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Archives - March 2014

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Archives - March 2014

Words of Advice for Parents: Part 1

March 28, 2014
By John Morrison

Relational Parenting

Someone recently asked me, in thinking back over my years as a parent, educator, and pastor, what words of wisdom I might offer to parents of younger children and/or teenagers.  What a question, especially if it is to be answered in the form of a short blog!

But let me give it a whirl by suggesting two basic parts to my answer.  First (and certainly foremost) would be an emphasis on cultivating relationship with our kids and, second, thoughtfully instructing them in the fundamentals of the Christian world view.  Let me comment on the first in this blog, and the second in the next.

As beings created in God’s Trinitarian image, we are wired at our most fundamental level for relationships with others, even in the likeness of the incredibly intimate relationship experienced among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Frankly, our need for love and acceptance in secure relationships is perhaps our deepest human need.

For the child, no human relationship is potentially as vital as that with his parents.  A child’s sense of well-being and security are fundamentally rooted in his relationships with dad and mom.  Parents may heap material goods upon the child, send him to the best schools, or cram his head full of Christian knowledge.  But all of these attempts at parenting may ring hollow to the child, and terribly so, if his significant others are not heavily invested relationally in his life.

And perhaps the main currency of relationship is time – time spent with the child cultivating a sense of “I love you and want simply to hang out with you.”  Some have written about “quality of time” as being more important than “quantity of time,” and I suppose there is a sense in which this may be true.  But our primary relationships take time – not small amounts – in order to build something special and lasting.  That is, sometimes the notion of “quality time” is simply a rationalization for not spending significant quantities of time with the child because of our preoccupation with career or other interests.

So, there can be no substitute for time invested by the parent or a significant other doing things together that foster relationship.  I use the term “significant other” because so many of our children are products of broken and/or single parent homes.  In such cases, we must seek out the additional support of “significant others” who are willing to come alongside in cultivating meaningful and affirming relationships with our child.

Why do so many of those raised in Christian homes become disillusioned and walk away from the faith as they gain their “freedom?”  I would say that lack of quality relationships with godly role models – especially parents – is usually the most fundamental reason.  These young people may be disillusioned with Christianity because they see the outward form, but feel cheated that the relational aspect was neglected!  Because, after all, Christianity, at its essence, should be about relationship!  And this is what our kids long for – time with their role models in the context of meaningful relationships!

In this age where children are being pulled in so many directions by so many pervasive influences, it will take nothing less than “radical parenting” to win our kids.  And the most radical parent is the one who invests heavily in the currency of time in cultivating relationships with his children! 

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

Technology and the Developing Brain

March 07, 2014
By John Morrison

In my past four blogs, I have touched upon some of the less talked about issues related to technology, considering dynamics such as digital addiction, escapism from the real world into a kind of “virtual reality,” and the changing nature of social interactions.  Before moving on to some other topics, let me address a final concern related to our culture’s obsession with the digital world.

In child and educational psychology, we are fascinated with the phenomena of how a child develops in all aspects of his or her life.  One of the most fascinating areas of development is neurologically – the growth of the physical brain and its mental processes.

We know through significant research that much of the brain’s development is the result of stimulation from the child’s larger environment.  In a very real sense, the brain of a young child is an amazing organ waiting to have the final touches placed on its wiring as it develops into a mature brain.  Some developmental specialists suggest that this basic process is really not completed until the mid to late twenties in most individuals.  This does not mean that we stop developing at that point, but simply that the brain’s physical formation and “wiring” is largely complete by that season in life.

What early childhood psychologists are finding is that there is a very imbalanced form of neurological development that takes place when the child’s exposure to stimuli comes primarily from the digital screen.  Other parts of the brain traditionally stimulated through creative play, interaction with the out-of-doors, interaction with adults and peers, being read to and learning how to read for one’s self, and similar engagements are so very essential for healthy, balanced neurological development. 

Too much time in front of the digital screen is having a very detrimental impact on many our nation’s children in this developmental context, many of whom enter school and then struggle with traditional learning skills because of the way their brains are wired.  This is one reason why the American Psychiatric Association has recommend that children under the age of two should not be allowed to view TV … period.  And now researchers at Cornell University are suggesting that there is a far greater incidence of autism among those children who have been allowed significant time with digital technology.  One can’t help but wonder how much more we will potentially discover concerning the impact of inordinate amounts of time at the digital screen on the still-developing teenage brain (much less that of younger children).

While I have tried repeatedly in these blogs to affirm the value and benefit of technology, we must be reminded of the saying, “all things in moderation.”  While this saying certainly has its limited applications, it does seem relevant to our fascination with the digital screen.  As more research hits the streets, I fully expect us to increasingly realize that technology, in the form of the digital screen, is having a far greater impact not only upon our culture, but also in the development of our young people – socially, emotionally, physically (neurologically), and spiritually – than we can presently imagine.

May God give us His wisdom as we seek to do our best as parents and educators in guiding our young people through this minefield of both opportunity and peril!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

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