Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Encouraging awe in nature.

My wife and I went to the bookstore the other night. I love browsing with no topic in mind. I browse technology and fitness and see what pops off the shelf. I was in the science section and I found a great book called the Universe http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0756613647/qid=1132110085/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/002-8678562-1048066?v=glance&s=books.
It is a huge volume with creative images from the atom to the sun. Numerous shots from the Hubble telescope are featured. I knew the kids would love the astronomy section.
I showed the kids the book the next day. L and T asked me to take it down from the special shelf on 4 separate occasions. We poured over the maps of the stars. There was a section for the November sky in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
"Let's find the North Star." I suggested.
We poured over the book for a moment.
"Ooops!" said L. "We should be looking in the Northern Hemisphere for that."
She was right again. Daddy was on the wrong page. 5.5 years old. The kids really amaze me.
"There is the big dipper and there is the little dipper." I said.
"Wow." said T.
Later that night when I was putting M to bed the older kids were getting into their silly mode. This has been a pattern for the past few nights.
"Guys! Why don't you get your coats on and we will go out and look at the sky? Maybe we can find some constellations."
It was curious that I did not have to repeat that suggestion. The kids sprinted downstairs and had their jackets on in 1 minute. A new family record. M and I were the last ones ready.
We went around the house and shut out all of the lights. That was an exciting project. When the house was in pitch blackness the kids and I headed out back.
"Look! The little dipper!" T exclaimed.
He was right on. "You've got it T!" I encouraged.
M called out: "Moooo."
"Yes, M!" I said. "That is the moon!"
"Where are all the stars?" Asked L.
"It is a little cloudy tonight. We will see some more stars another night. But aren't the ones that we can see beautiful?"
"Yeah." Replied L and T.
I think these expeditions and learning projects build a sense of awe in the kids about nature. Throughout the day we talked about how many stars are in the universe. I think the kids will grow up with a healthy mindset, knowing the true nature of the universe.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Patience pondering

The following is a post that I left in response to a patience question on yahoo groups:

Yes, I would love to share some ideas on the patience topic. Your observation of thinking before you speak is a great thought to keepin mind. It has saved me many times and there are many times that Iwish I had employed it.

Also, you mentioned the challenge of parenting when you are tired or cranky. It is good to know when you are tired or your blood sugar is low. When I am operating in this mode I consider myself in the danger zone or Orange alert. I try to remain extra vigilant with my patience.
The classic patience technique is counting to 10 and taking deepbreaths. It is easy to say, but I think it is really hard to do in the heat of battle. It feels weird to stand up and walk out of the room without saying a word. It feels like you are giving in,somehow. But the several times I have utilized it, it has been a real homerun. It diffuses the situation and the adrenaline clears from my system.

Another physical cause of patience failure is when the kids are screaming and causing actually pain in your ears. I believe this is a biological reaction that causes us to become hyper alert.Adrenaline is again released into my system and I have to become consious of my actions. I have to consciously realize that the pain in my ears is simply temporary. My ears always feel better moments later.

Often times the kids will rope me into their arguments. One is crying because they were hit or one of the kids is yelling at their mother. The anger spreads through the room like wildfire. It is Ariel emotional master that can keep it cool in these situations. Don't take sides. I remind myself that this is not my anger, it is theirs. They are angry. If I can remain impartial and see things from all sides then I can offer healthy alternatives. Again if I am worried about my ears, or my peace and quiet then I am doomed. Also if I pick a side I am also not doing one party much of a service.

Another patience trigger is when I perceive that the kids are making work for myself or my wife. Intentionally spilling water. Making tons of noise after I have just put our youngest down. These actions really challenge me. I have to remember to breathe deep and recall that they are only children acting as children are supposed to. I also try to remember that the perceived work is seldom as much as I expect.

Whenever I put myself in the kids shoes I generally achieve the empathy that I need to successfully manage a challenging situation. I think of these things as patience "swing thoughts". At any time one of them may come in handy and I hope I am aware enough to bring it to the forefront of my mind.

Does anyone have any other good suggestions on patience?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Passing on values at bedtime.

Each night when I put T to bed he asks for a story. I use this time to convey my values to my little man.
Many nights we pick a profession where he can help humans or animals. For instance he will accompany Steve the crocodile hunter on a mission to save injured crocodiles in the outback. He rescues crocodiles from trees and fixes there cavities while Steve holds their mouths open.
Other nights T will drink a potion that he invented and turn himself into a dinosaur or some other creature. The creature will help mankind in someway. When he is a Brontosaurus, he can give children rides at the park. When he is a dragon he can help me burn stumps out of the backyard. T is always having fun and helping out.
Last night was one of our best. He said he wanted to be himself in this story. I told him that he could cook a meal for the Monday night supper for the homeless at our church.
"What do you want to cook T?"
T thought long and hard for 30 seconds. I waited patiently for his response, doing all that I could not to lead him.
Finally T decided: "Gingerbread cookies."
"Great! I am sure that they will love them."
"What ingredients do we need and how do we make them?" I asked.
"We need eggs, flour, sugar, milk and a great big bowl! And then we stir it!" T replied enthusiastically.
"Perfect. What should we use for eyes?"
"Chocolate chips." Replied T.
L was listening patiently and keeping quiet during T's story. Then she piped in:
"Dad, this is like when we made the grilled cheese sandwiches for the youth group lunch at church!"
"Exactly!" I exclaimed.
"And did those kids appear happy when they received their sandwiches?"
L paused. "Yes, they looked very happy."
"I think the hungry people at our church will feel just as happy to eat T's cookies."
"Yeah." replied T. "Now can I have a dinosaur story?"

It is tempting to give T exactly what he asks for each night. Stories filled with action and gore that scare the pajamas off of him. Instead I try to fill the stories with values like hard work, enjoying your work, and helping make the world a better place. I try to keep away from stories with villains and heros who overcome treachery. I hope T will build a world full of cooperation and win-win scenarios instead of win-lose. Especially when the winner needs to resort to violence to get the job done. Can you see where I stand on the Disney films?