Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fun Games to Play with Your Kids While Stuck in Traffic

One of the worst sounds ever is, "Mom, I'm booooooored."  It's more than just a bit of information, it comes along loaded with the bad attitude, body language and general grumpiness that we are all too familiar with.  "Why don't you read something? Why don't you play that favorite game?  Why don't you...." We feed them all the options we can come up with to just make that awful sound go away, but as usual the bad aura has already set in which means that they have decided that nothing in life is worth doing any more.  Instead of asking them what they'd like to do, just start playing your own game with them, and in a short period of time they'll get into it and out of the blue funk that was swallowing them up. Here are a few good ones.

For 2-6 year olds:
I Spy With My Little Eye  Think of an object in the room around you, notice its color and then say, "I see something green."  Let them start looking around and guessing what it is you have picked out.  They can only ask yes or no questions such as, Is it on the ground?  Is it on a tree?  Is it plastic? Is it smaller than my hand? etc.   When they guess it, the turns are reversed and time flies by much faster.

The Rhyming Game It's self-explanatory, just choose a common word and take turns thinking up as many words that rhyme with it.  Start with Street, then you can come up with, meet, greet, wheat, complete, feet, treat, seat, heat etc.  There is no winner or loser, just fun in helping them think of words and understanding what it means to rhyme.

For 5 on up:
Who am I?  Think of someone they know about, anyone from family and friends to a cartoon character they know or famous movie star.  They have to begin asking yes or no questions and the best ones to start with are: Are you a man? Are you a woman?  Are you alive today?  Are you famous?  Have I ever met you?  Are you a cartoon?  Are you yellow with square pants?  etc... When Mark was 5 he used to be Arnold Schwarzenegger every single time and we had to act surprised - he eventually expanded into being George Bush and Sponge Bob before he really got the hang of it.  Now he's a pro and can handle some pretty complex stuff.  Still it was fun!

20 questions - A game just like Who Am I for older kids and adults where you have to solve the clues before 20 questions are up.  With smaller kids, just let them keep asking until they get it and give them little clues so they don't get frustrated and give up. This is a great game to strengthen their skills in deductive thinking, and how to ask the right kind of questions to get the responses they need.

Country Capitols/ State Capitols - You may need to do some studying up on these if you don't know many, so it's just as good for you as it is for the kids!  Name a country or state and have them answer you with the capitol city.  Teach them some fun tricks to help them memorize, like when Mark used to forget Moscow as the capitol of Russia, I would moo like a cow (OK this part has to be done in private!) and he'd remember the word "cow" which would trigger the right answer.  The ones they get wrong, help them with the answer and go back to later to see if they got them.  With each time, you can add a few more new ones to the bunch to increase their knowledge.

What Tune is it?  This can only work if you are not totally tone-deaf!  Start humming a familiar tune and see if they can remember the words.  Easy!

There are a lot more than just these, but they have served me well over the years.  Just yesterday I was asked to do the Country Capitols game and to throw in some new ones - who would think a child would want to know his geography for fun?  Before you know it, traffic will lighten up and you'll be at your destination with a happy little camper sitting next to you.  Happy trails!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sweet Dreams are Made of These...

I just saw the movie, "Inception" with my family last night, action packed with tons of suspense and odd twists in the story.  It was the first time to see Leo Di Caprio as a daddy, and weird to see the creepy bad guy in "Batman Begins," play a rich businessman you almost want to like.  It was all about dreams, extracting people's dreams and inserting new dreams into people's heads.  All very surreal and at 2 and a half hours long, I enjoyed a pleasant nap half way through to wake up just as confused as I was when I dozed off.   I was entertained, and all the guys in my family liked it a lot, which made me happy to know they were happy.

One thing I couldn't get into was the way they treated dreams as so deep and profound, or the way they made great use of fear in dreams.  I'm just not into fear. I've learned a strange trick to turn my dreams at night to my favor if they get anywhere near scary or bothersome.  If a bullet is flying at me, I am somehow conscious that it isn't real but a dream, and I turn it into a bumblebee or a butterfly.  I force the scary things to become less threatening.  I scold the bad guys and tell them to be ashamed of themselves and watch them slink away with their heads hanging, and the monsters I just may turn into teddy bears having a picnic.  Every time I do that the emotional intensity of the dream just flattens out like someone had popped a balloon. The dream just turns to nonsense or I just wake up.

This all started when I was 7, when I had one of my terrifying recurring nightmares of being pushed off a high cliff.  In mid-air I remembered that I only fall off cliffs in dreams, which meant I could insert whatever I wanted to change my dream.  I placed a huge mattress at the base of the cliff, and then had a lovely time bouncing up and down when I reached the bottom.  The dream faded away pretty quickly after that.

These days I rarely remember a dream at all, and I think it's because my mind nullifies anything disturbing so quickly, that any dreams I might have are completely forgotten the moment I open my eyes.

I don't know if everybody is as aware of the fact that they can control their dreams, but I know all of us can control the fears and irritations we have during our waking hours.  I believe that once we know how to bind up negative attitudes and fears the moment they start to encroach on our thoughts, the easier we can handle the stresses of our daily lives.  For those who would just see this as a psychological trick, you're not going to get very far because psyching yourself out to feel good even when things are going wrong, doesn't change the fact that things are still going wrong!

Using faith to stop evil from harming us does more than give us an emotional sense of peace, but it actually stops concrete problems from happening in very real and practical ways.  There's a kind of stubbornness combined with faith that says just plain "NO YOU DON'T" to any spiritual force that is trying to tempt you with worry or fear or choosing what is wrong. It can become a part of who you are.  It's a faith that says no to the idea that God won't come through for you, no to the idea that if you humble yourself you'll just get hurt, no to the thought that your problems are just too overwhelming.  Faith knows how to put those attacking spirits to shame if you use it, and then the results in real life follow.

I've known various people who said, NO YOU DON'T to cancer, to drugs, to prostitution, to AIDS, to witchcraft, to depression, and are no longer victims of any of them.

You may not be able to turn a bullet into a butterfly, but you sure can turn around an attack on your life into a victory if you just learn how to fight back, and that's even better.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The not-so-obvious needs of a preteen

I'm the mom of two.  My 12 year old is a very obedient, sweet natured and good hearted.  He knows very well that there are times to be quiet and stay still to let mom and dad get their work done.  He respects our wishes, and stays, waits, hurries up to go, reads, writes, cleans, evangelizes, prays, stays up late and wakes up early according to whatever we tell him.  He always has a smile on his face and complies with our wishes with only a little bit of complaining from time to time.  But if he is ignored too much, his behavior will become much less pleasant and not because he is a bad boy, but because he is a growing child whose needs are not being met.

It's easy to assume that once your little ones have grown into big kids and less dependent on you for their every need, they can just be given orders and left on their own.  As long as you provide food on the table, clean clothes, sheets and towels, make sure they do their homework and don't tear up the house, you feel like your work is done.  But you're not even close.  Your job as a mother is not to ensure they can eat and clean up after themselves, or even that they bring home good grades from school.  Their need for you to be interested and involved in their development is as important, and even more so, as before.

Here are some pre-teens parenting tips:

1.  You will frequently find that they love to talk about total nonsense.  Don't just dismiss it as total nonsense!  They are going though a process in which their minds are processing more information and trying to sort it all out as they are beginning to understand more of the adult world.  Let them talk, listen, and comment on their ideas - even when they seem crazy.

2.  Push other duties aside from time to time to focus 100% on them.  You will be richly rewarded. Play a board game, go to a museum together, ride bikes and go out for treats just for fun.  Among the odd things they think and want to talk about, you will find jewels of information about their doubts or fears or ambitions that you can help them understand.  These are bits of information that they would never tell you if you just ask them those ignorant grown-up questions like, "What are your fears?" or, "What are your ambitions?"  Everyone knows the only answer to those dumb questions are, "Idunno."

3.  Laugh with them and enjoy their ridiculous ideas instead of treating them like they're stupid.  (You may never dream of calling your child such a thing, but you can make them feel it by the way you treat them.)  Remember what it was like at their age and how awkward it felt to be in that transition between little child to teenager.  Tell them funny stories of things you did at 12 to show them that you aren't so different.  Bringing up those old memories will help you have more empathy for what they're going through.

4.  By your actions, not just your words, let them know that they can still come to you for anything.  This is invaluable - soon they will be going through changes in their bodies and they'll need to know they can trust you to understand the strange things happening to their thoughts and feelings.  If you have made it clear to them that you think their rambling thoughts are a waste of time, they definitely will not feel confident to tell you how confused they feel as they grow.

5. Treasure this time while they are still talkative and openly dependent on you.  Prepare yourself, because your little one will soon become another creature altogether when puberty hits with all the hormones, mood swings and insecurities about their sudden changes.  Well-adjusted teens grow from well-loved preteens.

Preparing for Adolescence: Caution Changes AheadPreparing For Adolescence: How to Survive the Coming Years of Change