Our children need to have strong muscles to survive in this world. No, I’m not talking about biceps and pecs. I’m talking about the really important muscles, not the ones that will help them do chin-ups. These important muscles do more than look good and help them carry heavy grocery bags. These muscles help maintain an emotionally and relationally healthy
life. What muscles could do that? The muscles of resilience, emotional intelligence, and optimism. Like all muscles, resilience, emotional intelligence, and optimism can be trained and strengthened. Let me briefly describe each one.
- Resilience is the muscle that gives them the strength to bounce back after a difficulty. Children who develop resilience exhibit better health over time. They report greater happiness and have more success. It only makes sense, doesn’t it? When resilient people encounter a setback, they bounce back. They get back in the saddle and try again. In other words, resilience is a muscle that stabilizes persistence and promotes consistency. (Read Happy Families Bounce Back for tips on practicing resilience as a family.)
- Emotional intelligence is the muscle that helps children manage their own emotions and get along with others. Interestingly, emotional intelligence has been shown to have a greater impact on success than academic achievement. Emotional intelligence means children can manage their emotions, remain calm, and resolve conflict. It means they can better read the emotions of those around them and adjust their own behavior accordingly. It underlies the ability to influence people, build cooperation, and promote harmony. You can see why emotional intelligence seems to be a crucial muscle for successful managers, team players, CEO’s, and supervisors. Our children need this muscle to be tone and fit, relationally happy and successful. (Read When Your Children Get Angry for a process that can help you train your children’s muscle of emotionally intelligent.)
- Optimism is not about wearing rose-colored glasses. Optimism is the muscle that focuses on “what I can do” rather than “what I cannot do.” It focuses on the importance of effort to grow and learn. It also realizes most difficulties are specific to a context and situation rather than “ruining everything.” Difficulties are temporary, not permanent. With this in mind, an optimistic person looks at a difficult situation or a failure and begins to explore what aspects of the situation they can influence. Then, they set about to exert their influence and produce a change. You can see why this muscle helps to prevent depression, increases perseverance, and promotes success. (Read Growing Your Child’s Mind for Success and Build Your Child’s Success Mindset for some ideas on strengthening this muscle.)
Like I said earlier, our children can train and strengthen these three muscles under the guidance of a great coach (that would be you, their parent!). These three muscles matter more in our children’s lives than bulging biceps and six-pack abs. They will do more than look good under their t-shirt. They will help them develop emotionally and relationally healthy lives. As parents, we can help them develop each one. We can help them build them into a strong, balanced lifestyle. Read the links in this blog for some ideas on building these muscles; then, read our blogs over the next couple weeks to learn more way you can help your children build strong muscles or resilience, emotional intelligence, and optimism!
I am amazed at society’s obsessive search for a satisfying sex life. Well…I’m not surprised people want a great sex life; but I am surprised about the focus of that search for a great sex life. The main thrust of society’s search for a satisfying sex life remains focused on the physical aspects of sex—the technique, physical prowess, and self-awareness. Sure, these can help, but without a firm foundation to build upon, these superficial answers merely build a house of cards on shifting sand. In reality, research suggests a satisfying sex life is stimulated by aspects much deeper than physical prowess, techniques, or ability. The most satisfying sex life erupts from an intimate, emotional connection between two people committed to one another. In fact, a study out of George Mason University revealed that the more spouses appreciate each other’s strengths, the more satisfied they were with their relationship overall and their sex life in particular. They were also more committed and invested in their relationship. They experienced greater intimacy. Even more alluring, valuing a spouse’s strengths led the appreciated spouse to experience a greater sense of personal growth. Let me summarize these exciting results in a format that might more readily stimulate your appreciation of their implications. Appreciating your spouse’s strengths:
- Leads to a more satisfying relationship overall,
- Greater intimacy in general,
- A greater commitment to and investment in the relationship,
- A spouse who experiences the joy of personal growth, and yes,
- A more satisfying sex life!
Hopefully, the provocative findings of this study arouse your latent desire to acknowledge and admire your spouse’s strengths. By doing so, you lay a firm foundation of intimacy and appreciation that will stimulate your sex life to blossom into a satisfying experience.
Sometimes I am impressed and amazed by the simplest things. For instance, a study on children swinging together recently sent me on a journey down the rabbit hole of cooperation. Let me explain. The University of Washington released a study in which they randomly assigned pairs of four-year-old children (who did not know one another) into one of three groups: in the first group pairs swung in synchrony with one another, in the second group pairs swung “out of synch” with each other, or in the third they didn’t even get to swing (I don’t want to be in that group!). Then, the four-year-old children engaged in a series of tasks to evaluate cooperation. The swinging four-year-olds who swung in synchrony cooperated more than those who swung “out of synch” and those who didn’t swing at all. They “strategized” more often, communicated more effectively, and completed the tasks more quickly. (Read about the study here). With this simple study I embarked on a brief journey down a rabbit hole in search of more information on influencing cooperation. I found:
- Joint music-making leads to spontaneous cooperation and increased “helping” behaviors. (Read more here).
- Moving in synchrony with an experimenter led infants to be more cooperative with that experimenter (Read more here).
My run down the rabbit hole continued, but you get the idea: engaging in synchronous behavior (moving together, making music together) leads to greater cooperation. So, do you want more cooperative children? Swing in synchrony with them. Dance together. Go for a walk and walk the same cadence…”left, right, left, right, left.” Sing together—the same song in the same key of course. Have fun…together…at the same pace. The result? Children who are more likely to cooperate with you! Now that is worth the fun!
My family likes to tease me…sometimes. It’s all in love and we all have fun…. Nonetheless, they like to mess with me. Don’t feel bad; I do give them reason. For instance, they tease me when I announce “I’m going to bed” but remain seated in the family room talking and watching TV. After a few minutes, at the next commercial, I say it again, even explaining why I need to go to bed. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed” “or “It’s been a long day. I better hit the hay” or “Getting late. Bedtime.” Still, no movement. They begin to snicker, even make comments like “Tired Dad?” “Going to bed are you?” “Dad, you look tired. You better go to bed.” They laugh; I smile. I might even start to cast some jovial blame back on my family by saying, “Now you’re holding me back. I’m trying to go to bed and you’re keeping me up by talking to me.” It’s all done in jest, just a silly game in which we have some family fun. But, I often hear married couples caught in a vicious cycle that sounds very similar to my bedtime “routine.” They have talked about their struggles. They know what bothers their spouse. They have expressed emotions of sorrow and hurt. They can explain the history of their vulnerabilities and sensitivities. But, nothing seems to change because they do nothing but talk about it. No one has taken the step to get “off their proverbial…eh…couch” and do something different. Making a marriage strong and healthy takes more than talking and hearing the words spoken; it takes action. Moving a struggling marriage from an unhealthy position to a strong and healthy one requires doing something different. Here are four actions you can take to build a strong, healthy marriage:
- Let your spouse’s needs and requests influence your actions. If they ask for a drink, get it for them. If they are upset, comfort them. When your spouse asks you to help around the house, help. Do a chore. Wash the dishes. Run the vacuum. If your spouse is worried, support them. If they need to talk about a difficult situation, listen. Give a back rub. You get the idea. Serve one another. (Read Start a Revolution for Valentine’s Day to learn more about accepting influence.)
- Engage in daily actions that show honor and build trust with your spouse. Trust in marriage is built on small every day actions. Compliment your spouse. Tell them what you adore about them. Offer words of encouragement, admiration, and love. Express how much you enjoy your spouse’s company. (Read Building Trust in Family Relationships for more.)
- Court your spouse. Do what you did when “love was young.” Remember how you worked to “woo” your spouse while dating? Do it again. Write love notes. Dress up for them. Talk with courtesy and kindness. Do little things you know they will enjoy. Sit together. Hold hands. Make small talk. Learn about them, their day, their fears, their dreams. In words and actions express how much you delight in your spouse.
- Grow as an individual by engaging in activities that make you more mature and honorable. Keep your promises. Be truthful. Apologize and forgive. Remain faithful. (Read more in Build 6 Pillars of Trust.)
By practicing these four actions you can build a stronger, healthier marriage.
I have a friend who loves math. Me? …Not so much. But, I love this equation. It is practical and user friendly. Anyone can do it and the results are amazing.
Here it is: 10 X 32 + 1 = A More Intimate Marriage!
This formula will do wonders for your marriage. Let me explain each part.
- Take 10 seconds
- 3 times a day (set an alarm on your phone as a reminder)
- Each time write 3 positive things you admire about your spouse
- At the end of the day, tell your spouse 1 of the things you wrote.
That’s it, the equation I love: 10 (seconds) X 32 (3 times/day X 3 positive things you admire) + 1 (admiration to tell your spouse).
By practicing this equation, you will keep positive thoughts about your spouse in mind throughout the day. By sharing your thought at the end of the day, you encourage your spouse. You also let your spouse know you admire them; and, you develop a habit of mind that will strengthen your marriage. Overall, you will find yourself in a marriage growing more intimate every day. Now that’s an equation I can love!
As parents, we do not want our children to become pushovers. Sure, we want our children to be polite. We want them to listen to credible authorities and obey legitimate requests. But a pushover? No way!
Instead of becoming a pushover, we want our children to stand for what is right. We want them to remain firm in their conviction and even refuse to conform to foolish pressures and senseless requests. I hesitate to say it, but we even want our children to respectfully disobey any authority that makes an improper demand. No, we don’t want our children to become pushovers, victims to the bullies of this world. We want them to become polite people who still stand firm in their convictions and set clear boundaries that communicate what they will and will not allow in their lives. How can we help our children develop this skill? Here are 5 tips to help.
- Model healthy “no’s.” Children practice what they observe in their parents (Read My Children are Copy Cats…Now What? for more). If we want our children to have positive boundaries, we need to have positive boundaries. Let your “no” be “no” or your “yes” be “yes.” Don’t automatically say “yes” to every request. Take time to think about your schedule and the consequences of your involvement in an activity before saying “yes.” Remember, a “no” may be the right answer to open the door to an even better “yes.”
- Teach children to value themselves. We begin to teach children to value themselves by valuing them ourselves. When our children see adoration and love in our eyes, they see themselves as valuable. When we respect their ideas and even allow their ideas to influence us, our children learn to value themselves. As we respond to our children’s emotions with empathy and kindness, our children know we value them. When we interact with our children respectfully and in a polite manner, our children’s sense of value grows. We teach our children to value themselves by valuing them in our interactions and with our words and actions.
- Give children significant chores. Make sure they understand how the chore they do helps the whole household function more smoothly. Let them know they play an important role in the household. Don’t redo the chore after them. If you do, their work becomes insignificant. Instead, take the time to teach them how to do the chore right and appreciate what they do. When they do the chore, thank them. In so doing, you teach your children to value themselves (see bullet #2).
- Discipline with respect. Loving discipline teaches self-discipline. Self-disciplined people are less likely to be pushovers. To discipline with respect means to teach, not just punish. Loving discipline teaches right behavior. It explains the values behind the expectation and right behavior. Loving discipline does not embarrass in front of others; it teaches in private. Loving discipline is not harsh; it is firm but considerate. Loving discipline is not overly demanding; it is patient and aware of developmental abilities. Loving discipline builds strength of character and integrity that is not easily pushed around.
- Teach your children to stay C.A.L.M. (an acronym from Dr. Michele Borba). When confronted with a situation in which they must respond assertively, your children can use C.A.L.M. (after you teach them how). They can stay (C) CALM and make an (A) ASSERTIVE statement while (L) LOOKING the other person in the eye…and (M) MEAN what they say. Teach them how to do this through example and practice.
Following these 5 tips can teach your children to not become a pushover. Following these 5 tips can help your children become a polite, respectful person who will still stand firm in their convictions. That’s a balance our children need to learn.
Children who have a strong bond with their parents feel more secure. They listen to their parents better and internalize positive values more readily. Children with strong parental bonds are less likely to become drug users and tend to earn better grades. With all this in mind, parents want a strong bond with their children. Developing that bond can prove difficult at times; but, there are simple ways to begin building that bond. Here are 3 simple ways you can build a bond with your children at any age.
- Engage your children in at least one meaningful, eye-to-eye conversations each day. Eye-to-eye contact with babies helps them develop a stronger attachment with their parents. Eye-to-eye conversation with your teen lets them know you value what they have to say. Eye-to-eye contact is an intimate connection that communicates value and love for the other person involved in the conversation. When your children look you in the eye and see love, they believe themselves lovable. When they look you in the eye and see respect, they believe themselves respectable. When they see adoration in your eye, they believe themselves adorable. Give your children the gift of eye-to-eye contact and conversation each day.
- Practice “the three-cubed impact.” Spend three minutes, three times a day to express your love and interest in your children. Specifically, express your love for your children during the first three-minutes of their day. Show your interest in your children during their first three minutes home from school. Share an intimate moment with your children during the last three minutes of their day. That’s three minutes when waking, three minutes when transitioning home from school, and three minutes as they transition to sleep. Of course, you can spend more time with them throughout the day, but make these three times especially meaningful in your expression of love and interest.
- Give your children loving touch multiple times throughout the day. Loving touch comes in many forms. It can include a kiss good-bye as you leave the house or a hug hello when you reunite. Loving touch can also include a tender pat on the back, an arm around the shoulders, or simply fixing a collar. You can also give a high five, a fist bump, a gentle loving push, or a quick squeeze as moments of playful loving touch. Whether fun, congratulatory, or practical, loving touch brings us closer together.
Practice these simple actions every day to build a stronger bond with your children and watch them grow more secure and loving.
Marriages thrive when spouses honor one another on a daily basis. In fact, spouses who honor one another exhibit more humor and affection during conflict. They make-up with one another more effectively after negative interactions. They also report more romance, passion, and better sex when they honor and feel honored. I don’t know about you, but I want more humor, affection, easier repair, more romance, and better sex in my marriage. So, how can we honor our spouses? One great way to honor our spouses is to show them kindness. It’s that simple: show them kindness. In case you have difficulty thinking of kind things to do for your spouse I’ve listed 30 below, one for each day of the next month. (I must admit, I did get some help coming up with ideas because I couldn’t think of 30 on my own.) Hopefully, this list will give us all a good start.
- Get up early and make breakfast for your spouse.
- Go one step further and serve your spouse breakfast in bed.
- Clean your spouse’s car, inside and out.
- Text your spouse throughout the day just to let him know you’re thinking about him.
- Give your spouse a sincere compliment.
- Help your spouse with a project she is working on.
- Learn about something that interests your spouse (a hobby or special topic) and show your love for him by talk with him about his interest.
- Give your spouse a back rub.
- Tell your spouse something you admire about her.
- Make a list of 10-15 things you love about your spouse and leave it under his pillow.
- Do one of your spouse’s chores.
- Surprise your spouse with a small gift.
- Prepare your spouse’s favorite meal or desert.
- Watch your spouse’s favorite show or movie with her.
- Call or text your spouse during the day just to say, “I love you” or “I was thinking about you.”
- Thank your spouse for something he/she did today.
- Tell your spouse some character trait your truly appreciate or admire in him/her.
- Plan a date with your spouse and enjoy the time together.
- Smile at your spouse.
- Give your spouse a long, loving hug.
- Hide love notes for your spouse throughout the house for her to find during the week.
- Leave a special note of appreciation in your spouse’s car.
- Ask your spouse about her day and listen with interest.
- Share a favorite memory of your time together.
- Get dressed up to greet your spouse at the end of the day.
- Hold the door open for your spouse.
- Let your spouse control the remote for the evening.
- Offer to get your spouse a snack or drink…and bring it to her.
- Mail your spouse a card telling him how much you love him. (I know you could just hand it to him, but everyone likes to get mail!)
- Hold hands.
- And for those months with 31 days…make your spouse laugh.
Give these acts of kindness a go. Maybe do one a day for the next month or double them up for a day. And, please give us your ideas for kind deeds in the comment section below. We might start a Kindness-in-Marriage-Revolution that could flow from our marriages to our families to our communities to our world.
Date can boost intimacy and fun in a marriage…or it can lead to a cul-de-sac of frustration and loneliness. Consider these statements, four of the many I’ve heard over the years, describing date nights gone awry.
- “We were having a great date until he got drunk and ruined it all.”
- “She just can’t go one night focused on us. All she talks about is the kids and the house and the kids and the kids and the house.”
- “We used to go out and have a blast just hanging out and talking. Now we go to a movie or the bar and neither of us says a word.”
- We don’t have fun on dates anymore. They just turn into arguments over money, politics, and tattoos, whatever…. All we do is argue.”
Do any of these sound familiar. Maybe you’ve heard similar statements…or even made a few of them yourself. These comments do not reflect dates that helped to boost intimacy and joy. If you do want to boost intimacy and joy with a spectacular date night, remember these 8 tips!
- Prepare for your date ahead of time. Don’t wait until date night to ask, “What do you want to do?” Plan ahead. Maybe you want to surprise your spouse. Great. Let them know you’ll plan it all. Or, maybe you want to plan your date night together. Wonderful. Have fun planning it out. Pick the activity. Make the necessary reservations. Then just enjoy the night!
- Build anticipation for your date. Start talking about your date before it begins. Talk about it for the day before or even the week before. Flirt with your spouse about the details. Let your spouse know you are excited to spend time alone with them.
- When date night arrives, dress up for your spouse. Everyone likes to see their spouse “looking good.” Remember how you dressed and primped to make an impression on your spouse when you were dating? Do it again. Dress to catch their eye. Doing so will let them know how much you value them and your time together. It will also draw your spouse’s attention to you…and that’s always a good thing.
- Make time to talk on your date. Whatever activity or venue you choose for your date night, be sure to include time and space for conversation. If you go to a concert or movie, allow for time to talk afterwards. Talk about hopes and dreams, favorite vacations together, or a trip you’d like to take together in the future. Talk about other possible date night activities. Talk like “old friends” who want to nurture their friendships.
- Postpone arguments. Avoid talking about areas that might result in arguments and bad feelings. Save those discussions for another time. Date night is to nurture a deeper connection, not create feelings of frustration and distance. So save the sensitive discussions for another time and focus on topics you can both enjoy. If you have trouble coming up with conversation ideas, refer to bullet #4. One other comment. Planning and kids are bound to come up, just don’t let them monopolize your date night. Stick with topics like those discuss in bullet #4.
- Stay sober. Nothing wrong with having a drink, but don’t get intoxicated or even buzzed. It’s not safe. Even more, it robs you of the joy of completely clearheaded intimacy. It also increases the chance of experiencing conflict on your date. Stay sober and enjoy your spouse “to the max.”
- Enjoy physical touch. Physical touch adds a flare of excitement to your intimacy and anticipation to the joy of your date night. Hold hands. Walk arm in arm. Sit touching shoulders. Play footsies. Put your arm around your spouse. Enjoy physical touch.
- Try something new. Don’t get stuck in the “same old date night rut.” Be creative. Try a breakfast date, a picnic date, a night at the museum date, a walk in the woods date…you get the idea. There is no limit to what you might enjoy on a date.
Eight tips to make your date night spectacular. Give them a try. Then share your date night ideas with us so we can all make date night spectacular!