The recent 4th of July holiday provided an opportunity for me to spend an extended time with our 5 grandchildren. Children are such a blessing, especially my grands! I love their wonder and excitement about every new experience. One of the challenges parents and grandparents face is resisting all the voices that tell us children need structured activities to keep them engaged, such as summer camp, music lesson, sports, technology, and the list goes on. What children really need is time to discover the wonder of God’s world through unstructured play.
As part of my summer reading, I’m going through the book, Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold. He reinforces my belief that children need our love and time more than anything else. We need to be there for them (fully present), talking, listening, playing, and encouraging their growth and development. Too often, we become caught up in the idea that children need things to be happy when what they really need is a more relaxed schedule that provides the gift of time to play. Children learn through their play experiences. They exercise their bodies and use their imaginations. Play experiences provide children with opportunities to focus and engage for extended periods, face difficult challenges and failure, exercise critical thinking and communication, and develop essential skills such as courage, determination, grit, curiosity, and character.
"Too often, we become caught up in the idea that children need things to be happy..."
Arnold quotes Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, talking about what he wants for his son. “When Ellington was born, I was very much caught up in the idea of childhood as a race – the faster a child develops skills, the better he does on tests, the better he’ll do in life . . . [Now] I’m less concerned about my son’s reading and counting ability. Don’t get me wrong, I still want him to know that stuff. But I think he’ll get there in time. What I’m more concerned about is his character . . . I want him to be able to get over disappointments, to calm himself down, to keep working at a puzzle even when it’s frustrating, to be good at sharing, to feel loved and confident and full of a sense of belonging. Most important, I want him to be able to deal with failure. That’s a difficult thing for parents to give their children, since we have deep in our DNA the urge to shield our kids from every kind of trouble. But what we’re finding out now is that in trying to protect our children, we may actually be harming them. By not giving them the chance to learn to manage adversity, to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity is what produces character” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/field-guide-families/201209/how-children-succeed ).
As you think about what your child needs this summer in preparation for a new school year, here are a few recommendations:
Get them outside, explore nature with them, and share the wonder of creation.
Significantly limit or eliminate their time on technology (even educational apps) and help them discover that the real world is more interesting than the virtual world. Don’t allow technology to affect their social, emotional, and physical development. Instead give them opportunities to develop social skills, build relationships, exercise their bodies, and increase problem solving skills.
READ, READ, READ to and with them. Talk with your child about the content, ask questions, help them make biblical connections, and share how you both feel about the content. You could extend this with a great way to practice writing skills by keeping a journal or drawing pictures about what they read.
Provide real life opportunities to use and develop math concepts. Younger children might count and manipulate object from nature, measure water or sand, and look for patterns in nature. Older children could help with grocery shopping, budgeting money, cooking, and dividing food so that everyone has an equal part.
Make sure your children have appropriate chores and responsibilities that allow them to give back to the family. They need to feel they are capable, trusted and a valuable part of the family. When they see that their contributions are necessary for the success of the family, they feel a sense of worth. P.S. – Don’t pay them for their chores.
Find ways you can serve others with your children. It could be cleaning up the neighbor’s yard, serving at a soup kitchen, or making items for those in need.
Give your children quality time every day where they have your full attention. Nothing will express better how much you love and value them. If you don’t already have a family devotion time, start a new tradition. Spending time together in God’s Word, praying together, and sharing your thoughts, hopes, and feelings will bind your family together.
I hope these ideas are helpful and encouraging as you work with your children this summer. Maybe it will eliminate some of the pressure to do more for your children and allow you more time to be with them. The world is full of distractions and reasons to rush about. We must be diligent to fix our hearts and minds on the things of God and focus on living the principles of Deuteronomy 6:4-7, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Have fun this summer as you and your children grow closer to each other and the Lord.
Recently, I was reading John Stonestreet’s (2017) A Practical Guide to Culture, a book I would recommend to all parents. At one point Stonestreet discusses the effects of affluence and consumerism on today’s youth. He points out that the definition of the term “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, as intended by the Founding Fathers, was “a life well lived, characterized by wisdom, virtue, and character” (p. 228). This definition reminded me of the purpose of WCCS, to educate students to bless the world for Jesus Christ. This requires students to live a life of value focused on service to others as they exercise their God given abilities. Paul put it this way, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love (Gal. 5:13). Stonestreet continues, “When pleasure is our goal, rather than the by-product of a higher end, it becomes distorted” (pg. 231).
Summer is a wonderful time of year for young people because it is full of lazy days, relaxing around the pool, and spending time with family and friends in a variety of enjoyable activities. The summer also becomes a great opportunity to help students learn more about the world around them, the opportunities that exist to serve those in need, and realize that their life has a greater purpose.
Recently, a team of WCCS students just returned from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. No doubt they enjoyed being with their friends, having fun on the beach and playing in the pool. But, as one member of the team told me, “My favorite part of the trip was being able to experience a new culture and meet the amazing people while also growing closer to my American friends.” The culture this student was serving in is depressed and humble, as were the “amazing” people. This is a different picture of joy, happiness, and success than we get from American media and culture. Another member of the DR team told me how the trip was a spiritual awakening of sorts. This student specifically discussed how wonderful it was to help and share with the people they went to serve, and how they were equally blessed from the experience.
The idea is simple! The team traveled to the DR, met physical needs of those in need through building improvements, met spiritual needs through shared worship and leading Bible study, and met emotional needs by just being there to play with children and spend time in fellowship. The impact of the team was great, yet the impact of the Dominicans on the team may have even been greater. As these students served those in need they were exposed to a culture they may not have fully understood before the trip. They gained insight to how God can use their life to bless others. They also, and equally important, gained an understanding of how someone else can bless them. Finally, and most important, they discovered how the gospel blesses everyone.
Stonestreet concludes his discussion on affluence with the hope of this current generation of young people, exemplified by the DR team. He points out how 84% of millennials personally give to charity, and 70% spend time personally volunteering. The summer is a wonderful time for students to get involved. It doesn’t need to be a mission trip or major program. Significant change often takes place in the small, yet consistent things we can do within our own community. Here are just a few ideas:
Prepare a zip lock bag with water, food items, hygiene products, and a verse of Scripture and keep these in the car. As you travel and come across a homeless person you can share the bag and potentially the Gospel with them.
Volunteer to work at special events designed to raise money or support for a local ministry or charity.
Visit an assisted living home or nursing home. Nothing brightens the day of those elderly confined to a home like a young smile. Just a few minutes to hear their story, or read to them can bring a great deal of happiness.
Volunteer at a food/clothing bank, thrift store, or shelter. Often, the people you come in contact with will be in need of feeling loved and accepted. You can meet that need with a simple conversation as you serve.
Write a note of encouragement and spiritual blessing to share with someone in need or those who have dedicated their lives to serving those in need.
These are just some simple ideas that do not require much time or forethought. God has blessed us through His son Jesus Christ, and He now calls us to be the living example of Christ to a lost world. The point is that summer can become a valuable opportunity to experience service and ministry, and in the process bless others while being blessed by them.
One of our special traditions at WCCS for each graduating class is the Senior Dinner. As this year's speaker for the Class of 2018, Mark Watts shared some words of encouragement with our soon-to-be-graduates and their families. In doing so, he focused on the “WHY?” questions of life, and the longing for purpose.
As we end another school year, one filled with many highs but also some challenges, I have encouraged our faculty and staff to consider the same question - "WHY?" I challenge you to take a few minutes and watch the video below and then consider the question for your student and family at WCCS.
Mark challenged those in attendance at Senior dinner to consider their purposes in life – and then argued that WCCS has prepared them for purpose by educating our students to bless our world as disciples of Jesus Christ. God has indeed hard-wired us for purpose and more than just for learning, teaching, or even serving. It is my prayer that everything we do be rooted in a desire to glorify Christ because of his unending love for us.
With this in mind, I welcome you to join me this summer in reading a book entitled Unlimited Grace by author Bryan Chappell. This is a tremendous book that talks about how God's unlimited grace poured out on us should lead us unto heartfelt obedience to Him. As a teaser, I'd like to suggest that it too answers the question "WHY?" Why are we motivated to serve and obey Him? As Chapell states, "God's grace motivates our behavior; our behavior does not manufacture his grace. We live in response to his love, not to qualify for it or to make him produce it."
Through social media discussions during the summer and a parent discussion night on Monday, August 13, we will be talking about how we can apply the concepts in this book to school and family life. You can be a part of the discussion by searching "Westminster Catawba Christian School Summer Book Club" on Facebook. Just click "join" and we will add you to our discussion group. You can download the flyer here. Please contact us for your free copy of the book. We will be giving away 40 free books, first come, first serve!