Tag Archive for time

“A Real & Detectable Benefit” Easy to Get!

I love to eat. So, I wish I had been a participant in this study. (Read about it in Not
Enjoying Your Dinner Out?). The researchers of this study invited participants to go out for dinner…in a restaurant…with their friends or family!  I definitely would have volunteered for this one. I would have gone to a nice restaurant with my wife. Alas, there was a catch. The people involved in the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups. In one group, participants kept their phones on the table. In the other group, participants put their phones away. The researchers found that those who kept their phones on the table felt more distracted and experienced less enjoyment with their dinner companions than those who put their cell phones away. (I hope I was assigned to the “cell-phones-away group.” Wait, what am I saying? I can make a decision to do whatever I want because I’m not in the study.  I’ll definitely put my phone away and enjoy dinner with my wife without phone distraction. No “phubbing” here! Read Don’t Phub Up Your Marriage to learn more.)

In a second study, 100 participants received a survey on their smartphones (ironically) five times a day for one week. The surveys asked about their mood and what they had been doing over the last 15 minutes. Guess who reported the greatest feelings of enjoyment. You guessed it. In-person social interactions produced more enjoyment and feelings of happiness. Guess what times produced the greatest feelings of enjoyments. That’s right, times in which the participant engaged in more face-to-face interactions and less phone use led to greater enjoyment. (Perhaps because My Cell Phone is Ripping Me Off and yours is ripping you off too!)

Want to enjoy time with your spouse? Want to make family time more enjoyable and fun? Try putting the phone away and enjoying face-to-face, in-person interactions with your family. As this study’s senior author noted, “there is a real and detectable benefit from putting your phone away when you’re spending time with friends and family.” Take advantage of that benefit. Put your phone away.

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!

How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children

Our children crave quality time with us, their parents and families. In fact, they need quality time with us. Quality time is the currency of love in our children’s world. It purchases their sense of security and it is crucial to their emotional and mental health. Quality time creates a sense of safety that allows them to explore their world, learn about their life, and grow more mature. One of the best ways to spend quality time with your children is to enter their world rather than expecting them to enter your world. When you enter your children’s world of play, imagination, and thought you learn so much about them and you help them grow more mature. Of course, sometimes we find it difficult to enter our children’s world. After all, it’s just so… well…childish.  But the benefits to their emotional and mental health are enormous. Here are some tips to help you enter their world.

  • Let them lead the play rather than you leading them. As they direct the play, you can narrate what is happening like a sport’s caster narrating the play. When you do this, your children feel valued and appreciated. They know you consider them significant enough to pay attention to. (Investing Time & Attention in Your Children will give you more ideas for letting your children lead the play).
  • Let your children choose the toy. When children are expected to play with a toy not of their choosing, they quickly become bored. Their attention span shortens and their interest wanes. You actually help increase your children’s attention span when you follow their lead and let them choose the toys and objects of play (For more read Nurture Your Child’s Attention Span).
  • Be available during the play without imposing your desires on them. Instead of suggesting what your children “could do,” delve into what they are doing and enjoy it. Enjoy their imagination, their ideas, and their activities. Your children will learn the importance and power of their ideas.
  • Allow children to enjoy independent, unstructured play while you remain available to them. Studies suggest that children allowed to engage in independent play have higher IQ’s than those who engaged only in adult led and structured play (Read Make Your Child “a Head Taller than Himself” for more).

In other words, a great way to have quality time with your children is to let your children teach you rather than trying to teach them. When we allow our children to teach us, we let them have the joy of discovering themselves.

Mundane Opportunities for Quality Time

Every parent knows the need to spend quality time with their children. It seems almost trite to even say it. But, in this fast paced age, how can we spend quality time with our children? In the midst of school, work, sports, dance, music lessons, and the myriad other activities of life, how do we spend quality time with our children? Well, I’d like to recommend eight daily, mundane activities that offer amazing opportunities for quality time with your children.

  1. Car rides. We cart our kids all over the community for activities. Take “the long way” there and use that time to connect with your children.
  2. Household chores. I realize this may sound obvious, but we all have chores. Why not ask your children to join you in getting them done. They can help with the laundry, cleaning the room, pulling weeds, and a myriad of other chores around the house. But, don’t send them off to do the chore alone. Do the chore together. Make it a joint effort, a partnership. While doing the chore together, talk to one another. Ask about their day. Tell some jokes. Sing a song. Spend some quality time.
  3. Welcome home. When your children come home from school, practice, or time with friends, welcome them home. Make your welcome home more than a mere “hello” and passing glance. Give them a hug. Ask them about their practice. Go over their plans for tomorrow. Ask about their friends. Spend some quality time with your children as you welcome them home.
  4. Walking the dog. If you have a dog, why not walk the dog together?  I know. We teach responsibility by having our children walk the dog.  It’s true. But they learn responsibility as well as how much we value them and the joy of a growing relationship when we walk the dog with them. Might as well get the greater results for the same chore.  By the way, if you don’t have a dog, try Walking the Dog with a yoyo together (Learn how here). In other words, spend some time playing together, even if that means buying a yoyo so you can learn to Walk the Dog.
  5. Shopping. That’s right. You can spend quality time with your children while doing your grocery shopping, clothes shopping, or miscellaneous shopping. You can also learn about your children’s interests while you shop. Let them teach you about some of the items you want to buy like computers, phones, music, or video games to name a few.
  6. Dinner preparation. Dinner preparation offers a great time for quality time. Make the food preparation and table preparation sacred times of conversation and creating together. Make table clearing and dishwashing sacred times of working together as well, sacred times of serving one another. As you engage in each of these sacred times talk, laugh, plan, disclose…enjoy quality time.
  7. Baking is also a great time for quality time. Bake a pie. Bake a dozen cookies. Bake anything you like. Mix it, prepare it, cook it and enjoy eating it together. Don’t forget the quality time available in clean up—washing pots and pans, utensils and dishes. This all becomes a great opportunity for quality time as you talk and share with one another throughout the process.
  8. Bedtime. Bedtime routines may offer one of the best times for quality time. As part of the bedtime routine you can talk about the day. Share what each person enjoyed most or is most grateful for. Talk about any trouble spots of the day. Reconnect. Share dreams for tomorrow. Encourage one another. The last moments of the day become special moments of quality time.

These eight innocuous, mundane moments of the day become transformed into quality time when we mindfully use them to connect with one another, learn about one another, and grow closer with one another.

Holding Your Family Hostage (A Letter I Received)

Hello. I am writing to inform you that I have taken your family hostage. Some may consider me a kidnapper but you welcomed me into your home.  You allowed me to get a hold on your family and eventually gain the position I now hold…the position of captor. I go by several names: Things, Stuff, Possessions, but my preferred title is Clutter. It’s true. I, Clutter, have taken your family hostage. Don’t believe me? Well…

  • I have successfully taken over large sections of your home, confining you to a smaller and smaller area. You no longer keep your car in the garage because I fill it up. You are not alone. Three out of four American families cannot use their garage because I, Clutter, have filled it with my presence(Today’s Families are Prisoners of Their Own Clutter). You have one less bedroom, because I, Clutter, sleep in the spare room. I limit what rooms you use and where you sit.  You and your family are my hostage.
  • I have also limited your use of time. Remember last week when you spent two hours looking for one piece of paper hidden in me, Clutter? I robbed you of that time. Remember how proud you were of your back yard and deck? But you still don’t use it because you have no time. Your time is taken up accruing money to get more Stuff…Clutter. Once again, you are not alone. I have successfully carried out this time and space limiting plan in myriads of family homes. In a study done by UCLA at the beginning of the 21st Century 50 of 64 adults observed never went outside in the course of a week (Today’s Families are Prisoners of Their Own Clutter). They were too busy. And, when they did have time to go outside, they sat down amidst their stuff to watch TV or “engage” their computer. Basically, I, Clutter, have filled their life and your life. There is no time for the open spaces of outside. No time for family.
  • I have captured your children, too. They have “mountains” of toys. In fact, the United States has “3.1% of the world’s children but they own 40% of the Little Tykes Easy Score basketball hoops and other toys” (Today’s Families are Prisoners of Their Own Clutter) Still, I have taught your children to prefer watching TV so I can entice them with more toys they will rarely play with. If not the TV, I prefer they sit amidst their stuff and play video games. Clutter their minds so they can’t enjoy the open spaces of new experiences and adventures that await them in the creative recesses of their mind. I, Clutter, do not allow that creativity to rise and shine.
  • I shape your priorities. I keep your mind on all your stuff. I direct your energies toward stuff. I suck up your resources for stuff. I keep your focus on me. No need to have people over and build relationships. Clutter is in the way. No time to go out and enjoy time with family. Clutter calls for you to clean first…and that is too daunting a task. No money to share with others or extra cash to enjoy time as a family. Clutter needs your money to acquire more of the same…Clutter.

As you can see, I, Clutter, have taken your family captive. You are my hostage. You have no time or space for anything but me. I limit your mental resources. I keep you cooped up. I increase your frustration levels. In fact, managing all these possessions has been shown to increase the level of stress hormones in mothers.

So, welcome to the reign of Clutter.  Signed,

Clutter

 

I wrote back immediately. After finding a pen and paper amidst the clutter of my desk, I penned a very brief letter explaining my plan to escape the clutches of Clutter.  I simply wrote, “Time to declutter….” And, I did. Will you do the same?

The T.A.P. Garden Could Save Your Marriage

A couple of friends recently went to Haiti with Team Tassy to “Run Across Haiti.” His wife sent beautiful pictures and wonderful descriptions of the work they did while in Haiti. One post in particular caught my attention. I wanted to share it with you. With her permission (thank you Kristen Mauclair), here it is…a gardening metaphor that could save your marriage!

No relationship is easy… including ours. Today, after taking a tour of SAKALA (an educational, community center and beautiful garden in Cite Soleil), I had the honor to teach a lesson of agriculture to Haitian students. Children so eager to learn what it means to make a garden grow.

It came to me that there are really 3 basic principles to cultivating plants ? or crops… fruits ? or vegetables ? … Time, Attention, and Patience.

  • TIME to see the results…
  • ATTENTION to detail: watering, nourishing, harvesting the good…
  • PATIENCE when planting fails; starting over is a must… and patience to wait until the effort shows!

This was something I hoped the kids would take with them after our lesson… because ultimately… these 3 principles apply to life in many ways… developing a garden, excelling in school, growing a business, maintaining relationships… and as I thought after our garden visit… TEN YEARS OF MARRIAGE!

And, as it is, marriage is not easy. It takes TIME, ATTENTION, and PATIENCE. Our ten years have not been easy, but we’ve learned it takes work. Days have come where I’ve worked more than him and days when he’s worked more than me. There have been times when we’re on the same page, and MANY where we aren’t even in the same library. ? And… lots of days were spent NOT working at all.

Marriage is incredibly difficult AND rewarding. It’s uncomfortable AND comforting. It’s the best days AND worst days, but if there is NO effort from both parties, the garden will die. Time… with one another. Attention… to who we are together and who we are as individuals.  Patience… in knowing we will FALL, but will not FAIL… because starting over IS an option.

I’ve learned…’I am sorry’… ‘I forgive you’… and ‘I love you’ … are the most powerful 3-word phrases when used wisely. 10 years of marriage… work. I’m proud of myself and proud of us. I’m proud of what we stand for and what we’ve been through.  No relationship is easy… including ours.

I (John from Honor Grace Celebrate) would only add …the marriage that grows from an investment of time, attention, and patience is a joyful garden filled with beautiful plants bearing amazing fruit.

Make Date Night Spectacular

Remember the movie Date Night (2010) with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey? It was a fun movie about a couple (Steve Carrell and Tina Fey) who went on a date to escape the bored routine of their life and spark up their romance. In their attempt to have a glamorous night out, they get mixed up in a case of mistaken identity that leads to danger and excitement. Disaster after disaster ensues but, in the end, they are closer than ever. (You’ll have to watch the movie to discover the danger, disaster, and humor of their life-changing date.)  Although I hope to never have a date like the one portrayed in this movie, I do enjoy a date night. Date night can help marriages stay strong and even grow stronger. In fact, the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia found that couples who date regularly have better communication, and more satisfying sexual relationship, and greater commitment than those who do not date regularly. Another study using data from the Millennium Cohort Study in the UK found that couples who had one date night per month were less likely to divorce and had greater marital stability than those who did not date. A date night with your spouse has many positive benefits.

  1. Date nights with your spouse reinforce the importance of your relationship. Taking time to have a date night communicates how much you value your marriage and your spouse.
  2. Date nights with your spouse are an investment in your marriage’s well-being. We invest time and effort into what we value. Date nights demand we invest effort into planning and enjoying our spouse. They require an investment of the time we spend during the date—an investment of setting aside the busy-ness of the day, the demands of work and family, and the everyday worries we harbor so we can enjoy the time invested in our spouses. The investment may sound steep, but the dividends are great—a more satisfying sexual relationship, a happier home, greater intimacy, and more.
  3. Date nights with your spouse represent a public statement of your commitment to one another and your marriage. People see you with your spouse. They witness your commitment. They recognize you as a couple and come to think of you together.

So, if you want a stronger, happier marriage, enjoy date nights with your spouse. To help you enjoy your date nights and make them memorable, remember these 4 tips.

  • Plan ahead and anticipate. Begin talking about your date night ahead of time. Let anticipation build as you look forward to your night together. Even if you plan a “surprise date,” drop some hints and make some allusions about the plan to help build anticipation.
  • Treat the date night special. Date night is no ordinary night. Get dressed up for your spouse. Fix your hair up. Get a clean shave or trim the beard. Treat your spouse special during the date as well. Open doors. Compliment. Hold hands and walk slowly from the car to the date destination. Take your time and make the night special.
  • Minimize distractions. Turn your phone on silent and hide it in your pocket. Better yet, turn it off and leave it at home. Let the kids know you’re on a date and “Do Not Disturb.” Couples dated for years and left their children in the care of babysitters when they were no cell phones. They “hired” trusted babysitters to manage any situation that arose. Do the same today…and enjoy a quiet date night with your spouse.
  • Keep conversation fun. Avoid making your date night a planning session. Do not let the conversation become child-focused. Instead, let your spouse become the focus. Enjoy pondering hopes and dreams. Dream about trips and activities you could enjoy in the future. Keep the date conversation fun. Avoid touchy subjects that might lead to stressful discussions. Remember, it’s date night. Talk about topics that will entice and excite your spouse, topics that make your spouse laugh, topics that endear you to one another.

Now get out there and have a date night. Not just any date night but a spectacular date night…a joyous, intimacy building night together!

4 Traits of Great Fathers

While studying for a Sunday School lesson recently, I ran across some very interesting words to describe the role of fathers. Paul used them to describe his own care for the Thessalonians. He said, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NASB; italics added). That description struck me. In it, Paul gives several characteristics of a great father.

  1. A father lives the life he wants his children to live. He leads by example, behaving “devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly.” He lives “free of wrongdoing” and gives “no cause for censure or blame” regarding his own behavior. His strives to develop an upstanding and faultless reputation. That is a tall order. But fathers strive to teach their sons and daughters “to walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls them.” That lesson begins by example. Our children need to see us live a devout, upright, and blameless lifestyle before they can learn to walk in it themselves.
  2. A father exhorts. Some versions translate the word “exhort” as “encourage.” The Greek word literally means to “call to one’s side; to call near” so you can comfort, exhort, instruct, or encourage. To me, the interesting aspect of this word is the basic idea of “calling to one’s side.” A father does not parent from a distance. He parents up close. He invites his children into his life. He comes alongside his children and walks through life with them. He invites his children to walk beside him through life’s summer days and winter storms so they can observe his actions and words. He walks with his children through good times and bad, leading by example.  This requires an intimate involvement in all aspects of his children’s lives as they encounter a full variety of life situations. In each situation, a father calmly walks by his children’s side, instructing through word and example how to best respond in an upright and blameless way.
  3. A father encourages. The Greek word used in this instance is used only three other times in the New Testament. In one instance Paul uses the word to instruct others to “encourage the fainthearted” (1 Thessalonians 5:14—NASB). The other two instances are found in the passage describing Lazarus’ funeral. The townspeople were “consoling” Mary and Martha for the loss of their brother. Fathers comfort their children. Fathers encourage children when they become discouraged. They strengthen their children when they feel weak. They build their children up, especially when the world beats them down. Fathers walk with their children through grief and hardship, toward a hopeful future.
  4. Finally, a father implores. The Greek word translated “implore” means to “affirm what one has seen, heard, or experienced.” In other words, a father teaches his children based on his life experience and knowledge. There is vulnerability in this. To teach from experience a father has to remain open. He exhibits a willingness to reveal embarrassing mistakes and failures, not just successes, so his children can learn. He accepts his own mistakes and even apologize when necessary, teaching his children to take personal responsibility for wrongdoings and make amends. A father is also willing to affirm what he sees in his children, both areas of strength and areas of need, in a gentle and loving manner.

Think about what this passage tells us about a father. A father lives the kind of life he wants his children to live. He takes the time to come alongside his children and he invites them into his life. He spends time with his children; and, within this intimate relationship, he can encourage and comfort, instruct and teach. That is a GREAT father!

What We Can Learn About Parenting From FDR’s Father

I recently started reading a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president of the United States. (If you’re interested, I’m reading FDR by Jean Edward Smith.) Self-assured and optimistic in the midst of hardship, FDR “rescued the nation from economic collapse” and “led the nation to victory” in WWII.  Elected for four terms, FDR “proved to be the most gifted American statesman of the 20th century.”  The author of this biography made several very interesting observations about how FDR was parented. Perhaps we could learn some lessons from FDR’s parents for our own generation. After all, we could definitely use any suggestions that might produce men and women of character in the world today. We can learn lessons from FDR’s mother and from his father. This post will share two ideas we might learn from his father. (Read What We Can Learn About Parenting from FDR’s Mother for more parenting ideas.)

Speaking of FDR’s father, the author said, “The regard in which he (Franklin) held him (his father), amounting to worship, grew out of a companionship that was based on his ability to see things eye to eye, and his father’s never failing understanding of the little problems that seem so grave to a child.”

  • FDR adored his father for two reasons. First, they spent time together engaged in mutual, meaningful activities. His adoration “grew out of a companionship.” Children spell love T.I.M.E.  Spending time with our children will communicate how much we love them. Second, his father took the time to understand his child’s problems, even if they seemed insignificant through his own adult eyes. By “understanding the little problems,” FDR’s father accepted FDR’s concerns as important enough to address and thus FDR as significant as well. He validated FDR’s significance and value in his own life and as a person. All our children need that.

“Sara was asked if she had thought her son would ever become president. ‘Never,” she answered. “The highest ideal I could hold up before our boy [was] to grow to be like his father: straight and honorable, just and kind.”

  • This, to me, is a beautiful description of the kind of fathers we need in our world. We need fathers who live a life of character, a life worth emulating, a life that is the “highest ideal” one could hold up for our children. Fathers need to be men of character—”straight and honorable, just and kind”—so our sons have someone to admire and emulate and our daughters have an image of how a “good man” lives his life and treats women.

Our world needs fathers like FDR’s father today; fathers that might help produce men of confidence and kindness.  Great fathers live out the three aspects of parenting mentioned in these quotes:

  • They spend time with their children.
  • They take time to understand and empathize with their children’s problems (no matter how small the problem might seem to our adult senses).
  • They exhibit personal character that represents the “highest ideal” we could hold up for our children to emulate.

As fathers practice these three aspects of parenting, they will prove great fathers…and great fathers produce great children.

A Father’s Surprising Difference

FatherPerfectFathers, check this out—more proof of the significant difference you make in the lives of your children! Researchers from the University of New Castle followed 11,000 British men and woman for 30 years. They asked the parents of these men and woman how much quality time their father spent with them as children, activities like reading with them and organizing outings with them. They compared the level of a father’s quality involvement in their children’s lives with their lives as adults. The results suggest that the more involved a father was in their children’s early life, the higher the children’s IQ.  In addition, children who experience greater father involvement were more socially mobile and upwardly mobile in their career. I love this quote from Dr. Daniel Nettle, the lead researcher:

“What was surprising about this research was the real sizeable difference in the progress of children who benefited from paternal interest and how 30 years later people whose dads were involved are more upwardly mobile.”

Fathers, you will leave a lasting legacy for your children, a legacy that will impact their educational life, social life, and career! Don’t squander that responsibility. Invest in your children. Spend time with them. Read to them. Enjoy activities with them. Have some good old fun with them. In so doing, you create a legacy, a “real sizeable difference” that will extend into your children’s adulthood

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