Martha & Greg Singleton

Martha & Greg Singleton

FAMTALKS

Pulitzer, Socrates, and "Okay, I guess"

“How was school today?”

“Fine.”

It was the first day of school here in Texas yesterday, and whether their kids were beginning kindergarten or senior year, most parents were eager to hear all about that first day.

Dying for details, we can be disappointed by the one-word answers, yet we don’t want to drill the kids with annoying, repeated questions.  

Maybe it’s time for one of my favorite lessons from my days as a journalism teacher: The Art of Asking Questions!

Rule number one: Never ask a question that can be answered simply “yes,” or “no.”

Did you have a good day?  Do you have homework? Did you find the $10,000 bill I tucked into your Frito bag?

Rule number two: Questions that begin with “what,” “who,” or “how” instead require detailed answers.

“What was the best part of your day?” “Who did you eat lunch with?” “How do you get to check out library books?”

Rule number three: Wait for the answer. Everyone needs a moment to think of what they want to say in response to a question.

Rule number four: After you get the initial answer, wait, expectantly, a little longer. Most people will need to fill the silence, and will begin to add details, giving you the real answer to your question.

Rule number five: Look the person in the eye, and respond with nods, and smiles of understanding and affirmation as they answer. That inspires them to keep talking.

The wonderful thing about interviewing our children is that the practice grows as they do. Interrogation, which none of us enjoy at any age, gives way to conversation, particularly valuable as they move from elementary to pre-teen and teen years.

Instead of letting information about someone making poor choices and suffering consequences at school turn into a parental lecture, make it a teachable moment instead by asking questions. “Why do you think she did that?” “What should he have done instead?” “How do you think you would handle the same situation?” In education, we call that the Socratic Method, and research shows it to be much more effective than lecture, as it leads the student to think and make conclusions that he or she will then own.

These conversations are especially effective as we lead our kids to develop compassion, courage, integrity and wisdom that they can apply to situations they encounter every day.

So, when you’ve made it through the brutal pick-up line traffic, or on the way home from football practice or gymnastics today, ask your children questions that would make Joseph Pulitzer and Socrates proud. You’ll be amazed at what your kids will tell you!

Strength to Overcome

 

Yesterday afternoon, I watched Joe Kovacs of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, heave a sixteen-pound shot put almost seventy-two feet. With that throw, he won the gold medal at this year’s Track & Field World Championships in Beijing. As incredible as that feat was, it really doesn’t even come close to the challenges that Joe has overcome to get there.

We met Joe’s mom, Joanna, when she contacted us about getting copies of our book, Let It Shine: Partnering with God to Raise World-Changers, for her mission trip to Uganda. She presented the books to Bishop Sabino of the Arua Diocese, who then distributed them to his staff and to the workers at the orphanages in the area. Uganda has been the site of a genocidal massacre that left thousands of orphaned children. The United Nations Under Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflicts said, “Uganda is the worst place on earth to be a child today.” Bishop Sabino is trying to change that.

We learned from mutual friends that Joanna was always a very joyful person who had a profound effect on everyone around her. That’s exactly the type of person who inspires us, someone we enjoy being around. What we didn’t know about Joanna was that her infectious joy filled her heart in spite of some difficult circumstances that she faced.

Joanna married Joseph Kovacs, Sr. in 1985. Four years later, Joe, Jr. was born, and they were a very close, happy family. Then, in 1996, Joe Sr. was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. He was given six months to live, and the Kovacs spent their entire savings to move to Germany for an alternative treatment. Joseph died July 14, 1997.

Joanna’s grief was overwhelming, and, she also had to answer a lot of questions for a seven-year-old boy who suddenly had no dad. She chose to deal with her own sorrow in order to focus on giving her son as full a life as possible. That meant that in addition to her work as a high school teacher, Joanna had to make sure that little Joe not only took care of his schoolwork, but also got to participate in all the sports that he loved so well. That wasn’t as much of a stretch for her as it would be for most moms. Joanna had been a great athlete in high school, throwing the discus and shot put. She also made sure that Joe was surrounded by as many male role models as possible, including relatives and coaches.

Joe responded by becoming a model student, and starring on the football field and in track. His passion was for the shot put. The small private high school he was attending didn’t have a coach for shot put and discus, and didn’t even have anywhere on the campus for him to practice. So, Joanna found the best coach available – herself. She took on the responsibility of refining Joe’s skills, while every day finding a place for him to toss an iron ball and an aerodynamic disc. Often, Joanna painted a circle in an empty parking lot to give Joe a place to throw. Just like he was in his work at school, Joe was an eager learner, and soon it became apparent that this guy was something special in the shot put circle. Joe told NBC Sports, “She [Joanna] had the mentality that if you’re going to do this, you’re going to do this right. You’re not going to just have a good time. You’re going to look to win.”

And win he did. After a successful collegiate career at Penn State, he became a standout in professional track and field. He is now among the favorites to win in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Parenting is never easy, but when you’re faced with the circumstances that Joanna Kovacs was, it can look insurmountable. You might be at the end of your rope right now, and you can’t see any way that you’ll be able to take care of all the demands of being a mom or a dad. Don’t give up. In the middle of all the turmoil, God sees your faithfulness. He promises us that He hears us and will give us strength to persevere.

"And he said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."  

II Corinthians 12:9-10 (The Message)

Powerful! World-changing!

 

We found this awesome blogpost by Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery.com, and wanted to share it with you. With school starting, this timely letter from a mom to her little boy gives a beautiful new message! Please be sure to read it.

http://momastery.com/blog/2015/08/18/before-school-conversation/

Worthwhile Thoughts

We invite you to read this excellent blog by Shaun Williams:

http://shaunspeaks.com/life/on-life-and-trees/

Sharp New Crayons!

 

They’re back!

Every grocery store, every Walmart and Target, every dollar store has them front and center.

School supplies! Tablets and spirals and endless rows of crayons and markers and pens and pencils and glue and scissors, the tips of which marked our progress from early childhood to official “big kid.”

Back packs and lunch boxes, brand new, allowing for the excitement of a fresh start, minus the stains and tears of the ones we were toting around in May.

And the newness didn’t stop there. There were new school shoes, clean and unscuffed, to replace the ones that had broken laces and that had begun to pinch our toes when school was out the year before.

As adults, we still remember the promise and hope of those fresh, clean notebooks, and sharp-tipped pencils and crayons, offering us a new chance to do things right, and to succeed.

The thrill of endless possibilities, of the chance to exchange old for new, of hope in the opportunity to learn and grow and be better than we were, is a gift that God gives to us every single day.

The Bible, in Lamentations 3:23-24, (The Message) says it this way:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
   his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!

This week, when we see those school supplies on display, let it be a reminder that each day is like a new school year, with God offering us a fresh start and endless possibilities.

I’m thankful that He gives me a backpack full of clean paper and sharp crayons, and I can’t wait to see what today’s assignment will be!

 

Setting Up Stones: The Next Generation

Providing unlimited sugar intake, extending bedtimes, and making unhurried trips to museums, parks and zoos are the standard perks of being a grandparent. We get to relive the wonderful moments of playtime, laughter and snuggles, without the responsibility for table manners, dental check-ups and homework charts.

But as Greg and I kept our grandsons over this past weekend, thoroughly delighting in each moment of Hex Bugs and Legos with the six-year-old and splashy baths and car-rolling with the one-year-old, I realized that there is one very serious responsibility I do bear in those boys’ lives.

Without preaching, without pressure, without expectations that lead to judgment, I must do my part to introduce and encourage them to develop their own relationships with Jesus!

Obviously, I make it a point to pray for them day by day.

Hopefully, I live before them in a way that demonstrates mercy, grace, and love, and that gives credence to my profession of faith.

But there is more!

In our book, Setting Up Stones: A Parent’s Guide to Making Your Home a Place of Worship, Greg and I encourage parents to purposefully plan activities, start conversations, and seek opportunities that would engage their children’s interest in knowing God.

Rather than lining the kids up at the table and reading or preaching to them, we suggest all kinds of projects and activities and conversation prompts that would have children of all ages asking questions, and eager to hear more.

Simple things, like collecting leaves or rocks on a walk, and talking about the wonderful variety found in God’s creation,  or using a game of hop scotch or horse to learn Bible verses about being kind, can open hearts and minds to the truth that we are loved and called by God.

Working together to assemble bags for the homeless, or to make cookies for a lonely neighbor can help develop an awareness of God’s call for us to love those who may be forgotten.

For some, the ideas will be popping about now. For others, reading our book could give you some simple, practical ideas of how to make this happen.

Either way, being a grandparent offers a great chance to infuse the moments that we spend with our sweet ones with hearts turned toward God, leaving a significant, eternal imprint on their lives.

 

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