Archive for October 27, 2014

Family Fun Night

It started off like any other dinner. My family gathered at the table, offered a word of thanks, and began to fill our plates. Then, everything changed. My wife’s phone rang. An emergency at work, a crisis, demands her immediate attention…she has to take the call. My oldest daughter looks at the clock, “Oh, I didn’t know it was this late. I have play practice in ten minutes. Gotta go.” She wolfs down her dinner in three bites and heads for the door. My younger daughter watches her get up, then smiled hesitantly as she says, “I have youth group tonight and Hanna’s taking me. I guess I gotta go now too. She’s my ride.” She jumps up and runs after her sister. I remain sitting at the dinner table…alone…staring at empty chairs before realizing my next appointment is arriving at the office soon. So, I quickly finish my dinner and head back to the office.


Family having a big dinner at homeDo you have days like this? Circumstances may vary, but I imagine we all have days in which everyone is pulled in separate directions, caught up in the rush of schedules, running on adrenaline overload. We all feel the pull of work, sporting practices, music lessons, play practice, housework, homework, study groups, church activities…and the list goes on. We start to feel disconnected as each family member goes their own way to do their own thing. In the process, we may even lose our family identity.


There is a two-part solution to this “rush-of-life syndrome.” First, cut back on the schedule. Children need down-time to mature. They need unstructured time to relax and learn how to manage their own time. Allowing your children to have unstructured down-time encourages them to develop autonomy and creativity. They develop greater problem-solving skills when they have free time to manage. Having free-time to relax and play also helps to decrease anxiety and moodiness. So, create some space in your family schedule. Allow for some unstructured free-time.


Second, take some of that down-time and have a family fun night. Make a plan to simply having fun as a family, whether it is one or two times a month or once a week. Family fun night may be as simple as watching a DVD together and talking about it over ice cream. Or, it could be more complex, like an overnight visit to an indoor waterpark. Whatever activity you choose, a family fun night has many benefits.

  • Family fun nights allow your family to bond with one another. You’ve heard the sayings: “A family that plays together stays together.” “A family that prays together stays together.” “A family that volunteers together stays together.” Basically, a family that enjoys family fun time stays together. They grow closer together.
  • Family fun nights give your family the opportunity to talk and learn about one another’s lives, interests, joys, disappointments, and hurts. Family fun night gives you time to really get to know one another, rejoice with one another, comfort one another, and encourage one another. Family fun nights help families grow more intimate.
  • Family fun nights build a family identity that includes fun, laughter, and togetherness. They create a family that serves as a secure base and safe haven from which to explore the world.


If you have trouble coming up with ideas, here are a few family fun nights you might enjoy.


Watch for future Family Fun Night ideas at HonorGraceCelebrate. And, while you’re at it, share your ideas for a Family Fun Night on our FaceBook.

Families Unite for Family Fun

When I was young, my family enjoyed “get-togethers” with another family every Friday night. The adults would play cards in one room while the “kids” played together in another room. These were great evenings. We had such fun. The evening began by ordering pizza. We would eat, laugh, and enjoy one another’s company. Then the adults would play cards and talk about…well, I don’t know what they talked about because I was upstairs enjoying time with the other kids without any parent watching over our shoulder. Our relationship with the other family grew as we enjoyed one another’s company. Interestingly, the relationships within our family also grew more secure.


As an adult, I still enjoy getting together with other families for activities. We might get together with a family to go to an amusement park…or to play games at church…or to simply go out to eat…or, well, you get the idea. I find great benefit in these “get-togethers.” I grow closer to the other adults, forming deeper friendships. Couples who have grown children share stories of raising their children, giving me hope that my wife and I can survive, even succeed in the child-rearing years. When we are stumped by some parenting task, we can get advice and encouragement. When I struggle with some aspect of my marriage, a close friend can give insight and advice. All the while, we have fun. Our children play, sometimes with us and sometimes with one another. We laugh, play games, joke around, and eat. Whether with one other family or a group of families, we have a blast. We leave feeling as though we have connected with another family and with each other. We discover that mutual support between families helps each family grow stronger, more secure, and healthier. And, in an obvious way, we leave such activities with a smile on our face and a new lightness in our heart…even if we are exhausted by all the fun.


So, have a great family fun night. Call your friends and come together for a night of laughter, games, and conversation. You will have a great time…and you will be surprised at the subtle benefits you receive!

We’re Drowning Our Kids

A paper published by the Making Caring Common Project reports that 48% of the 10,000 students they surveyed ranked achievement as their top priority, 30% ranked happiness as their top priority, and only 22% ranked caring as their top priority. A full 78% ranked personal achievement or personal happiness above caring! In addition, 60% rescuerthought hard-work more important than kindness. Don’t get me wrong, achievement and hard work are important. But, do we want to raise a generation of people who place achievement and hard work above kindness and caring? Such a generation would agree with this statement taken from the study: “I’m prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.” Such a generation will exhibit less empathy, less willingness to help a person in need, and more willingness to cheat for the good grade or promotion. Even more disturbing, the youth in this study seemed to “value caring for others less as they aged.” The older the youth, the more likely they were to prioritize personal happiness above caring and achievement.


How has this happened? How have we created a generation more invested in personal happiness and achievement than in developing a kind and caring reputation? Parents and teachers want to raise a generation of kind caring youth; but, our message seems to have been lost in translation somehow. Perhaps our messages about happiness and achievement have “drowned out the messages about caring, ethical behavior. Instead of a steady stream of messages promoting kindness and caring, we are drowning our kids under a steady stream of messages promoting personal happiness and personal achievement. At times, we may communicate this message unknowingly or even with good intention. Nonetheless, we still drown out our children’s caring, ethical desires with words and actions like the following:

  • Harassing the sport’s coach to get our children more play time.
  • Campaigning for our children to get a larger role in the school play.
  • Allowing our children to quit a team activity mid-season without considering their obligation to the team or drop out of an activity because they did not get the part they wanted.
  • Not encouraging our children to reach out to the friendless child, the oddball, or the outcast at school.
  • Allowing our children to talk too much, monopolizing conversation with peers and adults.
  • Allowing our children to “fudge” on the community service experiences they list on their college applications.
  • Writing too much of a child’s paper or doing too much of their project.


We could add more to the list, but you get the idea. Our actions often communicate a higher priority on achievement and personal happiness and less of a priority on kindness, thinking about the other person, and caring. If we want to raise a generation of caring, ethical youth, we need to “tweak” the messages we communicate. We need to assure our words and actions reveal a priority of kindness and caring. We need to let our children know one reason we work hard is to gain the resources to help others, including them. We need to communicate, through our words and actions, that kindness, not simply achievement, results in happiness and the greatest achievement is found in connecting with others through caring. We need to accept that parenting is a “moral task…” and it is high time we take that task seriously!

Unplug for a Family Fun Night

Social media on SmartphoneI enjoy technology as much as the next guy; but, sometimes technology can interfere with a good family fun night. So, unplug and enjoy your family. Turn off the computers, I-Pads, I-Phones, I-Pods (ai yai yai), X-Boxes, TV’s, and any other electronic distractions. Pull out some good old-fashioned board games and have some fun.


My friend discovered the joys of an Unplugged Family Fun Night by accident. His electricity went out in a storm. So, his family pulled out the candles and gathered in the living room. They ate some snacks, told some stories, played some games, laughed, and had fun. The next day their electricity was back on. But, when evening came, my friend’s young son said, “Aye, let’s turn off the lights and play games by candlelight again!” He had learned the joy of an Unplugged Family Fun Night.


You can enjoy an Unplugged Family Fun Night, too…even if the electricity doesn’t go out. Just turn off the electrical devices, bring out the snacks, and gather in one room to play some games. Depending on the ages and interests of your children, you can enjoy anything from Operation (one of my daughter’s favorites), Monopoly (a family stand-by), Apples to Apples (one of my other daughter’s favorites), Uno, Scattergories (I like to make up words in this game), or any other game your family might enjoy. The beauty of an Unplugged Family Fun Night is it can happen anytime! You don’t have to wait until the lights go out in your house. Just make it happen. Pull the switch, unplug, gather in the living room, and have some fun!

Family Fun Night is for the Birds

Yellow Billed HornbillSome people believe “this Family Fun Night stuff” is for the birds. Well…I agree. It’s a great idea. Head out to your local aviary and share a Family Fun Night with the birds. Now I know this may sound like a bird-brained idea, but you only need to check out your local aviary to see how much fun you can have with this flight of fancy. The National Aviary in Pittsburgh, PA (my hometown, btw) is celebrating “Owl-O-Ween” on October 18 and 25. Every day, you can watch the birds get fed…and, even participate in feeding them. To satisfy your artistic flair, you might pick your favorite colors for the penguins to use in creating an artistic masterpiece…and take the picture home! You can also celebrate your child’s birthday (“bird-day”) at the Aviary. To add soaring heights of fun to your flight, listen to “The Birds” as you migrate to and from the Aviary. Would it be too much to devour chicken sandwiches for lunch beforehand? Better not, stick with a burger. (My apology to the cows.) At any rate, Family Fun Night is now for the birds…and the ornithologist (bird-lover) in your family. Fly on over to the Aviary to see the unusual, the colorful, the graceful, and the bizarre (hey, that sounds like my family…I’m just saying!) and discover how a great Family Fun Night is for the birds.

A Baker’s Dozen to Show Grace in Troubled Relationships

John Gottman believes “91% of the time the ground is ripe for miscommunications” in a marriage. I don’t know about the percentage, but I know conflict and misunderstandings arise in every family. It is inevitable. But, have you notice that family conflict can go from familysunheartbad to worse in no time? Grace gets thrown out the window and everyone involved begins to respond with anger, blame, accusations, and defensiveness. These responses lead to more anger, blame, accusations, and defensiveness. They may even result in withdrawal from the relationship and the death of a family. How can you avoid this terrible end? Respond with grace. Grace is an unmerited kindness, a favor given to someone even if they do not deserve it. When at least one person responds with grace, the outcome of the interaction will change. The people involved in the argument have a greater chance of connecting rather than pushing one another away. The argument has a greater chance of reaching a resolution. Let me share a baker’s dozen for responding with grace in the midst of troubled family relationships.

  • Rather than blaming the other person, look at your own contribution to the current situation (the log in your own eye).
  • Rather than making accusations, accept responsibility for your own actions and your own limited understanding.
  • Rather than responding with defensiveness, respond with curiosity about the feelings and emotions of the other person.
  • Rather than shutting down, communicate with the other person.
  • Rather than arguing and fighting, share a friendly conversation about something that interests the other person. If some topics lead to arguments, table them for another time.
  • Rather than assuming negative intent about the other person and their actions, look for the times they showed love. Assume positive intent—even in seemingly negative behavior.
  • Rather than trying to control the situation or the other person, pursue an understanding of the other person.
  • Rather than focus on the negative you perceive in the other, focus on what you admire and adore in them.
  • Rather than trying to make the other person change or “grow,” focus on your personal growth. You are only responsible for your personal growth.
  • Rather than criticizing and making accusations about the other person’s past or character, practice kindness…and give a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
  • Rather than making assumptions about the other person’s motives or intents, believe the best and simply ask what the other person wants.
  • Rather than speaking in sarcasm, speak in patience and love.
  • Rather than taking responsibility for the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and decision, take responsibility for yourself. You cannot make the other person happy—that is their personal responsibility. You cannot make decisions for the other person or determine how they will live—that is their personal responsibility. Let the other person take their responsibility and you take your responsibility.


Responding with grace in the midst of troubled family relationships will change, filling you with greater character and personal strength. It will change your relationship as well, filling it with greater joy and intimacy.

Hike to a Family Fun Night

Well, this Family Fun Night is not literally a family fun “night.” It is more of a Family Fun Family in autumn parkExperience or Family Fun Event. Either way, it’s still a great family fun time…and all it involves is a little hike. Family hikes are fun and free—they cost nothing! On a hike, you and your family can get out of the house, away from the daily grind, and into nature. Together you can enjoy the trees, watch the birds, climb over some rocks, wade through streams, and maybe even see some deer, squirrel, turkey, elk, bear, or other fascinating wildlife.


To make a family hike really enjoyable, pack a small snack or lunch (small enough to put in a small back pack) and pick a scenic spot to stop for a picnic. One of my favorites in our area is a particular outcroppings of rocks on the Laurel trail. On a clear day you can sit on that outcropping while conversing with your family and enjoying some crackers, cheese, and drink while looking over the tree covered valleys and hills, through the “gaps of the Chestnut Ridge” all the way to the distant US Steel Building in downtown PGH! It’s a beautiful view of the mountains and valleys of the Laurel Highland Trail.


There really is something healing to individuals and families when you share a meal in the shade of a forest tree surrounded by a variety of plant life, listening to a babbling brook, and serenaded by a choir of birds. Shoulders relax. Walls fall down. Conversations deepen…and families connect. So enjoy a family hike for family fun! If you live in PGH, click here for a few ideas on where to take a family hike in this area. Wherever you choose to hike, have a great family fun time.

I’m Afraid to Discipline

I was speaking to a young father about parenting and discipline. He knew his children often misbehaved even when he was present; and, he wanted to learn how to “be a fun guy” while remaining an authority. As we spoke, he made a telling statement. “I have a Disobedient boyproblem being stern,” he said.


“I don’t know. I guess I’m afraid my kids will get mad and not like me anymore. They need my love more than my discipline anyway, right?”


This young father verbalized something many parents believe and feel but fear to say. Discipline is hard work. It takes effort. It can easily arouse our fears and insecurities. Here are a couple of fears we might experience as we discipline our children.

  • The fear that our children will get mad at us and, as a result of that anger, our relationship with them will somehow be damaged.
  • The fear that our children will rebel even more because we have set a firm limit on certain behaviors.
  • The fear that our children will no longer like us and we will “lose them.”
  • The fear that our children will not recognize how much we love them.
  • The fear of experiencing our own emotional pain when we witness our children in distress and discomfort, even if discipline is deserved.


If we allow these fears to control our parenting, we have abdicated our parental authority and influence. We have relinquished our authority to guide our children. We have renounced our influence to help our children learn what is right and wrong. We have abandoned our children to make life decisions for which they lack sufficient experience and knowledge. We vacated our role as an authority to constrain their dangerous behaviors and protect them from negative influences. We have lost the opportunity to help our children struggle with life values and beliefs. We have surrendered, bailed out, left our children high and dry with little to no protection or guidance.  Our children will ultimately realize that vacuum that we have left unfilled and seek out a way to fill it with the opinions and beliefs of peers, other adults who may hold different values than we do, or misguided behaviors that will make them feel accepted by someone. Ultimately, they recognize our fear to discipline as a lack of love.


A loving parent does discipline. Loving parents risk their children’s anger and endure personal discomfort in order to guide them toward values that can create a healthy and happy future. When you think about it, really good parents love their children too much to not offer stern discipline when necessary. After all,…

  • Stern discipline is one part of our expression of love.
  • Stern discipline protects our children and teaches them to protect themselves.
  • Stern discipline helps our children determine and internalize personal values and beliefs that can bring true happiness. We, as parents, become the sounding board, the “other side of the debate,” during their internal struggle to determine personal values and beliefs.
  • Stern discipline strengthens our relationship with our children. It allows them to see us as authentic people of integrity. They will observe our struggle to discipline while we continue to stand for what we believe is right behavior and interactions. And, our children will respect us for that.


Without stern discipline, I am afraid our children will wander down the path to self-destruction, addiction, disrespect, and arrogant opposition to authority. Of course stern discipline must be balanced with love and acceptance, listening and understanding, grace and respect. Nonetheless, without stern discipline, our love has fallen short…and the consequences are dire.