Michael Kraus (a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in 2008) discovered a surprising way to gauge the potential success of your favorite NBA team. He tested many possibilities. Higher paid players did not predict success. Neither did preseason expectations or early season performance. The greatest predictor of a successful season for a NBA team was the number of times the players reached out and touched one another during the first games of the season. The higher the number of touches, the greater the chance of success. Touch somehow communicated trust and enhanced cooperation among the players. As a result, the team was free to focus on the game, free to pass the ball rather than take “an ill-advised shot,” free to work together. So, if you want to predict a winner in the NBA, count the number of times players slap one another on the back, chest bump, high five, fist bump, head slap, hug, huddle, or somehow engage in touch on the court.
Don’t we want an environment of trust and cooperation in our family? Don’t we desire a family environment that frees each family member to seek input rather than make “ill-advised” decisions? Maybe we can take a hint from the NBA play book and add some healthy touch into our family life. Give a fist bump, a high five, a hug, a loving slap on the back, or some other kind of creative healthy touch. That touch will build affection and trust. It will enhance cooperation. It may even predict a successful family season this year!
I am a male. So I write this blog with great hesitation. But, I am also a father of two daughters. So, I feel compelled to pass this scientific finding on to my daughters…and all of you. An article in Medical News Today reported the results of a study analyzing the winners of the Darwin Awards (click here to read). The Darwin Awards “commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chance of long-term survival.” I have enjoyed reading the Darwin Awards. You can read the stories of several Darwin Award nominees on the Darwin Award website.
A recent analysis examined the Darwin Award nominations of the past 20 years and found 332 independently verified and confirmed. Of those 332, only 318 involved individuals (14 involved joint male and female nominees). Of the 318 verified Darwin Awards, 282 were awarded to men. Only 36 were given to women. In other words, 88.7% of Darwin Awards are won by men! The authors believe this verified their hypothesis: “Men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.” Now you know why I hate reporting this information to you. But, I am the father of two daughters and I want them to be aware of the variety of males swimming in the dating pool. I want to warn them to choose carefully when looking for a date…and, even more significantly, when choosing a mate. In that dating pool, a percentage of males are idiots. Not all, mind you, but a portion. So, let us encourage our daughters to choose wisely!
Of course, you and I are not Darwin Award Nominees…and we live to proclaim this fact. We do not fall into the percentage of men who never have the opportunity to speak of how they won the Darwin Awards (you have to die to become a recipient). And, we want our daughters to choose men in their lives like us…non-recipients of the Darwin Award. With that in mind, let me share four ways you can encourage your daughters to choose a boyfriend (and eventually a husband) like you, a wise man who will never receive a nomination for a Darwin Award.
- Model wisdom. Think before you act. Practice restraint. Learn to seek out godly wisdom before making choices. Let your daughter witness you accepting your wife’s influence when making decisions that impact your family. The more she witnesses you living wisely, the less likely she is to date a Darwin Award nominee.
- Be involved in your daughter’s life. Women who have involved fathers show greater wisdom in choosing boyfriends and, eventually, a husband (click here to learn more). Daughters with a secure, supportive relationship with their father are less likely to experience teen pregnancy. They also tend to have romantic relationships that are more emotionally intimate and fulfilling. By remaining actively involved in your daughter’s life, you increase the chance that she will choose a wise mate…just like her Dad.
- Communicate with your daughter. Talk about the news. Learn about her interests. Tell her about your feelings, fears and hopes. Enjoy simple daily conversation about the little humdrum aspects of life, but don’t stop there. Take time to have intimate, heart-felt, vulnerable talks of life with her as well. Learn about her and let her learn about you. Open up and share. In doing so, your daughter will more likely avoid the Darwin Award nominee when choosing a man for her life.
- Meet your daughter’s boyfriends. Don’t let your daughter date the unknown boy. Have her bring him to the house. Invite him to dinner. Talk with him. Get to know him. Learn about his interests, strengths, and interests. Encourage him to think before acting. Assure him that you are actively involved in your daughter’s life and will remain her protector throughout her dating career. Just knowing you will be interacting with any boy she brings home will help her choose more wisely.
Fathers, we need to take a stand against the bad rap of this study. Those of us who make wise choices, and never win a Darwin Award, need to unite. We must protect our daughters from those men who might gain a nomination in their lifetime. Step up and model wisdom for your daughter. Remain involved in her life. Communicate intimately with her. Meet her boyfriends. Keep the Darwin Award out of the family!
Family meals offer a smorgasbord of benefits for families. For instance, children whose families enjoy regular family meals earn higher grade point averages. Regular family meals contribute to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression in adolescents. Dinner conversations boost vocabulary more than reading. And, stories of personal victories, perseverance, and fun moments shared at dinner build children’s resilience and confidence. In spite of all these benefits, family meals are difficult to arrange. In our fast-paced culture we tend to gorge our families with individual activities and fast food instead of savoring the time invested in a family meal. Perhaps we can copy a recipe from the French when it comes to valuing both food and our families. In How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, Mei Ling Hopgood takes one chapter to describe how the French teach their children to love healthy food. Let’s chew on three ingredients the French savor when it comes to family meals.
- Mealtime is a sacred time, a time set apart from the busy-ness of life. Like all sacred times, the family meal is approached with anticipation. Ingredients are chosen with care and thoughtfully prepared in love. The family takes time to savor the uniqueness of each ingredient as well as the dynamic blend of flavors and aromas they create. With this mindset, the meal becomes a sacred moment which the whole family can admire and share.
- Mealtime is an expression of love. Meals allow us to promote our families’ physical health by choosing quality foods and our families’ emotional health in the secure bonding we enjoy over food. As an expression of love, mealtime becomes more than simply filling our bodies with nutrients. It becomes an opportunity to give other family members their favorite foods, to humbly serve one another, and to express gratitude for what we have received. During mealtime, we can offer our children or spouse the first bite and make the small, loving sacrifice of offering the last bite as well.
- Mealtimes are family projects. Everyone can pitch in from the very beginning. The whole family can help obtain the foods, whether by carefully choosing and purchasing the food at the grocery store or by growing and picking the food from the garden. The whole family can also participate in cooking the food, preparing the table, and cleaning the dishes. Throughout the process, family members can enjoy conversation and laughter. Most importantly, the whole family can sit down to eat the “fruits of their labor” together, presenting a wonderful opportunity to remember, give thanks, and celebrate the sacred moment of a family meal, prepared and shared in love by the whole family.
Enjoy the benefits of the sacred mealtime by joining me in the family mealtime project. As we start the new year, commit to eating at least three meals each week as a family. No TV. No scattering each one to his own room. No cell phones. Just you and your family cooking up the perfect family recipe and enjoying the sacred expression of love we call mealtime. Join me in Project Mealtime: A Sacred Expression of Love.
Don’t look now but someone stole Christmas! This thief is sly, too: he carefully replaces everything he takes with some other distraction. I first recognized the evidence of his felony while at the mall. Christmas kindness had disappeared, hijacked from the hearts of shoppers and replaced with pushing, shoving, and darting in front of others. Christmas joy has also come up missing, stolen and replaced with profane grumbling over slow cashiers and impatient demands for immediate service. That got me thinking. This thief has ripped off our sense of community and replaced it with a focus on individual rights and privileges as well. He has even snuck into our homes, taken our casual, intimate family time, and shoved frenetic schedules filled with crowd fighting and shopping sprees in its place. I think he even threatens to rob us of our very family, carefully replacing it with toys and gadgets that allow us to be alone, engaged in our own world while we sit in the same room! Someone needs to stop this little thief, catch him and teach him a thing or two. But, he is a shadowy figure, slipping through our hands and minds with no substance to grasp. He is elusive. We have to use a different tactic to end his reign. So, I’ve devised a plan. I hope you will join me in implementing this six-part plan to stop the thief of Christmas.
- The first step in stopping the thief of Christmas is keeping him from stealing the Christmas spirit from your own life. Model the Christmas spirit in your home and community. Practice kindness. Be polite. Look for opportunities to give generously of your time and money to others. Celebrate Christmas.
- Spend time with your family. Make time with your family a priority in your life. put down the video game, turn off the phone, and spend time in conversation with your family. Play a game like “Apples to Apples” or “The Game of Things.” Laugh. Talk. Enjoy time together.
- Invite another family over for Christmas games or snacks. Share some Christmas cookies. Practice sharing friendship, fun, and togetherness with others.
- Watch some Christmas specials. Talk about the message each one communicates. While you’re at it, watch the commercials and talk about the messages they communicate as well. It will likely provide an interesting contrast to discuss, the contrast of between the thief of Christmas displayed in the commercials and the true Christmas spirit communicated in the Christmas special. Just for fun, check out Jerry Seinfeld’s acceptance speech for the Clio–very insightful…and humorous.
- Create Christmas traditions. Traditions bring families together and keep families together. So, make it a Christmas tradition to decorate the tree together, give a gift to someone in need, attend a Christmas Eve service, visit a shut-in, back cookies…you get the idea. “Get your traditions on.”
- Remember what Christmas is all about…a gracious, generous, and holy God who gave a Child, His Son to ransom our freedom and adopt us into His family.
The foundation of this six-part plan rests on relationships. Intimate relationships with our family and community will protect us from the Christmas thief and guard us from his evil scheme to replace our heart’s true desire with counterfeit decoys. By the say, did I start this blog by saying “Don’t look now but someone stole Christmas”? Let me take that back. Open your eyes. Look now. Keep your eyes open to catch the Christmas thief and end his tyranny of robbery. Join me in practicing the six-part plan above to stop the thief of Christmas and find the true joy of Christmas.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I love this family fun night…but don’t tell my family. Every year I pretend to dislike it. I pretend to begrudge the whole process even while I participate. In reality though, I have a wonderful time and love…here it is…decorating the Christmas tree. (Shhhh, don’t tell my family.) You know why I like it? We put on jazzy Christmas music, drink some hot cocoa, and work together to complete a project. We talk, joke, and laugh the whole time. Each ornament carries a story or a memory. Some ornaments speak to our individual interests. Other ornaments represent our vacations or fun activities we have enjoyed. Still others remind us of our first year of marriage, the year our daughters were born, or the special “rite of passage trip” my wife took our daughters on when they turned sixteen. We even hide a “Christmas pickle” in the tree just for fun. Each year, we have to make the “big decision” of whether an angel or a star will sit atop the tree. This opens the opportunity to talk about the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. And, we place a giant nail on the tree to remind us that the Christ child, whose birth we celebrate, is also the Savior who died for our sins. As my daughters leave home, I think my wife and I will still decorate our tree…but I will miss doing it as a whole family. I hope you enjoy this family fun night as well. In addition to the ideas mentioned above, you can…
- String some popcorn to hang on the trees.
- Pick a theme and decorate the tree accordingly.
- Make paper snowflakes to put on the tree.
- Put some cotton on the tree to look like snow balls.
- Hang some candy canes on the tree. Take them off and eat them throughout the season.
- Use your imagination to come up with more creative ideas for your family tree.
Go ahead and decorate your Christmas tree. Enjoy your time together. Take advantage of the opportunity to discuss the reason for the season. Take time to celebrate the joy of remembering. But, please (puh-leeeez) don’t tell my family how much I love this activity, it will ruin my reputation!
Whether we are savoring a slice of homemade cheesecake or the accomplishment of a life-long dream, we enjoy it to the fullest. When we savor something, we take the time to relish in the moment, get lost in the experience, and mindfully focus on every joyful sensation. I want to encourage you to have that same enjoyment by savoring your family this Christmas. Savoring your family builds intimacy. It establishes a family environment of safety and security. It creates joyful memories that will last a lifetime. How can you savor your family? Let me share four ways.
- Laugh together. You can laugh at funny stories, jokes, or even TV shows. Whatever you choose, find ways to share laughter. I don’t mean just a little chuckle now and again. Share belly busting, rip roaring, roll on the ground, bring tears to your eyes laughter. Let the laughter bring down the defenses and draw you into one another’s joy.
- Acknowledge your pleasure. Give voice to how much you are enjoying the family experience or activity. Talk about it. Tell your family how much fun you are having with them in the moment. Let them know how much you value your time spent with them.
- While you acknowledge your pleasure, label any positive emotions you experience and share them with your family. Happiness, joy, peace, calm, delight, elation, glee…name them all. If you find something beautiful, exciting, hopeful, or lovely, go ahead and state it for all to hear. Pleasure increases and positive emotions grow when we verbally share them with others.
- Take some pictures. Pictures keep the moment alive. After all is said and done, you can review the pictures and relive the joy. You can even put a few pictures on the fridge where everyone can see them. Every time you look at the pictures you can savor the moment of remembered joy…and repeat steps one through three for even more savoring!
Savoring family builds intimacy and establishes a family environment of joy. It builds a deeper sense of safety and security. It creates joyful memories that we will cherish throughout our life. These four ideas can get your started. Why not start today? The Christmas season presents an excellent time to build a tradition of savoring your family.
The Christmas season has definitely arrived. I see it in the overwhelming traffic. I hear it in Christmas carols ringing in my ears. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, baking, and decorating, I watch children count down to the “big day.” If you are like me, you love the anticipation of Christmas. Advent Calendars, the “Elf on a Shelf,” and journeying wise men help us build the expectation of Christmas. In the midst of this hustle and bustle, I like to sit down and contemplate the long awaited Christ Child and the new life He brings. It helps raise my own expectation and anticipation of the Christmas season. I am often struck at the contrast between our current Christmas priorities and those of the first Christmas. Maybe you are too. Jesus did not come to earth as one of the economically privileged, a member of the ruling class. Instead, He arrived in poverty, a member of a conquered and oppressed people. He could have entered the world as royalty; but, He came as a Servant. Rather than setting His Son up in a position of power, God delivered Him to us in a stable, to a family with little resource and no influence. Unlike those of us who live in the “Land of Opportunity,” God did not try to give His Son privilege, prestige, power, or material wealth. Those things did not seem to make it onto God’s priority list for His Son. However, He did give His Son a family. Jesus did not just “pop up” in the desert as a Man with the power and influence to change the world. He arrived as a baby, born into a family, nurtured by a mother who “pondered all these things in her heart” and cherished her Son. He matured under the guidance of an earthly father who was willing to act swiftly to protect his family. Surely the family is one of God’s top priorities—not power, prestige, or material wealth, but family. God, the Father, made the gift of family a priority on that first Christmas day by giving Jesus a loving family to guide Him and nurture Him as He matured. Even more, He gave us Jesus (“unto us a Child is born”), a Brother who willingly gave His life so we might become part of His eternal family! Let’s follow God’s example this Christmas and share the gift of family with our parents, our spouses, our siblings, and our children. No other gift will make Christmas as meaningful as the gift of a loving, intimate family!
Thanksgiving Day may have passed, but why not keep the giving of thanks alive in your family? When you make thanksgiving a part of your family’s everyday life, you will experience amazing benefits. For instance, research suggests that families who make thanksgiving a daily practice are more helpful, generous, and compassionate toward one another. Family members are more forgiving as well. They feel more positive toward the person they thank and, interestingly, are more comfortable expressing concerns as well. Not only that, but practicing gratitude motivates the one receiving the thanks to work harder. And, the person who practices gratitude feels less lonely as well. With all these benefits, why not make the giving of thanks a daily activity in your family…keep thanksgiving alive all year round? Here is one simple way to help you keep thanksgiving alive throughout the year. Start a family gratitude journal. Once a day get together as a family and let each person share two to three things for which they are thankful. Write them in the journal. Then, leave the journal in a public place throughout the day. Every time someone gets the urge, they can add a note of thanks to the journal. When you thank Mom for dinner, add it to the journal as well. When your son takes out the garbage, thank him…and then add it to the journal. When Dad goes to work in the morning, thank him for his hard work…and write it in the journal. When your sister shares her nail polish with you, give her a hug of thanks…and record it in the journal. If you don’t like the idea of a journal, do a “gratitude collage” or a “gratitude jar.” Whatever you choose, keep it up for a whole month and observe the impact of continued thanks will have on your family life. You will never want to quit!