3 simple ways to teach children gratitude

3 simple ways to teach children gratitudeAt some point, every home with young children experiences ingratitude. It’s just part of post-Fall childrearing — alongside 2-year-old temper tantrums and 2 a.m. bedtime visits.

I thought about that recently when my two oldest boys (ages 9 and 5) started grumbling as their mom was baking cookies for a special church function.

“You never make these for us!” they complained.

Never mind that the kitchen cabinet was full of other types of cookies they could eat, and that they get desert for virtually meal, and that mom also was busy preparing dinner – a fabulous meal all of us would soon enjoy.

No, they wanted the special cookies – the cookies they’ve never had — and they didn’t want anyone else to have them, either.

They then joined together to whine in unison: It’s not fair!

You can imagine how the subsequent parent-child conversation went. It included stories of starving African children who rarely get a full meal – much less desert and (definitely) not specially baked cookies.

By the time the conversation was over, our children were wishing they had never complained at all. And they could (nearly) point to Africa on a globe.

Of course, it’s easy to criticize my two sons for a moment of ingratitude. If we’re honest, though, we all have moments like that – moments when we lust after our neighbor’s new car, our friend’s new home, or simply the latest-and-greatest Best Buy gadgets. It’s a problem as old as, well, Scripture. When Jesus healed the 10 leapers, only one returned to give thanks (Luke 17:11-19).

How, then, can we instill a spirit of gratitude, thankfulness and contentment in our children? There are lots of ways to do it, but here are three ways to start: Continue reading

3 things I’m teaching my son about peer pressure

3 things I’m teaching my son about peer pressureScripture tells us that life is like a “mist” – here today and gone tomorrow – but nothing captures this like childrearing.

My oldest son is now nine, but it seems just yesterday he was saying his first sentence (“I see lights”), taking his first steps (on a porch of a Cracker Barrel), and spelling his first word (“P-O-L-I-C-E” – he was infatuated with law enforcement).

He subsequently rode his first bike, lost his first tooth, and passed his first test.

It was incredible, and it all happened lightning-fast.

Now he is on the verge of his tween years, which will place him on the doorstep of his teen years, when will then launch him into adulthood.

And even though he still wants to be with me virtually every minute of the day, the time is fast approaching when he might want just the opposite. During those years – filled with pimples and voice changes and awkward moments – he will be tempted to spend more time with his friends than his family. And during those moments with his pals and perhaps even a girlfriend, he’ll be faced with peer pressure like he has never experienced.

I’m already seeing glimpses of this future. Just the other day he heard a boy his age say the f-word. Not long after that, he saw an older boy walking down the sidewalk, smoking. And then there was the time he heard some college students – at a sporting event – mock God.

For the first few years of his life, we encouraged him to play with other kids. Now, we sometimes urge him to stay away from other kids. And I can pretty much read his mind as he thinks: “Why are some boys and girls different from me?”

Honestly, I am prepared for the days when he thinks his dad is no longer cool. But I don’t want him ever to be ashamed of Christ and His teachings.

So, when he asks me a question about his friends and the subject turns into a conversation about peer pressure, I try to make three main points: Continue reading

This St. Patrick’s Day, teach your kids about the real (mission-minded) Patrick

This St. Patrick’s Day, teach your kids about the real (mission-minded) PatrickAmerican holidays are a quirky thing. We celebrate turkey on Thanksgiving, Santa Claus on Christmas, green clothes on St. Patrick’s Day and bunny rabbits on Easter – even though each one has a uniquely Christian foundation.

What, you didn’t know that St. Patrick’s Day had a Christian theme?

Patrick was a real person who played a key role in the spreading of the Gospel in the 400s. He was a British teenager when, around age 16, he was sold into slavery and taken to Ireland, where he worked for about six years before escaping across the sea back to England. As Bruce Shelley writes in his book Church History In Plain Language, Patrick “would have gladly remained in England had he not had a dream one night in which the babies of Ireland pleaded with him to come back to their country and tell them about Christ.” He did that – and his work resulted in thousands coming to know the Lord.

So a man was sold into slavery, escaped, and then returned to tell those very same people about Jesus. What’s not to like about that story?

The story of Patrick is one we should be telling our children over and over, and what better time than St. Patrick’s Day? It’s a story of forgiveness, sacrifice, service and missions.

Want to know more? Read history professor Stephen Douglas Wilson’s column about St. Patrick. It’s told from a Baptist angle, but it’s applicable to all Christians.
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REVIEW: Is ‘Moana’ OK for small children? (And are there any scary parts?)

REVIEW: Is 'Moana' OK for small children? (And are there any scary parts?)Moana is an adventurous teenager who lives on a small Pacific Ocean island that – we’re told – “always gives us what we need.” And the island does keep everybody fed … until the fishermen no longer can catch fish and the coconut trees fail to produce edible fruit.

So, Moana, the daughter of the island chief, decides to board her raft and cross the ocean to find the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), who rules over the wind and sea. Why? Because her grandmother said that Maui previously stole the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti – and that if her heart could be restored, the island would once again teem with fish and plant life.

Disney’s Moana (PG) is out in theaters this weekend, providing families with an animated musical adventure on a holiday weekend and a worldview not seen in most children’s movies.

Set in a Polynesian culture, the film’s plot spotlights polytheism, animism and reincarnation, and also has a few scary parts. Let’s look at the details. Continue reading

REVIEW: Is ‘Fantastic Beasts’ too scary for kids? (And how violent is it?)

REVIEW: Is 'Fantastic Beasts' too scary for kids? (And how violent is it?)

Newt Scamander, a quirky-but-funny “magizoologist,” owns a suitcase like no other – a suitcase where dozens of other-worldly animal-like creatures reside.

Some are larger than a house, while others can fit in his pocket. One even is invisible. All of them, though, are mischievous, and that spells trouble during his trip to New York City when they begin escaping.

Scamander and his suitcase are at the center of the new movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (PG-13), which was written and produced by J.K. Rowling and is being billed as a “prequel” to the Harry Potter series, taking place in 1926 NYC.

Scamander — himself a wizard — steps off his ship into an American society that is divided between two classes of people: those who have magical powers, and those who don’t (the “non-maj”). The magical world is governed by a Magical Congress of the United States of America, and there even is a Magical Congress president. Although both classes of people seem nice enough, current law forbids them from interacting — and wizards definitely aren’t allowed to practice their magic in front of non-maj people. But don’t fear: If any plain person does see a spell, the magical world has the power to erase those memories.

Despite the powers of the wizarding world, there is a growing anti-magical sentiment among the non-maj people. That’s because weird stuff is happening. Streets are exploding and buildings collapsing. One group (the “Second Salemers”) are calling for a series of anti-witch trials, and they’re even placing posters around the city proclaiming: “No Witchcraft In America. We Need A Second Salem.”

Are Scamander’s beasts the cause of this destruction? Or is it being cause by something evil?

The Harry Potter film series was incredibly popular among children and teens, although its focus on wizardry divided Christians. I will leave that debate to others, but for now, let’s look at the content of what is sure to be a major box office hit.

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