The Most Important Conversation to have with your kids (or grandkids)

I sent out information about the Gen Z: Faith Summit that started on the February 19. This morning I watched the opening remarks by the CEO and co-founder of AXIS, David Eaton. The summit involves over 30 teachers, thought leaders, authors and pastors sharing their thoughts on how best to help raise up the next generation. They focus on the areas of sexuality, technology, and growing up.

George Lucas, during his Academy Award acceptance, said: “I’ve always tried to be aware of what I say in my films because all of us who make motion pictures are teachers, teachers with very loud voices.” We know that kids today are bombarded with all kinds of media messages in very loud voices. How do we counter these voices?

What is AXIS?

AXIS was formed by a few millenials in response to their seeing so many teens who were on fire for Christ at one time in their lives, walk away from their faith. The statistics are brutal. The forecast is even worse. These young people have set out on a mission to help all those who are in the lives of youth be able to communicate well. Parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches often come from a completely different world than the youth they are interacting with. They need translators to be able to communicate. AXIS translates the culture and encourages the leverage of conversation.

What is the summit?

For the first three days of each interview, they are available online for free. I encourage you to take a look at the line up and watch one that calls out to you.  If you have the time, you could watch them all for free. After the three days, if you still want to have access, you can buy an access pass which supports the amazing work that AXIS is doing to help parents connect with their kids in a meaningful way.

George Lucas, continuing, said: “But we will never match the power of the teacher who is able to whisper in a student’s ear”. 

You have the power to counter the loud voices your child or grandchild is hearing.

What is the most important conversation?

It’s one that lasts a lifetime! Equip yourself to begin and continue to learn how to keep the conversation going. The videos offered during this summit provide ample conversation starters.

What’s your love language?

Thanks to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, we’ve all become more familiar with how we best receive and give love.

I don’t think it’s too soon to start recognizing what makes you feel most loved. We’re talking with the kids this week during mat chat about the five love languages.

Relationships are hard and communication is difficult under the best of circumstances. But when two people are speaking two different languages and they don’t even know it, it’s even more challenging!

The sooner we realize which language is most effective for ourselves, the better off we are. Add to that, discovering which language is most effective for those we love, and we’ve got a much better likelihood of communicating well, and loving well.

We talk a lot about how love is an action, and that what we DO is what matters more than how we FEEL. But we want to make sure that what we DO is received by the other as LOVE.

A brief summary of the five love languages:

I’m hoping this idea is not new and I’m only refreshing your memory. To learn more, check out the book. Or even take a quiz online to help you discover what your love language is. 

Here’s the simple explanation we are sharing with the kids:

Some people, like Kuma bear, like to give and receive gifts. That’s how they show love and receiving a gift it’s what makes them feel loved.  (Receiving Gifts)

Some people feel more loved when someone says something really nice to them and makes them feel special and valued.  Likewise some people show their love by telling the beloved how important they are to them, and pointing out all the things they love about them. (Words of Affirmation)

For some, the most important way to show love is to DO things for someone. To help them do something they’re having a hard time with, or just do a task that you know they need done. As a surprise and without being asked! That’s a great way to show love! (Acts of Service)

We all need touch – to be held or hugged. But for some people touch is their primary love language.. Whether it’s a pat on the head, holding hands, or a kiss on the cheek – these touches are ways to show love. (Physical Touch)

Do you feel loved when you’re simply hanging out with mom and dad? Maybe playing games, or going for a walk together? For some people just spending time together is the best way to show love. (Quality Time)

It can be helpful to learn which of these ways of showing love actually make you feel most loved. And it can be very helpful to learn how the people you love feel most loved. That way we can help others to love us well, and we can love others well – by “speaking their love language”.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

If anyone remembers the old song What’s love got to do with it? you may remember that it ends with the line “who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

Sometimes it can be hard to talk about love, precisely because we are all broken and we too often fail to love well. Rather than focus on the emotion, as most songs do, we are going to talk of the action of love this month.

Love is what we do and how we act towards others. It has to do with our outlook on life, on others, on the world. And especially on our outlook on God.

God Is Love

If God IS love, how to do we bring that reality into the world? And if God IS love, how do we reconcile all of the brokeness, pain and suffering in the world?

The last question I mention here only because it came up during mat chat this week. It’s a big question that deserves its own post for the answer. Let me just briefly answer that we live in a broken world.  Not only IS God love, but he LOVES us. And any good lover does not force himself on his beloved. 

Therefore he gave us free will. We always have a choice. Will we behave in a loving way – will be bless others? Or will we contribute more pain and suffering in the world?

Does God love us?

In trying to help children understand God’s love, we gave them the example of how they feel about something they created. They might want to protect their creation and get angry if someone tries to destroy it.

Certainly parents have a glimpse of the love God has for us. I think parenting especially gives us a window to help us understand God. When we set boundaries for our children for their own protection, we are imitating how God has set boundaries for us for our protection. We can compare the freedom we give our children as they play and learn, as long as they stay within the boundaries we have set to the freedom God has given us. And when we are desperate for the welfare of our child, that can help us to understand how God feels about each of his children.

What is love?

The more important part of love is what we DO. Love is a verb!

We can say we love our brother, but are we kind to him?

We can say we love our parents, but do we do what they ask us to do? Right away? With a good attitude?

We can say we love our friend, but are we willing to play what they want to play instead of what we want to play?

For the youngest children we can help them understand that love needs to be an action by talking about pets. If we love our pets, we need to take care of them.

These are the kinds of things we want the kids to think about this month while we focus on love. Yes, love is a feeling, but the actions we take that show our love are really far more important than our feelings. Especially in our current social climate, we want to help kids focus more on what we do than how we feel!

What’s love got to do with it?

Are you wondering why we would even be talking about love in karate? The simple answer is – it has everything to do with everything! Love is what guides us in everything we do!

Is competition good or bad?

Is competition good or bad? Yes!

Competition in the hands of someone bent on overpowering the “enemy” at all costs can certainly be bad. 

Competition supervised by caring adults who see the opponent as a partner to push us further than we thought possible, is definitely good. 

When we see competition as an opportunity to perform to our potential, rather than to defeat the opponent, it becomes a very important part of our training. When we keep in mind that our partner is there to help us grow and we are there to help our partner grow, it becomes a powerful learning experience for all.

Taking care of our partner

We emphasize in karate that we need to take care of our partner. One of our goals at Warriors of Grace is to help people learn to be more concerned about others than ourselves. And that’s why in class we learn to partner with people of varying sizes and abilities. But there is also learning to push as well as match your partner. You can feel good about helping someone else develop to their potential – which they wouldn’t have done without your pushing!

What else happens during competition?

There’s a funny thing that happens during shiai (karate tournaments). When we are put under stress, there is an opportunity to examine the feelings that arise from that stress.

The stress can be just having to perform in front of people. Or it can come from winning (yes! winning can be stressful!). Or is can come from losing. Or it might come from feeling unfairly judged. Let’s be honest about all of our humanity. Judging karate events have a large measure of subjectivity and therefore can feel unfair. 

What do we do with those feelings? We are going to experience unfairness, and losing, and winning, throughout our lives. Karate presents an opportunity to process the emotions that are triggered. 

We encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity. Plan on spending some time afterwards. Whether it’s talking with your child on the drive home, or journaling that evening, use the opportunity to examine feelings that came to the surface!

Be sure to show up and participate! Check the schedule to find out the day  and time of your shiai!

 

Are You Giving Your Child Ownership?

How do we help our kids become motivated?

We’re all far more likely to take care of something that belongs to us, right? Maybe it’s time to turn some things over to your son or daughter.  Obviously, the age and ability of your child is important, and no one knows your child’s ability better than you.

The next time you find yourself in a battle, think to yourself “Is this really MY problem or does this really belong to my child?”

If your child learns that you will step in and finish the task, or drive them to school, or bring them their forgotten lunch, then they will never take ownership of the problem. They won’t have any reason to care. But once they own it – and they experience the consequences of their choices, they will become motivated to fix the problem.

Ownership is especially important when it comes to learning. The National Academy of Sciences has found that the most effective learning comes when the student owns the process.

Let your child come up with a way to solve a problem or meet a goal. It may not be the way you would do it, but it will foster true learning.  Help him to come up with a creative solution. Ask her questions that lead to thinking about the problem in a new way. 

Give your child plenty of practice in problem solving at home and make sure they have ownership of their school work. You’ll find they become far more motivated when it belongs to them!

Do Your Children Know You Value Them?

When I was growing up, I was frequently reminded that I was a Summers.  

“I don’t care what all the other kids are doing, you’re a Summers.” 

Now, that may sound like a way to put your child above others. But it really wasn’t that at all. Or maybe it was, in a good way. It was a way for my mom and dad to tell me I was very important to them.  Yes, in my parents’ eyes, I was above others, as I should have been. It was a way to remind me they loved me and had high expectations of me.  In fact, it did keep me from straying too far from what my parents would have expected from me, even into adulthood.

Now, I know that I am a beloved daughter of God. I know that every blessing has come from Him, and I don’t want to disappoint Him any more than I wanted to disappoint my earthly parents. 

When we know who we are, we are far less likely to let a mistake, a failure, a broken relationship, or even success and achievement DEFINE us. We know at our core that we have value and worth to share with the world. We know that we have a purpose, even when we are going through life’s inevitable storms.

Whether you believe in God or not, help your children to know they are loved and valued at their very core.  Help them to see that their attributes or achievements don’t DEFINE them. Even a superstar athlete has to know there is much more of value to him than his prowess on the field. And certainly help them to see that their mistakes and failures do not define them.

 

Goal Setting

Back in December we prepared everyone for SMART goal setting. We asked all the students to set a daily goal and handed out calendars for tracking their progress. We’ll have a surprise for all those who meet their goal and turn in the completed calendar at the beginning of February.

Since then, we’ve been talking about how to go about setting and meeting goals. It’s an obvious ability that will lead to success in many areas.

SMART Goal Setting

Goal setting should not be mindless. Many of us hold broad ideas of areas we’d like to improve on. Eat better, get more exercise, read more, etc.

Specific

A good goal is SPECIFIC. We need to think about something in a way that we can really tackle it and not have it be just a broad feel good idea.

Measurable

Part of that specificity is to be MEASURABLE. If we don’t put an exact number, or frequency, or amount, then how do we know if we’ve met the goal?

Attainable

And let’s not kid ourselves. Make sure your goal is ATTAINABLE. It still needs to be a goal; it does no good to count something you already do! But make sure you’re being realistic with yourself. If your real goal is too big to tackle at once, start small and after you’ve accomplished the first goal, add another piece.

Relevant

When asking the kids to come up with their goal, we really want them to choose something that’s RELEVANT.  Hopefully they came up with a goal that is good for them or for others. If it’s not good for anyone, it’s pointless.

Trackable

And lastly, it needs to be trackable. Hence the calendars on which to track the goals.

Using these criteria you and your student can work on goal setting together and create a plan for a better year than ever.  

Start strong

We began the month encouraging the students to start strong, working towards their goal. We often use the beginning of the school year as a time to talk about starting strong. The truth is anytime you’re starting something new, whether it’s a new class, a new job or a new project, it’s best to start strong. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from getting off to a strong start can carry you through a lot of obstacles down the road. Start strong and gain some successes to shield your confidence when things are tougher.

No Stinking Thinking

This week we’re talking about what it really takes to reach our goals: an act of will. It takes drive, determination and commitment. A month is a long time to stick with a goal. The reward is good, as the probability of the goal becoming a habit after a successful month is pretty high.

But what if we’ve picked something that we know we SHOULD do, or NEED to do, but don’t WANT to do? How do we find the WILL to accomplish the goal?

It actually has more to do with what we THINK! What we think about who we are and what we are capable of. If we think something’s going to be hard, well, guess what? It probably will be. If we think we can’t, we won’t. So how do we change that? The more we can see ourselves as constantly learning, able to grow and change, the more easily we’ll be able to think we can meet the goals we set for ourselves.  

It is our own thoughts about who we are, and what we can do, that limit us. Maybe it’s time to rethink what defines us. Often we let others define us. We were always the clown in the family, or studious, or shy, or clumsy. It can be hard to really let go of labels we were given in childhood. Some of our identities can be good ones: mother, brother, daughter, friend. But they don’t define us.  It’s true we may have many identities, but we have to reach the core of who we really are.

Help your child develop a Growth Mindset

For us, at Warriors of Grace, we believe we are beloved sons and daughters of a loving God. We are being transformed through a process that will continue throughout our lives. Therefore we should not have any limitations in our thinking about what we can accomplish. We know we can grow and change, because we’ve already experienced growth and change.

Whatever your beliefs, it’s important to have the mindset that we can learn and grow and change. And it’s important to develop that mindset in your children. If you hear your child say “I can’t,”  just add “yet” to the end of the sentence.  Help them set SMART goals that will enable them to experience success and gain confidence to set more goals.

 

Generosity – Giving and Money

Combining a couple of ideas into this post, I wanted to share the recent mat chats with everyone, AND share some tips to how to teach your kids about money.

Mat Chats for Generosity

The mat chat is focused on giving, or generosity. It’s timely for the season, but really the goal is developing the character trait of generosity, rather than the actual giving of gifts. Because of the season, it does make sense to acknowledge the gift giving aspect of generosity, and use it as an opportunity to talk about money.

We started this theme as a direct segue from our last theme of thanksgiving. Ideally generosity flows from a thankful heart. It’s not really generous if you give something you’re forced to give!

We then made sure the students understand that giving doesn’t have to be about giving THINGS. Our most precious gifts to others are not about things we can buy, but rather what we share of ourselves. We can give a smile, a word of encouragement, or lend a hand. But in order to do those things we have to notice others.

Moving from self to others

Thinking about others instead of ourselves is a process that takes our whole life. We start out as infants with a world that only extends to the edge of our body! Gradually mom, dad, siblings and other relatives enter the infant’s world. But the center of that world is ME! As I grow, it’s a painful process realizing I am NOT the center of the world. Painful for me AND for those around me (as any parent of a 2-3 year old knows!)

We sometimes think that by the time a child is 4 or 5, they understand their separateness and relative place in the world. But really, it is a process that I don’t think ever ends. We at Warriors of Grace want to do everything we can to get the students to think of others first. But even over 50, I have to admit there are times I revert to just paying attention to my own needs and wants, without regard to others!

The conversation about becoming generous is really all about being aware of others and thinking of what they can give others. We won’t give an offer of help, if we’re not aware that someone could use help! We won’t give a smile unless we’re aware of the other person in the first place!

Sometimes it can be easier to do something RIGHT when you better understand the consequence of doing something WRONG. In this case, we describe a person who does NOT notice others, and is NOT a giving person. Most kids can understand selfishness and know they don’t want to be thought of as selfish. Thinking of others is an antidote to becoming selfish!

So how to tie generosity in a conversation about money?

First, I want to encourage you to have regular conversations with your kids about money. The more you are open and able to talk about it, the smarter your kids will be on the topic. It’s important to have age appropriate conversations, and ideally in natural responses to situations as they occur. Older kids can have specific “lessons” when they’re ready.

Here is an article worth reading if you haven’t given any thought to these kinds of conversation.

God says…

In the Judeo-Christian worldview (and in fact many other religions), we are encouraged to give our money away. Imagine how much small the safety net from our government would need to be if we all made regular contributions towards meeting the needs of those who can’t meet their own needs. Wow! It would be a different world, wouldn’t it!!

If God says it important to take care of others, maybe we ought to consider it important, too! We’re always talking about putting others first, so let’s extend that to be the first thing you do when you receive money (your paycheck, for example.) Set aside money to GIVE.

Then pay yourself. In the form of savings for the future or for large items requiring saving. Yes! Imagine a world without debt! That would be a totally different world too! And it can be done. By saving before you buy rather than putting anything on credit.

After you’ve given, after you’ve paid yourself in the form of savings, then you know what you have left over and you can budget from there. Give – Save – Live. The secret to living a financially healthy life!

I recognize that this is way too simplistic for a lot of you and everyone is in different situations. People do need help to get through hard times (that’s why we give in the first place!)

But this is a pretty simple message that you can over time teach your children. I feel confident that everyone can agree that generosity is a worthwhile trait. Giving can be in any number of ways.

We believe in God, and we believe he blesses our giving. We believe he loves us immensely and will not fail to take care of us, even in our darkest days. When we give, we are trusting that God will provide what we need. But whatever your beliefs, teaching your kids about giving and money is important.

Thanksgiving Every Day!

Yes, the best way to stay healthy and happy is to make EVERY day Thanksgiving! No, not eating all the food we look forward to every Thanksgiving holiday, but finding something to be thankful for ALL the time!

Thanksgiving – The Big Things

We have in our display case the BIG things that our students wrote down that they are thankful for. And it is important to remember those things and it’s wonderful that we set aside a day to really think about all the blessings we have.

But even more important is developing an “attitude of gratitude”. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s a good one to remember!

Thanksgiving – The Small Blessings

We need to be open to seeing the small blessings that we receive every day. A friendly smile from the clerk at the store. A new song that lifts your mood. An old song you haven’t heard in a while which brings back wonderful memories. The way the sun shines on the last of the Autumn leaves. The wind carrying the clouds quickly across a clear blue sky. The warm head of your pet resting in your lap. The look of accomplishment on a child’s face when they “get it” for the first time! (Whatever “it” is!)

Every day has gifts in it and we need to have the mindset to receive those gifts. We need to focus on what is good, rather than what is not so goods. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t.

Thanksgiving – In Hard Times

As we get comfortable developing this first step, we can even develop the ability to find the gifts in the midst of tough times. It is a real treasure to be able to find the silver lining in every situation. And will lead to a happy and fulfilled life.

Didn’t get that promotion you were hoping for? Maybe there is some relationship that needs to be developed in the current job. Plans for vacation fell through? That can be the perfect time to spend quality time with the kids doing things close to home you never have a chance to do! Your buddy isn’t at school/work today? That’s an opportunity to reach out and get to know someone new!

And as Senpai Josiah shared last night — a virus has you out of commission? It might be an opportunity to enjoy settling in on the couch and watching shows you don’t usually get to see (or reading books you don’t usually have time for)!

As we head into Thanksgiving week I want to encourage everyone to develop an attitude of gratitude and find something to be grateful for in every situation!

Three Strikes for Anti-Bullying

We are an antibullying school and we have taught anti-bullying to many school.  We teach children a simple yet effective way to stop bullying in schools. We have been teaching this for years and teachers have let us know that it is working! This week we have been reviewing it with our own students in classes.

What’s Three Strikes?

It’s funny because in some classes when we ask what 3 strikes mean to them – they might say bowling! Well, yes, there are strikes in bowling, but that’s not what we’re talking about!  Right now with the World Series just finished, hopefully you understand what we mean by three strikes!

When to use the three strikes anti-bullying method

We always tell children that if someone is hurt or in danger of getting hurt they need to go to an adult right away. This Three Strike method is to stop the SMALL mean behaviors that can grow into full-fledged bullying.

We used to use the metaphor of a match accidentally dropped. If there’s some dry grass around, a fire starts. If there are bushes nearby, the fire grows. Trees….you get the idea. Suddenly, you’re dealing with California wildfires that can’t be put out, but can only be restrained. In this analogy, we say before each spread, what if no one was there to see? What if there was nothing around to put it out?

Those small mean behaviors, if ignored, grow just like that fire. It’s because no one says anything, and either the perpetrator gets more desperate for a response, or she grows in confidence that she can do anything she wants and no one will say a word, that leads to a full-fledged bully. So we need to call out small mean behaviors just like we need to blow out that match, or douse the first flames.

What is the Three Strike method?

The first time someone does or says something mean, the response should be (calmly): “Please don’t do/say that. I wouldn’t do/say that to you.”

Now here’s the thing. A lot of us do things that hurt others without realizing it. As soon as someone points it out, we’re likely to apologize and that’s the end of it. Kids are the same way. They often just need someone to calmly point out that what they did was not acceptable. End of story.

The second time it happens the response should be (again, calmly): “Please stop. I asked you to stop once. If you do it again I will have to report you.”

What is reporting?

Well, it’s not continually running to whatever adult is nearby and whining and complaining that so and so is always doing such and such, waa waa waa!

The big idea here is that we want to HELP our friends to NOT become bullies! We are NOT trying to get anyone in trouble!

So reporting is, again, CALMLY, going to the appropriate adult and clearly state what has been happening. “Mrs. Smith, I don’t want to get Susie in trouble but she ……….. I have asked her to stop and she hasn’t. Can you please help?”

That’s it. The Three Strike Method to anti-bullying. When kids realize they can speak up and say no, it goes a long way to changing the environment so bullying doesn’t develop in the first place.

The best time to start this?  IN PRESCHOOL!!! That’s right. The younger the better. But 1st and 2nd graders also do well with this simple strategy. The older kids tend to be “too cool”.  They become more entrenched in ideas like “boys will be boys” or “there’s nothing I can do about it anyway” or some other mindset that actually feeds into bullying.

If your child begins to use the three strike method, others will follow. And you know who might be saved from becoming a bully? Your child!