Archive for Author John Salmon

Is It Criticism or Correction?

Parents rightfully desire to correct their children. They love their children and want them to grow wiser and more mature. They feel the duty…no, they feel a love that compels them to correct their children and promote their growth. I applaud that desire. Take note, though, that effective correction involves teaching. But parents often get caught up in the heat of the moment, triggered by ghosts of their past and fears of the future, and, rather than correct, they criticize. They think they are correcting, but their words are criticizing. And criticism interferes with learning. Let me share a few examples.

  • Criticism: “John, clean your room. It’s a disaster. You’re living in a dump.” Of course, there is a directive—”clean your room”—but the rest is criticism, not correction or discipline. Correction would sound more like, “John, clean your room. Everyone thinks and feels better in a clean space.” That offers the corrective teaching that leads to understanding and growth.
  • Criticism: “Save some candy for everyone else. You never think about anyone but yourself, do you?” Hear the criticism? But where is the teaching? A more effective teaching statement might be: “Save some candy for other people. You don’t want to eat so much you’re not hungry for dinner. Plus, it’s polite and shows kindness when you save some for others.”
  • Criticism: “Be quiet. You’re so loud. It’s irritating.” Once again, criticism with no real teaching or correction. Correction might instruct, “Be quiet” and add a polite ending (“please”) followed by teaching like, “people find it disrespectful when we get too loud in the house. You can be loud outside if you want.”

That’s only three examples, but I think you probably understand the point. We, as parents, often slip into criticism when we really want to instruct, correct, and teach. When we slip into criticism, we lose effectiveness. Not only do we not get to teach, but our children suffer the ill consequences of constant criticism.

When the time comes to correct your children, and those times will come often enough, listen to yourself. Are you correcting or criticizing? Then adjust to correcting in love.

Hold Their Hand

Maybe the Beatles had something important for couples in conflict. They may not have known it, but nonetheless, it was an important message for couples in conflict. That message?  “I want to hold your hand.” That’s right. Usually, we talk about improving verbal communication when it comes to conflict with our spouses. But the Beatles had a really good suggestion, improve nonverbal communication…hold hands. At least that’s the conclusion of a study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in April of 2020. Specifically, this study looked at the impact of holding hands on a married couple in conflict during and after their conflict.

During the conflict, this study showed that holding hands had a calming effect on men. It was also associated with an increase in positive affect (positive emotions and interactions) and a decrease in negative communication for both men and women.

After the conflict, holding hands led to a lower heart rate and an increase in positive emotions and interactions.

So, next time you find yourself bordering on a heated conversation or a conflict with your spouse, take a breath, reach out a hand, and sing an invitation: “I want to hold your hand.” Then, while holding hands, discuss the conflict at hand.

Our Answer to One Question Determines Our Future

My wife and I were visiting Charleston, North Carolina when we saw this plaque. It reads: “I want people to see children as human beings and not think of the money it costs nor to think of the amount of time it will take, but to think of the lives that can be developed into Americans who will redeem the soul of America and will really make America a great country.” –Septima Clark

Septima Clark did not just make the statement, she walked the talk. She became known as the “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights Movement. She started “Citizenship schools” that taught adult literacy and “citizenship rights.” These schools instilled self-pride, cultural-pride, literacy, and a sense of one’s citizenship rights.

Why do I mention this quote? Because Ms. Clark states truth. Our children thrive when we see them as human beings rather than simply children. We need not think of our children as financial burdens or “little time-suckers.” They are a blessing, a blessing upon which our present and our future rest. They are the ones who will carry our values and priorities into the future. They will redeem our communities and our country.

I remember learning a similar idea in my early college years. I don’t remember the exact quote, but the “gist of the idea” stated that a culture can be redeemed or destroyed in a single generation. The way in which we treat our children, the manner in which we raise them, will have a great determining factor on the course of our future…similar to what Septima Clark implied. Consider:

  • If we treat our children with kindness, they will take kindness into the future. If we treat them harshly, they will take harshness into the future.
  • If we treat our children with respect, they will take respect into the future. If we treat them with disrespect, disrespect will grow more rampant.
  • If we hold our children accountable in an appropriate manner, they will take accountability into the future. If we become overly permissive, they will also become permissive.
  • If we hold our children to age-appropriate expectations for contributing to the family and home, they will continue to see the joy of contributing to a happy home and family. If we become overbearing, harsh, or hold inappropriate expectations of our children, they will carry the same forward…and who wants to live in a community filled with those who are overbearing, harsh, and carry unreasonable expectations.

You get the idea. How we treat our children will determine our future. Let’s begin to think of our children as blessings—lives that can be nurtured to bless others, “lives that can be developed into Americans who will redeem the soul of America and will really make America a great country.”  How will we treat our children? Consider carefully for it’s a question with enormous implications. Our future depends on our answer.

Not Enough Time in the Day?

We have 24 hours every day. That’s 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds…and it flies by. Time is at a premium, especially within our families. We “never” have enough time. Some would go so far as to say we live in a “time famine.” There just isn’t enough of it, not enough time in the day.

Unfortunately, that perception of time results in a decreased willingness to show kindness to others, to give of our time to help others. I’d like me and my family to be known as people who show kindness. So, what can we do to increase our willingness to help others in the midst of this “time famine”? We can’t add time to the day. No matter what we do, there are only 24 hours in a day. We could cut things out of our schedule. But what? We all need to work. We need to spend time with our families. We need to go to school, clean the house, remain involved in the community, engage in some recreation, eat, sleep, socialize…. It takes a great deal of soul searching and priority clarifying to cut “the fluff” out of our schedule.

Still, we need to do something or our willingness to help one another and show kindness will get constantly pushed out, relegated to second (or maybe third) place behind our busyness, lack of rest, and related irritability.

There is, however, a way to perceive more time in the day, a: remedy of sorts. It sounds paradoxical at first. In fact, it doesn’t make sense at first glance. But research suggests that it is true. Here it is: give your time to another person through some act of kindness. That’s right, give your time to help another and you’ll have an expanded sense of time. Give your time away and you’ll feel like you have more time to give.

In one study, giving one’s time to do something nice for another person led to a perception of greater time in the future. It also led people to feel they had more time in the present and so increased their willingness to help with an immediate task. Even recalling an act of giving significant time to help someone in the past led to a perception of more time.

On the other hand, suddenly receiving free time (being allowed to leave an appointment early), wasting time (scrolling), or spending time doing something for oneself did not result in a perception of having greater available time. Only giving one’s time to help another person in some way led to a feeling of greater time availability.

When we make giving our time to help others a priority, we expand our sense of time. When we teach our children to help, we teach them to have an expanded sense of time. That expanded sense of time can contribute to increasing our willingness to help a person in need, whether they be family, friend, or stranger. It can also increase our sense of calm and decrease our feeling of being rushed. I’d like that for my family, wouldn’t you? Then let’s start giving our time to help our family and others…and teaching our family to do the same.

Don’t Phub Your Children

Many parents worry about the impact of screen time on our children’s mental health. (For one example see Just So You Know.) However, you may also need to think about the impact of your screen time on your children’s mental health. In fact, a study completed by Robin Nabi (UC Santa Barbara) surveyed 40 parents of children between 5-years-old and 12-years-old.  The surveys asked about and gathered a variety of information including:

  • Their children’s level of emotional awareness and control
  • Their children’s level of concern for others.
  • Their children’s use of television, computers, game consoles, tablets, and smartphones.
  • How often their children engaged in activities like reading, listening to music, outdoor play, and indoor play.
  • How much time the parents spend on digital devices in the presence of their children.
  • How often the parent-initiated conversation with their children while engaged in various types of media activities.
  • How often the parents-initiated conversation with their children while engaged in various types of nonmedia activities.

Ironically, the ONLY thing associated with lower child emotional intelligence was parental use of cell phones in the presence of their children.

Children thrive on parental responsiveness. They grow through parental responsiveness. When a parent is focused on their cellphone, they become less responsive to their children. In fact, “parental phone use is associated with ‘still face,’ an expressionless appearance” that creates great emotional chaos in children. If you have not seen the “still face experiment,” take a moment to watch it in this short clip. You will see how it throws a child into a state of insecurity and results in them experiencing emotional chaos.

Your older children may not react in the same way as the infant in the video. However, a lack of responsiveness toward your older child or teen communicates a lack of value, raises a fear of insecurity, creates distance between you and them, and hinders your effectiveness as a parent. It will also stunt the development of emotional intelligence in their lives. All that being said, when your child approaches you put down the cellphone. Look them in the eye. Listen carefully. Converse with them. Connect with them. Your child will grow more emotionally intelligent and more confident in their self-worth. And your relationship with your child will grow more intimate. Don’t phub your child. Put down the cellphone and fully respond to your child instead.

What I Learned at Family Camp 2023

We enjoyed another wonderful weekend at Camp Christian’s Family Camp this year. Terry Jones, the dean, organized a great weekend to “Take Back the Family.” Interestingly, children and teens outnumbered adults this weekend. It was beautiful to see so many young people spending time with family and friends, playing, and worshipping. A couple of lessons proved important for me.

  1. We are not called to be “products of our time,” but “products of the Word of God.” We are called to be ambassadors of God’s Kingdom of Love while living in foreign territory. 
  2. In the foreign territory, there is a spiritual battle being fought for the family. The enemy has released toxic weapons to bring the family down, toxins like selfishness, greed, arrogance, disrespect, lack of gratitude, dishonesty, and unforgiveness. These toxins, when left unchecked, will destroy our families and our communities. Fortunately, we have been given the weapons to combat these toxins. We see the weapons that protect the family displayed in Jesus Christ: humility, generosity and contentment, respect, honesty, and truth.
  3. Remember, our families are not just a collection of individuals. We are a team, a body made up of individual parts who function together for the good of the whole. With that in mind, Terry gave us time to develop team logos and mottos. I loved the creativity of those who shared the canvasses displaying their family mottos and logos.
  4. Perhaps the greatest resource we have in taking back the family is prayer. And so, we ended the weekend praying with and for our families.

There was much more I could talk about—the heroes who inspire us and the true Superhero, what marshmallows teach us about family, and “how babies are created” (I’ll let you ponder that one). You’ll just have to come to Family Camp sometime to truly understand the beauty of seeing multiple families enjoying fellowship, fun, and worship with one another. We ended the weekend by singing, “The Lord bless you and keep you; make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.”  The words of the song are taken from Numbers 6:24-25. However, there is a very similar passage in Psalm 67:1-2 that reads: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and cause His face to shine upon us so that Your way may be known on the earth and Your salvation among all nations.”  We seek God’s blessing in taking back our families not just for our own sake, but so that His way may be known on the earth and His salvation among all nations. God bless you all this year until our next Family Camp.

Combatting Loneliness & Negativity in Your Family

Loneliness impacts our mental and physical health. In fact, it has a similar impact on physical health as smoking 10 cigarettes a day. It can also contribute to depression and anxiety. Knowing this, I want to teach my family how to combat loneliness. Don’t you?

Researchers from the University of Nebraska offer a helpful suggestion in the results of a study they conducted over the span of one year. The 565 participants completed surveys assessing their level of loneliness, social connection, and interpersonal emotional regulation (how a person utilizes their social connections to maintain or improve their emotional state). Participants also completed exercises in which they had to make “snap judgments” about whether ambiguous faces, scenes, and words were positive or negative. These “snap judgments” help determine a person’s emotional outlook, whether it be positive or negative.

Not surprisingly, participants who reported greater loneliness also interpreted the ambiguous faces, scenes, and words more negatively. Loneliness was correlated with negativity…unless one condition existed. Those participants who regularly shared positive (but not negative) experiences with family and friends did not make negative interpretations! In fact, loneliness was not correlated with negativity in those who regularly shared positive experiences with others.

This got me thinking. Could families use this information to buffer the negative impact of loneliness in their families? I believe so… and here are four ways to begin.

  • Each evening, spend 10-15 minutes with your spouse, your children, or your parents sharing positive experiences from your day.
  • Make it a daily routine for each family member to recall at least one positive experience from their day during family dinner.
  • As you prepare for bed, talk with your family and share 3 things that you experienced during the day for which you are grateful.
  • Share something of beauty you experienced during the day. It could be something you saw (a sunrise or a colorful bird) or something you heard (a song or a saying), something natural or something manmade. It may also be an especially meaningful connection you experienced. Share that “thing of beauty” with a family member sometime during the day.

Building these moments of sharing into your daily routine provides the opportunity to share positive emotional experiences with one another. Not only will this enhance your family relationships, but it will also teach each person how to share these positive experiences with others. It will allow them to practice the skills necessary to do so with friends as well as family. This may even enhance friendships and help create new friendships. Of course, this practice will decrease negativity and buffer the negative impact of loneliness for your family as well. For me, that is a thing of beauty that I’d like to share with my family.

A Challenge for More Family Time, Less Phone Time

We often talk about the struggles of learning to manage technology in our lives. We know technology has its usefulness, but we also know it can take over our lives and isolate us from our families and friends. We have talked about the importance of setting limits on technology use and, more important, developing the character necessary to manage technology in our lives effectively. All in all, it has become a complex issue in our time. With that in mind, I ran across an interesting video (12 minutes & 24 seconds long) in which one man, Joey Odom, describes how technology impacted him in his role as a father and a solution he created to change that impact.

One of my favorite quotes from the video is: “If we don’t do something, this generation of kids…will die with more of other people’s memories than memories they create on their own.” Let that sink in. A family that interacts with technology through various social media apps more than they interact with one another will have “more of other people’s [family] memories than memories they create on their own.” That is sad…and frightening. The mere thought of that makes me want to find a way to better manage the technology in my life so that it does not rob me of my family relationships and memories. Joey Odom offers a solution (an app named Aro). I’ve not tried it, so I don’t know how effective it is. I do, however, like the idea of creating an environment that makes person-to-person interactions more rewarding than the technology of gaming or social media. Truth be told, most people do find that person-to-person interactions are naturally more rewarding than technology. The goal is to create a home environment in which your family can experience the rewards of loving person-to-person interactions on a daily basis. How you establish that in your family depends on you and your family. Some possibilities include:

  • Making dinner time a “technology-free zone.”
  • Establish other “technology-free” periods of time each day, like after 8pm or before 9am. The times would depend on your family schedule.
  • Taking technology vacations. These technology vacations can last a day, a weekend, a week, or even a month.
  • Don’t automatically pull out your phone when you’re bored. Instead, let your mind wander, strike up a conversation, or engage in some creative task.
  • Don’t use technology to occupy your children and “keep them out of your hair while you get things done.” Instead, involve your children in those tasks with you. Engage them in the process (even though it might take longer to get them done).
  • Enjoy time spent playing simple family games, indoor or outdoor games.
  • Cook together.
  • Develop family past times like biking, hiking, singing, baking…you pick the hobby that fits your family best. As you enjoy the activity, converse and have fun.
  • Remember, as a parent, you model the best way to utilize technology. So model the importance of person-to-person interaction over technology.

How you choose to keep technology from robbing you of precious family interactions and memories is up to you. But the best way to start is with yourself. Don’t expect your family to do what you don’t do. You model how to protect person-to-person interactions from the intrusion of technology. Begin today. Replace the overuse of technology with loving person-to-person interaction…and create beautiful family memories.

Bridging the Gaps in Our Families

Gaps abound in families. We have the gender gap, the parent/teen gap, the older sibling/younger sibling gap.  Statements like, “Things are different now, Dad” or “You don’t understand” or “You’ll get it when you’re older” reveal the gaps between us. Unfortunately, each of these gaps contribute to a communication gap and the communication gap hinders intimacy and understanding.  But curiosity…will bridge those gaps.

It’s true. Curiosity can bridge the communication gap as well as the gender gap, the generational gap, and the age gap. But, for curiosity to truly bridge the gap, you have to first be willing to postpone your own agenda, drop your own story, let go of your interpretation for the moment. When we cling to our agenda and story, curiosity becomes very difficult. Instead of curiosity leading the interaction, we find ourselves led by the search for flaws in “their” story or support for “my” story. In other words, we remain separated from the other person, focused on “my view” versus “your view” with no room for “our view.”

Once you’ve postponed your own agenda for a moment, you can listen with curiosity. You can remain open to the other person’s perspective. In fact, in curiosity you will listen to truly understand “where the other person is coming from.” You will find yourself open to their perspective and experience, maybe even surprised at the wisdom and knowledge they share. You will allow yourself to see the situation from their perspective and, in doing so, gain a better understanding of how they came to the beliefs and ideas they hold.

While you humbly listen with curiosity, pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. Convey an openness with your tone as well as your body language. Make eye contact. Use a calm voice, a voice that conveys respect and care rather than doubt and defensiveness. For the time you listen with curiosity, listen as though the person literally has “the most important thing in the world to tell you” and you want to know it. Yes, gaps abound in the family. But you can bridge each gap when you approach the other person with genuine curiosity and an authentic desire to understand. You might even be surprised at how well the conversation goes and how quickly the conflict resolves.

Is the Golden Rule Obsolete?

The Golden Rule reads as “do unto others as you would have the do to you.”  A recent article noted that only 14% of parents use the Golden Rule phrase in their parenting. More concerning, 28% stated they “are unfamiliar with the meaning of the Golden Rule.”  In an attempt to understand why this may be true, the authors’ first thought was “the Golden Rule is an arcane, ‘old-timey’ term.”  Other possible reasons the author gave included: “We live in a ‘me-first’ society,” “The taproots of ‘community’ are disappearing,” and “The problem is ‘other people’s children.'”  The authors also voiced a concern that all this may reflect “an erosion of the civic bonds that have held our communities together.”

That is disconcerting for our communities and our families. In fact, we need to put the Golden Rule back where it belongs—in our families. The best place to start putting the Golden Rule Back into our families is by practicing it in our daily lives as parents. After all, our children often imitate what they see in us. Begin to practice the Golden Rule by treating your child’s other parent as you would have them treat you.

  • When you talk about your child’s other parent, talk about them the way you’d want them to talk about you. Compliment them. Encourage them. Express appropriate affection for them. Tell others about their strengths and abilities. If you have something negative to say, talk to them in person, not to someone else. Yes, talk about your child’s other parent they way you’d like them to talk about you. 
  • Treat your child’s other parent the way you’d like them to treat you. Offer to help around the house. Show them kindness. Share appropriate shows of affection like a hug or kiss. Help with preparing meals. Show them respect. Serve them. Spend time with them. Listen intently to them. Laugh with them. Treat your child’s other parent the way you want them to treat you.

Second, treat other people you meet and know the way you’d like them to treat you. Our children are watching us interact with the world around us. They will learn from our example. Make it a good example, an example that shows how to “treat others as you want them to treat you.”

  • When you sit in traffic behind that slow driver, talk about them and treat them the way you’d like them to treat you.
  • When you check out at the store, treat the checkout clerk with the same respect you’d like them to give to you.
  • When you talk to your child’s friends, treat them the way you want them to treat you. This will include politeness and respect.
  • When you interact with your children’s teachers, treat them the way you want them to treat you.

Third, treat your children the way you want them to treat you.

  • Give your children the same respect you want them to show you.
  • Listen to your children the way you want your children to listen to you.
  • Enjoy time with your children, just like you want them to enjoy time with you.
  • Be polite with your children, just as you want them to be polite with you.
  • Be curious about your children’s lives, just as you’d like them to be curious about your life.

Finally, speak the words out loud in your home: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” It may sound like some “old-fashioned” words, but wouldn’t our world be a whole lot better if we actually did it? So say the words out loud. Let them be a guiding principle in your home, one that is spoken often. Your family could become a beacon of the Golden Rule…which, by the way, would make for a family filled with honor, grace, and celebration that may overflow into your community.

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