Search Results for: the best dad

Diet, Fitness, & Sleep…Oh My!

You can promote your family’s happiness, well-being, and even their flourishing by building a healthy family environment. It sounds too simple…too good to be true, I know. But a survey study from the University of Otago in New Zealand confirms it. In this study, researchers collected data on the sleep habits, exercise habits, and dietary habits of 1,111 young adults. They found sleep quality to be the most important health behavior predicting mental health and well-being—more than sleep quantity, exercise, and diet. That’s not to say these other factors aren’t important. They are. For instance, sleep quantity impacted depressive symptoms and well-being. Interestingly, too little sleep (under 8 hours) AND too much sleep (over 18 hours) contributed to an increase in depressive symptoms and a decrease in well-being for young adults. That middle ground, 8-9.7 hours of sleep, seemed to be the sweet spot in giving the best results for mood and well-being. (For more on sleep and creating an environment to promote quality sleep, read Your Teen & the Importance of Sleep and The Enemy of Teen Sleep. The information can apply to all ages.)

Physical activity also had an impact on depressive symptoms and well-being (although not as significant an impact as sleep quality). In fact, previous studies have shown that even an hour of physical activity improves mood!

Finally, eating raw fruits and vegetables impacted mood and well-being. Once again, we have to aim for the sweet spot in fruit and vegetable consumption. Less than 2 servings OR more than 8 servings lowered well-being (but not depressive symptoms). The sweet spot for improving well-being through the consumption of raw fruits and vegetables fell at 4.8 servings a day. (Another study suggested 8 servings had the greatest impact.)

So, if you want your family to experience less depression and a greater sense of well-being, get a good night’s sleep, engage in some daily physical activity, and eat your vegetables and fruits. It is well worth it to see your children in a positive mood and feeling good.

Helping Your Child Become Likeable: A Barrel of Fun

Children love to have fun…and having fun is no laughing matter. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Personality (2020) suggests that fun is one of three traits (prosocial behavior, leadership, and fun) shown to predict changes in a child’s “likeability and popularity” between the ages of nine and twelve years. This study, completed in Florida and Colombia, focused on fun. By letting peers nominate who was “likeable” and what made them likable, they discovered that children perceived by others as fun experienced an increase in the number of classmates who liked them over a two-month period. The perception of fun remained a key factor of “likeability” even after controlling for the influence of prosocial behavior, leadership, physical attractiveness, fairness, athletic ability, disruptiveness, and aggression. In other words, fun influenced likability.

Perhaps that’s not too surprising. After all, who doesn’t enjoy being around someone who is fun? But maybe we can learn something important for our families. Instilling a sense of fun into our family life may help our children learn to be fun. We often focus on teaching our children academics, sports, and manners. We teach them to listen and behave appropriately. Sometimes we become so “serious” about their academics, sports, music, and manners that we forget to teach them to have fun. And being fun is no laughing matter. How can we teach our children to have fun?

  • Model having fun. Let them see you engaging in activities and having fun. Even if you engage in a competitive sport, let them see how fun it is.
  • Laugh. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at a joke. Laugh at a funny show on TV. Laugh with your children and laugh as a family. Enjoy the moment and laugh. Teach your family to laugh because Laughter is No Laughing Matter for Families.
  • Encourage your children to do their best in their chosen activity. However, never let them lose sight of fun in that activity as well. Those who have fun are the same ones who do their best. Teach them to enjoy playing their sport or their instrument. Teach them to have fun in the activities they choose.
  • Encourage creativity. Whatever creative activities you enjoy—music, storytelling, art, photography, dance—whatever mode you may choose, enjoy creativity. (Discover Your Inner Musician is one way to encourage creativity.)
  • Play games together and make them fun. You can play anything from “Salad Bowl” to badminton. It doesn’t matter what you play. Just play and have fun. After all, it’s all fun and games…until it’s something more.
  • Tell a joke or two…or three or more. Make funny stories and jokes part of your family heritage. (My favorite joke, of course, is The Infamous Dad Joke.)

I’m sure there are more ways to teach your children to have fun. What are ways you encourage your children and your family to have fun? Don’t hold back. Share them below so we can all join in the fun and watch our children reap the benefits of learning to be fun.

The Way You Say the Things You Say

Have you heard the old song “The Way You Do The Things You Do”?  The way we do the things we do obviously communicates love and commitment, fills our spouse and family with joy,  and even brightens their day. But I want to focus on “the way you say the things you say.” Yes, “the way we say the things we say” can make or break our family relationships. Let me give you a few examples.

  • One area in which “the way we say the things we say” can make or break a relationship involves the cadence of our statements. My friend used to ask me about my thanksgiving every year. He would ask, “How was your Thanksgiving, turkey?” Did you notice that comma? That comma, that change in cadence, changed his question completely. He was no longer asking how the thanksgiving turkey tasted; he was calling me a turkey! Consider another statement I heard this weekend. Hungry children sat at the table and said, “Let’s eat grandma!”  Now, that sentence needs a change in cadence, a pause, because what they really meant to say was “Let’s eat, grandma!” As you can see, how we say the things we say makes a huge difference in how our spouse and children understand what we say.
  • Another area in which “the way we say the things we say” makes a difference involves volume. For instance, a whisper works well when we want to say something to our family without the whole world knowing. Sometimes though, we want to make a point. Our children have done something wrong and they need to stop. We begin to yell. But is that best? Probably not. Yelling scrambles our children’s brains. It signals that we are about to lose emotional control. Our children no longer hear what we want them to hear. Instead, they “shut down” or  focus on our immediate actions. They begin to think things like “There goes dad yelling again. I hate when he does that. He’s so rude. He always yells….” They miss the whole point of why we’re yelling.  Instead of yelling, use a firm voice. With a firm voice you are still in control of your emotions. You can turn to another person and speak in a normal conversational tone. Your children may call it yelling, but they are still able to listen. In fact, they are pulled in to listen. They are compelled to listen by the firmness in your voice. Keep your volume at a whisper, indoor conversational volume, or a firm volume when interacting with family. Avoid yelling and screaming…because the “way you say the things you say” does make a difference.
  • Tone of voice also impacts the “way we say the things we say.” Take the question “is she going out with him?” (I thank the same friend who called me a turkey for this example.) Notice how the sentence changes when the emphasis is placed on different words. “Is SHE going out with him?” “Is she going out with HIM?” “Is she GOING OUT with him?”  Each one says something slightly different and reveals the speaker’s different thoughts about the people involved. Aside from emphasis, you can make the same statement with a contemptuous tone, “Yeah I love you” or a loving tone, “Yeah I love you.” Tone makes all the difference in the world when it comes to “the way you say the things you say.”

Tone, volume, and cadence, “the way you say the things you say,” will endear your family to you or push them away from you. Listen closely and be sure “the way you say the things you say” matches with what you really want to say!

Fathers…Who Needs ‘Em?

If you watch TV very often you might find yourself asking, “Fathers, who needs ’em?” Fathers, according to the sitcoms, are the bumbling, awkward parents who need a woman to save them and their family relationships. Even in Disney movies fathers often fall short. They need their daughters to save them from their fearful, “dark age thinking” (think Little Mermaid or Moana). Fathers are consistently taken advantage of by the antagonist of the Disney movie (think of the Sultan in Aladdin or Jane’s father in Tarzan). Fathers also play the “bad guy” by restricting their children’s growth and exploration (like Chief Powhatan in Pocahontas or Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins).  Don’t get me wrong. I love Disney movies. But, if they give a true representation of fathers, who needs ’em (fathers, I mean)?

Wait, I know the answer to that question. Who needs fathers? WE ALL NEED FATHERS!!! In spite of the representation we see of fathers in film, we need fathers. In fact, these representations are far from accurate. They dramatically misrepresent fatherhood…and do not show the true value of fathers.

Case in point, consider the findings of meta-analysis consisting of 34 studies on fatherhood completed by William Jeynes’, professor at California State University. The studies in this meta-analysis involved a total of 37,300 participants and highlighted the unique role of fathers in childrearing. Contrary to the depiction that children had to bring their fathers out of their fearful, “dark-age” thinking, this meta-analysis revealed that fathers play a crucial role in the “preparatory aspect of child-rearing.”   In other words, fathers played an important role (over and above the role of mothers) in helping children successfully move into the world as independent adults. Fathers also tended to communicate higher expectations of their children than mothers, helping them become ready for the world outside of home. Rather than restrict their children’s growth and exploration, fathers encourage their children’s growth and exploration. While encouraging exploration, a father’s active involvement still led to lower rates of delinquency and substance abuse in their children. As these few results reveal, we all need loving fathers in our lives! (For more on the impact of fathers in the family read A Father’s Surprising Difference and Fathers: “Committed to a Precious Responsibility”)

So, if you’re a mother, encourage your children’s father to become actively involved in your children’s lives.

If you’re a father, get off the couch, turn off the TV, leave work at a decent hour, and get involved in your children’s lives.  Their success in life depends on it. And, you will never regret that you did it! (The Best Advice for Dads…Ever to learn the best thing I ever did as a father!)

The #1 Ingredient for Building Friendships With Your Children

I remember coming home from the park with my preschool daughters. One would say, “I made a friend today.” Her face glowing and her voice bubbling with excitement.

“Really,” I would ask. “What’s her name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where does she live?”

“I don’t know.” (Both times the “I don’t know” reply was said in a nonchalant manner, as though the question held no real relevance at all.)

“How do you know she’s your friend?”

“We played on the slide together,” she answered excitedly

“Will you see her again?”

“Yes, Daddy, she comes to the park too,” was the confident reply. 

 

This brief conversation, which occurred time and again, taught me an important lesson. Preschoolers build friendships based on shared activities. They don’t need to know a lot of information about the other person. They just want to play together. So, my preschool daughter could go to the park for an hour and walk away with a “new best friend” simply because they engaged in a fun activity together. That realization started me thinking (always a dangerous pastime)…if any little kid can become my daughter’s “new best friend” by playing together at the park for less than an hour, I could really build my relationship with her by enjoying a fun activity with her each day! We could play hide-n-seek, swing on the swings, make chocolate chip cookies, play catch, kick a ball, read a book…the possibilities are limitless. The activity itself is less important than the outcome. What is the outcome? Having a shared activity with my daughter.  In her eyes, that makes us “best friends.” And from those foundational preschool “best friend” activities, I begin to develop a lifelong relationship!  When she begins to base friendships more on who is a part of her life and world (which she will do in the elementary school years), I will have already laid the foundation of spending time with her. I can continue to spend time with her and become an integral part of her every day world. When she enters her teen years and begins to base her friendships on shared interests and trust, I will have laid the foundation of trust by spending consistent time with her through the preschool and elementary years. I will have laid the foundation of having shared interests with her by involving myself in her world throughout the elementary school years. Building on that foundation, I can remain available throughout her teen years, faithful in my presence and trusted with information. Simply by sharing activities with my daughter during her preschool years, I will have built a relationship that will sustain us into young adult and throughout the rest of our lives. A simple step during preschool will have set us on a trajectory leading to a constantly growing relationship. So, start building relationships early in your children’s lives…and enjoy a lifetime relationship. If you missed the beginning, don’t worry. You can always start spending time with them now…you can begin to share activities today…you become present in their world today…you can prove yourself trustworthy today. The important thing is to start. Let the relationship begin!

She Said What?!

My family accuses me of being “literal.”  I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I do ask a lot of questions. I really want to understand what they mean. Sometimes this has “literally” calmed my fears and saved the day (well, I think so anyway). For instance, when our children were little, my wife would say, “I’m going to put the kids down.” I used to work in a pet cemetery and “putting something down” was not a good thing. Surely she wouldn’t do that. Maybe she only planned to verbally slander them, putting them down with her words. Surely she wouldn’t do that either! But, she wasn’t holding our daughters, so how else could she “put them down”? (Maybe that’s the literal part that my family accuses me of.) Anyway, I had to ask. I had to check the accuracy of my understanding of her statement. Thankfully, she clarified. She only planned to get our daughters ready for their nap. (What a relief–why didn’t she just say so?)

Or, consider the time my daughter was nonchalantly talking about her day in sixth grade when she “pops the question:” “Can I date Jim” (names have been changed to protect the poor innocent guy). What? Date? Are you kidding me?  She’s only in sixth grade, she can’t get married yet! But wait…maybe I jump the gun. I decided to check the accuracy of my understanding of the term “date.” “What exactly do you mean by ‘date’ him?” My daughter replies with a confused look on her face, “I don’t know. I’d see him at school and we would talk.” This time I feel the need to explore a little further. “Would you hold hands?” “I don’t know. No, probably not.” “Would you kiss?” “Yuck…no! Dad, that’s gross.” I like that answer! “Sure, you can date Jim…as soon as I meet him.”

Communication is a process. It begins when one person wants to tell us something to express some need or desire. That person puts their need into words. Those words are code for what they really want to say. The listener has to decode the true meaning of the speaker’s code words…and that may prove tricky. After all, my wife coded “I’m going to get the girls ready for a nap” as “I’m putting the girls down.” I had to clarify my understanding of that code before making a rash response. My daughter coded “I want a friend of the male gender” as “Can I date him?” Whoa Dad, clarify your understanding before you get the shot gun! That is what active listening is all about—making sure you really understand the want, need, or desire behind the coded message. Doing so has some very positive results:

      ·   It promotes a warm relationship between parent and child…and ultimately with all family members.


·   It helps children learn problem-solving skills by teaching them to clarify their coded messages.


·   It models good listening for your children. A great by-product is that they will follow your lead and listen better to you in the future as well.


·   It teaches children that they can talk to you about anything, even negative feelings and problems, and elicit help in finding positive solutions.


·   It communicates how much you accept the speaker and what they have to say.

 Next time someone in your family tells you something that just sounds wrong, pull out your active listening decoder ring. Ask a few questions. Check the accuracy of your understanding. Make sure you understand what they truly mean behind those code words. Then you can give the best answer you have!

Take Off Your Family Mask For Halloween

One of my favorite Halloween costumes was a man wearing a slip over his clothing. On the slip he had written words like “denial,” “repression,” “sublimation,” “id,” “libido,” “superego,” and other Freudian terms. He said he was “A Freudian Slip.” I know, a little geeky…but I liked his costume. My other favorite costume is one that looks like a person riding a horse or broom. I encouraged my daughter to dress up with two of her friends, all in black, so they could kneel next to each other and be an ellipsis. Alright, I know, a little strange. But what would Halloween be if not a little strange? Those are silly Halloween costumes we might wear once a year but we may wear more serious masks around our family all year round. Seriously, have you ever hidden behind a “mask” around your loved ones? Have you hidden your true self behind a façade in the presence of your family? I have. Unfortunately, hiding our true self behind a mask will eventually cause serious problems in your family. So, as you prepare to take off your Halloween mask, consider taking off these masks as well?
     ·         The Superhero Mask. Some family members wear a Superhero Mask. Whenever a family member encounters a difficulty, small or large, the Superhero swoops in to rescue and save. Not able to get the homework done? Never fear, Super Dad is here. Conflict with a brother? No need to negotiate, Super Mom to the rescue. Is little Johnnie whining about a meal he does not like? Stop those tears, Super Cook will swoop in with a delicious meal of little Johnnie’s choice. Unfortunately, the Superhero Mask teaches our family that they never have to suffer or work to resolve a difficulty. Any time they experience a difficulty they can simply wait for a family member to jump in and save them. The one hiding behind a Superhero Mask robs his family of the opportunity to gain strength, resilience, and independence. He robs his family of the opportunity to learn the joys of persistence. Instead of saving his family, he enslaves them behind bars of an entitlement mentality that waits for someone else to do the work. Taking this mask off means allowing family members to own their own problems, suffer their own consequences, and even endure some hardship…all while the superhero remains unmasked and uninvolved.

·         The Everything’s-Fine Mask. This mask is especially insidious between spouses. From the outside the person looks and acts like everything is fine. On the inside, however, they are seething with anger, overwhelmed with sorrow, frustrated by lack of cooperation, irritated with the lack of help, or boiling over with any number of other emotions. The Everything’s Fine Mask hides the person’s true feelings and robs the family of any opportunity to change and grow more intimate. The person behind the mask eventually feels taken advantage of and may become resentful…or even blow up in anger. Yes, the Everything’s-Fine Mask is a time bomb waiting to explode. Take this mask off by speaking the truth in love. Be vulnerable. Remove the mask and reveal your true feelings. Lovingly let your family know what bothers you. Then, stick around for an honest and loving discussion that can lead to the resolution of any frustration and anger that lurks behind the mask. You will discover that your family truly does love you and is more than willing to work with you in banishing the Everything’s-Fine Mask!

·         The It’s-All-Your-Fault Mask. You know this mask when you hear those infamous words, “It’s not my fault. I wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t….” The person wearing the It’s-All-Your-Fault Mask casts blame on everyone but themselves. They refuse to take responsibility for any misbehavior, hurtful words, or wrong choices. This mask is humbling to remove. It involves accepting responsibility for one’s own actions. Removing the mask may mean becoming humble enough to apologize for hurtful words or rude actions. Removing this mask and humbly accepting personal responsibility is also empowering. It means accepting power over one’s choices and growing in integrity. As we become known as a person of integrity, relationships improve and grow more intimate. So, take a risk. Humbly remove the It’s-All-Your-Fault Mask and accept responsibility for your actions…starting in your family.

·         The Nobody-Loves-Me Mask. The Nobody-Loves-Me Mask sneaks up on us at the worst times. You’ve seen it. The person wearing this mask begins to mope around and look dejected. When asked, they simply reply, “Nobody loves me.” After further questioning you may discover that this person feels unloved because of an unintentionally hurtful statement. No one else knew that the statement bothered them. Rather than put on the Everything’s-Fine Mask, they put on the Nobody-Loves-Me Mask. They withdraw and sulk, silently waiting for other family members to notice them, chase them, and express undying love for them. Not realizing why this person is sulking, the family leaves them alone. The person wearing the mask takes this to mean—you guessed it, “Nobody loves me.” The best way to remove this mask is through communication. Do not expect the rest of your family to read your mind. Simply express your need for clarification on the hurtful statement. Express your desire for some affirmation or loving attention. In other words, quit sulking, take off the mask, and interact with your family. You will soon discover how much they truly do love you and want to involve you in the family activities.
 
Enjoy your Halloween activities this year. But, at the end of the night, when you take off your Halloween mask, take off these four masks as well. No need to be the Superhero…in fact, you can become a true hero when you let your family members experience the consequences of their own behavior. Don’t hide behind a mask. Speak the truth in love; humbly accept responsibility for your own mistakes; apologize when necessary; communicate with your family; and clarify your own need for affection. Although it may prove difficult to take these masks off, the end results will make your effort well worth your while!

How to Increase Your Child’s Anxiety

Today I had the opportunity to speak with several teens and college age adults. Each one expressed nervous anxiety about life. Many factors contribute to anxiety in people this age. After all, they are navigating a major life transition. Everything in their life is changing. Teens and young adults search to discover their place in an adult world. Decisions are becoming more life altering and consequences more serious. Knowledge previously practiced on paper now has to be applied in practical, real-life circumstances. New friends come into their life and old friends often drift away. These teens and college age adults desire greater independence but still find themselves depending on parents. All of this can create a great deal of nervous anxiety.
 
Parents can help reduce nervousness in their teen or young adult…or they can add anxiety to their child’s already growing case of nerves. In case you would like to increase your child’s anxiety as they navigate their transition into adult, here are five ways to help.
     ·         Always expect more than your child has achieved. If they get an 89% on a test, tell them they should have worked harder to get a 91%. When they do some chore around the house, complain about the part left undone. Never let them think they have done “good enough.” After all, you need them to pursue being the best. It’s a tough world out there.

·         Do not offer them any encouragement, thanks, or praise. They do not need to receive thanks for doing what is expected of them. They will not receive praise and encouragement when they get out in the real world; so toughen them up now. Instead of offering thanks or encouragement, simply point out the next task that needs finished.

·         Oh, along the same lines…never say “I love you;” they may get the wrong idea and think that they have already done enough to “earn your love.”

·         Do not trust them to make decisions on their own. Make all their decisions for them. You determine when they will go to bed and when they will get up. You control your house…and that means you control them. Do not give them responsibility; you manage it all. Some might say you are over-controlling, but you have to maintain total control if you want your child to grow up “a bundle of nerves.”

·         Keep a close eye on your child at all times. I do not mean to simply watch them—I mean overprotect them. Make sure they never experience any discomfort and never have to struggle. If you see them struggle, step right in there and take care of whatever they might struggle with. Whatever they get involved in, you become involved as well. Be actively involved in leading every activity in which they participate–from scouting to youth group to going out with friends. Never leave your children alone…they need your protection.
 
There you have it—five simple ways to create nervous anxiety in your children. If, on the other hand, you would rather your children learn to manage stress and become less anxious as they navigate the journey into adulthood, try these ideas:
     ·         Have fun with your child. Take time to play, laugh, and enjoy activities together.

·         Allow your child to perform less than perfect; in fact, let them fail at times. Do not rescue them from failing. We all learn great lessons through failures. An important lesson to learn is that we survive in spite of failure; and even more important, we grow through failure. So sit back and enjoy some minor failures. (
Click here to see a celebration of “failure.”)

·         Offer words of encouragement and thanks whenever possible. This will not weaken your children but strengthen them. Words of encouragement and gratitude let children know they are appreciated and admired. And, by the way, lay on the words of love and affirmation while you’re at it. When a person knows they are loved, they have less need to be anxious.

·         Teach your children problem-solving skills. As they learn these skills, let them make age appropriate decisions on their own. Begin to let your late teen make decisions regarding how late they stay up. Talk to them about the wisdom of their decision rather than forcing them to go to bed when you determine. This means giving your child an increasing amount of responsibility as they grow…and, allowing them to suffer the consequences of those decisions. Let them learn from the little decisions and mistakes as they grow so they will be better prepared to handle the big decisions of life.

·         Allow your children to experiment and explore. Feed their curiosity. Encourage them to explore. Yes, this can be a bit scary for a parent; but children learn to manage unexpected difficulties and unforeseen problems as they experiment and explore. They gain a sense of pride and personal power as they manage those difficulties. Let your children explore the world in age appropriate ways.

My Family is Killing Me

My family is killing me. I know that may sound a bit extreme, even over the top; but, it is true. Every time I turn around they want to end some part of my life. I believe it is all part of a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. God Himself is in on it. They have all joined forces to conspire against me…to make me a better person, to force me to grow more mature in character, to become godly, even Christ-like. Yes, my family is killing me…and, well, it’s a good thing. I hate to admit it, but I tend to be impatient at times. If you do not believe me, take a ride in rush hour traffic with me. I don’t understand rush hour traffic. It makes no sense. I have no patience for it. I hate rush hour traffic. Anyway, I am impatient. Fortunately, my family is killing my impatience. They have located the tumor of impatience and, with surgical precision, they are cutting it out of my life. In traffic they make comments like, “Gee Dad, we’re behind a big, slow truck…your favorite thing.” We all smile. Well, they smile and I grit my teeth; but, it helps me stay calm…and patient. After all, I want to model patience for my children. They also help me remain patient when I feel the urge to shoot my computer or when I mumble a desire to avoid the long line for everyone’s favorite ride in the amusement park. Thanks to my family, impatience is dying a slow, sometimes agonizing death. While impatience dies, my family is painstakingly grafting in patience to fill the emptiness left behind. Patience…what a nice change.
 
My family is also killing my need for control. You may find this hard to believe, but controlling teenage daughters is like herding cats. They want their own lives. They have friends they want to hang out with and activities that seem to call their names. I cannot control their interests. I cannot control their thoughts. I cannot control what they do when they are out with friends. I can only trust them. As much as parents like to believe we have control over our family, we cannot make our maturing children do the right thing. We have little control over their behavior when they leave our presence to go out with friends. Don’t get me wrong…I believe in discipline. And, I do have wonderful daughters…I am truly blessed. But, truth be told, as children grow into teens and young adults, parents have less and less control over their lives. We can discuss behaviors, point out consequences of various choices, and encourage appropriate behaviors; but, we cannot control their thoughts and actions. We have to give up control—let it die. We have to learn to trust that they will remember what we have taught them through the elementary years. We have to trust their decision-making skills and their ability to learn from their experience. We have to trust them…and sometimes it is killing me. See what I mean? My family is killing me.
 
I don’t know about you, but I like to be right. No, I love to be right. In fact, I have argued over the dumbest things simple because I want to be right…and sometimes (only sometimes) I was. Sometimes I even continue to argue, trying to prove myself right, even after I realized I was wrong, very wrong. I know it doesn’t make sense; but really, come on, you know what I mean. We love to be right. However, my family is slowly killing off my need to be right. They are teaching me that some things just don’t matter. I’m also learning that they really do know things I do not know…like what color the living room is painted or how the Federal Reserve works or…oh, there are so many things they know that I do not know. So, I’m learning to listen carefully, completely, and with the intent to understand before I offer my “right answer.” Many times I don’t even have to offer “my right answer.” I just need to listen. I don’t have to be right every time. Other people can be right. In fact, other people are often right! And, I can be wrong…and it’s killing me.
 
One more thing. We can all be somewhat self-centered at times. I know I can. I want that last piece of pie. I like to sit in a particular chair in the living room. After all, it’s my house and my chair. Oops, sorry family…it is our house and our chair. We are a family…and, my family is killing my self-centered me. They are helping me learn to use words like “our” and “we” instead of “mine” and “me.” Interestingly, I find myself becoming happier as my self-centeredness dies. I have discovered that I experience greater joy when I help my family rather than help myself, when I compromise rather than demand my way, when I listen to their needs rather than push my agenda. Truly, I have never had more excitement and joy than when I watch a family member achieve a personal dream and excitedly talk about it. Yes, my family is killing my self-centeredness and replacing it with a good dose of unselfish benevolence.
 
So, my little secret is out. There is a conspiracy afoot. Yes, my family is killing me…and, well, I am glad! It is a good thing to let some character traits die and replace them with something better. So, go ahead family. Give it your best shot. Cut out my immature character traits and graft in some new improved traits like patience, trust, understanding, and unselfish benevolence. Aye, if I get enough new and improved traits grafted in, I will be like the six million dollar man….”We can rebuild him. We can make him better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster….” Oops, sorry about that. I got carried away. It’s all part of the conspiracy!

6 Ingredients to Satisfy Your Children’s Hunger for Security

Do you know what children hunger for most? Security—the kind that flows from relationship. More than anything, children want to know they are secure in their parents’ love and affection. They long to know the security of unconditional acceptance in their parents’ lives. If this hunger goes unsatisfied, children remain restless. They go on the prowl, constantly on the lookout for a relationship that provides acceptance, love, and affection. They will search through the cupboards of community, school, peer groups, and social clubs to find it; and most likely “find it in all the wrong places.” In their restless search, they will struggle with feelings of insignificance, find themselves taken advantage of, and still come up hungry for the security that only a family can provide. How can you satisfy this hunger for security that drives your children? Let me suggest 6 ingredients to satisfy your children’s hunger for security.
 
     1.      Listen. Don’t lecture. Don’t jump in to solve the problem. Listen. Listen with your ears to hear the words and their tone of voice to hear the emotion. Take time to not only understand what they say but what they mean as well. Listen with your eyes. Observe their facial expression and body so you can better understand the emotion behind the words. Finally, listen with your actions as you respond to the need expressed. If they express a need for assistance, assist them. If they express a need to be heard, hear them. If they express a need for acknowledgement, offer praise and congratulations.
 
    2.      Catch ’em in the act…of doing something good. When you do, give voice to your pride. Let them hear the words, “I’m proud of you.” Express your pride in private and in public. You can speak your words of pride or write them in a note. Either way, let them know that you are proud of the person they have become, the effort they put forth, the growth you observe, the positive behavior they engage in, and the good decisions they have made. Even Jesus received the praise of His Father. Take the time to acknowledge your children’s good behavior.
 
     3.      Offer consistent discipline. Consistency in discipline requires that we acknowledge positive behavior and correct inappropriate behavior. Remaining consistent means we care enough to bring out the very best in our children. We nurture and reveal their “natural bent,” their God-given strengths, abilities, and personality. As we remain consistent in teaching and shaping their godly character, they come to know us as steady. They also learn that their misbehavior does not overwhelm us. We, as parents, remain patient, loving, and strong in the face of their misbehavior, guiding them toward a lifestyle that will bring greater happiness and fulfillment. This knowledge helps them grow secure in our love and affection, even in the midst of misbehavior and loving discipline.    
 
     4.      Build routines into your family life. Routines build a level of predictability into family life that provides a sense of security and stability for our children. It allows our children to anticipate “what comes next” and to relax in the knowledge that certain things happen on a regular basis. They come to know that Mom and Dad may leave for work or the store, but they always return. They look forward to regular family mealtimes and the interactions that accompany those meals. They grow in the stability of a regular bedtime and the benefits of rest. As families practice morning routines, mealtime routines, bedtime routines, and various family traditions, children develop an identity and stability that promotes security.   
 
     5.      Pour on the affection. Let your children know you love and value them. Show your affection with a hug, a good night kiss, a high five, a squeeze of the shoulders. Pour on affectionate words of admiration and love by saying, “I love you” before bed or as you leave the house for work. Satisfy their need for affection by remaining true to your word and keeping your promises. Spice up the flavor of affection with unconditional acceptance…even when your children are moody, grumpy, or irritable.
 
     6.      Finally, give your children your time. Adding in the ingredients described above will demand your time. Give it freely. Children determine what is most valuable in your life by watching where you invest your time. Let them see you investing your time in your family and, specifically, in their lives.
 
6 ingredients that, when mixed together, will satisfy your child’s hunger for security—the meat and potatoes of security. Perhaps you can add in some dessert. Enjoy!
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