Tag Archive for connection

Connecting with Your Teen

One of the most important (and at times challenging) aspects of parenting a teen involves maintaining a strong connection with them. They have activities and friends that suck up their time. They work to solidify their identity by developing their own lives. But research continues to show teens want a relationship with their parents. They still desire input and guidance from their parents. That desire is strongest when they have the positive connection with their parent that they desire. So, how can you keep a strong connection with your teen? Here are 6 ideas.

  • Eat with your teen. I’ve always heard it said that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Well, it’s true for teens as well. If you want a strong connection with your teen, eat with them. Have meals together as often as you can (A Special Ingredient for Happy Families). Keep snacks in the house so you can offer to share a snack while you talk. Sharing food seems to open the heart. So, enjoy a meal, share a snack, and converse with your teen.
  • Have fun with your teen. You don’t have to have serious conversations and interactions every time. In fact, enjoy as many fun interactions as possible with your teen. Go out just for fun. Enjoy a game. Go to a movie. Go for a bike ride. Let your teen pick an activity to enjoy with you. That might mean engaging in an activity you don’t currently enjoy; but, go ahead and give it a try. It will deepen the connection between you and your teen. (For more read Turn Up the Tunes and A Solid Hint from Icelandic Teens)
  • Pick your battles. Some battles just aren’t worth the struggle and the potential disconnection they create. Hair always grows back. Clothes styles change (within modest reason). Makeup washes off. Save your energy for those issues that represent danger to your teen’s health or reputation…issues that genuinely impact your teen’s well-being.
  • Talk with your teen. Along with choosing your battles, take time to talk with your teen. Talk about topics they find interesting. Use those opportunities to learn how they think. Ask them about their day. Talk about their favorite past-times. Don’t be afraid to talk about the serious issues like drugs or sex. Our teens want to learn about our views on such topics. So keep them talking with you (Are You Teaching Your Teen Not to Talk with You?) They need the opportunity to debate and think through their values in discussion with someone more knowledgeable and mature. Give them that chance with you. Stay calm during the discussion and, while talking, be sure to take a lot of time to listen…which brings us to the next point of connection.
  • Listen to your teen. Hear your teen out. Listen intently to understand. When they have a different opinion than you, listen for the valid points in their opinion. After all, they don’t have to agree with us on everything. If they get in trouble at school, hear their explanation before taking sides.  When you listen intently to your teen, you maintain a stronger connection and increase the chance they will listen more intently to you. (Learn the Gracious Art of Listening.)
  • Recognize and acknowledge positive aspects in your teen. Teens crave acceptance and respect. Let them experience your acceptance and respect by acknowledging their effort. Thank them for helping around the house. Celebrate milestones. Acknowledge their interests and unique talents. Doing so communicates acceptance of their efforts and respect for their interests. 

Teens want to connect with their parents. When you practice these 6 tips, they will more likely connect with you. They’ll be glad to have a parent who connects with them. And you’ll be thrilled to have a teen who connects with you!

“You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”

You’ve heard songs lament, “You’ve lost that loving feeling….” You’ve probably even heard people you know declare, “I love you; I just don’t feel the love anymore.” That’s great news. Now those “loving feelings” won’t interfere with you revealing your true level of love. After all, true love is a verb, not an emotion. Feelings wax and wane. Emotions come and go. But true love includes more than emotion. True love is a verb that involves decisions and actions. True love engages in loving acts toward the one you love even when the feelings of love weaken or seem nonexistent. Think of those loving actions you engaged in when you first met and began to pursue a relationship.

  • The effort you made to spend time engaged in conversation and getting to know one another.
  • The time spent sharing interests and opinions over a cup of coffee or a meal. 
  • Think about how often you “picked up a little something” you thought “the one you loved” might like and gave it to them when you met. It might have been anything from flowers to a pack of gum to a picture of something you thought they’d enjoy.
  • Recall how often you complimented them on their appearance, their cooking, an achievement, or something they did for another.
  • Remember the times you admired their character as you saw it in action.
  • Think about the simple acts of physical affection like holding hands, sitting snuggled up in one another’s arms, or walking arm in arm.
  • Consider how often you offered to do something nice for them. You might have offered to get them a drink while you were in the kitchen, pick up milk on your way to their apartment, or carry a bag for them while they opened the door.

The acts of love go on. There are many more. Not so surprisingly, engaging in these acts of love reignites those dormant feelings of love.  I fear we often put the cart before the horse when thinking about love. We think loving feelings drive loving actions. While that might be true at times, real growth, real movement toward a stronger marriage, occurs when the horse of loving action drives the cart of loving feelings to a new and better place in our relationship. Of course, the one steering the cart and directing the horse, the coachman, is you and your decision to go in the direction of love. So, if you’re singing the blues (“I’ve lost that loving feeling”), cheer up.  Rejoice in the great opportunity presenting itself to you. Jump in the driver’s seat and take the challenge of driving the horse…eh, I mean, your loving actions. Engage in loving actions, the same type of actions you engaged in when you first “fell in love.” Celebrate the opportunity to reveal your true love in action and the cart of “loving feelings” will follow into an even more beautiful love than ever before.

Rewire Your Brain & Stop Yelling

I love children. I find raising children one of the most amazing and rewarding tasks of life.  But, I have to be honest.  Raising children can be extremely frustrating as well. It can take you right to the edge of sanity. Raising children can make parents want to pull their hair out. Many a parent finds themselves yelling at their children in frustration and then feeling bad about yelling. If you’re like me, you probably realize that yelling isn’t even very effective in the long run. It “scrambles” our children’s brains. They can’t think in the face of yelling. It traumatizes our young children when taken to the extreme. Some studies even suggest it might increase the likelihood of aggression. Most parents don’t want to yell but struggle to stop. How do we stop? It seems like the brain is wired to yell in frustration. If you’re in this boat, I have some good news: 4 steps to help rewire your brain to stop yelling…or at least limit the times you do yell.

  1. Reduce unnecessary We tend to yell more than we think. We often create an environment of yelling in our homes. We yell “Time to eat,” “Dinner’s ready,” “Turn the music down,” “Close the door,” “I’m coming,” and all sorts of other simple comments. We really don’t need to yell these phrases. A much more respectable and polite method of communicating the same message involves approaching the other person and calmly let them know “Dinner’s ready” or “Don’t forget to shut the door please.” Become aware of all the unnecessary times you yell in the home and begin to change those times. Replace those times of yelling with connection: approach the other person, maybe touch them on the arm, and simply talk.
  2. Tame your internal voice. Parents often have an inner voice screaming demands at them throughout the day. It may not be loud, but a harsh demanding internal voice will increase internal stress and chaos. To stop yelling in the home, we need to tame our internal voice. Take five minutes a day to sit down, breath, and meditate or pray to help create an inner calm. That inner calm will quiet your internal demanding voice. The calmer you can keep your internal voice, the fewer times you will use your external voice to yell.
  3. Increase connection. Take time to connect with your child every day. The more connected you are to your children, the more often they will listen. You can also use moments of frustration to connect with your children. In fact, these are powerful moments of parent-child connection. So, when you feel like yelling, connect physically by gently direct your child out of the traffic area (if needed), get down on their level, look them in the eye, and gently touch their shoulder or arm. Then connect emotionally by labeling their emotion. Finally, after connecting physically and emotionally, restate your directive or limit.
  4. Slow life down in general. Sometimes life gets so rushed and serious. When it does, yelling increases. So make time to laugh with your children every day. Take time to connect rather than rushing about. Put in the effort to patiently bless your children with your time and delight rather than blurting out angry words in frustration. Your children will love you for slowing down…and you will yell less.

There you have it: four tips to rewire your brain and tame your yelling. Give it a try over the next month and enjoy the results.

Argument Starters & Enders

Many things can start a couple to arguing. Some issues of argument seem significant like money, sex, who does what chore, or how often to go out. Others seem insignificant in the long run like how to hang the toilet paper, what color car to buy, or what side of the bed to sleep on. There are a multitude of “argument starters,” issues that lead to arguments. However, if you really want to, you can narrow the “argument starters” down to a few key issues.

  1. Insecure emotional connection. When we do not feel emotionally connected to our spouse, we seek ways to reconnect. Unfortunately, we may seek less effective methods of reconnecting. In our fear of losing our attachment to our spouse, we may even go to extremes to reconnect. Sometimes we turn to arguing and fighting to regain a sense of connection. It results in a negative connection but a connection nonetheless. It is in response to fear of emotionally drifting away from our spouse that we sometimes get “snarky,” snap back, and make harsh comments. Like a toddler crying out and reaching for her mother, we will strive to reconnect by acting out of our fear of rejection.
  2. Conditional acceptance. Some marriage experts have called acceptance the “mother of all issues.” We long to feel totally and unconditionally accepted. When we feel our acceptance is based on performance or behavior, we can easily feel abandoned and rejected when our performance does not meet the standard of our partner’s expectation.
  3. Feeling disregarded. Sometimes we feel disregarded, unheard. We believe our spouse “never” listens to us. We feel unimportant in their eyes because they have disregarded our desires or ignored our requests. In anger, we demand to be heard and attended to.

I’m sure there are other issues that lead to arguments, but these three issues underlie many arguments. Arguments about money often come down to feelings of insecurity, emotional distance, and feeling unheard. Our heated disagreements over physical intimacy reflect feeling emotionally disconnected. Argument about dishes in the sink stem from feeling “my wishes always get disregarded.” The list goes on…feeling emotionally disconnected, conditionally accepted, and disregarded fuels many of our arguments. That’s good news because knowing what fuels the arguments and fights gives us insight into how to avoid the arguments and fights. Knowing the “argument starters” shines a light on the “argument enders.”

  1. Connect emotionally. Spend time together. Talk about more than the business of running a household. Talk about your interests, dreams, fears, and joys. Share opinions about current events. Pray together. Learn together. Walk hand in hand. Snuggle up and cuddle to watch TV, the sunset, or the birds in the yard. Seek ways to “touch your spouse” emotionally each day. Take time to connect. (You might even try practicing a Marital Sabbath each week.)
  2. Accept your spouse unconditionally. Acceptance satisfies a deep-seated emotional need in each of us. It promotes a sense of security, confidence, and courage. Put away comparisons, back-handed compliments, and guilt-inducing statements. Practice accepting your spouse and expressing that acceptance in your words and actions. Treat them with the dignity inherent in them as a person. Love them for their differences as those unique traits make your relationship stronger and more beautiful (Read Honoring Variety for more).
  3. Attend to your spouse. Listen to your spouse and respond to their attempts to interact and connect. Let their desires influence you. Keep your spouse in the forefront of your mind and communicate how important they are to you as often as you can. (Here is a simple formula to help you keep your spouse in the forefront of your mind.)

Don’t let this short list of ideas limit you. I’m sure you can find more ways to connect emotionally, practice acceptance, and attend to your spouse. The important aspect is to practice connecting, accepting, and attending on a daily basis. As you do, arguments will decrease in intensity and frequency. You will feel more intimacy and joy in your marriage.

Become Your Child’s Friendship Coach

Social skills are foundational to the human experience. They bring us into relationship with others. They give us the opportunity to experience community as well as the joy of intimacy. They enable us to communicate our needs and clarify our desires. They empower us to work together and accomplish greater things. They help us develop friendships. In other words, social skills serve as a foundation to our relationships, our values, and our growth. Let that foundation weaken and the whole house starts to crumble. I mean, the whole house starts to crumble. In fact, poor social skills contribute to poorer mental and physical health (the whole house). One researcher actually notes that poor social skills increase loneliness and chronic loneliness is “as serious of a risk [factor] as smoking, obesity, or eating a high-fat diet with lack of exercise (Read Poor Social Skills May be Harmful to Your Health for more). In brief, our children fair better physically and mentally when they have good social skills. Fortunately, social skills are learned over time and that learning begins in the family. Parents are their children’s first and most significant social skills coach, their friendship coach. How can a parent become a great friendship coach to their children? Here are 6 tips to help you get started.

  1. Enjoy time with your children. One of the best ways to coach social skills is by modeling and practicing them yourself. Interact with your children and practice good social skills in the process. Treat them politely. Show them how friends treat one another. Share. Laugh. Play. Set boundaries. Express emotions. Negotiate disagreements. There is no better coach than one who can play the game well and engages his trainees in the process. Enjoy time with your children. (I love the time of Enjoying Your Child–Priceless!)
  2. Talk about thoughts and feelings with your children. When you watch a movie, talk about the subtext of thoughts and feelings that motivate a character’s actions. When a friend interacts with your children in a way they don’t understand, talk about the subtext of thoughts or feelings that may contribute to that interaction. Explain how your own thoughts and feelings contribute to your actions. Label feelings you and your children experience. The broader a child’s emotional vocabulary, the more understanding they become…the better friend they become. (More tips @ Teaching Your Child to Handle Emotions)
  3. Allow for individual style. Not everyone is an extravert. Not everyone jumps into social settings. Some people are more introverted. Some slowly warm up to activities and interactions. Allow for those differences in style. Let the introvert enjoy interacting with small groups and the extrovert enjoy the loud social settings. Allow time for your children to slowly warm up to an activity if that is what they need. Allow your children to move quickly into an activity if they are comfortable doing so. Allow for those individual styles and don’t force your children into a style that does not fit their personality. (Read Honoring Variety)
  4. Create opportunities for social interactions. When your children are young you do this by scheduling play dates. As your children get older, they can become involved in various groups like scouting, church youth groups, choirs, musical groups, sports’ teams, or volunteer groups. You might also consider family games nights with various board games that encourage social interactions. Invite other families over for game night. Play a few games together then let the children go off to play together while the adults chat for a time.
  5. Turn off the technology and “go face-to-face.” Technology has a way of limiting social skills. Twitter does not allow children to learn the art of reading facial cues or hearing voice tones. Facebook does not let us see the ups & downs of life since people tend to post the happy days. “Face-to-face” interactions, on the other hand, teach us to understand facial expressions and interpret voice cues. They help us learn how and when to ask for clarifications that can deepen our understanding of one another. With this in mind, limit technology. Encourage face-to-face interactions. (More @ Welcome to the Dead Zone for more)
  6. Give your children space. It may sound contradictory to give our children space, but they need time to practice the skills they are learning without our intervention. They need the opportunities to resolve conflicts, negotiate difference, and enjoy age expected interactions with peers. After all, practice makes perfect. So, take a breath, step back, and let them go. Give them space to practice on their own. (Good Parents Do Nothing!! tells more)

Well “Coach,” follow these tips and you are well on your way to “Coach of the Year.” And your children will develop the social skills necessary to navigate their world independently and successfully!

Family Happiness in 1938 AND Today

The year: 1938. The question posed by the Bolton Evening News: “What does happiness mean to you and yours?” Bolton is a town in northwest England. Bolton “reached it’s zenith in 1929” with over 200 cotton mills and textile industries. Recently, researchers from the University of Bolton recovered and analyzed the answers given by the original 226 respondents. Three themes emerged in the analysis of the respondents’ answers.

  1. “Contentment” and “peace of mind” contributed to happiness. In other words, being satisfied with what one has rather than constantly seeking more contributes to happiness. Having a healthy family filled with emotional connection and acts of honor increases a sense of contentment, even when we don’t have the most expensive shoes or the newest gadgets.
  2. “Family” and “home” were important to happiness. A happy marriage, healthy children, loving family contribute to happiness. A home is a celebrating community of honor and grace. As we shape our homes around honoring one another and sharing grace to one another we find greater contentment and more happiness. That is a reason to celebrate!
  3. Helping “other people” contributed to happiness. Actively seeking ways to help other people brings happiness. It turns our focus outward and opens our lives to relationship. Helping others as a family strengthens our family. And family, as noted in #2, contributes to happiness. (Read more in Lessons from the Past on How to be Happy.)

These three themes can still help to build happiness in your family today. Read these blogs to discover ways of building each of the characteristics into your  family.

  1. For ideas on filling your family with “contentment” and “peace of mind” read
    1. The Secret to Family Peace
    2. Recognizing the Benefit of Emotions in Parenting
    3. Beatitudes for a Happy Marriage
  2. To improve your “family” and “home” conenctions
    1. Why Family Honor
    2. Become the Catalyst for an Honorable Family
  3. Help “other people”
    1. The Paradox of Happy Families
    2. Give It Away for Family Fun

You can find many more blogs to build these characteristics into your home and family. Just explore the many blogs on this site, put them into practice, and…find family happiness.

Defeat the One-Word Answer

Have you noticed your children’s superpower? It’s the superpower of giving one-word answers.

  • How was your day? “Alright.”
  • What did you do today? “Nothing.”
  • Where you been? “Nowhere.”
  • Where you going? “I don’t know.” (I know, this one is actually three words but is still fits into his superpower of giving an answer with no real information.)
  • Who are you going with? “Friends.”

I’m sure you’ve experienced this superpower. I want to offer you the kryptonite recipe that will defeat this “one-word superpower.” It consists of two ingredients. First, ask open-ended questions like:

  • What made you laugh today?
  • What was the nicest thing someone did for you today?
  • What nice things did you do for other people today?
  • What’s your favorite class? What makes it so good?
  • What’s your least favorite class? What makes it your least favorite?
  • What’s the difference between this year at school and last year at school? How are they different?
  • What was the most interesting/funniest thing a teacher said today?
  • Which of your classmates would make the best teacher? Why?
  • What was the most unusual outfit in school today?
  • Who did you help today? What did you do?
  • How did you see God today?

You get the idea. Ask open-ended questions. Second, ask those questions wisely and judiciously. To ask questions wisely and judiciously takes a little effort. Specifically,…

  1. Do not bombard your children with questions. Some parents fire questions like bullets from a machine gun. Slow it down. Limit the question. Ask one question and then…
  2. Shut up and listen. The number one way to encourage your children to talk to you is for you to listen to them. Allow what they say to guide the conversation and influence you rather than you trying to guide the conversation to influence them. Follow the conversation where they lead it. You will learn a lot about them when you do.
  3. Don’t force the conversation. If your children need some down time, let them have it. Let them come to you and initiate the conversation. When they do, stop what you’re doing and listen. Give them your time and attention. Doing so communicates your desire to talk with them and your willingness to do so on their terms, not just your terms. That respect will come back to you when you initiate conversation with them.

Mix these ingredients together and you get the kryptonite for your children’s superpower of the one-word answer. Use it often. Use it wisely. Use it in love.

Family Lessons in an Expensive Cup of Joe

What can the price of a cup of joe teach us about family? Last year (2016), CUPS Coffee & Tea in Roanoke, VA, taught a great lesson that applies to families and the Family Bank of Honor. (Read about the coffee shop here).  The owner “felt the need to help solve all the injustices of the world” and decided to start close to home by encouraging polite manners and connection. So, he put up a sign outside his coffee shop, a menu with prices associated with how a person orders their coffee. If someone simply ordered “one small coffee” the charges was $5.  However, if they politely placed their order with a “one small coffee, please” the cost was reduced to $3.  But, you could get the same cup of coffee for a mere $ 1.75 if you connected before placing a polite order: “Hello, I’d like one small coffee please.”  His sign went viral in a matter of days.

I think he had a great idea. “Solving the injustices of the world” begins at home.  We can contribute by encouraging polite manners and connection within the family and with those our family meets.  Each time we make a connection with a family member, we invest in the Family Bank of Honor.  Each time with make a polite statement, we invest in the Family Bank of Honor (Learn more about the Family Bank of Honor).  The more we invest in the Family Bank on Honor, the stronger and more intimate our family bond. And the stronger our family bond, the greater the potential impact on the world (Hot Sauce Vs. the Power of Relationship).

Just like that coffee shop owner, encourage your family to practice polite manners and a little connection…and change the world!

Old School Time to Nurture Your Marriage

I hardly remember the day (even though it was not so long ago) when we had no cell phones or even pagers. Remember what it was like to have only one phone in the house…and that one attached to the wall? What did married couples do to stay in touch? How did married couples know what their spouse was doing? Well, they sat down at some point during the day to talk! They sat near one another and carried on a conversation. Eye contact was prevalent, even expected. An awareness of facial expression and nuance of speech (like cadence, pace, and volume) added to the meaning of the words spoken. Each partner listened with eyes and ears as they discussed the stresses and joys of the day, plans for the week, hopes for the future, and an appreciation for one another.

The listening spouse learned about the speaking spouse while observing the body language, hearing the vocal inflections, and striving to understand the words spoken. The speaking spouse felt valued and loved as they listening spouse listened intently and responded with understanding and love.

That’s old school quality time at its best. That’s the kind of old school talk that nurtured deeper intimacy and a stronger marriage. Maybe we can take a lesson and put a little old school face-to-face interactions into our marriages from time to time.

You might ask, “What’s the big deal? Why not just send the message in a text?” You can do that; but, according to research, cell phones tend to decrease intimacy during conversation. In fact, just having a cell phone visible limits intimacy. Researchers from the University of Essex discovered this when they placed couples (not married) in a room with comfortable chairs to enjoy a conversation. A coffee table with a book on it sat next to the chairs. For half the pairs, a random cell phone was placed on the book in plain view. For the other half, no cell phone was in the room. A survey following the conversation revealed that the pairs who conversed in the room with a visible cell phone reported a different kind of experience than those who had no cell phone in the room. Specifically, those with a random cell phone sitting in plain sight reported significantly less relationship quality, partner trust, and partner empathy. In other words, just having a cell phone visible to the couple reduced intimacy. Conversation was stilted for fear of the outside world buzzing in and interrupting the conversation.

There is a way to avoid this intrusion, a way to put a boundary around your conversation and keep some of the outside world out.  Go old school! Turn the cell phone off and put it in another room. Sit down with your spouse, look one another in the eye, and enjoy a conversation filled with verbal inflection, facial expression, and body language. Go ahead. Give it a try. You will celebrate the intimacy of old school quality time.

Happy Wife, Happy Life…& The Rest of the Story!

A recent study of 1,981 middle age heterosexual couples supports the saying, “happy wife, happy life” plus more!  What could be more?  Well, it’s not just about wives. “Happy husband, happy life.” “Happy wife, happy life.” They’re both true! A happy spouse Senior Couple - Kiss on the Cheekcontributes a healthier life over time. In fact, the principal investigator of this study observed that “simply having a happy partner may enhance health as much as striving to be happy oneself.” (Read having a Happy Spouse Could Be Good for Your Health for more on this study.) Having a happy spouse may contribute to health because:

  • Happy spouses provide stronger social support.
  • Happy spouses encourage their spouses to get involved in activities that promote good health.
  • Happy spouses may simply make life easier.

So, if you want a healthier life, work to increase your spouse’s happiness. If you want to encourage your spouse’s health, enhance your own happiness. Here are four ways you can do just that!

  • Develop an atmosphere where everyone expresses gratitude on a daily basis. Express gratitude for what your spouse does for you, for your family, for your home.
  • Develop a home environment of service. Seek out ways to serve your spouse every day. Serving your spouse may be as simple as washing dishes, changing diapers, or working in the yard. Doing little things every day will add to your spouse’s happiness.
  • Develop an environment of emotional connection. Take time to emotionally connect with your spouse every day. Respond to your spouse’s attempts to interact and connect. Initiate interactions with your spouse. Support their interests and share your own interests with your spouse.

I’m sure you can think of many more ways to enhance your spouse’s happiness and your own. These four tips simply point to one important fact: enhancing your spouse’s happiness centers on doing little things for your spouse every day. So, do the little things every day. Make your spouse happy because “happy spouse, happy (and healthy) life.”

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