Parents, learn to catch the teaching moments

Learning to walk

Three statements I came across in the past month have had me thinking about the roles of mothers as teachers in their children’s lives.

One was from a woman who was complaining that her children were getting too much homework in school.

“We are spending the whole evening doing homework. What time will I have to teach and train my children as the Bible tells me to?” she asked.

That popped at me. She considered it her role to teach and train her children. Not the school, not the church, not her house help. If her children lacked courtesy, guess who had failed? If they used nasty words, she took it as her fault. If they were rude and lacking in mercy…

The second was from a speech to mothers on catching teaching moments. “Mothers, take time to teach your children. Catch the teaching moments. This can be done anytime during the day, or during an early morning walk together. Mothers, you are your children’s best teacher. Don’t shift this precious responsibility to day-care centers or baby-sitters. A mother’s love and prayerful concern for her children are her most important ingredients in teaching her own…. Yes, mothers, teach your children the gospel in your own home, at your own fireside. This is the most effective teaching that your children will ever receive. This is the Lord’s way of teaching. The Church cannot teach like you can. The school cannot. The day-care center cannot. But you can, and the Lord will sustain you. Your children will remember your teachings forever, and when they are old, they will not depart from them. They will call you blessed-their truly angel mother. Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time-lots of time. It cannot be done effectively part-time. It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children. This is your divine calling.”

The third was from the book “Faith-shaped Kids – Helping your Child Grow Spiritually” by Stephen and Valerie Bell.

” As parents, look to become spiritual opportunists, finding ways “whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning” (Deut 11:19) to say, “This is my God. This is how you recognise Him working in your life. This is a sign He’s here with us. Learn to look at life from a bigger perspective than human eyesight. Trust God.” You can show your children how eternal truths can jump of the pages of Scripture into real life, how words from sermons can be especially intended for us, how God becomes part of our internal dialogue through prayer. You share a walk of faith with your children, not just a set of beliefs.

I have been learning to catch the teaching moments. We were driving to school and a man crossed the road before cars and my son commented, “That person nearly got hit by the truck.” Teaching moment. I begun to express the importance of being careful when crossing the road, how to look right and left before crossing.

The next day we had lost our way and I was feeling hassled as I tried to read Google maps and road signs on a busy highway and answer a barrage of questions from my son on why we kept stopping all the time. I ignored him a number of times, which made his questions come faster. I lost my cool and yelled at him to stop talking because I needed to concentrate. Ten seconds later he told me, “Mum can I pray for you?” I gave him a stern look thinking he was asking if he can play with my phone. “He repeated the question: “Mum can I pray with  you?” I felt God through that boy that morning. He prayed with me then asked if I could pray for him also. I did. By the time we finished the prayers, I had forgotten I was stressed or that we were lost. My son had extended grace to me in a very healing way. You see we always pray for each other in the morning and on this day, we had not prayed. But my son had caught the lesson.

When you spend time with your children, especially with your phone out of your face, you will catch the teaching moments. It will be in the questions they ask that present you an opportunity to explain truths about life or about crossing the road. It is in the news story about drought somewhere that allows you to speak about the important of not wasting food because others somewhere else have nothing to eat.

There will be opportunities to point out bad behaviour and good behaviour. take the time to explain why fighting is unacceptable or why sharing is good. Use the Lifebouy or Dettol advert to emphasize hand washing or Doc McStuffins to teach on the importance of teeth brushing.

Stay open, stay attentive to catch the teaching moments. Parents and especially mothers, it is your duty to teach and train your children. Learn to turn any setting into a classroom and teach when the moment presents itself.
Be a spiritual opportunist, consistently seizing the opportunity to teach. It will take time and energy and patience to answer 300 questions in 60 seconds.

If you don’t teach your children they will pick what they need from TV, the nanny or the bully at school.

Training will involve a practical aspect.  You can’t train your child to ride the bike or kick a ball from the balcony. You have to get on the pavement or playground with him. Think of how tomato plants are helped to stand and run along a stake. Training means being the letter that is being read. Your children will catch the lessons you live, Training means being down in the dirt with the children. It means being the stake where the vines of your tomatoes grow. It means being the gardener helping the plants and pruning the branches.  Training involves disciplining.

 “Teach these laws to your children. Talk about these things when you sit in your houses, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:19

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Taking care of little eyes

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My almost four-year-old son’s eyes are often swollen, red and itchy and get all crusted up when he wakes up in the morning. He will often come from school with eyes so bloodshot and teary you want to rush him to a hospital emergency room. I had seen his paed and another doctor over the same in the past and they told me his was primarily an allergic reaction coupled with an infection probably from all the rubbing.

We got anti-allergy eye drops and an antibiotic ointment and religiously wiped the eyes with saline water. I even got tempted to flush them with breast milk or massage them with tea bags. After too many days on tetracycline and eye drops and persistent cries of “mami macho ina-itch”, I started feeling desperate. Do I go back to the paed? Do I see an ophthalmologist? Do we stop taking milk and wheat and spices to see if things will improve?

So when I heard Mums Village was sponsoring a paediatric ophthalmology seminar at the Gertrude Children’s Hospital I jumped at the opportunity to attend and ask all these questions. I wanted to know what we were doing wrong. I wanted reassurance my son’s eyes weren’t ended for ruin. I wanted to know how to prevent serious eye problems in future. And I wanted someone to tell me what to do to ease the discomfort for the little boy.

I got that reassurance from Dr Omondi Nyong’o, a US-based children’s eye surgeon, who was visiting the hospital and giving the seminar. Clearly some allergen was wreaking havoc in our quarters (he also has eczema) and I learnt we needed a moisturising eye cream for the dry skin around the eyes as well as to continue with the anti-allergy eye drops. Oh, and most eye allergens are environmental rather than ingested, I have been reading.

Besides that I learnt a few tips for parents who seek healthy eyes for their young ones.

Children are born with about 1/10th of the vision they will have as adults and this matures between ages 3-5 although the visual acuity of some 5-year-olds may still be maturing. The size of the eye grows as a child grows.

Many eye problems in children are hard to recognize hence the importance of eye screening, especially before children start school (2-3 years). When vision problems are detected early (before children are 7 years) they are easier to correct without permanent damage to eyesight. So during your next clinic or doctor visit ask your paeditrician to test your child’s eyesight.

Most eye infections clear without permanent eye damage, except for those caused by the herpes virus. Viral infections run their course and clear while bacterial infections could need an antibiotic for around three days till they improve.

When you look into your child’s eyes, the reflection you see shouldn’t be white. This could indicate cataracts or retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer.

Lazy eye refers to a condition when one eye doesn’t develop properly. The stronger eye compensates for this hence the problem can go undetected for long resulting in permanent vision loss as the brain learns to disregard the image from the weak eye. A lazy eye should be treated by age seven, mostly with an eye patch and glasses. The eye patch is put on the strong eye to help the weak one heal. Encourage your child as much as possible to wear the eye patch when prescribed to fasten the healing process.

Being outdoors protects your children’s eyes. Playing and reading indoors is spoiling children’s eyes as the organs have to focus for long periods and in less (and artificial) lighting. This can cause the eyeball to grow larger, causing myopia. Near shortsightedness occurs when the image getting into the eye falls in front of the retina rather than on the retina itself leading to a blurred image for objects far away.  Dr Nyong’o observed that the rate of myopia has increased dramatically in recent years and especially in populations that are tech-oriented, probably due gadget use and lots of indoor time.

He advised that children should be outside at least 20 hours a week, so even if your child is a book worm get him/her out with the book and limit TV time to 30 minutes a day (tough laugh with that!).

Genetics are the main determinant whether you will turn out short sighted and how quickly it will progress but taking care of your child’s eyes to ensure proper formation should help. Key is nutrition, hydration and avoiding eye strain.

As we age we are able to see things that are further better. The opposite is that children see things extremely well up close hence the reason they may want to watch TV with their noses stuck on it. It does not necessarily mean they have poor eyesight. Watching TV up close is not harmful for children’s eyes.

Food that is good for the skin is good for the eyes. Feed your children with a balanced diet and with foods rich in omega 3 for healthy eyes. Fish is particularly good for the eyes.

The Kenyan diet has enough beta carotene without needing to feed your children with extra carrots.

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