day for a couple of days to a week. Make a list and write down who is talking to your kids and what are they saying? You may be shocked as to what little bit of time you are spending actually talking to your children about the Lord, His values, and life issues. Make sure you not only write down how much you are talking, but also what you are talking about.

In future blogs I will be talking about different things you can do to pass God’s legacy down to your children. For the next couple of days, concentrate on doing your time study. In near future blogs I will give you some ways to start instilling God’s values in your children. Start your time study today.

By: Linda Svacha 🙂

Brain Development

Understanding the brain, knowing how it matures, and at what level your child’s understanding is at can make a world of difference on how you convey your message.  The way the brain receives and processes information will change as your child grows and matures; therefore, the way you deliver information at each stage is critical.

The brain begins to mature three weeks after conception and continues until the person is in their early twenties. It develops from the bottom to the top, the right to the left, the back to the front. The brain stem matures first. It is where all your involuntary functions take place like your heart beating, breathing, and digestion. The Frontal Lobe of the brain, where abstract (disassociated from any specific object or instance) thinking and decision-making take place, matures last. The frontal lobe does not even begin to develop until between the ages of twelve to fifteen. This explains why youth make such poor decisions.

Since children are not born with fully developed brains, they are unable to accomplish certain skills until the area of the brain that controls those skills has matured. We cannot expect a newborn to read and write and we cannot expect an adolescent to make wise choices. It is important to note that an area of the brain may have matured, but unless skills are taught, kids will not be able to do them. Correct use of language, reading, writing, and decision-making are all learned skills and must be taught. Even an adult is not able to read unless someone has taught them. The same holds true with a teenager trying to make wise decisions. Many adults continue to make poor choices because they were never taught how to make wise decisions. It takes time and energy to teach youth the characteristics and skills you want them to have, but if you do not teach them, who will?

Many people do not realize that adolescence is when the decision-making part of the brain begins to mature. This is why it is so important to ask questions that will get them to think (like the example in the last blog Choose a Topic of Discussion). We, adults, have become so busy that we have let our youth down. They need people there to teach them how to think. I’ll give you an example to help you understand what I am saying.

I want you to imagine when your child was born. If you do not have children, imagine a niece or nephew. Think about how you felt the first time they rolled over. You got excited and called home to let everyone know your baby rolled over. When they took their first step, you clapped and cheered. Did you expect them to walk from that day forward? No. When they fell down, you picked them up and encouraged them to try again. When your child was around two or three and made a funny comment like “Turn the sky off.”, you did not tell them they should know you cannot turn the sun off. Instead, you laughed and said, “I love this age.” Now your child is in elementary school, sounded out some letters, then read a word. You clapped and said, “My baby is learning to read!!” Did you expect them to be able to read a book right away? No. You continued to help them sound out words and learn the rules of reading. Next, your child is entering adolescence and makes a poor choice about something. Right away you say, “You should have known better!” No, they should not have known better (I am not excusing their behavior, but helping you understand it). When they make a mistake, it is an opportunity to teach your child to think. Walk them through what they did, how they could have done it better, and what the consequences are to their decision. Keep your attitude right and let them know that you want to be there to help them walk through their decisions. It is very important to let them take responsibility of their actions. Do not bail them out or you will not teach them to take ownership for their choices.

Start today asking your children questions that will help them to think. Be patient when they make a mistake and help them think through different topics and issues.

By: Linda Svacha 🙂

Choosing a Topic to Discuss

You want to pick a subject that you feel is harming the youth of today or a subject that will help them grow in their walk with the Lord (drugs, alcohol, premarital sex, abortion, adoption, God, church, ministry, etc.). You should start having these discussions before or when your child is entering middle school. Have the same discussion a couple years later to see if their thinking has changed.

Let’s use alcohol as our topic. Your goal is to help the teen understand the great dangers involved with underage drinking and choose not to drink. Whatever you do, do not get an attitude if they say things that you do not agree with. Your goal is to understand why they think they way they do. If you have an attitude, they will not be honest with you; they will only tell you what they think you want to hear. If they quickly say what you want them to say, ask them how they came up with that decision. Example: They say,”I’ll never drink!” Ask them, “What made you come up with the decision not to drink?” You want to help them think deeper and learn to back up what they say with facts. As they learn to base their decisions on facts rather than sight, they will learn to make much wiser decisions.

First, you would have an open-discussion about drinking. You may ask them some of the following questions:

  • Do you feel that it is OK to drink before the legal age? Explain your thinking.
  • Do you know an alcoholic? If so, describe what their life is like. Have as many share as possible. If the person is a close relative, ask them how that person’s drinking affected them personally.
  • Ask them if they feel the alcoholic grew up wanting to be an alcoholic and treat his/her family the way they do. Next ask them how they think that person ended up where they did.
  • Talk about feelings if alcohol affected them. Are there feelings of hate, resentment, or bitterness?
  • Ask them if they would like to grow up to be an alcoholic. If they say no, allow them to discuss ways to prevent it.
  • You can ask them what their friends think about drinking, what the TV says about alcohol, etc.

Your role is not to tell them that drinking is dangerous; you want to guide the conversation so they come up with that concept on their own.  Read up on how alcohol affects the teen brain. Ask them if they know what it does to the brain and why most alcoholics began drinking in their teenage years. If they are unable to answer, discuss what happens to the brain when they drink and why it is so much easier for a teen to become addicted. If you have visuals (picture of brain, white board), use them.

If they are willing to do research, have them research some of the questions below. If they are unable to do the research, have the information ready and ask them the questions that are in parenthesis. Ask the extra questions even if they come up with the information. You will be amazed at some of their answers. The longer you are doing it, the better their answers become. When they come up with a good answer, let them know that was good. Repeat their comment later in the discussion when trying to get a point across.

Note: If you allow more than one week for this topic, it would be good to have the open discussion the first week, give them the questions below to research, then come back the following week with facts and their thoughts.

  • How many AA chapters there are in the United States? (Why do you think there are so many chapters?)
  • How many people are affected by alcohol? (What other people are affected by someone else’s drinking and how are they affected?)
  • How does alcohol affect a driver’s ability to drive? (Does anyone know of someone who was killed or injured by a drunk driver?)

Find some current examples in the newspaper with pictures and talk about them. Have them interview an alcoholic or someone who is recovering.  Have them bring in stories and pictures.

Ask them what the Bible has to say about alcohol. Here are just some verses that pertain to alcohol: Genesis 9:18-17; Judges 13:3-4; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:20-21; Isaiah 28:7; Jeremiah 13:12-14; Hosea 4:18; Nahum 1:10; Habakkuk 2:15-16; Romans 14:20-23; Ephesians 5:18. When you read Scripture, ask them what they feel it is saying. Again, you are just guiding the conversation. You are talking with them, not at them.

Know your subject ahead of time and ask them to be thinking about it and looking up information for discussion to back up their thoughts. Do not be afraid to allow more than one week for a subject. Feel free to come up with other questions that will allow them to really think about the effects of underage drinking. By asking questions, YOU are not telling them not to drink; THEY are coming up with that decision on their own and as a group.

My book, Pass God’s Legacy to You Children: One Talk at a Time has a number of topics with an abundance of questions to ask your group. Watch my blogs for when it will be in print.

In the next blog, we will discuss brain development and how it relates to decision making.

By: Linda Svacha 🙂

Starting a Small Group with Teens

By: Linda Svacha

The goal with small groups is to have teens internalize the morals being taught to them.  They do not need to be told what to do; they need to be shown what to do. Teens need someone to teach them abstract thinking (thinking without seeing, hearing, touching, etc.) and problem-solving skills. Those skills are learned.  The part of the brain where these skills are processed does not even begin to develop until the ages of 12-15 (I will discuss this in depth in a future blog). We need to train adults and teens how to teach in a way that gets youth to think. When I was a little girl and I did not know how to spell something, I would ask my mom and she would tell me how to spell the word. The problem was I never had to think about the rules of spelling. Needless to say, I was a poor speller and stayed that way until I got older and learned more rules. The same holds true with abstract thinking.

Most of what people learn is through sight. If you just tell a teen that drinking is harmful; yet they are seeing all their friends having fun and seeing it being glamorized on television, chances are they will drink. They will think you are an “old fuddy-duddy” and are trying to stop them from having fun. You want them to come to the conclusion that drinking destroys lives and relationships. Where do you start? If you are currently involved in teaching teens (Sunday school, youth group, therapy settings, your children), you have your group. You can also gather teens that are interested in going deeper and start a group. The ideal is to have less than ten teens. When there is more than ten, it is hard to have them all stay connected answering questions.

After you have your group together, let them know that you are going to be:

  • Talking about life issues from both worldly and Biblical viewpoints
  • Asking questions about how they feel about the subject and what other teens think and are doing concerning your topic
  • Asking questions that will get them to think about what is true
  • Allowing debate, but they must have facts to back up their points

Let them know that you will not be:

  • Judgmental
  • Making fun of their answers

Start thinking about who is in your realm of influence. If you do not have a group, start doing this with your children around 9 years of age. In the next blog, I will give you an example topic to help you see how to talk with-them and not at-them.

Adolesents are Like Sheep Without a Shepherd

Matthew 9:36-38 “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'”

The following are some statistics compiled by American Association of Christian Counselors and Ron Luce, M.A. (2007):

  • In 2006 there were more than 2.5 million cases of child abuse and neglect reported
  • Forty percent of children live in homes without their biological father
  • In 1970 there were 3 million single moms; today there are over 10 million
  • One third of teenagers were drunk last month; one forth use illegal drugs
  • Eight thousand teens will contact Sexually Transmitted Diseases everyday
  • One million teens are pregnant
  • Three hundred forty thousand teens get an abortion every year
  • Teens will see 14,000 sexual references on TV this year
  • One half of teenagers are no longer virgins
  • Forty percent of all teenagers have inflicted self-injury
  • Eighty to eighty-five percent of teens drop out of church after youth group

We can see by these statistics that our youth are wandering around like sheep without a shepherd. They are a generation of kids who are coming together to find their way in life, but the trouble is they are leading each other into dangerous situations. More and more we are hearing about children bullying other children and teens killing parents, teachers, classmates, and other adults. This is happening more frequently because children do not know how to properly handle their frustration.

Teens need parents and caring adults who will take the time to talk to them about life issues and help them to see where decisions will take them.  How can we do that? Creating a small group is a great place to start. Teens need a place where they can feel safe to open up and share their true feelings without being judged. When an adult has an attitude, the teen will immediately shut down and opportunity to find the root of their thinking and feelings is lost. When adults can get to the root of an issue, they can help teens see where their thinking is false.

I will have an example blog in the near future that goes into more detail on how to have an open talk about a certain topic. I will also have future blogs that will help you understand how kids and teens think and how to talk to them at different ages in a way they will understand.  As you become aware of how a child processes information, you will be able to communicate to them in a way that they will not only comprehend what you are saying, but will be able to internalize what is being talked about.

Do you have compassion for our younger generation? If so, start praying and ask God to show you how you can make a difference in the lives of the teens in your realm of influence. The harvest is plentiful; the laborers are few. Will you go into the harvest and reach out to today’s youth?

By: Linda Svacha