Expressions from our Youngest

Expressions from our Youngest
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Friday, May 4, 2012

Shepherding a Child's Heart

Amenda Pelser's book club on Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp has an opportunity this week to analyze Chapter 8:  Embracing Biblical Methods - Communication and Chapter 9:  Embracing Biblical Methods - Types of Communication.  These chapters really spoke to my heart because communication with the young has been stressed in my own homeschooling methodology.  Just click on the link to participate.

I would like to start out with this quote:  "When children are little, we often fail to engage them in significant conversation.  When they try to engage us, we respond with uninterested uh-huh's.  Eventually, they learn the ropes.  They realize that we are not interested in what goes on in them.  They learn that a 'good talk' for us is a 'good listen' for them." (p. 76)  Children are some of the smartest people in the world when they are listened to and instructed with loving care.  Sometimes I would much rather talk to beautiful children rather than stuffy adults.  Parents need to find ways of engaging them in the truth about life of which God is the Author.

Our children do learn from hearing God's wisdom, as the priority, and also hearing our wisdom when we are committed to following the Faith.  Furthermore, our children have to learn to apply this wisdom to their own lives and to the world they observe around them.  This is why my approach to journal writing for the very young has been so effective for my children (  The children learn to express and act on the abundance of their hearts through the use of stories and biblical realities, oftentimes, before any bad behavior occurs and correction needs to take place.  Therefore, Nucleus of Life (NOL) is preventive because it avoids just turning to God's assistance as a reaction to behavior but rather equips children with internal wisdom of the heart to discern the appropriate behavior in various situations by providing them conceptual experience from an engaging story to apply to God's Word.  One of the reasons many children may find it a challenge to write or communicate is their lack of knowledge or experience in which they can retrieve information.  Why not incorporate good stories into lessons to foster conceptual information from which they can draw on to communicate...both in writing and verbally?

To begin, Mr. Tripp says, "You need to look at the world through his or her eyes." (p. 79)  What better way to engage your very young child to life events through good stories in picture books?  In fact, this is one of the methods used by the greatest Teacher Himself...the use of parables.  Sometimes it is very challenging for the young to grasp just text on a page from a book.  There are many great picture books to get them started in understanding concepts and fostering communication skills through dialogue about stories.  In fact, there is no telling where your dialogue will take you when God's Wisdom is applied to lessons.  It can open up the greatest of discoveries in life.

For example, I just read "Clever Jack takes the Cake" by Candice Fleming to my five year old. 

After the story, I asked him..."What would you tell a friend if he asked you 'what this story was about?'"  While I was asking him, I turned to the page with the written invitation from the king on it and asked, "Who wrote this invitation?"  (He knew what an invitation was)

He said, "the king" wrote it. 

Then I asked, "Who received it?"  He said, "He invited the poor boy to the party."  (We've been doing this for two years now.) 

Then I asked him, "Was the king rich or poor?"  He said, the king was "rich."  I said, "O.K. - there's your sentence." 

He said, "The rich king invited the poor boy to the party."  I wrote it down on an index card to remember it for the following day when he writes it in his journal.

The next step was to open the bible to Luke 14:12-24 to introduce the parable about the master inviting the poor to his banquet.  This fostered our dialogue to focus on the right way to treat the poor and the true intentions to have when we serve others because scripture provides the appropriate heart-induced instruction for behavior.  Dialogue opens up to biblical realities which expands one's thoughts to focus on what is beautiful and good. 

The following day he went to write his sentence without any help or assistance from me at all.  He even retrieved it from his own memory.  This is awesome to see at five years old.  Anyone can do this.  At this age, kids are smarter than we think and just soke up knowlege when it is presented in a friendly way.  Sometimes, we turn to God's Word before he composes a sentence if he is having trouble expressing his thought.  This gives him valuable information too that enhances his rhetorical skills.

If I just read the parable to him at this age, he would not have been able to focus effectively enough on its true meaning.  The story book added an attractive concept to his understanding of the parable and greatly pre-exposed him to good information in an enjoyable way.  Also, the tasks of reading, drawing, coloring and writing about the story and parable enables him to think about the lesson for a longer period of time.  Every mother knows the challenge it is with the short attention spans of their young ones.  During this longer period, he is internally 'soaking up' the lesson.  Yes, like a sponge.

Mr. Tripp also mentions other areas "to help your child understand himself:"

1)  Developing "skills" (p. 79) - In drawing/coloring, writing and verbal with NOL

2)  "Help children to express themselves" (p. 79) - In drawing/coloring, writing, and verbal with NOL

3)  "Facilitate conversation" (p. 79) - with the use of a biblical concept as a conclusion or final word

4)  "Comprehend behavior and words" (p. 79) - through use and development of visual, auditory, and motor skills with NOL which extends dialogue about the lesson and commits it to memory more effectively for the very young

5)  "Discern matters of the heart" (p. 79) - nothing like that 'two-edged sword' as God's word brings true wisdom to the dialogue.

You can see how this method is very effective in not only "drawing out" (p. 79 and Prov. 20:5) matters of the heart but infusing into the heart some biblical wisdom that has a higher probability of being committed to memory or 'written on the heart' because a good story is harder to forget and adds to the dialogue.

Chapter 9 refers to types of communication which involve more than the typical rules, correction, and discipline.  "Richer communication" (p. 84) involves Encouragement, Correction, Rebuke, Entreaty, Instruction, Warning, Teaching, and Praying.  I wish I could write about all of them.  I've chosen to explain 'to Rebuke' because it censures inappropriate behavior as Mr. Tripp refers to Proverbs earlier which "weds extensive communication and the rod." (p. 74) 

Mr. Tripp states that it was necessary to teach his "children that there are some necessary limits on free speech."  I wouldn't teach it this way to my children because the Lord never 'limits' but expands, sheds light, and brings freedom.  Therefore, I would call it..."Avoiding hurtful language."  I also, like Mr. Tripp, teach my children never to "tell people we hate them."  At a first offense with this word used toward an individual, one needs to be adamant and rebuke by saying, "it is wrong and you don't want to hear speech like that again." Add to this some good instruction or biblical reference to possibly replace it with something kinder.  For example, say "I don't understand them"  because the Golden Rule applies here:  "What happened to treating others the way you would want to be treated?"  Would you want others to hate you?

This can be turned into a teaching moment, especially if it is a first offense.  Use the concordance or internet with a dictionary for the underlined words and reveal:

Proverbs 4:24 "Put away from you dishonest (intending to mislead) talk, deceitful (misleading others) speech put far from you." 

Sirach 23:15 says, "A man who has the habit of abusive (extremely offensive or insulting) language will never mature in character as long as he lives." 

Sirach 23:13 says, "Let not your mouth become used to coarse (rough) talk, for in it lies sinful matter." 

You can even refer to the Eighth Commandment:  "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" because using such a harsh word can give others a bad or faulty perception of one's character.  This could be like gossipping.  The word 'hate'  has nothing to do with proper justice for a wrong committed because we are called to even "love our enemies."  Hate is the opposite of love when it is in relation to human beings made in the image of God.  Therefore, it is the opposite of God who is all Love.  This is why it is so effective to call something 'hate speech.'  See how God's Word expands one's mind to limitless possibilities...true freedom.  There are tons of verses on speech.

To conclude, Shepherding a Child's Heart is a great read and really helps parents analyze their skills.  I am really enjoying it.  I wish I could add more to this post, but this has taken long enough already.  I've enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you and hope you have gained something from my post.

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