Archive for October 30, 2010

Family Relationship Training Program

For all my athletic friends…I invite you to join the “Relationship Training Program.” It may prove challenging at times, but the long-term benefits are astounding. This training program can culminate in the completion of the Iron Man of Marriage—a 50-year anniversary. I know people who continued training after the first Iron Man and completed a 70-year marathon of happy marriage, leaving a tremendous family heritage. Over the next several weeks, I’d like to share a daily exercise routine, a strength- and resistance-based workout, and a distance workout that can enhance your overall relationship goals, especially in regards to family. But first, let me make a few suggestions to promote your success in this challenge.

First, surround yourself with people invested in a “Relationship Training Program”—people who value family relationships and whose lifestyle promotes positive family relationships. Hanging out with people invested in family life will help you stay involved with your family as well.

Second, find a buddy with whom you can share your plans and goals for family. Having mutual accountability with a friend who has similar goals is a great way to stay honest and on track.

Third, set achievable, weekly goals. You might set a goal to thank you spouse for two things a day…or, a goal to complement each family member every day. Make a goal to sit down for a cup of coffee and conversation once a day for a week. Read a book together and talk about what you read. Whatever the goal, make it achievable.

Fourth, incorporate fun into your training routine. Many times people drop out of training because they don’t enjoy it. Look for activities that you enjoy when involved in the “Relationship Training Program.” If you don’t enjoy going for walks together, try going to a movie. Sign up for a dance class together or have a game night. You might enjoy having breakfast together instead of dinner. The options for family fun are limitless. Be creative. Find the family activities you enjoy. The more fun you have, the more likely you will continue the training program.

Fifth, make the “Relationship Training Program” part of your daily routine. Think of ways to fit the exercises incorporated into the “Relationship Training Program” into what you already do. When you talk, offer a compliment. When you meet one another, share a hug and kiss. When you go to bed, share a word of thanks. You will find a million ways to fit various exercises into your daily life. 

Finally, make family a priority. You have to make your goal of a more intimate family a priority or you will never achieve it. The hustle and bustle of life will simply interfere. We all make time for those activities we prioritize. Prioritize your spouse and your children. Prioritize your family.

One other thing, before you begin this training program check with your physician to assure your heart is strong enough to engage in these activities. JUST JOKING!! Just enjoy the program and the benefits of fit and healthy family relationships.

To Change A Dance

People often get stuck in an unhealthy relationship dance. The dance may take many forms. Regardless of the form it takes, each partner plays a specific role. Some couples dance the “I chase while you hide” dance. Other couples dance the “I’ll do all the work and complain while you just sit around” dance. In both cases, they sing a rousing rendition of “Blame in Counterpoint.” Each partner blames the other for the mess they are in. You’ve at least heard some of the lines from the chorus: “Nag, nag nag—you never leave me alone.” “He never wants to talk.” “You’re so lazy and you don’t care about me at all.” “It doesn’t matter what I do, you are never satisfied.”

There is only one way to stop the music and change the dance. I know it may sound simplistic—even cliché, but…. At least one person in the couple has to quit the old dance and start a new one. That may sound too simple, but it’s true. It may not sound fair, but such an act of grace can lead to change. If you choose to take this grace challenge and change the dance, your partner will do everything they can to maintain the old step. They will sing the “Blame in Counterpoint” even louder. They will step heavier and try to force you back into the movement of the old dance step. With everything in you, you must resist and continue the new step until they change, too. You have to show the grace to continue the new “Dance of Love” until they get in step.

How can you begin the new dance step? Here are some ideas to consider.

  • Stop singing “Blame in counterpoint” and sing “The Prelude of Love” instead. “The Prelude” begins with telling your partner 1-2 things you love about them… everyday… even when you’re angry.
  • Carefully consider your part in the old dance. How do you respond to your partner? How do you provoke them? Are you the one who chases or the one who hides? The one who compulsively works or the one who sits around?  Once you can admit your part in the old dance, you can decide on a different response—a different dance step. When your partner starts the old dance, practice your new steps.
  • Find some healthy relationship dances to observe. Or, read a book about healthy relationships.  Learn from the healthy dances you see and read about. Take the time to clearly describe what you like in those healthy relationship dances. The better you can describe the kind of dance you want to have, the more likely you are to act accordingly.
  • Things may not change overnight. You might make mistakes. Don’t get discouraged. Simply recognize that it happened and start the healthy step again. Use those moments to reaffirm your love for one another by renewing your new, healthier dance.
  • Finally, sing new music. Three of my favorites are “A Harmony of Praise,” “Variations on Gratitude,” and “Encouragement in E flat Major.”  Sing the songs often. Sing them loudly… and enjoy the “Dance of Love.”

A Pandemonium of Honor

This week I am going to suggest my family play a new game. Perhaps your family would like to play this game as well. I believe the competition will prove intense. There will be no half-hearted, weak attempts to win, only full-fledged, over-the-top competition.  I usually do not compete with all my energy, but this time I’m out for the win. What game will we play?  An all-out, no-holds-barred game of “Gung-ho Honor” that some describe as a pandemonium of honor. The simple instructions for “Gung-ho Honor” were recorded long ago in a letter to a group of Romans—“Outdo one another in showing honor.” That’s it, the total instructions—“Outdo one another in showing honor.” Some people have trouble getting started; so, here are a couple of suggestions.
Imagine that your family members are royalty. They are kings, queens, princes, and princesses. Throughout the week, speak to them like royalty. Fill your speech toward your royal family with polite words, affirming words, and loving words. Take note of some task they finish and praise them for their effort. Affirm the special strengths they exhibit. Acknowledge the special talents they have. Appreciate acts of kindness. Even a simple “thank-you” or “you’re welcome” will score major points in this game of “Gung-ho Honor.”  
Treat your family members like royalty as well. You be the servant and whole-heartedly serve your family with abandon.  Each day, do something nice for your royal family members. Serve them breakfast, treat them to a massage, or do their chore for them.  Give an extra hug to each family member, especially if they feel down. Make it your goal to affirm and encourage them with your actions. Hold the door open, clean up their dishes, let them have the last cookie. Whatever it takes let your actions reveal how much you value your family.

I believe the competition will prove fierce. I will play with unrestrained abandon and encourage each family member to throw their heart and soul into the game as well. What will be the outcome of such intense competition? Parents will smile to see sons and daughters honoring one another—helping one another with homework and chores or encouraging one another during challenging tasks. Children will feel more secure as they witness their parents honoring one another with words of thanks and deeds of kindness. Everyone will feel more affirmed and valued. Confidence will increase. One kind deed will inspire another and an atmosphere of honor will begin to blossom.  At the end of the week, we will determine a winner. And, the winner will find their picture on the fridge. The rest of us will honor them as “ruler” for the day. Of course, everyone knows that a great ruler graciously affirms and serves his subjects. Oh my, the game goes on. The pandemonium of honor continues. “Gung-ho Honor”-let the games begin!

The Sunday Driver

I got caught behind a “Sunday driver” the other day. Doesn’t he realize that, in the words of Gershwin, we “live life in staccato not legato?” We live life on a freeway, not a country trail. Our days are consumed with rushing from one thing to the next, dodging obstacles in the road, and bypassing any construction sites that might slow us down. We don’t have time to sit and enjoy one another’s company, let alone quietly stroll down the country path of life and smell the proverbial roses. We live frenetic, hyperactive lives filled with school, sports, and work. We have to keep up with a constant flood of informational billboards and “pop-ups” that encourage our children to grow up faster and fuels our desire for better, more, and new. We weave through a highway of overscheduled days jam-packed with activities and unrealistic expectations. We cruise through life in a constant state of tiredness and low-grade agitation. Late bloomers don’t have time to grow up. We just pray they “grow faster.” Sports enthusiasts know that a child must participate in year-round conditioning in order to “keep up with the rest of the Jones’s.” Otherwise, they may not get to play when the season arrives. Cell phones, texting, and tweeting allow for 24/7 availability and a constant anticipation of potential interruptions.  Don’t worry when you get the text…no pressure, just respond as soon as you can…unless you don’t like me or something happened that I need to worry about. And, keep the message short because I am very busy speeding down the highway of life. Whew, I’m getting tired just writing about it.

Still, here I sit behind a Sunday driver.  As I complain about him slowing me down, I suddenly realize my family is in the car with me—well, one is listening to their IPod, one is reading a book, and one is looking at magazines. Still, we are all together and I have time to kill behind “Mr. Sunday Driver.” “Aye guys,” I say hesitantly. Everyone stops. Mouths hang open in stunned astonishment that someone in the car made an open statement. “How was your week?” I ask. A moment of awkward silence…followed by, “Well, I had a pretty good week I guess.” “Oh yeah?” My hopes for a conversation rise as I continue, “What did you do?” Slowly, my family begins to talk. My daughter likes science. My other daughter is enjoying a new book. They both like their teachers. My wife really enjoyed the concert we went to last night. In fact, everyone did. The conversation grows and the excitement seems to build. We start having a good time…with each other. This conversation is fun. This slow ride behind “Mr. Sunday Driver” is OK. Sitting behind that Sunday driver is not so bad after all. Maybe I should get out of the car at the next light and thank him for the best family conversation I’ve had all week.

P.S.—here are some suggestions to help you slow down and enjoy a “Sunday drive” with your family. If you have more ideas, please share them with us all.
Eat dinner together and talk. Keep the cell phones away from the table to avoid interruptions.

–Turn off the TV’s, computers, and phones while you enjoy an evening of games and informal conversations. Do it once a week if possible.
–Limit extracurricular activities to no more than two at a time. And, as you schedule activities don’t forget to consider the impact of travel time and the impact on siblings who are not involved with that activity.
Go outside tonight, sit in the yard, and look at the stars together. Find the “Big Dipper” and “Orion.”

Keep Your Mother Off Your Back

Have you ever wanted to get your mother off your back and get more of what you want? Well, here’s a simple 3-step plan.

First, do what’s expected. I mean do the bare minimum.  We all have a responsibility in making our household a good place to live, a happy place to hang. So, do what’s expected of you in keeping the house running smooth. If you don’t know what to do around the house, ask. “What do I need to do to keep our house a happy place?” Have your mother sit down before asking—just in case she faints.

Second, do just a little bit more than expected. I know this sounds like a sale’s pitch, but wait…when you do just a little bit more, you earn “brownie points.” That’s right, you gain bargaining power. When you do just a little bit more than expected, your mother will smile and feel pride. And, you will have a better chance at getting what you want.

Third, remember that honey tastes better than vinegar. Parents get vinegar all the time—whining, complaining, arguing, ignoring. If you really want to keep your parents off your back, give them some honey. Thank them for the work they do around the house. Thank them for the things they do for you—like washing clothes and cooking supper. Tell them how good supper tastes. Do something nice for your parents—draw them a picture or make them a card. Start up a conversation with them. Here is a little formula to remember—it takes five tastes of honey to outweigh one taste of vinegar. So, pour on the honey.

Finally, use your bargaining power. When you do what’s expected, you keep your parents off your back. When you do just a little bit more than expected and pour on the honey, you’ve gained bargaining power. You’ve worked to build trust. Now you can ask for that special favor. Stay on this 3-step plan and you’ll be surprised at how nice your mother becomes.