Archive for September 28, 2013

12 More National Holidays to Celebrate Family

I thought I might share a few more “National Holidays” your family might enjoy celebrating (click here and here for some other holidays to celebrate). This time I did not include any food holidays, although food compliments any celebration in my mind. These holidays are all relational and fun holidays. A couple of them even offer some great perks if you watch for them. So, find the appropriate month and let the family celebrations begin!


January 24–National Compliment Day. Make some major deposits in your Family Bank of Honor on this day with a few well-spoken compliments. You may even want to start a Pandemonium of Honor this month and practice throughout the year!

January 31–National Backward Day.
Do everything backwards. Have supper for breakfast and breakfast for supper. Eat your meal starting with dessert. Put on your clothes backwards and go out to eat. Walk into the restaurant backwards. You get the idea. Have fun.

February 17–National Random Acts of Kindness Day.
Another wonderful opportunity to honor your family with a random act of kindness. Be creative and have fun.

March 22–National Goof Off Day.
My kids think I celebrate this day every day.  That’s OK. The point is to have some fun. So, go ahead and goof off together.

April 27–National Tell a Story Day.
I love to tell stories. Tell stories about your dating days, early childhood days, your favorite family vacations. You can make up stories. My kids still remember the stories we made up when they were preschoolers. Read a story together. Whatever you choose, just tell some stories that bring your family together. 

June 22–National Listen to a Child Day.
Listen to your child…they will love your for it.

July 13–Embrace Your Geekness Day.
All you Big Bang enthusiasts rejoice. Today is your day!

August 4–International Forgiveness Day.
Forgiveness will change your life and your family life. If you have trouble figuring out how to forgive, read 5 Steps for Forgiving Family.

September 19–Talk Like a Pirate Day.
A day of family celebration. Every family member can talk like a pirate and you can watch Pirates of the Caribbean. Invite some friends over and make it a multi-family event! Go to Long John Silver’s and order with your best pirate accent. Dress up like a pirate and you might get free donuts at Krispy Kreme.

October 12–National Family Bowling Day.
You don’t have to be good, just have fun. See who can get the worst score. Bowl behind your back. Plan to knock down as few pins as possible. Put up the bumpers. Whatever it takes, have a fun family outing while you bowl.

November 11-Origami Day.
Enjoy time making origami today. Here’s some help if you want some. 

December 8–Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day.
Dress up like you live in Wild West, renaissance England, ancient Rome, Israel at the time of Christ, or your community in the midst of dinosaurs. Whatever time era you think your family might enjoy, travel to that time in dress, food, and amenities. Have fun!


Alright now, get out there…Have Fun and Celebrate Family!

12 Roadblocks to Communicating With Your Teen

Parents want to talk with their teens but teens are often hesitant to approach their parents. Part of our teens’ hesitancy may stem from responses they have received from us, their parents, in the past. Perhaps past responses have communicated a lack of trust or acceptance. Maybe they felt blamed by us or made to feel wrong by our response. I’m sure we, as parents, do not intend to send those messages; but we do, even if we do so unintentionally. And, those subtle, unintentional messages put up roadblocks to communication. They close the bridge to intimacy with our teen. I want to warn you about 12 such communication roadblocks that Thomas Gordon identified. Once you know them, you can work to avoid them…and increase the communication with your teen. Here they are:

      ·    Excessive commands and directives communicate a lack of trust in our teen and a disbelief in their ability to do what is right or needed at the moment.

·    Constantly warning and threatening our teen with consequences builds a wall of fear between us and them. When we warn and threaten our teens, we build resentment and invite our teen to test the real bite (the truth) of the warning or threat.

·    Moralizing and lecturing often increases feelings of guilt in a teen—a sense that he is “bad.” Communicating in this way often leads to rebellion against the “shoulds,” “oughts,” and “musts” that parents generously sow throughout the moralizing lecture.

·    Giving solutions and unsolicited advice sends the message that we have no confidence in our teen’s judgment or ability to find a solution independently. If teens “buy” the message about their lack of ability to solve problems on their own, they may become overly dependent on others.

·    Giving logical arguments can backfire, sending the message that we believe our teen “doesn’t know anything.” Constantly giving logical arguments makes our teen think we consider them stupid, inadequate, or inferior. And, a teen may go to drastic measures just to prove the argument wrong and so prove his point.

·    Criticizing (judging) and blaming makes a teen feel inferior, unworthy, devalued, and bad. Critical, blaming statements evoke counter-criticisms from teens in an effort to save face. Criticize, judge, or blame and welcome an argument. 

·    Praising can have several negative effects. Check out How to Ruin Your Child with Praise
to see some of these negative effects.

·    Name-calling, ridicule and shame all have a devastating effect on any teen’s self-image.

·    Analyzing and diagnosing (i.e., telling a teen what their motive or feeling is) sends the message that “I know you better than you know yourself. If you disagree, you are wrong.” This intrusive communication style only leaves one way for a teen to become their own person—rebel!

·    Reassuring and consoling discounts your teen’s emotions and sends a message of our own discomfort with difficult emotions. It informs our teens that our emotional comfort is more important than accepting their emotional struggle and connecting with them in that struggle.

·    Questioning and interrogating…who likes to be interrogated? Many teens shut down in response to what they perceive as too many questions. Try sitting with a little silence and allow your teen time to talk.

·    Distracting and diverting can make teens feel like you are minimizing their pain, excitement, concerns, or joys. They feel unheard and devalued.

 When parents consistently respond to their teen in these 12 ways, walls arise, roadblocks get put in place, communication suffers, and intimacy falters. You might be asking, “If these 12 things block communication, what can I do to enhance communication?” I’m glad you asked! To enhance communication, use “simple door-openers.” Respond with statements that open the door to more communication…statements like “really,” “That’s interesting,” “Hmmmm.” These “simple door-openers” reveal your interest in and acceptance of what your teen is saying. They focus on your teen’s ideas, feelings, and judgments rather than your own (See 5 Ways to Look out for Number 1). That paves the way for conversation, bridges the communication gap, and creates intimate relationships!

5 Ways to Look Out for #1 in Your Family

You have to look out for “number 1,” “numero uno,” the “big cheese.” If you don’t look out for number one, who will? So, I encourage you to keep your eye on the goal, the “cream of the crop,” the…. Oh, wait. Maybe I need to clarify who “number one” is? When I say look out for “number one,” “numero uno,” “the big cheese,” I am referring to your spouse and your children. When it comes to building a healthy, lasting family, the other guy in your family is “number one.” And really, if you don’t look out for the other guy in your family, who will? Families flourish when each person in the family considers the other guy “number one” and looks out for the other guy’s interests. That is the crux of honoring one another. An ancient family expert said it this way: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Paul-Philippians 2:3-4) So, well, yeah…I hope I didn’t cause any confusion. Looking out for number one is looking out for other family members and here are 5 ways you can do just that:

      ·   Learn about their interests. Each family member has a unique personality and will have unique interests as a result. The “other guy’s” interests may not fill you with excitement; but if you take the time to learn a little bit about their interests, you will grow closer with “number one.” You will find yourself able to engage your family member in conversation about their interest and, even better, you will be thrilled to watch their face glow with excitement as they discuss this interest with you.

·   Listen intently. We can look out for “number one” by listening carefully with the goal of understanding. I don’t mean just listening with our ears either. I mean listening with our eyes, ears, mind, and heart. Make sure you not only hear the words accurately but that you can really see things their way as well. Listen so well that you can completely understand why they “think the way they think” and “feel the way they feel.” Listen so carefully that you can explain their point of view and behave in a way that informs them that you completely understand and respect how they feel. 

·   Find ways to express your admiration for each family member…after all, they are “number one.” Let them know you take great delight in them. You admire them. Tell them so with your words; and, let them see it in your eyes. Let them feel it in your hugs. Express your love with an encouraging back slap or a high-five. Let them see your admiration and delight for them in your actions.

·   Seek out ways to help them fulfill their dreams. Everyone has a dream. Find out about each family member’s dream. Share in their excitement. Learn about the topic of their dream so you can talk with them about it. Keep your eye open for opportunities for them to reach for their dream and share those opportunities with them. Help them reach for their dream.

·   Learn how you can make them happy. Maybe your kind words make them happy; maybe your acts of service make them happy. Or, you may find that loving touch, time spent together, or little gifts makes them happy. Carefully observe them to learn what brings them the greatest happiness and, most importantly, do it.

 It is true: you have to watch out for “Number One.” And, you have to make sure that the “number one” you look out for really is the right “one.” When it comes to family, “Number One” is not me…it is the rest of the family. Now go to it…watch out for “number 1,” “numero uno,” “the big cheese.”

Walking the Tightrope of Raising a Strong Daughter

Raising a daughter is a great joy and a great challenge…especially for a father. A father’s active involvement provides a key ingredient in helping his daughter grow into a woman of integrity, character, and confidence. Most fathers find active involvement in their daughter’s life comes with some challenges. Mark McMinn has identified 3 challenges every father will experience while parenting a daughter—three tightropes every father must navigate between “my little girl” and the mature woman she will become. These areas of tension provide fertile opportunities to grow a strong daughter.


First, fathers support their daughters and know when to let their daughters go. Our daughters desire an emotionally intimate relationship with us…and our daughters struggle for independence. Fathers walk the tightrope between both. On the one hand, we nurture an intimate relationship with our daughters by learning the language of emotions (something that does not come easily to men in our society). Rather than hiding behind our cultural training to “be tough,” we maintain our toughness to offer protection while developing our “softer side” of emotional expression. Doing so, we gain an emotionally open and intimate relationship with our daughter. We honor our daughters by spending time with them engaged in activities they enjoy. In a sense, we follow their lead as we participate with them in activities of their choosing. As we do, they often return the favor. On the other hand, we nurture independence by encouraging them to become involved in challenging activities. We lovingly step back and allow our daughters to take risks as they try new things and grow more independent of us. Any father who has dropped his daughter off at college has experienced the tension of letting go and encouraging her to take her next step in life while nurturing an intimate connection with her by expressing the complexity of emotions that accompany this event.


Second, fathers remain a loving authority in their daughter’s life while allowing her the “voice” to speak her mind. Fathers provide limits and boundaries to protect their daughters as they grow. As their daughters mature, fathers allow choices to replace directives. They allow their daughters to make choices and voice those choices. Wise fathers will even allow their daughters to experience the consequences of poor choices. A father may find his daughter saying “no” more often as she matures—not in a disrespectful way but in a growing independent way. She may say “no” to some of the father-daughter activities you enjoyed with her as a child. She may say “no” to an activity with you so she can enjoy an activity with her friends. Allowing her to say “no,” hearing and respecting the reason behind her “no,” and perhaps negotiation around the “no” helps her find her voice and learn to speak her mind respectfully. Discussing the reason behind her “no” encourages her to think for herself. Fathers also encourage independent thinking by listening to their daughters explain what interests them and what does not interest them.


Third, fathers tolerate the tension of disagreement with their daughters. If you have a child, you know that many opportunities will arise to disagree. Disagreement is good…frustrating, but good.  Disagreement allows our daughters to think for themselves. It provides us the opportunity to learn about our daughters by listening intently. Disagreement also provides the opportunity to teach respectful ways to voice our disagreement. A wise father will allow disagreement, even discuss the disagreement. During that discussion, a father can model respect. He can model how to disagree while keeping the relationship a priority.  One more thing…realize that some disagreements occur because of differences in maturity and experience. Do not expect your daughter to think like you—they lack the maturity and experience to do so. And, let’s face it, sometimes we are wrong and they are right. So, allow the disagreement. Allow them to think. Allow them to be right and accept it when you (the father) are wrong.


As you can see, walking the tightrope of raising a strong daughter provides a great challenge. But, we are men. We love a challenge. Step right up, enter the fray, and engage your daughter. Support her and let her grow up. Remain an authority in her life and allow her to speak her mind. Tolerate disagreements and even enter into the disagreement with her knowing she may teach you a thing or two. Most of all, love your daughter and show her the depth of your love every day!

6 Tips to Fertilize Your Marital Lawn

My friend says the “grass is always greener on the other side.” I don’t know. I’ve found that the grass is always greener when I fertilize. My grass stays green through the summer and fall when I take care of the lawn. Trouble is…some summers (like this summer) I get too busy to take care of my lawn. It gets overgrown with weeds and turns brown earlier in the fall. My neighbor fertilized this year and I didn’t. He still has a beautiful lawn…mine is burned out and full of weeds. So, next year I fertilize (well, at least that’s the plan). After all, the grass is always greener when I fertilize.

The same is true in marriage. The best marriages belong to those who fertilize, who take care of their own marital lawn rather than looking at someone else’s. In fact, if you look at other couples and think the grass is always greener on the other side, you definitely need to look at your daily lawn care and use a little marital fertilizer. To help you get started toward a beautiful marital lawn, here are a couple of marital lawn care ideas.

·   Get rid of the weeds that threaten to choke out the healthy growth in your marital lawn. Forgiveness is great for getting rid of deep-rooted weeds like anger and resentment.

·   Time management skills help to eradicate those pesky weeds that seem to pop up all over the place and multiple like dandelions. Time management means learning to say “no” to those activities that might interfere with your marriage and making time to spend with your spouse. Without time management, weeds of busy-ness will grow like dandelions and destroy your marital lawn.

·   Get rid of the grubs and other pests that eat the roots of your healthy lawn. The best way to keeps grubs and pests out of your lawn is to utilize a secret lawn care ingredient made up of equal parts admiration, affection, and acknowledgement. Take the time every day to think about the attributes you admire in your spouse. After you have thought of these attributes, tell your spouse. In other words, tell your spouse at least one thing you admire about them every day. Follow that acknowledgement of admiration with a show of affection…like a hug, a kiss, a stroke of the cheek, a holding of the hand…you can use your imagination to think of others.

·   Water your marital lawn every day with a healthy shower gratitude and kindness. Show your spouse how much they mean to you by doing kind deeds for them every day. Express gratitude for the kind deeds they do for you.

·   Keep your marital lawn well-irrigated with politeness as well. Let “thank you,” “please,” “after you,” and “excuse me” flow freely through the soil of your marriage. 

·   Put some extra fertilizer on your garden. The three ingredients of this fertilizer will keep your marital lawn healthy, green, and plush—it’s the 20-2/6-3 fertilizer

   o    A 20 minute conversation each day to talk about what happened during the day and upcoming plans.

   o    At least 2 hugs a day, each lasting 6 seconds or more.

   o    Share at least 3 kisses each day–one when you say good-bye, another when you return home, and a third when you go to bed.     

If you utilize these marital lawn care practices, you will have a fresh, green lawn free of weeds and pests…and your marriage will prosper. Indeed, the grass is always greener for those who fertilize!

5 Ways to Check the Teen Attitude at the Door

If you have a pre-teen or teen, you have probably encountered “the attitude.” I can imagine all those who have a teen nodding their head in agreement as you recall the condescending stare, rolling eyes, exasperating sigh, impatient shifting of weight, and sarcastic tone of voice. If you are like me, just thinking about it raises your blood pressure. As hard as it is to believe, this new “attitude” does mean that your child is reaching a new level of maturity and independence…and that’s a positive thing. The “teen attitude” is often an attempt to assert some independence from the parental control they experienced and needed as a child. However, their brains are still not fully developed. The emotional networks of their brain are more developed than the planning networks of their brain. As a result, their words come out laced with sarcasm and anger while revealing little forethought into whether this helps or hinders them reaching their goal. Sarcasm, by the way, also shows growing mental ability. They have matured to the level of knowing that tone impacts the subtle meaning of what is said, expressing a “double meaning.” They have not learned how to plan ahead in using that new understanding, but…. (Sarcasm, a new mental skill…woohoo, let’s celebrate.)

In their growing desire to become “their own person,” our teens want to know how everything will affect them. They have also learned how to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. Combine perspective taking (a fairly new ability for pre-teens), wanting to know how everything affects me, a well-developed emotional brain, and an underdeveloped planning brain…and you get a teen overly concerned with every little blemish or misplaced hair.  This translates into “attitude,” complaining about appearance, getting overly upset about seemingly small issues, thinking the world revolves around their schedule…you know the drill.

Even though a teen attitude is a normal part of their development, we still want to help them grow beyond that attitude. We still want to help them learn to use their planning brain, to shift concern from themselves to others, and to speak respectfully. Understanding some of the origins of their “attitude” merely helps us not take it personal, remain calm (rather than throttle them as they roll their eyes), and discipline with love. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to help your teen mature, in spite of their attitude.

1.   Talk to your teen when they show their “attitude.” Don’t get an attitude back. Take a deep breath and respond with love. Ask them what is going on in their life. Sometimes an attitude flows out of frustration over problems at school, hurt feelings in peer relationships, or fear about some future event. Sometimes all we need to do to lose the attitude is listen…listen well.

2.   When possible, ignore the attitude…especially when your teen still follows through with your requests and rules. Realize that some attitude is normal and even beneficial in helping your teen establish healthy independence. Knowing this, don’t respond to them when they approach you with an attitude. As you ignore the attitude, your teen will learn that they do not get what they want when they ask with “attitude.” ignore the evil eye, the rolling eye, the exasperated sigh…realize that these too shall pass.  

3.   If your teen’s attitude turns to name-calling, defiance, or disrespect, discipline. Attitude is fleeting, disrespect needs adjusting. Be prepared to discipline. Know the natural consequences and calmly discipline in response to disrespect and defiance. Stand strong to say, “No, I don’t want to lend my car to someone who treats me so disrespectfully.” Or, “No, I won’t give you money for the movie because you didn’t do the chores you said you would do.”

4.   Point out sarcasm when it occurs and explain how sarcasm affects the person hearing it…like you. Encourage them to say what they feel and want directly, politely, and without sarcasm. Even if they don’t get what they want, the discussion will still prove more satisfying for both parties involved. Oh…and watch your own sarcasm. It is hard to end sarcasm in your teen if they hear it from you all the time!

5.   Avoid being all things to your teen. You do not have to serve as cook, chauffer, bank, tutor, clothes washer, secretary, water bottle washer, alarm clock, and schedule manager for your teen. Sure, you will help in all these areas, but teach your teen to do these tasks independently as well. Doing so will strengthen that planning brain. Put them in charge of some meaningful household chores to teach them that they have a role in keeping “our home” running smoothly.

5 tips to help deal with the teen attitude. If you’d like more information on the teen brain, check out
A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain. And, keep reading our blog for more ideas.

4 Ingredients for a Happy Family

I discovered a new recipe for Happy Family. No, I’m not talking about the Chinese dish, although I would enjoy Happy Family for dinner tonight (click here for a recipe for the “edible happy family”)…well, both the dish and the family come to think of it. Anyway, I am talking about a simple way you can turn your family into a happy family. This recipe works especially well in the heat of conflict. 


First, realize that conflict is often too hot to handle. Cool it down with a neutralizer. State what has upset you in as neutral a tone as possible. To help you stay neutral, avoid statements beginning with “you.” Making comments like “You drive me crazy,” “You always mess things up,” “You’re so stupid,” or “You make me so mad…” only adds heat to the recipe, threatens to scorch the relationship and burn your family. Instead, turn down the heat by making more neutral comments. Start these comments with an “I” instead of a “you” and simply state how you feel in this specific situation in as neutral a tone as possible.  “I’m really upset right now,” “I am worried that this will end badly,” “I am hurt by that statement,” and similar statements will go a long way in keeping the heat of conflict to a moderate level. And, in all reality, these comments speak the truth more accurately. They truthfully express how you feel rather than making assumptive statements that exaggerate the other person’s faults.


Second, replace your complaint or criticism with a positive action the other person can take to help. Rather than throwing bitter blame, sour complaints, or overly-spicy name-calling into the recipe mix, state what positive thing your family can do to help. State what you want rather than what you don’t want. Stating your “positive need” (what you do want) infuses a solution into the recipe mix and adds the sweet opportunity for an expression of love. And, as John Gottman says, “Stating your positive need is a recipe for success.”


Third, add listening to the recipe as a stabilizer. Without stabilizing the family in the midst of conflict, those involved will “weep” and separate. Listening acts as a stabilizer, binding us to one another and helping all the ingredients, including the people, stick together. Listen carefully and non-defensively with the goal of understanding the other person’s emotions and pain.


Finally, add the calming sweetener of empathy. As you listen non-defensively, summarize your partner’s point of view. Validate the other person by repeating the meaning of what they have said and labeling the emotion behind what they have said. Summarize their perspective with a simple sentence or two.


Combine these 4 ingredients over the heat of conflict, mix gently, and you will enjoy a Happy Family. You know, I got a little hungry writing this. I think I’ll go practice these 4 ingredients with my wife. Then, we can work together on the recipe for the Happy Family dish. Tonight, we can sit down as a Happy Family for a serving of Happy Family. Sounds like a happy time.

One Powerful Discipline Tool

Parents who discipline effectively have many parenting tools. For instance, most parents utilize rewards and consequences to teach appropriate behavior. “The Super Nanny” loves to teach families to make effective use of “time-out” and consistent routine’s to elicit positive behavior from children. I’m sure many of you can name several other tools that you have used in your parenting journey. I want to add yet another tool to our parenting toolkit; after all, the more tools we have the better work we can parent. The tool I want to add to our parenting toolkit is: (drum roll please)…the mirror!

What’s that you say? The mirror? Yes. When our children misbehave we can often gain important clues about their misbehavior by looking in the mirror. Children learn many of their behaviors from us, their parents. They imitate our positive behaviors and our negative behaviors. They even learn from our subtle behaviors, those we engage in without even realizing what we did. In fact, children often seem to pick up on our worst behaviors quickly and accurately. Who hasn’t had the experience of a toddler, at the worst possible moment, blurting out some phrase she heard her parent energetically say in a moment of frustration? Not only do children pick up and imitate our rash behaviors and subtle character flaws, they practice them as children, without adult constraint. The unfortunate truth we have to face as parents is: many times, the behavior we see in our children is a reflection of our own behavior. Watching our children’s behavior is like looking in a mirror. So,

     ·    If your children seem ungrateful, check your own level of gratitude

·    If your children seem irritable, check out your own display of irritability and frustration

·    If your children seem oppositional, consider how well you accept the influence of others in your life and how you respond to other’s requests

·    If your children talk back and have a “smart” attitude, consider how you talk to and about others

 If you discover that your children’s behavior is a reflection of your own, take these two actions:

     1.    Change your behavior. Confirm the values for which you want to be remembered. Begin to act and speak in a way that will truly reflect those values in your life.

2.   Apologize to your children. Apologize for setting a bad example. Let them know you are changing your behavior. Tell them why you have decided to change. And, let them know you would like them to change with you.

The mirror is a challenging, yet powerful, tool to use in discipline.  It can change your life and your children’s lives for the better. Use it wisely…use it carefully…and use it often.

She Said What?!

My family accuses me of being “literal.”  I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I do ask a lot of questions. I really want to understand what they mean. Sometimes this has “literally” calmed my fears and saved the day (well, I think so anyway). For instance, when our children were little, my wife would say, “I’m going to put the kids down.” I used to work in a pet cemetery and “putting something down” was not a good thing. Surely she wouldn’t do that. Maybe she only planned to verbally slander them, putting them down with her words. Surely she wouldn’t do that either! But, she wasn’t holding our daughters, so how else could she “put them down”? (Maybe that’s the literal part that my family accuses me of.) Anyway, I had to ask. I had to check the accuracy of my understanding of her statement. Thankfully, she clarified. She only planned to get our daughters ready for their nap. (What a relief–why didn’t she just say so?)

Or, consider the time my daughter was nonchalantly talking about her day in sixth grade when she “pops the question:” “Can I date Jim” (names have been changed to protect the poor innocent guy). What? Date? Are you kidding me?  She’s only in sixth grade, she can’t get married yet! But wait…maybe I jump the gun. I decided to check the accuracy of my understanding of the term “date.” “What exactly do you mean by ‘date’ him?” My daughter replies with a confused look on her face, “I don’t know. I’d see him at school and we would talk.” This time I feel the need to explore a little further. “Would you hold hands?” “I don’t know. No, probably not.” “Would you kiss?” “Yuck…no! Dad, that’s gross.” I like that answer! “Sure, you can date Jim…as soon as I meet him.”

Communication is a process. It begins when one person wants to tell us something to express some need or desire. That person puts their need into words. Those words are code for what they really want to say. The listener has to decode the true meaning of the speaker’s code words…and that may prove tricky. After all, my wife coded “I’m going to get the girls ready for a nap” as “I’m putting the girls down.” I had to clarify my understanding of that code before making a rash response. My daughter coded “I want a friend of the male gender” as “Can I date him?” Whoa Dad, clarify your understanding before you get the shot gun! That is what active listening is all about—making sure you really understand the want, need, or desire behind the coded message. Doing so has some very positive results:

      ·   It promotes a warm relationship between parent and child…and ultimately with all family members.

·   It helps children learn problem-solving skills by teaching them to clarify their coded messages.

·   It models good listening for your children. A great by-product is that they will follow your lead and listen better to you in the future as well.

·   It teaches children that they can talk to you about anything, even negative feelings and problems, and elicit help in finding positive solutions.

·   It communicates how much you accept the speaker and what they have to say.

 Next time someone in your family tells you something that just sounds wrong, pull out your active listening decoder ring. Ask a few questions. Check the accuracy of your understanding. Make sure you understand what they truly mean behind those code words. Then you can give the best answer you have!

3 Blessings From Family Camp-2013

This weekend we attended Family Camp at Camp Christian (click here for info on Camp Christian). Jim and Terri Jones (camp deans) organized another wonderful weekend of family time and learning. The speaker this year was Rob Grandi (for more about Rob, click here). He spoke to us about giving a blessing to our families and sang several songs of blessing as well. We had a wonderful weekend—the weather was good, the time was relaxing, the fellowship was awesome, and the teaching was excellent. Each year, I like to share a few things I learned at family camp; so, here are 3 blessings I received from Family Camp this year.

     1.   A new bridge is being constructed at the entry way to camp—the foundation of the old bridge was falling apart. Right now, the new supports are in and the foundation is up. However, the platform of the bridge is yet to be added. This weekend we learned about giving a blessing to our family—about valuing each family member enough to serve them and honoring them enough to verbally share how much we value them. That sounds like the foundation of a family, the supports that make it possible for a family to travel over the white waters of life and make it safely to the other side. Giving a blessing builds a stable foundation of intimacy and love. It supports a bridge that leads to a mature sense of personal value and acceptance. Even the bridge to camp told the lesson of a blessing!

2.   Children are one of our greatest blessings! We enjoyed the company of many children at camp this weekend…children of all ages. We even had a visit from the “world’s oldest camper” who is but a child at heart. We have now attended 11-years of family camp and had the joy of watching several children “grow up” into mature young adults. It is a beautiful blessing to see these young adults now passing on the tradition of blessing younger children with their attention, affection, and service. To those young adults who remain so active in the lives of all those attending family camp, thank you for your persistent faith; thank you for carrying forward the tradition of family camp; and thank you for sharing a tradition of loving family with the next generations. You have built a bridge over the gap of age to give us hope and confidence for the future.

3.   Our lives often come with pain and troubles. However, when those difficulties arise we have our church family. Each year, I come to better realize the importance of my church family. Our church family provides support through various difficulties and joins us in celebrating our successes and transitions. Our church family touches the lives of our children and helps them grow. As Family Camp so eloquently communicated this year, our church family blesses us in innumerable ways. So, if you find yourself in a “season of trial,” turn to your church family. Let your family support you and guide you through this difficult time. Realize there are those in our church family who have crossed the bridge over this troubled time before you. They can help you avoid some pitfalls along the way. Let them support the bridge as you cross it today…and hold you secure as you step onto the “other side.” Yes, our church family is a tremendous blessing.


We learned many more lessons at family camp, some we learned as a group and some we learned individually. If you attended family camp, you might want to share a lesson you learned in the comment section below. Thank Jim and Terri for putting together an incredible weekend. Thanks Rob Grandi for the inspiring music and lessons. Thanks to the band for a great worship time.  I hope more of you can join us next year!