I have really been focusing on my children's character traits and hearts. These I think are more valuable than anything academic. Sometime after Brody was born, I researched this a lot to find ways I could teach them at home...most schools do not teach these. Oh how our lives would have been easier knowing these at a young age. I found a book/devotional a year or so ago called "Our 24 Family Ways". It was a little too deep for kids my age, so I put it aside and kept researching to find things more age appropriate. I have mainly been doing things on my own with mostly just communicating ALOT to my kids about various things. I really want them to have a solid character so I feel confident about their maturity before they hit the "real" world. I am not even sure that is possible. These years/ages are so crucial in their lives and how they will make decisions later (I feel). During this past week of writing this, God has shown me so many times how right my thinking is on this topic. I praise him for the wisdom, which I know only came from him. I am not that smart on my own :)
I was searching online and stumbled upon a website called Kids of Integrity (www.kidsofintegrity.com). It has around 30 character traits and all the lesson plans are free. We are focusing on one a week. I also had the priviledge of hearing the Duggars speak at Hearts at Home (you know...the couple that has 20 children). They also do something similiar in their home and had a list of 49 Godly Characters on their website. They said they focus on attentiveness FIRST when their kids are very little. This makes a lot of sense to me since that is the main component of the disobedience in my kids...they just don't listen. They don't answer when I call the first time...they interrupt...they do things their own way disregarding what we as parents have told them. If you can get your kids to listen to you the first time, you have accomplished a lot in their lives. The Kids of Integrity site breaks down each lesson with things like definition/object lessons, prayer examples, memory verses, games, crafts, bible stories, discipline strategies, other resources all focused on the one trait you are wanting to work on. Just the lesson on the attentiveness was 23 pages full of information! There is also a planning card at the end that you can print out so that you are not overwhelmed. You pick out the things from the lesson that you want to do and you have something for each day if you choose to do it that way. By focusing on one subject each week, both the children and parents will be trained by reptition and/or pattern and forming a habit or new character. It's also nice to focus on one behavioral thing - it's not so overwhelming. If after the week, you need more work, just keep working on it and repeating things. With these lesson plans, you can do as much or as little as you want. Our first week on attentiveness has looked liked this:
I had my children stand on chairs around our kitchen island where we cook together a lot. I figured by having them stand and look and listen to me at the counter would keep their attention. The first thing I said was that we were going to be working all week on being good listeners and being more attentitive. I had them repeat the word "attentive" several times. I used one source to help define what being attentive (this is a laminated sheet I got with my 24 Family Ways book called "48 Godly Character Qualities). Attentiveness is listening with our ears, eyes, and heart. I also used the 49 Godly Character Qualities that the Duggars use to say that attentiveness is showing concern...it shows the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions. We looked at Hebrews 2:1 "So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it." and also Proverbs 4:20-21 "My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don't lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart..." The key message is to convey to your child that one of God's commands is for children to obey their parents (Eph 6:1). In order to obey we must first listen; inattentiveness precedes disobedience. Choosing not to listen to parental instructions is directly related to disobeying God's command that children are to obey their parents.
After explaining what it meant to be attentitive, I told them that when they were not being attentitive and choosing not to listen to me, then they would have consequences. And it is so important to follow through on that part the first time you see them disobey this character trait (not continue to warn them). I told them that God is pleased when they are careful listeners and that as they learn to pay attention, they will become wise. Then we prayed together about it.
Next, we did a craft recommendation out of the Kids of Integrity lesson plan. We made "listening ears". Since Easter is coming up, I thought bunny ears were appropriate. I had them trace the pieces I prepared and then cut them out. Then I had them wear them to show they had good listening ears as I read a couple of stories in the bible about listening.
Brody has been very good at using his "listening" ears.
The stories I read on day one were from Mark 9:2-13; James 1:5, and Proverbs 4:1, 5-6, 2-22. The Kids of Integrity lesson plans give you all of these along with key concepts for each story and several quesions for discussion (to see how well they listened). These were very simple questions and the kids seemed to know the answers (If they were listening).
I finally discussed that we are demonstrating godly character when: we listen carefully to God, listen carefully and look at others when they speak, and listen to and follow instructions. This pleases God and mommy too!
Our memory verse for the week that I chose (the lesson plan gives you several to choose from) is: James 1:19 "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry".
And even more important, we as parents need to affirm their children when we witness them being good listeners. The lesson plan calls these "speaking blessings" and it provides several examples like: What a good listener you are or Thank you for listening the first time.
When I see them not listening I simply ask "Is that listening?" "What should you have said to mommy?" "Are you listening to what your brother/sister is saying?" This usually gets them back on track. If they choose to not listen, then it's consequence time.
We looked at two more stories from the bible. This time, both the stories I chose, were in their toddler bibles. The first one we read was the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-41. I found it in their Read with Me Bible on page 329.
The second one we read was about Samuel hearing God's voice in 1 Samuel 3. I found it in the Tiny Tots bible on page 159.
Both stories had questions and key concepts we could talk through at the end (in the lesson plan) to see how well we were listening to the story.
We also did review on what attentiveness means and listenting with our ears, eyes, and hearts. And of course practicing our skills all day long - which is a lot of work and reminders!
Again, we did reminders and practicing attentiveness along with our memory verse. Then to really practice our listening skills, I used the treasure hunt example on the Kids of Integrity lesson plan. The kids had to listen to me reading a description of a quality or noise of something in our home. Then find the next clue. Upon finding the last one, there they would find their treasure - the bible and a treat. Then we could talk about how the bible is a treasure and gives us clues and insight about how we should live - listening/obeying/attentitiveness being a major component of that. The kids really liked that.
Let me know if you want to borrow the cards that I already made up!
We were gone most of the day and just practiced our listening skills. Lots of reminders of how to listen well!
I use 4 different bible sources to read the stories from. Sometimes I use my regular bible but it doesn't keep their attention long - it's just a little too mature for them at this point...they need more of a story. So I have three "toddler" bibles we use - this will depend on which one has the story I need and illustrates it the best way. All three of theirs are very different - Jesus Storybook Bible, Read with Me Bible, and The Tiny Tots Bible Story Book. I think this is good for them to see that there are different "translations" to bibles. I also looked at a book called "Creative Correction". They had some good ideas for learning to be attentive. One example was to hide an old fashion alarm clock somewhere in the house and have it go off at a certain time and have the kids use their listening ears to find it. I may use this one next week.
This week Brock and I have been gone on a business trip. When I return we will repeat some of the attentiveness stuff and then move on to self control. This was to give you an example of some things you can do in a week with very little time each day. I had actually planned to do more but then we were a little more busy than I planned. We still talked a lot about attentiveness and being a good listener, just didn't do all the games, crafts, and stories. I encourage you to join me in building the character traits of your kiddos! It takes a little time but in the long run will be well worth it! Let me know if you have any questions!