Search Results for: what do you want

What Do You Really Want for Your Children?

I hate to say it, but parents have a huge responsibility. A tremendous burden rests on our shoulders. The future of our world depends on the priorities and values we instill in our children. I mean, it’s true but I didn’t think about that kind of responsibility when my wife and I decided to have children. But we quickly came to realize the need to take that responsibility seriously. We had to ask ourselves what values we really want to instill in our children. We needed to assess what we really want our children to learn. We had to nurture and teach our children to enable them to “see the big picture.”  Here are some of the questions we ask of ourselves. What are your answers?

  • Do we want our children to learn that the most important aspect of life is to win at any cost or do we want them to play the game while encouraging and supporting even the competition?
  • Do we want our children to learn to “get over on the system” or to live with integrity and honesty while working to change the system?
  • Do we want our children to pursue their own interests to the neglect of others or to pursue their interests while remaining aware, respectful, and encouraging of other peoples’ interests as well?
  • Do we want our children to fight for “my rights” or to have a more expansive view that also considers the rights of others and balancing the rights of all through service and sacrifice?
  • Do we want our children to get rich or to share with those who have genuine need?
  • Do we want our children to work to the neglect of relationship or to work to gain the resources they can use to build relationships?
  • Do we want our children to worry about the future at the expense of enjoying the moment or to prepare for the future while enjoying the moment? In fact, to even believe that how we enjoy the moment shapes our future!
  • Do we want our children to learn that “my” job or interests is most important and prestigious or to learn that everyone’s jobs and interests carry importance, prestige, and an amazing set of knowledge not everyone shares?
  • Do we want our children to learn that “my” opinion is best or to develop a genuine interest and respect in other people’s ideas and opinions, even if you disagree?

You cannot NOT teach your children these values. In your everyday words and actions, you teach your children these values.  They learn them from what you say and what you do, how you treat them and how you treat one another. Consider the values you want them to learn. Then start living them out in your daily life today!

Christmas–You Don’t Want to Miss This!

The Christmas Season is a wonderful family celebration. We fill our time with traditions and rituals that draw our families together and remind us of the true meaning of the season. Those traditions and rituals create an emotional bond we can cherish throughout our lives with our spouses and children. This holiday season seems to have been rushed and modified for my family. Still, we look for opportunities to fit each of our traditions into the season and, with each one, grow more connected as a family. Let me share some Christmas Traditions we enjoy as a family and a couple of traditions from other families to fill your season with joy and remembrance. My family enjoys:

  • Dad helping boy to decorate christmas treeReading “A Gathering of Angels” by Calvin Miller.
  • Decorating the Christmas tree. Buying a family ornament for our tree each year. Hiding the Christmas pickle…sort of.
  • Sharing gifts with one another, one on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. Christmas morning we play music, sip a hot drink, and pass around the gifts.
  • Listening to the Christmas concerts given by the high school band and chorus.
  • Singing Christmas carols.
  • Contemplating and talking about the birth of Christ. I especially like the story of the shepherds!
  • Enjoying a special family Christmas dinner and enjoying a Christmas dinner with our church family.
  • Attending a Christmas Eve service.
  • Setting up a manger scene.
  • My children bake cookies and I help by eating them. (I love eating them fresh from the oven!)

Some traditions our friends celebrate and enjoy…you might, too:

  • Leave the wise men out of the manger scene and place them somewhere on the other side of the house. Each day, move them closer to the manger scene. They finally arrive at the manger scene the day after Christmas.
  • Bake a birthday cake for Jesus and enjoy it on Christmas day.
  • One of our friends shares with his whole community in a traditional Slovak Christmas Dinner each year, complete with ethnic entertainment.
  • The Elf on the Shelf…who magically moves around the house on his/her own.
  • Watching the Christmas TV specials. Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer are my favorites.

I know the season is well under way, but what are some of your family’s favorite traditions? We would love to hear how you celebrate family at Christmas time. And, who knows, your tradition may help another family celebrate their Christmas this year!

5 Practices to Keep Your Marriage Thriving

It’s an older study now (2012) but insightful all the same. It offers five practices that can strengthen your marriage. If you want to build a strong, healthy marriage, make sure you keep these 5 practices in the forefront of your relationship.

  • Have fun together. Make sure you spend time playing together. Laugh together. Tell a joke or two. Laugh at silly cat videos together. Go on some adventures together, whether they be to a local amusement park, a concert, or a beach. Whatever way you choose (and I hope you choose several), have fun! Enjoy one another’s company.
  • Share household chores. Don’t expect your spouse to do all the work around the house. Make sure you participate in the tasks that keep the home running smoothly as well. You might even have some chores that you and your spouse do together. (Men, just so you know, some say that seeing you do household chores will be an aphrodisiac of some sort for your wife…go figure.)
  • Keep your social media accounts transparent. You can have separate accounts if you want, but make sure your spouse has full access to any account you have. Let your spouse know your passwords. Let them see your activity if and when they want to see it. This will prove beneficial to you in terms of accountability and in terms of trust within your relationship.
  • Share your feelings with your spouse. When we share our emotions with our spouses, we open ourselves up to be known by them, we reveal ourselves to them on a deeper level. We allow our spouse to learn about us—our priorities, values, goals, and passions.
  • Assure your spouse that you are committed to our relationship. By practicing the four actions above, you assure your spouse that you are committed to them and your marriage. You can also assure them of your commitment by talking about the future together. What would you like to do as a couple in the next five years? When your children “leave the nest”? Dream together and plan together. Then, have fun making those dreams come true.

These five practices will strengthen your marriage and keep it healthy for a lifetime. If I might, I would like to add one more practice. This one was not mentioned in the study cited above, but other studies have shown how this practice strengthens marriage. Pray for your spouse. Prayer has been shown to strengthen marriages in several ways. Take time each day to say a simple prayer for your spouse’s well-being. 

That’s six practices to strengthen your marriage. Start engaging in these practices today and enjoy a thriving marriage with your spouse for a lifetime.

What Mom Wants from Her Husband

I enjoy a good James Bond movie…or a Mission Impossible adventure. The heroes spark my imagination. They are strong, ingenious problem-solver, attractive to women. They live adventurous lives I only dream about. Surely the mother of my children (my wife) would like me, the father of her children, to have all those “great” qualities. We’d live an adventure-filled life of intrigue and passion. Who wouldn’t want that?

Well, according to a survey of 291 mothers, your wife, the mother of your children, would NOT want that! In fact, that is the type of person a mother wants least as their husband. Know what this survey suggests women want most in a husband and father to their children? A friend–somebody who shows a genuine interest in them and their children, somebody who exhibits kindness toward them and their children. Sounds kind of crazy but think about it.

This kind of husband will notice when his wife seems stressed or needs rest. And he’ll step in to help provide that needed comfort and rest. That’s what friends do. A husband who takes the role of “friend” seriously will take the time to listen, understand, and empathize with his wife rather than jumping in to “fix it.” He will also initiate conversations to learn about his wife’s day with all its joys and sorrows. Overall, he will take responsibility to nurture his relationship with his family (including his wife). That’s what friends do… all this and more.

John Gottman goes so far as to suggest friendship is the core of every healthy marriage. The friendship on which every healthy marriage stands is developed and nurtured through small, daily actions like:

  • Asking open-ended questions to learn about your wife and her life.
  • Developing the habit of responding to your wife with genuine interest and listening intently to her in conversation rather than giving half-hearted attention or faking attention.
  • Communicating appreciation, adoration, and gratitude for her every day.

…After all, that’s what friends do.

Your wife, the mother of your children, doesn’t need a sexy, strong, adventurous husband (although I’m sure you’re all those things). She needs a friend who cares enough and loves her enough to walk by her side and actively participate in family life with her. Will you invest the time and energy to develop that friendship with her? If you do, you’ll reap the amazing rewards of a joyful, healthy marriage.

“Take 10” Before Answering Your Children

Sometimes it’s best to not give your children an immediate answer. I know they’ll complain. After all, they want an answer “now.” However, there are times to “take 10” (or 20 or 30 or even a whole day) before answering. Not all answers come easily or quickly. In fact, let me offer 4 times it’s definitely best to wait before answering.

  • Don’t give an immediate answer when you’re distracted or busy. You might give an answer to a question you haven’t even fully heard. You might give an answer you didn’t intend. Only answer when you can give your full attention and thought to your child and their question or request.
  • Don’t give an immediate answer when you are upset or feeling guilty. When you feel upset or guilty you might “give too much.” You might answer out of our guilt rather than wisdom and values. You might answer out of anger about something unrelated to your children rather than answering out of love for your children and concern for their well-being.
  • Don’t give an immediate answer when your children are whining or yelling. If you give an answer during that time you will likely answer out of agitation or, if you’re in public, fear of embarrassment. If you answer by giving in to their request to avoid embarrassment, you have just reinforced their behavior. You have taught them an effective way to get what they want. You’ve taught them how to manipulate your answer.  Better to wait.
  • Don’t give an immediate answer when you’re feeling tired or insecure about your parenting. Once again, this may lead us to give an answer that doesn’t align with your family values.

If it’s best to not offer an immediate answer at these times, what can we do? How can we prepare for these moments?

  1. Before a situation even arises, establish your family’s core values and boundaries. Talk about those values often. Once your core values are established, you can base your decisions and answers on those values and boundaries. Remember, these are your whole family’s values and boundaries.
  2. Establish a healthy support group. It takes a village to be a good parent. Gather a group of like-minded parents around you. Support one another. When you’re not sure about how to answer a question or request, use a “lifeline” by calling a friend in your support group. Talk it through with them.
  3. Tell your child you can’t answer right now but you can tell them an answer at a specific time in the near future.  Remember, you want to give an answer that aligns with the values and boundaries you have established. You may need time to think about that answer. You may want to talk with a friend and “throw around some ideas” about the best response. An important caveat though–get back to your child by the time you stated. They need to know they can trust you to follow through on your word.
  4. Talk with your child rather than give an immediate answer. Ask questions. Talk about their request and what it really means to them. Talk about your concerns as well as areas in which you see their growth. Tell them how you are proud of them. Offer an age-appropriate explanation for your response so they can understand how it fits in with your family’s values and boundaries. Talking with your child about their request and your answer helps them learn to think through the request on their own, an important skill as they mature.

Put these actions in place and remember, you can always “take 10” before answering your child. In fact, it may be best to take a day to “sleep on it” before answering to make sure you answer wisely and in accordance with your values.

The Key to Emotional Health in Adolescence

Adolescence is a time of challenge and opportunity, a time of growth for parent and child. At times you and your child may feel like pulling your hair out during their adolescent years. And, at other times, you may feel like pulling one another’s hair out. But there is a key that can help nurture health for parent and child during the adolescent years. It’s a key that the parent holds but both parent and teen benefit from it. Psychologists call this key “authoritative parenting.” Several studies have shown authoritative parenting beneficial for raising children. Among other things, studies suggest it promotes a positive self-concept and better self-control in children as well as better relationships between parents and their children. Why? Because it sets health, age-appropriate limits AND it offers warm relationships.

What makes a warm relationship between parent and child? In a warm relationship, parents show delight in their children. They are responsive to their children. Not only do they respond to their children on a consistent basis, but their responses match the children’s needs of the moment. Parents listen, observing their children’s behavior as well as hearing the message behind their words, and respond in a way that communicates understanding and affection. Warm parent-child relationships also involve sharing time together enjoying positive interactions.

In addition to warm relationships, authoritative parenting also involves healthy, age-appropriate limits. Children are not allowed to do whatever they want when they want. Instead, parents establish and enforce limits for their children’s safety and health. These limits help assure predictability and security for their children. Ironically, children more easily explore their world and their interests from the safety of well-established and lovingly enforced limits. Exploration helps them learn and grow. So, in effect, lovingly enforced, age-appropriate limits nurture our children’s ability to learn and grow.

Together, warm parenting combined with healthy, age-appropriate limits make up authoritative parenting, the type of parenting that promotes a healthy adolescence for both parent and adolescent. Know what I like about this? You can learn to practice authoritative parenting. You can practice warmth in your relationship and learn to lovingly enforce healthy limits. Here’s a few basics.

  • Listen intently to your children’s verbal and nonverbal communications. Even their behaviors are communicating something for you to “hear.”
  • Remain responsive to your children’s communications and needs.
  • Establish healthy, age-appropriate limits and lovingly enforce those limits.
  • Show consistency in your responsiveness to your children and in the enforcement of limits.
  • As our children mature, allow the limits to change. Let them become increasingly “in charge” of their own decisions and consequences.
  • Enjoy your maturing adolescent and your relationship with them.

Encourage Your Child’s Anger

If you want your children to achieve challenging goals in their lives, you may have to encourage their anger. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean letting them blow up or “rage” around the house. I mean accepting their anger and then teaching them how to manage that anger as a motivating factor in their lives. After all, anger, like all emotions, plays an important role in our lives and the lives of our children.

  • First, anger reveals our priorities and values. It also alerts us to important situations that require action. We really only get angry over things we value. Situations and things that don’t matter to us don’t arouse our emotions either. We only get angry or happy or sad about those things we value, things important to us. So, when your children express anger, consider what priority and value that anger is communicating. Help them identify the priority or value their anger reveals. Is it a value of respect? Safety? Fairness? Does it reveal the hurt of not being included? Help your child discover and understand the value underlying their anger.
  • Second, anger energizes us to respond and align the situation with our values and priorities. This energy can help motivate our children to pursue a goal or align a situation with their values. In fact, at least one study found anger improved a person’s ability to reach a goal while a “neutral “emotion did not. Anger increased effort. But, we have to channel the energy and motivation of anger toward our priority in a healthy way. Unfortunately, children often use the energy of anger without considering the value or priority they want to communicate. They strike out in anger because they feel disrespected. Or they strike out in anger when they feel excluded. In doing so, they miscommunicate. Rather than communicating a priority of respect, they arouse further disrespect or fear. Rather than communicating a desire for inclusion, they push the other people away.
  • So, after you help your child identify the value underlying their anger, you can brainstorm actions they can take to effectively communicate their values or achieve the goals related to their values.

Practicing these three steps with your children will teach them to accept their anger, understand the value behind the anger, and utilize its energy to achieve their goals. In this way, anger becomes an ally, a motivator, even a teacher rather than a hindrance.

They Know More Than You Think

Our children are geniuses. They know so much more than we think. In some sense, this is good. It helps them learn and grow. In other ways, not so good because they know much more about what is going on at home than we might imagine. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies revealed how much children between 3-years-old and 6-years-old know about their family’s relationships and conflicts. They were able to describe negative and positive aspects of their family’s relationships. They could give detailed descriptions about family dynamics—good and bad dynamics. They could explain the emotions of various family members by giving detailed descriptions of facial expressions, tone of voice, and behavior. In other words, children are watching AND learning.

Based on this finding, we have to ask ourselves: Are our interactions and conflict management styles teaching our children how to interact and manage emotions in a positive way? Are we giving seeing and learning healthy skills as they watch and learn from our behavior, facial expressions, tone of voice, and interactions? What will they learn about relationships from us? What will they carry into their families based on the lessons they learn by watching us? Be aware and make sure your children learn more positive lessons by watching you.

The authors of this study also found that conflict between a parent and their child often remained unresolved. As a result, the child turned to a sibling or a pet for comfort during tension with a parent. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my child to feel like a family pet offers more comfort than I do. So, resolve the conflict to keep the relationship open for comforting and support. You can resolve the conflict in a variety of ways, depending on the situation. For instance,

  • You can sit down and talk after everyone has calmed down. Talks about what happened and why it created a problem. Then discuss how to manage similar situations in the future in a more productive and healthy manner.
  • Apologize if and when you need to. Apologizing to our children when appropriate teaches them important lessons about responsibility, justice, and humility.
  • Reaffirm your love for your child. Make sure they know you love them even when you disagree with them, get upset with them, or even discipline them. Affirm your love verbally and nonverbally every day as often as you can.

Children are keenly aware of the family dynamics in our homes. They watch us to learn about marriage, relationships, conflict resolution, compromise, and many other life skills that they will take with them into their own marriages and families. Make sure the lessons they learn from you are the lessons you want them to know for life.

To Keep Your Marriage Stronger, Longer

Do you want to have a life-long, happy marriage? I do….and I have good news. According to research, this one daily behavior will contribute to a long, happy marriage. The findings came from analyzing data from 732 couples between the ages of 64- and 74-years-old. What is the behavior that contributes to a joyous marriage well into late adulthood? Well, the research involved having couples increase the frequency of intimacy in their marriage. Those that increased the frequency of their intimacy reported increased marital quality.  Not that surprising, right?  Couples that enjoy intimacy report greater positivity about their marriage. Physical contact protects the quality of a marriage.

Another study noted that a particular type of intimacy promotes well-being in marriages: kissing. Just like the old song: “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” Kissing decreases a person’s level of cortisol (a stress hormone) while increasing oxytocin (a hormone that encourages bonding). Kissing also relaxes people and builds a deeper connection between those kissing. Decreased stress. Increased bonding. Greater connection. Each can add to a person’s sense of well-being. And, of course, previous blogs talk about the importance of hugging.

Spending quality time intimately conversing with your spouse will also increase the well-being of your marriage. Sit down and have a conversation with your spouse. Discuss your hopes and dreams as well as all the things you admire and adore about your spouse. “Look into their eyes” and tell them the depth of your love.

Let me ask again. Do you want a life-long, happy marriage? Then enjoy intimacy with your spouse. Kiss. Hug. Hold hands. Enjoy meaningful conversation with one another. Go with the flow and “see where it goes.” Not just once, but practice, practice, practice. Not only will you promote better marital quality, but you’ll have fun as well.

Don’t Forget the Secret Sauce

Many ingredients nurture a strong and healthy marriage: communication, time together, sharing emotions…the list goes on. But, the secret sauce of relationships, the ingredient that flows over it and adds extra flavor to the whole, is gratitude. Feeling appreciated by your spouse and appreciating your spouse forms a crucial ingredient to a healthy marriage. This truth became evident in a study that looked at the effectiveness of online relationship interventions. The primary finding revealed that online relationship interventions proved effective in building healthier marriages. Interestingly, the study also revealed that the couples reported improvement in partner gratitude after the interventions, even though the interventions did not specifically address the issue of gratitude. It reinforced what many already know: in healthy marriages both spouses express gratitude to one another and both spouses feel appreciated by one another.

With that in mind, if you want to nurture a strong and healthy marriage, practice gratitude. Make an intentional effort to watch for opportunities to express gratitude to your spouse and for your spouse. You can express your gratitude for things they do, things they say, or for aspects of their character you enjoy (“Thank you for being so fun loving and laughing with me”). In fact, make it a point to express gratitude to your spouse and for your spouse every day.

Express your gratitude sincerely, voluntarily, not under compulsion. Gratitude expressed because “I have to” becomes insincere and ineffective. It becomes meaningless. So don’t slip into taking your spouse for granted. They do not “have to” do anything for you. Everything they do is an expression of love, a commitment to your life together. Recognize that and let your gratitude flow from a heart of thanksgiving.

Finally, be aware of your spouse’s expressions of gratitude for you and the things you do. That gratitude may come to you verbally or through actions, so keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t get caught up in a feeling of entitlement and miss your spouse’s expression of gratitude. Be open to hearing their gratitude. Accept their expressions of gratitude.

Expressing gratitude and receiving gratitude is like the secret sauce flowing over your marriage with added flavor and joy. Like all sauces, gratitude is best if you pour it on because the more the better.

« Older Entries