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The stimulus-response model: How to develop a healthy response to ANGER!

On the go? Check out the audio version of “The stimulus-response model: How to develop a healthy response to ANGER!

Have you been here?

You are breathing heavily, your heart is racing, your nose is flared, your body is tense, and you continue to replay what happened over and over. You’re disappointed, embarrassed, and most of all, angry. You know forgiveness is the answer, you have to demonstrate grace, and you must return to your jovial demeanor, but your continued rush of emotions seem to make it impossible to move on. You want to participate/contribute to the world continuing around you, but you do not know how to return. Your smile is broad but forced, and your words are few and shallow. You feel old instincts or habits returning that would satisfy your primal desires to express your anger but leave you hollow when you finish. You want to isolate yourself and not be bothered because you are mentally exhausted from giving everything you’ve got and receiving little in return.

Yeah, I’ve been there plenty of times. In fact, I wrote the above paragraph when I was angry. Those were my actual feelings and emotions at the time. The “old instincts or habits” I was referring to involved me lashing out on people, throwing stuff around, yelling into my pillow, or hitting or kicking an inanimate object (like a wall) which, in turn, caused me bodily harm. I used to tell people I had “anger issues,” which means that was the identity I assumed. It was a harmful stereotype that I willingly accepted. Anger and my subsequent response became addicting, so I knew I had to change.

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. However, many of us give up control of our response to anger. So that’s where we will focus today.

The anger stimulus-response model.

Frank Esser published an insightful article at the University of Zurich entitled, “Stimulus-Response Model.” Therein, he states, “Similar to higher animals, human beings are endowed at birth with a uniform set of instincts that guide their ways of responding to the world around them.” He continues to explain how mass media manipulates this instinctual behavior–which he describes as the stimulus-response model–to produce enticing content. Today, I want to offer a way that we can manipulate this same instinctual behavior to change our response to anger.

How humans differ from other animals.

Stimuli are events in the environment that influence behavior. Today we refer to these as “cues” and “triggers.” Unlike other animals, the beauty of human beings (or homo sapiens) is that we can influence this stimulus-response model through the application of free will or choice. In other words, where other animals instinctually respond to the stimuli around them, our brains are able to critically think about the various stimuli and develop a response based upon the environment we are in.

For example, when we feel hungry but we are on a diet, we are able to suppress those hunger pangs. Similarly, when we feel sleepy but we are driving, we choose to stay awake because it is not the appropriate time to sleep. Dr. M. Scott Peck has a funnier (but true) way to describe this phenomenon in his book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Towards Spiritual Growth.

People sometimes ask me the most impossible – for example. “Dr. Peck, what is human nature?” And because my parents raised me to be an obliging child, I try to come up with answers to such impossible questions, and first answer I give is: “Human nature is to go to the bathroom in your pants.”

It really is. That is exactly the way each one us started out, doing what came naturally and letting go whenever we felt like.

Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Towards Spiritual Growth by Dr. M. Scott Peck

Point made.

Neural pathways.

As proven by millions of potty training toddlers each day, we have the ability to influence our personal stimulus-response cycle. Because of the brain’s plasticity (ability to change and adapt), we are able to develop “neural pathways.” According to https://www.merriam-webster.com/, a neural pathway is “a series of connected nerves along which electrical impulses travel in the body.” This is an important concept in psychology because these neural pathways are our brains’ way of automatically responding to stimuli (which is received by one or more of our five senses).

For example, when I smell food (cue) after I have gone a few hours without any (cause), the response is usually a growling stomach (reaction). So, I decide to turn into a restaurant parking lot in response to my hunger pangs. As I prepare to turn, I observe a car speeding up (cue) to prevent me from turning first (cause). My automatic response is to become irritated, shake my fist, and yell, “you idiot!”(reaction) Get this, the only intentional or “conscious” decision I made in this process was to go to the restaurant. The rest was predetermined by the neural pathways I developed over time. This is one of our brain’s many efficient ways to save energy.

How to develop neural pathways to change our response to anger.

1. Take inventory. Identify cues (events that signal the brain to react), causes (reasons why the cues exist and trigger certain reactions), and reactions (the actions you take as a result of the cues).

For about a week, I want you to do the same thing I did in the above scenarios. Don’t cheat, justify, judge yourself, or change anything. Just record your cues, causes, and reactions to as many automatic processes as you can–especially those that ended with you being angry. If you happen to be driving at the time, turn on your voice recorder and do a voice log. Whatever you do, it is important that you capture as much data as possible.

2. Limit or eliminate the cues.

Of course this is easier said than done in some cases. In my above scenario, I cannot remove the people who will cut me off in traffic. It would be absurd for me to think or suggest otherwise. However, there are many other examples of cues we can either limit or eliminate. For example, I already know there are certain times of day where I will be hungry. If my goal is to avoid eating out to save money, perhaps I can avoid driving down “restaurant boulevard” during the times I’m likely to be hungry. This simple rerout will avoid the luring smells, giant pictures of food everywhere, and the entertaining guy with the sign advertising my favorite happy hour sale.

The book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear describes a similar concept to remove negative habits. Since we naturally gravitate towards the more convenient option, make it harder to encounter your negative cues.

3. Identify the cause.

This is the psychological step, and it feeds your cues. This step is extremely important because there are many cues you cannot limit or eliminate. Even if you could, I have always advocated for running towards something, not simply avoiding things. The cause is what gives your cue relevance. That’s why this step is arguably the most critical.

We can start with the most rudimentary example. I felt the urge to go use the bathroom (cue). Why? I am doing the gallon-a-day water challenge to ensure I get an adequate amount of water each day (cause). Of course, we know the reaction is to actually go to the bathroom.

Let’s look at the other scenario. I observed a car speeding up to cut me off (cue). Earlier I identified, “to prevent me from turning first” as the cause. Some of you probably scratched your head wondering how that caused the cue. Allow me to explain.

In my mind, this fella personally attacked me! Although it was my turn to go, he intentionally sped up to prevent me from turning. In doing so, he delayed my day. What an idiot!

I know I’m not the only one who has thought this before. Seeing some of the drivers’ reactions in Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. earlier this year proves me right!

4. Address the cause.

Regardless of how many of you agree that the above driver is idiotic, our assumption that the driver personally attacked us is irrational. But to strengthen our argument, let’s say he did personally attack us. My mom used to tell me, “if you let people know which buttons to press to make you angry, they will press them every time.” In other words, some people get a thrill out of seeing you angry. I believe they crave the ability to control you.

Whoa, so these external factors (including people) want to control you?! That’s right!

5. Regain control.

If you haven’t noticed by now, a cue with no cause produces no reaction. In other words, the way you perceive your cue is what causes the reaction.

With that in mind, I have a couple of recommendations when it comes to retraining your mind. If you need more advice on changing your thoughts, check out my post: “Command your thoughts: Three actionable steps to remove toxic thoughts!” If you need more advice on adjusting your perspective, check out my post: “How to shift your perspective and live a better life TODAY!

  • Capture your thoughts. This means we have to be active in our approach. Don’t just allow your thoughts to run wildly because those thoughts feed our emotions and those emotions feed our actions and those actions feed our identity. This is why we started by taking inventory. SEE what you think. That means we are creating a new cue to gain control of our reactions.
  • Ask the 5 Whys. In “How do you Respond to Rejection and Failure?” I introduced a concept called the “5 Whys.” Simply put, this is how we get to the root of our perspective. This time, instead of using the Stone Cold Steve Austin fan approach of asking “why,” I want you to ask, “why does this matter to me?” I’ll use my “cause” from above, but I challenge you to use your own “cause” list.
    • That guy cut me off!
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because it was my turn!
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because it isn’t fair.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because he’s taking advantage of me.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because I’m tired of being taken advantage of.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because I know my worth, and I don’t like when people make me feel like I’m less than I’m worth.
Reframe your thoughts

I believe we’ve made it to the root, and from that root spawns many thoughts, emotions, and causes. Take that root to your counselor and work with him or her to develop new neural pathways. For me, I’ve worked to reprogram that cue. So instead of yelling and shaking my fist at the guy who cut me off, I use that cue as a reminder that I am worth a lot, and no one (including the random people I encounter in traffic) can take that away from me. In doing so, I have intentionally changed my response from anger to calmness and happiness.

This isn’t magic or just some feel good mumbo jumbo. Trust me, developing new neural pathways doesn’t happen over night. Just keep practicing and give yourself some time.

Change = Steady progress over time

I want to end with this analogous encouragement. When hiking a mountainenous trail, you may be confident and sure of your next step, until that next step causes you to slip and fall. Stand up, brush yourself off, and keep hiking. Regain the momentum that you started building before the slip. When you start again, your legs may feel a little stiff, you may feel embarrassed, and you may be a little bruised from the fall, but keep hiking. This is especially important to remember in the beginning when you fall multiple times. Remember this, you may have lost a little momentum, but you didn’t lose progress. In other words, the only time you lose progress is when you intentionally turn around and hike back downhill (relapse).

You are reading this because you want to change and/or improve. Stay focused and keep progressing towards a better you!

Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

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Discipline: A U.S. Marine’s take on what it is and why we need it.

On the go? Listen to the audio version of “Discipline: A U.S. Marine’s take on what it is and why we need it!”

Whether you are a parent, teacher, mentor, or in any other leadership position, there is one thing that we all need: discipline! We need self-discipline and must demand discipline from those we lead (that includes our children).

The first image that pops in my head when I think of the word “discipline” is the iconic U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor. That’s partly because every drill instructor probably says the word a million times. In fact, one of the first things the senior drill instructor tells his or her recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (aka “boot camp”) is, “Discipline and spirit are the hallmarks of a Marine. Each one of you can become a Marine if you develop discipline and spirit.” Although it would be the absolute worst time to ask, a recruit may be wondering, “Sir, what is discipline?” So that’s where I will begin.

My thoughts on discipline.

As a guy who grew up in the south, I have always heard, “spare the rod, spoil the child” or as Ms. Trunchbull said in Matilda, “My school is a model of discipline! Use the rod, beat the child, that’s my motto.” Both of these are a spin off of the biblical verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

I recognize that I probably just split my audience in two. One group’s pants just dropped as they ripped their belt from their waist and said, “that’s what I’m talking about!” The other is ready to just stop reading and give me a thumbs down. Either way, I am here to neither condemn nor endorse a particular disciplinary method. My goal is to simply provide my take on discipline. After you finish reading, I encourage you to research and develop disciplinary methods that will work for the people you are leading.

What is “discipline”:

My thoughts on discipline are a result of several things. First, my upbringing and life experiences as a U.S. Marine officer, parent, and mentor. Next, the books I’ve read like “Quiet Strength” by Tony Dungy , “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership” by Colin Powell, and many others. Most recently, I discussed discipline in my home Bible study group with other U.S. Marines (who happen to be special operators and fathers themselves).

Discipline is both a noun and a verb that is defined in numerous sources as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” In verb form, there is an even more direct definition that says, “punish or rebuke (someone) formally for an offense.”

Seems pretty clear that discipline is all about training by applying painful consequences!

Before we commit to that logic, let’s take a look at the root of the word.

The word “discipline” is from the Latin word “discipulus,” meaning “pupil, learner.” “Discipulus” is also the source of a familiar English word “disciple” which means “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” As you continue to follow the word “discipulus,” you will find it also produced the Latin word, “disciplīna” which means “teaching, instruction, branch of study, orderly conduct based on moral training.” Here’s where it gets interesting, “disciplīna” produced the Middle English word “discipline” which we have already defined. The interesting part is now the word “chastisement” or “punishment” was introduced in 13th century religious practices. To me, that means the word lost its purity over time as various teaching methods were introduced.

My countercultural belief.

Aside from quotes like Ms. Trunchbull’s in the early 1990s, you will hear quotes like “pain retains” when discussing discipline today. Even so, I submit that if we truly want to achieve the ultimate goal, which is for our followers to develop self-discipline, we must return to the root of the word. With that in mind, my belief can be summarized by the quote below.

Discipline is training and preparing, not chastising and punishing.

“But it worked for me!”

I will give a personal example below; however, I encourage you to do your own research on the relationship between punishment and training. Here are a few scholarly articles to get you started: “The dark side of families: Current family violence research,” “The role of maternal discipline and involvement in peer rejection and neglect,” “Discipline and deviance: physical punishment of children and violence and other crime in adulthood,” and “Moderate spanking: Model or deterrent of children’s aggression in the family?” 

I believe the above authors would agree that punishment creates immediate conformity, but again, the goal should be self-discipline, which is a long-term objective. I define self-discipline as the continued application of lessons learned regardless of the circumstance or level of supervision.

My personal example

Sometimes, immediate conformity is necessary. For example, my 3 year old was innocently wandering towards the street. I rushed over, physically stopped her, and sternly commanded, “do not go into the street!” After doing this three to four times, one would assume that discipline by physical means or punishment was achieved. To that, I’d agree. My daughter (the pupil) has learned that I am willing to use physical force to immediately stop her from walking into the street. Many leaders would stop there–assuming the child has received the appropriate instruction and has adequate discipline. The immediate question I would ask is, “what happens when Dad is not around?”

In this case, I needed instant conformity to stop my daughter from wandering into a dangerous situation to prevent a potentially fatal outcome. However, as the instructor who is looking to help the pupil develop discipline, my work does not stop there. I must help her accept my teachings by making it relevant to her. Then, and only then, has she achieved self-discipline. In this example, I showed her how fast the car is going and explained how dangerous it is to walk into the road. When we passed vehicle accidents, I showed her how people could get injured and how vehicles were ruined. Now, she corrects me if she doesn’t see me check both ways before crossing the road. Self-discipline has been achieved.

Effective discipline leads to self-discipline.

If discipline is training your followers to accept what you or your organization believe to be right, then (as I said before) self-discipline is the consistent application of these lessons regardless of the circumstance. For example, I wasn’t the best free throw shooter in high school. In fact, I shot around 65-70% accuracy. I remember the coach telling us, “free throws are FREE!” In other words, the free throw is the only uncontested shot in basketball.

Of course like many other teams, we ran for missed free throws. Though it helped me get in better shape, running had very little impact on my free throw shooting accuracy. What forced me to change was my realization that my poor free throw shooting could be the difference between a win and a loss. That realization encouraged me to practice. Many great free throw shooters will tell you that the secret to shooting more accurately is to do the same thing every time. That means from the way you wipe your sweat to the way you bend your legs to the way you breathe to the way you release the basketball. These factors (and more) contribute to your accuracy. My free throw shooting percentage significantly improved when I learned to consistently apply my coach’s shooting instructions. This is what developing discipline is all about–consistently applying instructions regardless of circumstances for your benefit and the benefit of the entire family or organization.

How to lead others to develop discipline.

I wouldn’t dare claim this is an all-encompassing list, but here are my thoughts on how you can lead others to develop discipline.

1. Set the example!

One of my favorite phrases is, “more is caught than taught.” In other words, people want to see their leaders practicing what they are teaching. Leaders must have self-discipline before they can discipline others.

2. It’s a team effort.

In case you haven’t realized it yet, you have an integral role in helping others develop self-discipline. I know Hollywood would have us believe that we can climb Mount Fuji shirtless to find ourselves and develop discipline, but that’s not reality. For example, U.S. Marine Corps drill instructors don’t allow recruits to just wander around for thirteen weeks until they find this mythical thing called “discipline.” The drill instructors lead the recruits on a physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional journey and allow them to graduate once they demonstrate self-discipline.

3. Repetition is key.

I elaborate on this in a previous blog post entitled “Establishing Winning Habits.” Therein, I said, “You are what you repeat.” Which means we have to teach our followers to practice applying the instructions we provide. That is the only way to influence habitual behavior.

4. Be consistent and persistent.

I have had the opportunity to peak behind the curtains at Marine Corps boot camp. From that experience, I can tell you that some recruits require longer than thirteen weeks to develop self-discipline. That means that some recruits graduate with a different company than they started with. However, as long as the recruit (pupil) refuses to give up, the team at the Marine Corps Recruit Depots will continue to lead that recruit. This same logic applies to any pupil. Everyone is different, so that means you may have to train them longer (or shorter) than you expected. Remain consistent and persistent in your teachings.

5. Reward and hold accountable.

There are numerous studies that conclude that living beings respond positively to being rewarded for doing well. But, we cannot ignore the other half of the equation–accountability. Celebrate successes and quickly correct deficiencies. That is the best way to ensure someone accepts your instructions.

6. Prioritize education and explain the “why.”

This is one of the most important factors to encourage others to accept your instructions. As a leader, telling your followers what to do is easy, but great leaders understand that educating followers by explaining the “why” is what allows the followers to consistently apply the teachings regardless of the circumstance. Help your followers understand why your instructions are relevant to the family or organization as a whole, and help your followers understand why your instructions are relevant to them individually.

    Summary.

    There are a few key points that I want you to take with you today. Self-discipline is the ultimate goal. That requires leaders to lead their followers on a journey towards developing self-discipline. Along this journey, it’s imperative that leaders research and develop disciplinary methods that will adequately contribute to the overall goal. In the end, discipline is what will ensure your family’s or organization’s success. It is up to you to instill that discipline.

    Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

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    Two New FREE Downloadable Resources! (Plus a bonus)

    Today is a great day, because I get to introduce two new FREE downloadable resources to my lineup! Both of these journal-style guides are created to help you along your mental, spiritual, and emotional journey! And since I was feeling so good, I decided to add a BONUS to help you along your physical journey!

    FREE Downloadable Resources just for YOU at parent-child-connect.com/free-resources

    What’s the catch?

    I wanted to put the “catch” up front, because that’s where I prefer it when I read headlines like this. Of course I would love for you to peruse the website, buy a couple of books, and subscribe to my email list; HOWEVER, there is no catch! Navigate to https://parent-child-connect.com/free-resources/ and click “download.” In fact, I will even include download links in this blog post.

    Wait, why would I do that? It’s simple: I care more about providing usable resources than anything else. Or “#purposeoverprofit” as I say on social media. Having a huge mailing list and selling a bunch of my awesome books is great, but I am committed to making parent-child-connect.com a one-stop-shop for everything you need to be inspired, resourced, and empowered to lead your children! So if that means I have to make a line-up of free downloadable resources, I will!

    With that in mind, feel free to subscribe and check out my books (whether in my store or on Amazon).

    Now, let’s talk about why you’re reading this: the FREE Downloadable Resources!

    Free downloadable resource: The Road to Financial Success by Dr. Clement Ogunyemi and Olaolu Ogunyemi

    Description

    Welcome to the The Road to Financial Success guide! The “road to financial success” is always a hot topic, but many of us still find it hard to manage our finances. I mean really, it is such a thrill to find a good sale, right?!

    Yep, it’s all fun and games until we blow a proverbial tire (i.e. we run out of money before we run out of bills). That’s usually when reality sets in.

    Some of us have no problem avoiding sales because we hate large crowds, standing in line, keeping up with the latest trends, or spending money in general… But then here comes this old crazy lady named “Sallie Mae” who just wants to rob us blind for trying to better ourselves. Trust us–been there, done that, and paid enough for thousands of t-shirts but ol’ Sallie never sent us one.

    We’ve got news for you: there is hope! We are going to give you some tips that will put you well on your way towards achieving financial success! Just think of us as your friendly roadside assistance technicians. We will help you change that blown tire and navigate towards a bright financial future! And get this: none of this is a secret! Many people (including us) have embarked on this challenging but exciting journey and have come out better. Share this guide with everyone you know, and let’s journey towards financial success together!


    Free downloadable resource: Distractions Causing Distance [From God] by Olaolu Ogunyemi

    Description

    Welcome to the four-day “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]” journal!

    There is no greater oxymoron for people-loving extroverts (like me) than “social distancing!” Society has adopted this methodology to keep us safe, but I—like most—miss sharing the love of God through a warm embrace.

    What if I told you that there is a type of “distancing” that [ironically] can actually cause us harm? That is a distant relationship with our heavenly Father.

    There is hope! Join me in this four-day devotion as we discuss how to defeat three daily distractions that distance us from Christ!

    I also published an audio version for each devotion for your listening pleasure. Go to https://parent-child-connect.com/category/devotion/ to find out more!

    Olaolu, but what if I’m not a Christian?

    This is one of my most common questions. That’s ok, download anyway! I’m not here to attempt to convert you. I’m using my personal spiritual beliefs as a foundation for the practical advice I give. With that in mind, my advice has universal application regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliations. If you believe you were created for a purpose greater than yourself, this journal is for you!


    BONUS! FREE Downloadable Resource: 30 Day Plan to Increase your pull-ups and upper-body strength!
    Free Downloadable Resource: Captain O’s 30-Day Pull-up Workout Plan by Olaolu Ogunyemi

    This has been one of my most popular blog topics, so I figured I should make it a downloadable resource! I created this workout plan for a U.S. Marine who wanted to improve his pull-ups and upper-body strength. Since I receive this question so often, I knew it would be a popular topic! Enjoy!


    The original FREE Downloadable Resources:

    The original FREE Downloadable Resources: The #defeattheshadow Journal and The Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition by Olaolu Ogunyemi

    The #defeattheshadow Journal

    Welcome to the #DEFEATTHESHADOW Journal! You may have noticed that I vaguely defined The Shadow as any opposing force that exists to stop us from achieving success in my best-seller “Crow From the Shadow.” This resource teaches you how to defeat The Shadow and achieve success!

    The strategies in this journal will help you regain control of your choices and your destiny! This is an excellent resource for all ages, so parents, teachers, and mentors, feel free to use this journal to guide your children on their own personal journey toward success! Ultimately, I want everyone to understand, YOU determine your own future!

    The Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition

    Welcome to the Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition! In this guide, you will learn strategies to raise mentally tough children. I initially created this guide with the “father-son” relationship in mind; however, I quickly realized that readers can apply the strategies discussed within to any relationship!

    This guide is broken into three different sections: Day 1-“A Tough Topic;” Day 2- “Time to Break the Mold!;” and Day 3- “The ‘Major Payne’ Leadership Model.” On Day 1, we focus on the importance of discussing mental health—a topic that is considered taboo in numerous homes. On Day 2, we dispel the myths associated with society’s view of masculinity and mental toughness. Finally, on Day 3, we discuss the “Major Payne” leadership model that we can apply to be effective leaders. Each section ends with a prompt to get your wheels turning.

    Parents, teachers, and mentors, this is an excellent resource for all ages so feel free to use this guide to lead your children on their own personal journey towards excellent mental health. Together, we can build mentally tough children who excel at whatever they put their minds to!

    You can find these two original FREE resources (and more) at https://parent-child-connect.com/free-resources/

    Like, share, comment, and of course, download these FREE resources!

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    Distractions Causing Distance [From God]: Day 4—You are what you eat!

    On the go? Listen to the audio version of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]: Day 4—You are what you eat!”

    Introduction: 

    Welcome to the fourth and final day of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” So far, we have learned about God’s free and freeing love, eliminated worry, and disconnected from the things that take away all of our time (See the other three days by clicking here!). Now we are going to tackle our third and final distraction–you are what you eat!

    Image: Distractions Causing Distance From God

    Devotion: 

    Distraction #3: You are what you eat!

    Don’t worry, this isn’t health 101 where I judge you for your vice in the kitchen. Quite honestly, I don’t do as well as I should when it comes to eating right–whether we’re referring to physical food or mental food. 

    While I was meditating on this topic, I John 2:15-16 NLT became the focal point of my devotion. It says, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

    So what is the Bible telling us? Does this mean we cannot enjoy the pleasures of this world? Of course we can! In fact, God desires that we laugh, eat, and enjoy life! So what is the Bible saying? The Bible is telling us to avoid becoming enamored with the physical pleasures of this world. In other words, we should pursue our purpose in God and the upbuilding of His kingdom. Though enticing, pursuing physical pleasures distracts us from achieving what God wants us to achieve and drives a wedge between our relationship with Him. 

    My moment of self-reflection

    In my moment of self-reflection, I realized while I am distracted by my continuous craving for/pursuit of the physical pleasures of this world (like great food, accolades, keeping up with the Joneses, and being the “first to know”) I could be praying in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion–staying alert and being persistent in my prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:18 NLT). While I am constantly seeking to obtain my oral fixation, I could be doing what Jesus instructs us to do in Mark 9:29 when He healed the boy that was possessed. That is fast, pray, and meditate on Christ. While I am constantly feasting on the negativity of the media, I could be “Fixing [my] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think[ing] about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT

    What we eat, becomes who we are. 

    The “old folks” used to say, “you are what you eat.” In other words, choosing to enjoy healthy physical and mental food increases energy and brain function, and it improves your overall mood. 

    But what happens when you feast on negativity? It leads to the following in the spiritual realm:

    • Indigestion: We reject wise advice and biblical teachings and turn to “strange doctrines” for hope and guidance.
    • Heartburn: Our hearts are burning with anger, rage, and hatred for others instead of burning with compassion for the poor, widowed, and sick.
    • Diarrhea of the mouth: Instead of being silent and patient, we are quick to vent our anger/frustration and our disdain for others but slow to talk to God.

    I Corinthians 6:12 NLT does an excellent job of summarizing this last point by saying “You say, I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” We must choose to avoid becoming a slave to our appetites! Let’s pledge to make sound choices with the physical and spiritual food that we enjoy. 

    I am confident that if we apply the basic principles that we have discussed the last few days and avoid these distractions, we will begin to live more healthy and whole lives, build better relationships, and most importantly, draw closer to God. I am excited and proud that we serve a God that can be described like this: “there’s no shadow He won’t light up, no mountain He won’t climb up coming after me. There’s no wall He won’t kick down, no lie He won’t tear down coming after me!” I said all of that to say, with all of our daily distractions, our loving Father is still there, waiting on us to reconnect with Him. So my question to you is, will you defeat these distractions and reconnect with God?

    Prayer:

    Father, we honor you, we praise you, and we thank you for your Word. Thank you for being a great God! Now Father we pray that over the next few days, weeks, and months we become less distracted with our daily lives, and more focused on you. And ultimately Father, we pray that everyone reading these words can feel your unfailing, unwavering, and never ending love. We magnify your Holy and Righteous name. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

    Thank you for reading! have a wonderful week!

    Did you enjoy this? Check out https://parent-child-connect.com/blog/ for more great content like this!

    Want to study and learn more about God? I believe the YouVersion App is an excellent resource!

    Reckless Love (Live with story) – Cory Asbury | Heaven Come 2017
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    Distractions Causing Distance [From God]: Day 3—Disconnect!

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    Introduction: 

    Welcome to day three of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” In yesterday’s devotion, we discussed how how to defeat worry! Today, we will introduce our second distraction–the need to disconnect.

    Image: Distractions Causing Distance From God

    Devotion

    Distraction #2: Need to Disconnect

    Now that we are free from condemnation and we have kicked worry to the curb, let’s talk about another distraction that becomes more complicated everyday. A lot of us are distracted by the need to disconnect. 

    So I had to do some self-reflection to prepare for this one, and I ask you to join me. Take out your phone, tablet, or whatever device you use, and list out all the applications that take time from your day. My list went like this: Instagram, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, XBox Live, Zoom, Marco Polo, GroupMe, LinkedIn, news app, weather bug app, and Gmail. Wow! 

    That was alarming to me because there are still only 24 hours in a day (and I spend about 16 of them either sleeping or working)! With that in mind, I felt a little better because my research told me that I am not alone. In fact, a recent study showed that the average American checks their phone 96 times a day or once every ten minutes. To compound this issue, social distancing and quarantines have given us an even more insatiable desire to remain connected and socialize.

    It is very apparent how this distraction has caused distance, because, as I said before, there are still 24 hours in a day!  

    So how do we disconnect so that we can focus on God? Well, I will start by saying, we talk/socialize too much and oftentimes, it is done in the wrong way. 

    The right to speak is important; saying things at the right time in the right manner is even more important. Proverbs 13:3 says, “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” 

    So how do we defeat this distraction? 

    1. Watch your words. Words matter because words mean things. Proverbs 15:1 NLT “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” 
    2. Say less. Connect less. Be Wise. (Proverbs 17:27 NLT) “A truly wise person uses few words…”
      • Words are like dollar bills. They should be spent wisely because we cannot take them back. Yep, that means even on social media…especially on social media! I am not saying we should not socialize/connect, but when done in excess, it drives a wedge between us and God. Simply put, we just don’t have time for God.
    3. Don’t look like a fool. Mark Twain said it best, “Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Because we are so connected, we often find ourselves caught in constant debate (most times publicly). Which leads me to the last tip to fight this distraction:
    4. Three T’s to check before you speak: Time… Type… Tone
    • Time: Is it the right time to speak or should you just be quiet?
      • Take inventory. How much of your time have you spent socializing in comparison to growing your relationship with God?
    • Type: Ephesians 4:29 NLT says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
      • What kind of Conversations are you having? Are you giving encouraging words to everyone you encounter? 
    • Tone: Are you addressing the situation in the best manner possible? Are you using the “gentle answer” described in Proverbs 15:1?

    Think about these things and challenge yourself to disconnect from the rush, rat race, and rigmarole of life. Disconnect from distractions so you can reconnect and build a healthy relationship with God.

    Prayer:

    Father, thank you for your grace, mercy, and kindness towards us. We realize that busyness, drama, and life circumstances constantly pull us away from you, and for that, we apologize. Father, give us the strength, wisdom, and wherewithal to disconnect from the many daily distractions we encounter so we can connect to you. Thank you for continuing to love us! In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

    Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Day 4!

    Did you enjoy this? Check out https://parent-child-connect.com/blog/ for more great content like this!

    Want to study and learn more about God? I believe the YouVersion App is an excellent resource!

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    Distractions Causing Distance [From God]: Day 2—Worry!

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    Introduction

    Welcome to day two of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” In yesterday’s devotion, we discussed how God’s love causes us to be free! Today, we will introduce our first distraction–worry.

    Image: Distractions Causing Distance From God
    Distractions Causing Distance [From God]: Day 2—Worry!

    Devotion

    Distraction #1: Worry!

    “Will my family get sick? Am I doing all I can? What will we eat? What do others think about me?…” If we are honest, some of our minds continuously reverberate with these kinds of questions daily! The second our feet touch the cold or carpeted floor in our bedrooms, our minds begin to race. Usually this race persists until we finally return to bed at the end of the day. The unfortunate truth is our minds naturally dwell on difficulty and troubles which distract us from the important things in life like developing our relationship with God, family, and friends! So let’s take down our first distraction–worry.

    When I began meditating on this topic, three scriptures immediately came to mind. First was Matthew 6:27 NLT that asked, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Then, Proverbs 12:25 NLT reminded me that “worry weighs a person down.” Lastly, Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34 NLT “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

    The Word is abundantly clear about worry, and we all know that increased worry causes increased anxiety which causes increased mental and physical health concerns…So why do we worry? Why don’t we simply adopt Timon and Pumbaa’s slogan and lifestyle? You know, Hakuna Matata!

    Well, I will start by sharing how I [falsely] justified my worry: 

    1. A little worry combined with fear is my instinctual way of emotionally preparing for the worst outcome. I am like a gazelle on a Safari! My worry and fear keeps me from being consumed by the lion (life). Right? WRONG. Along with the increased physical and mental health risks, worry was increasing my paranoia. Simply put, my physical presence was not a “gift” to my heavenly Father, family, friends, and work colleagues because I was so busy worrying about being consumed by life that I was not building healthy relationships and enjoying life! 
    2. My worry allowed me to thoroughly analyze a situation to develop a well-rounded solution. Solid logic right? WRONG. Worry primarily focuses on the “difficulties and troubles” (negatives) associated with a situation; thus, my perception and analysis is skewed to focus solely on the negative outcomes. 

    Those are my [busted] myths associated with my worry. Take some time to examine your own myths… then bust them! 

    Now that the jig is up and we have eliminated our excuses to worry, let’s answer the million dollar question: “How do we combat worry?”

    The million dollar answer is that we must fully understand and appreciate this fact: You are what you THINK!

    You are what you THINK!

    A fairly recent study following tens of thousands of people found that those who were optimistic had a significantly lower risk of dying from several major causes of death, including: heart disease, stroke, cancer (including breast, ovarian, lung, and colorectal cancers), infection, and respiratory diseases.

    Sounds like a pretty clear answer to Matthew 6:27!

    The study concluded that several proven benefits of thinking positively include:

    • Better quality of life
    • Higher energy levels
    • Better psychological and physical health
    • Faster recovery from injury or illness
    • Lower rates of depression
    • Better stress management and coping skills
    • Longer life span

    I’ll take the benefits please!

    Now that we understand the importance of positive thinking, how do we put it into practice?

    1. Make a concerted effort to focus on positive things.

    This is a tough one for us because sometimes you just want to sulk. In my personal life, I found a way to justify sulking. I felt that I deserved to be frustrated and disappointed! “Coincidentally” my Pastor emailed me to remind me that though the overall circumstance may appear to be negative, I can choose to dwell on the negative aspects of the circumstance or fix my thoughts on the positives. Yep, it is a choice! 

    Try this!  Write down three positive things about your current circumstance! Even if the list starts with “I am breathing,” celebrate the fact that you are still alive with an opportunity to make it through this circumstance with an amazing story to tell! 

    2. Practice gratitude.

    Practicing gratitude has been proven to reduce stress, increase your self-esteem and the self-esteem of those around you, and foster resilience amongst you and your inner-circle. Every day, find no less than three things to thank God for (and thank Him) and find no less than three things to thank others for (and thank them). When offered an opportunity to complain and criticize, thank! When you think of the positives, thank for the positives. 

    When you think of the positives, thank for the positives. 

    3. Now that you have recognized and shown gratitude for the positives, create and maintain a gratitude log.

    Label it, “People and Things I am grateful for.” I know. I know. It sounds corny, but it works! Maintain your log in a place you visit often, and keep focusing on that growing list.

    4. Open yourself up to humor.

    Laugh a little! I heard someone once say,  “if you’re happy and you know it, tell your face.” We cannot allow life to beat us down so much that we walk around like a bulldog eating lemonheads (just picture that for a second–maybe that was your laugh for today). Take out time to enjoy the pleasures of life. God has always intended for us to enjoy the pleasures of life. I mean, think about how beautiful the Garden of Eden was! We were designed to be happy. So take a second, look in a mirror (or prepare for a selfie with your electronic device), and make the biggest smile you can! Now let the brightness of that smile, your positive thoughts, and your attitude of gratitude melt the negativity away! 

    5. Check your inner-circle!

    You are who you hang with. In the country, the old folks would say “if you hang with stray dogs, you may catch fleas!” Spend time with Positive Paulas versus Debbie Downers. Think back to my story about my Pastor. Had he begun to sulk with me and feed my negative thoughts and emotions, I may not have survived that circumstance. Remember this, Debbie Downers wallow in defeat, while Positive Paulas bask in triumph!

    6. Start off on a positive note by practicing positive self-talk!

    Instead of beginning with worry, begin with a prayer, devotion, meditation, and affirmation or declaration that you will have a positive day. Then carry that declaration with you throughout the day. As you walk into a situation that appears negative, say to yourself (or aloud if you’d like) I will see the positive in this! Still have that mirror or selfie handy? Let’s try this right now! Smile, say something positive about yourself, and make the declaration that, “I will see the positive in every situation!”

    I believe that these steps will not only eliminate worry, but these steps will also foster a more healthy relationship with God and everyone you come in contact with! 

    Prayer:

    Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to see another day and meditate on your Word. You are truly our source of happiness and strength. We pray for your forgiveness for failing to see your beauty in every circumstance, and we ask you to help us to fix our thoughts on you! In Jesus’ name. Amen 

    Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Day 3!

    Did you enjoy this? Check out https://parent-child-connect.com/blog/ for more great content like this!

    Want to study and learn more about God? I believe the YouVersion App is an excellent resource!

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    Distractions Causing Distance [From God]: Day 1—Be Free!

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    Introduction: 

    I wrote this devotion early last year, and now I want to share it with you! Be blessed! There is no greater oxymoron for people-loving extroverts (like me) than “social distancing!” Society has adopted this methodology to keep us safe, but I—like most—miss sharing the love of God through a warm embrace. 

    What if I told you that there is a type of “distancing” that [ironically] can actually cause us harm? That is a distant relationship with our heavenly Father. 

    There is hope! Join us in this four-day devotion as we discuss how to defeat three daily distractions that distance us from Christ!

    Devotion: 

    Image: Distractions Causing Distance From God
    Distractions Causing Distance [From God]: Day 1–Be Free!

    Be Free from Condemnation!

    We are currently living in unprecedented times! We have wildfires, a pandemic, social unrest, and the list goes on and on. During these times we may feel a bit distant from Christ—I know I have felt that way plenty of times. In fact, there were times that I felt I really wandered away from Christ! Is that you right now? Do you feel like you are too far gone to pray? Are you so overwhelmed with your guilt and shame that you cannot feel the love of God? Are you having a hard time connecting through God’s Word because of mistakes you have made? I understand; I have been there.

    The last time I was in that moment—sulking in embarrassment and guilt—God freed me through His Word by reminding me of His grace, love, and compassion. So I have a quick opening message for you even if you are feeling distant right now—our heavenly Father loves you unconditionally, and He still wants a relationship with you! 

    Before we can learn to defeat distractions, we must be free from our own condemnation (very strong disapproval; punishment) and truly understand and embrace God’s love for us. Let’s talk about God’s love for a bit.

    God’s love is free(ing):

    Ephesians 2:8 AMP tells us, “For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God.”

    I absolutely love free stuff! I know most people call me cheap, but don’t judge me. For example, one day while I was in college, I ordered food at a drive-thru restaurant. I was very excited to get my go-to college student value meal. When I approached the window to pay, the young lady said, “Your meal has already been paid for.” I would’ve done a flip in excitement if I were skilled enough to do so without injuring myself. “Wow!” I thought, “Why would a stranger give me a free gift?” 

    When I reminisce on that day, I realize how happy that free meal made me (I saved about $3), but when I think about the free gift that Christ gave us (He saved my life) exuberant joy begins to overwhelm me. You know what’s amazing? Christ gave us this free gift because He loves us and this undeserved gift frees us from the oppression (control) and judgment associated with sin. Now that’s a double-double to get excited about! So don’t beat yourself up when you mess up. Ask God for forgiveness, brush yourself off, and be free! 

    God’s love is unexplainable:

    John 10:11-18 reminds us that our heavenly Father has given us an unexplainable (and seemingly illogical) love. Imagine this, you are sitting in an open field watching sheep. The weather is beautiful, and you are basking in the sun while enjoying an ice-cold cup of lemonade. Out of nowhere, a wolf comes to take one of the one hundred sheep you are watching! I know what you are thinking, “well, 99% isn’t bad!”  I mean really, who wants to fight a wolf for that one sheep? The Good Shepherd does. 

    He is always willing to lay down his life for us and will even leave the ninety-nine to save the one [wandering] sheep (Matthew 18:12)! My human mind cannot comprehend that kind of love, but I am extremely grateful that Christ is willing to sacrifice for you and me!

    God’s love is unconditional:

    Now this aspect of God’s love is truly amazing! We humans tend to have a limit when dealing with others. “You better not cross my [proverbial] line or it is over…dead…finito. You will henceforth and forever be excommunicated from my life!” Yep, God is definitely not like us, and here comes the amazing part: in God’s eyes nothing can separate us from His love! 

    Paul asks in Romans 8:35 NLT, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” Then he answers in verse 39, “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Read it again! No matter where you are from or what you have done, nothing can separate you from the love of God! 

    Walk confidently today as you embrace God’s amazing grace and love! Never again condemn yourself for your mistakes—instead embrace the free, unexplainable, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father!

    Prayer:

    Heavenly Father, thank you for the free, unconditional love that you have given us. Though we can never truly comprehend it, we know that your love and grace is what allows us to be free from the crushing oppression of sin. Father, please forgive me for the things I have done that were not pleasing to you, and help me to overcome the temptations that arise today. Father, thank you for removing the guilt, shame, and condemnation from my life and preparing me to grow closer to you. Amen. 

    Thanks for reading! We will see you tomorrow for Day 2: Worry!

    Did you enjoy this? Check out https://parent-child-connect.com/blog/ for more great content like this!

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    How to use books to create teachable and memorable moments.

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    My mom really sparked a love for story time within me. In fact, whenever I read books with my own children, I imagine her inflections, facial expressions, smiles, widening eyes, and excitement. She is exactly who I got my animated personality from while engaging with children.

    So when I created my parent-child-connect (P2C) book series, my goal was to develop resources for parents, teachers, and mentors to similarly create teachable and memorable moments of their own! I never imagined that I would have opportunities to share my stories in front of thousands of children around the world. The support has been amazing!

    Several educators, librarians, and administrators have given me the opportunity to read and engage with their students. Of course I collected a few notes during these engagements that help me better serve the schools. Ultimately, each engagement has turned into a teachable and memorable moment using some basic fundamentals that I’ll share with you today.

    Me reading Horace the Horsefly during a virtual read-aloud session with a 1st Grade class!

    How to use books to create teachable and memorable moments.

    1. Voice tone and inflections.

    Ever wonder why YouTube channels like “Blippi – Educational Videos for Kids” have been so successful? It’s because the creators have learned to entertain and engage children with their tone and inflection! Your tone and inflection draw the children in and brings the story to life for them. Through contextualization, they are learning to comprehend the words you are reading. If there are pictures, the children’s imagination are transforming the pictures from 2-dimensional to 3-dimensional. I call this the Pee-wee Herman vs Clear Eyes guy dynamic. You can reel the children in with an excited voice, or you can bore them with a monotone voice. Your choice!

    2. Body language and expressions.

    Body language and expressions go hand-in-hand with tone and inflections. With the younger groups (toddler through about 8 years old), I always try to keep my eyes wide, smile broad, chest out, and my arms and hands open. This is a welcoming posture–almost like I’m inviting them to join you in an exciting world! For the older groups (9+), I usually begin by mirroring their body language and expressions then gradually transitioning to a brighter and excitable demeanor. You have to read the room. Why?

    Because the younger group is usually more open to new things and excited to engage with you just because you seem “fun.” The older group usually isn’t as eager to join you. They want to get to know you a little more before they warm up to you. They no longer identify as a “child” anymore; they prefer the title “preteen.” With that comes a perceived transition into adulthood and a disinterest in “kiddie things.” That’s ok; we’ll bring the childlike excitement out of them! This body and expression mirroring technique may seem miniscule, but it has worked for me in every setting–from the classroom to the library to the church. Numerous parents and teachers have asked, “How did you get them to open up like that?” My answer was simple: I met them where they were!

    3. Awareness of current trends.

    Recently, I was sitting in a presentation that one of my peers gave to a group of marines. The presenter made numerous references and used several memes to drive his point home. If used correctly, this can be an invaluable technique for a presenter! The keywords there are, “if used correctly.”

    During this presentation, the presenter referenced movies like The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), Red Dawn (1984), and A Christmas Story (1983). These are all great movies and references! The only issue was the majority of the people in the room were between the ages of 18-22 (born between 2000 and 2004)… So they had never seen those movies! He found himself standing in a room full of blank stares. He couldn’t flip through those slides quick enough!

    *Side note: I had a similar circumstance when I found out my marines didn’t believe The Lion King (1994) was the greatest Disney movie of all time. Some had never even seen it! Really?! I digress.*

    Integrating relevant topics and themes is a great tool, but it’s important to understand your audience and their current interests. This, once again, allows you to meet the children where they are and connect with them on their level.

    4. Passion and energy.

    This one is simple. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, the children you’re engaging with won’t believe in what you’re saying. If you are dry, dull, and boring, the children will [accurately] believe you are dry, dull, and boring. They will become disengaged, and the entire session will be pointless. Your passion and energy is the driving force behind my first three suggestions, and it is how you connect your audience with the book you’re reading to create a teachable and memorable moment.

    5. Be yourself.

    It’s easy to read my first few suggestions and assume I’m encouraging you to be someone you’re not. Well, I’m not. In fact, children will quickly realize any fake characteristics. As such, creating teachable and memorable moments is both a science and an art. In other words, simply systematically studying your target audience and attempting to apply your observations isn’t enough. You have to add in creativity and imagination. Then, just like with fine art, the children will appreciate and connect with your intangible characteristics more than they appreciate your technique.

    6. Engage with whomever engages you, but don’t forget to engage the quiet one.

    It is super easy to connect with the talkative children. Some people would consider it a success if even five out of eighteen students are engaged. It makes the reader feel accomplished! Quite honestly, I absolutely love an engaged audience. The only issue is when in a group setting (even a small class), it’s easy to overlook the quiet one. That is the one I look for. There are a litany of reasons a child would be quiet and/or withdrawn, but I love giving them the opportunity to speak and feel heard. It builds their confidence and gives you an opportunity to receive immediate feedback from a person who may have otherwise been disengaged. Reel them in; they’ll never forget it!

    7. Slow down.

    I wanted to be a rapper when I was younger! (I know that’s a weird way to start this section, but let’s just roll with it.) I’m not talking about just any rapper; I wanted to rap like Twista or Busta Rhymes! You know, the kind of rap where the artist says about 280 words per minute. So, it’s no wonder I read and talk fast after practicing that for a few years.

    Here’s my advice for you: slow down! You’re not a rapper, so you’re not going to entertain children by reading the book fast. Of course I say that jokingly, because like me, you’re talking fast because of nervousness not because you think it’s entertaining. The way to avoid reading too fast is to schedule natural pauses during your practice runs. Obviously, the implied advice is that you practice and do dry runs before reading with children (even at home). Some of you are thinking like Allen Iverson in the early 2000s, “Practice?! We talkin’ bout practice!” Yes, I’m suggesting you practice before “game time” so you’re ready to engage the children with energy and passion with the right speed, tone, and inflection. You see how this is all coming together? Let’s keep going.

    8. The fight for attention.

    Let’s park here for a couple of minutes, because this one is critical to creating teachable and memorable moments. I’ve done engagements with parents, clients, teens, toddlers, teachers… basically all age ranges. One thing that each group has in common is a limited attention span. Many scholars, like Barbara Gross Davis in Tools for Teaching and Phillip C. Wankat in The Effective, Efficient Professor: Teaching, Scholarship, and Service, assert that attention begins to wane after about 10 to 15 minutes. There is even an often cited Microsoft report that says our attention span is only 8 seconds… apparently, that’s less than a goldfish! Uh oh. That can be a bit problematic when you’re booked for 30 to 60 minutes. So how do you deal with this conundrum? Is it hopeless to try to engage for longer than 10 to 15 minutes?!

    Lucky for us, there are a couple of articles that counter this “limited attention span” assertion. “Attention span during lectures: 8 seconds, 10 minutes, or more?” Was written by Neil A. Bradbury. “The Role of Attention in Learning in the Digital Age” was co-authored by Jason M. Lodge and William J. Harrison. Unfortunately, they took longer than 10 to 15 minutes to read, so I didn’t read them. Just kidding! 😂 I read them, and here three quick points I gathered.:

    1. Limit distractions as much as possible. Kevin Hart’s team’s latest stand-up is about two hours long. During this time, spectators secure their phones in individual Yondr pouches. This is obviously to keep people from recording or broadcasting the show; however, the unintended affect is this initiative forces spectators to pay attention to the show without the consistent distraction. Typically, an individual’s attention span is broken when they attempt to multitask or split their focus. So if possible, pick a quiet room or location without immediate access to mobile devices, toys, TVs, etc. Although we cannot accurately predict the infinite number of ways the brain can become distracted, we can temporarily restrict access to common distractions to increase focus and attention.
    2. The focus cycle. As stated above, there are an infinite number of ways the mind can become distracted. For example, have you ever noticed the little lint and dust floating freely through the air while you’re in a meeting? That’s just one of many fairly insignificant things that can steal our children’s focus. With that in mind, we have to constantly work through the focus cycle. This is where the human brain focuses then (sometimes involuntarily) loses focus. An easily-recognizable outward sign of waning focus is drifting eyes. Your job is to identify these cues and use inflection, expressions, tone, body language, and visual aides to refocus your audience on the book you’re reading.
    3. Humans have limited capacity for visual information. Use your visual aides sparingly…even with picture books. Now this sounds pretty weird. I just told you to use visual aides, and now I’m telling you to limit your visual aides even with a picture book. Let me explain before you call me crazy. Although picture books are full of illustrations, the illustrations should complement the theme. So really, you are directing your child’s attention to how two or three pictures relate to the theme. I’ll use my book, Crow From the Shadow, as an example.
    The front cover of my book, Crow From the Shadow

    I usually begin by pointing out the two contrasting images of Crow on the front cover. “A” is Crow after he learned how to defeat the Shadow. “B” is Crow before he learned how to defeat the Shadow. I use these contrasting images to highlight the book’s theme. Then, I constantly highlight how Crow is slowly transitioning throughout the story. Thereby, the children can enjoy the story while comprehending the topic without having to memorize each picture.

    By the way, here’s a really good read-aloud of “Crow From the Shadow” if you haven’t read it already. 😊

    Crow From the Shadow read-aloud on “Story Time W/ Kayla!”

    9. Respect the teacher and/or librarian and offer to be a resource.

    This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised. The teacher and librarian will be the authoritative figure before and after you leave. They are the people who will begin and sustain what you are trying to do. In other words, you are collaborating with the teacher and/or librarian to create teachable and memorable moments for the children. Both teachers and librarians have been extremely helpful in helping maintain order, reinforcing themes, asking questions that can help the children later, and organizing continuing conversations. So give the teacher and librarian a shout out! Not only does that show that you appreciate them, but it gives them a bit of “street cred” with the children. Trust me, it means a lot to them!

    10. What about teenagers?

    Some of you are thinking, “yea this is cute for younger children, but it would never work for my teenager.” The beauty of this advice is it will work for teens…with some modifications.

    You probably won’t be reading picture books with your teen, but nothing stops you from reading one of the books they are interested in, then discussing it in a relaxed setting. If they chose the book, they are interested in the topic. So by reading their books, not only are you gaining a better understanding of their perspective, you are establishing a common ground between the two of you.

    What if you don’t have time to read their books?

    No problem. Just ask them about it. Start the conversation by saying something like, “I saw you were reading _____. That seems interesting! Tell me about it!” Don’t try to squeeze in a lecture or dominate these conversations. Allow the conversation to naturally progress. Believe it or not, these discussions will create some of the most heartfelt teachable and memorable moments!

    11. Have fun!

    I couldn’t end this blog without telling you to have fun! Reading is very exciting and you are doing what it takes to increase literacy as you mentor, lead, and guide children. I am proud of you and the work you’re doing! Let’s continue to build teachable and memorable moments together!

    Thank you, and have a great week!

    Having fun while reading Horace the Horsefly with my 3 year old.
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    Our Journey to Victory:
    The Power to Heal

    Hi guys! I am Joshua Ogunyemi aka Josh O. Not only is Olaolu my little brother, but I illustrated the Amazon best-seller Crow From the Shadow and Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine. Today, I want to post a few words of wisdom I shared on June 13, 2021 that explains how our faith in God and our power to heal has started us on a journey to victory! Feel free to watch the video, read the blog, or both! Please note: I made some slight edits to the written version to ensure it flows well. Enjoy!

    Full video: Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal by Joshua Ogunyemi

    Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal

    Introduction: Keep smiling!

    “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, smile. If you’re happy and you know it, smile. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, smile!”

    Now, why did I start with that song? Well, I thought it was important for y’all to see your brother smiling even while in this struggle.

    We still have our faith.
    We still have our hope.
    We’re still standing, trusting, and believing in God’s Word. I can think of so many times we had to rely on a smile, a laugh, and the joy of the Lord which has always been our strength. That strength that kept us going. It empowers us every day and gives us the strength to bounce back and keep going (NO MATTER WHAT)! So, I thought it was important for you to see us smile.

    I smile, even though I hurt see I smile.
    I know God is working so I smile.
    Even though I’ve been here for a while,
    I smile. Smile!

    “I Smile” by Kirk Franklin

    Smile every day. Smile like you mean it! You may have had a tough week and for some, it’s a struggle just trying to get a smile through. Whatever you do, just smile. Remember that “the JOY of the Lord IS [your] STRENGTH.” We had to hold on to our smile through all the highs and lows on our journey to victory!

    Our gifts were made for this moment…YOU were made for this moment!

    If you are a parent, guardian, caregiver, family member, or anyone else connected to someone challenged with a developmental disability or “special need,” it is important for you to appreciate, honor, love, cherish, and labor with them. Why?  Because it brings out the best in you.  It helps you tap in and begin to transform situations that you previously couldn’t transform. It enables you to impact situations in your life that you previously couldn’t control.

    It’s through our many challenges that we “stir up the gift that is in [us].” And what is this gift that is in us? Well, I’d like to submit to you that that gift is the POWER to HEAL.
    I want to encourage you— anyone who may come in contact with someone who requires special needs.
    YOU have the power to heal.
    YOU are anointed for this.

    When God blesses you to come into contact with a person overcoming physical and mental challenges, make no mistake about it, YOU were chosen for the assignment. YOU were hand-picked for the mission. Not only that, YOU are equipped for the mission. YOU are built for this, and God trusts YOU. He made YOU the executor of his estate.

    What does that mean? It means He trusts you to be informed and make sound decisions regarding your family member and their health and safety. It means He trusts you to make the right move and get the job done.

    The doctor who witnessed it all.

    I’m so proud that earlier this year, we were able to visit one of the doctors who previously gravely said, “She’s a very sick baby…” He saw her after she was born at 23 weeks at one pound and three ounces. She had survived the passing of her identical twin sister and had suffered a Stage 4 hemorrhage–the worst form of bleeding from the brain. At that time, her body was too fragile to undergo the life-saving surgery that would keep her alive, so the surgical staff had to use a needle to withdraw fluid from her brain to reduce the pressure and swelling. More than one of those doctors encouraged us to terminate care.

    They wanted us to terminate care, but we remained hopeful.

    I’m so proud that we chose to stand in faith and believe God. I love it when my wife tells this story, because it’s by far the most gangster thing I’ve ever said. The messed up part is I really don’t even remember it! The doctors came to us and said, “we’ve pretty much done all we can do… It’s essentially our efforts keeping her alive [and] it’s probably best if you let her go.” My wife recalls that I responded, “Y’all do what y’all do, and we’ll do what we do, which is to pray and stand on God’s Word.” That wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t have the evidence here with us today. This proves that standing on God’s Word WORKS!

    Faith in Action

    God trusts you to get the job done. When you acknowledge Him, He will give you direction. He trusts you and has anointed you to heal. It’s our responsibility as the able-body folks to not leave our loved ones in the conditions we found them in. It’s our responsibility to heal them.

    Many of us are familiar with the biblical story about a rich ruler who divided up talents among his workers and left town for a while. When he came back, the two he gave multiple talents to gave him back more than what he had given them. But, there was one who gave him back the same talent that he had been given. The Master was displeased with the servant who did nothing to multiply his talent.
    Why? Because God wants us to take our situations–the gift that He’s given us–and give him back more! So again, let’s use our power to heal!

    God works through us!

    Now don’t get it twisted. It’s the power of God that heals bodies, makes the lame walk, makes the blind see, and mends the broken hearts. He cures sickness and disease and sets the captive free, but it is by our hands that he causes these miracles to be. It’s by our hands that he manifests these miraculous signs and wonders. The Bible says God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or even think according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20). So it’s by our hands that manifestation happens.

    Jesus said, “believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do… anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:11-13 NLT)

    So yes, it is God who does the work, but it’s by our hands that he manifests. By doing so, God gets the glory.

    In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas travel town to town speaking God’s word. When they came to a particular town, they encountered a man “with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.” (Acts 14:8-9 NLT) So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking. (Acts 14:10 NLT)
    What am I saying? We have that same power to heal.

    Remember the doctor I told you about?

    Yep, one of the few who thought that turning down the assignment was even an option. We visited him earlier this year–seven years later. He was amazed by Kennedy’s cognitive ability and her speech. He had some questions! This doctor remembered her brain scans all too well. It looked like she didn’t have a chance! He remembered the conversation we had. You know, the one where he encouraged us to terminate care.

    That same doctor now said that based upon what he saw, Kennedy shouldn’t be this far along. She shouldn’t be doing the things that she’s doing. As a matter of fact, they thought she wouldn’t make it. They expected her to be severely retarded and unable to walk or talk. He originally told us that she’d be a vegetable collecting SSI and we’d need a lifetime of medicine, machines, oxygen, and around-the-clock care.

    Kennedy’s [our] journey to victory!

    Instead, after six months of being in the NICU, she came home with no equipment, oxygen, medicine, etc. It was almost like she just came home and said, “that was it?” Today, Kennedy is on the A/B Honor Roll, promoting to the third grade, and can even count to ten in Spanish! She sleeps comfortably in her own room–in her own bed–and she is a prayer warrior. Kennedy quotes scriptures and recites positive affirmations every day. She will also get you together, whether you ask for it or not.

    I will end with this: the doctor told us that he believes Kennedy would have had all the previously mentioned side effects had she been in any other hands. Why is this important? Because I believe our journey to healing begins when we realize our power to heal and transform any situation!

    Please continue to pray for me and my family, and I will do the same for you and yours.

    About Josh O., the author of “Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal”

    “Josh O.” is a devoted husband, dad, mentor, author, and entrepreneur. He is proof that faith, courage, and determination will outlast even the toughest challenges. His story has inspired many, exemplifying spiritual and mental toughness, defying every challenge he’s had to face.

    Despite losing a child, extended periods of unemployment, failures, financial problems, the everyday pressures of marriage and fatherhood, and raising a child with special needs, he has become a champion of challenging situations and encourages others to do the same.

    Josh’s book “tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO” is a must read! Josh shows you how to turn your hard times Into THRIVING times with just 9 Key habits.

    “IMAGINE YOU HAD A BLUEPRINT–
    A guide to help you during hard times. YOU can come out ON TOP!
    You just need the tools to help get you there.”
    -Josh O

    tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO” Available now at https://www.amazon.com/tough-times-dont-TOUGH-PEOPLE/dp/1737492717/ or https://excelu.groovepages.com/ttdlebook/index

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    How to develop your child’s inquisitive mind: “Because I said so.”

    On the go? Listen to the audio version of “How to develop your child’s inquisitive mind: ‘Because I said so.‘”

    I believe I received this shirt on Father’s Day in 2015. As you can tell by the wear and tear, it’s one of my favorite shirts. I don’t remember exactly what I said when my family handed it to me, but it was probably something like, “that’s right!” Yeah teaching children to be inquisitive is important, but not more important than doing what I say when I say it! I even ran into an older gentleman who read my shirt and said, “Hey, I would do what you say too.”

    One of my favorite shirts! “Because I said so. -Dad”

    “That’s right!” I thought. “You see these biceps?! These back up my authority. You do what I say, when I say it. Why? Because I said so!” Some of you are beating your chest and wondering where you can buy one of these shirts. Others are ready to vomit. Nowadays, I agree with the latter group. “Because I said so” is easy to say (and wear), but it’s actually quite shallow and it can potentially squelch a child’s inquisitive spirit. We’ll discuss more, but before we dive in, we have to answer two important questions: 1. What does it mean to be inquisitive? 2. Why is it important to raise children who are inquisitive?

    What does it mean to be inquisitive?

    To be inquisitive is to be curious and extremely interested in learning new things. Typically, inquisitive people have an insatiable desire to know more about any given topic. For example, my son [randomly] asked me the following questions last week: 1. Why is the sun so bright? 2. Why is a Rip current called a “Rip” current? 3. Why do we say “bless you” when people sneeze?

    I know that as soon as I mentioned the word “curious,” some of you thought about this old quote:

    Curiosity killed the cat.

    A lot of people

    My ten minute Google search tells me that this quote originated in the 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour, written by the English playwright Ben Jonson. Since, it’s been used as a forewarning for those who are inquiring about or expressing curiosity in something that may result in trouble. Over the years, this quote has been used to keep people from interfering in others’ affairs. Of course this quote has also been used to discourage children from asking “too many” questions about anything. I even remember as I stared at a lifeless cat in the middle of the road, someone told me, “See? Curiosity killed that cat!” Sounds like a pretty compelling argument if you ask me.

    Why is it important to encourage children to be inquisitive?

    In true Olaolu fashion, I’d like to offer you an alternative to the previous quote:

    Curiosity Ignorance killed the cat.

    Olaolu Ogunyemi

    Let’s use the same scenario above. Some argue that the cat died because he was too curious. He met an inevitably fatal ending because he was satisfying his naturally inquisitive mind. Well, I’d like to offer that the cat wouldn’t have wandered into the road in front of a car if he had known it could end his life. In other words, his fatal outcome was based upon his ignorance, not his inquisitive mind.

    It’s not all life or death situations though. There are many other benefits to encouraging our children to be inquisitive.

    Here are a few benefits.

    1. It broadens their perspective on current events.
    2. It gives them a desire to know more about life, science, religion, etc.
    3. It helps to develop their critical thinking skills.
    4. It helps develop their perspective and opinions.
    5. It sparks their mind to conduct analytical processes.
    6. It teaches them to remain open minded.
    7. It gives them confidence as they learn new things.
    8. It teaches them to think freely and explore their thoughts and emotions.
    9. It creates another teachable and memorable moment for you with your children. That’s what my entire parent-child-connect (P2C) platform is all about!

    So now for the million dollar question:

    How do you raise inquisitive children?:

    1. Ask questions.

    It’s no secret that I’m a huge advocate for setting the example. That is our job as leaders and mentors. The more our children see us asking questions, the more they will be inclined to do the same. Your example also teaches them the appropriate time, forum, and method to ask questions. For example, if your significant other says something and you yell back, “Why do I need to do that?!” Expect your child to do the same.

    2. Give answers based upon fact.

    Children may be naïve, but they’ll eventually realize if you’re just making stuff up. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know. Let me read more about that and get back to you.” It may even be a great opportunity for you to learn together! In any case, give them factual information.

    3. Teach them where to find answers and how to conduct research.

    I’m sure we have all heard this proverb.:

    If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.

    Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

    I’m not encouraging you to hand them a dictionary or an encyclopedia, and tell them to “go figure it out.” I am encouraging you to show them how and where to gather information. Encourage them to read! This is why I include fun facts and educational material in my children’s books. Not only is this skill transferrable to the classroom, but it teaches your child how to examine perspectives and analyze information before developing their opinion.

    4. Listen to them and be patient.

    Patience is another topic I discuss regularly. It is a critical part of any relationship, and it’s impossible to raise inquisitive children without patience! It takes time for them to ask questions that they perceive to be complex. The fact that they don’t know how to ask the complex question makes asking the question that much harder.

    Relax. Give them time to ask the question, and if they need a little help forming the question (i.e. they are struggling to form the words), gently help them. Whatever you do, don’t rush them or cut them off mid-sentence. Take time to hear their question, and give them an age-appropriate answer that they can comprehend.

    5. Encourage them to ask questions.

    This is a pretty simple concept. If you want your children to be more inquisitive, encourage them to be more inquisitive. Sometimes, they may be scared to ask questions. Maybe there’s a guy yelling and wearing a worn out t-shirt that says, “because I said so!” I say that tongue-in-cheek to make fun of myself, but you get the point. Be aware of what you say about and your disposition towards your children when they are being inquisitive.

    Their inquisitive mind is constantly expanding as they learn about and take in the world around them. Your children’s life-long experiences and opinions will be based upon what they learn and perceive to be true. Their willingness to ask questions and challenge the norm will inevitably make them catalysts for change. And ultimately, that change will drive us to a brighter future.

    Thanks for reading!