A couple years ago, during my daughter’s sophomore year in college, we went to a high school football game together. She saw a young college age man wearing a sweatshirt from the college she attended. Excited to meet someone who attended the same college as her, she walked up to him and said, “Hey, I go to that college too!” The young man smiled, eyes wide. She said, “What’s your major?” His arms began to move in motions indicative of speech and he opened his mouth as though to speak, but the words did not flow. After a very brief moment, sounds began to emanate from his moving lips as he stuttered, “Huh…well…I…huh…oh man,” his hand landed on the top of his head, “I can’t remember my major!” He looked hopelessly to his friend and then said, “I gotta go.” I just smiled. He did return later and had a more intelligible conversation with my daughter. He was a nice young man…very intelligent actually. He just “got lost in her eyes.” When she “ambushed him” that way his intelligence went adrift in her eyes.
Watching this brief interaction brought two things to my mind. One, I recalled the scene from Inside Out. You can check it out here. Two, it reminded me of a study completed in 2009 in which people interacted with attractive members of the opposite sex before completing cognitive tests (What Sexy People Do To Your Intelligence). Both males and females performed worse on the cognitive tests in the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex. But males exhibited a stronger drop in ability than women. Why? The authors of the study believed that it had to do with “impression management.” It seems that trying to make a positive impression on another person sucks up enough brain power that our cognitive skills, our intelligence, is weakened. (That must be why I can’t speak intelligently when my wife walks into the room…oh, come one guys…give me a break. I’m trying to earn some brownie points here if my wife happens to read my blog!) My daughter knows about these studies since I talk about them (she would say I talk about them too much). She had compassion for the guy. She was patient and didn’t make a deal out of it. In other words, she treated him with respect and honor. Teaching our children to respond to others with respect and honor is an important part of equipping them for the world…and making the world a better place. Let’s teach our children these values early. Let’s give the values of honor and respect a central place in our families and in our training of children. We can still enjoy the intelligence that goes adrift in the sea of beautiful eyes, but we can also admire the compassion, patience, honor, and respect we witness in return.
You’ve heard songs lament, “You’ve lost that loving feeling….” You’ve probably even heard people you know declare, “I love you; I just don’t feel the love anymore.” That’s great news. Now those “loving feelings” won’t interfere with you revealing your true level of love. After all, true love is a verb, not an emotion. Feelings wax and wane. Emotions come and go. But true love includes more than emotion. True love is a verb that involves decisions and actions. True love engages in loving acts toward the one you love even when the feelings of love weaken or seem nonexistent. Think of those loving actions you engaged in when you first met and began to pursue a relationship.
The effort you made to spend time engaged in conversation and getting to know one another.
The time spent sharing interests and opinions over a cup of coffee or a meal.
Think about how often you “picked up a little something” you thought “the one you loved” might like and gave it to them when you met. It might have been anything from flowers to a pack of gum to a picture of something you thought they’d enjoy.
Recall how often you complimented them on their appearance, their cooking, an achievement, or something they did for another.
Remember the times you admired their character as you saw it in action.
Think about the simple acts of physical affection like holding hands, sitting snuggled up in one another’s arms, or walking arm in arm.
Consider how often you offered to do something nice for them. You might have offered to get them a drink while you were in the kitchen, pick up milk on your way to their apartment, or carry a bag for them while they opened the door.
The acts of love go on. There are many more. Not so surprisingly, engaging in these acts of love reignites those dormant feelings of love. I fear we often put the cart before the horse when thinking about love. We think loving feelings drive loving actions. While that might be true at times, real growth, real movement toward a stronger marriage, occurs when the horse of loving action drives the cart of loving feelings to a new and better place in our relationship. Of course, the one steering the cart and directing the horse, the coachman, is you and your decision to go in the direction of love. So, if you’re singing the blues (“I’ve lost that loving feeling”), cheer up. Rejoice in the great opportunity presenting itself to you. Jump in the driver’s seat and take the challenge of driving the horse…eh, I mean, your loving actions. Engage in loving actions, the same type of actions you engaged in when you first “fell in love.” Celebrate the opportunity to reveal your true love in action and the cart of “loving feelings” will follow into an even more beautiful love than ever before.
Loving parents establish loving limits for their children. It’s true. We need to do it. We set limits for their safety and the safety of others. We develop limits to teach them polite behaviors and mature attitudes that will allow them to find success outside the home. We put limits in place to guide our children toward becoming the best versions of themselves. But, you know what our children do with those limits. They bump up against them. They push the limits. They try to sneak around the limits and undermine the limits. Sometimes they bump so hard against the limits we get angry and frustrated. Don’t get too frustrated though because children bumping up against limits is a great thing, especially when we respond in love. Children bumping up against limits provides great opportunities and benefits. Let me explain.
When children bump up against limits they learn how to manage their frustrations. Life will not give them everything they want. They will encounter roadblocks and limits outside the family. Best to learn how to manage the frustration around limits in the loving womb of family rather than the harsh desert of the world. Let them bump…and help them learn how to manage the frustration of bumping a limit in a healthy, mature manner.
When children bump up against limits they learn about our true values. They learn long-term character is more important than immediate gratification or temporary wishes. They learn which values we truly find important and will “stick to our guns” for and which we will “give in” on. They learn which values we truly hold dear and which values we are willing to forfeit to avoid the hassle. They learn which values they really need to internalize and which they leave behind as they leave home.
When children bump up against our limits we have an opportunity to show our them love by explaining the reasons for the limit. They learn we believe in their ability to understand the reason behind the limit. They learn we respect them enough to explain those reasons to them in a calm manner. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we argue with them about the reasons. We simply inform them of the reasons. Then we show our love by standing firm and not budging while they bump up against a good limit.
When children bump up against a limit we have an opportunity to show them our love by listening to their outpouring of emotion. We can hear their explanation and simply be with them in their frustration. They will learn we love them enough to understand their frustrations and remain present in their anger. They learn we love them enough to hear them and understand their concerns…which brings me to the next bullet…
When children bump up against a limit we learn about our children. As they explain their frustration and “everything wrong with the limit,” we gain insight into our children. We may even find their complaint makes sense. We may even discover a need to modify the limit to better support their safety and growth. We will encounter times when our children’s insight and wisdom will influence us to change the limit…and that shows the depth of our love as well.
When children bump up against limits we have established for their safety and healthy development we can become frustrated. But remember, children bumping up against the limits presents wonderful opportunities to teach and love. Let them bump and find a loving, gracious limit that holds them secure. Let them bump and learn. Let them bump and hold them close.
As the year comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on the importance of family in the world today. So many of the issues we struggle with as a nation could be lessened, if not eliminated, by healthy families, families based on the values of honor, grace, & celebration. Families that practice and teach these values become the cornerstone of healthy communities. They improve their communities and the overall world by living out the values of honor, grace, and celebration learned in the microcosmic community of their family. Consider just a few lessons learned in a family of honor, grace, and celebration that will then be extended to the community and world around them.
Honor causes us to humbly see one another as diamonds rather than coal, someone to be cherished and admired rather than used for my comforts and my ends.
Honor teaches us to communicate love and respect to one another—young and old, male and female. It teaches us to respect one another in our uniqueness.
Honor compels us to esteem one another in spite of differences we might have. It teaches us to respect even when we disagree.
Grace enables us offer one another unconditional acceptance.
Grace teaches us to live sensible and righteous lives—lives that serve rather than abuse, lives that sacrifice for others rather than take from others.
Grace empowers us to practice extravagant generosity in our availability, attention, and meeting of one another’s needs.
Grace leads us to forgive those who offend us and to seek reconciliation when possible, releasing us from the burden of vengeance.
Grace frees us from the crushing weight of anger and bitterness as we seek It frees us from the shackles of guilt as we receive forgiveness.
Honor and grace combine to create a sense of security, a sanctuary of acceptance.
Honor and grace build a safe haven in which disagreements can be discussed, options explored, and solutions discovered.
Honor and grace drive us to connect with one another on a deep emotional level.
Honor and grace liberate us from the entanglements of narcissism and self-centeredness.
Honor and grace make celebration possible. In honor, we celebrate our diversity. In grace, we even celebrate with those who disagree with us.
Celebration allows us to play and laugh together, revealing ourselves more full and without pretense.
Celebration refreshes our perspective of others, allowing us to see one another with fresh eyes of understanding and joy.
Celebration enhances intimacy, allowing us to know one another more deeply.
Celebration restores our trust in humanity as we celebrate those successes and achievements that value all we honor.
Healthy families not only practice honor, grace, and celebration they teach these values to future generations. In so doing, they build people of honor, grace, and celebration who then build communities of honor, grace, and celebration. People who live in families of honor, grace, and celebration go into the world and create positive change (Read Hot Sauces Vs. the Power of Relationship for an example of this positive impact). In this coming year, recommit to making your family a celebrating community of honor and grace. You need it. Your family needs it. Our world needs it!
Don’t you wish we had a book of love, a book that would explain all the nuances of love? A book that describes all the idiosyncratic steps of a loving relationship? Then again, maybe not. The author of the book would try to explain the “facts” and figures of love…and that would likely prove long and boring. The author would also include charts that would be so confusing and difficult to understand. But, if you had a loved one to read it with you…that would change everything. Reading it with a loved one will result in the most beautiful music. You’ll discover flowers and heart-shaped boxes. You’ll love to read the book then…but only when you read it with the one you love. You’ll sing the songs of love together and share a dance to the music of love. As you put down the book and enjoy one another’s company, as you share your lives and emotions, you’ll discover fascinating joys flowing from the book of love. So, take a moment now and enjoy “The Book of Love” as sung by Peter Gabriel. Grab your spouse and dance to the tune. Enjoy a moment of love!
Resilience: the muscle that gives our children the strength to bounce back from adversity, persist through obstacles, and stretch through the pain toward maturity. It is an essential muscle for all of us, especially our children. Our children need resilience to experience greater happiness and more success. If you are wondering how you can coach your children to strengthen resilience, let me share this 6-step resiliency strengthening program with you. Try it out and watch your children’s muscles of resiliency grow strong.
Show your children they matter. Let them know you care about them and rely on them. You can do this by giving them your time. Engage them in activities. Learn about activities that interest them. Make time to listen, really listen, to your children as well. Doing so will show them they matter to you. Invite them to participate in household chores with you so they know they matter to your family and home. Become involved in a volunteer activity together, something that makes a difference beyond the home. These activities teach your children they matter to you, your family, and your community. They also discover that their actions influence the world around them and they can wield that influence for positive ends.
Become your children’s dream catcher. Learn about your children’s interests and passions. Research opportunities for them to gain new experiences in their areas of interest. For instance, buy a book or movie related to their interest. Enroll them in a camp focused on their interest. Introduce them to other adults and children with similar interests. This will cost you some time and maybe even some money. But, it will teach your children they matter (see bullet #1) and it teaches them how to seek out opportunities for themselves. Catch your children’s dream and help make it a reality. (Read Grow Your Children’s Dream for more info.)
Eat at least one meal together each day. No TV, no phones, no texting…just sitting down as a family to eat and talk. A shared meal is a great way to give your children undivided attention. It’s a wonderful time to talk about the accomplishments and struggles of the day. During that interaction, you can focus on gratitude as well as the inevitable obstacles of the day, both of which promote resiliency. You can also share the family story…. (Check out The Lost Art of Family Meals and Project Mealtime.)
Share family stories. Your children will love to hear the stories of your life as a child: adventures you enjoyed, how you met your spouse, lessons you learned, etc. Tell stories about family members who overcame struggles and obstacles as well. Family stories build identity. Let your family stories build an identity of growth, perseverance, and resilience for your children.(Try telling The Story That Will Change Your Family Life! for a great start.)
Acknowledge effort. Rather than simply praise your children for the trophy or ribbon they bring home, talk about the hard work and effort they invested to make it possible. Recall the obstacles they overcame and the times they persisted in the face of hardship. Relish in the story and teamwork of the effort undergirding the accomplishment, not just the end result. (Build Your Child’s Success Mindset give more on acknowledging effort.)
Problem-solve as opportunities arise…and opportunities will arise. Problem-solving begins with listening intently and earnestly. After the problem is completely disclosed and understood, simply ask, “What are you going to do?” Let your children respond and listen as they begin problem-solving. Gently give input to refine their ideas, suggest possibilities, and guide toward positive solutions. Listen, ask, and expand rather than lecture, direct, and solve…that will teach your children problem-solving.(Read Do You Rob Your Teen of Victory to learn the benefit of letting your children experience the difficulties of life rather than solving the difficulty for them.)
There it is: a 6-step resiliency strengthening program. Implement it today and you will love watching your children grow more resilient as they mature.
As parents, we do not want our children to become pushovers. Sure, we want our children to be polite. We want them to listen to credible authorities and obey legitimate requests. But a pushover? No way!
Instead of becoming a pushover, we want our children to stand for what is right. We want them to remain firm in their conviction and even refuse to conform to foolish pressures and senseless requests. I hesitate to say it, but we even want our children to respectfully disobey any authority that makes an improper demand. No, we don’t want our children to become pushovers, victims to the bullies of this world. We want them to become polite people who still stand firm in their convictions and set clear boundaries that communicate what they will and will not allow in their lives. How can we help our children develop this skill? Here are 5 tips to help.
Model healthy “no’s.” Children practice what they observe in their parents (Read My Children are Copy Cats…Now What? for more). If we want our children to have positive boundaries, we need to have positive boundaries. Let your “no” be “no” or your “yes” be “yes.” Don’t automatically say “yes” to every request. Take time to think about your schedule and the consequences of your involvement in an activity before saying “yes.” Remember, a “no” may be the right answer to open the door to an even better “yes.”
Teach children to value themselves. We begin to teach children to value themselves by valuing them ourselves. When our children see adoration and love in our eyes, they see themselves as valuable. When we respect their ideas and even allow their ideas to influence us, our children learn to value themselves. As we respond to our children’s emotions with empathy and kindness, our children know we value them. When we interact with our children respectfully and in a polite manner, our children’s sense of value grows. We teach our children to value themselves by valuing them in our interactions and with our words and actions.
Give children significant chores. Make sure they understand how the chore they do helps the whole household function more smoothly. Let them know they play an important role in the household. Don’t redo the chore after them. If you do, their work becomes insignificant. Instead, take the time to teach them how to do the chore right and appreciate what they do. When they do the chore, thank them. In so doing, you teach your children to value themselves (see bullet #2).
Discipline with respect. Loving discipline teaches self-discipline. Self-disciplined people are less likely to be pushovers. To discipline with respect means to teach, not just punish. Loving discipline teaches right behavior. It explains the values behind the expectation and right behavior. Loving discipline does not embarrass in front of others; it teaches in private. Loving discipline is not harsh; it is firm but considerate. Loving discipline is not overly demanding; it is patient and aware of developmental abilities. Loving discipline builds strength of character and integrity that is not easily pushed around.
Teach your children to stay C.A.L.M. (an acronym from Dr. Michele Borba). When confronted with a situation in which they must respond assertively, your children can use C.A.L.M. (after you teach them how). They can stay (C) CALM and make an (A) ASSERTIVE statement while (L) LOOKING the other person in the eye…and (M) MEAN what they say. Teach them how to do this through example and practice.
Following these 5 tips can teach your children to not become a pushover. Following these 5 tips can help your children become a polite, respectful person who will still stand firm in their convictions. That’s a balance our children need to learn.
I had to fix a hole in our bathroom wall. The towel rack had pulled out leaving a hole; so I set about to fix it. Unfortunately, I am not a handy person. I did my best, but when I pulled the towel off the newly hung towel rack it pulled right out of the wall again…leaving an even bigger hole. I followed the directions printed on the patch material I purchased. I asked the staff at the hardware store. With every “repair,” the hole grew larger. “One last time,” I thought. “I’ll try one more time.” So I stood at the store staring at the display of materials for patching a wall. I tried to reason through my experience to figure out my next step…my last step. An employee offered his explanation. I didn’t have the heart to tell him, “Already tried that…made the hole bigger.” After he left, another shopper said, “Hey buddy.” (I always wonder if something shifty is coming when I hear that.) “What that guy said…it won’t work. It’ll just make a bigger hole.” I knew that! He had my attention and continued, “I do this for a living and I’ll tell you exactly what to do.” He spent the next five minutes explaining how to fix the hole in my wall. He even drew a few simple diagrams. I went home with renewed hope and followed his instructions to the letter. The towel rack supported by the repaired wall is now the most secure towel rack in the bathroom.
I could not have fixed the towel rack and the hole in the wall without the help of that man. He met me at my level of knowledge and taught me. He gave me guidance, introducing ideas and concepts while remaining responsive to my questions. He was friendly and patient. I tell you all this because I learned four very important lessons about effective parenting from this one interaction with my “construction mentor.” Let me explain.
The man waited until the employee had left and then spoke with me one-on-one. He was sure to have my full attention and he did not try to “correct” my difficulties in public. Effective parents also teach in private. Rather than “correct their children in public, they move to a private place and speak to their children one-on-one. They make sure they have their children’s full attention and speak to them one-on-one in a calm and respectful manner.
The man saw my need for help patching a hole in the wall and hanging a towel rack. He didn’t just explain how to fix the hole in the wall but how to fix the hole AND make the spot strong enough to hold the towel rack. He didn’t teach me how to fix the toilet, either. He simply addressed the need I had at the moment. Effective parents meet their children’s need “at the moment.” When their children begin to whine, they explore the need rather than simply yelling at them for whining. There will still be time for teaching, but find out what your children need first and then respond to that When responding to your children, let them lead you to their need rather than deciding what they need.
The man taught to my level. He even drew simple pictures I could take home with me. Those pictures really came in handy for my limited skill set. Effective parents meet their children at their children’s developmental level and skill ability. They do not expect a four-year-old to understand what a 12-year-old does. Nor do they assume their 12-year-old knows how to do something just because they’re twelve. Instead, effective parents teach their children how to do what they want done. They teach keeping the level of their children’s ability to understand in mind.
The man allowed me to ask questions and made sure I understood his instructions. He trusted me to do the job after I had received his instructions. Effective parents allow their children to ask questions and effective parents trust their children to do the best they can.
A trip to the hardware store and a fallen towel rack resulted in my learning how to fix my wall and, more importantly, four great lessons to put into practice as a parent. Give these four tips a try with your children. They may end up being the most secure children on the block.
“Doctor doctor, give me the news I got a bad case of loving you. No pill’s gonna cure my ill I got a bad case of loving you.” Robert Palmer sang those lyrics in 1979 (Moon Martin in 1978). But, many couples today need to see “Doctor Doctor” to get a script that will remedy a major “ill” destroying their marriage. The symptoms of this major “ill” include:
Constant nagging and criticism
Refusal to respond to nagging because it “drives me crazy”
The perception that my spouse “never listens to me”
Anger that chores are left undone
Feeling unappreciated and devalued
If that sounds familiar, I have a two-part prescription for you.
Each morning write down one thing about your spouse for which you are thankful. It may be a character trait you have always admired, an accomplishment they recently achieved, or a simple chore they completed. Write it down in a small notebook. Keep this notebook for the next 30 days, writing some word of thanks about your spouse every day.
Every day, verbally thank your spouse for at least one thing. It may feel awkward, but do it anyway.
That’s it. Take this prescription home and take it for the fully allotted time period. Like medicine, it does no good if you stop before you finish the bottle. Carry this prescription out for the full 30 days. Take this medication (writing some word of thanks about your spouse and verbally thank your spouse) every day—good days and bad, when you are irritated with your spouse and when you are happy with your spouse. Some days will be harder than others, but write some word of thanks every day, tell them thanks for something every day. At the end of 30 days, let me know if your marriage seems more alive and if your spouse more responsive. Maybe you’ll be singing along with Robert Palmer: “Doctor Doctor, give me the news I got a bad case of loving you. No pill’s gonna cure my ill I got a bad case of loving you!”
She walked onto the stage with such poise. She calmly explained her song in a very articulate manner. Then, she performed the song beautifully. I sat among those in the crowed and listened. The performance was beautiful. Even more amazing to me was the confidence with which this 16-year-old girl presented herself. She appeared comfortable exposing herself to a crowd of potential critics. The whole experience made me think: How did this young girl learn such confidence? How can parents help their children gain confidence? How can we give our children the gift of confidence? As I pondered these questions, I thought of 6 ideas to help. I’m sure there are more, but here are six to start.
Give your children tasks that match their developmental ability. Do not expect your children to do more than they are developmentally ready to do. A 2-year-old will not act like an 8-year-old or an 8-year-old like a 16-year-old. Each child can only be themselves…and only act as mature as their developmental level allows. To give your children tasks that match their developmental level requires your careful observation so you can know where they “stand” developmentally. Then, give them tasks that match their developmental ability.
Challenge your children. This may sound contradictory to the first bullet, but it is not. Parents can give their children tasks that challenge them and fall within their developmental ability. On the other hand, expecting too little from your children sends an implicit message that they lack competence. Doing the task for them communicates a belief that they lack the ability to complete the task on their own. So, give your children tasks that present a challenge and offer guidance. Teach them what they do not know while letting them do what they can. This often means taking a somewhat “hands-off approach” while offering guidance and encouragement, in other words, doing a minimal intervention while acknowledging their progress. (For more read Good Parents Do Nothing!)
Allow mistakes. Mistakes help us learn. Taking time to acknowledge a mistake, explore what went wrong, and plan how to do it differently next time turns a mistake into a fantastic learning experience. Each mistake treated in this manner will help your children grow and add to their confidence. (For more read Do Your Child a Favor: LOVE Mistakes.)
Celebrate effort, not just achievement. Sure, achievement is great and needs to be recognized; but effort leads to achievement. When parents celebrate effort, their children choose more challenging tasks, persevere more in the face of obstacles, and ultimately, achieve more. Confidence grows. Celebrate effort! (For more read Build Your Child’s Success Mindset.)
Accept feelings. Minimizing, punishing, or ignoring feelings makes children feel as though they are unimportant. It communicates that “something is wrong with them” because they have unimportant or even bad feelings. Avoid responding to emotions with statements like “You’re OK” (negates the emotion and their experience), “You have nothing to be made about” (minimizes their feelings), or “I’ll give you something to cry about” (punishes them for feeling). Simply accept your children’s feelings. Help them label their feelings and teach them how to manage them as well. (For more on responding to emotions, read 6 Tips to Make Your Children’s Emotions Your Friend.)
Nurture dreams. Sure, some dreams are unlikely. So what? Your children’s dreams may change as they mature. In the meantime, your children’s dreams motivate their behavior and push them to achieve. As you nurture your children’s dreams, you communicate how much you value them and their dreams, believe in them and their capabilities. Nurture their dreams. (Read Grow Your Children’s Dreams for more.)
There they are—6 ways to give the gift of confidence to your children. What other ways do you suggest?