Do you want a family filled with joy? I do. I want to build a family that plays together, laughs together, enjoys one another's company, and looks forward to family gatherings with joyful anticipation. If you want to have that kind of family, there are two things you need to know. First, a joyful family has a history. They have memories of joyful times. Joyful families have intentionally created opportunities to enjoy one another's company and build joyful memories with family. They may have built joyful memories by playing games with one another or going on day trips with one another. Perhaps they shared adventures or went on vacations (long ones or short ones) together. Their joyful moments may have been as simple as sharing a favorite song on the radio or a funny story about the day...or as complex as learning a new skill together. The family of joy may have built joyful memories on small things or big things...either way they intentionally seized opportunities to experience fun and joy as a family. This history of family fun grows stronger and more secure as they share pictures of their fun times together and retell the stories of their joyful history. Whatever they found joyful, they shared. Whatever joyful moments they shared created a history of joy; and that history of joy became a foundation of trust and anticipation upon which to build new joyful moments.
Second, a joyful family has a future. Having that foundation of joy builds anticipation for future joyful experiences. A history of sharing joyful moments builds intimacy and trust. Each joyful moment pulled family bonds tighter and drew family members closer. Building on a history of joy allows each person to remain vulnerable and transparent with one another, open to new experiences of joyful interactions. A family who builds on a history of joy looks forward to a future filled with more laughter and fun.
Sandwiched between a history of joy and the future anticipation of joy, joyful families enjoy time with one another today. This all creates a wonderful cycle of joy, doesn't it? The joy we have as a family today becomes our history of joy tomorrow...and that history of joy lays the foundation we need to anticipate the joy we can have tomorrow. Start the joyous cycle today by creating moments of joy right now.
As parents, we play an ever-changing role in our children's lives. We remain limit-setters and boundary markers throughout our children’s lives; but, our limit-setting role changes as our children mature. We want them to internalize "non-negotiable boundaries" and learn to establish more negotiable boundaries independently. So, we negotiate some boundaries with them. Yes, negotiable boundaries do exist. For instance, a non-negotiable limit may include: "Everyone has chores to do in our home. Everyone is part of the household so everyone does work in our home." From that non-negotiable limit, you can begin to negotiate which chores each child will do, how often they will do it, when they will do it, and even in what order. At times, you may even negotiate a change in chores for a day or two based on schedules or some other circumstance. Another non-negotiable limit may include "Our family sleeps at home. We do not stay out all night at parties or our boyfriend's/girlfriend's houses;" and, "In coming home at curfew time, we respect other family members' comfort and sleep." From these non-negotiable limits, you can begin to negotiate the specifics of curfews—how late is curfew on a school night? Are there nights we want to stay home so we can have a family night? What about weekends? Can curfew be modified for special events like the prom? …you get the idea. There are non-negotiable limits and from those non-negotiable limits you can begin to negotiate specific boundaries.
I can hear some parents saying, "Wait a minute? I am the parent…. I do not negotiate with my child!" Yes, you are the parent. However, when we discuss some negotiable boundaries with our children, we teach them important lessons and skills. When we negotiate some boundaries with our children...
· We teach our children the reason behind the limits. Discussing the non-negotiable limits and leaving room for some negotiation on the specifics helps our children learn to think through limits and the reasons for the limits. Our children will gain a greater understanding of the importance of the limit and better internalize that limit. The limit changes from "something my parents make me do" to "a limit I choose to keep."
· We teach our children the skills of planning and thinking ahead. Discussing negotiable aspects of limits helps them think about what might happen; the potential consequences of various decisions; and the impact of those consequences. Imagine how much pain and trouble our children can avoid by learning to think ahead as they navigate through young adulthood.
· We teach our children the skill of "give and take." All conversation involves "give and take" as we share ideas and information. Living with a roommate or a spouse, having a successful work relationship with a fellow-employee, developing a positive involvement in the community...these all involve give and take. Negotiating boundaries helps a child learn the skill of “give and take” through parent-child interactions in a safe environment.
· We teach our children to "get control of themselves." As we take the time to negotiate specifics around limits, we teach our children to respect our perspective and to respectfully consider other peoples' perspectives in the future. We teach them how to show that respect in giving of themselves in areas of negotiable limits, not on the non-negotiable boundary...to control the impulse to give in and stand firm in the non-negotiable limits and values of life.
Take a moment and consider the non-negotiable limits you have for your children. Then, think about all the specific, negotiable boundaries that support that limit. As your children mature, take the time to negotiate those changing boundaries and watch your child grow.
I know, I have a long title and now I start with a story...it's all wrong. But stay with me, please… My family has a long history with "Twinkle, twinkle little star." It all started when my children were little and could not pronounce "twinkle." Instead, it came out as "tinkle." Being the loving father I am, I rewrote the lyrics so "tinkle" would fit. My wife was less than pleased when my daughters sang "tinkle, tinkle little star, please don't tinkle on my arm; up above the world so high, please don't tinkle in my eye." Well...in my defense, I didn't think the words would stick. And, they did eventually learn the "correct words" to the song. That became evident when a kamikaze bird did a nose dive into our picture window. My youngest daughter found the bird after it had sacrificed his life in that last heroic dive into our picture window. She took me to the bird and informed me that we needed to give it a proper burial. So, with the dignity becoming such a heroic act, we gathered the bird (feathers and all) and led a procession into the flower garden. After painstakingly preparing a final resting place for our newfound friend, we carefully laid him to rest and covered him with dirt “from which we come.” Throughout this process, my daughter squatted near the grave like a catcher. With a final pat of the shovel on the covered grave, she stood up and solemnly placed her hand on her heart as she sang the dignified chorus of "Twinkle, twinkle little star…" and we paid our final respects to the lost bird. At least she sang the "twinkle, twinkle" version.
Really, we sing a lot in our house. We make up words and music just to say we are getting ice cream for dessert. Sometimes we even sing seriously. And, sometimes we sing together. I really didn't think much about this until my wife showed me this article entitled "Singing and Psychological Well-Being" (Click here to read full article). Now I have justification for singing together. Singing in a group, singing together, has a wonderful impact on our health. It stimulates the sacculus in the inner ear, which brings immediate enjoyment. It releases oxytocin, helping to form a bond of trust and empathy among those involved. Singing together also helps people cope with difficulties, even tragedies. It builds resilience and helps us successfully navigate those tragic moments of life. So, we often sing at funerals. When terrorists struck the U.S. on 9/11 or when we witnessed the tragedy of a senseless school shooting, people came together and sang as part of the healing process.
Yes, singing together brings us together. It helps us navigate difficulties. It bonds us in trust and empathy. It builds intimacy. And, it's fun! Even Sesame Street knew this—they brought celebrities together to encourage us all to "Sing, sing a song…" (Check it out here). So, why not enjoy these benefits as a family? Turn on the radio, pull out a song book, or make up your own words (la, la, la, lala)...just sing a song together and enjoy the growing intimacy it produces.
Children are smart. I may be preaching to the choir, but I have to say it again, "Children are really smart!" They are like little scientists, observing everything and figuring out what makes it tick. They study the properties of objects by banging, shaking, throwing, and squeezing them in order to discover what is hard or soft. Children study flight properties by hurling objects through space and laughing with glee at the one that goes the furthest. They are keen observers of people...little sociologists that watch the reactions of people around them and shape their own behavior in response. Case in point: my baby nephew. My wife held him while I hid behind her head. At "just the right moment" I would peak around my wife's head and say, "Boo." My nephew giggled each time my face appeared and I sounded the battle-cry of "boo." We had a fun time. Little did I know how carefully he was observing my every action, soaking it in and remembering my face. The next day, we went to a Chinese buffet. I sat at one end of the table, my nephew, in his high chair, sat at the other end. Between us sat his mother and my wife. I turned to speak to my wife at one point during dinner and saw his little head at the other end of the table peaking around his mother. As soon as I made eye contact, he ducked behind his mother...and laughed. Moments later, his head appeared again and, with the same stealth, quickly disappeared amidst a giggle. My nephew remembered the game we had played the day before. He could not say my name yet, but he had studied me and the game we had played. A day later, he used that game to get my attention.
Our children study our every move. Realizing this truth will impact how you teach and discipline your children. My nephew remembered to play that game with me after only one playful interaction. When it comes to discipline, children learn quickly, too. They learn how many times you will repeat yourself before they really “have to” listen. They study you to determine how long they can hold your attention while you refuse something time and time again. Their keen observations quickly lead to accurate conclusions about when your "no" really means "no" and when it simply means "keep asking and I’ll finally give in." When a parent does "give in" to a nagging child after 4 or 5 repetitive questions, that child learns to continue nagging in the future. If a parent says "no" but then gives in to stop a child's temper tantrum, the little scientist will reach his conclusions about the benefit of temper tantrums. Children are geniuses when it comes to figuring us out. So, even in the midst of discipline, realize that your little Einstein is studying your every move and basing his next plan of attack on your response. Knowing the genius of your children, keep these tips in mind:
· Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no." Do not change your answer simply because your children nag, persist, persuade, or cajole. Let them learn that your word is good! If you are unsure of whether to offer a "yes" or a "no," tell them you have to think about it before making a decision. Just be sure to get back to them and give them an answer. Teach them that your word is good!
· When your children misbehave and a consequence is appropriate, act immediately. When you act immediately to discipline misbehavior, the consequence becomes linked to the misbehavior and will help your children think twice the next time.
· On the other hand, when your children behave well, let them know right away. Link the consequence of attention, acknowledgement, and validation to positive behavior by responding immediately and specifically to good effort and behavior.
Disciplining children can prove challenging. By acting quickly, remaining consistent, and responding in a way that promotes positive behavior, your little scientist will learn that good behavior gets them want they want more often than not…and with that knowledge they will behavior more often, too.
If you are looking for the most powerful discipline weapon known to man, you have come to the right place. It will sound simple...too simple. In fact, I'm almost embarrassed to even mention this disciplinary tool. Still, it is powerful. This disciplinary weapon is powerful enough that most adults still recall how their parents used it. No, it is not the paddle or "time out." It is not "spare the rod spoil the child." The most powerful discipline weapon known to man is… (drum roll please)…Positive Attention! I told you it would sound simplistic; but, before you quit reading, consider these few important facts about the power of positive attention.
Children crave their parents' attention. They will do anything to gain their parent's attention. And, children are careful observers of their parents. They observe what it takes to gain their parent's attention. If parents only attend to loud behavior, then children will engage in loud behavior. If parents only attend to misbehavior, then children will engage in misbehavior. If children have to pursue a preoccupied parent's attention, then they will pursue it by any means necessary. I actually knew a child who tried several strategies to gain his mother's attention before lighting a roll of toilet paper on fire and tossing it into his mother's lap while she stared at the TV. He did gain her attention...but at what cost!
The point is: children crave their parents' attention. With this knowledge, parents can prevent a lot of negative behavior simply by attending to their children's positive behaviors. When children learn that their parents attend to helpful behaviors, they will engage in more helpful behavior. If parents attend to polite requests, polite requests will increase. When parents respond and attend to simple requests for interaction, children learn to make simple and appropriate requests for interaction. So, as the old saying goes, "Catch 'em being good." Pay attention to "good behavior" and more good behavior will follow. Show appreciation for the behavior you desire. Offer specific praise when your children put effort into the behaviors and tasks you value. The behaviors you acknowledge, and respond to with positive attention, will increase!
To honestly pinpoint how you attend to your children, spend a week recording two aspects about your interactions with your children. For every interaction or attempted interaction, record:
1. How your children attempted to gain your attention, and
2. What was the focus of your interactions with your children--discipline or relationship building, correction or acknowledgement, frustration with them or fun with them.
At the end of the week, review the results. What did you do more: praise positive behavior and effort or punish negative behavior? Did you put more effort into acknowledging positive behaviors...or punishing negative behaviors? Were your interactions centered on positive attention and sharing encouragement...or were your interactions centered on correction and discipline? Be honest with yourself. Then, start utilizing the most powerful disciplinary weapon known to man...positive attention!
We lived in a second floor apartment and I had fallen down the stairs. I remember sitting on the bottom step, about four-years-old, crying and holding my leg as my mother sat next to me. With gentle words and a soft touch, she comforted me and assured that I was not hurt too badly. My mother's gentleness convinced me I would survive and empowered me as a young child to get back up and play. I had survived, empowered by gentle words and gentle touch. As an adult, I have watched my wife offer the same gentle words to our children when they were hurt, scared, or upset. In each instance, our children were strengthened and empowered to overcome the obstacles…all through their mother's gentle words and gentle touch.
Perhaps the whole family can learn from the example of a mother's gentleness. The power of gentleness enables a person to keep their emotions in check, controlling those emotions so they do not overwhelm the other person. Gentleness learns to bring up sensitive issues with kindness--softly and carefully in order to avoid overwhelming the other person. It avoids harshness, critical statements, and sarcasm. Gentleness speaks the truth in love, in a tone and manner that enables the other person to hear it, understand it, accept it, and act upon it. A gentle answer even turns away anger and rage (Proverbs 15:1). It prevents many an argument and encourages strength in relationship.
Gentleness also means knowing when to step back and allow a person to learn some truth on their own, even though we know the answer already. It is a "strong hand with a soft touch;" a hand that guides without pushing and leads without pulling; a hand that simply rests on a shoulder to offer support and strength to the journey.
All in all, a gentle person has great power—the power to comfort, strengthen, encourage, calm, and soothe; the power to turn away anger and find restoration; the power to have the truth heard. Isn’t that the kind of power we want to wield in our family? Isn’t that the type of power we hope our family members develop? Those who have had the privilege of living under a gentle mother know that power. We have benefitted from the rippling effect of that gentle power in our own lives. But, the power of gentleness is not confined only to mothers. We can extend gentleness to every family member. Families can strive to make gentleness a staple in the whole family—so mother, father, son, and daughter alike will exhibit that powerful trait. Let us all endeavor to practice gentleness and, as we do, watch how it promotes a stronger, more intimate family filled with the joy of peace!
Winter has finally ended and spring has sprung. I know because my grass is now green and growing fast. I have to warm up the lawn mower and get chopping today. Many of my neighbors have already cut their lawns. Their lawns look so nice, neatly trimmed, green, no weeds. Then there is my lawn--scraggly, dandelion ridden, little piles that remind me that deer visit our yard often. The grass always looks greener at my neighbor's house…
Have you ever thought that about your family? "My friend's family always seem to smile. I wish…" "They have so much fun together. I wish…" "See how his children always talk to him? I wish…" "They seem so happy. I wish…" I have a little revelation to make. It's nothing new and I'm sure you have heard it before. It is true when it comes to our lawns; and, it is true when it comes to our families. The grass is always greener where you water it. My neighbor's lawn looks nicer than mine because he has cared for it this week. Maybe mine will look better after a little work, too. And, if my neighbor's family looks better than mine, it is probably because of the effort invested in creating a healthy family. With that in mind, here are three things you can do to water the lawn of your own family.
· Make your family grass greener by spending time together. Have fun. Play games. Sit down for dinner. Engage in conversation. Go someplace together. Whenever we spend time with family we build stronger bonds. The green grass of intimacy grows stronger, deeper roots. Individual blades of grass can reach out and nurture the others, strengthening one another and holding one another up. Spending time together waters the green grass of healthy family.
· Fertilize your family with words of kindness and encouragement. Nothing will make a lawn greener and healthier than good fertilizer. For the family, that fertilizer comes in the form of words. Fertilize generously with "thank you," "please," and other polite statements as well as words of support and encouragement.
· Pull the weeds out of your family. Weeds will pop up and now and again...and again and again. Weeds like anger, arguments, disagreements, distractions, or even selfishness may spring up when a family member is tired, hungry, worried...or maybe out of nowhere. To have a healthy family, we need to pull these weeds out of the family. We pull these weeds by learning to disagree in a healthy way, seeking forgiveness when we hurt another family member, offering forgiveness when family members hurt us, and learning to argue in a respectful way. Learn to identify the weeds and pull them out of your family with care and diligence.
After watering my lawn and investing time in nurturing a healthy lawn, I like to enjoy it. I can sit outside with my family and enjoy the beauty of the lawn. Even more, my family and I can play in the soft, lush grass of a healthy lawn. The same is true of family. As you invest in watering and nurturing a healthy family, you can enjoy the results. You can enjoy playful interaction with your family as well as intimate times of conversation. A family watered well with time, fertilized with words of kindness and encouragement, and cleared of weeds is a beautiful sight, a place of respite and love. I pray you will know the joys of the "greener grass of your watered lawn."
"Women are their own worst beauty critics." A new Dove campaign helps reveal this truth by having women, after having a short conversation with another woman, sit behind a veil and describe their physical appearance to an FBI sketch artist. After he sketches the woman based on her own description, he makes a second sketch based on the description of the stranger who had just met the woman in a short conversation. The sketches are then compared. The results are very interesting to say the least. Check out the video at this link or read the related article at Huffington Post for more information about this campaign and to see the comparative sketches.
When I watch this video I begin to wonder about our daughters...my daughters and your daughters. How can we help our daughters develop a more accurate view of themselves? What can we do to help our teens learn to see the inherent beauty they have as God's masterpiece? Here are some tips to help you instill a sense of esteem and beauty into your daughter. Although these tips are important for both parents, I think a father plays a special role in how their daughter sees herself in the world.
· Spend time with your daughters. Daughters see themselves through their father's eyes. If they know that their father sees them as beautiful, they see themselves as beautiful. If they know that their father values them, they feel greater value. Remember, children (daughters included) spell love T-I-M-E. When we spend time with our daughters, they recognize our love and so feel loved, valued, and beautiful.
· Tell your daughter she is beautiful. Let her know that you find her attractive. Pay attention--notice when she gets a haircut and comment on it. Tell her that she "looks nice in that blouse" or that she looks "beautiful in her glasses." Take time to notice her appearance and what makes her attractive. Make a point to acknowledge her attractiveness.
· Talk to your daughter about beauty and the images of beauty portrayed in the media (Check this link for the creation of media beauty).Teach her that beauty is more that skin deep. Beauty is a reflection of a person's inner character. Help her develop a character that emanates beauty. As noted in the last bullet, notice the beauty that exudes from her character and acknowledge that beauty: "Your generosity toward your friend is so beautiful," "You looked so beautiful as you said those kind things," or "You were so beautiful when you humbly stepped back and let your friend take the limelight."
· Hug your daughter. Some fathers hug less when their daughters hit puberty. But, it is as important to hug our teenage daughters as it is to hug our preteen daughters. Hugging our daughters reminds them that we love them; we value them. Our love is constant, even in the midst of any adolescent changes they may encounter. Continuing to hug our daughters, even into adolescence and adulthood, lets them know that our love for them transcends their body. It helps them to realize that their bodies are only one aspect of who they are, not their total identity. Males may begin to "check them out" as they move through adolescence, but our hugs reassure them that they are loved for their person, not their shape.
· Treat all the women in your life with honor and respect. Our daughters are watching us...and learning from what they observe. When they see us treat women with honor and respect, they learn that they deserve honor and respect. So, hold the door open for the ladies, speak with politeness and respect, offer sincere compliments, offer to carry a heavy package.... Show by your example that women deserve honor and respect from those around them.
Perhaps if we begin with these simple ideas, the next generation of women will give a more accurate description of their beauty. What tips might you offer to help our daughters accept the beauty God has given them?
The teen years are full of exploration and questions. Most likely, your teens will even engage you in "discussions" about the answers to those questions. You will watch, listen, and discuss questions like: What values do I believe? What career will I pursue? What lifestyle will I live? What kind of person do I want others to see in me? What is my purpose in life? What kind of person might I want to marry? Do I want to marry? In the process of answering these questions, teens may argue with parents and teachers (maybe even rebel), withdraw from family and spend more time with friends, "push the limits," question family standards, experiment with different lifestyles and ideas. As any parent knows, it's not just the teen who experiences difficulties during this time. Parents also struggle during their child’s adolescence (And can learn to love more). How can a parent journey through the teen years and maintain a loving relationship with their teen? Here are 5 tips to help.
· The journey through the teen years begins with preparation. One wise writer suggests that parents "train up a child in way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Solomon, Proverbs 22:6). This author tells parents to encourage, nurture, and bring out their children's inherent personality and natural abilities—“the way he should go.” When your children are young, pay attention to their interests and strengths. Provide opportunities for them to pursue their interests and practice their strengths. Acknowledge their interests and strengths with recognition, specific praise, and even detailed discussions about them. Express value in those interests and strengths. Notice that this takes time! You have to spend time engaged in a variety of activities in order to discover their interests and strengths, and, even more time to nurture those interests and strengths.
· Encourage your teen's self-discovery. This will also take time…time to engage in activities and conversation. When your teen asks questions, take the time to discuss the question and answer. Realize that teens are thinking and processing many ideas and values that they hear in the world around them. With that in mind, do not try to force an idea into their mind. Instead, discuss it. Allow them to disagree and encourage them to think. Let them know your strong beliefs, but realize your beliefs are the result of thought and experience. Allow them the freedom to think and experience as well. Value them enough to allow disagreement and trust them enough to believe they will reach healthy mature conclusions...then lovingly, gently, and patiently guide them toward those conclusions.
· Enjoy your teen's uniqueness...even more, value their uniqueness. Recognize that they may have different talents and interests than you do. Enjoy those differences. Relish in their uniqueness. Realize that those unique talents, interests, and dreams make them uniquely qualified to accomplish God's purpose for them. Verbally admire their uniqueness. A great way to honor their uniqueness is with the compliment of accepting their expertise in areas of their interests.
· Set loving limits for your teen. I know...teens are still teens. They still need limits. They do not have the experience to "do whatever they want." They have not gained the mental, emotional, and experiential knowledge necessary to make every decision independently. And, they still live with you. So, set loving limits. Remember, however, that the limits you set are your limits on the behavior you will accept. Talk to them about why you believe those limits are effective and how they express love. Discuss their thoughts about the limits and listen to their perspective. When realistic you might even "give in a little." Such loving discussion of limits and values will go a long way helping your teen develop their firm identity of character.
· Be patient and constantly express love. Navigating the teen years is an adventure, a journey...and it will have plenty of difficult moments to mark the way. You will also find many joyous occasions and intimate moments that brighten the path of adolescence. Think back to your own teen years. Recall some of the silly (even dangerous or crazy) things you did. Remember, you survived. Today, you may look back on some of those events with humor or pride. When your teen does something that seems "kind of crazy," be patient. Hold on for the ride. Work to keep lines of communication open. One of the best ways to do that is express love. Constantly find ways to express your love for your teen. Express love through your words, your respect, your hugs, your recognition, thoughtful gifts, time together, acts of service, or even a simple smile and acknowledgement of pride in them.
The teen years are full of adventure...and adventures have both scary moments and moments filled with joyful excitement. Enjoy them both. Fill the journey with times of joy and stuff it full of fun. Let your teen know that no matter what happens, you still love them. Soon, the teen years will end and your teen will be on their way. You will reshape your relationship with them into one involving two adults...and retell those teen adventures with misty-eyed pride.
I don't normally write about sexual intimacy and marriage. However, I have had several couples in my office discussing issues of sexual intimacy and decided to share a few thoughts. To begin with, sexual intimacy is a gift given by God to a married couple...and a gift given by one person to another. It is a precious gift, a special gift; a gift to be carefully guarded and highly honored. Here are three aspects about the precious gift of sexual intimacy I believe important.
The gift of sexual intimacy is sacred. It is holy, set apart. Sexual intimacy is not a crude, common form of intimacy. Instead, sexual intimacy is set apart from the common and made sacred. It is uniquely designed by God to express the creative love between a man and a woman. By that unique design, it allows for an intimacy that can be experienced in no other way...an intimacy that involves not just our bodies but the entwining of our emotions, intellect, and spirit—our whole being. In sexual intimacy we get to "taste and see" that the one we love is good; mentally imprint their scent, touch, and face in our memory; emotionally share a deep moment of unequaled intimacy; and spiritually unite as one. When couples share sexual intimacy (whether holding hands, hugging, kissing, or total sexual intimacy), they engage in a sacred time, a holy time set apart by God. As such, sexual intimacy is not be engaged in lightly. It is set apart for the deep expression of committed love within a marriage.
The gift of sexual intimacy is built upon cherishing one another. Cherish literally means "to keep warm," "to foster tender love and care." Sexual intimacy is not something we use to manipulate our spouse. It is an act in which we tenderly cherish our spouse. Realize that cherishing is revealed through caring and caring translates into a loving empathy that opens us up to the needs of our spouse and a compassion that compels us to relieve that need. When we, as a couple, learn to cherish sexual intimacy, we focus on satisfying our partner's needs and desires, not our own. We also foster an unconditional acceptance of our spouse...an acceptance that allows us to "stand naked and unashamed" in one another’s presence; an acceptance that calls forth and nurtures the best qualities of our spouse's life; an acceptance that welcomes, even adores and treasures, our spouse, limitations and all. Cherishing undergirds true and joyous sexual intimacy.
The gift of sexual intimacy is to be nourished. We nourish sexual intimacy by pleasing one another. Sexual intimacy is not simply about getting my desires satisfied, but the joy discovered in meeting the needs and desires of the one we love. To nourish sexual intimacy, we engage in sexual intimacy...not just physically but in all aspects of our married life. Sexual intimacy begins by caring for one another and showing value for one another. We nourish sexual intimacy by speaking kindly and lovingly to one another when in the presence of others and when alone. We nourish sexual intimacy by serving one another, helping one another with the "tasks of the day." We nourish sexual intimacy with words of personal encouragement, actions that contribute to our spouse achieving his or her goals, and loving touch that communicates affection and respect. Holding hands, a hug, respectful eye contact, and playful interactions all nourish sexual intimacy. As you can see, we begin to nourish sexual intimacy long before we move to the bedroom. Sexual intimacy is nourished by a lifestyle that communicates love and affection, respect and admiration.
Perhaps that is the biggest “secret” of all—sexual intimacy is not an act but a lifestyle…a lifestyle in which I set apart all aspects of my life to share intimately with my spouse and no other; a lifestyle in which I cherish and nourish my spouse emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually throughout the day. With that foundation, sexual intimacy culminates in a deep wealth of loving expression and intimacy.
Have you ever looked at your children and wondered what they were thinking. They seem to do the strangest things and do so without even thinking. Sometimes they even act like two-year-olds (although the other day my daughter said I was acting like a 5-year-old...maybe the apple doesn't fall far from the tree). You may have even said to yourself, "They are so immature!" I have; and, I have heard many other parents say similar things. In my more rational moments, I respond to that statement with one word...GOOD! Yes, good! Children are supposed to be immature...they are, after all, children. They are learning and growing. Our job, as parents, is to help them become more mature. Character is one important area of maturity that we help them develop. When our children develop positive character they become trustworthy and reliable, which fosters better social relationships. Children with positive character also work hard, learn from mistakes, persevere, and experience more success. How can you help your children develop the character that you can be proud of? Here are a few things you can do to help your children develop a strong and positive character.
· Become actively involved in your children's character development. If you do not instill positive character traits into your children, someone else will. If you do not model and teach your children the character traits you value, they will learn the character traits modeled through the media, their peers, or from others in the community.
· Notice and acknowledge acts of kindness. When your children do something nice, acknowledge it. When another child or a neighbor does something nice, notice it. Doing so informs your children that you value kindness. While you are at it, model kindness in your interactions with your children and with others you meet throughout the day. Children learn more from our actions than our lectures and instructions. Let them see you put kindness into action toward family, friends, strangers, and even those you "are not particularly fond of."
· Encourage your children to include others. Teach them to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Reinforce the idea that love reaches out to others, regardless of skin color, clothing choices, interests, beliefs, music preference, grade achievement, or any other marker we use to establish our "groups." Let your children know they can disagree with someone and still treat them with kindness, respect, and gratitude. Practice this in your own life as well.
· Promote responsibility in your children. Involve them in "running the household" by giving them household chores to complete. Hold them responsible for their decisions. Teach them to finish what they start.
· Learn to give together. Talk about various charitable organizations and the work they do. Pick one or two organizations your children seem interested in and donate your time, energy, or finances to those organizations. You may volunteer for the organization or raise money for them. I especially like the idea of volunteering. Volunteering allows your children to get to know the people they help. It also teaches them that, in spite of circumstances, the people they help are people with strengths and weaknesses just like you and me.
· Watch the TV shows your children like. Listen to the music they like. Play the video games they like to play. Do all three of these activities with them. Use the TV characters, the music lyrics, and the video game concepts as opportunities to learn about their interests and how they think. These "media adventures" provide excellent opportunities to discuss the character of the person on the TV show, the message of the song lyrics, or the goals of the video game. Enter these conversations from a point of curiosity, not lecture, and your children may surprise you with the character they reveal through their mature answers.
I'm sure you have more ideas to help your children develop than the six ideas listed above. How do you help your children develop character? What activities do you and your children share in an effort to develop character? Let us know in the comment section below. Your comments can help us all grow children of strong, positive character.
Whew, what a blur this month has become! My children have activity after activity, some out of state and some next door. Some mark major life transitions (such as graduation from high school) and some are great opportunities (such as participating in state level academic programs). Then, there is the typical run-around involved in keeping house and home--things like shopping, spring cleaning, working, etc. Even the world around us seems rushed and distracted. Music plays everywhere you go. Cars crowd the roads, weaving and swerving in and out of fellow travelers. Even in the "quietness" of home, computers buzz, lights flicker, cell phones glow, ice makers drop ice. At a recent school concert I watched the dancing shadows produced by the glowing lights of younger siblings playing video games on cell phones, I-Pads, or I-Pods. I encounter a constant barrage of lights, sounds, busy-ness and rush everywhere I go. In the midst of all this, you know what I miss? Do you know what I think our families need? Family rest!
Family rest—a long forgotten art in our fast-paced world. When I speak of a family rest I'm not talking about times in which the whole family takes a nap together...although that's not a bad idea. Nor do I mean those times in which everyone sits around complaining that they have nothing to do; and, in response, everyone literally "veg-out" in front of the TV. Family rest is not sitting in a restaurant because everyone is too tired to cook, although I enjoy this as well.
So, what do I mean by a family rest? I mean those times when the whole family gathers together in one area and spends time together...playing, talking, reading, whatever. Turn off the TV, the cell phones, and the computer; forget the deadlines, the "honey-do" lists, and the planning for upcoming days; don't worry about the world news or the menu for next week. Forget it all and intentionally engage one another in the moment--a relaxed, enjoyable moment of togetherness. You can do this in so many different ways, but here are a few.
· You might enjoy games like Apples to Apples, The Game of Things, or Uno--games that encourage fun, interaction, and verbal exchanges. Don't be surprised if these playful interactions lead to real eye to eye contact and times of engaging in uproarious laughter together.
· Maybe you prefer a more outdoor, active style of family rest. If so, perhaps you would enjoy a family walk or hike, a fishing trip, or a "[semi-] leisurely" bike ride along the rails to trails. During such an activity you can enjoy simple conversation. Once again, you may find this conversation becoming more intimate and meaningful as you proceed. Don't be afraid to walk right into the more meaningful content of the conversation when it arises and enjoy the intimacy you find.
· Perhaps you have a creative family that would enjoy creating together. You could sing together, play music together, make art together, or write a story together. Let the music entrain your family rhythms. Allow the art to give integrity, beauty, and flow to your interaction. Listen to the story line as it twists and turns through metaphors and similes as your family writes an evening of fun and intimacy into your family rest.
· Take a vacation. Vacations don't have to be long or expensive. You can even have a short "family rest vacation" in your backyard. Enjoy a back-yard picnic and a game of badminton. Set up camp in the back yard, equipped with a camp fire and s'mores. Put out a blanket on a warm night; then lay down as a family and point out the constellations.
I'm sure you have more ideas about how to create a family rest. Make it a point to enjoy that rest together. Relax, forget the deadlines for a little while, turn off the electronics, and enjoy the opportunity to resync your individual rhythms with the rhythm of family life.
No, I'm not talking about getting the spring family photos or even the lovely spring photos of prom dresses and spring formals. I'm talking about a Great Family Race. This family celebration takes a little bit of preparation but results in fun, laughter, and time together.
To begin, pick a destination that your family and other families enjoy. This destination might be a favorite restaurant, a concert, an ice cream shop, a friend's house, putt-putt golf, a bowling alley, or any other place your family enjoys together.
Next, develop a path to this destination that goes through several other fun places. For instance, maybe the path to your destination will go past the book store where everyone enjoys looking at books (your favorite bookstore), a park where your family enjoys playing catch (Pleasant Kingdom), a free zoo where you can glimpse the buffalo and peacocks (South Park), and a restaurant where you can get your favorite appetizer (you name the place—I like appetizers). Take a couple of pictures that can give your family a clue to identify the next location. Make the clue one that your family has to think about...not a picture of the sign at the park, but of a look down the slide or the view you get on the upper end of swinging on the swing.
After you have the clues all together (maybe on your cell phone), start the hunt. Find one or two other families to share this event with and let each family start in their own home at a set time. Show the first picture to your family and figure out what it represents. Then, race to get there. At each location, spend time with your family and any other family that might have arrived. Look at some books together. Play catch. Check out the animals at the zoo. Order and eat your favorite appetizer. Talk about the day, your life, and your dreams. Tell jokes. Have fun.
After sharing fun and conversation at each place, pull out a picture that gives a clue to the next location. Each location you find will draw you closer to your final destination...one of your family's favorite places. You can make this treasure hunt last as long or as short as you like. Maybe you can have a “prize” for the first family to reach the final destination. Or, maybe the prize will simply be enjoying time together as a family with other families. Either way, have fun. Spend the day laughing and celebrating your family.
Accountability helps children develop into mature adults. It teaches them wisdom and gives them insight into the consequences of various behaviors. Accountability enables children to know right from wrong, to courageously stand for right, and to live out values of virtue and integrity. With that goal in mind, parents hold children accountable. But, do you wield accountability as if it were a club or a staff?
When a parent uses accountability as a club, they use it to beat the wrong behavior out of their child. A parent who uses accountability as a club will constantly pound their children with a verbal barrage of unmet expectations and disappointments. Yelling, name-calling, and lecturing will leave the emotional bruises of an accountability club. The accountability club is also seen in the wallop of public humiliation and the thrashing of excessive punishment received from a parent lashing out in anger. The parent who uses accountability as a club focuses on the wrong, the negative. They hold the club of accountability high, waiting to "catch 'em being bad" so they can immediately pounce on the negative behavior of their children. Parents who use accountability as a club believe that rules alone produce good character; and, so, the club of accountability becomes the only tool of choice.
Accountability can also be used as a staff. When parents use accountability as a staff, they use it to guide their children toward positive behavior, to encourage their movement toward the desired character of virtue and integrity. Although a staff can provide a "stronger than gentle" nudge in the right direction, it does so in an effort to instruct and train the child in the dangers of negative behavior. Parents who use accountability as a staff recognize progress and express pride in their children's gifts and strengths. They strive to "catch 'em being good" and then continue to lead their children in that positive direction. Accountability as a staff also becomes a tool parents can use to lift their children up with encouragement or to lovingly lift them out of pits in which they may have fallen.
The only problem with using accountability as a staff is that it eventually leads to children's independence. The loving instruction, training, support, and guidance of accountability as a staff will produce mature children who make wise decisions...children who will no longer need us for every decision...children who grow independent enough to live their own lives. When we use accountability like a staff, we work our way out of a job...and, who wants to do that?
Last week I read a post by The Romantic Vineyard about "What we do" to keep our marriage strong. I wanted to add some "we do's" to the list as well. What do we do on a regular basis to keep our marriage strong? Interestingly, most of the things I thought of not only build a stronger marriage but a stronger family as well!
We do humor. I love to laugh with my wife...and I love to laugh with my children. Humor keeps even the most difficult situations running more smoothly. Humor lessens the friction during conflict. Humor draws us into relationship and deepens our intimacy. Some of our best memories involve times of uncontrolled laughter on the part of at least one family member. To laugh with family is a beautiful thing.
We do music. We listen to music and play music. We share our favorite songs. We sing together...sometimes we sound beautiful and sometimes not so much. Still, we do music. Just as music is filled with harmonies and the sharing of melodies, a family that does music together learns to live their life in harmony with one another while taking turns performing the melody.
We do awe and wonder. I love to experience something majestic or awe-inspiring with my wife. As we stand in awe looking over the wonder of creation or enjoy the awe-inspiring music of a concert, time stands still and we spend an eternal moment enjoying the same wonder. Our favorite time of shared awe and wonder comes in the moments of worship...and that worship can be at church singing a worship song or standing silently hand-in-hand on the beach watching the whales play in the ocean. (Check out this blog on the benefit of awe and wonder to a family.)
We do holding and hugging. What more can I say? We hold hands, share hugs, and walk arm in arm. When we say good-bye, we give a hug or a kiss. When we come home, we give a hug. When we go to bed, we give a hug. An accomplishment gets a hug or a high-five. For no special reason, we share an oxytocin hug . Hugs put flesh and blood on our expression of love.
We do lunch. The work schedules of my wife and I often make supper a difficult time to share a meal together. So, we enjoy lunch together. Lunch has become one of my favorite parts of the day. After all, I get to combine eating with the enjoyment of my wife’s company…what more could I ask for?
We do Church. Going to worship services at church is a time of growing intimacy between us and between God and us. As a couple and as a family we serve together by helping with various projects at church. We have enjoyed mission trips and service activities as a family. We support one another in our individual efforts to serve through the Church. Whether one of us goes on a mission trip without family or plays in a worship band, we support one another and share in one another's excitement for that service.
What do you do to strengthen your marriage and family?
Have you ever felt like your child just wanted you out of their life? You want to be a good parent and remain involved with them, but they just seem to want to do things independently…on their own. Let’s face it: they want to do things without you! I know one of the main goals of parenting is to raise a child so they can live on their own...without me. Still, we may feel hurt or even jealous when our children start to choose friends over us, "light up" for their peers but look like a curmudgeon old scrooge around us, or proudly inform us, "No, I don't want you to go...I want to go by myself." Here are a few tips to help you think about and prepare for those times when you feel your child say, "Get out of my life!"
· Children of all ages need their own life. They need a life independent from their parent's life. When a child becomes the sole focus of their parent's life, they feel too much pressure to perform. They may fear disappointing their parents by not doing "good enough." This fear of falling short of a parent’s expectation while always under the parent’s watchful eye will limit their exploration and, as a result, their growth. So, parents do their children a great favor by allowing their children to have a life independent of them. In their independent life, children can try different activities and perhaps even fail without feeling as though they have disappointed the watchful eye of their parent. In practical terms, this means letting your children become involved in some activities without you.
· Parents need a life independent of their children. Let's face it: our children only live with us for 18-25 years before they move out and start their own families. Hopefully, we will become involved in their new family, but probably not on a daily basis. We need a life of our own—a life that will continue after our children leave for college. We may raise children for even 25 years, but we hope our marriage lasts well beyond that; so we need to maintain our connection with our spouse. Go on date nights and spend romantic weekends together without your children. Keep your connection with your spouse strong. Also, maintain connections with friends and coworkers. Remember to get together with the "guys" or the "ladies" for a night out. Have friends over to your home for a night of games. Go out for dinner with another couple. Whatever you choose to do, keep the connection with your adult friends and family strong. Strive to become the couple in this commercial (with or without the car).
· Finally, balance your children's need for increasing independence with your need to know they’re safe. This can prove a difficult balance to attain. We do not want to over-control or micromanage our children's lives. Helicopter parents interfere with their children's growing independence. We really are not our children's best friend—they generally pick a peer to fill that role. At the same time, we don't want to throw our children to the wolves either. We have to find a balance...a way to maintain a parent-child connection that allows them to grow independent while we increasingly trust God to keep them safe. We teach them safety skills and trust they have learned those lessons.
With these three patterns firmly in place, we can navigate our changing parent-child relationship as our children grow into independent adults. Together, we will learn to negotiate the balance between intruding and participating, nagging and advising, suffocating and remaining involved.
I don't know about you, but I can let excessive worries run away with me. In fact, I have to work at keeping those nasty worries at bay so they don't interfere with my marriage, my family, and my life. If you're not sure if worries interfere with your family life, read Worry Killed the Family...you might be surprised. In the meantime, here are six ways to replace worry with peace, anxiety with joy, and apprehension with intimacy.
1. Write 5-7 quotes, scriptures or sayings related to worry on notecards. Carry those notecards with you and read them several times throughout the day. You could read them when you wake up, after breakfast, during a midmorning break, during lunch, during a midafternoon break, after dinner and before bed. If you want the extra benefit of this exercise, invest the effort to memorize these sayings. Each time you begin to worry, repeat one of the sayings in your mind. If you have trouble coming up with quotes or sayings, here are a few:
o Be anxious for nothing but with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known unto God and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus (Paul--Philippians 4:6-7).
o In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy (Bobby McFerrin).
o Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (Peter--1 Peter 5:6-7).
o Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength-carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength (Corrie ten Boom).
o Worry is most often a prideful way of thinking that you have more control over life and its circumstances than you actually do (June Hunt).
2. Realize the difference between simple concerns that that lead to action and excessive worry that consumes your time and your life. If you have a concern about something fixable, fix it. If it is not fixable, there is no benefit to worrying either. So, make a decision. Is your worry fixable? Then get to work. Invest the time and energy to address the problem.
3. Practice gratitude. Every day think of three to five things for which you are grateful. Invest some time to think of new things to be grateful for every day. Write your thanks in a "gratitude journal" by keeping a simple list of thanks in a notebook. After a month, you will have a list of ninety to one hundred fifty things for which you are grateful. When you start to worry, take a moment and review your list.
4. Recall incidents in which circumstances worked out without worry...or in spite of worry. Write these incidents down in your "gratitude journal" to create a memory bank section. If you cannot think of any times like this, take a risk and act in spite of your worry. Enjoy the outcome and write that incident in your memory bank.
5. Acknowledge the voice in your head...the one that coaches you to worry. That worried internal voice that tells you how you "should" do things; that creates a mountain out of a mole hill by adding "what if's" galore; that grows worry with absolutes such as "always," "never," "every," and "no one." Replace that coach with new coach that points out simple areas of improvement. Make sure the new internal coach will voice acceptance of your efforts as well as acknowledging and encouraging your progress.
6. Finally, enlist the help of your family. Let them act as a voice of reason for you at times. Let them remind you that the "always" is really a "sometimes" and the "should" is really a "want" and a "choice."
That gives you six ways to begin to address your worries. Really, the motivation to stop worrying is not simply to stop worrying. No, the motivation is to create peace and joy in your life, more intimacy in your family, and greater celebration with your family. So don't worry, be happy. Sing along now...don't worry, be happy!
"It takes a village to raise a child." I know that sounds overused and somewhat trite, but it really does take a village to raise a child. Don't get me wrong, children desperately need their family. The healthier our families, the easier it is to raise our children. No doubt family has the primary place in raising children. Still, the connections our children have with those outside the nuclear family have a tremendous impact on them. When parents encourage their children to build healthy connections outside their immediate family, children benefit. Of course we don't want our children to develop just any old connections; we want to guide them toward healthy connections. We do that by becoming involved in various aspects of the community as a family. Then, as children mature, they can take those involvements as their own. Here are four connections that can benefit our children.
· Connections with extended family can have a positive influence on our children. Older cousins, aunts, and uncles can serve as role models. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles can reinforce various values. Grandparents, in particular, can play a special role in reinforcing values. Many times our children will hear values voiced by the extended family more easily than they hear the same values voiced by us.
· Connections with community groups such as church, school, or sports. Coaches can help reinforce values and give our children another "ear" to help them solve various difficulties. Teachers can also serve to encourage our children and promote maturity. Church involvement has many benefits. In a church community, children can find adults who encourage and support, elderly who listen and give wisdom, and peers who want to live by similar values. Church also provide opportunities to engage in "responsible" behavior such as watching and teaching younger children, mission trips, camp opportunities, and volunteer opportunities. The church can provide all of this as well as teaching Christian values. Each of these connections can help our children grow more confident and mature.
· Connections with more than one circle of friends. This may take some guidance from you, but the benefit is great. Encourage your children to avoid a single clique and become involved with peers from several groups. This may mean becoming involved peers from several different groups at school or becoming involved with peers from church, scouting, school, and community.
· Connections with other parents. Sometimes our children just need an adult other than their parent to talk to. They need an adult who understands children, but does not have the heavy emotional investment in our children that we do. From this "other parent" our children can get an objective, third party opinion. And, if we have laid the groundwork early in our children's life, this "third party" will support similar values and ideas as we do.
Having these four connections outside of the nuclear family will help teens gain a sense of connection and belonging. Ironically, this sense of connection and belonging will help them grow more independent. It will also help them mature and grow with a desire to abide by the values of their community...which, by the way, is your community too!
Sometimes it drives me crazy to hear my kids fighting (btw—my family says that crazy is only a putt away for me, not a drive). At any rate, I hear one daughter yelling at the other and the other daughter forcefully (albeit quietly) stating her case. It is enough to promote loss of hair. But, sibling rivalry really can produce several positive outcomes. That's right; sibling disagreements, arguments, and competitions are actually good! Of course I am not talking about out and out, drag down, sock 'em in the nose, hair pulling battles. We don't want anyone getting hurt here. However, disagreements, arguments, and even some verbal sparring can produce positive results for our children. Here are just a few:
· Sibling rivalry provides the opportunity for our children to practice negotiation skills. They learn to make their point in a convincing and effective manner. They learn that one's tone of voice can lead to more or less cooperation and certain words or phrases can increase or decrease cooperation. Siblings in the midst of an argument can learn that listening strengthens one's stance for negotiation. Sibling rivalry helps each person learn how to disagree and promote a point in a way that can achieve the best result.
· Sibling rivalry provides the opportunity to learn about compromise. Through sibling conflict, siblings learn the art of compromise as well has how to show the honor and grace inherent in compromise.
· Sibling rivalry builds competence in problem-solving, both as an individual and as part of a group. Whether a person learns how to compromise, how to negotiate, or how to make a strong point, problem-solving skills grow stronger. All parties learn to work out their differences and reach some level of resolution, even if that means agreeing to disagree and learning how to do that.
· Sibling rivalry helps define individual identities. Each child has to find their place in the family--their role, their purpose, their identity. Sibling rivalry helps each child do that.
· Ironically, sibling rivalry actually helps to build family cohesiveness. As siblings argue and compete, they learn about one another. They learn to appreciate one another's strengths and abilities. As siblings learn to negotiate and compromise, they come to respect one another and look out for one another's interests. When siblings learn to share honor and grace even amidst the rivalry, they learn to love one another more deeply. All of this helps to build family cohesiveness and intimacy.
Count it all joy when siblings disagree, argue, compete and engage in all sorts of rivalry...well, maybe I'm stretching too far there; but, here are three ways parents can influence sibling rivalry for the best.
· Model healthy rivalry in your own relationships. When you have a disagreement with your spouse, model honor and grace. When you argue with your spouse or a friend, let your children observe how carefully you listen before speaking. Model speech and action during conflict with your children that reveal humility on your part as you work toward resolution.
· Coach your children in the art of disagreement and rivalry. Offer suggestions on how to phrase things in a more honorable manner. Give hints on how speech can influence resolution. Teach your children how listening can increase our understanding of the other person and the problem, leading to a better compromise.
· Acknowledge each of your children's strengths and abilities. Do not compare children with one another. Instead, encourage their different interests and abilities. Let each of your children know that they hold a special value in your eyes, a value based on their specific person. This can help limit their need to compete for your attention or for their place in the family. Instead, each will know they hold a special place already.
So, are you ready to ruummmmble? No, just joking. No rumbling please. But, a little bit of sibling rivalry can go a long way in producing mature children, especially when parents model and coach positive conflict skills while acknowledging each child's individual strengths.
"Curiosity killed the cat" but worry kills the family. I know that sounds kind of extreme, but worry really does interfere with family intimacy. Worry becomes a quiet, unseen but powerful rip current that pulls families apart…or a whirlpool of twisting, turning, dizzying emotions that hurl a family into discord and confusion. Consider these ways that excessive worry can kill the family.
· Worry in one family member limits the opportunities for all family members. When one person in the family is filled with worry, they can interfere with other family members’ exploration of the world around them. Exploration is crucial for healthy child development. Family exploration aids in building intimacy. Worry hinders exploration. It prevents family members from trying new things. Worry can even create fear in younger family members (children) who may believe, "If my Mom or Dad worries about this, it must be really bad." Worry that prevents healthy exploration will lead to family members who doubt their own abilities, family members who lack the confidence to tackle life problems that arise. Excessive worry blocks a family's growth and development.
· Worry also creates distance between family members. Specifically, a person who worries will get so caught up in their own worries that they will find themselves unable to focus on other family members' interests and concerns. Our mind can only handle so much information at a time and worry will consume all our mental space. Worry will drain our emotional energy, leaving us emotionally depleted and unable to connect with other family members. A family of worry becomes disconnected.
· Worry increases family stress. It robs families of peace and joy. When someone in the family becomes obsessed with worry, everyone suffers. Everyone becomes concerned about keeping the worrier from becoming anxious or agitated. In order to avoid the stress of one person's excessive worry, everyone "walk on egg shells." Celebration gets lost in the fear of annoying the worrier and arousing his rage. Peace and joy succumb to confusion and constant vigilance. A family filled with worry is a family without celebration.
· Worry increases conflict within the family. Increased family stress caused by worry will lead to more agitation, stress, and arguing. Children will "rebel" against the worrier in an effort to explore the world around them, try new things, and learn about themselves. Some family members will attempt to argue with the worrier to decrease their worry. This will not work. It will only increase the conflict. Other family members may become agitated with the constant barrage of worry and negative comments. They may feel as though the worrier doubts their ability and, in response, they will become defensive, leading to more conflict. Yes, worry will travel many paths, but they all lead to greater conflict.
· Worry can also shorten your time with the family. Family members may begin to avoid the worrier just because of the stress the worry creates. In addition, excessive worry increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke over the long run. Worry can shorten your life and lead to an early death. If you want to live a long and happy life with your family, don't worry, be happy.
Worry hurls a family into confusion, drowns them in chaos, and ultimately brings family celebration to an untimely death. So, if you are a worrier...in the words of Bob Newhart, "Stop it!" If that seems too difficult (and if you are honest, it probably does) check out next week's blog to learn several ways of putting your worries to rest and replacing them with peace and joy. Doing so will add years of joy to your family life!