Mealtime with Kids

Posted January 30th, 2010 by Emerging Parents

from the Natural Foods blog -

The American Child’s Amazing Shrinking Palate by Anna Soref –

It’s a scene from many an American dinner table: Mom and dad are enjoying typical dinner fare, say a piece of fish with rice and steamed green beans. At the same table, Brother and Sister are dipping chicken nuggets and ‘tater tots in ketchup.

When did kid cuisine become a norm in America? When did we start believing that children require “kid food” just like pets require pet food?

Growing up in the 1970s I had SpaghettiOs and Kraft mac and cheese, but it was the exception, not the norm. Every parent is entitled to shortcuts on busy nights. That’s not what I am talking about. I am referring to the belief that kids can’t eat “grownup” food, they require “kid food”—carbohydrates, sweets and animal protein, milk and orange cheeses and for the adventurous, a narrow assortment of fruits (bananas, apples oranges) and vegetables (peas, carrots and corn).

In watching parents through the years (I have an 8-year old) I’ve witnessed those who subscribe to this belief system. “Oh, he won’t eat anything green” or “We have to make him a separate meal every night, he wouldn’t touch what we have.”

When my daughter was a toddler, I watched the majority of parents give their kids the same tastes and textures repeatedly, primarily in the forms of salted and sweetened carbs—think Goldfish and Honeynut Cheerios. The savvy parents doled out organic versions of these.

I recently spoke with Dr. Alan Greene who has done research on our kids’ dwindling palates. He found that there is a 36-month window when we can imprint (yes, like ducks) on certain foods. The key though, is that it takes six to 10 exposures of a food to imprint; in his research he found that 94 percent of American families gave up by the fifth try.

So what’s the take-away here for retailers? In addition to offering healthy convenience foods for kids, offer family meal cooking classes, bring in speakers who can discuss toddler nutrition and stock quality books that address the importance of a varied diet for children.

Christian Parenting

Posted January 28th, 2010 by Emerging Parents

This month’s issue of Christianity Today focused on raising children in a Christian household. The articles are evangelical in their assumptions about faith, but they offer from good insights for all types of Christians. Happy reading -

The Myth of the Perfect Parent

Spiritual Lives All Their Own

Back to School: Rethink Learning

Posted September 8th, 2009 by Emerging Parents

back to school

As school ramps up again, discussions regarding how to improve our schools also get going. No matter if you love public education or not, I think everyone agrees that the system could be better. Be it entire schools that are failing, the emphasis on test scores over actual learning, or the elimination of arts – there are vital aspects of education that are leaving our nation’s children wanting.

I’ve been intrigued by the campaign at Rethink Learning Now to encourage our government to support schools where actual learning takes place and where all children have access to a good education. They have recently released a series of public service announcements to promote their cause. The videos are a bit extreme, but make some very good points. I enjoyed the one below about a “teacher’s draft.” It asks – what if all schools had fair and equal access to the best teachers?

So what’s your response? Do you agree with the goals of the Rethink Learning Now campaign? How else do you think we should rethink education?

Back to School: Hopes and Fears

Posted September 7th, 2009 by Emerging Parents

back to school

By Bill Shiell

My greatest hopes, fears, etc. for the school year are related to the uninformed Christian parents who pull children out of public schools on faulty logic and reasoning. We are public school people, and we’re committed to the program here. We have a good school and a good school system. It’s not perfect, and no school is. Just as the private school I attended as a child seemed perfect but wasn’t worth the cost in reality. In my world today, our problem is not whether a denomination pronounces that it’s time for an “exodus” or that homeschooling is somehow morally superior. We really don’t have very many homeschoolers. We do, however, deal with laziness. We would accept the word of an email or an innuendo in the neighborhood rather than to rigorously engage faculty, discuss issues with principals, and volunteer to help out in the classroom. We would rather drive across town to a Catholic parish to avoid perceived dangers of a middle school. I know that my son will do well this year, and I’m quite confident we’ll make sure of it. And even if he struggles, that’s good for him too. But I really hope that in a few years, we’ll have some other people with us in the school system who want to roll up their sleeves and go to work too.

Bill Shiell and his wife Kelly have two sons, a 3rd grader at Rocky Hill Elementary named Parker and a 2 year old named Drake. He is the senior pastor of First Baptist Knoxville and the author of 2 books.

A Theology of the First Day of School

Posted September 3rd, 2009 by Emerging Parents

back to school

By Jim Vining

It is pretty easy to collect theology.
It is a bit more difficult to apply it.

Tuesday was one of those days when I had to remember what I say I believe. Tuesday was my son’s first day of school. Sure, he has been in pre-school for a dozen hours a week, but this is big time: Kindergarten for 35 hours a week! I was looking forward to this day, until I Monday when a few thoughts sobered my excitement.

“We will not be able to see him as often as we have in the past.” “He will be under the nurture and teaching of other people for much of his time. What if it is wrong?” “What if other kids are mean to him and I can’t protect him?”

I spent a lot of time expressing my emotions and concerns to God.

I also spent time thinking about the situation through the general Christian worldview. Here are some of my thoughts on the first day of school in light of the biblical themes of creation, fall, and redemption.

Creation: (Genesis 1 & 2) God created everything. God called it good, and excellent in every way. Education is about observing the world that God created. All truth that is expressed there is God’s truth. There is no topic that will be covered that God did not create. It is good to explore God’s world. Beyond the content, God’s presence will be there.

Fall: (Genesis 3, continuing today) Human rebellion disrupted the peace and harmony of creation. Things are not as they were intended to be. There is still goodness, but it is not excellent in every way. This brokenness will display itself at school. There will be pain, conflict, and untruth. We need to be prepared for that. However, this brokenness has had an impact on every area of life, not just his neighborhood school.

Redemption: (The rest of history. Highlights: Resurection of Jesus, Today, Rev 21&22) God continues to love creation. God is in the process of healing all things in this fallen world. He invites humanity in this journey. Education then has a goal of being equipped to join the work of healing the broken world. My son is in preparing for that in his vocational life. He also gets to do that in the present. He can be a force for good in his school.

Remembering these truths helped me to relax more, and regain some excitement and even a sense of worship about the first day of school. Of course, seeing my son beaming with excitement also helped!

Jim and Robyn and there two children live in Wauwatosa, WI. Jim is an associate pastor at Elmbrook with a focus on emerging adults.
Jim’s Blog:

Back to School

Posted August 31st, 2009 by Emerging Parents

It’s that time of year again – students are heading back to school.  While it was fun sending my husband back to school (seminary) last year, this year was the first time I have sent a child off to school.  Granted, Emma is only in a half-day three day a week preschool program, but it was still a milestone.  So amidst this transition time of year, I’d like to hear from other emerging parents on the topics of school and education.  What are your back to school thoughts?  What fears or hopes do you have for this school year?  Why do you choose the sort of education that you do (public, private, homeschooled, montessori, unschooled…)?  What inspires you about educational practices and what disappoints you?  Send in your thoughts and reflections (any length) to and lets work through this time of transition together.

Does Having Children Change our Perspective?

Posted July 31st, 2009 by Emerging Parents

I recently cam across an article by Bryan Welch called Parenting Makes Environmentalism Personal. In it he writes -

Before I had children, I felt I had engineered a secure little world for myself. I lived in a nice place. I had a few nice hobbies. My work was interesting. I could avoid, for the most part, the parts of our world I found unpleasant. I could ignore people whose lives were not as privileged as mine. I could ignore any problem that wouldn’t reach global proportions for, say, the next 70 years or so. I could insulate my little corner of the universe.

Then, suddenly, I was connected to every part of the world, both present and future.

This was, for me, the big wake-up call. Our children — all the children we love, not only our own — connect us to the future. The world is no longer bounded by our awareness. The future is of immediate concern. Not just the future our children will experience, but the future their children will experience, and so on, and so on.

It gets personal all of a sudden.

My initial reaction was to simply agree with him. Of course caring for our kids means we care about the world they will be living in. But then as I thought about it, I realized that it isn’t always that clear cut. Often when we have kids we get so consumed in the moment that we put up blinders to anything outside of ourselves. We stop caring about others and focus on the needs on the moment. This may mean we stop volunteering or donating to charity because we just don’t have the time or money. It may mean we dump more trash into the environment because, let’s face it, it’s easier to use paper plates than to wash dishes. Or we save money by buying sweatshop produced clothing. Our response to having kids can go both ways – increased compassion or increased (necessary) selfishness.

I know I struggle with looking outside of my own family. It is easy to just focus on us and forget the needs of others. Intellectually, I want the better world, but in the rush to make it out the door on time in the mornings, it’s hard to keep in all in balance.

Is this just me? Do others struggle with this? Has having kids changed the way you view things like environmentalism and changed the way you live?

Honoring Parents and Faith

Posted June 21st, 2009 by Emerging Parents

It’s Father’s Day, so I wanted to pose a question here about honoring one’s parents when it comes to faith. I think many of us still believe that the commandment to honor one’s father and mother should be followed, at least to some extent. Especially when it comes to young children, we expect that they will honor us by listening and obeying what we ask of them. So I am wondering what your thoughts are on how this applies to the faith issue.

Many of us in the emerging conversation don’t practice our faith in the same way that our parents practice our faith. I know this has caused tension for some of us, as our parents accuse us of everything from abandoning the faith, to reject their parenting, to joining a cult. But we are adults and aren’t bound to obey their wishes. Of course we should honor them, but we have the ability to choose to engage in faith practices that are healthy and meaningful to us.

But what about when the kids are still underage and living at home? I’ve recently heard from teens interested in the emerging movement whose parents have forbidden them from taking part in the conversation. When I worked with youth we had a few very nominally Catholic students who started attending our baptist youth group and then the church. At one point their parents forbade them from coming to our church. Sometimes they would sneak out and show up anyway. I never knew how to respond then. I wanted these kids to discover a meaningful faith, but I knew they were in direct disobedience of their parents by sitting in the Sunday service. I didn’t know if I should let them stay or kick them out. I also knew a few 4th and 5th grade kids in my children’s ministry who decided to be atheists – against their parents’ wishes.

So where does the line get drawn? Where does pursuing one’s faith conflict with honoring one’s parents? Which, if either, should be upheld as primary? If teens wish to be part of a discussion or emergent cohort or a church service against their parents’ wishes what should the response of the community be? Encourage the disobedience? Tell them to wait on their faith a few years? To give up on their passions or questions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Laughing at Advertising

Posted June 18th, 2009 by Emerging Parents

By Jim Vining

“I need to see that movie. It will make me laugh!” shouted my 5 year old son as we drove past a local movie theater.

My first thought, “Wow, he is a great reader!”

My second thought, “Wow, the advertisers already have him.”

I knew that it was time to act. It was time to defend my children from being told what they needed to buy in order to be happy.

Then I remembered a trick that I learned from a Tony Campolo talk on Greed. It was time to start teaching my children to laugh at commercials.

Our first adventure in laughing at advertisements was simply perfect.

Our children were watching Veggie Tales on live TV, when a commercial for a “Prayer Cross” began to play. This product was an overpriced piece of cheap jewelry with the words of the Lords Prayer on it. Yet this product claimed to “help you pray to God” and to “bring you peace and hope.”

It was time to pull out the laughter (Profanity was my first reaction, but not as helpful.).

“Kids that is so funny! Do we need to buy jewelry to talk to God? No way!” “Ha, Ha, Ha!”

“We do not need that ‘prayer cross’ to get peace and hope from God!” “Ha, Ha, Ha!” “That is SO SILLY!”

The kids quickly joined in on the fun at laughing at the commercial!

We proceeded to expand the game to commercials for breakfast cereals, toys, and movies.

We now enjoy a lot of laughter at the expense of ridiculous advertisements.

Jim and Robyn and there two children live in Wauwatosa, WI. In addition to laughing at commercials, they enjoy discussing theology and culture, playing outside, and eating ice cream together. Jim is an associate pastor at Elmbrook with a focus on emerging adults.
Jim’s Blog:

Girls in Movies

Posted June 1st, 2009 by Emerging Parents

Over at one of the NPR blogs today, Linda Holmes had a great post titled “Dear Pixar, From all the girls with Band-aids on their knees.” In it she comments that although she loves their movies and the messages they portray, she would like it if for once a major cartoon was made about girls who weren’t princesses. She writes -

Well, the whole big world has a lot of little girls in it, too. And not all of them are princesses — and the ones who are princesses have plenty of movies to watch.

And even many of them who do aspire to be princesses are mixing their princess tendencies with all manner of other delicious things. Their tiaras fall off when they skin their knees running at top speed; they get fingerpaint on their pink dresses; they chip their front teeth chasing each other in plastic high-heeled shoes.

There’s nothing wrong with the movies you’re making; I’m sure your princess movie will be my favorite one ever. I’m just saying, keep them in mind, those girls in Band-Aids, because they want to see themselves on screen doing death-defying stunts, too. You’re making some of my favorite movies in the whole world right now.

Please, please make one about a girl who isn’t a princess.

This question of role models for young girls is huge. One might say that little girls simply like princesses and faeries so there is no need to market anything else to them. But do they like those things because that is what they have been told to like by the marketing people? I know making movies is generally about making money, but if there are messages to be told it wouldn’t be so hard to tell the story of a normal girl doing extraordinary things. That’s what most movies are like, except they are about boys. Why do the producers feel like movies about girls don’t need to be made?

It reminds me on an interview I read with J.K. Rowling years ago. She said her name on the Harry Potter books was chosen to be J.K. Rowling by the publisher because they thought that boys wouldn’t read a book written by a girl. So her name was changed from Joanne to J.K. to not “scare away” potential male readers. But honestly, would the most popular children’s series ever have failed if early readers were too sexist to pick up the books? Sometimes what the marketing people think our kids want versus what they really like doesn’t quite match up.

My daughter loves princesses and TinkerBelle, but she also likes bugs and getting dirty. The other day she told me all about an exciting game of Star Wars My Little Pony she played on the playground (yes, I’m still confused – what, do they have rainbow lightsabers?). I want her to see girls in the movies she sees doing all sorts of interesting things – not just looking pretty as princesses. Boys shouldn’t be the only ones who get to dream of doing great things. So I appreciated this open letter for raising the question – and wonder when we will actually see movies just about girls being girls.

crossposted from Emerging Women