Archive for May 31, 2014

3 Steps to Sweet Complaining

Person Annoyed by Others TalkingIt had been a long day. I came home from work exhausted and the moment I walked in the door–BOOM—my spouse bombarded me with questions: “Did you put the concert in your calendar?” “Do you know where that receipt is?” “School’s cancelled tomorrow. Will you be home?” “Kaitlyn got invited to….” My head began to spin and I began to hear the sounds adults make on Charlie Brown…”Blah, blah-blah blah, blah.” I had a little question of my own to answer: How do I escape? I wanted to scream…or turn around and walk back out the door to get a breather…or go into the bathroom and “pretend to be occupied by the call of nature.” I don’t know…I had to do something though!


Have you ever run into a situation like that, a situation in which you have a legitimate complaint but you don’t know how to address it? We all have. I watched “Saving Mr. Banks” recently (an excellent movie, by the way) and was reminded of an excellent solution. Mary Poppins gives the solution when she sings “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…in the most delightful way.” Complaints, like many medicines, have a bitter taste to the one receiving it. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, elicits defensiveness, and can make a person feel unappreciated. The residual bad taste, feelings of defensiveness, and a feeling of being unappreciated make it difficult for the person receiving the complaint to hear it or understand it. Instead, they might feel hurt or angry. You can avoid this by offering the complaint in “a spoonful of sugar!” Here is how to do it.


First, step back for a moment and think about the other person’s intent. What are they trying to accomplish with the behavior that you want to complain about? What contributes to their action? In my example, my wife is an incredible planner and organizer. Without her planning I would not get near as much done as I do and our family would miss out on so many opportunities. The positive intention of her behavior is making sure our family is on the same page, that I do not miss any important events, and the each person’s needs are met.


Second, appreciate and admire that intention. Take a moment to realize the benefit of the other person’s work. Allow it soak in. admire that person for their desire to bring something good and positive into your life. In my example, I can appreciate how smoothly our family functions and how many activities and opportunities we engaged in because of my wife’s planning. I can admire her for her selfless work in making our family life better.


African American Couple Laughing On The FloorThird, tell the other person. Tell them how much you admire and appreciate them (step two). Then, convert your complaint into a simple statement of need.  Explain in one statement what your family member can do to help you. A practical example from my situation…”I really appreciate how you keep things organized for our family. In fact, I am amazed at how much we are able to do because of your efforts and how much you accomplish. One of the things I love about you is your ability to organize and how you use that ability to help our family do so many fun things. And, I am glad to answer questions. But, when I come home could we postpone the questions until we greet each other and have 10-15 minutes of down time and small talk?” There it is, a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down…in the most delightful way.


Quit complaining. Offer your legitimate concerns with a spoonful of sugar. A little love and admiration and a practical statement helps a concern “go down…in the most delightful way.”

Why Do Children Misbehave?

Parents often ask me how to change their children’s behavior. There are often several factors that contribute to children’s misbehaviors. And, each of these factors influence how a parent can best respond. Let me list just four factors that might influence children’s misbehavior…and a good response to each one.Exhausted Mom

  • Children may misbehave out of a desire to confirm the limits. Children need limits. They will often test the limit or work to confirm that limit in their own mind. They might do this by misbehaving, looking at a parent as they prepare to misbehave, telling on another child, or simply asking for confirmation. These actions either confirm or test limits the parent has already established. Parents often see this behavior as an effort to assert power. However, children need firm limits to establish a sense of safety. Engaging in this “limit testing” behavior is like leaning on a fence. It confirms the strength of the fence and so the ability of the fence to keep us safe.

o    Remember, it is your children’s job to test the limits. Our job is to consistently and respectfully reinforce the limit. Explain the limit beforehand. Remind them of the limit. Explain alternative behaviors allowed within the limit. Allow natural consequences to occur when they break the limit.

  • Children may misbehave out of a desire to gain attention. Children need to know that their parents are available to them. They want to know their parents delight in them and watch over them. When they feel threatened in any way or fearful of something inside them or around them, they will seek attention. This could be as simple as feeling overwhelmed and threatened by all the sights, sounds, and traffic of a store…or by watching their parent giving attention to a person on the other end of the telephone. When children perceive a threat or feel some fear, they will often “act out” to gain their parents’ attention and confirm their availability.

o    Remember, your children need to know you delight in them, watch over them, and remain available to them. Respond to their material and emotional needs.  Comfort them in the face of overwhelming situations. Help them understand their feelings and teach them healthy ways of responding to personal fears. Remain responsive to their needs.

  • Children may misbehave out of a desire to feel adequate. Childhood is full of challenges…and comparisons. Children compete with each other. They also get judged by their performance every day in school.  It is easy in the midst of the demands of home (chores), school (classroom behavior, homework, tests), and friends (how to fit in), to experience feelings of inadequacy. In the midst of these challenges, children need recognized and reaffirmed. If they do not receive that recognition they may misbehave to get it.

o    Remember, your children need to know that your acceptance and love is not based on their performance ability in sports or academics. Instead, encourage them to simply do their best. Teach them that achieving to the best of their ability brings personal satisfaction. Allow them to explore their interests and to invest in areas they find most motivating. Take a personal interest in those activities yourself…it will show your children how much you value them and their interests!

  • Angry little girl with beautiful hairstyleChildren may misbehave out of a desire to communicate a priority. This often comes across like anger or revenge. We tend to become angry about those things we find important. The same is true for our children. Perhaps they misbehave because they are angry and feel unheard or unimportant or neglected. If you search under the angry behavior you may find the priority of wanting to be heard, viewed as important, or paid attention to. Of course, the misbehavior miscommunicates this priority and need. We have to teach them how to communicate this priority in a way others, including us, can better understand it.

o    Remember, your children have feelings too. Emotions are not bad in themselves. They are opportunities to connect and learn about one another. We do want to teach our children how to express their emotions in a way that will help others understand and respond. In addition, when our response is directly in response to their need or priority, we take a big step in reducing their anger. When a person feels heard, anger often dissipates.


Knowing why our children misbehave or what influences their misbehavior will give us insight into how to respond to that misbehavior. Look past the behavior into the deeper influences. As you address these underlying factors over time you will see your children’s behavior improve.

You Can’t Unfriend Family

I remember a saying I heard when I was 9-or 10-years-old: “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” All the boys laughed and the TuneaPianoButYouCantTunaFishgirls let out a loud “Ewww” in chorus. Still, we all got the implicit message: there are certain things you do not do. A few years later, REO Speedwagon (a rock band popular in the 70’s and early 80’s) came out with an album (you know, those 10-12 inch vinyl discs, grooved on both sides, that, when rotating under the needle of a record player, produced music) entitled “You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish.” Well, today we need a new saying along those same lines…and I think I have one. Here it is: “You can unfriend people on Facebook but you can’t unfriend family from your life.” I know, it needs a little work. It lacks the pizzazz and flair of the “picking your friends” thing and the whit of “tune a piano-tuna fish.” But, it does communicate an important truth. You cannot unfriend family. They go with you wherever you go. Any anger we harbor toward family will follow us into other intimate relationships. Apron strings left uncut by “Mamma’s boy” or tied to tight by “Daddy’s little princess” turns into a choke-leash that holds us back from intimacy with others. Unrealistic adorations of our perceived “perfect family” or fairy-tale expectations of an elitist family will only set us up for disappointment, hurt, and failure in future relationships. Each of these aspects of our family will follow us wherever we go. You can’t unfriend family. Instead, you have to emancipate (unravel) family. Here are 3 essentials to emancipating family relationships.

  • The first step in unraveling family is acceptance. Realize that you cannot change your family or anyone in your family. You are not responsible to make any family member feel or behave a certain way. All you can do is accept each person for who they are…warts and all. Accept them in their weaknesses, their mistakes, and even their irritations. Accept their love for you, even if it is miscommunicated or lost in translation. You may increase your acceptance of each family member by considering things you like about them. Take time to recall things they have done or said that you admire or appreciate. Realize they have strengths as well as weaknesses and recall those strengths often. Learning more about their life may also increase your acceptance of each family member’s idiosyncrasies. Consider where these idiosyncrasies may have come from? How they suffer as a result of them? And, what their idiosyncratic behaviors cost them? Unraveling family begins with acceptance.
  • Second, forgive. If any family member has done anything to hurt you in any way, forgive. I’m sure some of you are saying, “There is no way I’ll forgive them. What they did was too much to forgive!” Granted, some people suffer unbearably at the hands of family. However, when we do not forgive we continue to suffer at their hands. Our anger becomes a leash that keeps us from holds us in a family prison yard of anger and prevents us from finding greener pastures. Bitterness grows and engulfs our heart like kudzu engulfing and eventually killing a tree. Let go of the bitterness and entrust God to work out the justice. Begin to pray for the other person and develop empathy for how they have been hurt by their actions. Forgive.
  • Third, define yourself. After you have accepted each family member for their uniqueness and forgiven them, letting go of the anger that binds you to them, you can define yourself. Discover your interests and priorities. Investigate what you want in a healthy life and relationship. Learn the practical daily habits that will allow you to live the life you desire. Take the steps to begin to build a healthy life! One step toward healthy living is reading good books on family life—here are a few books we found helpful. Another crucial step includes finding good counsel and supports, people you trust and who model the kind of family you desire.


You can’t unfriend family from your life, but you can unravel family. As you do, you will find that you can love your family in spite of shortcomings. In fact, you may find your family is actually pretty nice in many ways. And, you will continue to grow an even stronger and more intimate family of your own!

Book Review: How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm

how eskimos keep babies warmI just finished reading How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, an excellent book written by Mei-Ling Hopgood and published in 2012.  Mei-Ling Hopgood, a new mother herself, takes the readers on a journey around the world to look at various parenting styles and practices. Each stop offers insights into parenting that we often overlook when raising our children in the zealous child-centered practices of the United States. Her travels take us to meet parents in Argentina, China, Kenya, France, a Mayan village, Tibet, and more. She delves into topics as varied as play, eating, sleep, peer conflict, strollers and potty training. We meet the “best fathers” in the world when visiting an AKA pygmies village and some of the closest extended families in the United States when visiting the Lebanese Americans. Ms. Hopgood, a journalist by trade, uses an easy-to-read style to compile information from sources as varied as anthropology, sociology studies, first hand interviews with people around the world, and personal anecdotes from her own family. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ms. Hopgood does not judge but opens up possibilities for parents. She helps us realize that parents around the world utilize varied, yet effective and loving methods to raise their children. In fact, we might learn a thing or two from some of the practices she discusses. For instance, we can gain insight into developing parent-child relationships from the AKA pygmy fathers. We might learn how to increase the variety of foods our children eat from the French. Polynesians might teach us how to encourage our children to play without their parents and the Japanese how to teach our children moral reasoning. The list goes on: Mayans teaching us about children and work, Asians how to encourage academic excellence, and Tibetans how to cherish pregnancy. If you are a parent, check this book out. You will enjoy reading it…and learn lots of ideas you might want to try.


Check it out at Our Favorite Picks & Resources

Husbands…Set Her Free

Picture an imaginary scene from the life of Michelangelo. A group of community leaders has commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt a statue for the town square. Michelangelo accepted the David Statue in Florence Tuscanycommission and now wanders through a quarry to choose a block of stone from which to sculpt the commissioned statue. He slowly walks past various stones, peering carefully at each one…first from one side, then the other. The quarry master quietly follows close behind. He knows each block of stone by weight and shape—this oblong one is 25 pounds, this square one just under 50. He wonders what goes through the mind of an artist like Michelangelo. Hesitantly, he asks, “Can I help you find something in particular?” Michelangelo, continuing to stare at one particular stone, replies in a distant voice, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Together, they continue to roam through the quarry. Finally, Michelangelo picks a block of marble. To the quarry master it appears to be an oddly shaped block of fair quality. He gives Michelangelo a deal, thinking about the publicity a statue made by Michelangelo from a stone purchased at his quarry will bring. He even has the marble block transported to the town square, where Michelangelo will complete a sculpture of his choice (the mayor has given him “artistic license”). Michelangelo begins his work. He chips and chisels, carves, sands, and smooths. Hours turn into days and days turn into weeks before Michelangelo steps back to reveal a beautifully sculpted angel. The quarry master, who had stayed nearby to see what Michelangelo would do with the block of marble, stares in unbelief to see the beautiful angel standing where he had placed an oddly shaped block of marble. He looked at the statue and then turned to Michelangelo. “How did you know? How did you make that block of marble into such a beautiful angel?” Michelangelo looked at the quarry master and replied, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”


I don’t know if an event like this ever happened; in fact, I rather doubt it. I do know that Michelangelo is credited with the two quotes noted above… and those quotes have significance when it comes to our wives.  In our marriage, God has called us to see the “angel” in our wife and set her free! You may think I’m crazy, but Solomon, the wisest scholar in the Bible, records a similar truth in his love story, The Song of Songs. He opens his story by introducing us to a woman filled with self-doubt, a woman who sees herself as ugly and unworthy. I imagine her self-deprecating tone as she tells those around her, “Do not stare at me…because I am darkened by the sun. …My own vineyards I had to neglect.” But she has an admirer, a young man who sees the angel in the darkened skin, sun-streaked hair, and calloused hands of this working woman. He turns to her and says, “How beautiful you are my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.” He even describes her as a “lily among thorns is my darling among the young women.” In response to his admiration, her “angel” newly married couple chasing each other in fieldcomes forth. The young woman begins to accept her own beauty and calls herself a “rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley.” While she saw as a sun-darkened, hard-working calloused body, her admirer saw an “angel.” He recognized the “angel” within her and called her out. In response to his spoken admiration (“how beautiful you are my darling”), she gained confidence. In response to the value he placed on her (“as a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women”), she saw herself as valuable. He had seen the angel within her and set her free! The first step in growing more intimate with your wife is to see the “angel” within her, those attributes that makes her a “lily among thorns” in your eyes.


In another book, Solomon tells us that “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband” (Proverbs 12:4) and “her worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10). “An excellent wife” is a good way to describe the angel in your wife, the virtue and strength of character she possesses. When Solomon speaks of a “crown,” he is not speaking of a king’s crown. A crown is a sign of honor, joy, and gladness. He is saying your wife is your honor, your joy, and your gladness.  Take a moment right now and think about your wife. Consider her excellence as well as the honor and joy she brings into your life. To help you think about these things, consider these questions:

  • What qualities first attracted you to your wife?
  • What are your wife’s strengths?
  • What are your wife’s best character traits?
  • How does your wife bring you honor?
  • What do you admire about your wife?
  • If your wife were to suddenly disappear for some reason, what would be missing in your life? Your home? Your family?
  • How does your wife make your life better?
  • How does your wife bless your family? Benefit your family? Make your family life better?


Thank God for your wife, this “excellent woman” who is a “crown” of great worth.

20 Family Rules for Social Media…Straight from God!

Social Media tools have grown faster than I can keep up.  I cannot come close to keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest while throwing a few pics out on Snapchat. I still have trouble texting. Even more confusing, I often wonder why people choose to post Social media on Smartphonewhat they post. I’m not the only one in this conundrum though. ABC reported that a third of all divorce filings in 2011 contained the word “Facebook” according to Divorce Online. ABC also reported that, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys said social networking in divorce proceedings was on the rise (Click here for the report). A Clinical Report from the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families reported that social media can help children through socialization, communication, enhanced learning opportunities, and accessing health information. At the same time, children also risk becoming the recipient of cyberbullying, sexting, Facebook depression, and the influence of advertisers on social media sites. Obviously, we need some family rules to help monitor our family members’ use of social media. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends several ideas, like no more than 2 hours per day of screen time for children and other beneficial ideas at this AAP site. Visit them for information to help you manage social media in your family. Although you will find invaluable information on the use of social media on the internet (ironically), I thought it might be interesting to see if God has anything to say about social media. So, here are twenty proverbs that answer some questions and clarify important principles for families using social media. Proverbs…no explanations, just the proverb presented for you to consider and apply to your use of social media.


How much does a wise person share on social media?

  • The wise don’t make a show off their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness—Proverbs 12:23 (NLT).
  • A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent—Proverbs 17:27-28 (NLT).
  • Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut—Proverbs 10:19 (NLT).


Consider the power of the words we use and the statements we make on social media:

  • With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous—Proverbs 11:9 (NLT).
  • The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing—Proverbs 12:18 (NIV).
  • Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything—Proverbs 13:3 (NLT).
  • Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones—Proverbs 16:24 (NIV).
  • As sure as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger—Proverbs 25:23 (NLT).


What are the best kinds of words to use on social media?

  • Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them—Ephesians 4:29 (NLT).
  • Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that no one can criticize you—Philippians 2:14-15a (NLT).


What about arguing and complaining on social media?

  • A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly—Proverbs 15:1-2 (NIV).
  • A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends—Proverbs 16:28 (NIV).
  • Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out—Proverbs 17:14 (NIV).
  • An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars—Proverbs 18:19 (NLT).
  • When arguing with your neighbor, don’t betray another person’s secret. Others will accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain your good reputation—Proverbs 25:9-10 (NLT).


The call to use discernment when posting, or reading, social media:

  • Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness—Proverbs 13:16 (NLT).
  • The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps—Proverbs 14:15 (NIV).
  • A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash—Proverbs 15:14 (NLT).
  • Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them—Proverbs 29:20 (NIV).


Finally, since “social networking is on the rise in divorce cases,” remember:

  • The lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword—Proverbs 5:3-4 (NIV).


What other proverbs do you think apply to the use of social media?

Protect Your Child With a Blessing

Kids can be mean! You know it and I know it. I see it on the playgrounds, in the school, and even on the internet. Our kids face bullying, cyberbullying, teasing, name-calling, and physical intimidation more often than we want to admit. Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year and as many as 160,000 teens skip school because of bullying. Some reports suggest that 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying! (Click here and here for more statistics about bullying.) In other words, kids can be mean and our kids face social rejection…often! Social Vector image of five beefeaters. England guards.rejection actually impacts the brain regions associated with physical pain…and releases the same pain-killing chemicals. In other words, social rejection, bullying, and teasing results in the perception of actual physical pain! Kids can be mean.

While parents cannot protect their children from all these potential troubles, we can give them the gift of our blessing. Giving our children a blessing is a great privilege, an opportunity to speak joy, strength, and value into their lives. By giving our children a blessing we boost their resilience. Even one well-worded blessing will help counteract the emotional pain our children experience in the world…imagine what a yearly blessing can do! A blessing communicates acceptance. It validates our children’s worth and affirms their value. When we give our children a blessing we acknowledge their strengths and envision an exciting future for them based on those strengths. A blessing also informs our children that we are in their corner and committed to their future. Think about the healing such a blessing offers. Consider the strength that such a message can instill in the life of your children.

Giving your children the gift of your blessing takes some preparation. First, think about 2-3 traits you admire in your children. Do not settle for a simple physical ability. Consider what you truly admire. For instance, do you value your children’s ability in sports or do you really value the persistent effort and humble sportsmanship they exhibit? Do you look on their interaction with younger kids with admiration or do you really admire their sensitivity to others, their love of children, and their gentle spirit? Do you like the music they create with their instrument or do you admire their self-disciplined practice and humble desire to share their talent with others? You get the idea. Take time to think about what you truly admire and value in your children.

Second, identify a specific example for each trait. Perhaps you saw their sensitivity toward others when they helped their friend after a difficult experience. Or maybe you noticed their sportsmanship in the way they interacted with a member of an opposing team who was taunting him…or when he was disappointed with where the coach placed him. Think of one concrete example for each trait you have identified.

Third, think about how these traits will help provide a special future for your children.

Fourth, write it all out. Keep it short—no more than one side of one page. Write down the two or three traits you admire followed by a supporting example for each. Share your excitement for their future in light of these traits and strengths. And, make it clear that you will remain present and supportive in their life as they move toward their future.

Golden crownThere is one more step. After you have written your blessing, schedule a time to meet with your child to give her the blessing. Make it a special time. You might give your child his or her blessing over a special dinner or during a special outing. Make it a time that will reflect the gravity of the blessing.

Giving the gift of your blessing takes time and effort. However, the result is powerful! Hurts are healed. Character is validated and reinforced. Strengths are affirmed. Identify is valued and supported. Your child will walk away after receiving your blessing with their head held a little bit higher, their step a little livelier, and their relationship with you a little more secure. What a blessing!

The Dark Side of Praise

What should parents do when their children do something well? Praise them, of course! Praise them with statements like: “You are so smart.” “That is a beautiful picture.” “Good job cleaning your room.”  Well…at least common knowledge on the street says to praise a job well done. However, praise does have a dark side. Let me give you three examples from the dark side of praise.

daumen hoch - rahmen aus vielen händen

When we praise our children by attributing their success to some natural ability, we create an environment primed for underachievement! In one study, two groups of students were praised for completing a puzzle. One group was praised for their natural ability–“You are really smart.” The other group was praised for their effort—”You worked hard on that puzzle.” Sometime later, both groups were given the opportunity to choose another puzzle to complete: a hard puzzle or an easy puzzle. The children who had been praised for their natural ability overwhelmingly chose the easy puzzle while those children praised for their effort choose the harder, more challenging, puzzle. Attributing our children’s success to natural ability means they have no power to influence their success.  It is natural to them or they cannot do it. And, to fail means “my ability is limited…and so am I.”  A person cannot change what they have no power over. Attributing success to effort, on the other hand, gives our children a realistic measure of control. They can accept a challenge because they believe that exerting more effort will bring greater success.


Another study found that students quickly identified insincere praise. Students learned that praise from their teacher actually indicated a student’s limited ability. They learned their teachers tended to praise the poorer students, those with less ability, in an effort to encourage them to perform better. In other words, students recognize blarney when they hear it…and so will our kids!


One other aspect of the dark side of praise is seen in excessive praise. When we overpraise our children, they learn to work only for the praise. They may also seek constant reassurance, doubting their ability unless fawned over with praise. Or, an activity with little inherent praise (like household chores or expected study habits) will leave them unmotivated, uninterested. They only have interest in receiving praise, not in learning and achieving for the intrinsic joy of doing so.


Praise is not all bad though. Here are four tips to avoid the dark side of praise and stay in the light.

  • Recognize effort. Rather than giving praise that involves some global, non-descript label (“You are such a good girl”), recognize effort invested (“You really studied for that test”).
  • Show interest and recognize specifics. Don’t just praise the whole finished project (“Oh, that’s beautiful”). Instead, ask a few specific questions: like “How did you choose that color?” “Where did you come up with that idea?” Find out more about their project and their thoughts behind the project. Then, recognize some specific aspect of the finished project, like “I like the combination of colors you chose.” “You show creativity in the way that character solved his problem.”
  • Don’t rush in. Step back. When your children appear stuck, step back and wait. Don’t rush in to fix, correct, or help. Let them struggle to find their own solution. Then recognize their effort. Acknowledge the solution and a specific aspect of that solution that you find especially creative, unique, or interestingly.
  • Finally, reframe failure. I love the way the Robinsons respond to failure in “Meet the Robinsons.” (Click Here to watch) Failure was a celebration, an opportunity to learn. Celebrating failure as an opportunity to learn gives our children the freedom to put in effort, fail, learn, and continuing working toward a better solution…tying the first three points together.


Don’t go to the dark side…of praise.  With a little thought and effort, you can easily step into the light and enjoy the benefits of well-spoken encouragement and praise.

Put the Zing of Anticipation in Your Marriage

We have all experienced anticipation…that feeling of excitement that something is going to happen, the expectation that an exciting event is coming your way! Perhaps you experienced Middle Aged Man Eating Unhealthy Fried Breakfastanticipation while looking at the oddly shaped and wrapped present under the tree with your name on it. Or, you may have felt anticipation when you knew a family member was coming home for a visit after their first semester at college…or your adult child was bringing a newborn grandchild home…or you patiently tapped the Heinz ketchup bottle in just the right place, anticipating the gentle flow of sweet ketchup onto the plate next to your french fries. You get the idea. Anticipation builds excitement. It motivates us to action. It energizes our desires. It draws us toward the object of our anticipation. If waiting for ketchup to come out of the bottle and flavor our fries can do all that, imagine what anticipation can do for your marriage! That’s right, anticipation can build excitement in your marriage; motivate you to act in response to your spouse, energize your desires. It can put the “zing” back in your marriage.  So, how do you build anticipation in your marriage?

  1. Keep your spouse in mind, even when you are apart. If you happen to come across something your spouse enjoys, pick it up and bring it home as a gift. This could be as simple as bringing home her favorite gum or his favorite candy bar. You may find this simply means sending a quick text message telling your spouse you’re thinking of them and love them.
  2. Do the unexpected. Bring home flowers once in a while. If that is too common, try bringing home a fruit bouquet. Maybe you can give your spouse a card of your own design, made with your own hands. Surprise your spouse with tickets for the CLO or the baseball game. Just use your imagination and do something unexpected to express your love to your spouse.
  3. Romance your spouse. Don’t let the romance end after dating. Intentionally keep the romance alive. Imagine putting on some nice music, lighting the candles, and giving your spouse a back massage. Or, go on a special date followed by a walk along the boardwalk hand-in-hand.
  4. Do a special chore around the house. We all know there are chores our spouse hates to do as well as things our spouse would like us to do. Whether it is cleaning the garage or washing the dishes, do a chore that will have special meaning for your spouse.


By doing these activities on a regular basis, you build anticipation in your marriage. Your spouse will wait with excited expectation to see what you will do next. They will look at you with the spark of anticipation in their eyes, waiting expectantly to see how you share your love today. And, your spouse will more actively seek out ways to show you love as well!