The tongue is an amazing muscle. Actually, it is much more than a muscle. We use our tongue to taste and to talk. We may even stick it out in a playful or nasty manner. We can use our tongue to say the most wonderful, funny words or to say terribly, hurtful things. Not only is the tongue versatile, it is powerful. One ancient writer said that “death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21) and “the north wind brings forth rain: so does a backbiting tongue an angry countenance” (Proverbs 25:23). That is power for such a small part of the body. In fact, another ancient writer compared the tongue to the rudder of a great ship…a small part of the ship but one that controls the direction of the ship, even in a storm (James 3:5). The tongue is small, versatile, and powerful…and you can use it to build intimacy in your family or to destroy your family.
Yes, the tongue is small, versatile, and powerful. It can accomplish great things for the family or it can quickly crush your family, build intimacy between family members or destroy family members. Consider how the tongue can crush family members and make huge withdrawals from the Family Bank of Honor:
·Arguing and fighting
·Screaming and yelling at one another
·Talking over one another
·Lying & deceiving
On the other hand, the tongue can accomplish so much for the family, making multiple deposits into the Family Bank of Honor. The tongue can build intimacy and love. Consider some of the good things the tongue can do.
·Express love for one another
·Use polite words
·Offer constructive criticism
·Speaks truth gently
The tongue is small but mighty…you can use it to build up or tear down, bless or curse, encourage or discourage family, to make deposits or withdrawals into the Family Bank of Honor. The choice is yours!
Children receive a series of immunizations to protect them from various diseases. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could immunize our children against depression? After all, a growing number of people struggle with depression…and, at a younger age. I realize there is no magic shot to prevent depression. Still, wouldn’t it be great to protect your children from depression? To find a way that even if they did experience depression, it would be less severe and shorter-lived?
Well, there may be a way to do just that! No, the answer is not a shot—it’s more of a lifestyle…skills you can teach your child to help protect them from depression. Last week we talked about how teaching children that their actions make a difference can help protect them from depression. Here are two more ways to protect your child from depression.
One, teach your children to help. People who experience depression ruminate about the negative in their lives. They become so absorbed in their own internal pain that they lose touch with what’s going on around them. “Getting out of themselves” and involved in the lives of people around them often helps them escape the self-absorption of depression.
So, to help protect your child from depression, teach them to reach out to others. Give them opportunities to help other people. This may be as simple as helping an elderly woman from the neighborhood rake leaves. There are many opportunities for children to serve—make it a family event. Help at a soup kitchen or go on a mission trip. Shovel snow for an elderly neighbor. Adopt a grandparent at a nursing home. Volunteer to help take a group of people with mental retardation on an outing or go to a local hospital and rock premature babies of mothers addicted to drugs.
These opportunities help children develop a desire to reach out to others and help. In addition, they create new ways of looking at the world around them, helping them to realize the good. One more thing, these activities help children learn that “having a treat” may give momentary happiness, but helping a person in need provides true gratification.
Two, teach your children gratitude. People who experience depression tend to overemphasize the bad events from their past and overlook the positive events. As a person dwells on the negative events from their life, the events seem to grow and overwhelm them.
One way to counteract this is to develop a strong sense of gratitude in your life. Practicing gratitude helps a person to focus on the positive events in their life—which are much nicer to feel overwhelmed by. In addition, practicing gratitude helps a person grow more aware of the positive events in their past and experience greater contentment. So, teaching your children gratitude may help protect them from depression.
How can you teach gratitude? Spend time each evening talking with your children. Ask them what they enjoyed most during the day. Each night, make a list of five things for which they are thankful. Write these things in a “Thanks Journal” and review the journal every once in a while, reminiscing about the events and material blessings recorded. In addition, model a thankful attitude yourself. Thank other family members for doing things like cooking, cleaning, or laundry. Make it a family pursuit to thank each family member for at least one thing every day. Have fun with gratitude.
Children receive a series of immunizations to protect them from diseases such as the measles, mumps, rubella, and polio. They even get vaccinated against the chicken pox. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could immunize our children against depression? After all, a growing number of people struggle with depression…and, at a younger age. I realize that depression is different than the measles, mumps, polio, or the chicken pox. And, I realize there is no magic shot to prevent depression. Still, wouldn’t it be great to protect your children from depression? To find a way that even if they did experience depression, it would be less severe and shorter-lived?
Well, there may be a way to do just that! No, the answer is not a shot—it’s more of a lifestyle. Of course, there is no way to guarantee that your child will never experience depression. However, there may be some skills you can teach your child to help protect them from depression.
Studies show that several factors contribute to depression. How a person explains things, how a person resolves negative experiences, and how a person interprets events around them affects their susceptibility to depression. In other words, the vaccine against depression is more of a lifestyle and a way of thinking than a shot. So, what can a parent teach their children to limit their chances of experiencing depression? What teaching ingredients make up a potential vaccine against depression? Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share a few ways to help prevent depression in your children.
First, teach your children that actions make a difference. Feelings of helplessness contribute to depression. People develop a sense of helplessness when they believe that their actions don’t matter. So, teach your children that actions make a difference. Knowing that their actions have an effect on the world around them can protect them from feeling helpless, and, as a result, protects them from depression. How can a parent do this?
When children are very young, play games in which you imitate their behavior. For instance, when they clap their hands, clap your hands, too. When they pat the table, pat the table as well. Your baby will giggle and enjoy the game…and, they will begin to learn that their behavior impacts the people around them. They learn that their parents respond to their actions.
As your children grow, let them play with toys that they can control, cause/effect toys—the drum that makes noise when they bang it, the figure that pops up when they push the button, or the blocks that fall down when they knock them over. Games such as chess or checkers accomplish similar results as they grow older. They learn that their choices and actions make a difference.
Give them choices throughout the day as well. When you offer a choice, make sure that both options offered are OK by you. For instance, ask them if they “want to take a bath before or after dinner”…or “wear their blue shirt or red shirt today.” As they make these choices, they discover that their decisions matter, their actions make a difference.
Another important area of teaching children that their actions make a difference is discipline. Let them experience the natural consequence of their actions—both the positive and the negative. Although they may not always like the consequences, they will more likely learn that their actions do make a difference!
This is the first step in protecting your child from depression. Teach them that their actions make a difference.
I recently read a blog from The Generous Husband that talked about taking a vacation. I really liked the blog…and I love vacations. About this time of year, I’m looking for a vacation. The rush of the holidays is around the corner, the demands of homework and fall activities have taken a toll on my rest (or lack thereof), and I often feel overwhelmed by life. I want a sabbatical. I want a family vacation where I can enjoy time with my family without the nagging schedule and rush-induced stress that contributes to bickering and snappish remarks. So, this year I’m taking my family on a vacation. Well…not the kind of vacation you might imagine. We are not going to get away from home; and, we are not going to the mountains or the shore. Instead, I am taking my family on a vacation to get away from nagging, fault-finding, and bickering. We are leaving complaints and allegations in our rear view mirror and heading off to the perfect vacation spot…a beautiful resort of peace and quiet where we can find rest and relaxation. Actually, the perfect vacation spot is not so much a place as it is a charge, a duty, an investment. This perfect vacation spot involves changing the orientation of our heart and the focus of our time. It is nestled scenically at the center of the happy family. In this pleasant and breathtaking destination, our family can settle down on the beach of affirmation and listen to the waves of thanks and encouragement wash up on the shore of our heart, softly rolling over our spirit with words of support and love moment after moment. Of course, we will take a cooler filled with refreshing compliments to quench our thirst for acceptance and recognition. Fully equipped for a day at the shore, we can bask in the warmth of affirmation and affection, allowing the warm rays of encouragement to melt the stress of everyday life away, and enjoy the loving interaction of family. Would you care to join me and my family on this vacation? We will be enjoying this scenic and invigorating vacation spot for the rest of the week. You are welcome to join us. In fact, we hope to see you there!
We live in a fast-paced world. Let’s face it, our families run in the fast lane. Parents have to work outside the home as well as fulfill the duties of chef, house custodian, landscaper, building maintenance, launderer, chauffer, administrator and administrative assistant, chief financial officer, disciplinarian, and entertainer in the home. Many parents also volunteer outside of the home to assist as coach, church volunteer, or some other community service provider. In addition, children lead lives filled with academic demands, athletic demands, artistic demands, church demands, community demands, peer demands, and family demands. All in all, raising children demands stamina and organization. In the midst of all this run around, parents can easily neglect to spend time with their children. But, children need our time more than they need a clean house and freshly painted walls. They need our undivided attention more than they need a beautifully landscaped yard or a schedule packed with activities. You may rationalize that, in the midst of all this run around, quality time with your child will suffice. You may think quality time with your child matters more than the amount of time you spend with my child. Unfortunately, that is just not true. Our children need a quantity of time with us; they need large blocks of time with us. In fact, we only find moments of quality with our children in the midst of large blocks of time spent with our children.
Think of it this way…. Imagine that I offered your 9-year-old one of two gifts: 1) one brand new, freshly minted, quality $5 bill or 2) twenty-five old, crumpled, wrinkled $1 bills. Which would he prefer? No brainer…he would choose the quantity of twenty-five $1 bills over the one quality $5 bill anytime…and, so would I. We know that quantity becomes more important than quality when we speak of paper money, but somehow we think about our time differently. In reality, children consider time the currency of love. Whatever your child sees as engaging the majority of your time will also be seen as the most valuable object in your life. If you spend most of your time watching sports, they will see sports as your highest priority. If they see you spending most of your time looking at your iPhone, they will see the iPhone as your highest priority. If they see you spending the majority of your time on family and them, they will know that you value them and family above all else. Within the quantity of time you spend with your children you will experience beautiful moments of quality time as well.
Think about your time. Do you spend time with your children? Do you feel like life is too busy to spend a quantity of time with your children? Then look over your schedule, prioritize your activities, and consider what you can cut out of the schedule to free up time for your family. After all, what does have the greatest value in your life—work, TV, a clean house, or the long-term happiness of your children?
I must be getting older (notice I don’t say “old,” just “older). That might explain why my thoughts often turn to future generations and what, if any, legacy they will receive from me. I have thought about leaving money, property, writings, music, or pictures to my children and grandchildren. But, really, what will each of these things profit them in the long run? Don’t get me wrong…they are all great things to leave. Still, I want to leave some that will really make a difference in the lives of my descendants…for generations. After a great deal of thought, I know what I want to leave as a legacy. I have figured out what can impact my family for generations to come, making life better for each person. It even has the potential to grow stronger and add greater good over the generations. Want to know what this precious commodity is? Honor!
That’s right, leaving a legacy of honor can change a family for the better…and, it can grow stronger over the generations. Honoring family members liberates them to live out the potential God has given them. It changes them for the better. In other words, when you treat family members with honor and respect, you help them become better people. I recall the story of the “14-cow woman” to elaborate on how honor makes us better people. Apparently, a native from one island paid a “14-cow” dowry for an ugly, clumsy, lazy woman. The people of her tribe gladly accepted such a high price and laughed at the man for getting “ripped off.” A missionary, upon hearing this story, traveled to the neighboring island to find out why a man would pay so much for an unworthy woman. When he arrived, he met with the man and several beautiful women. One woman stood out for her beauty, poise, and grace.
Finally, the missionary asked the man, “Why did you pay 14 cows for a woman from another island when you have so many lovely, gracious women to choose from on this island?”
The man smiled as he pointed at the most beautiful, poised, and gracious of the women present. “She is the 14-cow woman of whom you speak.” The missionary was stunned. Seeing the confusion on the missionary’s face, the man continued. “The people of her island did not honor her, so she did not honor herself. She lived to their level of dishonor. I honored her. I willingly gave a high price for her and, in so doing, showed her great honor. With such honor bestowed upon her, her view of herself began to change. She began to value herself as I value her. She cared more for herself; and, as she continued to live in light of the honor received, she changed. She became more caring, more generous, more confident…more willing to love the one who continues to show her honor. You must know that as we receive honor, we grow into our greatest potential. And, when we honor those around us, they reach their greatest potential and beauty…both inside and out.”
Begin preparing your legacy of honor by honoring your family members today. As you give great honor, your family will grow to live a life worthy of great honor. They will learn to pass honor on to the next generation and each generation will grow more gracious and loving. The honor shown during my short life will continue to grow as it rolls down the generations of family members who have received and continue to practice honor in their lives…that is the legacy I want to leave.
PS-Guys, do not call your wife or daughters a “beloved 14-cow woman.” Surprisingly, she won’t find that term of endearment honoring… believe me.
Few people in modern times have influenced the world as much as Steve Jobs. Among other things, he changed the world by shaping technology for common use and making it accessible to the average guy on the street. What teenager doesn’t have his earphones connected to an iPhone or iPod shuffle as he wanders the streets with his friends? How many of us now use our smartphone (pioneered by Apple and Steve Jobs) to manage our schedule, check our email, surf the web, text our family, buy a book, and even share business contacts? Jobs even impacted how the world views the look and feel of technology, making it inviting and cool to carry an iPad, or, oh-so convenient to carry my iPod shuffle with hundreds of my favorite tunes inconspicuously tucked into the old fashioned watch-pocket of my jeans. Truly, he was a technological wizard who transformed how we use technology and how technology intertwines with our daily lives. Even “technologically-challenged” people (like me) have learned to use the IPhone to keep their schedule, remind them of appointments, listen to their music, wake them up in the morning, read blogs and books, count calories, text their children, check their email, maintain their contacts (business and personal), track business expense…and even call a friend now and again. My teenage daughters do even more on their phones, revealing how “technologically-challenged” I really am.
Yes, Steve Jobs has transformed our world. But, have you heard what he did during his final days?
The most important lesson we learn from Steve Jobs has nothing to do with technology. His most important gift to society has nothing to do with accessible and user-friendly technology. No, the most important lesson Steve Jobs taught is that family is our greatest treasure, our greatest comfort, and our greatest joy. Material wealth, fame, and influence do not bring happiness or joy. When we come to the end of our time on earth, we do not surround ourselves with iPhones, iPads, and iPods. We surround ourselves with family and friends. We seek comfort and joy in the personal love of family. Nothing in this world can even come within a “nano byte” of providing the comfort and joy we find in the love of family. This lesson is the greatest gift we receive from Steve Jobs…and for that I give him thanks.
“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love” (Bryant H. McGill). To maintain the intimate love of family, family members have to practice forgiveness. If we do not practice forgiveness in our family, we will find our family overrun with bitterness, anger, and resentment. Without forgiveness, family will become a place of suffocating tension and unbearable pain instead of a stable and secure refuge from the world. How do we forgive? Here are 5 steps for forgiveness based on Everett Worthington’s model.
1.Count the Loss. This seems almost paradoxical, but the first step in forgiving someone is to objectively define what we have lost as a result of the wrong done to us. Spell out how we have been wronged and what was lost. Remain as objective as possible in this process. God did this through the prophets. He clearly defined how His people had wronged Him through idolatry, unfaithfulness, and stubbornness. He objectively told Israel how their actions robbed them of intimacy with Him and bruised His reputation. Following His example, we begin the process of forgiveness by objectively defining how we were wronged.
2.Realize that we have a right to expect payment for the wrong done to us, BUT (and this is a BIG BUT) we are morally incapable of collecting that debt. We are not a righteous judge. Recall a time in your own life when you wronged another person and they forgave you. Remember how undeserving you were of that forgiveness and how it made you feel to receive it. Even more, recall that our sin against God is thousands of times greater than any sin made by another person against us. When we realize how harshly we have sinned against God and how dramatically we have wronged other people, we can begin to recognize our own moral inability to exact payment for a sin against us. When we realize how freely God has forgiven us and how richly others have forgiven us, we can open up to the possibilities of forgiving another.
3.Drop the rocks of judgment, bitterness, and anger. In humility, give up your right for justice. Throw off resentment and cast off bitterness. Follow Christ’s example by “entrusting” yourself to “Him that judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-24). Make a conscious decision to let God act as the final Judge and Arbiter. Trust Him to balance justice and mercy in your life and the life of the one who offended you.
4.Make the first move and commit to follow through. Don’t wait for the other person to change or apologize. Make the first move. Initiate the actions of forgiveness. This act of altruism follows God’s example. In the story of our relationship with God, the one needing forgiveness did not approach God and ask for it. God, the One who was wronged, initiated forgiveness and carried out the work of forgiveness before we even knew what we had done. He made the first move and He followed through with the actions of forgiveness. Make the first move to forgive. Initiate forgiveness. Altruistically offer forgiveness and commit to follow through.
5.Follow through with work of forgiveness. Unforgiving thoughts will pop into your head. Vengeance, bitterness, and resentment may rear their ugly heads in your thought life even after you have committed to forgive. Don’t let them take hold. Take those thoughts captive, remind yourself that you have forgiven, and throw those thoughts out of your mind. Replace anger with compassion and say a pray for the other person. Replace resentment with empathy and do some kind deed for the other person. Seek out opportunities to show that person kindness. Replace bitterness with love and reach out to them in love by seeking opportunities to promote their happiness and contentment.
Forgiveness is not for the faint of heart. Forgiveness is hard work. However, forgiveness can restore relationships. Forgiveness can bring reconciliation, peace, and joy to a family. Make the first move today.
If you have lived in a family for any period of time (anything above an hour or so), you know that forgiveness is absolutely necessary for a healthy, strong family. In the words of Bryant McGill, “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” When we choose to not forgive, we find ourselves tied to the past, unable to move forward and weighed down by stones of judgment, bitterness, and resentment that turn to harsh words, angry allegations, and hostile remarks indiscriminately hurled at those around us. Our perspective becomes so clouded and filtered that we can only see those things that confirm our bitterness and resentment. We act in anger, unable to find the compassion, empathy, and intimacy we truly long for. A lack of forgiveness will tear a family apart. Forgiveness is crucial to family unity, intimacy, and even personal health. But what is forgiveness?
…a decision. Forgiveness is a conscious choice. If we do not choose to forgive, resentment will take up residence in our hearts and minds. Sprouts of bitterness will surface in our life. Bitterness will continue to grow and take root unless we choose to actively dig it up and remove it from the garden of our mind. Those roots will extend to indirectly stain the character of many. Think about it. If I allow bitterness to take root and grow in my life, it will choke out compassion, kindness, and love. I will find it difficult to show kindness when I nurse resentment. And, those around me will find it difficult to show kindness to me, a person who constantly responds with biting sarcasm and sharp tones of anger. To root out bitterness and resentment, we must choose to forgive. Forgiveness is a decision, a conscious choice. What do I decide to do?
…to let go of a record of wrongs. Forgiveness is an act of love and grace. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Forgiveness is the decision to let go of that record of wrong. The unforgiving mind and heart dwells on past hurts and ruminates on possible ways to “get back at” the offender, making them “pay for what they did.” Forgiveness, on the other hand, chooses to dwell on other things. I find it interesting that Scriptures tell us that God forgives our sin and “remembers it no more.” God does not passively forget our sin. Our sins do not “slip His mind.” No, He actively chooses to “remember it no more.” He makes a conscious, loving choice to “let go of our record of wrongs.” He offers us a “free gift” that begins with forgiveness. Forgiveness is a decision to let go of a record of wrongs and…
…and the demand for revenge. There is no question about it—people do sin against us. Family members make hurtful comments. Spouses, children, parents, and siblings become impolite, unkind, rude, and even hurtful from time to time. Truly, wrongs are committed. Justice demands a price, even revenge. The offending party needs to “pay the price” for their wrong actions and words. But wait…forgiveness recognizes that the other person’s actions have not only hurt me, they have hurt that person as well. Their unkind words come back to haunt them sooner or later. Our sin will find us out and “bite us on the butt.” “What goes around comes around.” This does not mean there are no consequences. We still practice the natural consequence of misbehavior. But, forgiveness deals with the state of our heart…and the state of my heart is no better than the heart of the person who wronged me. Forgiveness recognizes my heart is morally incapable of holding another person guilty of sin when I am so great a sinner myself. Recognizing my own shortcomings allows me to…
…replace feelings of bitterness and resentment with compassion, good wishes, and even kindness. The foundation of forgiveness is laid when we make a decision to let go of a record of wrongs and the demand for revenge. Now, we have to do the work of building on that foundation. We begin to replace bitter thoughts about that person with compassionate thoughts for their well-being. When bitter thoughts of revenge and payback creep into our mind, we throw them out and replace the void they leave with good wishes for them and their family. When harsh allegations arise from the recesses of our mind, we throw them out and contemplate how to show kindness to the offender with our words and deeds.
Forgiveness is a decision to let go of a record of wrongs as well as the demand for revenge and replace feelings of bitterness and resentment with compassion, good wishes, and even kindness. Forgiveness is not for the faint of heart. Forgiveness is a battle that demands courageous action. However, when we enter that battle and bravely reach out in loving forgiveness, we find healing, intimacy, and peace beyond our wildest dreams.
Praise is a crucial aspect of effective discipline. When parents praise their children, they identify behaviors they like and encourage those behaviors to continue. In this way, praise helps increase the behavior we desire to see in our children. It can motivate our children to grow and mature. To prove truly effective, however, praise must follow four simple guidelines. So, to make praise a positive, effective motivator in your child’s life, follow these simple guidelines.
1.Praise your child for their effort. Focus on the process rather than the end product. Praise them for their persistence in working toward a goal, not just the final accomplishment. Recognize their hard work, even if they lose the game. Acknowledge their concentration in the face of distraction and thank them for listening so well to directions (not just following them). By praising your children’s efforts, you help them learn about the parts of the task they can control. You give them the gift of self-control. You teach them that effort, persistence, and concentration are more important than the appearance of success. And, you instill a joy in those attributes over which they have control–their determination to persist, their dedication to effort, their ability to concentrate. These qualities are within their control and the foundation for overcoming setbacks and finding ultimate success.
2.Keep your praise specific. Do not offer a grand, sweeping statement like “You did great” or “That is a beautiful picture.” Take the time to give a more sincere and specific praise. Note a specific aspect of the task that you found particularly praiseworthy–the way they passed the ball, the way they worked with their teammate during a specific play, the color combinations they chose for the painting, the angle of the photograph, the chord they chose in the song, the way their voice resonated on the high pitch, the beautiful 10-yard pass in the 3rd quarter, or…you get the idea. Make your praise specific. Your child will appreciate that you paid enough attention to notice the specifics. This expresses how much your value your child.
3.When you praise specifics, you can also be sincere enough in your praise to discuss mistakes and areas of improvement. Loving constructive criticism actually enhances the power of praise. Constructive criticism lets a child know that your praise is more than mere words. You really did pay attention. You noticed the specific things they did well. And, by offering an occasional constructive criticism, you communicate your belief that they have the ability to do better. Do not overdo this part of praise. However, do not avoid discussing mistakes either. I think a good ratio would be to offer at least 5 sincere, specific praises for every 1 constructive criticism. If you cannot offer 5 sincere, specific praises, you need to work harder at praise. You are not looking hard enough at your child’s effort or the specific steps your child has done well.
4.Finally, limit your praise. I know, this sounds contradictory. But, overpraising your child only leads them to disbelieve your praise. Studies have shown that children associate excessive praise with inability. They believe that teachers and parents give constant praise to those who cannot do the task and constructive criticism to those who have more ability. So, limit your praise. Don’t praise your child for every little accomplishment. Don’t constantly tell them what a “good boy” or “good girl” they are. Let them earn that praise is reserved for those actions that truly deserve praise. An older gentleman once complained to me that his grandchildren now have a ceremony when they graduate from preschool, a party when they graduate from kindergarten, a formal graduation from elementary school, and the school band plays when they walk for a diploma from middle school. In a world in which the Bachelor’s Degree is losing value, we emphasize graduating from preschool. “Really,” he asked me, “What did they accomplish to deserve a ceremony in preschool? If we give such notable praise for these smaller accomplishments, what will we do when they graduate from high school? How will they know they really have accomplished something when they earn their Master’s Degree? And, what will motivate them to achieve more when they get to college and find that the teacher is not there handing out constant affirmation?” Something to think about.