Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A School Performance Check-up

            Now that we are finished with a quarter of school and are well immersed into the second quarter, it would be helpful to evaluate some important aspects of your child’s school performance. It’s not too late to make some improvements that will make a big difference for the rest of the year. Answering these questions will help you evaluate your child’s performance and develop a plan to succeed this school year.

1.     Do you know how to communicate with your child’s teacher? While we may be afforded many tools for communicating, we all have our preferred way of staying in touch. Some teachers check email multiple times in the day, some prefer phone calls after school, and some still find the old fashioned method of writing a note to be the most effective means.
2.     Do you recognize the teacher’s primary means of making class announcements? When teachers need parents to know specific details about important events, they usually put them in letters (print or email). Blog posts, phone texts, and other forms of communication are merely reminders. Be sure your student gives you all letters sent home by the teachers.
3.     Do you know the primary way your teacher reports student grades? Elementary classes send home a test-quiz folder; secondary grades give students progress reports; and our teachers upload grades weekly on Gradelink.com for all students and parents to view. Monitoring weekly grades should be a team effort by teachers, parents and students.
4.     Do you have an effective plan for completing homework? Is your child too often working on homework at a late, unproductive time of night?  Is homework being completed so quickly and thoughtlessly that it has no chance of improving mastery? Perhaps a more consistent homework plan needs to be created. For homework completion to be successful, you must consider when to work on it, where the student will work on it, and how they will be accountable.
5.     Do you have an effective study plan? You may want to refer to a previous article on “The Value of Study Partners.” Many parents make the mistake of thinking that children should be able to study alone, and many students make the mistake of thinking that they should be able to study alone. Studying alone usually takes longer and reaps worse results than having a study partner. If you would like your child to see an improvement in grades, consider revising the study plan.
6.     Do you have a plan to help your student concentrate? No creative plan is needed here, just some time to unwind and a reasonable schedule. Yes, school should be taken seriously, and school performance is more important than pleasure. However, every kid has a limit. Kids need sleep and physical exercise to function mentally. Be careful to not overschedule their day with organized activities and cheat them out of a reasonable bedtime. A little free time each day to get some exercise benefits children more than many realize.
7.      Do you have a plan to help your child unwind? When children get stressed, it can materialize in undesirable moods as well as aches and pains. Stress is not all bad; it helps us perform optimally. But children need a means to unwind from the academic rigor and social challenges they encounter at school. The best relief is a happy, healthy home. No matter what may happen at school, children need to count on parents to talk to and a positive environment to come home to. Possessing an inward love for our children is not enough; let’s be sure to express it by making home a place of unconditional love.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What the Oregon Shooting Reveals about Masculinity

As in the case of all mass shootings, we attempt to examine all clues the shooter left behind and decipher to some approximation his psychological condition, background, and motivation. Our hope is to determine a cause that leads to a plan for prevention. Mass killings in the past have been marked with various elements such as mental illness, racism, and even jihad. As the evidence has unfolded, factors identified in this case include the shooter’s view of religion, poor relationships, and mental stability. However, we cannot dismiss an obvious connection with him and all other mass killers: he was an angry male.

 Most parents worry little about whether or not their boys will become mass killers; after all, the everyday challenges of child training carry enough relevant worries and daily hassles. However, the reoccurrence of mass shootings committed by angry males should cause us to pause and examine issues that apply to masculinity and young men.

Why have young men, filled will anger, resorted to unleashing their rage with a gun on innocent people? Higher blood flow in the cerebellum and higher levels of testosterone indicate that young men will not be dealing with their anger by merely sitting still and reflecting on the unreasonableness of their temptations. The male gender approaches life with energy and aggression – whether we like it or not. Males will act; the key is to steer those actions in an acceptable manner.

Masculinity in American society has been minimized by gender neutrality at times and neglect at other times. Society has decided that boys should act a little more like girls, and girls should be permitted to act like boys. Additionally, because they are boys, they are perceived to need less attention. Parents of boys spend less time playing with them, reading to them, helping them with schoolwork, and communicating with their teachers.1 

Boys need healthy relationships – a support system all mass killers seemed to lack, and they need their masculinity to be reinforced and legitimized. Society has branded masculinity as chauvinistic, oppressively aggressive, and uncompassionate, labeling males in a way that makes the entire gender repulsive. Rather than defining masculinity like a feminist, why not write the script for young men the way the Creator intended them to be: productive, protective, and responsible? Rather than guide boys to behave in ways that conflict with their masculine nature, encourage them to acquire the attributes of other successful males. Biblical examples give us mighty men of valor like David, forgiving men like Joseph, bold men like Peter, and loving men like Jesus Christ. 

Professor Bridges noted how America has sowed the seeds that now reap an environment for mass murderers, “It’s a terrible statement about American masculinity, to say that when you’re emasculated, one way to respond is to open fire.”2 Neglect and warped views of masculinity have caused far too many heartaches. Let’s embrace masculinity, demand that it demonstrate integrity, and nurture it with mentoring relationships

1Bertrand, M., & Pan, J. (2013). The trouble with boys: Social influences and the gender gap in disruptive behavior. American Economic Journal. Applied Economics, 5(1), 32–64. http://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/10.1257/app.5.1.32

2. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2015/1002/Many-school-shooters-one-common-factor-a-warped-view-of-masculinity

Monday, June 29, 2015

Should We Be Concerned About The Next Generation?

What does Obergefell predict about the next generation, its culture, and its spirituality? Parents who hold biblical Christian values are mistaken if they passively approach the times and the impact today’s culture has on their children. Like the fifteenth century Pilgrims who left the Netherlands for fear that the worldly culture would influence their children, parents today would do well to seek refuge for their children. As the landscape in America evolves, serious questions need to be asked, and deliberate solutions need to be prepared. 

How will our children learn morality? How will they know if what they view on the on the street, in a television commercial, or in a social media post aligns itself with biblical morality? For that matter, why will they even care? Will morality be a concern for them, or will they view unrestrained lifestyles with apathy? Why should they care? Will there be any model before them to demonstrate the benefits of holiness, morality, and compassion? Will they believe that truth is worth fighting for having viewed courage and determination in the life of one worth emulating?

Parents would be amiss to leave all of the concern, praying, and fighting at the doorsteps of pastors, administrators of religious institutions, and non-profit leaders. Certainly, we are concerned about threats of persecution such as a loss of tax-exemption status for churches and religious institutions; broader applications of “hate-crime speech;” and endless litigation. But persecution has never spiritually ruined a generation; it merely makes one’s pilgrimage less comfortable. More than likely, persecution would separate the tares from the wheat (Matt. 13:26), embolden more believers (Phil. 1:12-14), and make one’s relationship with the Shepherd even closer (Ps. 23:4). Yes, persecution is a concern, but the next generation should be a greater concern.

How will our children learn truth? How will they know what morals will guide them to live a peaceful life, enjoy a happy marriage, and build a prosperous nation? How will they know the truth about American history, the journey we’ve taken, and what the future predicts? If God provides another Moses (or several of them) to lead the people out of bondage, how will they recognize him? Will they be able to discern the difference between truth and emotional ideals? Will a hunger and thirst for righteousness be so developed that they reject a hard-hearted Pharaoh and the pleasures of Egypt in order to follow God’s path to the Promised Land?

The need for biblical training has emerged like never before as a necessity for the next generation. Our children need to see morality elevated to the highest level of importance. Truth will be important to them if teaching it becomes important to their parents. They also need moral examples and training at school, not just at church and home. They need to learn the facts of history, unabridged and without revision. Then they need to learn how history reveals the consequences of men’s actions, both good and bad. We cannot expect the next generation to accept morality and biblical truth as a conviction if deliberate training has not been planned. Neither can we expect them to have the boldness and competency to intellectually defend the faith if they have not been trained.

Our nation was not founded by passive cable news junkies who theorized about the way things ought to be. Our founders took action – decisive, moral, and prudent. The next generation needs us to be resourceful, courageous, and deliberate about carving a path for their future. Let’s get busy, and go in a spirit of prayer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Five Ways to Improve the Entitlement Syndrome

Are parents today spoiling their kids? There seems to be a never-ending discussion today about the entitlement syndrome, spoiled kids, and inflated self-esteem. Concern for younger generations has increased because narcissistic behavior has become far too common. In some cases, parents believe their generation is the most spoiled yet, and they want the tide to change with their children. Rather than continuing the discussion about everything that’s wrong with young people and all the ways parents develop attitudes of entitlement, here is a positive approach to the topic. Consider these five traits that we should admire. Parents can approach these as traits to instill in their children, and kids can approach them as virtues to value and develop.

1. Earn something by working hard to get it. Don’t expect everything to be given to you, and don’t give to children who refuse to earn anything. In the real world, we get what we earn because the handouts eventually run out. We perform a disservice to our children when we cultivate a belief that everything is free. In addition, we rob children of the satisfying joy one feels when they acquire something from hard work. Feelings of entitlement makes one feel unimportant and incapable when the handouts cease. Acquiring the virtue of a hard work ethic not only complies with a biblical command (2 Thess. 3:10), it also strengthens one psychologically.

2. Contribute to the family. Everyone needs to pitch in and help in some way. While it may be the parent’s duty to pay the bills and cook the meals, no one should get a free ride. This is not to suggest that children should be required to pay their parents for room and board, but it is suggesting that children should contribute to make the family function. This begins as soon as children are old enough to pick up their toys, and it continues when they are able to help rake the yard or drive to the store and pick up a gallon of milk. Narcissists don’t contribute; they mooch. We don’t have to worry about kids becoming self-centered if they grow up contributing to the team.

3. Donate your time to help others. We all love our free time, our hobbies, and our entertainment. If we are not careful, our homes could become houses of self-centered occupants who rarely operate beyond self-gratifying behavior. Everyone should be a giving person, but it’s critical to remember that we are not truly giving people if we give without sacrifice. Learning this personal discipline begins with donating one’s time. Helping your kids become involved in ministry or charity work is honorable, but giving time should begin at home. Children should help mom and dad, siblings, and friends. Watch for warning signs such as inflexibility or a refusal to be inconvenienced in any way. Children need to learn that their time has not been given to them solely for their self-appointed enjoyment. Christians surrender their time to God to be spent as servants of Christ. Our kids need to learn this early.

4. Solve problems yourself. Kids don’t need to be bailed out every time; they need to learn to work out problems on their own. We need our kids to grow strong, not dependent. If we don’t permit our children take the knowledge we have taught them, apply it to their own problems, and work out a solution themselves, how can we expect them to function independently when they are adults? It’s not always easy to back off, but it’s productive. When you must intervene because the problem exceeds your child’s ability, intervene only as little as possible. Stay on the sidelines and coach as much as you can, but let the kids play the game. Wise parents teach problem-solving skills rather than solve all the problems themselves.

5. Be content when you don’t get everything you want. To not have it your way, right away, almost seems un-American. But it’s reality. Children need to learn contentment or they will never experience happiness as adults. They need to learn to be content even when the answer is “no.” That is a lesson they will never learn if they never hear “no.” When deciding whether to answer “yes” or “no,” consider their health, that is, their spiritual and emotional health. Are they acquiring an attitude of discontentment? Are they struggling to enjoy life that cannot be customized according to their every individual preference? This doesn’t reflect an emotionally strong kid. Perhaps they need to be given some time to adjust to reality, learning how to enjoy life when they don’t get everything they want.

 Let’s take a positive approach to parenting and childhood. Rather than worrying over the many possible negative outcomes that we dread, take more thought about how to proactively initiate traits that will develop character. Acquire a hard work ethic, contribute to the team, make sacrifices, develop problem-solving skills, and learn to be content. Children with these traits are much more likely to grow into emotionally strong, healthy adults who are equipped to face all of life’s spiritual battles.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Value of Study Partners

“What can I do to make better grades?” When answering this often asked question, we first focus on study skills. If you are not already using the help of another person to study, finding a study partner may make a considerable difference. When students have to verbalize their answers to another person, the experience resembles the test taking experience much better than studying alone. The accountability provides a much better test practice scenario, and it gives the student a better assessment of their actual level of preparedness for the test.

Who is the best study partner? For many reasons, mom or dad do the best at getting the job done. You can read about the reasons why in "Why Parents Make the Best Study Partners," but the main reason involves the motivation parents have in making sure their children do well in school. If a parent is not available, siblings and friends can be effective study partners. As long as study partners are advanced enough to read the material and check their partners’ accuracy, they can help.

Study partners have to be responsible enough to thoroughly work together until the content is learned. For example, two students may be quizzing each other with their study guides for a history test. If a student misses a question, the partner needs to repeat the question periodically until it is answered correctly. If partners are helping each other with math problems, they need to be willing to stick with the task until each partner fully understands and works the problems alone. Study partners need to do more than give advise; they need to help each other until problems can be performed independently.

Students of all ages can benefit from partnerships, but younger children may require more instruction and supervision. For instance, third graders may need instructions like, “Quiz each other with multiplication flash cards; switch once someone has answered correctly ten times; both of you must complete six rounds each.” Older students who are already acquainted with rigorous, Christian school academics know how to study for the test, but they may need supervision to make sure time is used wisely.

Partners need to learn how to give clues before simply giving away an answer. They should help each other think of cues and mnemonics to help them remember difficult content. This is how the Guinness World Records holder, Chao Lu, memorized over 67,000 digits of pi. The sillier the association or cue, the better students will remember them.

Research reveals that students who study with a parent outperform those who study alone, but the research also reveals that students who perform the best study with a parent and a peer. Perhaps it’s time to increase your use of study partners.