Tag Archive for politeness

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!

The Happiness of Quadrupling Your Salary

Imagine getting called into your boss’s office the moment you walk into work. Hesitantly, you enter her office and sit down. Butterflies flit about in your stomach as your boss, with a very serious look in her eyes, leans forward to say, “I am so pleased with your work that I decided to quadruple your salary.” Relief chases away the butterflies from your stomach and joy spreads a smile across your face. Can you imagine the happiness you’d feel?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sadly, it will probably never happen.  But, what would you say if I told you another way to increase your happiness the same amount as quadrupling your income? Putman, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, knows a way.  He quantifies how marriage can impact happiness. “The strongest predictors of happiness by far are our social relationships” and “marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to a quadrupling salary.” (Read more here.) Isn’t that amazing? Marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to quadrupling your salary.  I agree… with one caveat. Happiness is not increased by any old marriage. Only healthy marriages increase happiness; unhealthy marriages, on the other hand, rob couples of happiness. So, if you want a marriage that increases happiness as much as quadrupling your income, build a healthy marriage. To help you do that, here are ten simple ways to build a healthy marriage.

  1. Greet each morning with a positive and loving statement like “Good morning. I love you.”
  2. Share a kiss any time you part during the day.
  3. Share a hug and a kiss each time you reunite. Make it an intentional 10-second oxytocin hug at least on time each day.
  4. Express gratitude for your spouse every day. Thank them for something they did, compliment something about their appearance, share a character trait you admire, etc. You get the idea. Express gratitude for your spouse every day.
  5. Look at your partner and listen when they talk to you. Put down the newspaper, get off the cell phone, look away from the TV, and look at your spouse. Let them know you understand.
  6. Do one nice thing for your spouse every day. Take out the garbage. Wash the dishes. Make the bed. Wash the car. Clean the kitty litter. Anything. Just do something nice!
  7. Remain polite toward your spouse, even when you’re angry or tired. Remember to use words like “please” and “thank you.” Hold the door open. Let your spouse go first.
  8. Touch…in and out of the bedroom.
  9. Celebrate the good moments of each day together. Take a moment at the end of each day to recall the good and joyous moments of the day.
  10. Ask your spouse what else you could do to make them feel more secure in your relationships, what you can do to show them how much you love them.

I’m sorry I can’t manage to quadruple your salary, but you’ll find the same increase in happiness by increasing the quality of your marriage. Give those 10 tips a try and enjoy the increase in happiness.

The Paradox of Happy Families

It seems paradoxical, even counterintuitive but it’s true; happiness is fleeting when we pursue it. The more we try to make ourselves happy, the more it eludes us. Paradoxically, we find ourselves happy when we forget about ourselves and reach out to help another. In Handother words, to truly experience happiness a person has to plant seeds of service in the soil of kindness and fertilize it with generosity. Research even has a name for the good feelings that come from helping others. They call it a “helper’s high.” Those who do things for other people experience the euphoria of the “helper’s high” due to a release of endorphins. Helping others also increases a person’s sense of self-worth, which enhances happiness as well. So, to grow a happy family, sow seeds of kindness and plant starter plants of helpfulness, fertilize with generosity, and water it daily with polite hospitality. Still confused about how to grow happiness in your family by giving to others? Try these four ideas to get started.

  • Model kindness within your family. Give your spouse and children words of kindness and encouragement. Words like “Thank you,” “Please,” “Can I help?” and “You look nice” will model kindness. Don’t stop with words alone; walk the talk. Practice some “mighty little deeds of kindness,” like holding doors open for one another, letting someone else manage the remote…you get the idea. This is the first step in producing a happy family filled with kindness. Researchers at the University of California in San Diego and Harvard observed that one act of kindness leads others to engage in kindness. Ultimately, this “tripled the value” of the first kind act as it spread from person to person. When you share kindness in your family, your spouse and children will follow your example. Your kindness and generosity will “cascade through your social network [family] to affect” the lives of everyone in your family and more! ( read more in Why This Beautiful Human Behaviour is Highly Infectious)
  • Model kindness to those outside your family. You could start by trying an experiment researchers used in a study reported in How To Be Happy By Giving to Others: perform five random acts of kindness one day a week for six weeks. Have each family member assess their level of happiness at the start of this experiment. During the experiment, let each person record their acts of kindness just so you can keep track of all five each week. At the end of the experiment, assess your level of happiness again. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
  • Volunteer as a family. Take the time as a family to volunteer with your church, a community activity, or an organization designed to help others (like Habitat for Humanity, a local animal shelter, or your local church).
  • When you gather as a family for dinner or in the car to travel to an activity, ask your spouse and kids about any acts of kindness they carried out. As each person talks about their act of kindness, explore specifics about the reaction of the recipient of their kind act. Were they surprised? Did they smile? How did they respond? Did they say thank you? Breaking the larger goal of showing kindness into a concrete observable goal of making someone smile will increase the overall happiness of the giver (see How to be Happy by Giving to Others for more).

 

Follow these four tips and you will notice acts of kindness, of giving to others, increase; and, as they increase, family happiness will increase as well!

Dunkin’ Donuts & A Better Behaved Child

I stood in line at Dunkin’ Donuts when a mother and her young son entered the store. They line was moving very slow. As we waited for the opportunity to pick out our donuts, this boy’s excitement began to bubble over. Suddenly, the levee that contained his excitement Mother And Son Doing Laundrybroke. He burst out into loud sounds, large gestures, and a quick run in circles around his mother. His mother calmly picked him up and smiled. He smiled back as she said, “You are really excited for your donut aren’t you?”  His eyes grew so large with excitement and joy I thought they might pop out.  “But,” she continued, “Do you see all the people already eating their donuts?” The little boy looked around and nodded. “We will get our donut soon.” He hugged his mother at those words. She continued, “In the meantime, all the people eating donuts now don’t want to be disturbed by someone running and yelling. So…, (I don’t know if she paused for dramatic effect, but I leaned forward waiting for “the rest of the story”) will you stand patiently with me while we wait for our donut?” The young man smiled and shook his head yes. She set him down and together they stood, hand in hand, patiently waiting for their turn to order a donut. I stood in line and smiled. I had just witnessed a wonderful example of the effectiveness of inductive parenting.

 

Inductive parenting is considered the most effective parenting style for helping a child internalize social norms and family values. Three components make it so effective. First, inductive parenting communicates how actions affect other people. When this young mother told her son to “see all the people…,” she raises his awareness of others. She did not judge or lecture. She simply made him aware. In doing so, she taught him to have empathy, to think about other people, to see things from their perspective. She encouraged him to experience his behavior from another person’s point of view. Her son will learn to recognize how his behavior affects others in positive and negative ways as she continues to do this. In short, he will earn to be respectful of other people.

 

Second, inductive parenting teaches the benefits of “social cooperation.” When this young boy’s mother told him ‘the people eating don’t want to be disturbed by someone running and yelling,” she was teaching him social cooperation, to think about other people and be considerate of their rights and desires. He learned that respecting other people involves cooperating with their desires, not just thinking of his own desires.

 

Third, inductive parenting gives a positive behavioral alternative. The mother described above did this when she asked her son to “stand with me while we wait.” Not only did this young man learn to be aware of the impact of his behavior on others and to respect other people by cooperating with their desires, but he learned how to do this. In addition, his mother stood with him, hand in hand as they talked about their plans for the day. He learned and experienced the joy of interacting with his mother while waiting in line. Most likely, he saw the smiles of other patrons as they witnessed a mother and son having a positive, respectful interaction (after all, she made her son aware of them).

 

Using the three components of inductive parenting will help your child internalize your family values. One more tip to help the process along: do not lecture. Simply state the expectation or raise your child’s awareness and move on. Keep it brief and to the point. Even better, as your children learn the expectations ask them rather than tell them. “Is that how we act in public?” “How do you think your behavior is making other customers feel?” “Is that how a young man/lady behaves?” Asking questions encourages your child to process what they already know. Each time they process what they know and think it through, the more likely they will act on it in the future.

10 Family Sayings You Can Take to the Bank

There are certain phrases that every family needs to practice on a consistent basis. These sayings are priceless. You can take them to the bank–the Family Bank of Honor that is–and get a great return on your investment. So, here is an investment challenge: make an intentional effort to include these phrases in your daily interactions with your spouse and children.

  •  Family Bank of HonorI love you.
  • I am proud of you.
  • I love watching you…(fill in the sentence with the activity the participate in).
  • You really put a lot of effort into that project…and it shows.
  • Thank you.
  • I am sorry. Will you forgive me?
  • I really admire/appreciate your…(end the sentence with a character trait in your child or spouse that you admire).
  • What are your plans for today?
  • I enjoy doing things with you.
  • I was thinking about you today.

 

These 10 family sayings will build up your spouse and your children, enhance each person’s sense of significance and value, and increase family intimacy…priceless!

Welcome to the Family Games

We love to watch competitions—to see our favorite athlete in the Super Bowl, the Olympics, Lively family playing tug of warthe World Series, the World Cup, or any number of various competitions. Many of us also love to compete. Competition hones our skills and motivates us to improve. Why not use that competitive spirit for good in your home?  Let the power of competition motivate your family to reach new heights of intimacy, fun, and camaraderie. Maybe some of these family competitions will help your family hone skills that will strengthen your family.

  • The Race of Apologize. We all do things from time to time that hurt members of our family. But, you can be the first to apologize for the hurt you cause. Cross the finish line to apologize first and win the joy of restored relationships. Take a victory lap and enjoy the newfound freedom of knowing you took the monkey of guilt off your back and opened the door to deeper intimacy when you apologized for the hurt your cause.
  • Score a Compliment. I can hear the announcer now… “He takes a step toward the table and looks at the food. He smiles. He shoots…a compliment;” or, “Wow that compliment was the perfect shot;” or, “He sees his wife’s look of confusion. She doesn’t understand his compliment. Look at that—he recovers and compliments again.” Imagine a simple comment like “Supper really smells good” followed by the announcer—“What a shot, straight to the net. His kids nod in agreement. His wife’s eyes sparkle and her smile grows. And, he scores!” That’s how to score a compliment. Keep track one day to see who offers the most or greatest number of sincere complements over the course of day…shoot and score!
  • The Kindness Swish. Acts of kindness will surely score you points in the family games. Most acts of kindness are shot from the 3-point line: hold the door—3 pointer, give a backrub—3 pointer, give a hug—3 pointer, do the dishes—3 pointer, throw in a load of laundry—3 pointer, bring home some flowers—3 pointer…the list goes on. As you can see, The Kindness Swish is a high scoring game. Points add up quickly and relationships grow exponentially!
  • Politeness Polo. We do not play politeness polo as much as we used to; but, it is a fast-paced family game filled with anticipation and action. In this family game you score big points by “hitting it with politeness.” You know, statements like “Thank you,” “Please,” “Excuse me,” “Sorry,” “My pleasure,” “You’re welcome,” and “Let me help you” become big scoring runs. This is a fast paced game with family members having the potential for scoring as many five to ten times in a matter of minutes.  Imagine the scoring sequence (scoring is capitalized): “Will you take out the garbage, Kids on Victory PodiumPLEASE?” “MY PLEASURE.” “THANK YOU.” “YOU’RE WELCOME.” We have four scores in mere seconds! Imagine the score over the course of a day!
  • Out of the Park. This game is a hard hitting game of grace. Showing grace will “hit it out of the park.” You can show grace by giving your spouse, your kids, or your parents a gift with no expectation of anything in return. To become a really good player of Out of the Park demands sacrifice, but the benefits are worth it! Hit it out of the park by doing someone else’s chore for them, giving up the last cookie, letting someone else sit in your favorite seat, giving up your free time to help another family member with some task, giving up your right for an apology to apologize first, giving up your choice of movie and going to one your wife likes…with no strings attached. You get the idea, give up your desire and fulfill another family member’s desire to “hit it out of the park,” a grand slam over center field!

 

Try these games out. They are easy, fun, and add joyous intimacy to family life. Maybe you have some other family game ideas. Please share them with us…we’d love to play. Now, let the family games begin!

Parents Say the Darndest Things

We all know that kids say the darnedest things; but parents do too. Have you ever really listened to parents? Have you ever listened to yourself? Sometimes we make ridiculous comments…comments that are really nonsense. Check out these statements, statements I have heard really good, loving parents say to their children in the midst of frustration. I remember saying many of them myself.

  1. Furious emoticon“We don’t yell in this house!” I yelled this one up the stairs, trying to say it loud enough to be heard over my kids…go figure. Do we yell…or don’t we?
  2. “Close the door. Were you raised in a barn?” Really…you don’t know the answer to that one? I know the answer to that question before I ask it. After all, I raised my children in my home.
  3. “You better wipe that smile off your face before I do it for you!” That statement is a sure sign that, in spite of my anger, the whole situation is actually kind of humorous. Rather than smile and laugh about it, I try to recoup my sense of dignity with a nonsensical statement.
  4. “Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” What? If my child is crying maybe they already have something to cry about. Remember, they are still thinking like a kid, not an adult. What seems like a simple thing to an adult can feel overwhelming to a child.
  5. “Don’t get smart with me.”  Now that is a smart statement. We encourage our children to attend school, acquire knowledge, and utilize that knowledge in everyday life…except when it comes to explaining to us the reasons for their disagreement.
  6. “I can turn this car around….” Wait a second. We just spent a week packing suitcases for vacation and half a day packing it into a car. We have spent a small fortune on reservations for a nice family vacation. Are we really going to turn the car around? Let’s be real.
  7. “You better wipe that smirk off your face before it freezes that way.” Well, maybe this one carries some truth. As I journey through my fifties I do see my face taking on the shape and wrinkles of my most common facial expressions; but the warning is a little too distant to mean much to a child.
  8. “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” Probably not. But, if they were stopping for ice cream after school, I might do that…even without permission. If our children made an extreme statement like this one, we would probably tell them statement #5.

 

You may be wondering why I even bring these statements up. First, I have made statements like this…and found them ineffective, useless, and nonsensical. So, I hope you don’t mind if I use this moment to offer my confession and ask your absolution. Second, I want to offer five sayings to help us avoid making useless statements in the future.

  1. Education School Boy Thinking on White“Think before you speak” (one of those useful statements my parents told me). What do we want our children to learn? What do we want to teach them? Let’s make sure that what we say and how we say it will actually teach them the lessons we want them to learn.
  2. “You get more flies with honey than vinegar” (hmm…maybe our parents had more useful sayings than I originally thought). Our children will listen better and learn more quickly when we speak to them with respect…when we honor their intelligence and common sense.
  3. “Say what you mean and mean what you say” (like Horton, the famous elephant on Whoville) and “Don’t make idle threats.” Children learn very quickly whether we mean what we say or not. If they learn we are simply “making an idle threat,” they will not respond. Let your word be true. Only say what you mean. Only threaten consequences you are willing to enforce. Our children will learn to listen and respond better as a result.
  4. “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” Sometimes kids are just being kids. A teen is going to struggle with peer pressure (so do adults) and a preschooler is likely to cry about things we consider silly. Although these issues seem less important to us, they are significant issues to a child of that age.
  5. Sometimes “all you need is love” (thank you Beatles). Our children often don’t need a quippy response or a sarcastic remark; they need a little love and compassion. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the most loving response is one of discipline. But, discipline offered in an attitude of love goes a lot further than discipline offered with an angry or sarcastic remark. And, sometimes our children need a hug more than a silly remark…so refer back to #1 and respond appropriately.

Have Fun, Eat, and…What?!

My family and I just returned from a wonderful visit with my wife’s sister and her husband’s family. While there, we enjoyed dinner with three families. Between these three families, we Family having a big dinner at homehave 6 lovely daughters ranging in age from sophomores in high school to freshman in college. Add three sets of parents and one grandmother to those six young ladies and you have a meal with 13 people around the table. Some would say that number unlucky, but we would disagree. We had a lovely meal. As we enjoyed our meal together, I realized how fortunate we are to have the opportunity for this kind of extended family experience. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and talking. At one point during the preparations, one of our daughters realized we had no bread…a catastrophe! But, 6 creative teen women soon came up with a solution and we enjoyed crescent rolls with dinner. In fact, everyone contributed to the meal—some cooked the main dish, others brought side dishes, and others brought dessert.  Some helped prepare the meal and some helped clean up afterward. While eating dessert we enjoyed several rounds of the game “telephone”—one person whispers a message into the ear of the person next to them. That person whispers it to the next person and so on until it returns to the person who first stated the message. As we laughed about how the message had changed from the beginning to the end of “telephone,” I remembered a study I had read (I know, who thinks about studies in the midst of fun…go figure). Anyway, researchers were exploring where children learned “rare words.” The researchers listed 2,000 rare words and then searched within families to discover where children learn those 2,000 rare words. Only 143 were learned through reading. But, over a thousand (that’s over half) of the words were learned at family mealtimes. Family conversations enhance vocabulary! Sounds like a great headline. As I contemplated that little tidbit of how children learn vocabulary, I realized just how much our family members learned during our wonderful time together. We learned how to cooperate with one another in completing a goal (getting dinner on the table and then cleared off after we ate). We learned how to problem solve (so we could sit in the right places, enjoy crescent rolls, and pass all the food to everyone present). We learned how to interact in a social setting. We learned how to listen carefully, how to join a conversation, and how to excuse ourselves politely. We also learned how to show gratitude and appreciation for gifts given…or simple politeness when someone passes us the gravy. Most important, all this learning was done in a spirit of camaraderie and fun! If you want to learn all these things in your family…and instill each of these values in your children…enjoy meals together as often as you can. Have fun, eat, and become better people all around!

6 Tips to Fertilize Your Marital Lawn

My friend says the “grass is always greener on the other side.” I don’t know. I’ve found that the grass is always greener when I fertilize. My grass stays green through the summer and fall when I take care of the lawn. Trouble is…some summers (like this summer) I get too busy to take care of my lawn. It gets overgrown with weeds and turns brown earlier in the fall. My neighbor fertilized this year and I didn’t. He still has a beautiful lawn…mine is burned out and full of weeds. So, next year I fertilize (well, at least that’s the plan). After all, the grass is always greener when I fertilize.

The same is true in marriage. The best marriages belong to those who fertilize, who take care of their own marital lawn rather than looking at someone else’s. In fact, if you look at other couples and think the grass is always greener on the other side, you definitely need to look at your daily lawn care and use a little marital fertilizer. To help you get started toward a beautiful marital lawn, here are a couple of marital lawn care ideas.


·   Get rid of the weeds that threaten to choke out the healthy growth in your marital lawn. Forgiveness is great for getting rid of deep-rooted weeds like anger and resentment.


·   Time management skills help to eradicate those pesky weeds that seem to pop up all over the place and multiple like dandelions. Time management means learning to say “no” to those activities that might interfere with your marriage and making time to spend with your spouse. Without time management, weeds of busy-ness will grow like dandelions and destroy your marital lawn.


·   Get rid of the grubs and other pests that eat the roots of your healthy lawn. The best way to keeps grubs and pests out of your lawn is to utilize a secret lawn care ingredient made up of equal parts admiration, affection, and acknowledgement. Take the time every day to think about the attributes you admire in your spouse. After you have thought of these attributes, tell your spouse. In other words, tell your spouse at least one thing you admire about them every day. Follow that acknowledgement of admiration with a show of affection…like a hug, a kiss, a stroke of the cheek, a holding of the hand…you can use your imagination to think of others.


·   Water your marital lawn every day with a healthy shower gratitude and kindness. Show your spouse how much they mean to you by doing kind deeds for them every day. Express gratitude for the kind deeds they do for you.


·   Keep your marital lawn well-irrigated with politeness as well. Let “thank you,” “please,” “after you,” and “excuse me” flow freely through the soil of your marriage. 


·   Put some extra fertilizer on your garden. The three ingredients of this fertilizer will keep your marital lawn healthy, green, and plush—it’s the 20-2/6-3 fertilizer

   o    A 20 minute conversation each day to talk about what happened during the day and upcoming plans.

   o    At least 2 hugs a day, each lasting 6 seconds or more.

   o    Share at least 3 kisses each day–one when you say good-bye, another when you return home, and a third when you go to bed.     

If you utilize these marital lawn care practices, you will have a fresh, green lawn free of weeds and pests…and your marriage will prosper. Indeed, the grass is always greener for those who fertilize!

2 Words to Ban From Your Family

Words carry power. They influence our actions and our mood. Even more alarming, they have the power to shape the thoughts, moods, and actions of those around us…not just for today but for years to come. How many of us can remember a harsh word spoken to us by a teacher in elementary school? Or, a hurtful word spoken by a parent in their moment of frustration? Yes, words have power. There are two categories of words in particular that carry a subtle yet pervasive power over those who say them and hear them. These words and phrases sound simple, even harmless; but, they have the potential to limit our freedom, increase our guilt, and choke our self-confidence. These two categories of words have an especially strong impact on our family members. I suggest we ban them from the family. Let me explain.

 

The first category of words to ban from family life includes absolutes like “always” and “never.” Like our mothers “always” said, “Never say never.” When we say “never” or “always,” we imply something is unchangeable. For instance, telling someone “you always lose your keys” communicates the belief that they cannot change. They will “always” lose their keys and will “always” disappoint. They may as well not even try to change what they “always” do. Consider the subtle way these absolutes label a person: “You never listen to me” labels a person as consistently rude and ignorant. “You always want the last word” carries the label that a person is arrogant and self-centered. “You never do what you’re told” translates into telling a person they are either disobedient or lazy. “You always forget what I ask you to do” carries the belief that person does not care about us.  These statements not only carry an implicit negative label of the person, but the absolute in the statement implies the person cannot and will not change! A person responds to these accusations with defensiveness…and the battle begins. We would all benefit from taking the absolutes out of the equation so we can have a better conversation. Instead of saying “always” or “never,” note what happened “this time” in “this situation.” Allow the person an opportunity to change. 

 

The second category of words to ban from family life include “should,” “ought to,” or “must.” Saying “you should do this” robs a person of choice and responsibility. It imposes a sense of obligation. After all, if “I should do it” what choice do I have? A loved one who tells me “I should” will be upset if I don’t. The only choice I have is to do what “I should” or rebel against the “should” and disappoint the one I love. And, when I do what I “should,” I hold no responsibility for choosing that course of action. Telling family members how they “should” act or what they “ought to have done” also communicates that they can never please you, never be “good enough.” A person flooded with should’s may give up. After all, if I can never be “good enough,” why even try? A well-placed “should” will induce guilt…and guilt can lead to giving up as well.

As you can see, absolutes and “should” have great power. Their power is subtle. They sound simple, even harmless; but, they crush our spirits, increase our guilt, and choke our self-confidence. I’m sure you can recall times in your own life when you were sideswiped by a well-placed absolute or a crushing should. Why continue that pain in our families today. Really, “we
should never speak in absolutes or should’s.” Ban them from your family!

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