Tag Archive for kindness

Fruits of a Healthy Marriage

Healthy marriages flow from healthy individuals who continue to learn and grow. Sure, each person will make mistakes. But, in the long run, each spouse in a healthy marriage grows and reveals these healthy fruits in their lives. As a result, their marriages flourish. Here are some fruits that nurture a healthy marriage along with some practical ways to enjoy that fruit

  • Love. Love is an action. It seeks the best for one’s spouse. It maintains a long-term view of the marriage. So, plan a vacation, a 5-year anniversary, an extra big trip for next year. Spend this year planning a special romantic getaway

    for next year. Take time to prepare for it, save for it, and work for it together to make it happen. Love also thinks the best of one’s spouse. So, find a way to compliment your spouse every day. Show your spouse appreciation daily. Tell them how much you admire them for all they do. (If you want to apply this to your whole family, try the 30-Day Family Happiness Challenge!)

  • Joy. Healthy marriages share joy. Each spouse shares joyful experiences from their days. Joyful marriages are filled with play. So, play together, laugh together, and share adventures together. Enjoy a card game or a baseball game together. Celebrate an achievement, a milestone, or just the day for no other reason than you enjoy your spouse. Tell a joke. Share your joys.
  • Peace. In a healthy marriage each spouse pursues peace, not drama. Mole hills remain mole hills and mountains are excavated to become gentle slopes or terraced hillsides filled with lookouts over awesome vistas. Healthy couples learn to use conflict for grow and so promote peace. (Read The Secret to Family Peace and apply the principles to your marriage.)
  • Patience. Those who enjoy a healthy marriage practice patience. Each spouse puts his or her agenda aside and patiently listen to understand their spouse. They are patient with misunderstandings, disagreements, and mistakes. They listen intently and fully. Patience doesn’t mean letting everything slide. It does mean trusting your spouse’s love for you and patiently engaging them to create change.
  • Kindness. Who doesn’t want a kind spouse? A spouse who serves in kindness and speaks words of kindness nurtures a healthy marriage. So, serve your spouse. Speak words of kindness, respect, and gratitude to your spouse.
  • Sincerity. Healthy marriages put aside sarcasm and left-handed compliments. Instead, offer sincere compliments, honest encouragement, and beneficial words.
  • Faithfulness. Healthy marriages focus on truth. They do not hide things from one another. They do not lie to one another. Be truthful and honest. Keep your promises. If you promise to do something, do it as soon as you can. Faithful marriages have an eye on the long-term investment of their relationship. They know they will be together in the future and they work for that end.
  • Gentleness. People in healthy marriages tend to be humble. They do not take themselves too seriously. They are humble enough to serve one another. Rather than expect their spouse to bring them a drink, they offer to bring their spouse a drink. Rather than ask “What have you done for me lately?” they ask, “What can I do for you today?” (Check out Today’s Family Question is… for more.)
  • Self-control. Spouses who enjoy a healthy marriage practice self-control. They soothe themselves during arguments or disagreements. They are not easily angered and when they become angry they manage that anger. In addition, they practice self-control when they “only have eyes for” their spouse, no one else!

We could talk about each of these traits more, but I think you get the idea…and a few practical ideas on how to put these traits into practice. Now get out there and grow the fruits of a healthy marriage.

Are Gentlemen an Endangered Species?

I work with several young, single women who are convinced that good men are an endangered species. As we discuss their belief I realize they are speaking of “gentlemen.”  I offer them an old definition (1869) of “gentlemen:”

“always truthful and sincere; will not agree for the sake of complaisance or out of weakness; will not pass over that of which he disapproves. He has a clear soul, and a fearless, straight forward tongue. On the other hand, he is not blunt and rude. His truth is courteous, his courtesy, truthful; never a humbug, yet, where he truthfully can, he prefers to say pleasant things.”

Yep, that’s the guy. They believe he is an endangered species if not already extinct.  They support their argument with the fact that I offered a definition from 1869! So, we discuss a more modern definition, one from the Urban Dictionary:

“the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”

I like that definition better than the old one but, alas…they still insist this man is possibly extinct.  I will not accept such pessimism. I am sure “gentlemen” exist today. The news may highlight those who are not “gentlemen” and sitcoms laugh at men who are not “gentlemen” but I believe “gentlemen” still exist…and in rather large numbers. I’ve seen them and met them on multiple occasions, more numerous than I can count. With that in mind, I think it is time for all true “gentlemen” to make themselves known to the people around them. Of course, this can only be done in the true manner of a “gentlemen” so let me suggest a few methods for making your status as a “gentleman” known.

  • Build a reputation of integrity. Speak the truth but do so politely with kindness. Let your word be your word. Be on time. Keep your promises. Communicate your commitments and your intents clearly. Then let your actions prove your words. Never lead anyone on.
  • Practice chivalry. Hold the door open for others. Offer to get the car rather than assuming the women and others in your life will run through the rain. Be courteous to all. Stand boldly for what is right. Advocate for the vulnerable and underprivileged. Seek justice for all. Never criticize or insult; compliment and encourage instead.
  • Be courteous. Stand when a woman enters a crowded room and offer her your seat if none is available. Never criticize a homemade meal or a gift but show gratitude instead. Walk beside your spouse rather than ahead of her. Offer her the support of your arm on precarious terrain…and the strength of your character in difficult times of life.
  • Listen intently because you know the value of the person speaking and want to know them more intimately. Etiquette tells us that “to be a good listener is indispensable” to be a “gentleman.”
  • Promote other people’s dreams and goals, especially those of your spouse and children. Gentlemen serves others graciously, not only in daily life but in their pursuit of dreams.

I do believe “gentlemen” still exist. In fact, I know they do! I know you are out there. Join me in making the presence of “gentlemen” known in our families and our world today. And let us teach our sons to do the same.

Has This Contagion Infected Your Home?

A contagion may have infected your home. It spreads faster than the flu and the common cold put together. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and getting vaccines remain ineffective against it. This contagion can spread through your family causing misery, pain, and heartache at a speed that’s nothing to sneeze at. Researchers at the University of Florida (_______ Spreads Like a Disease) identified this contagion in a series of three studies.

  • In one study this contagion was caught after being in close proximity to someone who exhibited the symptoms. Once infected, the infected person’s thought life was impacted with the negative associates that led to ill-mannered and impolite behaviors.
  • In a second study, simply witnessing the symptoms of this contagion led to actual infection! The infected person began to interpret other people’s behaviors in a negative light and then respond to people based on those misinterpretations. Uncivilized and insolent behaviors increased as did harsh words and snide, cynical comments.
  • In a third study those interacting with the carrier became infected and, once infected, willingly sought revenge by withholding resources from the original carrier. Even more disturbing, the infected were capable of infecting others for up to a week after a single contact with the disease!

You can understand my concern. A contagion caught by simply witnessing the symptoms, lasts a full week, and effects how we think and act toward others is terrible. It’s practically a mini-zombie virus.

What exactly is this contagion? Rudeness. Rudeness has become epidemic. Twitter feuds, Facebook rants, and on-line opinion broadcasting are all symptomatic of a rudeness contagion spreading faster than the flu. Worse yet, rude behavior has found its way into our homes and our family relationships. Children are rude to parents and parents to children. Spouses spout off with rudeness toward one another. All the while, the epidemic spreads…and worsens…and destroys family relationships. But, there is a cure! We can stop this epidemic before it spreads any further. And you can insulate yourself from its insidious effects with the same intervention. That intervention comes in four parts.

  1. Be polite to one another. Say “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Hold a door open for someone else. Think about your spouse and children first. Show them consideration.
  2. Engage in daily acts of kindness. As well as showing one another politeness, be kind. Do a chore for another family member. Offer to help. Let your spouse or child choose the activity. Bring home a special treat. Show a little kindness every day.
  3. It seems simple, but a smile can change the world. Smiling helps reduce stress (Smile for a Happier Family). It puts other people at ease. Smile.
  4. Make eye contact. A study from the University of Haifa showed that simply maintaining eye contact reduced mean behavior and rudeness (Eye Contact Quells Online Hostility). Look at the one another, especially when you speak.

The cure sounds so simple…but powerful. I’m starting right now. Will you join me?

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree…Or Does It?

We hear certain folk truths all the time. Three folk truths I hear for parenting are: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” “Like father, like son,” and “He’s a chip off the old block.”  But a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychology (Read How Far Does the Apple Fall From the Tree for a review of the study) reveals the actual truth is more nuanced than folk wisdom suggests. In this study, researchers looked up 418 German and Swiss families to see “which parents most strongly transmitted their values to their children.” They discovered that parents who encourage AND live out prosocial values like helping, supporting and caring for others, and kindness passed on their values more effectively than those who promoted values like power, position-seeking, and achievement.  Interestingly, children also adopted positive traits unrelated to kindness, like curiosity and respect for tradition, from parents who promoted caring values. The authors of the study believe parents who focus on prosocial values also exhibit greater sensitivity and caring toward their children; they “practice what they preach” so to speak. This creates a stronger bond and a stronger bond contributes to children adopting their parents’ values. In other words, children are more likely to replicate the values of an empathetic, supportive parent than one who pushes for achievement and position. Interesting, isn’t it? Adds a whole new dimension to our efforts to raise kind children while pushing them to be “number one,” undefeated, the best in the class… it just might not work.

How does this change the folk wisdom mentioned above? Perhaps we need to rewrite the saying. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree of caring, supportive families…but for the harsh, power-driven parent it may roll down the hill into who knows what.” Not quite as quick and snappy…but it does express a more complete truth.

Raise Kinder Children

Want to raise kinder children? Me, too! A recent study (Reading May Make Us Kinder, Students Research Into Fiction Habits and Personality Types Reveals) conducted by a post-graduate student at Kingston University suggests a simple way to do it! The study asked 123 adults their preference: reading fiction or watching TV. The same adults were tested on their interpersonal skills like considering other people’s feelings and their desire to help others. Those who preferred reading fictional stories showed greater empathy, greater consideration of other people’s needs, and a greater desire to help other people than those who preferred TV.  In fact, those who preferred TV came across as less friendly and less tolerant of other people’s viewpoints. The author of the study suggests reading makes people think more deeply about characters and, as a result, develop empathic skills and kindness.

Here’s the take home message of this study for all parents. If you want to raise kinder children, children who show empathy and consideration in their desire to help others, chuck the remote and read some books. Turn off the TV and read. Read TO your child…read WITH your child…EVERYDAY.  Go to the library, find books that interest your child, and read. You can take turns reading out loud to one another. Or, you can both read the same book and discuss what you’ve read.  Whatever you choose, JUST READ.  Did you catch the take home message for raising kinder children? Encourage your children to read.

A 30-Day Family Happiness Challenge

We all want happy families. In fact, I’m implementing a 30-day family happiness challenge in my home and I’d like to invite you to join along. It really isn’t all that hard. But, it will demand doing certain things every day for 30 days. So, set the reminder on your phone, write them on a post-it and stick it on your mirror…whatever it takes to make sure you

remember each action each day.  Here they are.

  • Give your spouse and each child 3 hugs every day for 30 days. That’s one hug when you leave the house, one hug before bed, and one hug sometime in between. (Learn more in Becoming a Master Hugger.)
  • Give your spouse and each child one genuine compliment every day for 30 days. Tell them a character trait you appreciate or something you admire about them.
  • Tell your spouse and each child “thank you” for something they did every day for 30 days. This is different than the compliment. The compliment will acknowledge some character trait you admire. The “thank you” will acknowledge something they just did in the moment that day. You can say “thank you” for something as simple as passing the salt or as involved as painting the house. Whether it’s something you expect them to do all the time or a surprise, offer thanks. (Read the amazing benefits of gratitude in 7 Ways Gratitude Benefits Your Family According to Research and Why Thank Your Spouse for Doing Chores?)
  • Tell your spouse and each child “I love you” every day for 30 days. I would suggest doing this in the morning and in the evening before bed, but you can pick any time you like. Just make sure to tell each one every day.
  • Do one thing for your spouse and each child every day for 30 days. That’s right, do one thing for each person. It doesn’t have to be big, just do something for them. They do not even have to notice it, just do something for them. Unload the dishwasher, sweep the floor, get gas in the car, help set the table, watch a movie together, patiently help with homework, get a treat…you get the idea. Do one thing for your spouse and each child every day.
  • Eat one meal together every day for 30 days. During the meals enjoy conversation. Avoid lectures and “touchy subjects.” Just talk about the day. Tell some jokes. You might even give your compliment, “thank you,” or “I love you” during the meal. (Have Fun, Eat, &…What? will show a surprising benefit of eating as a family.)

None of these activities are especially hard; but, you will find they have an amazing impact on your family. Don’t believe me? Take up the challenge. Do each one for the next 30 days…it may make a believer out of you! Either way, I’d love to know what happens so leave a note in the message below.

A Two-Week Marriage Improvement Challenge

A research team from University of Rochester recently published an interesting study on marriage and compassion. They had 175 newlywed couples (married an average of just over 7 months) keep a two-week diary recording instances in which either spouse put aside personal wishes in order to meet their partner’s needs. These compassionate acts included meeting needs as well as actions that “expressed tenderness, showed the partner they are valued, or changed plans to accommodate their partner.” Each partner also recorded their own emotional states during the day using a standardized list of emotions. When the research team compared the diary of compassionate acts with each spouse’s emotional state, they discovered:

  1. The spouse on the receiving end of the compassionate act experienced an “emotional boost” when they noticed the act. However, if the spouse did not know an act of compassion had occurred (perhaps one spouse changed their plans to accommodate their partner but said nothing about the change) they did not experience an “emotional boost.”
  2. The spouse giving the act of compassion benefited from an “emotional boost” whether their spouse noticed the act or not. In other words, acting compassionately was beneficial to the giver whether the receiver noticed it or not.

I find it interesting that acting compassionately toward one another benefits a marriage even for newlyweds, a couple still enjoying the honeymoon of marriage. Perhaps we can all benefit by building acts of compassion into our marriage. We could even formulate a challenge based on this study—the two-week marriage improvement challenge. Here is how we’ll do it.

  1. Keep a two-week journal to “jump start” compassion in your marriage. For two weeks write down acts in which you or your spouse act compassionately. These acts might include:
    1. One spouse setting aside their personal wishes to meet the other spouse’s needs (like watching a show your spouse wants to watch instead of one you want to watch or cleaning the kitchen when you’d rather play golf),
    2. Expressing affection or tenderness toward your spouse (a hug, saying “I love you,” holding hands, etc.),
    3. Changing plans to accommodate your spouse’s plans or desires (putting down the game on your IPhone to talk or eating what your spouse likes even if it’s not your favorite),
    4. Showing your spouse how much you value them (a genuine compliment, a thoughtful gift, a written note expressing your love, etc.).
  2. At the end of the two week period, sit down and review your journals together. Recall and celebrate your love and each act of compassion.

There it is: A simple two-week marriage improvement challenge based on compassion. Won’t you join the challenge? Your marriage will thank you!

If You Really Want HAPPY Kids…

Popular culture encourages us to be kind to ourselves, give ourselves a pat on the back and reward ourselves for a job well done. While this advice may hold some merit, it will not make us happy. Quite the opposite, research reveals that being kind to others makes us Mother And Son Doing Laundryhappy. As the author of one study points out, “Substantial evidence suggests that what consistently makes people happy is focusing prosocially on others” ( Read One of the Best Ways to Boost Your Mood Revealed by Psychologists for more). When we perform acts of kindness to others, we feel greater joy, contentment, and love. We also nurture positive social relationships. So, if you REALLY want HAPPY kids, teach them to be kind to others!

  • Model kindness in your relationship to them and to others, in both word and deed.
  • Perform kind deeds as a family. Bake cookies for a friend. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Help mow the grass for an elderly neighbor. Be creative in your kindness.
  • Provide opportunities for your children to do kind deeds for others. For example, encourage them to hold the door open for others, carry someone’s tray in the cafeteria, offer a word of encouragement, bring a sibling a drink, or any other act of kindness that arises in everyday life.

Practicing these three tips will help create an environment of kindness in your home and promote more kindness in your family. That’s good because kind kids are happy kids.

In Family It’s Survival of the Contented

Cornell University recently completed an interesting study about the “evolutionary advantage” of a positive attitude. They were able to simulate 40 generations of people while looking at the impact of attitude on survival. (Read a review here.) The results suggested that those who survived for multiple generations:happy brother and sister laughing isolated on the white

  1. Attached more importance to long-term happiness than to momentary happiness,
  2. Remembered past happiness for longer periods of time, and
  3. Attached greater meaning and importance to the upswings in their situation than the downswings.

You may be thinking, “But I’m not an evolutionist. I believe in creation.” That’s OK…so do I.  One might interpret these results to suggest we were created to live longer and more successfully when we do the same three things listed above. Said in a slightly different way, those who “survived”:

  1. Attached more importance to the eternal than the temporal,
  2. Remembered past blessings and kept them in mind each day, and
  3. Attached greater meaning and importance to times of blessing than the actual struggle itself.

Let me make this a little more personal though. I mean, it’s kind of hard to think about 40 generations. Let’s narrow it down a bit. If we create a family environment that promotes these three actions, our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren can learn to be happier, more successful, and “survivors.” How do we promote these three actions in our families? Here are a couple of ways.

  • Develop an environment of gratitude in your family by thanking one another often.
  • Tell family stories of joyful events and successes, funny experiences and surprise blessings.
  • Tell family stories of how persistence and effort in times of struggles led to positive learnings or other positive results.
  • Practice showing kindness to others as a family.
  • Promote rituals of celebration. Mark your family values and happy events with celebration.
  • Find ways to experience awe as a family. Watch the sunset. Listen to a concert. Visit a cathedral or the Grand Canyon. Experience awe as a family.
  • Make prayer and worship a part of your family life.

Join My New Year Epidemic

A new year has begun. I’m glad. I am tired of the hassle, the bureaucracy, the constant barrage of sensational seeking in the news. I want to shed the heaviness of stress and feel the lightness of joy. So, I’ve decided to start an epidemic in my family. That’s right. I want to become ground zero for sending cheerfulness viral this year, starting right here in my own home with my own family. Perhaps you will join this epidemic to spread cheer and joy in your family and, from there, into the world around us. Here are some ways I plan to spread cheer this year.

  1. Emoticon with big toothy smile

    Emoticon with big toothy smile

    Smile. I am going to find reasons to smile. When I don’t feel like smiling, I will intentionally smile. I will smile at my spouse when she walks into the room. I will smile at my children every chance I get. I will smile at the clerk who rings up my groceries and even the person who cuts me off in traffic. I will smile because I’m happy to be alive. Smiling brings joy to the one smiling and the one who sees the smile. (Read On Safari for the Elusive Smile for more benefits of smiling.)

  2. Laugh. Yes, I want to laugh. I will seek out jokes to make my whole family laugh. I will laugh at myself. I may even tell more dad jokes (learn about The Power of the Dad Joke) to create more “rolling eye laughter” among my family. A good hearty laugh is good for us. It will reduce stress and draw our families closer together. (More in Laughter is No Laughing Matter)
  3. Show kindness. Nothing increases cheer and joy more than sharing a kind deed or being the recipient of an unexpected, kind deed. So, this year I will make it a point to show kindness to others. I will hold doors open for my family and the stranger behind us. I will give away the last cookie and let my spouse control the remote—in a real blast of kindness I will even let my children control the remote. I will wash dishes and do other chores around the house. I will seek out ways to help my neighbors. Cheerfulness and joy will ride into our lives on acts of kindness; I’m seeking ways to remain on kindness the whole way into the lives of all those I meet. (Click here to learn about The Mighty Power of Kindness and 8 Ways to Teach Children to be Kind.)
  4. Express gratitude. In the midst of our abundance, we sometimes lose sight of how richly our families are blessed. We neglect to offer thanks and become burdened with the weight of ungratefulness and even entitlement. This year I will combat that sense of entitlement and say “thanks” to those who wait on my table at a restaurant or ring up my drink at the gas station. I will thank those who teach my children. I will thank my children and my spouse for all they do. I will become known as “the guy who always says thank you.” Wouldn’t you like to know that guy? Wouldn’t you be glad to help that guy? I would. This year, I’m going to “be that guy!” How about you? (Learn about more benefits of Intentional Gratitude in this short blog.)
  5. Practice acceptance. This may prove one of the hardest behaviors in my search for cheer this year. In the words of the serenity prayer, “I will accept the things I cannot change.” Bureaucracy will continue to mount its assault. Hassles will remain countless. Stressors will constantly arise. But, I will accept these impingements on my joy as reminders of what I have. The hassle of being caught in traffic reveals the blessing of owning a car. The bureaucracy that raises the cost of nearly everything reminds me that I have employment and income and opportunities. The stress of paying bills reminds me of the abundant material blessing I have—running water, TV, internet, heat, air conditioning, transportation, etc.—that many in the world are forced to live without. Which brings me to the final way I will spread cheer this year…
  6. Practice generosity. Our families truly are blessed. Unfortunately, those blessings sometimes enslave us and we begin to hoard the blessings. This year I will “break out of the hoard” and share…generously…as abundantly as possible. There is joy in giving, great joy. In fact, an ancient writer tells us that Jesus even said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Your act of generosity may even get paid forward in another act of generosity, creating a rippling effect from ground zero in the epidemic of cheerfulness (read about a way to Pay It Forward here).

 

I’m starting this year…ground zero for an epidemic of cheerfulness and joy. I’m making it a point to spread cheer in my family and beyond. The world MAY BE a better place for it; but my family and I WILL BE a happier people because of it. Will you make your family a happier people?

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