Tag Archive for dreams

Sweet Marital Moments That “Keep On” Giving

We all experience disagreements and arguments with our spouses. We probably even get irritated and agitated with them from time to time. Researchers in this study opened the door for such experiences by asking 154 middle-aged and older heterosexual married couples to have an intimate conversation about a “conflict in their relationship.” Can you imagine? “Have an argument about something you know you disagree about… and we’ll record you while you do.” Sounds like an invitation for trouble, doesn’t it? But researchers invited this trouble into the lab by asking couples to have this type of conversation in their presence every five years from 1989 to 2009. Trained coders observed all the videos to identify times the couple experienced moments of shared positive and negative emotions during the conflict conversation as well as positive synchrony. They witnessed these shared emotions and synchrony through nonverbal signs or unconscious “mirroring,” subtle facial expressions, head nods, smiles, leaning forward, tone of voice, body language, etc. The researchers also measured each person’s heart rate, recording times in which both partner’s heart rates slowed down or sped up simultaneously.

What did they discover? Couples who, even in conflict, shared positive moments of humor and affection and whose heart rates “beat as one” (speeding up or slowing down together) enjoyed better physical health over a 13-year period and were more likely to still be alive 30 years later. In other words, couples whose hearts literally “beat as one” and who could inject moments of humor and affection into their moments of conflict, lived longer, healthier lives. Isn’t that a wonderful gift to give your spouse?

This knowledge invites us to build a marital environment in which our hearts “beat as one” (aka—to become attuned) and an environment that will encourage mutual affection. You can do that by:

  1. Become a student of your spouse. Remain curious about your spouse, their world, and their thought life. Learn about your spouse’s day. Remain curious about their hopes and dreams as well as their worries and concerns. Enjoy conversations about their perspectives on the world around us. Learn something about your spouse every day.
  2. Sync your lives. Eat together. Go to bed together. Spend time each day talking together. Have a regular date night. Worship together. Sure, you will still have times you do things as an individual. But when you do things together you “sync your lives,” you get your hearts “beating as one.”
  3. Become your spouse’s number one fan. When I was in high school, I knew a woman who was our school’s number one fan. She knew the students and the teachers. She attended the school functions. And she only had good things to say about “her school” and “her kids.” Become your spouse’s number one fan. Learn all about them. Give voice to the things you admire about them. Have only good things to say about “your spouse” to other people. Praise them in public. Encourage them and thank them privately and in public. Let your spouse experience your adoration through your words and actions.
  4. Turn toward your spouse. When problems arise, turn toward your spouse for support and encouragement. And offer your spouse support and encouragement when difficulties arise in their lives. When times are good, turn toward your spouse to celebrate and enjoy.
  5. Dream together. Talk about your what would be your dream for 5-years, 10-years, even 15-years down the road. Start dreaming about your 25th or 30th anniversary when you get married…& don’t stop dreaming about it together. Talk about your dream vacation and plan how you might make it happen. Discuss your personal dreams and help one another achieve those dreams. Dream together and live toward your dreams.

These five ways you can create sweet marital moments that will help you and your spouse live a long, healthy life…and a happily married life. Once again, isn’t that a tremendous gift to give your spouse?

The Blessing of a “Royal We”

My spouse and I live alone in our house now…just the two of us. Our children have grown into beautiful young ladies, each of them living in their own homes. We can even have a pillow fight without anyone interfering or telling us to “settle down.” In addition, when my wife asks,” Did we run the dishwasher?” or I inquire if “we bought eggs?” we know what we are talking about.  Still, questions like that give me pause.

Why? For starters, it’s obvious that the person asking the question knows they didn’t do the task. The objective truth of the question asks if their spouse did the task. But rather than using the pronoun “you,” we both use the “Royal We.”

But that’s not really why the “Royal We” give me pause. The “Royal We” gives me pause because it reminds me how grateful I am to be part of our marital team. The “Royal We” reminds me that I am not alone. I live with a spouse who loves me and works with me to create a joyous marriage and life. Sure, we have our individual interests and strengths. We enjoy individual hobbies. We have our personal sensitivities and struggles. But, encompassing all our personal nuances and idiosyncrasies is the protective, loving “Royal We.”

As charter members of our “Royal We,” we have each other’s happiness in mind. We weep when the other weeps and rejoice when the other rejoices. We support one another in joyous times and in times of sorrow. We protect one another emotionally, mentally, and physically. We nurture one another’s dreams. Yes, we plan a future together.

Research suggests that a healthy “Royal We” is good for a marriage, too. Specifically, couples with a strong sense of “we” are more positive toward one another and feel less stressed. In other words, the “Royal We” supports happy, healthy marriages that nurture healthy individuals. So, how can you build the “Royal We” in your marriage?

First, be responsive to your spouse. John Gottman refers to this as “turning toward” one another. People within relationships make multiple bids for connection with one another. These bids may be as simple as eye contact or a comment about the weather. Or, they may be as direct as saying, “We need to talk.” In whatever way bids are made, couples who respond 86% of the time become “master couples” who experience greater joy and intimacy. Those who respond only 33% of the time are “disasters” and at risk of divorce. So, the first step in becoming a “Royal We” is to respond to your spouse.

Second, create rituals of connection. Build a ritual for reconnecting with your spouse after having spent time apart. The ritual can include a simple verbal greeting, a hug, and a kiss. It might also include an exchange highlighting anything important that happened while apart. So, take the time to reconnect after being apart. It’s simple…but it will have a powerful impact on your relationship and the strength of your “Royal We.”

Third, dream together. Look to the future and what adventures you would like to experience with your spouse. What do you want to do as a couple in five years? Ten years? What vacations would you like to enjoy together? What dreams can you nurture in your spouse and enjoy with them? How can you work toward these dreams and activities? Not only will you enjoy the dreams and activities in your future, but you will also enjoy the time you spend working toward those dreams and activities.

The “Royal We” fills me with gratitude…which leads me to one final aspect of building a strong sense of team in your marriage. Express gratitude to your spouse and for your spouse. Thank your spouse often for being a part of your team, the “better half” of your “Royal We.”

Communicating As An “Us”

The party was long and I was getting tired; but, I didn’t want to rudely get up and leave. My wife was across the room enjoying a conversation with another guest. When I looked her way, she caught my eye. She made a very subtle motion with her head and changed the expression on her face ever so slightly for a brief second. Then she returned to her conversation. I knew exactly what she had said. I walked over to the table where I could get a drink and carried it over to her. I handed her the drink and said, “Thirsty?” She nodded and took the drink. “Getting kind of late. I’m tired. Are you ready to leave?” A look of relief spread across her face. “Yes,” she replied, “I’m tired too.”  We quickly said our good-byes and headed home. She thanked me for “hearing” her request from across the room and added, “I thought I saw the same in your face.”

I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience in your marriage. The experience of working as a team, of remaining attuned and attentive to one another in a way no one else is. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s time to learn this crucial skill for a happy marriage. It’s a skill developed and practiced every day in a healthy marriage. Here are some tips to help you get started…or to get even better at it than you already are.

  • Get curious about your spouse. Follow their lead. Learn what they like and don’t like. Learn about their dreams and their fears. Never stop learning. Your spouse will offer new things to learn every day. Get curious and enjoy learning about your spouse. (Develop a “Love Map” with these questions.)
  • Be open & transparent in speaking about what impacts you and how. Talk about your opinions and your feelings. It’s ok to differ in opinion so allow your spouse to know your thoughts.
  • Learn to listen intently—not just for words but for inflection, tone, and cadence as well. Not just with ears but with eyes & touch as well. Listen intently. (Learn the The Gracious Art of Listening.)
  • Turn toward your spouse to work together. Problem solve together. Make compromises. Look for win/win solutions. Function as a team. (RSVP for Intimacy can help you do so.)
  • Develop an identity as a couple. Consider what you like to do together? How do you fit into world as couple? How do you balance couple time with individual time & identity? How can you create overlap? To help you do this, take time to develop a couple’s mission statement. (Include these 6 Traits for an Intimate Marriage in your mission statement.)

Want to have a better relationship, a happier marriage? Begin to practice by communicating a sense of “us” by practicing these tips. Go ahead and get started. You’ll have fun and grow a more intimate relationship along the way!

A Funny Happened on the Way to the…Donut?

Twenty-seven years ago I found a beautiful woman standing between me and a cream-filled chocolate-iced donut. She began to talk with me and I, with one eye still on “my” donut, spoke with her. Ironically, I enjoyed the conversation even more than the donut. Two years later, we married. This month, we celebrate a joyous twenty-five years of marriage. We’ve enjoyed many adventures and traversed many a struggle together during those 25 years. And, we’ve learned a few lessons about making marriage work.  Maybe these lessons can help another couple enjoy marriage as much as we do. I hope you find them helpful.

  1. Connect often. Connect with one another verbally, emotionally, and physically. Connect multiple times each day. There are so many ways to connect that it really isn’t that hard to do it multiple times each day. Talk to one another. Share stories of the day. Share memories. Talk about your joys and sorrows, fears and courageous acts. Give a kiss good-bye, hello, good night, good morning. Hug. Hold hands. Connect often.
  2. Focus on the positive in your spouse. Express gratitude for your spouse. Thank your spouse for what they do for you and your marriage. Tell your spouse what you admire about them. Focus on what makes your spouse beautiful as a person of character (internal beauty) and as a person with external beauty. Let them know the beauty you see.
  3. Work together. Be a team. When times get tough, work together to get through the troubles. Enjoy the good times together as well. Work together to keep your home and work together to raise your children. Working together will demand you talk to one another, discuss areas of difference, and connect to stay on the same page. Although it can prove more difficult to work together when one of you is irritable or suffering some loss, these are the most important times to make the choice to work together. So turn toward one another in hard times and in good. Work together to get through the difficult times, enjoy the good times, and build a great time. (Building a Purpose Filled Marriage)
  4. Play together. “All work and no play makes marriage a dull thing.” Find activities you can enjoy together like games, adventures, or walks in the woods. Laugh together. “Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good” (Lucia Capocchione). I agree with Plato when he says, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” If you really want to know your spouse in a deeper more intimate way, play! (For more benefits of play read Play for a Better Marriage.)
  5. Dream of tomorrow together. Along with playing together, dream together. Dream about what you’ll do next year, in five years, after the kids leave home, after retirement. Dream about trips you can make together and goals you can accomplish together. Share your spouse’s dreams and help your spouse reach their dream. Whether they dream of becoming a better photographer or preparing a special meal for dinner, support their dream and do what you can to help them realize their dream. I loved the scene in “UP” when Carl realizes he helped Ellie achieve her dreams…and it had nothing to do with where they lived.
  6. Bring out the best in your spouse. Help your spouse become the person they want to be. (Read Husbands…Set Her Free.) One way to do that is help them reach for their dreams (see bullet #5). Another way to bring out the best in your spouse is to honor them daily. When we communicate honor for our spouse we liberate them to become the best they can be.
  7. Marry an amazing person. Choose your spouse wisely. (Read How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk to help in this area.) I must admit, this may be the most important one for me. I truly did marry an amazing woman. She has joined me in many adventures and patiently put up with my shortcomings. She has helped me achieve dreams I never thought possible.  (And, I still got the donut when we met!!) I hope I have done the same for her. Thanks for 25 wonderful years. I look forward to another 25.

Give Your Children the Gift of Confidence

She walked onto the stage with such poise. She calmly explained her song in a very articulate manner. Then, she performed the song beautifully. I sat among those in the crowed and listened. The performance was beautiful. Even more amazing to me was the confidence with which this 16-year-old girl presented herself. She appeared comfortable exposing herself to a crowd of potential critics. The whole experience made me think: How did this young girl learn such confidence? How can parents help their children gain confidence? How can we give our children the gift of confidence? As I pondered these questions, I thought of 6 ideas to help. I’m sure there are more, but here are six to start.

  • Give your children tasks that match their developmental ability. Do not expect your children to do more than they are developmentally ready to do. A 2-year-old will not act like an 8-year-old or an 8-year-old like a 16-year-old. Each child can only be themselves…and only act as mature as their developmental level allows. To give your children tasks that match their developmental level requires your careful observation so you can know where they “stand” developmentally. Then, give them tasks that match their developmental ability.
  • Challenge your children. This may sound contradictory to the first bullet, but it is not. Parents can give their children tasks that challenge them and fall within their developmental ability. On the other hand, expecting too little from your children sends an implicit message that they lack competence. Doing the task for them communicates a belief that they lack the ability to complete the task on their own. So, give your children tasks that present a challenge and offer guidance. Teach them what they do not know while letting them do what they can. This often means taking a somewhat “hands-off approach” while offering guidance and encouragement, in other words, doing a minimal intervention while acknowledging their progress. (For more read Good Parents Do Nothing!)
  • Allow mistakes. Mistakes help us learn. Taking time to acknowledge a mistake, explore what went wrong, and plan how to do it differently next time turns a mistake into a fantastic learning experience. Each mistake treated in this manner will help your children grow and add to their confidence. (For more read Do Your Child a Favor: LOVE Mistakes.)
  • Celebrate effort, not just achievement. Sure, achievement is great and needs to be recognized; but effort leads to achievement. When parents celebrate effort, their children choose more challenging tasks, persevere more in the face of obstacles, and ultimately, achieve more. Confidence grows. Celebrate effort! (For more read Build Your Child’s Success Mindset.)
  • Accept feelings. Minimizing, punishing, or ignoring feelings makes children feel as though they are unimportant. It communicates that “something is wrong with them” because they have unimportant or even bad feelings. Avoid responding to emotions with statements like “You’re OK” (negates the emotion and their experience), “You have nothing to be made about” (minimizes their feelings), or “I’ll give you something to cry about” (punishes them for feeling). Simply accept your children’s feelings. Help them label their feelings and teach them how to manage them as well. (For more on responding to emotions, read 6 Tips to Make Your Children’s Emotions Your Friend.)
  • Nurture dreams. Sure, some dreams are unlikely. So what? Your children’s dreams may change as they mature. In the meantime, your children’s dreams motivate their behavior and push them to achieve. As you nurture your children’s dreams, you communicate how much you value them and their dreams, believe in them and their capabilities. Nurture their dreams. (Read Grow Your Children’s Dreams for more.)

There they are—6 ways to give the gift of confidence to your children. What other ways do you suggest?

Building a Purpose-Filled Marriage

Marriages benefit when partners take the time to reflect on their marriage and establish the driving values of their relationship. Your marriage will grow more intimate when you and your spouse acknowledge your common purpose and the values behind that purpose. Discussing your marital values and purpose will set you marriage on a trajectory of deeper intimacy, love, and joy. Establishing your marital values and purpose does not typically happen by chance. It requires you, as a couple, to intentionally bring your individual values, dreams, and life purpose to light so you can integrate them with your spouse’s. It takes at least four ingredients to develop a strong marital purpose based on your values.

  1. Building a purpose-filled marriage takes HEART. It requires that you sit down as a couple to have a heart to heart in which you courageously discuss your passions and priorities. In other words, you need to reveal the deep passions and dreams of our heart to one another. What are your most cherished values? What are your most important values in regards to marriage? What do you want to reveal through your marriage to inspire your children and those around you? What passions excite you? What dreams call to you? How can you work together to fulfill those dreams and passions? Building a purpose-filled marriage means learning the heart of your spouse and supporting the desire God has placed deep within their heart.
  2. Building a purpose-filled marriage takes EARS. Learning our spouse’s deepest longings requires that we listen to one another deeply and intently. We listen beyond the words to hear the emotions, needs, and passions driving their words. This type of listening builds relational security and enhances intimacy. Intimate communication and mutual cooperation thrive in the midst of this type of listening. You will find your marital purpose becomes more clear and your work toward that purpose more “in-sync” when you learn to listen well.
  3. Building a purpose-filled marriage requires VISION. A purpose-filled marriage looks to the future as well as the present. By looking to the future, a purpose-filled marriage develops direction and keeps a long-term perspective. Vision keeps an eye toward the activities you plan to engage in together, dreams you plan to pursue together, and places you plan to visit together. Keeping this long-term perspective puts daily hassles and minor conflicts into perspective as temporary and requiring resolution so they do not interfere with an exciting and highly anticipated future together.
  4. Building a purpose-driven marriage requires EMBODIMENT. A purpose-filled marriage is more than talking, planning, and dreaming. A purpose-filled marriage is lived out daily. Embody the values. Have fun. Play. Engage. Becoming active in your marriage enhances intimacy. It will help each of you grow as an individual and as a couple. You will learn to work as a team. You will learn to play and have fun, express intimacy and enjoy one another’s dreams. You will learn to resolve conflict and enjoy discussions. You will embody your purpose in your daily life.

Building a purpose-filled marriage is not necessarily easy. It takes heart, ears, vision, and embodiment. But, the dividends are amazing—a long and happy marriage filled with purpose and inspiration.

“You Complete Me” Kills a Marriage

At least two quotes came out of the movie Jerry Maguire (1996): “Show me the money” and “You complete me.”

I wouldn’t mind if someone took the time to “show me the money.” Better yet, hand me the money.  I’m glad to work for it, but I still want someone to “show me the money.”

The second quote raises more serious questions for me.  “You complete me” is NOT the basis of a healthy relationship. “You complete me” sounds like I’m half a person without my spouse…that only my spouse can make me whole, meet my needs, and help me grow. “You complete me” raises expectations that my spouse and I must think alike, behave alike, hold the same opinions, and dream the same dreams. Preferably those dreams will be mine and you will simply “complete them.” Think about it. If my spouse completes me, I am incomplete on my own. I will expect, even demand, my spouse:

  • Always be there to listen to me and comfort me when I am sad or upset,
  • Always want to have sex as often as I want and every time I want it,
  • Always appreciate me and never get angry with me
  • Always be available and attentive to my every need,
  • After all, “you complete me.” I’m incomplete without you. You are an extension of me. In fact, there is no room for individuality. We are one!

As you can image, “you complete me” can easily lead to feeling trapped. “You complete me” also attempts to change the other person so they can make me more complete. “You complete me” will blame others for my incompleteness and eventually lose interest in one who does not do what I want.

Great marriages are not about addition in which two halves add up to make a complete whole. Great marriages are about multiplication in which two individuals choose to become one.

Let me explain. Two people who are “half way mature” do NOT make a whole mature relationship, but a QUARTER of a relationship. In other words, .5 X .5 = .25.

Only two individuals who have reached independent maturity make a whole mature, healthy relationship. In other words, only 1 X 1 = 1.

Mature adults in healthy marriages each have their own lives.

  • They accept personal responsibility for their decisions and emotions. They do not cast blame on others for decisions that go wrong or for negative emotions they experience. Instead, they take action to correct their decisions or manage their emotions.
  • They have friends who support them and their marriages. They know how to develop friendships and they enjoy time with friends.
  • They have dreams and aspirations. They share their dreams with one another. They also take the initiative to work toward those dreams and support their spouse in reaching his/her dreams together.
  • They accept their strengths and weaknesses. They utilize their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses and even make improvement in areas of weakness.
  • They are relationally comfortable in their own skin, warts and all.

So if you want a truly healthy marriage, become more mature as an individual. Learn to manage your life. Develop your interests. Share your maturing self with your spouse. Your marriage will grow more intimate as you do. Paradoxically, the more mature you become as an individual, the more intimate and secure you can become as an adult.

Trying Out for Family Happiness

We all want to live in a happy family. Happy families enjoy one another’s company more than unhappy families do. They resolve arguments and outside stresses more quickly and easily as well. Happy families produce happy people. Happiness is good for us, too. People Trying Out 400who learn the skills of happiness tend to become more successful. They get better performance reviews. They have more satisfying marriages. Happy people live longer and healthier lives. I don’t know about you, but I want these benefits. I want my spouse and kids to have these benefits as well! And, the best place to learn happiness is in the home
with our family. It begins with acceptance and can include simple skills like exercise and setting goals. “Trying out” also raises the level of family happiness.  I don’t mean “trying out” in the sense of “trying out” for a position on a sport’s team or “trying out” for a part in the musical. “Trying out” in this sense means to keep on learning new things. “Try out” something new, just for the fun of it. Trying new things engages our curiosity…and curiosity is one of the top 5 “basic human strengths” associated with an overall life of fulfillment and happiness! Trying new things also allows us to accomplish new things. Accomplishments lead to greater self-confidence. Accomplishment and confidence contribute to overall happiness. So, let’s start “trying out” new things to boost our family happiness. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started.

  • Turn something old into something new. All families have their routine activities. Sometimes these activities can become too routine and humdrum (like the family meal); or, even worse, they become so routine we disliked them (like washing the dishes). Next time your family engages in one of these routine activities, look for and talk about three novel or unexpected aspects of the activity. Focus on the sounds, the facial expressions of your family members, the smells, or the physical sensations of the experience. For instance, how do the bubbles of the dish soap feel? Can you make the bubbles float into the air? Sing a song about the activity. Can you make music with the dishes as you clean them? Try telling stories to make your family laugh during dinner? You get the idea. Look for the humorous, the novel, and the overlooked aspects of the old routine activity. When you discover one, shout it out for all to hear.
  • Learn the family stats. Learn something new about your spouse, kids, and parents. What are their current interests? What are their current challenges? What are their greatest joys? What family stories have your children never heard but speak of fun or resilience in your family heritage? How have your spouse and children grown? What have they learned? What excites them? How have they changed since last year?
  • Dream. As you spend time together, begin to dream. Think about activities you would like to “try out.” Have you tried skiing or hiking? Paint ball or fishing? Why not take the family out and give it a shot? You could read a book that no one has read but you think you’d all enjoy. Take a trip to a place you have never visited. Try cooking a type of food you have never eaten—Asian, Middle Eastern, French, Brazilian, etc. Plan a vacation to someplace you have never been. Whether the Bahamas, Yellowstone Park, Ohiopyle, Europe, or Ohio, plan the trip as a family.
  • Live the dream. After you have planned out any one of your dream ideas, do it. Enjoy the ethnic feast, the dream vacation, and the simple activity. Have fun “trying out” something new.

What are some new things your family has “tried out” to boost your happiness?

5 Ways to Look Out for #1 in Your Family

You have to look out for “number 1,” “numero uno,” the “big cheese.” If you don’t look out for number one, who will? So, I encourage you to keep your eye on the goal, the “cream of the crop,” the…. Oh, wait. Maybe I need to clarify who “number one” is? When I say look out for “number one,” “numero uno,” “the big cheese,” I am referring to your spouse and your children. When it comes to building a healthy, lasting family, the other guy in your family is “number one.” And really, if you don’t look out for the other guy in your family, who will? Families flourish when each person in the family considers the other guy “number one” and looks out for the other guy’s interests. That is the crux of honoring one another. An ancient family expert said it this way: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Paul-Philippians 2:3-4) So, well, yeah…I hope I didn’t cause any confusion. Looking out for number one is looking out for other family members and here are 5 ways you can do just that:

      ·   Learn about their interests. Each family member has a unique personality and will have unique interests as a result. The “other guy’s” interests may not fill you with excitement; but if you take the time to learn a little bit about their interests, you will grow closer with “number one.” You will find yourself able to engage your family member in conversation about their interest and, even better, you will be thrilled to watch their face glow with excitement as they discuss this interest with you.


·   Listen intently. We can look out for “number one” by listening carefully with the goal of understanding. I don’t mean just listening with our ears either. I mean listening with our eyes, ears, mind, and heart. Make sure you not only hear the words accurately but that you can really see things their way as well. Listen so well that you can completely understand why they “think the way they think” and “feel the way they feel.” Listen so carefully that you can explain their point of view and behave in a way that informs them that you completely understand and respect how they feel. 


·   Find ways to express your admiration for each family member…after all, they are “number one.” Let them know you take great delight in them. You admire them. Tell them so with your words; and, let them see it in your eyes. Let them feel it in your hugs. Express your love with an encouraging back slap or a high-five. Let them see your admiration and delight for them in your actions.


·   Seek out ways to help them fulfill their dreams. Everyone has a dream. Find out about each family member’s dream. Share in their excitement. Learn about the topic of their dream so you can talk with them about it. Keep your eye open for opportunities for them to reach for their dream and share those opportunities with them. Help them reach for their dream.


·   Learn how you can make them happy. Maybe your kind words make them happy; maybe your acts of service make them happy. Or, you may find that loving touch, time spent together, or little gifts makes them happy. Carefully observe them to learn what brings them the greatest happiness and, most importantly, do it.

 It is true: you have to watch out for “Number One.” And, you have to make sure that the “number one” you look out for really is the right “one.” When it comes to family, “Number One” is not me…it is the rest of the family. Now go to it…watch out for “number 1,” “numero uno,” “the big cheese.”

3 Things Grace-Filled Parents Give Up

Grace–the unmerited and generous giving of ourselves to another with no expectation of repayment. In many ways, effective parenting flows out of grace. We give things up so our children might have more. We give of our time, our resources and our energy knowing that, if we do this successfully, our children will leave us and live a life independent of us. Sometimes, however, our own tightly held desires and expectations interfere with grace as we burden our children with our unfulfilled dreams. Our personal fears eclipse our ability to help our children identify their personal strengths and build a unique life based on those personal strengths. We desperately hold on to expectations and personal dreams, molding our children in the image of our desire rather than helping them discover their best self, created in the image of God. To really parent with grace, we have to give up the self-focused dreams and expectations we might hold. For instance, as grace-filled parents, we…
     1.      Give up our self-focused dreams and expectations and encourage our children to build dreams based on their own desires and abilities. At times, parents attempt to live out their own dreams through their children. Or, parents might act out of an expectation that their children show talent in all areas. They demand that their children achieve success academically, athletically, artistically, emotionally, and socially. Such expectations and demands make it the teens duty to “bring glory and reassurance to the family” by accomplishing “success.” Grace-filled parents give up these extreme expectations and dreams. They help their children define success based on their unique talents, strengths, and desires… even if that means their child pursues a career different than their own.
 
     2.      Give up our fear of rejection. Children grow older and become teens. Teens mature and become young adults. The process of “growing up” and maturing involves separating from parents, differentiating from parents, finding “my individuality,” become “my own person.” This involves making independent decisions and establishing an independent life, distancing from parents. Sometimes, this feels like rejection to a parent. “They’re more interested in their friends than family.” “They just want to do their own thing.” At times, a teen may turn away from their parent, insult their parent, or even demean their parent in their effort to define themselves as an independent person. If parents, in response to a fear of rejection, attempt to hold on tighter through demands and rules, their child will rebel more. Instead, give up your fear of rejection. Allow your child to separate from you and develop an independent life. Put faith in your child and what you taught them during their childhood. Lean into your loving relationship with them and love them. Allow them to explore and talk with you about their exploration. Accept them, even when you feel rejected.
 
     3.      Give up worries about our children’s future. Our society operates on the lie of “diminishing resources.” It tells us that our children “mortgage their future” with imperfect transcripts or test scores, less than constant immersion in scheduled activities, and only basic achievements on their college resume. Our children are so harried and rushed that they have little time for trial and error, unstructured activities, or periods of “bad attitudes.” They feel the constant pressure of achievement, success, and accomplishment. Unfortunately, we, as parents, can add to these feelings, or…we can give up our fear about our children’s future and focus on giving them our loving acceptance. We can put more effort into teaching our children how to enjoy and balance life than in building a college resume. Most importantly, we can focus more on enjoying a relationship with our children than we focus on coaching them to meet cultural expectations of success.
 
These are not simple tasks in today’s culture of adrenaline rush, performance orientation, and addiction to achievement. However, truly grace-filled parents will work to give up selfish expectations, inflated fears of personal rejection, and personal worries about their children’s future. What we give up, we replace with loving acceptance and guidance, a listening ear and empathetic response, and, ultimately, an encouraging but gentle push toward independence.
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