Focus on the Family

Family Legacies

by J. Otis Ledbetter, Kurt Bruner

No matter who we are, where we live, or what our goals may be, we all have one thing in common: a heritage. That is, a social, emotional and spiritual legacy passed on from parent to child. Every one of us is passed a heritage, lives out a heritage, and gives a heritage to our family. It's not an option. Parents always pass to their children a legacy … good, bad or some of both.

A spiritual, emotional and social legacy is like a three-stranded cord. Individually, each strand cannot hold much weight. But wrapped together, they are strong. That's why passing on a positive, affirming legacy is so important and why a negative legacy can be so destructive. The good news is that you, with God's help, can decide to pass a positive legacy on to your children whether you received one or not.

Today, if we don't intentionally pass a legacy consistent with our beliefs to our children, our culture will pass along its own, often leading to a negative end. It is important to remember that passing on a spiritual, emotional and social legacy is a process, not an event. As parents, we are responsible for the process. God is responsible for the product. We cannot do God's job, and He won't do ours.

The Emotional Legacy

In order to prosper, our children need an enduring sense of security and stability nurtured in an environment of safety and love.

The Social Legacy

To really succeed in life, our children need to learn more than management techniques, accounting, reading, writing and geometry. They need to learn the fine art of relating to people. If they learn how to relate well to others, they'll have an edge in the game of life.

The Spiritual Legacy

The Spiritual Legacy is overlooked by many, but that's a mistake. As spiritual beings, we adopt attitudes and beliefs about spiritual matters from one source or another. As parents, we need to take the initiative and present our faith to our children.

The Emotional Legacy

Sadly, many of us struggle to overcome a negative emotional legacy that hinders our ability to cope with the inevitable struggles of life. But imagine yourself giving warm family memories to your child. You can create an atmosphere that provides a child's fragile spirit with the nourishment and support needed for healthy emotional growth. It will require time and consistency to develop a sense of emotional wholeness, but the rewards are great.

A strong emotional legacy:

Which characteristics would you like to build into the legacy you pass along to your children? Even if you don't hit the exact mark, setting up the right target is an important first step.

The Social Legacy

In order to prosper, our children need to gain the insights and social skills necessary to cultivate healthy, stable relationships. As children mature, they must learn to relate to family members, teachers, peers and friends. Eventually they must learn to relate to coworkers and many other types of people such as salespeople, bankers, mechanics and bosses.

Nowhere can appropriate social interaction and relationships be demonstrated more effectively than in the home. At home you learned — and your children will learn — lessons about respect, courtesy, love and involvement. Our modeling as parents plays a key role in passing on a strong social legacy.

Key building blocks of children's social legacy include:

The Spiritual Legacy

Parents who successfully pass along a spiritual legacy to their children model and reinforce the unseen realities of the godly life. We must recognize that passing a spiritual legacy means more than encouraging our children to attend church, as important as that is. The church is there to support parents in raising their children but it cannot do the raising; only parents can.

The same principle applies to spiritual matters. Parents are primary in spiritual upbringing, not secondary. This is especially true when considering that children, particularly young children, perceive God the way they perceive their parents. If their parents are loving, affirming, forgiving and yet strong in what they believe, children will think of God that way. He is someone who cares, who is principled and who loves them above all else.

Here are five things you do that predict whether your children will receive the spiritual legacy a Christian parent desires. Do you:

  1. Acknowledge and reinforce spiritual realities? Do your children know, for example, that Jesus loves everyone? That God is personal, loving and will forgive us?
  2. View God as a personal, caring being who is to be loved and respected?
  3. Make spiritual activities a routine part of life?
  4. Clarify timeless truth — what's right and wrong?
  5. Incorporate spiritual principles into everyday living

The Legacy You Want to Give

Parents can evaluate how well they're passing on a spiritual legacy to their children by answering these questions.

by J. Otis Ledbetter, Kurt Bruner

We all have good and bad parts to the legacy we have inherited. The key is to move forward from here. For some, taking a closer look at the legacy they've been given helps them assess the legacy they want to pass on. After considering your past, here are some practical tips for the future:

Decide what you'll keep: You probably have things you received that are wonderful and need to be kept and passed on. Other things may need to be thrown out. Or, perhaps you have a weak legacy that needs strengthening.

Whatever you received, you can now intentionally pass along the good. This isn't always easy. If you saw hypocrisy in your parents' lives, you may be tempted to throw everything out even though much of what your parents modeled was good. Don't. That would be like burning down the house to get rid of some bugs.

Realize that God can redeem even the "bad stuff" in your legacy. Unfortunately many of us have parts of our legacy that are weak or even awful. Maybe one of your parents was an alcoholic or abusive or didn't provide the nurturing you needed. In today's society, the stories of such families are common. You may be asking, "How do I give something I didn't receive? Nobody modeled this stuff for me."

Hope is not lost. Consider the story of Josiah from the Old Testament in the Bible. His father and grandfather were involved in many wicked things, including idol worship that threatened the entire nation. But after 8-year-old Josiah became king of Judah, he reversed that trend. He sought God and purged Judah of idols, repaired the temple and saved a nation.

Like Josiah, you can choose which things in your legacy are no good and throw them away. It's important to break the cycle of hurt by leaving bad things behind and creating a new legacy. If you don't know God, this is a good time to introduce yourself. Legacies are not easily broken and always benefit from His guidance.

Chart a new course as you begin a positive legacy for yourself and those you love. Research suggests that most fathers will parent the way they were parented. That means only a minority of fathers will change their parenting style — even if their parenting is wrong! Today, you can take positive steps to design a new heritage for yourself and your family.

Emotional Legacy Evaluation

Answer each question by circling the number that best reflects the legacy you have received from your parents. Then add up your score.

1. When you walked into your house, what was your feeling?

  1. Dread
  2. Tension
  3. Chaos
  4. Stability
  5. Calm
  6. Warmth

2. Which word best describes the tone of your home?

  1. Hateful
  2. Angry
  3. Sad
  4. Serious
  5. Relaxed
  6. Fun

3. What was the message of your family life?

  1. You are worthless.
  2. You are a burden.
  3. You are okay.
  4. You are respected.
  5. You are important.
  6. You are the greatest.

4. Which word best describes the "fragrance" of your home life?

  1. Repulsive
  2. Rotten
  3. Unpleasant
  4. Sterile
  5. Fresh
  6. Sweet

5. Which was most frequent in your home?

  1. An intense fight
  2. The silent treatment
  3. Detached apathy
  4. A strong disagreement
  5. A kind word
  6. An affectionate hug

Results:

Above 24 = Strong emotional legacy

19 - 24 = Healthy legacy

14 - 18 = Mixed legacy - good and bad elements

10 - 13 = Weak emotional legacy

Below 10 = Damaged emotional legacy

Social Legacy Evaluation

Answer each question by circling the number that best reflects the legacy you have received from your parents. Then add up your score.

1. Which words most closely resemble the social tone of your family?

  1. Cruel and abusive
  2. Cutting sarcasm
  3. Chaotic and distant
  4. Noncommunicative but stable
  5. Secure with open communication
  6. Loving and fun

2. What was the message of your home life with regard to relationships?

  1. "Step on others to get your way."
  2. "Hurt them if they hurt you."
  3. "Demand your rights."
  4. "Mind your own business."
  5. "Treat others with respect."
  6. "Put others before yourself."

3. How were rules set and enforced in your home?

  1. Independent of relationship
  2. In reaction to parental stress
  3. Dictatorially
  4. Inconsistently
  5. Out of concern for my well-being
  6. In the context of a loving relationship

4. Which word best characterizes the tone of communication in your home?

  1. Shouting
  2. Manipulation
  3. Confusing
  4. Clear
  5. Constructive
  6. Courteous

5. How did your family deal with wrong behavior?

  1. Subtle reinforcement
  2. Accepted in the name of love
  3. Guilt trip
  4. Severe punishment
  5. Discussion
  6. Loving, firm discipline

Results:

Above 24 = Strong social legacy

19 - 24 = Healthy legacy

14 - 18 = Mixed legacy — good and bad elements

10 - 13 = Weak social legacy

Below 10 = Damaged social legacy

Spiritual Legacy Evaluation

Answer each question by circling the number that best reflects the legacy you have received from your parents. Then add up your score.

1. To what degree were spiritual principles incorporated into daily family life?

  1. Never
  2. Rarely
  3. Sometimes
  4. Frequently
  5. Almost always
  6. Consistently

2. Which word captures the tone of how you learned to view/relate to God?

  1. Absent
  2. Adversarial
  3. Fearful
  4. Casual
  5. Solemn
  6. Intimate

3. How would you summarize your family's level of participation in spiritual activities?

  1. Nonexistent
  2. Rare
  3. Occasional
  4. Regimental
  5. Active
  6. Enthusiastic

4. How were spiritual discussions applied in your home?

  1. They weren't
  2. To control
  3. To manipulate
  4. To teach
  5. To influence
  6. To reinforce

5. What was the perspective in your home regarding moral absolutes?

  1. If it feels good, do it!
  2. There are no absolutes.
  3. Let your heart guide you.
  4. Dogmatic legalism
  5. Moderate conservatism
  6. Clear boundaries

Results:

Above 24 = Strong spiritual legacy

19 - 24 = Healthy legacy

14 - 18 = Mixed legacy — good and bad elements

10 - 13 = Weak spiritual legacy

Below 10 = Damaged spiritual legacy


Summer Celebrations

These activities aim to give your family simple fun that encourages creative growth in your children.

by Bruce Van Patter

"Mom, I'm bored. I don't know what to do."

Don't you dread those words? For months, kids have been counting the days until summer vacation. The wait seemed endless. Then, barely a few days into the golden promise of months of freedom, those same kids are at a loss as to how to enjoy them. It's like finally getting a long-awaited book in the mail, only to find all the pages blank.

Welcome to summer.

But, you know, blank doesn't have to be bad. A piece of blank paper holds a world of possibilities to a creative thinker. A blank slate means a fresh start.

One of my favorite summers as a child involved a blank tape. My cousin Ron and I faced summer days like Lewis and Clark, always forging into unknown territory of our imaginations. One year, we found a reel-to-reel tape recorder with two speeds. With a little experimentation with a microphone, we discovered we could make our voices high and zippy, like Alvin and the Chipmunks. What fun we had! We spent hours — no, days — experimenting. I still remember clearly the interview we did with The World's Tiniest Man.

Many kids today find such experimenting hard to do. Why? We live in a pre-packaged world. This is especially true for kids when it comes to entertainment. Generations past have created their own fun with impromptu games, secret clubs, stories of imaginary lands. Today, all those things are a click away. Your child was born with a flexible, healthy imagination. But to keep it that way, you'll need to help him.

Summer Celebrations are here to help you.

What is the goal of these activities?

They aim to give your family simple fun that encourages creative growth in your children. The activities are built on interesting or little-known holidays and anniversaries. Some involve learning a skill, some have drawing to do, some call you to venture outdoors. Many include brainstorming. But I've tried to keep them easy to do — no gathering of art materials, no long hours of preparation — while giving them a sense of whimsy and discovery.

I hope these ideas will help your family grow closer as you all explore your creativity. Have fun! And this time, when your child asks you for something fun to do, you won't have to draw a blank. You'll draw on your family's creative energy!


Brainstorming

Brainstorming is the best way to think of a whole pile of potential answers to a problem.

by Bruce Van Patter

Thomas Edison said, "To have a great idea, have a lot of them."

Easy for Tom to say. The average child today finds it very difficult to come up with a variety of ideas in response to a problem. He is most likely to grab the first idea that pops into his head. That idea will be a borrowed one — usually from television. Kids are told that when taking a test and they unsure of an answer, they should go with their first idea; it's usually the right one. But in creativity, the first idea is almost always a cliché.

That's why many family activities should include brainstorming.

Brainstorming is a key part to the creative process. It's the best way to think of a whole pile of potential answers to a problem. It also can be tons of fun. Here are some helpful tips:

Brainstorm as a family.

Creativity can thrive in a group if the environment is right. It doesn't have to be a solitary child staring at a blank piece of paper. Brainstorming can be a team sport. Just plop into some comfortable chairs or sit around a table and begin to suggest ideas to the posed problem. An adult should jot ideas down as they come out.

Accept all ideas.

Make the tone positive. Even if an idea obviously won't work, write it down or hear it out. Not only will the youngest of your kids feel included, that idea may be a stepping-stone to another, more useful answer. However, when I work with kids, there are times I limit them. I do tell them that we want to stay away from violent ideas or bathroom humor. If you have any restrictions like that, tell them up front rather than embarrassing someone right after they've shared their idea.

Limit the distractions.

Turn off the television, radio and anything that might pull away a child's attention. Try it outside, lying on the lawn. Do it while traveling in the car. I find that my most productive brainstorming times have been on long walks with my son.

Push beyond the obvious.

As I've worked with children, I've found they need a gentle, encouraging push to get beyond that first line of overused ideas. So if you're all dreaming up names for a super hero who's a bear, know the first answer will be "Super Bear!" Gratefully accept it, then say something like, "Great idea! But what else could we name him?" Once your child gets past the initial shock that there might possibly be another answer, she'll come up with more. And in the end, she'll see how much better the fifth idea was than the first one.


Family Fun on Little-Known Holidays

Find fun and educational activities for your children this summer.

by Bruce Van Patter

June 5 — National Trails Day

According to the American Hiking Society*, which created this holiday, National Trail Day exists to "bring the next generation outside and into the wonder of the natural world." It's a great day to celebrate your family and the beauty of God's creation.

Hiking with small children, however, can be challenging. Many parents find the thought daunting. The key to a successful family nature walk is to make it child-friendly, say Mark and Amy Reif, avid hikers and parents of three young children. They've been taking to the trails across the country since their oldest was still in a backpack. As early as age 2, their children have enjoyed hikes of a mile or more. "We try to make it exciting for them," the Reifs said, "like letting them play in a stream, or climb a tree. Sometimes even just looking for the color trail markers keeps the kids going."

Frequent breaks are encouraged. "We stay flexible about time," they add. "Our kids are free to stop and touch things. We let them investigate. Sometimes we just stand and listen to sounds — or hear the lack of sounds."

Combining the Reifs' wisdom with advice from the American Hiking Society, here are tips on making your family hiking experience a great one:

Be prepared — take with you plenty of water and snacks for when kids tire. If you're hiking while on vacation, look at some books in advance about the area in which you'll walk. That will help your children know what to look for. Or try bringing along a small field guide on birds or wildflowers.

Be reasonable — don't tackle too much too soon. That doesn't necessarily mean flat trails; a short climb over rocks or a stroll around a pond might be just the right length.

Be flexible — be off the clock as much as possible. Allow for distractions. Let your kids control the pace and, at times, the direction. The goal is exploration, not getting there and back in the expected time.

Be safe — keep your children in sight at all times. Trails with beautiful vistas can have dangerous drops. Also, a child can get lost very quickly if he wanders off the trail. Teach them that if they do get lost, they need to stay put until you come to them.

Ready to hit the woods? To add a creative edge, turn your time outdoors into a Scavenger Hike or Town Treasure Hunt.

Happy Trails!

•••

June 8 — First Commercial Ice Cream

Ah, the creamy sweetness of a spoonful of ice cream. The delicious chill, the smooth glide down the throat — it's just the thing for a hot summer night. What would summer be without ice cream? It's the perfect match.

In fact, the whole of July is set aside as National Ice Cream Month. But we'll celebrate it this day, the anniversary of the first commercially made and advertised ice cream in America. In 1786, a Mr. Hall of Chatham Street in New York City put an ad in the newspaper to tell customers that he was now in the business of selling ice cream.

Not that ice cream was a new thing. Here are some highlights of ice-cream history:

Soda jerks created their own language for the orders they'd call out. See if you can match the food with the wacky name they gave it.

Soda Jerk Term What Was Ordered
Cow juice Glass of milk
Fly cake Raisin cake
Dog biscuit Cracker
Mug of murk Coffee
Barrel of red mud Strawberry milkshake
House boat Banana split
Dog soup Water

Other words for water: chaser of "Adam's ale," "city juice" and "tin roof" (as in "on the house")

Which leads to today's activity for your family. Like many imagination exercises, this starts with a "what if" question. What if Mr. Hall had not been a New York businessman? What if instead of stopping in the big city, he went out into the wilderness to perfect his recipes?

What if his first ad was for Mountain Man Ice Cream?

Think of the strange names he would have for ice cream and toppings! On second thought, let me think of some. Use my Mountain Man Ice-Cream Menu to get your kids to place orders for an ice-cream sundae adventure. They may have no idea what they're getting. That's the fun of it! Here's the translation, so you know what they're ordering.

Mountain Man Menu Item Actual Topping
Oil slick Chocolate syrup
Tree sap Butterscotch syrup
Beetle shells Peanuts
Boiled tree roots (sliced) Bananas
Ants Brown sprinkles (jimmies)
Coal dust Crushed chocolate cookies
Hot-spring swamp bottom Hot fudge
Cave slime Peanut butter
Sun-baked mud drops Chocoloate chips
Pebbles M&M's®
Creek foam Whipped cream
Twigs Pretzel sticks

If you don't have all these ingredients, don't worry. Just tell them you're out of that item right now. Tell them you've just sent Jed out to dig up some more. If you have something else in the fridge or cabinet that might work, just make up a "natural" name for it and hand-write it on the menu. Also, you may want to limit the number of choices your kids can make.

Have a few minutes on a hot summer night? Then dish up some family fun!


Little-Known Holidays to Celebrate

Find fun and educational activities for your children this summer.

by Bruce Van Patter

June 14 — World Juggling Day

Parents are expert jugglers. We can keep three, four, five people's schedules carefully spinning through the course of a day with scarcely a drop — and that's not even mentioning our skill at balancing a budget. It's quite a feat, though not exactly one known to thrill kids. But put three balls in the air at the same time! Ah, now that's something to make their eyes light up.

There's something amazing about juggling, something almost magical. It seems to push aside gravity for a few seconds while hands make objects dance in mid-air.

And juggling, though it looks difficult, is easy enough for a child to learn the basics in a day or two.

To celebrate World Juggling Day, I have two activities for you.

First, for kids and adults willing to give juggling a try, learn how to juggle* from a page I've created with simple, animated steps.

Then, for those of you who'd like something the family can do around the dinner table — and don't consider it fun to have dinner rolls flying around the room — I have an activity page you can print. (Call it a play-sheet; who would ever want to do a work-sheet in the summer?) On it is a jester bear who is waiting for your family to draw the wacky things you think he's desperately trying to juggle.

Hey, there's something fun in the air today.

Want to catch it?

•••

June 24 — Birthday of a Musical Instrument

On June 24, 1846, an instrument was born. Its inventor, a Belgian musician named Adolphe Sax, had combined the body of a brass instrument with the reed of a woodwind. I can imagine him in his workshop, holding up his creation into a ray of sunlight that glistened off the shiny brass. I can hear him say, "Oho!" — it sounds more French than "Aha!" — "What shall I call zees amazing new instrument? But of course! It eez, a Sax-ophone!"

Name an instrument after oneself? Why not? Sounds like fun.

Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone. John Philip Sousa created the sousaphone. And Elbert Xylo, of course, fashioned the first xylophone. Okay, I made that last one up. But that's my idea for June 24 — making up a crazy instrument and naming it after yourself.

And like old Adolphe, let's make this activity one of combining elements. This is a key part of the creative process: connecting previously unconnected things.

This will be a brainstorming and drawing activity

You can do this around the table. All you'll need is paper and something to draw with. It might also help to have a book with pictures of instruments.

First, brainstorm about things that make noise. They could be parts of an instrument: keys, a mouthpiece, tubes, a bell, strings.

Instrument parts Other noisemakers Personal interest
Keys Pots Soccer ball
Mouthpiece Thunder Paint brush
Tubes Car horn Book
An opening or bell Stick against spinning bike wheel Computer
Strings
A surface to hit (drum)

Then put some elements together in a simple drawing of your instrument. It doesn't have to be able to actually work. Just looking funny is enough.

How then do you name it? You could just add ophone to the end. Like a Tylerophone. Or make it a kind of horn, like a Katie Horn. Or just make up a weird name. I call the strange thing pictured above a boom-quack tooter.

What wacky instrument can you make?


Next Steps and Related Information

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