Parenthood is a tough gig. We have been blessed with three wonderful sons who are, thank God, grownups. My gratefulness that they are grown relates to the current hyper-competitive race to give babies an edge. Today I read a story that may bring a little sanity to infant competition.
Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos are actually creating baby Homer Simpsons, according to a new study reported by The Los Angeles Times.
That made me chuckle. Can you imagine spending a couple of hundred bucks on baby DVD’s and junior becomes Homer Simpson.
Mommy: What do you say when you drop your bottle?
Mommy: Are you hungry?
Perhaps the babies don’t literally become Homer but the study did find that for every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as “Brainy Baby” or “Baby Einstein,” they knew six to eight fewer words than other children. Parents aiming to put their babies on the fast track, even if they are still working on walking, each year buy hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of the videos.
Unfortunately it’s all money down the tubes, according to Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. Christakis and his colleagues surveyed 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota and determined their babies’ vocabularies using a set of 90 common baby words, including mommy, nose and choo-choo.
Are you ready for the amazing discovery?
Christakis said children whose parents read to them or told them stories had larger vocabularies.
Amazing. Who knew? Reading and interacting with your baby is better than watching a video? The whole trend to fast track toddlers is disturbing. I suppose every parent dreams of having a child that is really special. We need to start believing they are special the way they are designed and not by how we can “improve” them.
Gary Smalley wrote a book some time ago called “The Blessing” in which he encouraged modern fathers to pass spiritual blessings on to their children. He said that it’s more than taking them to church or praying with them or setting a good example. He talks about five practical ways to pass on a blessing.
- A meaningful touch. Jacob embraced and kissed and laid his hands on his sons and grandchildren. By giving a hug or a touch or an arm about the shoulder, we communicate love and a blessing. When children get loving touches from their parents, they are less likely to seek touch from harmful sources later in life. The Bible affirms this concept too. It relates this incident about Jesus:
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
One study has shown that it takes eight to ten meaningful touches each day to maintain emotional and physical health. If you can find ways to do that, your own children will be blessed.
- Verbal affirmation. Children long to hear their dads say, “I’m proud of you.” “You’ve done that well.” “I love you.” That is hard for many men. Get outside your comfort zone and learn to say those things but be sure you mean it. Kids have finely tuned sincerity (bovine excrement) meters. Don’t be phony.
- Pass along a blessing by attaching value. To bless means to honor. We honor our children by letting them know that they are valuable to us-they’re the most important people in the world to us. That means we sacrifice time for them. That means we look them in the eye when we talk to them, and we stop and we listen to them. When I surveyed my sons about their favorite memories all three related simple things like playing catch or coaching their teams. Those things mattered because they felt valued by the time spent with them.
- Picture a positive future for them. Jacob pronounced a positive future on Reuben and Judah and Dan and Asher and the others. We can bless our children by attaching high value to their gifts and then picturing for them a positive future.
“You really love people. You’d make a great salesman some day.”
“The way you love animals, you’d be a good veterinarian.”
“You want to be a policeman. That means you’re courageous.”
“The way you love church, you may be a great church leader some day.”
We have always tried to celebrate the uniqueness of our children.
- Bless your children is by an active commitment. It’s not enough to speak the words. There has to be a willingness in the parent to sacrifice for the child, to pray, to spend time in helping develop their gifts, to spend money for lessons and for higher education.
I came into this dad thing wanting a star athlete, a brilliant scholar or an amazing musician. I never stopped to consider how they were supposed to acquire those genes. I deepened my gene pool considerably when I married Joni but she could only contribute so much. They still have my genetic strand gumming up the mix. What I got were three guys ranging from average to good athletic ability. Intelligent but not Einsteins. What God gave me was three godly men of integrity. I have been blessed beyond my grandest dreams.
Allow your children to be who God designed them to be. In Deuteronomy we read these instructions.
Make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren.
Follow that simple advice and you will give them a blessing and receive many in return.