“Doctor doctor, give me the news I got a bad case of loving you. No pill’s gonna cure my ill I got a bad case of loving you.” Robert Palmer sang those lyrics in 1979 (Moon Martin in 1978). But, many couples today need to see “Doctor Doctor” to get a script that will remedy a major “ill” destroying their marriage. The symptoms of this major “ill” include:
Constant nagging and criticism
Refusal to respond to nagging because it “drives me crazy”
The perception that my spouse “never listens to me”
Anger that chores are left undone
Feeling unappreciated and devalued
If that sounds familiar, I have a two-part prescription for you.
Each morning write down one thing about your spouse for which you are thankful. It may be a character trait you have always admired, an accomplishment they recently achieved, or a simple chore they completed. Write it down in a small notebook. Keep this notebook for the next 30 days, writing some word of thanks about your spouse every day.
Every day, verbally thank your spouse for at least one thing. It may feel awkward, but do it anyway.
That’s it. Take this prescription home and take it for the fully allotted time period. Like medicine, it does no good if you stop before you finish the bottle. Carry this prescription out for the full 30 days. Take this medication (writing some word of thanks about your spouse and verbally thank your spouse) every day—good days and bad, when you are irritated with your spouse and when you are happy with your spouse. Some days will be harder than others, but write some word of thanks every day, tell them thanks for something every day. At the end of 30 days, let me know if your marriage seems more alive and if your spouse more responsive. Maybe you’ll be singing along with Robert Palmer: “Doctor Doctor, give me the news I got a bad case of loving you. No pill’s gonna cure my ill I got a bad case of loving you!”
All children get angry. It’s a part of life. In fact, anger can be good. For instance, our children’s anger can help us identify what they find important. After all, a person rarely gets angry about something they don’t care about. Anger also gives us the energy to address that priority. The trick is to not let the anger overwhelm us but to learn how to use the energy of our anger to address the priority in a positive and productive manner. With that in mind, we can address our children’s anger by exploring what priority lies underneath their anger. Here are a few to look for:
Feeling unheard. Children get angry when they feel “no one listens to me.” We may inadvertently contribute to this feeling if we have not learned to be observant of our children. For instance, if we do not observe the subtle cues of boredom, tiredness, hunger, or nervousness our children may escalate to anger. We did not “hear” their subtle behaviors telling us they needed a break so they broke out in anger to be heard. Learn to listen well. Listen to their words but also to their body language and actions. Listen with your ears and your eyes.
Being emotionally hurt. Hurt often lies underneath our children’s angry outbursts. Remember our children do not think like adults so what you may think of as a minor infraction might be perceived as a major betrayal in their eyes. For instance, I told my daughter we could get ice cream one night; but then I got called in to work for an emergency. She felt as though I had broken a promise, betrayed a trust. She was hurt. We needed to repair our relationship. Broken promises, teasing names, strained friendships, a teacher’s comment, and similar experiences can lead to hurt…which can be expressed in anger. Observe your children’s anger carefully to discover if there is a hurt underneath that anger.
Fear. Children often respond to fear with anger. Fear might arise in response to the unknown or the unpredictable. Perhaps you have experienced your children’s anger on the first day of school, as they prepare for the new and “unknown” of a new school and new teachers. Or, you may have noticed the increase in your children’s anger when routines get changed and life becomes unpredictable. Our children thrive in structure. They excel when they have a predictable routine letting them know what comes next. If that routine gets changed, be sure to keep your children informed. Doing so can cut back on angry outbursts. (For more on the benefits of routines, read The Discipline Tool You Can’t Live Without.)
Attention. Everyone likes to be noticed. Children especially need to know their parents notice them and delight in them. Sometimes, however, parents give their children all kinds of energetic attention when they misbehave and very little attention when they are behaving. We think, “Don’t upset the apple cart” when they behave and avoid interrupting as a result…which they interpret as receiving no attention. When they misbehave, we jump on the misbehavior to nip it in the bud. Unfortunately, we have given attention to the angry misbehavior and ignored the positive behavior. We have reinforced the angry misbehavior with attention and taught them the best way to get attention is with angry misbehavior. Once again, we must remain observant of our children. Verbally acknowledge their positive behaviors and address negative behavior in a calm, neutral voice. (Read Catch the Little Rascals Red-Handed for more on the impact of attention in discipline.)
I’m sure there are more reasons lying beneath our children’s anger; but these four give us a start. You can learn the specifics of what lies under your children’s anger through careful observation and loving interaction. As you observe your children, tell us what you find…it might help all of us deal better with our children’s anger!
I found variations on this saying attributed to a number of sources ranging from Gandhi and Lao Tzu to Michael Hyatt and James Hunter. Doesn’t really matter who said it in the long run. It’s true for individuals and families. If you want your family to enjoy intimate
conversations, fun times, and loving interactions it begins with your choices and actions. If you want your family to become a place of refuge, fun, and security, it begins with choices and actions carried out on a consistent, daily basis. The big one time events do not shape our families for the long run. It’s the choices we make on a consistent basis that become the actions of our daily lives. As we engage in those actions on a consistent basis within the family, we form family habits. Those habits shape our families’ character and determine our families’ destiny. That’s where honor, grace, and celebration come in. When we consistently choose to practice honor, grace, and celebration in our families, we develop families filled with respect, intimacy, security, and fun. Here are some great daily actions that will help you develop an amazing family character and destiny.
Honor your family with courteous words and polite actions.
Honor your family with expressions of gratitude and appreciation.
Honor your family with compliments, statements of adoration and praise.
Honor your family with your time.
Honor your family by becoming a student of your spouse and each child.
Honor your family by serving your spouse and children.
Show your family grace by accepting and even celebrating differences in talents, interests, and opinions.
Show your family grace by initiating the resolution of any disagreement.
Show your family grace by putting your spouse’s and your children’s interests ahead of your own.
Show your family grace by forgiving quickly.
Show your family grace through discipline, setting and enforcing limits in love.
Celebrate your family by making it a point to play and laugh together.
Celebrate your family with dinner time together.
Celebrate your family by acknowledging effort toward a goal as well as accomplishments.
Celebrate your family by encouraging and supporting your spouse’s and your children’s dreams.
Celebrate your family by worshipping together.
Make a choice to put these actions into daily practice. In doing so, you will build a family who practices honor, grace, and celebration habitually. Honor, grace, and celebration will form the foundation of character in your family and shape your family’s destiny. Who knows, if enough families make the choice to make honor, grace, and celebration the habit of their family, we might just change the world!
Three Dog Night may have been right in 1968 when they sang: “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad as one; it’s the loneliest number since the number one.” Today though, we might need to modify the lyrics to: “Twitter is the loneliest application that you’ll ever do. Snapchat’s just as bad as well; it’s the loneliest app since a Pinterest pin.” I know, the lyrics need work; BUT, a sense of social isolation is moving toward epidemic levels among young adults and a recent study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests social media is a contributing culprit (read the review in Medical News Today by clicking here).
Primack and a team of researchers administered questionnaires to 1,787 young adults between the ages of 19- and 32-years-old. The questionnaire asked about frequency and time spent on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest among others. The results suggest:
Those who used social media more than two hours a day were TWO TIMES more likely to feel socially isolated than those who used it less than half an hour a day.
Those who visit social media platforms 58 times a week or more had THREE TIMES the risk of feeling socially isolated as those who visited 9 times a week or less.
Why would social media use be associated with greater social isolation? Maybe time spent on social media left less time for actual face-to-face interactions. Or, maybe the self-portrayal people post on social media represents only a façade, an unrealistic ideal that contributes to feelings of jealousy and withdrawal stemming from thoughts like “Everyone seems happy but me. I’m just no fun to be around.” Or, perhaps it could be that seeing friends having fun increases feelings of exclusion and, as a result, social isolation stemming from thoughts like “No one wants me around anyway.”
Whatever the reason, I don’t want my spouse and children chained to a sense of loneliness and social isolation as they message on Facebook, send out a tweet, or post a pic on Instagram. I don’t want their loneliness to increase with every pin they peruse on Pinterest and “snapchat” they have. I want them to feel socially connected…and apparently too much social media interferes with social connection. So, here’s the plan:
Get involved in some community activities. Play sports. Join a club. Go to church. Enjoy a play. The more involved your family becomes in fun activities, the less likely they will desire to spend long periods of time on social media. After all, it’s hard to dribble a basketball or march in a parade while Snapchatting.
Establish tech-free times in your home. You could choose to make one night a week teach free or an hour a day tech free. Whatever you choose, make sure to engage one another during that time. Talk, share stories, tell jokes, discuss current events, go for a walk…anything you find fun, interactive, and relationship building (Enjoy “Steak” Your Claim on Family Dinner as you think about tech-free times in your home).
There’s the plan—cut down on social media and pump up the social connection. I’m starting this week. Will you join me?
A research team from University of Rochester recently published an interesting study on marriage and compassion. They had 175 newlywed couples (married an average of just over 7 months) keep a two-week diary recording instances in which either spouse put aside personal wishes in order to meet their partner’s needs. These compassionate acts included meeting needs as well as actions that “expressed tenderness, showed the partner they are valued, or changed plans to accommodate their partner.” Each partner also recorded their own emotional states during the day using a standardized list of emotions. When the research team compared the diary of compassionate acts with each spouse’s emotional state, they discovered:
The spouse on the receiving end of the compassionate act experienced an “emotional boost” when they noticed the act. However, if the spouse did not know an act of compassion had occurred (perhaps one spouse changed their plans to accommodate their partner but said nothing about the change) they did not experience an “emotional boost.”
The spouse giving the act of compassion benefited from an “emotional boost” whether their spouse noticed the act or not. In other words, acting compassionately was beneficial to the giver whether the receiver noticed it or not.
I find it interesting that acting compassionately toward one another benefits a marriage even for newlyweds, a couple still enjoying the honeymoon of marriage. Perhaps we can all benefit by building acts of compassion into our marriage. We could even formulate a challenge based on this study—the two-week marriage improvement challenge. Here is how we’ll do it.
Keep a two-week journal to “jump start” compassion in your marriage. For two weeks write down acts in which you or your spouse act compassionately. These acts might include:
One spouse setting aside their personal wishes to meet the other spouse’s needs (like watching a show your spouse wants to watch instead of one you want to watch or cleaning the kitchen when you’d rather play golf),
Expressing affection or tenderness toward your spouse (a hug, saying “I love you,” holding hands, etc.),
Changing plans to accommodate your spouse’s plans or desires (putting down the game on your IPhone to talk or eating what your spouse likes even if it’s not your favorite),
Showing your spouse how much you value them (a genuine compliment, a thoughtful gift, a written note expressing your love, etc.).
At the end of the two week period, sit down and review your journals together. Recall and celebrate your love and each act of compassion.
There it is: A simple two-week marriage improvement challenge based on compassion. Won’t you join the challenge? Your marriage will thank you!
She walked onto the stage with such poise. She calmly explained her song in a very articulate manner. Then, she performed the song beautifully. I sat among those in the crowed and listened. The performance was beautiful. Even more amazing to me was the confidence with which this 16-year-old girl presented herself. She appeared comfortable exposing herself to a crowd of potential critics. The whole experience made me think: How did this young girl learn such confidence? How can parents help their children gain confidence? How can we give our children the gift of confidence? As I pondered these questions, I thought of 6 ideas to help. I’m sure there are more, but here are six to start.
Give your children tasks that match their developmental ability. Do not expect your children to do more than they are developmentally ready to do. A 2-year-old will not act like an 8-year-old or an 8-year-old like a 16-year-old. Each child can only be themselves…and only act as mature as their developmental level allows. To give your children tasks that match their developmental level requires your careful observation so you can know where they “stand” developmentally. Then, give them tasks that match their developmental ability.
Challenge your children. This may sound contradictory to the first bullet, but it is not. Parents can give their children tasks that challenge them and fall within their developmental ability. On the other hand, expecting too little from your children sends an implicit message that they lack competence. Doing the task for them communicates a belief that they lack the ability to complete the task on their own. So, give your children tasks that present a challenge and offer guidance. Teach them what they do not know while letting them do what they can. This often means taking a somewhat “hands-off approach” while offering guidance and encouragement, in other words, doing a minimal intervention while acknowledging their progress. (For more read Good Parents Do Nothing!)
Allow mistakes. Mistakes help us learn. Taking time to acknowledge a mistake, explore what went wrong, and plan how to do it differently next time turns a mistake into a fantastic learning experience. Each mistake treated in this manner will help your children grow and add to their confidence. (For more read Do Your Child a Favor: LOVE Mistakes.)
Celebrate effort, not just achievement. Sure, achievement is great and needs to be recognized; but effort leads to achievement. When parents celebrate effort, their children choose more challenging tasks, persevere more in the face of obstacles, and ultimately, achieve more. Confidence grows. Celebrate effort! (For more read Build Your Child’s Success Mindset.)
Accept feelings. Minimizing, punishing, or ignoring feelings makes children feel as though they are unimportant. It communicates that “something is wrong with them” because they have unimportant or even bad feelings. Avoid responding to emotions with statements like “You’re OK” (negates the emotion and their experience), “You have nothing to be made about” (minimizes their feelings), or “I’ll give you something to cry about” (punishes them for feeling). Simply accept your children’s feelings. Help them label their feelings and teach them how to manage them as well. (For more on responding to emotions, read 6 Tips to Make Your Children’s Emotions Your Friend.)
Nurture dreams. Sure, some dreams are unlikely. So what? Your children’s dreams may change as they mature. In the meantime, your children’s dreams motivate their behavior and push them to achieve. As you nurture your children’s dreams, you communicate how much you value them and their dreams, believe in them and their capabilities. Nurture their dreams. (Read Grow Your Children’s Dreams for more.)
There they are—6 ways to give the gift of confidence to your children. What other ways do you suggest?
Marriages benefit when partners take the time to reflect on their marriage and establish the driving values of their relationship. Your marriage will grow more intimate when you and your spouse acknowledge your common purpose and the values behind that purpose. Discussing your marital values and purpose will set you marriage on a trajectory of deeper intimacy, love, and joy. Establishing your marital values and purpose does not typically happen by chance. It requires you, as a couple, to intentionally bring your individual values, dreams, and life purpose to light so you can integrate them with your spouse’s. It takes at least four ingredients to develop a strong marital purpose based on your values.
Building a purpose-filled marriage takes HEART. It requires that you sit down as a couple to have a heart to heart in which you courageously discuss your passions and priorities. In other words, you need to reveal the deep passions and dreams of our heart to one another. What are your most cherished values? What are your most important values in regards to marriage? What do you want to reveal through your marriage to inspire your children and those around you? What passions excite you? What dreams call to you? How can you work together to fulfill those dreams and passions? Building a purpose-filled marriage means learning the heart of your spouse and supporting the desire God has placed deep within their heart.
Building a purpose-filled marriage takes EARS. Learning our spouse’s deepest longings requires that we listen to one another deeply and intently. We listen beyond the words to hear the emotions, needs, and passions driving their words. This type of listening builds relational security and enhances intimacy. Intimate communication and mutual cooperation thrive in the midst of this type of listening. You will find your marital purpose becomes more clear and your work toward that purpose more “in-sync” when you learn to listen well.
Building a purpose-filled marriage requires VISION. A purpose-filled marriage looks to the future as well as the present. By looking to the future, a purpose-filled marriage develops direction and keeps a long-term perspective. Vision keeps an eye toward the activities you plan to engage in together, dreams you plan to pursue together, and places you plan to visit together. Keeping this long-term perspective puts daily hassles and minor conflicts into perspective as temporary and requiring resolution so they do not interfere with an exciting and highly anticipated future together.
Building a purpose-driven marriage requires EMBODIMENT. A purpose-filled marriage is more than talking, planning, and dreaming. A purpose-filled marriage is lived out daily. Embody the values. Have fun. Play. Engage. Becoming active in your marriage enhances intimacy. It will help each of you grow as an individual and as a couple. You will learn to work as a team. You will learn to play and have fun, express intimacy and enjoy one another’s dreams. You will learn to resolve conflict and enjoy discussions. You will embody your purpose in your daily life.
Building a purpose-filled marriage is not necessarily easy. It takes heart, ears, vision, and embodiment. But, the dividends are amazing—a long and happy marriage filled with purpose and inspiration.
Baseball season is fast approaching and that’s good news for marriages. Let me explain. In the early 1990’s Howard Markman, director of The University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies, conducted an informal study of cities with major league baseball teams (See Baseball Preserves Marriage). He discovered that cities with major league baseball teams had a 28% lower divorce rate than cities that did not have teams but expressed an interest in getting one. Even more surprising, Denver’s divorce rate stood at 6 divorces per 1,000 people the year before they were awarded a major league baseball franchise. Ten years later, 7 years after the Colorado Rockies played their first game, the divorce rate had dropped to 4.2 divorces per 1,000 people (a 20% drop). Lest you think that 20% decrease was just a product of the 10 year time span, the divorce rate for the United States had only declined by 15% over that same time period. Interesting…. Markman does not believe baseball saves marriages. But, he does believe that “going to a baseball game and… having fun and talking as friends is one way to protect and preserve love.” In other words, having fun as a couple strengthens your marriage. Said another way, “couples who play together stay together!”
Baseball aside, enjoying playful times as a couple really does strengthen marriage. It increases effective communication and conflict resolution. It enhances relationship satisfaction. Play promotes spontaneity, reminds us of our positive relationship history, and builds additional positive history for us to look back on with joy. Play also builds friendship and enhances commitment. In general, if you want a healthy, happy marriage, engage in copious amounts of play together. Enjoy fun activities. Be silly. Tell jokes. Tickle. Have a pillow fight. Laugh. Anything you both find fun and pleasurable provides an opportunity to play and grow more intimate in your relationship…which brings us back to the 7th inning stretch. Baseball may not save your marriage; but the playful conversation, light-hearted teasing, and plain old fun you have at the game will definitely contribute to a stronger, more intimate marriage. So sing along. Everybody now, “Take me out to the ballgame….”