Tag Archive for sharing

The Best Christmas: Honor, Grace, & Celebration

Christmas has suddenly appeared on the horizon. I don’t know about you, but it seems like the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas gets shorter every year. The hustle and bustle of crowds and traffic seems more pronounced. Because the spirit of Christmas so easily eludes me, I need to take the time to reflect on Christmas and what it means to me. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few things, only three, about what Christmas means to me. And, these three aspects of Christmas can become Christmas themes to practice all year round.

Christmas tells of honor. Mary, the mother of Jesus, exemplifies honor in so many ways. When the angel told her that she would have a baby who would “reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end,” she accepted his word. She obeyed the call of God. She even said, “May it be done to me according to your word.” She trusted. She obeyed. She honored.

One of the greatest gifts we can share with our family at Christmas is the gift of honor. We can honor our spouse and our parents by accepting their influence in our lives, by learning to submit to one another in love. We honor our children by modeling a reputation of integrity, generosity, and love.

Christmas tells of grace. We see grace in Joseph’s devotion to Mary. In the days of Jesus’ birth, a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock was a scandal deserving death. But Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, did not want to “disgrace Mary.” He did not want to make thigs harder for her than it already was. So, he determined to quietly end their engagement. However, an angel confirmed Mary’s baby was Jesus, who would “save His people from their sins.”  With this word, Joseph took Mary as his wife. It didn’t matter what other people might think or what they might say. He would devote himself to her and to raising her child. His devotion reveals his grace.

Of course, we also see grace given us from Jesus at Christmas. He “did not consider equality with God a thing to be used to His own advantage, but rather made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:6-7, NIV). We see grace in Jesus, who gave up all to give us all, who left home to bring us home.

You can share the gift of grace with your family all year long. Accepting each one in spite of differences and even in light of shortcomings. Giving generously of your time and availability to each of your children and your spouse. Taking the time and energy to grow emotionally connected to one another. Each of these actions is a grace given to your family.

Christmas tells of celebration. God arranged an angelic choir to sing an anthem in response to Jesus’ birth.  In response, the shepherds ran to the manger and celebrated the birth of their Messiah. Later in the story, wise men “came from afar” to bring gifts in celebration of the “newborn King.”

When we share the gifts of honor and grace with our family, we find the gift of celebration comes naturally. We celebrate our love by sharing gifts. We also celebrate our family by serving one another, encouraging one another, and comforting one another all year long.

We celebrate Christmas day once a year. But the spirit of Christmas extends throughout the year when we share honor, grace, and celebration with one another. Have a merry Christmas…and let it last throughout the year in honor, grace, and celebration.

“Being There” for Family… When?

What does it mean to “be there” for your spouse and children? We often consider “being there” as giving comfort during tough times or caring for others in difficult situations. We think of “being there” as supporting others when they need help. Those are good times to “be there” for our spouse and children; but they are not the only times we need to “be there.” We also need to “be there” during the good times to share the pleasant news, the times of joy, and the times happiness. In fact, sharing good news and good times with those we love builds stronger relationships. It helps the both person “being there,” the person we are “being there” for, and the relationship. Let me name just a few of the many ways “being there” in good times can help a relationship.

  • Sharing good news or good experiences with a spouse, parent, or child who is engaged in the conversation enhances the meaning and weightiness we attach to those joyous times. These moments of sharing become foundational to our memory. We remember positive experiences more vividly when we share them with someone who engages in conversation with us about them. So, if you want your spouse and children to have lots of good memories filled with meaning in their lives, engage them in conversation about those events. “Be there” for them in celebrating the good news.
  • On the flip side, the person hearing about their loved one’s good news or happy experience feel happier. You’ve likely had that experience. Someone told you about their positive experience and you were genuinely happy for them. You rejoiced with them and felt happier yourself. So, listen intently to your family member’s good news and rejoice with them. Share genuine happiness for their good fortune. You’ll be happier for it. Along these same lines, share your own good news and positive experiences with your family members. Don’t hold back and keep it secret. Let them rejoice with you. They’ll be happier for it…and you’ll be happier that they are happier. Everybody’s happy…sounds like a good family night of sharing.
  • Sharing good news and happy experiences with one another also builds stronger, more intimate relationships. Sharing our good experiences is linked to relationship bonding and safety. When a person telling about their good experience knows the listener is receptive and engaged, they feel more secure in the relationship. To go even further, sharing good news with a receptive family member makes us more grateful for one another, enhances our sense of fondness for one another, and increases our dedication to one another. Sound good? It sure sounds good to me.

Don’t just “be there” for your family during the hard times. “Be there” for the good times as well. Celebrate the joyous occasions. Rejoice together. “Be there” in good times and in bad.

Brain Waves, Toddlers, & Moral Development

All parents want to raise children with a strong sense of right and wrong. However, most parents don’t realize how early—surprisingly early—this moral behavior and thought begins. Kids on Victory PodiumJean Decety from the University of Chicago (and his associate, Jason Cowell) demonstrated that parents influence their children’s moral development as early as one year old! He showed a group of 73 toddlers (12-24 months old) two types of animated videos: one in which characters engaged in helping and sharing or one in which characters exhibited pushing, tripping, and shoving behavior. At the same time, they measured the toddlers’ eye movement (gaze) and brain waves. Afterwards, the researchers offered the toddlers a choice of two toys: one representing the “good” animated character or one representing the “bad” character.

What did they discover? First, toddlers looked at and tracked the “good,” pro-social characters longer. They showed more interest in the characters who exhibited positive moral actions. In addition, toddlers experienced different brain wave patterns when witnessing the prosocial behavior and the antisocial behavior.  But, these differences did not impact which toy the toddler chose. There was one factor that differentiated which toy the child reached for, regardless of the length of their gaze at the “good” character or the difference in the brain wave patterns associated with the prosocial/antisocial behavior. An additional distinct brain wave pattern was associated with which toy was chosen. This additional brain wave occurred just after the toddler witnessed the behavior of the animated character and it differentiated which toy the child chose.

Now for the really interesting part! The researchers discovered what may have contributed to that distinct brain wave pattern after reviewing questionnaires completed by parents prior to the research. These questionnaires measured parental values around empathy, justice, and fairness as well as their child’s temperament and demographics. Parental sensitivity to justice distinguished toddlers’ who reached for the “good character” toy from those who reached for the “bad character” toy! In other words, the parents’ values around justice impacted how their children’s brains work and whether their 12-24 month old reached out for the prosocial or antisocial character.

The researchers also gave the toddlers opportunities to share their toys in this experiment. This time, the parents’ ability to take someone else’s perspective influenced their children’s willingness to share, even at 12-24 months of age! So, if you want to raise children with a strong sense of right and wrong, children sensitive to justice, and children willing to share, begin early by:

  1. Cultivating your own sense of justice. Discipline fairly. Do not practice the “Do as I say not as I do” mentality. Instead, set the example of living and accept the just consequences for your behavior. Apologize and ask forgiveness when you make a mistake. Give just rewards for appropriate behavior (which can be as simple as a polite “thankyou” or “I appreciate your help.”). Talk about justice in the community. Read stories together that reveal justice. Cultivate justice in your life.
  2. Practice taking other people’s perspective before reacting to them. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes, your children’s shoes, your neighbors’ shoes and consider the situation from their perspective. Think and talk about the perspective the store clerk, the police officers, or the teacher.

These simple practices will help you raise moral children…and help create a more moral world for your grandchildren.

The #1 Ingredient for Building Friendships With Your Children

I remember coming home from the park with my preschool daughters. One would say, “I made a friend today.” Her face glowing and her voice bubbling with excitement.

“Really,” I would ask. “What’s her name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where does she live?”

“I don’t know.” (Both times the “I don’t know” reply was said in a nonchalant manner, as though the question held no real relevance at all.)

“How do you know she’s your friend?”

“We played on the slide together,” she answered excitedly

“Will you see her again?”

“Yes, Daddy, she comes to the park too,” was the confident reply. 

 

This brief conversation, which occurred time and again, taught me an important lesson. Preschoolers build friendships based on shared activities. They don’t need to know a lot of information about the other person. They just want to play together. So, my preschool daughter could go to the park for an hour and walk away with a “new best friend” simply because they engaged in a fun activity together. That realization started me thinking (always a dangerous pastime)…if any little kid can become my daughter’s “new best friend” by playing together at the park for less than an hour, I could really build my relationship with her by enjoying a fun activity with her each day! We could play hide-n-seek, swing on the swings, make chocolate chip cookies, play catch, kick a ball, read a book…the possibilities are limitless. The activity itself is less important than the outcome. What is the outcome? Having a shared activity with my daughter.  In her eyes, that makes us “best friends.” And from those foundational preschool “best friend” activities, I begin to develop a lifelong relationship!  When she begins to base friendships more on who is a part of her life and world (which she will do in the elementary school years), I will have already laid the foundation of spending time with her. I can continue to spend time with her and become an integral part of her every day world. When she enters her teen years and begins to base her friendships on shared interests and trust, I will have laid the foundation of trust by spending consistent time with her through the preschool and elementary years. I will have laid the foundation of having shared interests with her by involving myself in her world throughout the elementary school years. Building on that foundation, I can remain available throughout her teen years, faithful in my presence and trusted with information. Simply by sharing activities with my daughter during her preschool years, I will have built a relationship that will sustain us into young adult and throughout the rest of our lives. A simple step during preschool will have set us on a trajectory leading to a constantly growing relationship. So, start building relationships early in your children’s lives…and enjoy a lifetime relationship. If you missed the beginning, don’t worry. You can always start spending time with them now…you can begin to share activities today…you become present in their world today…you can prove yourself trustworthy today. The important thing is to start. Let the relationship begin!

Increase Family Happiness in 5 Minutes a Day!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I want to share a family activity that can help you prepare for this special day. This activity will also bring increased happiness, greater life satisfaction and more positive emotions into your home. Everyone who participates will reap the benefits. Best of all, it is simple. It takes only about five minutes a day and a specific interaction twice a week. So, spending about an hour and a half each week in this activity can increase your family’s joy, happiness, and life satisfaction. Sound too good to be true? Only one way to find out—give it a try. Here’s what you do.
 
First, spend five minutes each night reflecting on positive experiences, people, or things for which you are grateful. Consider why you are grateful for each of these things. Think of different experiences, people, and things each day. Write them down in a “gratitude journal.” A simple list will suffice if you don’t like to write.
 
Second, at least two times a week share something from this list with another family member. You might do this as a family or one-on-one with a family member. Maybe you can do it as a family once a week and have everyone do it with one other family member for the second time each week. You could share during dinner or a special desert. You might decide to share first thing in the morning or as you prepare for bed. However or whenever you choose, share something from your gratitude list with the rest of your family two times a week. 
 
Third, when your family member shares a positive experience or some form of gratitude with you, respond with enthusiasm. See it from their perspective and share in their joy and gratitude. Reflect on how wonderful their experience is for them.
 
Simple right? Yet studies suggest that people who share their positive experiences with enthusiastically responding others experience greater happiness, deeper life satisfaction, and more positive emotions. Why not enjoy this kind of happiness with your family? And, what a great way to prepare for a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. Try it out during the four weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Then, on Thanksgiving talk about the experience. Enjoy sharing your experiences of gratitude with your family. Celebrate.