Archive for November 23, 2011

The Family Thanksgiving Extension Plan

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, the taste of apple pie, the joy of family togetherness, and the intentional sharing of gratitude. I think Abraham Lincoln had a great idea when he established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. In fact, I wish we could celebrate Thanksgiving more often. Wait a minute…why should we stop after just one day of Thanksgiving anyway. Why not make it last all the way to Christmas? That sounds like a good idea. Well, maybe not all the food (I’d really gain holiday weight then); but we could enjoy family togetherness and intentional gratitude for the whole month…all the way up to Christmas. I am going to make Thanksgiving last longer this year. But, how can I do it? I have an idea. Here’s my plan:
·         First, I will get a piece of paper for each family member.
·         Second, each day I will write down 3 things that I can thank each individual for. I can write down thanks for something they do, something they say, some personality trait I admire, or even something I neglected to thank them for earlier. I plan to keep a distinct list of thanks for each individual family member.
·         Of the three thanks I write down, I will pick at least one to tell them about. So, each day, I will give each family member at least one word of thanks…face to face, not by text or email or Facebook.
·         On Christmas, I will put my list for each individual family member into a card, write a note telling them how thankful I am to have them in my life, and put it under the Christmas tree for them.

Yes, Thanksgiving will last longer than a mere day in my life this year. How about you? Will you join me in stretching Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas? Please do…join the Thanksgiving Extension Plan. Who knows, maybe we’ll make Thanksgiving a way of life!

“Shut Up & Put Up” to Ruin Your Marriage & Family

The “shut up and put up” strategy sounds inviting at first. You know, avoid the conflict and just go along for the sake of peace. After all, everyone enjoys a harmonious relationship filled with peace and quiet. Some people will put up with almost anything to keep the peace. “Little irritations…no big deal, I’d rather maintain harmony than rock the boat.” Unfortunately, those little irritations can pile up, getting heavier and heavier, until we feel smothered. In anger, we begin to lash out at minor irritations, packing them together into giant cannonballs that we can fire at our family. At that point, we know that the “shut up and put up” strategy has backfired and turned into a “lash out and stone ’em” reaction. The “lash out and stone ’em” reaction results in family pain and disconnection. If the “shut up and put up” strategy does not work, what’s a spouse to do?
Talk. Talk to your spouse about the behavior that bothers you; but, before you talk to your spouse, take time to think about the behavior and what it teaches you. Think about what you can learn from the irritating behavior about: yourself first and your spouse second. Here are some questions to guide your learning:
·         How does this behavior bother you? Why does it irritate you? Does it represent some desire or priority that you feel is missing in your life?
·         Does the behavior contribute to feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness? Does it make you feel unloved or unacceptable?
·         Does your reaction to this irritation have anything to do with past events in your life–events first experienced in your family of origin or previous romantic relationships?
·         What is your spouse’s intent in this behavior? What is their positive intent?
·         Is this behavior a response to your behavior? For instance, does your spouse engage in this behavior when you make certain statements, jokes, or expressions?
·         What are some ways your spouse makes you feel loved, accepted, and valued?
Once you take the time to learn what this situation can teach you about yourself and your spouse, talk to your spouse about it. Here is a simple way to approach this discussion. 
First, tell your spouse at least one thing you appreciate about them. If you know that they had some positive intent in the irritating behavior, acknowledge it. Thank them for the positive intent, positive behaviors, and positive investment they make in your relationship. Doing so sets the stage for a more congenial interaction. Your spouse will know that you approach them in love and they will feel safer opening up to you. They will have an easier time hearing what you have to say since they feel appreciated. In other words, let your first statements be statements of love and appreciation, setting the stage for an open and loving interaction.
Second, give a specific example of the behavior that bothers you. Make it brief. Limit yourself to only one or two sentences in which you explain that behavior. By giving a specific example you help to limit arguing. Most people will not argue about an objective event that occurred. By keeping your description of the behavior brief, you limit the desire to become defensive or just “shut down” as they listen.   
Third, make one statement that explains how this behavior makes you feel. Once again, only one statement. “When you do this, it makes me feel….” The specific example of the behavior is an objective description. This statement is a subjective feeling. Say it calmly, without accusation. Then move on to the fourth step.
Fourth, offer an alternative and more pleasing behavior that could accomplish the same goal. Offer a solution to the whole situation. Put it altogether and you get a simple, and brief, alternative to the “shut up and put up strategy.” Consider these two examples:
     ·         “I realize you avoid telling me some things because you don’t like to see me upset and you want me to feel better. I appreciate your concern for me. However, when you interrupt me while I’m explaining a troubling situation to you and offer a solution, I feel unimportant to you and devalued by you. If you could just listen to me and let me know you understand my feelings, I would really feel better.” 
     ·         “Honey, I know that you really like a neat house and I appreciate how beautiful you keep our home. You are a great home maker. However, when we come home after a lovely night out and you immediately start cleaning, I feel like the house is more important to you than I am. If you could sit down with me for a half hour and talk when we get home, I will help you clean afterwards.”
Give it a try and check out the results. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised!

Grow Your Children’s Dream

Our children have amazing potential. They have special abilities and talents that make them unique. As they grow, those strengths, abilities, and talents begin to take shape and grow into hopes and dreams. As parents, our work is to nurture those dreams. How can we nurture our children’s hopes and dreams? How can we help our children reach their full potential? In many ways, nurturing our children’s dreams is like nurturing a garden.
First, we have to work the soil. We want to make sure the soil of our children’s dream is fertile and filled with nutrients. We work to develop and establish an environment that will support and nourish the seeds of our children’s dreams. To do so, we have to honor their dream, matching it with the soil of their God-given abilities and talents. We avoid forcing them to live out our expectations and dreams which would be like trying to grow a good seed (their dream) in the wrong soil (our dreams). We, as parents, become students of our children to discover their God-given ability and nurture those abilities, encouraging them to meet the potential God has given them. Let me say again, we must honor their dream, the dream that matches their God-given strengths, talents, and potential…not ours. We work the soil of their lives to nurture their God-given talents to grow their dreams…not ours. In the process of preparing the soil, we utilize generous portions of acceptance, a potent fertilizer of dreams. Assure that your children know that you accept and appreciate their unique abilities and preferences. This is an important step in nurturing your children’s dreams. 
Dreams also grow best in a warm climate that provides safety and security. Parents nurture dreams by maintaining a home that instills a sense of safety and security for their children. A climate of safety and security flows out of parental availability, attentiveness, and emotional connection. In addition, a regular sprinkling of encouragement and sincere appreciation keeps the soil moist and waters the seeds of our children’s dreams.
Second, we have to nurture the sprouts that begin to grow. Dreams do not produce fruit overnight. They sprout and grow through the seasons of childhood and adolescence. Initially, dreams are fragile. We must be careful not to drown them with an overabundance of activity or by pushing them to grow beyond their developmental ability. We have to protect our children’s dreams from predators and negative influences. For instance, other people may downplay or discourage our children’s dreams. Peers may ridicule or belittle those dreams. We need to counteract those naysayers with a generous supply of encouragement, support, and love.
As those dreams begin to grow, we can help our children refine their dream, thinning out those distractions that do not match their unique skills and abilities. This is a gentle and delicate process. We move carefully and gently to encourage our children to find their niche while being careful to not disrupt the roots of healthy hopes and dreams that grow beneath the surface. This demands careful and loving pruning of offshoots as our children continue to grow. Loving discipline will help train the branches of our children’s dreams to grow tall and strong, able to bear the fruit of their labors.
Keeps these steps in mind and your children’s dreams will blossom, bringing great joy to you and your child.

Celebrate Marriage With A Song…A Fruity Love Song

Last summer I saw a sign at Rita’s Ice (a local Italian Ice shop) that said something about a “honeydew” list that included “cantaloupe.” Like anyone else seeing that sign, I thought “I want to write a love poem to my wife that includes fruit.” So, I began to write a love poem to my “Star Fruit Lover” (my wife, of course). My daughter joined in on the brainstorming and soon we had a song of deep romantic sentiment to share with my wife. At family camp, one of my daughters put the poem to music…and, since my wife and I celebrate our anniversary this week, I wanted to share the song with you, just click on the picture below. My wife truly is “My Star Fruit Lover.” I’m not really sure that is something she wants advertised, but she does deserve a “fruity love song” for putting up with me. I hope you enjoy it (just click on the picture below)…but don’t let the expression of deep romantic sentiment get you all teary-eyed. (PS-I know it’s all a little “corny”…wait, that’s a vegetable.) Anyway, I wrote the lyrics at the bottom of the picture for your reading enjoyment.

A Fruity Love Song
(For My Star Fruit Lover)
Honeydew I love you?
Yes, you know I do.
But we cantaloupe dear
Though it makes me berry blue…
Berry, berry blue.
You’re the apple of my eye love
And I’m your peachy guy.
Orange we beyond compare
Together making quite a pear.
Singing…Banana, Banana, Banana, Banana, Ba…na…na.
I can’t pomegranate
But Kiwi just hold hands
Cuz you’re so grape to me, dear
I’m a cherry lucky man!
Singing…Banana, Banana, Banana, Banana, Ba…na…na.

Protect Your Child from Depression: The Final Chapter

This is the last blog in a series entitled “Protecting Your Child from Depression.” The last 3 blogs explained that teaching children their actions make a difference and teaching them to help other people builds a life filled with happiness. Teaching them to have hope for tomorrow gives them a future with happiness. Teaching them to express gratitude helps build a past filled with happiness and a present life built upon happiness. In this last segment, we will explore one final way to protect our child from depression. This skill helps transform a painful past into a joyous presence. With that in mind, the fifth and final way we will explore to protect your child from depression is forgiveness.
Teach your child to forgive. Imagine going through life with a heavy rock in one hand and a rope tied around the other wrist. The rock allows you to threaten revenge…after all, they deserve to be stoned. Unfortunately, that rock also weighs heavy on your arm. And, being tired from carrying that weight, you lash out at others who trigger that same anger. The rope extends from your wrist and binds you to the person who has hurt you in the past; it ties you to a painful past. And, the longer you hold the grudge, the tighter the rope becomes, separating you from other people and, ultimately, from yourself. It ties you to bitter memories from the past and can contribute to feelings of depression.
There is only one way to transform those memories… forgiveness. When we forgive those who have hurt us, we drop the rock of revenge and let go of the rope—we become free to live in the present and create happiness today.
How do we teach children to forgive? First you must model forgiveness in your own life. Let them see you forgive those who hurt you. What is involved in forgiving?
Objectively recall the hurt. Work to understand the one who hurt you. Give the gift of forgiveness. Remember a time that you were given the gift of forgiveness—this will help you offer the gift to others. Hold on to that forgiveness by finding the good that came out of the situation. Did you learn something? Did you become a stronger or more sensitive person? Be grateful for that “pearl in the mud.” Every time you think of that event, remember the “pearl” and the gift of forgiveness.
Going through the process of forgiveness transforms the bitter memories of anger into the personal freedom needed to pursue joy and contentment in your current life and relationships. Learning to leave bitterness in the past and to embrace the freedom to pursue joy and contentment in the present may help protect your child from depression.
That’s it–an “immunization” against depression. Protect your child from depression by teaching them:
·         That their present actions make a difference.
·         Helping people rather than focusing only on ourselves will fill our lives with joy.
·         Expressing gratitude builds up a bank account of happy memories to draw on from the past and helps us pay attention to the joys of today.
·         Realizing the hope for tomorrow builds an enticing future of joy that we can look forward to.
·         Forgiving those who have hurt us transforms a painful past into a happy presence.

5 Ways to Guard the Honor of Your Spouse & Children

The current of our society has become more casual, relaxed, and informal. Sometimes, this casualness manifests itself in a lack of politeness. The current grows stronger as our sense of familiarity empties into the pool of forward and presumptuous behavior. We wash over the levies of social limits with insolence and rude interactions. The current of society floods into our families as we dishonor family members by making smart remarks or brash statements, privately or in the company of others. In the midst of this flood of casual impoliteness, we have lost sight of our duty to guard one another’s honor. When we leave the honor of family members unguarded, our spouse becomes vulnerable to disrespect; our children to humiliation; and our parents to disgrace. As a family, we need to stop the flood waters of dishonor from coming into our homes. We need to guard one another’s honor. How do we guard each family member’s honor? Here are five ways I have thought of.
     ·         Remember your place. It is so easy to get caught up in my own life…my worries, my needs, my schedule, my…my…my…. However, when it comes to family (as in life), it’s not all about “me.” We all have an Authority over us; and, the best authorities are those who humble themselves to serve. In other words, we are not our own. We belong to our family and our family belongs to us. Our place is in the midst of that family, meeting the needs of other family members. In fact, family is one of the true training grounds for selfless humility and submission…for each one of us. So, guard the honor of family members by encouraging them. Lift them up. Serve one another and keep one another in mind. Guard one another’s honor by remembering your place in the family and under God.
     ·         Respect one another. I have always found it interesting that I more easily become rude, disrespectful and angry at family (those people I love the most) than anyone else. If you find yourself in the same predicament, do what I have to do: remind yourself to treat family members with the same respect and care that you show toward the guests you invite into your home. Be polite. Say thank you and please. Open a door to let the other person go through first. In other words, guard the honor of your family members by treating them with the utmost respect.
     ·         Correct with love. Everyone makes mistakes. We all to learn and grow. Correction and discipline help us grow. To guard one another’s honor, we discipline in love. Speak the truth in love. Correct in love. Make sure your family knows that you love them, even when you discipline them. When we discipline in love, we guard honor. There is no name-calling, no threats, no harsh criticism, and no abuse. Instead, discipline done in love involves teaching and instructing…even if it is firm, intense, very serious, and even loud. We guard one another’s honor by holding up a higher standard for behavior and insisting on that standard for the love of family. We honor one another with loving correction.
     ·         Support one another. Life is hard…at any age. From fearing the boogie man or the monster in the closet…to learning how to assess a person who I might want to date…to determining my career…to raising a child…to finding my place in the world as an aging retiree, life is hard. Throughout these hardships, we need support from loved ones. In fact, we guard one another’s honor when we support one another in decision making, in navigating life’s struggles, in times of hardship, and in celebration of successes. Guard your family honor by offering consistent, loving support.
     ·         Pray for one another. I look back on my life and realize how often God has protected me and blessed me. And, I begin to realize how much of His blessing has come in response to the prayers that family members and friends have made for me. Honor your family members by praying for them. Pray for them in silence. Pray for them audibly. Let your family hear you pray for them. Pray for their health, their wisdom, their future spouses, their hopes and dreams, their…everything. In praying for your spouse and children you guard their honor and call on God to guard their honor as well!
That is only 5 ways to guard the honor of your spouse and children. What are some things you have done to guard the honor of your spouse and children? Write them in the comment section below or on FACEBOOK.

Protect Your Child From Depression, Part 3

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 child 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. So far, we have explored how teaching our children 1) that their actions make a difference, 2) to help other people, and 3) to show gratitude can help protect them from depression. A fourth way to protect your child from depression is to…
Teach your children to have hope for tomorrow. When people experience depression, they become hopeless about the future. By teaching your child to have hope for tomorrow, you help create a mindset that can limit the severity and duration of depression.
What thought patterns create hope for tomorrow? Thought patterns that promote hope consider negative events to be 1) temporary, 2) caused by factors outside of the person’s character and ability, and are 3) confined to a specific situation. On the other hand, thought patterns that consider negative events to be permanent, caused by traits internal to the person, and permeating all of life promote feelings of despair.
How can a parent help a child develop this type of mindset? First, model a mindset of hope for your children. Listen to how you explain events.
    ·         Do you explain negative events as temporary or do you say things like, “This always happens to me?” “I’ll never get this right?” Train yourself to recognize that most events are temporary, not permanent
     ·         Do you explain difficult circumstances as a result of your personal inadequacy and faulty character or do you look for those factors over which you have some control? Do you actively seek a solution you can work for or just assume “nothing I can do about that? It’s just the way I am.” Teach yourself to find those factors over which you have control and take action rather than dwelling on those aspects over which you have no control.
     ·         Do you view negative situations as affecting your whole life (“You ruined my life;” “You just ruined my whole day.”) or do you realize an incident is an incident (“That statement hurt my feelings;” “That driver cut me off.”). Practice letting a mole hill be a mole hill rather than escalating it into a mountain.
Also, be careful how you speak to your child when he experiences a setback or when he misbehaves. Your child is listening to every word you say…even if they look like they are ignoring you. And, he will develop thought patterns of hope or despair based on your discipline, criticism, and passing suggestions.
     ·         If your child hears that his misbehavior or setback is permanent rather than temporary, he may despair and become more susceptible to depression. After all, “I’m no good; I’ll never amount to anything.”
     ·         If your child hears that his misbehavior is due to his character fault, what hope is there to change? After all, “I can’t control my temper, I’m just like so-and-so. I have an anger problem.” 
     ·         And, if your child hears that his failure is all-inclusive rather than specific, he may believe he is helpless. After all, “Everything I do is a disaster.” 
Discipline lovingly and carefully. Honor your child even in the midst of discipline by letting him know that “he can learn from his mistakes and do better” (internal control). Let him know that you “recognize his successes in other areas” (specific). Teach him that he can change his behavior and make a better choice next time (temporary). This will promote a mindset that looks at setbacks, mistakes, and even misbehavior as temporary, specific, and confined to a specific situation—a mindset of hope.