Last weekend we changed our clocks, “springing forward” into daylight savings time. In the process, we lost an hour sleep. That, on top of the fact that most of us do not sleep the recommended 7-9 hours a day, makes today the perfect day for a nap…and National Napping Day. Actually, every day is a good day for a nap. According to the Sleep Foundation naps not only reduce sleepiness, they also improve learning, aid in memory retention, and help us regulate emotions. Napping also strengthens our immune, reduce cardiovascular disease risk, boost work performance, reduces stress, and decrease risk of cognitive dysfunction. (see Benefits of Napping | Sleep.org ). In addition, napping as a family can help your family “get in sync” and in rhythm with one another. And, according to the “Nap Bishop,” if you’re looking for a way to resist the overworking mentality of our society that leads to burnout and contributes to oppression, napping is the resistance in which you need to engage. So, call the family together, grab your pillows, and resolve to take care of yourself. Take a nap.
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Number 5: You notice your partner leaving things they usually do undone. Yes, this is a little passive aggressive. But it sends a message loud and clear. “I’m tired of being unappreciated for all I do around here…so I’m just not doing it anymore.”
Number 4: Your spouse withdraws into a quiet shell. Sometimes a person will become quiet and sullen when they feel unappreciated. They look angry or unhappy in their quietness around you but perk up around others. If you see that, maybe you’re seeing a spouse that feels unappreciated.
Number 3: Your spouse begins to sound like a martyr. When your partner begins to act and talk like they are the martyr or say things about feeling taken advantage of, you may be living with a spouse that feels unappreciated.
Number 2: Your partner begins to complain. “Do I have to do everything around here?” “Can’t you help out a little? I’m tired of doing everything.” “Why do you just sit around while I do all the work?” If you are hearing statements like this, your spouse likely feels unappreciated. (And, you may show your appreciation by helping “around here.”)
Number 1: Your spouse tells you directly. They may say it kindly. “I’m feeling a little underappreciated, honey?” Or they may say it in anger. “You don’t appreciate anything I do around here.” Either way, the easiest way to know your spouse feels unappreciated is when they tell you so.
More importantly, what can you do about this? The answer is simple. Begin appreciating your spouse. Look for opportunities to thank your spouse for things they do for you, your family, and your home. When you see something they have done, thank them. Don’t just smile or acknowledge what they’ve done in your head. Verbally tell them, “Thank you.”
Don’t stop there. Don’t just respond to things they do. Respond to who they are. Voice your admiration and adoration for them. Acknowledge their beauty, their hard work, their kindness, their wisdom. Whatever you admire and adore in your partner, let them know. (Here are 6 great things you can say to show appreciation to your spouse.)
Finally, get involved. Help around the house. Serve your family. Ask how you can help…then do it. Nothing makes a person feel more appreciated than a partner who is actively involved in working together.
It can happen so easily, quietly, subtly. We are happily married and enjoying our lives together when the busy-ness of daily life creeps up on us. The rush and pressure of work, children, community activities, and finances encroaches on our lives; and, in the midst of the busy-ness and pressure we take for granted that our spouse loves as and will always be there for us. We forget little niceties, like saying “thank you” or “please.” We fail to greet one another after a day apart and instead remain absorbed in whatever activity—cooking, watching TV, yard work, playing games—has our immediate attention. We become so preoccupied with our own demanding schedule that we neglect to ask about our spouse’s day. All this happens slowly, over time, and without any awareness. But, if left unchecked, each person “suddenly” begins to feel distant, even unloved. Their marriage falls apart as one or both spouses feel unappreciated, unloved, and unimportant to the other.
There is a remedy for this quiet threat. In fact, it is a rather simple fix. It begins with remembering. Remember when love was young and start doing what you did then. Remember when you were dating or even newlyweds? You probably made intentional effort to impress your spouse with your politeness and kindness. You asked them about their day…and listened attentively to their answer. You engaged in even the smallest gestures of affection as often as possible. Remember? Do those things again. Intentionally put in the effort to do the things you did when love was young.
- Each morning, ask your spouse about their plans for the day.
- Each evening, talk about your day with your spouse. And listen to your spouse talk of their day.
- Take 20-minutes each day to talk with one another about your lives as individuals and as a couple and a family. Talk about current events. Talk about your dreams. Talk about your concerns. Talk.
- Each day, as you go your separate ways AND when you reunite, give one another a genuine hug and kiss. Not a peck on the cheek, a kiss.
- Each day, look for opportunities to thank your spouse for what they do for you, your children, and your home. Thank them verbally or in writing every chance you get.
- Each day, verbally acknowledge something you admire or adore about your spouse.
Do each of these simple actions on a daily basis for the next 2 weeks, that’s 14 days. Even in that short time, you’ll begin to see your relationship grow stronger and more intimate. Then, make each of these actions a meaningful, daily ritual of connection with your spouse. Make them a normal part of your everyday life. As you do, you’ll protect your marriage from the quiet threat of busy-ness and nurture a healthy, happy marriage for a lifetime.
The other day I made a mistake…or should I say another mistake. It’s true. It was actually one of the many mistakes I’ve made over my lifetime. Anyway, I made a mistake. Fortunately, my life is full of gracious people who acknowledged my mistake and continued to love me. Sure, they got a little upset…and some even laugh about my mistake. But they still helped me learn to avoid the same mistake in the future. And, as a result, I did learn. I grew; and hopefully I’ll avoid repeating that mistake in the future.
All this “got me thinking.” Children, like adults, make mistakes. Sometimes they make mistakes because of a lack of knowledge. Sometimes they make mistakes trying to “get away with something.” Sometimes they simply make a mistake. I have to say, as an adult, I have made mistakes for the same three reasons. Haven’t you?
But there seems to be a difference in how people respond to the mistake I make as an adult and the mistake a child makes. Let me explain. When a child makes a mistake, adults often seem to get angry. They treat the child’s mistake as an afront to their parenthood and their authority. They yell, often making the child feel worse and as though that mistake has defined them as a person. They dismiss the child’s explanations as excuses, often not even considering any positive intent behind his mistaken actions or words. They punish the child, sometimes harshly and in anger. And many do not teach the child how to avoid the mistake in the future.
However, when I make a mistake as an adult, the people in my life trust me to learn and grow from the natural consequence of my mistake. Even if they are upset or angry, they remain respectful. No one really yells. Many even listen to the explanations I give for my mistaken behavior. They allow me to explain the intent behind my actions…even if they disagree, they accept my explanation. They accept my intent while offering me guidance on how to avoid the mistake while achieving that intent in the future. All the while, they remain respectful (even in their anger) and they speak to me in a way that can help me listen.
If my friends and my family responded to my mistake in the same manner that I often see adults respond to a child’s mistake, I would walk away. I’d feel hurt, dishonored, even abused. I wouldn’t learn. I wouldn’t grow. I’d get defensive. I might even end the friendship. What makes us think children feel differently?
This leads me to an important lesson I learned about correcting my children…our children. Our children will respond to correction and discipline more readily when we approach them with respect. They will learn and grow when we take the time to learn about the intent and motivation behind their inappropriate behavior or words before respectfully pointing out what they did wrong. They will mature as we listen carefully, not just to their words but to the message of their behavior, before we offer them loving guidance on how to behave differently in the future.
In other words, our children will learn from their mistakes more readily when we approach them with the same respect that we give our adult friends. They will grow more mature when we approach them with the expectation that they want to learn and grow. We can all learn and grow from our mistakes, adults and children alike, when we approach both with acceptance, respect, and love.
Another school year has arrived. As we start the new year, I am reminded of parents and students telling me about their after-school struggles. One struggle in particular comes to mind—the struggle of after-school exhaustion. A student comes home from school and suddenly feels exhausted, physically and emotionally drained. There are chores to do and homework to complete, but they don’t want to do anything but sleep.
Before you think this is a sign that your child is lazy, consider the results of studies published in Current Biology on August 1, 2022. These studies “used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to monitor brain chemistry over the course of a workday.” The findings suggest that thinking hard (aka—doing challenging cognitive tasks) over several hours produces fatigue through a buildup of glutamate in the brain. Rest and sleep are essential to eliminate this excess. In other words, the mental exercise of attending school and focusing on academic work all day may actually bring a child to a state of mental fatigue. And mental fatigue is a signal that we need stop working and rest. If we ignore that signal, we will likely shift toward investing little effort and accepting short-term rewards for that effort. In a practical sense, that means doing shoddy work (whether on chores or homework) just to say it’s finished.
What can you and your child do to overcome this mental exhaustion? Here are 2 simple suggestions.
- Allow your child some down-time to rest after school. Don’t become harsh or critical because you assume your child is lazy and telling them so. Accept that they may have worked hard all day and need a break. A 20-minute power nap can do wonders.
- Establish a positive bedtime routine to encourage a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep is important to our mental and physical health. It may not prevent after-school exhaustion, but it will help promote more success in with school and overall health.
It seems as though disrespect is rampant in our world today. We see it every day. But I believe that if we intentionally open our eyes and look, we also find respect alive and well in our world. And we want to keep respect alive and well… growing more prominent in our world. To make that happen, we teach our children to show respect. We encourage them to add their own respectful actions and words into our world.
Fortunately, teaching our children respect is not the world’s duty. The world displays too much disrespect to make it a good teacher. No, teaching respect to our children is our duty; and the lessons begins at home through the creation of a respectful home environment. How do we build an environment of respect in our homes? Here are 6 ways to get you started.
- Speak politely. Say “thank you” and “please.” Use a polite tone of voice, even when you want to request that another person change their behavior or when you want to voice a complaint about some inappropriate behavior. An environment of respect is filled with expressions gratitude and appreciation, compliments and encouragements. Building a home environment of respect involves speaking politely.
- Listen respectfully. Listening is an act of great respect…and it involves more than just responding. So don’t interrupt. Listen carefully. Allow family members to complete their thoughts before responding. Listen attentively to understand and make sure you understand before you respond.
- Make requests respectfully. It’s easy to shout across the room to make a request or demand some change of behavior. But that does not show respect. And it’s ineffective. To sit at the table and yell across the room demanding our children quit arguing is disrespectful. So is yelling from our seat in front of the TV for our spouse to get us a drink. It is much more respectful to get up and approach our family member, asking them for what we want in a calm voice.
- Allow autonomy whenever possible. Let your children dress themselves, even if they like wearing pants that don’t match their shirt. Allow your spouse to have an opinion different than yours …and appreciate their opinion enough to learn about it and allow it to influence you. Approach the differences with love, knowing that differences of opinion and taste do not represent a personal affront. They represent our unique perspectives and personalities. Allowing differences and autonomy reveals respect for our individual differences of opinions and tastes. It helps establish an environment of respect.
- When you see a family member acting disrespectfully, correct their behavior… respectfully. Begin by identifying the underlying contributors to their disrespectful behavior. Were they emotionally hurt? Did they feel treated unfairly? Were they acting impulsively? Were they asserting their will? Have they started a habit of disrespect? Knowing the underlying contributors to their behavior allows you to respond in a more respectful and effective way. Take a moment to teach them how to meet the need that undergirded the disrespect. Teach them the impact of disrespect on their relationships and importance of respect for healthy relationships. Do it respectfully.
- Most importantly, realize that our children will “catch respect” more readily than they will be “taught respect.” Set the example of respect. Let them see you treating them and others with respect. Let the respectful environment begin with you.
I’m sure you can think of more ways to teach your children to act respectfully. Write your tips in the comment section below. We can all benefit from one another’s knowledge.
Experts work on basics all the time. Expert hockey players practice the basics of puck control; soccer players the basic of ball and foot control; instrumentalists the basics of scales and arpeggios…you get the idea. Experts never stop practicing the basics of their skills. The same applies to parents. To become expert parents, we need to keep practicing the basic parenting skills. With that in mind, let’s review 5 basics of raising healthy children.
- Expert parents provide a safe environment for their children. A safe environment includes providing healthy nutrition, regular sleep routines, and good hygiene. A safe environment also includes loving touch and predictable routines. Discipline, when needed, is carried out in a loving manner. Overall, a safe environment provides children with a sense of security from which they can explore the world.
- Expert parents are consistently available to their children. Or course, they are not present with their children 24/7. However, their children know that their parents are available to them when they need them. Remember, children spell love T.I.M.E. (Here is a great way to spend time with your child to let them know you are available.)
- Expert parents maintain reasonable expectations for their children. These expectations can include expectations around household chores, how to communicate their emotions, and what activities they will complete independently among other things. The reasonable expectations vary from child to child and developmental level to developmental level. As a result, to maintain reasonable expectations for your children requires you to become a student of your children. Get to know them. Learn about development in general and their level of development specifically. Make your expectations for behavior and communication match their developmental abilities.
- Expert parents discipline wisely. Wise discipline involves proactive measures in an effort to limit inappropriate behavior in the first place. Proactive disciplinary measures include routines, talking about expectations and situations that might potentially challenge those expectations, and teaching skills like emotional management and time management. Bedtime routines, morning routines, and routines around transitions from school to home go a long way in reducing negative behaviors. When responding to an inappropriate behavior, wise discipline addresses the inappropriate behavior directly. For instance, if a child makes a mess have them clean the mess up rather than “ground them.” Let them address the difficulty they have created through their misbehavior. Teaching children to put voice to their emotions of anger, disappointment, sorrow, and happiness also represents a strong discipline tool. Wise discipline helps children understand how behavior impacts others and teaches them appropriate behaviors.
- Expert parents accept their children. This sounds obvious, but it bears repeating. Expert parents accept their children even when their children have different interests than them. In fact, they learn about their children’s interests and encourage those interests. Expert parents accept their children’s growing independence and allow them the space to grow in that independence…even though it’s difficult to let go. Expert parents communicate acceptance of their children even when they have to discipline an unacceptable behavior. They differentiate between the behavior and their child, assuring their child realizes they are accepted even if their behavior is not.
Experts practice the basics. These points represent 5 of the basics that parents need to practice consistently…from the time their children are born. Practice. Practice. Practice.
I love Christmas and I love giving people gifts…but I really struggle trying to figure out what gift to give. It seems like everyone has everything they need. My wife and children put together Christmas lists and I look at the list. That helps. I can choose from the list. But sometimes I want to give them something from the list and something more, something that can really express my love for them.
This year, as I contemplate just what to give each family member to express my love, I decided to follow the example given on that first Christmas day. God knew the perfect gift to give. He loved us so much that He gave Himself. He emptied Himself of heavenly privilege and entered into the lives of those He loved. He became Immanuel, “God with Us.” He gave Himself in service stating that He had come to serve, not to be served. He gave Himself to ransom us (1 Timothy 2:6) from the evil that had kidnapped us. He gave Himself for our sins (Galatians 1:4) so we could receive His righteousness. He gave the perfect gift. He gave Himself.
This Christmas I’m going to follow His example. I’m going to “re-gift” myself to my family. The gift of myself won’t simply be opened on Christmas day and set aside. No, it will be an ongoing gift; one I will give to each one for the rest of my life. I’m going to set aside any perceived privilege and selfish tendencies so I can enter their lives and serve them, listen to them, encourage them, and support them. I’m going to give them my time and energy to help them reach their dreams and goals. I’m going to give them my love. Maybe, in the gift of myself, they will be inspired to live a more loving life themselves. That just makes the gift all the better. Yes. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m giving the gift of self…it’s the perfect gift.
In her book Hunt, Gather, Parent, Michaeleen Doucleff, PHD, describes “three steps [a parent can use] to transmit any value they want to a child.” These three steps include modeling, acknowledging, and practicing. And it’s true. Parents use these three powerful actions to transmit values to their children whether they know it or not, even whether they intend to or not. If we don’t reflect on what we model, acknowledge, and practice, we may pass on values that we never wanted our children to learn. As an example, consider children and teen technology use.
Practice: Many parents give their children lots of practice in the unhealthy use of technology. For instance, we hand our toddlers our cell phone or iPad to keep them calm, busy, and out of our hair. We may also give children and teens technology to counter their boredom during a long drive. In other words, we encourage them to use technology to deal with frustrations or boredom and, in the process, discourage them from learning other methods of dealing with frustrations and boredom (like reading, playing a game, or conversing with other people). In fact, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry notes that we let 8-12-year-old children practice using technology 4-6 hours a day. Teens practice using technology up to 9 hours a day. Imagine if they practiced math, a sport, or an instrument that many hours a day.
Acknowledge: We acknowledge our children’s behavior by attending to it. Negative attention and positive attention both reinforce behavior. The more energetic our attention (positive or negative), the greater the reinforcement. When we yell at our child to “get off the phone” we are providing energetic attention to a behavior we don’t like. When we constantly complaining about them playing video games, we are giving attention to a behavior we find frustrating. In both cases, our acknowledgment simply reinforces their continued technology usage. Sure, they may turn it off in the moment, but they will return to it the first chance they get. After all, our energetic acknowledgment has helped to build and reinforce their self-concept as someone who “always uses technology…” just like we told them. Instead of acknowledging their use of technology in energetic, frustrated tones, invest your energy in engaging them in more valued activities. Energetically acknowledge their involvement with friends, their progress in academics, their kindness to others, their active participation in sports, or other activities you want your children to learn to value. I’m sure your child has a much broader life than one of simple technology use. Acknowledge those other areas. Acknowledge when they use technology in appropriate ways and at appropriate times as well. This can help them learn the appropriate use of technology in their lives.
Model: Too often we—the parents—model the kind of technology usage we hate in our children. It’s true. Consider these statistics. Over 70% of married couples report cell phones frequently interfere with their relationships. In one study, 40 of the 55 parents observed with children in a fast-food restaurant used their cell phone. The more they used their cell phone the more their children either withdrew from them or engaged in limit testing behaviors to gain their attention. When we allow our technology use to interfere with our interactions with our children, we model a level of technology use we want our children to avoid. Unfortunately, our children learn to do what we model. They do as we do much more often than they do as we say.
Practicing, acknowledging, and modeling are powerful ways in which we teach our children and teens about behaviors we value. Unfortunately, if we don’t practice, acknowledge, and model thoughtfully, we may pass on values we don’t agree with and never wanted our children to learn. Take time to reflect. It may prove one of the most effective parenting tools we have.