A New & Improve Family Groove

Have you noticed how easy it is to criticize? How fault-finding and blame seems so natural? Praise and approval, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to come so natural. Just watch the news to confirm this. When was the last time the headline story talked of kindness, sharing, or a job well done? These stories are relegated to the final “30-second-feel-good-story” at best, but never the lead the story.

Unfortunately, this attitude creeps into our families as well. We easily find fault with the way a job is done. We criticize our children and spouse for any number of things. We blame one another when a job is left undone or something goes wrong. We struggle to say a “thank you,” “great job,” or “I was wrong, sorry.” Instead, we say things, “Why should I thank her for doing what she’s supposed to do anyway?”  “Yeah, he helped with the laundry, but he did it wrong. It didn’t help. I had to work harder.” “I wouldn’t have gotten so upset and call him a name if he had done his chores in the first place.” There are more statements. I’m sure you’ve at least heard them.

All this negativity—the fault-finding, blaming, and the criticism—creates a negative cycle of pain, disconnection, and self-doubt. It lays a family groove that perpetuates harsh words, anger, and self-protection that leads to greater isolation. But there is a way to jump out of this negative groove and find a new and improved family groove, a groove that will lead to greater contentment, intimacy, and joy. Here’s the way to do it:

  1. Every day, thank each person in your family for something they have done that day for the family. They may have cooked a meal, washed clothes, gone to work to pay bills, helped clean a room, or simple spoken kind words to a sibling. You may think, “Why should I thank them for doing what they’re supposed to do?” Because you are a polite person promoting kindness in your home. And, you are highlighting the behavior you want to see, encouraging more of it. (Read Why Thank Your Spouse For Doing Chores to learn the power of a simple “thank you.”)
  2. Find an opportunity to do something kind for each family member every day. It could be as simple as passing them a dish at the dinner table or offering to fill their drink when you fill your own. You could complete a chore another person usually does—like loading the dishwasher, emptying the kitty litter, taking out the garbage, running the sweeper. These acts of kindness express love. They move your whole family into a new and improved groove of positivity. (Learn the Mighty Power of Kindness in this short blog.)
  3. Share a positive story from your day. Tell your family about something good that happened to you during the day. If you are on the listening end of the story, listen and share the joy of that happy event. Sharing good stories has a ripple effect that will jump you into a new groove of sharing more joyous moments with one another.

There you have it. Three simple ways to find your family a new groove. It doesn’t sound that hard, does it? In fact, it isn’t really that hard; but you’ll be amazed at the power these simple acts exert on your home and family life. Your connection with each family member will increase. Stress will decrease. Joy and contentment will grow. You and your family will experience greater joy coming home to share the good times. Give it a shot. For the next 14 days, practice the 3 steps above…and enjoy your new and improved family groove!

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Shared Rituals

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon needed in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will open a gateway to a special power of influencing your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed include:

Now it’s time for another.

The Cheat Code: Shared Rituals.

Purpose: With Shared Rituals, you will…

  1. Increase the time you and your daughter spend together. This will help you build a more intimate relationship with her.
  2. With rituals in place, the need to discipline negative behaviors will decrease. (How to Discipline Before You Even Need To.)
  3. In addition, your daughter’s sense of security will increase. She will feel safer in a home with predictability.
  4. Because she feels safer, your daughter will have greater freedom to explore and learn about her world and herself. In fact, The Gift of Freedom is Wrapped in Safety.
  5. Rituals will also help your daughter pursue goals and have a greater sense of purpose in life. (Routines & rituals Add Meaning To Life.)
  6. Your daughter will gain a greater sense of independence and mastery with appropriate routines in place.

Value: Creating shared rituals with your daughter has two great values. First, your shared rituals will guarantee that you spend time with your daughter. Spending time with your daughter in a shared ritual deepens your relationship with her and increases her sense of security. Second, shared rituals build predictability into your relationship and your home. This predictability will increase your daughter’s sense of security. With the knowledge of her close relationship to you and the predictability of her environment, your daughter will feel safer to explore her world and herself. She will pursue greater goals. All in all, routines will deepen your relationship with your daughter, empower your daughter to explore her world, and increase your daughter’s sense of competence. Who doesn’t want that?

Instructions: ThreeShared Rituals to create…

  1. “Daddy-Daughter Time.” Set aside one time a week (an evening, an afternoon, a day…whatever time works best) as time dedicated to your daughter. This will become known as “Daddy-Daughter Time.” Let nothing interfere with that time.
  2. Find out what your daughter enjoys doing. If you don’t know, ask her. If she’s not sure, ask her what kind of activities and foods she would like to try or places she would like to visit. Each week during “Daddy-Daughter Time,” do one of one of those activities with your daughter. Or, go to one of the places you have agreed upon. You might play Barbies, go to a movie, get ice cream, or go rock climbing. Your options are as broad as your daughter’s potential interests and creativity. These first three steps represent what I believe to be one of the most powerful shared rituals you can do with your daughter. You will never regret having engaged her in this way.
  3. Become involved in your daughter’s bedtime routine. This may include reading with her, talking about the day, sharing things for which you are grateful, and giving her a simple hug and kiss goodnight. Bedtime is an amazing time to bond with your daughter.
  4. Create a shared mealtime ritual with your daughter and your whole family. Strive to eat one meal a day together. If you can’t do one meal a day, do at least 3-5 meals a week. Establish the nights and keep the “meal date.” The shared ritual of eating together offers a wonderful opportunity to talk, share, and bond. (Learn the benefits of eating as a family in The Lost Art of Family Meals.)

Is Your Marriage a LIVED Priority?

We often get caught up in the seemingly urgent needs in life and so neglect our true priorities. We become overwhelmed by the crises—like broken water heaters, sudden car repairs—and pressing problems—like paying bills or caring for our home. We also become distracted by the daily activities that become all-consuming when we haven’t prepared for them. For instance, our children’s bedtime can become an ordeal when we haven’t developed a healthy bedtime routine. Without a menu, mealtime become a pressing need that requires us to devote thought, time, & energy to it every day…time & energy we could devote to other priorities like our marriages.  

Or, we get carried away with distractions, those things we really don’t care about but “suck up our time” nonetheless. You know what I mean…things like video games, phone games, videos, or binge-watching Netflix. We start off with the goal of relaxing for 5 minutes in front of a screen and suddenly realize we have neglected our families and marriages for the whole evening.

Or, we let lesser priorities squeeze out our most important priorities. For instance, we let work or self-care squeeze out our family time. 

You get the idea. Amidst our crises and distractions, our marriages often get neglected. Arguments over crises and pressing problems begin to form a wedge between us and our spouse. Distractions drive that wedge deeper. We grow distance as more distractions come between us and our spouse. The arguments grow as the distance increases. Lesser priorities push our marriages further out of focus and replace them in our lives. Why does this happen? Because we failed to make our marriages a “daily lived priority.” We did not think to make our marriages a daily lived priority amidst the crises, pressing problems, distractions, and lesser priorities that flood our lives. Healthy marriages require action, intention, investment…even amid life’s distractions.

So, what can you do to make your marriage a “daily lived priority” rather than a “believed priority”?

  1. Put your marriage on your calendar. You can tell a lot about a person’s “daily lived priorities” by what makes the calendar.  Wherever we invest our time is a “daily lived priority.” So, put your marriage on the calendar. Invest time. Go on a date. In fact, whether it’s a weekend trip or a quiet night snuggling on the couch after the kids go to be, enjoy a date night every week.
  2. Hug every day when you go your separate ways. Yes, physical affection is crucial investment in your marriage. Don’t limit your hug to a simple “bro-hug” type. Give one another a big hug, a bear hug, an oxytocin hug. Hug it out big!
  3. Kiss and hug every night before you go to bed. I think it important to enjoy physical affection at the end of the day. No matter your mood. No matter your energy. Take time to wish each other a good night’s rest with a sincere hug and kiss.
  4. Find a way to eat at least one meal a day together. My wife and I enjoy lunch together because we work evenings. Perhaps you and your spouse will enjoy supper or breakfast or even a “brunch.” Whatever meal you can schedule together, do so as often as you can.
  5. Put the kids to bed. In fact, put them to bed early. Get your children on a schedule that allows them to have a good night’s rest and allows you and your spouse alone after they go to bed and before your bedtime. This will be a great time to talk and catch up. (Even your teen needs sleep!)
  6. Spend at least 20 minutes every day talking to one another about your day. Healthy marriages thrive on open communication, the sharing of ideas and plans and the “what-happened-today” interactions. Set aside at least 20 minutes every day to enjoy this conversation with your spouse. Your children will get used to you having this conversation and will “entertain themselves” while you do it. They will also enjoy the security of seeing their parents enjoying conversation with one another. Take 20 minutes and savor your spouse.
  7. Find a hobby to share together. After all, families that play together stay together. Get out there an enjoy a hobby together.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Your Daughter’s Beauty

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. They help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon needed to succeed in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You probably desire a “cheat code” that will open a gateway to the special power of influencing your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed included:

Now it’s time for another “cheat code:” Acknowledge and Protect Your Daughter’s Beauty.

The Cheat Code: Acknowledge and Protect Your Daughter’s Beauty.

Purpose: When you Acknowledge and Protect Your Daughter’s Beauty, youwill…

  1. Increase your daughter’s confidence in her appearance and her overall self.
  2. Help your daughter develop positive boundaries for romantic relationships.
  3. Increase the chances that your daughter will wait to become sexually active.
  4. Increase your daughter’s modesty and appropriate self-protective behavior.

Value: Our daughters receive conflicting messages about beauty, romance, and how to “use” their body. In many ways, I think our society encourages a love/hate relationship with the body. The media teaches girls to use their bodies to get what they want while teaching them to hate that others give them what they want in response to their appearance. However, as a father you can help change this for your daughter. By Acknowledging and Protecting Your Daughter’s Beauty you teach her the true value of her body.  You teach her to value her body as a gift. As you do, you increase her overall confidence and her willingness to establish appropriate boundaries of modesty.

Instructions: Acknowledging and Protecting Your Daughter’s Beauty involves…

  1. Giving healthy hugs and affection. Share healthy physical affection every day with your daughter.
  2. Acknowledge her beauty. Tell her she is beautiful. Acknowledge times when she looks especially nice.
  3. Talk about what she wants in a romantic partner. Rather than asking, “Do you love him?” talk about what she wants in a relationship. What traits does she want her romantic partner to possess? How does she expect her romantic partner to treat her?
  4. Be a champion for modesty. Right or wrong, the way a person dresses impacts how people think of them. In a manner of speaking, a person’s style of dress becomes the packaging that advertises the content inside. Fathers can help their daughters think through what they want to say through their dress. How can their dress reveal the true nature of the content inside?
  5. Teach our daughters that the deeper value of the body is not based on external beauty but on the character they develop. The body allows us a tangible way to live out our character. The body allows us to serve, care for, and comfort as well as rejoice with, celebrate, and connect with others. 
  6. Encourage involvement in sports. This can help a girl learn the joys of a body that is active and healthy.
  7. Practice gratitude for all our body allows us to do. (Read Thank You, Body with your daughter. Print it out & give her a copy so she can read to herself as often as she wants to.)

Is There a Hole in Your Marital Roof?

Roofs are important.  More specifically, roofs that don’t leak are important. Roofs with no holes. Roofs that protect. My family and I stayed in a cabin at St. Johns. We liked to eat on the deck. It had no roof, but it really wasn’t a problem until an iguana climbed onto a branch above my daughter and well… “relieved” himself in her cereal. A roof would have been nice.

Or, the time my family and I went camping when I was a kid and it started raining. I mean pouring. It always did when we camped. Of course, we had the tent and a dining canopy to keep us dry. But they were old school and as soon as you touched them, they started leaking. Drip…drip…drip. Drip on my head. Drip on our game. Drip on the table. Yeah, a solid roof would be nice.

Recently my wife and I visited a beautiful location in Cartagena.  They had a nice outdoor dining area. A mango tree grew just outside the walls of the roofless dining area and its branches offered some shade. Nice…until mangoes started dropping off onto peoples’ heads.  Needed to add a roof for protection.

Yes, it’s nice to have a roof…even in your marriage! Paul, a first century Jewish evangelist, tells us that “love bears all things” (I Corinthians 13:7). Interestingly, the Greek word for “bears” (“stego”) means to “cover, to protect.” It’s the verb form of the Greek word for “roof”! In marriage, love is like the roof over our heads. Love takes action to cover, to protect, to preserve. A roof protects the security of our home by keeping weather, animals, and other harmful menaces out of our house. But what does love protect our marriage from? More specifically, what does love protect in your marriage? 

  • Love protects our reputations. Rather than talking trash on a spouse, love lifts a spouse up. Love elevates a spouse to others. Love speaks words of admiration about a spouse. Love does not broadcast a spouse’s shortcomings or mistakes but works first and foremost to resolve them in the private intimacy of their relationship. Love stops the gossip that threatens reputation and seeks the truth that can replace that gossip.
  • Love protects us from hurtful words. Love offers words of blessing rather than words of cursing. It offers words of encouragement rather than words of discouragement. Love does not drown a spouse in impolite, angry words but showers them with words of kindness and love. Rather than criticize and put down, love lifts up and encourages.
  • Love protects from outside forces that interfere with a healthy marriage.  Love keeps those things that do not belong under a marital roof out of the marriage—things like pornography, unhealthy people, and overscheduled lives. Love strives to keep the marriage a safe haven, a place where nothing interferes with a growing love and intimacy.

Yes, a roof protects. It covers. It keeps the unwanted out and enhances safety and security within. It allows us to be vulnerable and grow more intimate without fear of outside factors interfering. Love does the same. Love is the roof over your head.

Thank You, Body

Our society sends conflicting messages about their bodies, mixed messages that seem to develop a love/hate relationship with our bodies. As a result, a large percentage of people are dissatisfied with their bodies. Perhaps we need to change the focus from external appearance to function and character. We need to teach our children that what a body does for us is more important than appearance alone. We need to teach our children to be grateful for their body. With that in mind, I wanted to share this “body prayer” from Body Prayers: Finding Body Peace—A Journey of Self-Acceptance by Rebecca Ruggles Radcliffe (Copyright©1999 EASE). Share it with your children and let’s begin to raise a generation that appreciates their body.

Thank you hips for carrying me forward this morning.

Thank you legs for being strong enough to push on through the distance I choose to go.

Thank you feet for holding me, lifting me, supporting my every step.

Thank you ribs for sheltering my precious lungs.

Thank you lungs for taking in the sun-filled morning.

Thank you arms for embracing my life, for grabbing onto what is important to me.

Thank you face for feeling the wind and the sweetness of the day.

Thank you eyes for taking it all in, for keeping me centered, grounded, and here today.

Thank you brain for coordinating this amazing journey.

Thank you fingers for being able to stroke my child’s back, fingers, face, hair…

Thank you mouth for swallowing my morning tea.

Thank you heart for being so dedicated, so loyal, so loving.

Thank you soul for wanting so much more.

Thank you stomach for sorting out all that I put in, good and bad.

Thank you intestines for clearing out all that I do not need.

Thank you endocrine system for keeping me balanced, healthy, alive.

Thank you skin for containing me in one miraculous package.

Thank you hair for blowing free and helping me to dream.

Thank you neck for keeping all the communications in my life flowing.

Thank you womb for making me creative, life-producing, feminine, changing, growing.

Thank you teeth for enabling me to bite off what I like and growl at what I don’t.

Thank you ears for listening to the higher voice.

Thank you tongue for helping me to sing.

This is my beautiful body today and always.

Marital Warning: Don’t Argue While Hungry

Hangry. The bad-tempered, irritable, agitated state a person experiences when they are hungry. Snickers made a whole series of humorous commercials based on it.

Hangry. It’s a real thing…and it can wreak havoc on your marriage. Just consider this study involving married couples and a “spouse doll.” Researchers gave participants a “spouse doll” for three weeks. Every night during those three weeks they could “jab their spouse doll” with pins. The number of pins used in the “jabbing session” increased as the poker partner’s blood sugar went down. In other words, the hungrier the spouse doing the poking, the more pins they stuck in their spouse doll! The “hangrier” the spouse, the more vengeful they became.   

The same researchers invited these couples to their lab at the end of the three-week period. They put them in two separate rooms and set up a friendly competition. The partners would compete with one another to see who could push a button faster in response to a target turning red. (In reality, they were competing against a computer so the researchers could control the winner.) Whoever “won” had the opportunity to blast their spouse’s headphones with a noise as loud and as long as they wanted. Guess what. The lower the “winner’s” blood sugar, the louder and longer they blasted the noise. Hunger increased the negative actions of the “winning” spouse. Hangry spouses were just plain meaner.

In a different study, people were asked to interpret another person’s body language. They were better able to interpret another person’s body language after having a drink of lemonade with real sugar in it. (The artificial sweeteners did not have the same effect.) In other words, hunger made a person less able to read another person’s body language. Hangry people are less aware of their partner’s body language and, as a result, their partner’s subtle responses and emotions.

These studies reveal a great piece of advice for married couples. Don’t have that argument when one or both of you is hangry. Don’t discuss areas of disagreement when hangry. Hangry is not a good state for marital disagreements. Hangry will just make your marital disagreement worse. So, if you and your spouse have a disagreement, don’t talk it out while hungry. Instead, have a nice dinner and then talk about it over dessert. It’s like food therapy for marriage. Have a disagreement? Go get a snack and talk about it while you eat. Making a big decision in which you have different opinions? Get some dinner and talk about it after ordering dessert. And…don’t get a spouse doll to stick pins in. That’s just crazy!

After School Questions Your Teen Might Even Answer!

Ever notice how frustrating it can be to ask your teen, “What did you do today?” and hear, “Nothing.” “Nothing!” All day with friends, all day at school, all day…and “Nothing!” Maybe we need to ask a different question, one that might surprise them, even elicit some thought on their part. Here are some ideas:

  • What made you laugh today?
  • What new fact did you learn today?
  • What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  • What did you do during lunch/recess/before school/after school?
  • What part of the day was the most fun? What made it so fun?
  • Did anything happen today that made you feel bad/sad/angry?
  • What did you do that made you feel most proud of yourself today? Why did that make you proud?
  • What is the kindest thing did you do for someone else today?
  • What kindness did you show yourself today?
  • What was the least boring part of the day for you?
  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What did you do to help a friend today?
  • What was the most enjoyable thing you did today?
  • Who inspired you today?
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • Who did you encourage today and how did you encourage them?
  • Who encouraged you today?
  • What can I do for you right now?
  • What is happening tomorrow that you are excited about?
  • What do you wish was different about today?

That’s 20 questions you can try instead of the usual “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” Try different ones. Mix them up. And, add to the list. Please, share with us any new questions you ask your children about their day.

Kissing for Health? Hmmm…

If you’re looking for a way to have a more intimate relationship with your spouse and a way to promote your spouse’s health, look no more.  A 2009 study completed by researchers at Arizona State University suggests kissing your spouse can do all that…and it’s fun. The study involved 52 couples. Half were asked to increase the frequency and duration of kissing their partner “to a notable degree” for 6 weeks. The other group made no change in their behavior. Both groups completed various surveys as well as having fasting bloodwork taken before and after the six-week testing period.

The couples that increased the frequency and duration of kissing one another reported an increase in verbal affection and overall relationship satisfaction. They also reported less conflict, less difficulty communicating, and less arguing in general. In other words, kissing increased their intimacy as a couple and their satisfaction with their relationship overall.

The couples that increased the frequency and duration of kissing one another also exhibited a decrease in total cholesterol between the bloodwork taken before and after the 6-week “kissing period.”  Kissing actually correlated with a decrease in cholesterol. In other words, kissing promoted health!

Let me say again: if you’re looking for a way to have a more intimate relationship with your spouse and a way to promote your spouse’s health, look no more. Just start enjoying some good old-fashion kissing!

Another “Cheat Code” for Dad: Healthy Physical Affection

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They can help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon you’ll need in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a gateway to a special power allowing you to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed included:

Now it’s time for another “cheat code:” Healthy Physical Affection.

The Cheat Code: Giving Healthy Physical Affection.

Purpose: Giving Healthy Physical Affection will…

  1. Increase trust between you and your daughter.
  2. Enhance cooperation between you and your daughter.
  3. Free your daughter to focus on personal growth rather than putting her energy into seeking ways to find physical affection from other men.
  4. Increase the likelihood that your daughter will seek your input when she is unsure about what to do.
  5. Communicate your love for your daughter.

Value: Healthy physical affection will soothe and calm your daughter. As an added bonus, it will nurture her ability to soothe herself. Touch also expresses love, building your daughter’s belief in her own “lovability” and self-worth. Affectionate, loving touch will help your daughter develop healthy personal boundaries that promote her safety as well. In other words, your appropriate physical affection toward your daughter will protect her from seeking physical affection in “all the wrong place” and from “all the wrong people.” (If you still wonder about the value of appropriate physical affection for your daughter, read A Page from the NBA Playbook for Your Family.)

Instructions: Giving Appropriate Physical Affection involves…

  • Hugging your daughter. Make it a habit to give her a simple hug and a “peck on the cheek” when you separate for the day and when you say “good night.” 
  • Putting your arm around your daughter’s shoulder as you stand together or walk together.
  • “Snuggling up” on the couch with your daughter to watch a show or read a book.
  • Giving your daughter a “high five” or a gentle “slap” on the shoulder to congratulate her. You might give a hug to congratulate as well.
  • Gently bumping shoulders in a fun way just to “say” you’re present with her. (Consider What Piglet Needs to Know & what that tells you about your daughter as well.)
  • Sharing a “fist bump” just for fun.
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