Tag Archive for differences

Will Becoming a Parent Strengthen or Weaken Your Marriage

Will becoming a parent strengthen or weaken your marriage? Well, it depends. Becoming a parent carries a great deal of responsibility. It demands our time and our efforts. It occupies our mind 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s no wonder then, that the demanding responsibilities of becoming a parent can either strengthen or weaken our marriages. Why does it strengthen some and weaken others? What makes the difference?  More importantly, how can we make sure that parenting will strengthen our marriages and not weaken them? Those are good questions. Here are five aspects of parenting that will determine whether becoming a parent strengthens or weakens your relationship to your spouse, the “love of your life.”

  • Your ability to accept your differences. Let’s face it. No one marries a clone of themselves. (And really, who would want to?) You are different than our spouse. All that being said, you and your spouse will likely have some different ideas when it comes to parenting. You will have different ways of interacting with your children. For instance, men often tend to engage in more rough-and-tumble play while women often seem more nurturing and comforting. Sure, men comfort and women play, but generally speaking, men and women engage their children differently. And our children benefit from both types of interactions. Accept those differences.
  • Your ability to compromise. You and your spouse have different backgrounds. You likely experienced different styles of parenting when you were growing up in your respective homes. Discuss those differences in parenting ideology. Share your ideas with one another. Then, compromise. Yes. Compromise. Pick the best of both styles of parenting and compromise. If you struggle to compromise, seek advice from a mentor or counselor.
  • Your ability and determination to support one another. Becoming a parent can arouse every insecurity you ever had. You will likely second guess yourself and wonder if you’re doing the right thing or not. And sometimes you will make mistakes. (Fortunately love covers a multitude of mistakes.) When you have doubts, find a quiet place with your spouse and ask them for input. And if you disagree with something your spouse does as a parent, don’t disagree and fight about it in front of your children. Instead, find a quiet place where you can talk with your spouse one-on-one about what happened. Share ideas. Come up with a plan of how you can both respond “the next time” a similar situation arises. In other words, support one another. Invest as a couple 100% but agree that when one needs a rest, the other will “pick up the slack.” Work together. Compliment. Encourage. Support one another.
  • Communicate. All three of the suggestions so far involve one thing: Communication. Learn to communicate with your spouse in a respectful, loving way. Approach with love. Speak gently and calmly. Listen intently and fully. Communication is the heart of a life-long marriage.
  • Invest in your marriage. It is easy to get so caught up in raising children that your marriage “gets put on the back burner.” Don’t let that happen. One of the greatest gifts you can provide for your children is a happy marriage. Let them bear witness to your love. Allow them to see you give your spouse a simple hug and kiss…often. Let them hear you tell your spouse, “I love you” every day. Sure, they will say “Ewww.” But knowing you love one another will also provide them with a sense of security. So, plan regular date nights. Take time to encourage your children to “entertain themselves” while you and your spouse talk about the day. Let your children know that your spouse is your first love and will continue to be your love, even after they have “flown the coup.”  Invest in your marriage.     

Will becoming a parent strengthen or weaken your marriage? It depends on your intentional effort to accept your differences, compromise, support one another, communicate, and invest in your marriage. Practice wisely and give your children the precious gift of witnessing their parents in a stronger, healthier marriage.

Serving Up Family Happiness

Serve up a big bowl of happiness for your spouse and children today. Here are the ingredients.

  1. Start with a big scoop of acceptance. Every member of the family needs to feel acceptance. They need to know they are accepted “no matter what.” They need to know that acceptance is not conditioned on behavior, performance, or beliefs. It is unconditional. This allows them to explore, grow, and mature. Lack of acceptance, on the other hand, increases stress hormones, decreases coping skills, and even hinders immune functioning. It can contribute to physical or emotional illness. Lack of acceptance hinders change. Acceptance will open the doors for change. Acceptance promotes healthy relationships and healthy emotional development. So make this first scoop of acceptance extra big. Give a double dose to everyone in the family.
  2. Add a delicious topping of tolerance. Tolerance does not mean “letting anything go.” No, tolerance simply means to accept our differences, to even enjoy each person’s unique contribution to the family and world. Tolerance accepts each person’s uniqueness by encouraging each one to “come into his/her own.” Tolerance knows that our differences add beauty to our relationship and strength to our opportunities. In appreciating each family member’s unique gifts, we can become the “Michelangelo” to each one’s dreams. Be gracious with the topping of tolerance…really gracious…pour it on.
  3. Then sprinkle on some hope. Hope looks to the future. Hope believes fun and intimate joys wait for us “just around the river bend.” Hope anticipates adventure and excitement, laughter and joy, even though there will be times of sorrow and stresses as well. So put on lots of sprinkles. Pour on the sprinkles through your actions and your words.
  4. After you’ve done all this get out a real bowl and fill it with ice cream (I prefer chocolate chip cookie dough). I mean fill it up. Then pour on some caramel, chocolate, and even a little marshmallow and whip cream. Throw on some sprinkles…the colorful ones, they’re the best. Get a spoon for everyone and enjoy the treat. Tell a few family stories while you eat. Dream about your next outing. Laugh. Have a good time. Serve up the happiness!

There you have it, a big bowl of happiness. Enjoy!

Happiness is life served up with a scoop of acceptance, a topping of tolerance and sprinkles of hope, although chocolate sprinkles also work.  –Robert Brault

How to Raise an Overly Self-Critical Child (…or not)

No, we do not want to raise self-critical children. We want to raise hard-working children who accept themselves and others. Unfortunately, we can easily slip into a style of parenting that promotes self-criticism and perfectionism in our children. How do parents unwittingly nurture self-criticism? Let me offer a couple examples.military police

  • Our child is working on a puzzle but keep trying to put the wrong piece in the wrong place at the wrong time. We jump in to take the wrong piece out and quickly replace it with the correct piece. In effect, we took over the puzzle for a short moment. We robbed our child of the chance to recognize their mistake, learn from it, and correct it on their own. We communicated they can’t do it on their own, they’re never good enough. We’ve nurtured a self-critical tendency toward anything less than perfect.
  • Our child starts to color their tree pink. In our desire to teach, we jump in to correct. We quickly take the pink crayon from them and give them a green one while explaining, “Look, those trees are green.” We intruded upon our child’s imaginative perception. We squelched their creativity at that moment and limited the way they can look at the world to align only with our perspective or the common perspective. We also sparked a moment of doubt about their decisions and aroused a fear of being different. We’ve nurtured a self-critical attitude toward any uniqueness in their lives and art.
  • Our teen wants to take an extra music or art class. We jump in to redirect them to something more useful, a math or science class for example. We explain the necessity of math and science as well as the frivolity of music or art. After all, they have to graduate from high school and find a well-paying career. Eventually, they succumb to our nagging and begrudgingly take a math class. We have subtly taken over their schedule and intruded upon their dreams. We’ve communicated their inability to make wise choices, explore options, have multiple interests, and even learn from mistakes. We’ve nurtured a self-critical tendency toward interests and decisions that don’t “fit the mold.”

In each of these scenarios well-meaning parents intruded upon their child’s decision and activity. They took over an experiment, a creative expression, a self-exploring decision. They left their child no choice but to “do it” the way their parent wanted it done. They put excessive pressure on their child to comply with their desire and their needs. When parents intrude upon their children’s lives, children become more likely to exhibit an overly self-critical nature and maladaptive perfectionism. What can a parent do instead?

  1. Focus on effort, NOT achievement. Recognize your child’s effort in everything they do.
  2. Acknowledge specifics of what your child has done right, or the things you admire, BEFORE discussing mistakes.
  3. Allow your child to experiment “outside the box.” Encourage creativity and uniqueness. Let them do things “their way” even if it takes longer, is not the traditional method, or is different than the way you would do it. You might explain how you do it, but allow them to try their unique approach as well.
  4. Let your child struggle with mistakes and choices. Allow them time to learn from their mistakes. While they struggle, do not say “I told you so” or “If you would have listened….”

Practice these four tips and you can help your children develop a sense of adventure and joy in exploring, learning, and growing.

6 Tips for Practical Acceptance

We all long for acceptance. We want to be an integral part of a group, especially our family. Feeling accepted creates a sense of safety and security. Knowing others accept us gives us a sense of personal value. It helps us realize that “I am loved no matter what.” If we do not feel accepted, we do not feel valued. Instead, we feel abandoned and rejected. We become driven to find acceptance; we may fight for acceptance…or just give up and believe ourselves unacceptable. Many teens who struggle with drugs, a lack of motivation, self-injurious behaviors, or unhealthy relationships are longing for acceptance but looking
for it in “all the wrong places.” When I ask them to explain what compels them to engage in these negative behaviors, they often describe the acceptance they find among others who engage in similar behaviors or a sense that “nobody cares so why should I.”


Parents kissing their cute little babyLet me state the obvious: Acceptance begins in the family! Children need acceptance from their parents and one another. Wives need acceptance from their husbands. Husbands need acceptance from their wives. And, when you get right down to it, parents desire to have the acceptance of their children, especially as their children move toward adulthood. Acceptance begins in the home. How can we practice acceptance in the family?

  • Be tolerant of differences among your family. A family blossoms into full beauty when they not only tolerate individual differences but cherish those differences. Take time to learn about your children’s interests. Find a way to enjoy your spouse’s hobby. Learn to appreciate your parents’ talents. Encourage the unique characteristics of each family member and even help provide opportunities for them in those areas.
  • Rather than nag your spouse or children to change, consider the possibility of humbly changing yourself.  Accept that your spouse or children might have a different opinion than you, an opinion that is still valid. Quit nagging, change your perspective, and, when necessary, change your actions. Of course there are some things that you cannot accept. I’m not talking about those things. But, take an honest look and make sure the issue really is worth the nagging. If not (and it probably is not), practice acceptance. Replacing nagging with acceptance is an act of grace and an expression of love.
  • Be aware of developmental abilities. I know this sounds basic, but many people forget to practice acceptance in this area. We yell at our four-year-old for being “immature.” We complain about our six-year-old son constantly fidgeting. We demand our eight-year-old remember to “play her position” on the soccer field. But, in each instance, the child is just not developmentally ready to meet that demand; and, complaining about it only sends a message that they “are not good enough.” Rather than demand more “mature” behavior, accept family member’s at the developmental level they have achieved. Let kids be kids.
  • Be aware and accepting of personality differences.  Maybe your meek husband does not push to get ahead or your gregarious wife loves to talk. Accept those unique personality traits. Remember how that unique personality initially attracted you to your spouse.
  • Quit comparing. Comparing communicates “you’re not quite good enough.” Instead of comparing, recognize and talk about the strengths your spouse and children possess. Talk about the aspects you admire and appreciate in your spouse and children.
  • Express your love, admiration, and encouragement as energetically as you express disappointment in unwise decisions, anger at disobedience, or fear of failure.


When you practice these six practical ways to communicate acceptance in your family, you make your family feel valued, significant, and confident. More importantly, you express a deep love for your family. So why wait? Start practicing today!

Nourish the Snow White in Your Life

I love the Disney animation “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”—a classic story of jealousy turned to hatred, the love that battle against that hatred, and the final victory of “true love’s kiss.” Although this classic, an adaptation of an even older Grimm fairy tale, was released in 1937, it is still reenacted every day in our marriages and families. Every day we nourish our family members with a “poison apple” or “love’s true kiss.” Our words and actions either result in an inviting, beautiful red apple filled with poison or the life-giving nourishment of true love. Some words and actions are poison disguised within an inviting red apple. Those beautiful, yet poisonous, red apples cast a spell on family members, making it impossible for them to change, grow, and mature. Through the poison apples of words and actions we control the lives of our children and our spouse. We lull them to sleep. How might we use what appears beautiful and inviting on the outside to limit our family’s life and keep them from living out their authentic beauty? Here are a few ways:
     ·         Controlling what our children can or cannot feel—“you have no reason to be upset about that, now stop pouting.”
     ·         Limiting our spouse’s opportunities to develop friendships.
     ·         Limiting our family member’s opportunities to develop interests and hobbies that we do not like.
     ·         Demanding that our teens and/or spouse dress the way we tell them to.
     ·         Demanding that our family watch only the TV shows we want to watch or listen only to the music we want them to listen to.
     ·         Structuring and scheduling every moment of every day for our family, implying that they cannot manage their life independent of us.
     ·         Sending the subtle message that your family members are not competent (and cannot become competent) by putting in “the final touches” on a job or stepping in to redo a job they did poorly.
     ·         Punishing family members for mistakes such as spilling a drink.
     ·         Name-calling, constant criticism, or expressions of dissatisfaction about jobs they put in the effort to complete.
     ·         Making negative predictions such as “you’ll never amount to anything” (even if said in the heat of anger).
     ·         Threatening unrealistic punishments.
     ·         Abandoning a family member in the midst of an argument or heated discussion.
Hopefully, you do not nourish with poison apples but with “love’s true kiss,” like Prince (or Princess) Charming. Prince Charming wanted to bring life to the Snow White. He desired to bring out her best. His “kiss of true love” animated Snow White, filled her life with love and admiration, and brought her true self to life. He nourished her with a love that brought out her best. Here are some ways you can nourish your family like Prince Charming nourished Snow White:
     ·         Help each family member identify their dream and then achieve that dream.
     ·         Find and openly admire characteristics you admire about each family member.
     ·         Offers thanks and gratitude for things your family members do.
     ·         Learn about your children’s day and your spouse’s day. Show a genuine interest in their lives. Find out what they like and don’t like. Build a map of their activities, interests, fears, and dreams.
     ·         Share time with your children and spouse.
     ·         Discover what brings your spouse happiness and help bring those things into her life.
     ·         Promote your family’s welfare. This may mean offering loving discipline to your children.
     ·         Accept your spouse’s influence.
     ·         Allow family members to explore interests, even if those interests differ from your own.
     ·         Give up what you want in order to let your family enjoy something they want.
     ·         Encourage your children and your spouse. Look for reasons to praise them.
     ·         Share lots of loving hugs and playful interactions.
So, are you more like the Wicked Queen or Prince Charming in your words and actions? Do you carry a basket of beautiful red apples filled with poison or a basket of “true love’s kisses”? It’s your choice. You can choose which basket you use to nourish your family. One leads to pain. The other leads to joy and fulfillment. To me, the choice seems obvious…so, let’s all choose wisely.

Personality, My Daughter & A Wedding

When my oldest daughter was almost 3-years-old, she played the part of flower girl in a friend’s wedding. She dressed in a beautiful white dress and dropped flowers on the carpet before the bride walked the aisle to marry her husband-to-be. Vows exchanged and pictures taken, we proceeded to the wedding reception. I love wedding receptions—a time of great joy and celebration. Of course, 3-year-olds love them, too. My daughter was dancing, laughing, and having a good time. Soon, the dance floor cleared except for the bride and groom. As the music played, the bride sat on a chair in the middle of the empty dance floor and the groom prepared to remove her garter. Suddenly, a near 3-year-old dressed in a beautiful white dress broke out of the crowd, ran across the dance floor, and tackled the groom. She wrestled him to the ground. The crowds’ laughter slowly turned to stunned murmuring. “Who’s that child’s parent?” I tried to hide, but I couldn’t. Someone had to go get my daughter. Mustering all the dignity I could, and under the watchful eyes of wedding guests and family, I walked across the dance floor to retrieve my daughter. After apologizing, I discovered that the bride and groom really didn’t mind. Apparently, the guests didn’t mind either. They thought it was “cute” and “funny.” But, I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed. Unlike my daughter, I really don’t like being in the center of a large crowd.
“Unlike my daughter”…that’s the point. My daughter and I are different. We have different personalities. My daughter loves to be involved. She loves to be around people and jumps right into activities. She doesn’t mind “putting herself out there.” I admire that about her. I, on the other hand, enjoy one-on-one interactions. I take a while to warm up to an activity; and, I prefer to practice before “performing” for other people. I love my daughter’s personality. It allows her so many opportunities. But, we are different…not just my daughter and I, but everyone in my family. We have different personalities and idiosyncrasies. I tend to get up early. My wife enjoys sleeping. I set my alarm at the softest setting possible. My wife and daughters set their alarm to a deafening roar that causes me to jump out of the bed, grasp my heart, and check to see if I’m still alive.
All these differences remind me of an ancient Hebrew proverb: “train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The word used for “the way he should go” actually means “according to his habits and interests” (McDowell). In other words, as family shepherds we need to know our children’s particular bent, their individual personalities and interests. As we do, our children gain a sense of value and worth in our acceptance of their individual differences. We give them an added sense of security when we nurture and discipline them according to their particular personality. That may mean we discipline each child in a slightly different way while holding them all to the same standard of behavior. One child may comply with a request after getting “the look.” Another child may simply stare back and say “Hi Dad” in response to “the look.” I know because these two options describe my two daughters. Still, my wife and I strive to hold both daughters to the same standard even though one requires a more firm directive as we “train them up…according to their bent.”
Those differences, the uniqueness of each family member, add to the beauty and strength of family. Where my “natural bent” falls short, my wife’s “natural bent” picks up…and vice versa. My daughters, who don’t mind “putting themselves out there,” and my wife, from whom they inherit that trait, have taught me how to become more involved and social in a group. I am grateful for that. Hopefully, my uniqueness has also taught them something as well. Our differences help us grow and learn. Our differences add to the complex beauty of our families. As family shepherds, we accept the differences of each family member. Even more, we cherish those unique traits as opportunities to promote growth, cooperation, and love.