Tag Archive for expectations

Is Your Marriage Under Siege

Is your marriage under siege? Has an invisible enemy cut off the essential emotional and relational supplies that give life to your marriage? Maybe your own actions have unknowingly put your marriage under siege. It’s easy to do. Whether under siege from within or without, you need to recognize the siege artillery used to sap your marriage of the loving nutrients and sustenance it needs to survive. Then you can respond and overcome the siege to build a healthy marriage. Here are four strategies the enemy of marriage uses to set siege on your marriage…so you can address & defeat them!

  • TV, phones, and other screens. If you find yourself sitting in the same room with your spouse in silence as you both scroll through social media apps, your marriage is under siege. If you watch TV more than you interact with your spouse, your marriage is under siege. Excessive screen time will sap your marriage of the necessary interactions and emotional connection you need to build a healthy marriage.

Turn off the TV. Put down the phone and forget about social media for a while. Look your spouse in the eye and talk about your day, your dreams, your life. Converse with one another. Dream together. Doing so will nurture the emotional connection every marriage needs to survive.

  • Defensiveness. If you find you and your spouse caught in a cycle of blame and defensiveness every time something goes awry, your marriage is under siege. We reap what we sow, even in marital disagreements. Blame and defensiveness prevent growth. They create an environment in which both parties deny responsibility and so become powerless to change, powerless to strengthen their marriage. Instead, blame and defensiveness poison marriages with anger and resentment, slowly draining it of health.

Stop blaming. Look at yourself. Take the log out of your own eye. As you do, your spouse is more likely to do the same. Your marriage will grow as both people take responsibility for their contribution to the problem and so take hold of the power to change themselves as individuals within the marriage.

  • The primacy of “my.” When one or both people in a marriage focus on “my wants,” “my way,” “my desires,” “my,” “my,” “my…” your marriage is under the siege of pride and selfishness. It will soon die of starvation for real connection and mutual regard for one another’s needs.

Take a step back. Remember what you love about your spouse. Recall what you did when love was young and do it again. Show kindness. Give preference to your spouse’s wants and wishes. Serve them. Seek to please them. Your marital joy will be nurtured. And your relationship will grow stronger as a result.

  • Unrealistic expectations. Many people enter marriage with unrealistic expectations. We learn unrealistic expectations from family and TV. Unrealistic expectations may include things like “my spouse completes me” or “we will live happily ever after—all the time” or “we should want to spend all our free time together” or “my spouse will change to be everything I want and need.” Unrealistic expectations will drain your marriage of joy and build walls of resentment.

Face the truth. You and your spouse are two different people, each with your own faults, shortcomings, and eccentricities. You will make one another angry at times. You will feel lonely at times, even though you’re married. Accept these truths. And accept your spouse for who they are, shortcomings and all. Focus on those aspects you love about your spouse and celebrate those strengths. And intentionally work to grow as a person your spouse can love more.

Sacrifice is Necessary in Marriage…BUT It’s Not All the Same

Marital happiness and stability require sacrifice. In fact, you have to Give It Up to Lift Up Your Marriage. An act of sacrifice communicates value to your spouse and commitment to your marriage. Acts of sacrifice promote a sense of security, safety, and peace in your spouse (The Lost Art of Sacrifice).  BUT, not all sacrifice is the same. The difference, according to a study published in 2019, is not in the sacrifice but in the eye of the beholder. Specifically, the authors of this study concluded that “perceiving a partner’s sacrifice had no effect on appreciation [gratitude and respect for spouse] or relationship satisfaction when the recipient held strong sacrifice expectations” (italics added).  

What? An expectation of sacrifice can hinder our appreciation of the sacrifice and the one sacrificing? Hold on a second. Wait…let’s look a little closer.

If we have a strong expectation that our partner should sacrifice for us, many of their sacrificial acts will be considered minimal. They will not meet our standard. After all, their sacrifice was expected. We assumed they would do it. We deserved it. We had it coming because they are our spouse. It only right that our spouse “give it up” for us. That’s what they’re supposed to do in marriage. In a sense, we feel entitled to such sacrifice. We don’t see our partner as “giving it up” for our marriage, but as offering what I’m entitled to in a marriage anyway. It’s hard to find gratitude and respect in that sense of entitled expectation.

On the other hand, if we have a low expectation that our partner will sacrifice for our marriage, then any act of sacrifice is appreciated. We have confidence in our spouse’s desire to strengthen the relationship, but we are pleased to see their actions communicating that desire. We trust our spouse to support our marriage, but we stand amazed at how much they are willing to give up to make our marriage stronger. We recognize that our spouse is a flawed human being and admire their intent to express their love through sacrifice. Not expecting this sacrifice, we receive it as a gift, a grace, an expression of love.

Let me add one more caveat as I think about this study…just a thought about expectations of sacrifice in marriage. Perhaps we need to change our focus. Rather than focus on my expectation about my partner’s willingness to sacrifice, I need to focus on my willingness to sacrifice for my partner. After all, we are not called to look out for our own personal interests (AKA—how much my partner should sacrifice for me) but also for the interests of others (AKA—how much I will sacrifice for my partner). This shift in thinking changes everything. Anything my spouse does is over and above any expectation I have about their sacrifice for me because my expectation is focused on my willingness to sacrifice for them. I’m not even focused on their level of sacrifice. I’m focused on my desire to sacrifice for the one I love.  

Now imagine if my spouse and I both hold this perspective. I will sacrifice to live up to my expectation about how much I desire to sacrifice for my spouse. My spouse, focused on her own desire to strengthen our marriage through sacrifice, will focus on her desire to sacrifice for me. As we do, we are both filled with joy because of our partner’s sacrifices, the sacrifices we never expected. We create an upward cycle of gratitude, respect and marital satisfaction by carrying out our expectation of how “my” desire to sacrifice for our marriage. Now that sounds like the kind of marriage I’m talking about!

Expectations, Skills, & a Happy Marriage

What are your expectations in marriage? If your expectations are unrealistic, you’re probably going to be disappointed. The “lived happily ever after” expectation just doesn’t really work out that well. We all have our down times. Nor does the “you complete me” mentality make for a happy marriage. In the long run, we need to become complete as individuals before we can find true happiness with a marriage partner. (Read “You Complete Me” Kills a Marriage for more.)

On the other hand, having low expectations will also lead to a less satisfying marriage. After all, if a person has low expectations for their marriage, how hard will they work to make their marriage better? A long-term satisfying marriage requires investment. Healthy expectations for your marriage will lead to a greater investment in your marriage. Think of it in terms of money. If I thought hard work would profit me five dollars, I’d only work hard enough for five dollars. However, if believe hard work would lead to a thousand dollars, I’d put in a little more time and effort. Low expectations lead to less investment which leads to a less satisfying marriage.  So, what are healthy expectations for a marriage? Here are a few. After you read them over, consider what you would want to add to the list.  

  • Long-term commitment.
  • Verbal affection.
  • Physical closeness.
  • Honor and respect for one another.
  • Consideration for one another.
  • Quality time together.
  • Acceptance.
  • Honest sharing.
  • Open communication.

A happy marriage takes more than healthy expectations though. A happy, satisfying marriage requires the skills to build those expectations, to create an environment in which those expectations might become reality. In other words, a happy marriage requires the relationship skills and problem-solving skills needed to make healthy expectations a reality. (Positive Expectations in the Early Years of Marriage: Should Couples Expect the Best or Brace for the Worst?) Perhaps some of the most important skills needed to create a happy marriage include the skills of listening, resolving conflict, compromising, negotiating, and honoring one another. Take the time to improve in those skills every year…your marriage will thank you for it!

There’s a Killer Loose in Your Family

There’s a killer loose in the family! He’s popping up everywhere: on the news, in social media, from other people. He may live in your home. He may even live in you! Every time he mutters his loathsome words he vandalizes our brains, packing down a neural rut leading to pain and misery. In time he will establish a rut so deep that just a word or even a look will send your whole family tumbling down the pathway toward more of the same agitation, misery, and depression! Who is this vandal? The Constant Complainer! That’s right. Constant complaining creates a neural pathway in our brains that makes complaining easier and more likely to occur. In time it will even become the default pathway…a highway leading straight to agitation, misery, and depression for everyone in the family. It doesn’t matter if the Constant Complainer is a Venter, a Chronic Complainer, or a Sympathy Seeker the result is the same. They suck the energy out of the whole family and leave everyone feeling empty, agitated, and miserable (Read Research Shows That Physically Complaining Rewires Your Brain to be Depressed and Anxious for more). I do have good news though. You can kick the Constant Complainer out of your family by practicing these skills.

  1. Change your expectations. Generally, complaining is unproductive. It accomplishes nothing but increasing frustration, misery, depression, and anxiety for you and everyone around you. In college I hated to wash clothes and I complained about it every time. My complaining fueled my hatred and increased my misery each time I had to wash my clothes. Then it dawned on me. Complain or not, I still have to wash clothes…or stink. Might as well accept it and figure out a way to enjoy it. I changed my expectation from “this is wasting my time” to “at least it gives me a chance to read my book or talk with friends.” I still don’t jump for joy to wash clothes, but I do it without complaint.  Sometimes we have to change our expectations.
  2. If you are going to complain, do it right! Rather than complain for complaining’s sake, make sure you have a positive goal in mind. Pause and think about the reason you want to complain and what you want to accomplish. What is underlying your complaint: anger, frustration, hurt, irritation? What do you really want to see changed to make things better? Who would be the right person to take your concern to? What solution can you offer when you voice your concern? These questions will help you do more than just complain constantly. They will help you find a way to remedy the problem and reach an outcome that will bring you satisfaction. (Read Five Mistakes We Make When Complaining for more details)
  3. Share gratitude. Don’t get stuck in the rut of complaining when you don’t have the power to change something. Instead, think about what you have to be thankful for. For instance, rather than complain about the traffic, be grateful you have a car and can go so many places. Rather than complain about having to do the dishes, be grateful you have dishes and the opportunity to enjoy the delicious meals that result in dirty dishes. Rather than complain about your spouse, consider what they do for your family and you. Be grateful. Make it a habit to voice your gratitude to others. Rather than packing down a neural rut of complaining you will establish a neural highway of joyful gratitude.
  4. Think about the positive memories of your life and family. Even though this is similar to sharing gratitude it adds another positive neural highway to help eliminate complaining from your home. Ponder the positive memories of family vacations. Contemplate the intimate conversations with your wife. Dwell on the memories of laughter with your children. Create more positive memories by participating in family game nights, vacations, outings, family dinners, and family celebrations. Each time you engage in a family activity, intentionally focus on the positive times you are enjoying and the joyous memories you are creating.

Practice these four actions and you will get that killer, the Constant Complainer, out of your home. You will replace those neural ruts of complaining with neural highways to joy and intimacy.

Your Child’s “Best Teacher Eh-verrr”

I still remember the day it happened. My daughter came home raving about her teacher. She loved him. He was the “best teacher eh-verrrr.” In fact, he was a good teacher. She learned a lot from him. But, he really wasn’t THE best teacher she ever had. I know because the best teacher any child ever has is not a teacher from school. The reward for “best teacher ever” in a child’s life actually goes to (drum roll please)…his parents.  It’s true. Parents can’t help but teach their children. Even if they never teach a single formal Father Daughter Chatlesson, their child will learn more from them than any other teacher he will ever have. Parents teach the most important lessons of life—like values, priorities, how to manage emotions, how to manage difficult situation, etc.—on a daily basis. That whole “daily basis” idea is why parents become the most important teacher in their child’s life. Only parents have the opportunity to “join with” their child in a variety of situations on a “daily basis.” Only parents get to “experience life” with their child “24/7.” From this position of “experiencing life together,” parent becomes the most powerful teachers in their child’s life.  Parents, utilizing wisdom gained through their own life experiences, assist their child in managing the emotions of difficult experiences. Parents find their child acutely interesting and learn to know him very well. Based on knowledge of their child’s interests, parents can direct their child’s energies into safe avenues of adventure and joy. In other words, when a parent and child “experience life together,” a parent helps his child organize and understand himself and the world around him.  let me say this very plainly: Parents, you are your child’s “best teacher eh-verrrr,” whether you like it or not. To help you enjoy the rewards of “best teacher ever,” follow these four tips.

  1. Join in, experience life with your child. Don’t lecture. Join instead. This means active involvement and participation in your child’s life.
  2. Stay calm. Remember, your child learns how to respond to emotions by experiencing them with you. If you rant and rave when angry, your child will most likely do the same. Let your example teach him to express and share his emotions effectively.
  3. Listen to your child. Listen to understand your child’s motivation, intent, and perspective. When you understand your child’s motivation and intent, you can explain your ideas in a way he can understand. In a sense, you have to understand your child’s way of thinking before you can explain your own more mature thought.
  4. Allow your child to be a child. Do not expect your 4-year-old to discriminate between what is real and what is magic or your 16-year-old to be excited about the same things that excite you. Instead, enjoy the magical world of your 4-year-old and share in those things that excite your 16-year-old, channeling those thrills in a healthy direction.

 

Congratulations Mom and Dad. You truly are your child’s “best teacher eh-verrr,” especially when you take the time to join with your child and “experience life together.”

Teach Your Children to Excel

We all want our children to excel. We may want our children to excel in different areas (sports, academics, music, theatre, dance, socialization, etc.), but we all want them to excel. Nobody wants to point out their children and say, “Yes, my children are mediocre at best.” No, we want our children to work hard and find success. We want them to excel. Unfortunately, we often engage in behavior that limits their ability to excel. We increase our demands and expectations, raising our children’s stress level and fear of failure. Instead of excelling, they succumb to the pressure and fall short. They start to resist or even avoid hard work and so miss out on success. As parents we can help build an environment to encourage our children to excel. Here are some ways to do so.

  • Father and son smiling for the cameraMaintain healthy expectations. Do not expect your children to do more than they are developmentally ready to do. Do not expect them perform above their physical capabilities. On the other hand, do not lower your expectations to make it easy for your children. Children need a realistic challenge to work toward in order to excel. Become a student of your children. Create healthy and realistic yet challenging expectations for their lives.
  • Focus on effort. Instill the value of hard work and effort above achievement and performance. If you focus on achievement and “end products,” your children will believe that success result from natural talent alone. They will avoid difficult tasks for fear that failure reflects a lack of natural ability. Instead, attribute success and failure to effort, not ability. Teach your children that effort and hard work lay the groundwork for achievement. When your children learn to value effort and hard work, they can embrace challenges, overcome obstacles, and learn from mistakes…all of which promote your children’s ability to excel.
  • Maintain a loving relationship with your children, but don’t forget to maintain firm limits Don’t be afraid to discipline your children. Teach them to finish what they start and to think about the cost (in terms of time investment, energy, school requirements, and desired downtime) of an activity before starting. Do not step in to fix problems that arise. Encourage your children to seek a solution and to persist in the face of obstacles. Let them put in the effort to work through the difficulty. Then appreciate that effort.
  • Make it part of your family life. Build the area in which you want your children to excel into the fabric of your home. Make the skills applicable to real life. Become a learner in that area yourself. Converse with your children about topics related to that area. Integrate it into your daily life. Enjoy it together. Make it a topic of conversation and interaction. Learn to have fun with it—laughing, playing, competing, debating, etc. Make it fun.
  • Allow your children to be average! Our children will not excel in every facet of life. They are not in our lives to fulfill our dreams. They will find their greatest joy when they find those areas that interest them. They will grow into happy adults as and invest their energy and time in areas fascinating to them. Allow them to do so. You might just discover that they excel in what is truly important in life—kindness, generosity, perseverance, etc.

 

These five actions will open the door for your children to excel. They take time and thought to implement successfully, but your children will benefit from your efforts. You will likely fall short at times…several times if you are like me. We all make mistakes. Take the time to learn from your mistakes and re-open the door. Each time you do, you teach your children important lessons and help them excel in life.

Teach Your Child Self-Control

Parents want to raise children who have self-control. And why not? Science has shown that self-control offers many life changing benefits.

  • People with self-control make better choices. Better choices lead to fewer negative consequences and greater happiness. Better choices can also lead to more success—better grades, better jobs, more money, better health, etc.
  • People with higher levels of self-control “stick to” their morals. They exhibit greater honesty and live with greater integrity.
  • People with self-control resist temptation. They have better mental focus. In other words, unimportant distractions do not draw them away from important tasks…which takes us back to the first benefit noted above.

Kids on Victory PodiumAs parents, we want our children to experience the benefits of self-control. The real question becomes: how can we teach self-control to our children? Here are six ways to do just that!

  1. Play games. Depending on your child’s age, you can play any number of games to promote self-control. “Simon Says” and “freeze tag” teach self-control. Checkers, Chess, and Battleship teach children to think ahead and consider consequences, an important aspect of self-control. Board games of all kinds teach children to “wait their turn,” which takes enormous self-control. Don’t forget pretend play. Developing a make believe character who engages in an imaginative activity demands planning, consideration of consequences, acting out emotions, problem-solving, and cooperation…all aspects of self-control.
  2. Encourage self-talk. Self-talk offers guidance and encouragement through difficult tasks. Self-talk keeps children mindful of their desires and focused on their goals. Over time, self-talk becomes an inner voice prompting us to focus, move toward our goals, and ignore distraction. That inner voice promotes self-control.
  3. Teach healthy distraction. When children feel a growing anxiety or anger, healthy distraction can help. It can help them control their anxiety and allow them to respond wisely—from personal integrity, rather than with a rash emotional reaction. Teach your children healthy ways and healthy times to distract themselves. This involves giving them some specific physical or mental action to take. “Sing your favorite song to yourself” or “think about what you enjoyed most on our last vacation” will work better than “just think about something else.” “Build a space ship with your Legos” will help more than simply “go play.”
  4. Turn off the TV. TV watching will not teach the important skills involved in self-control. It does not encourage “waiting your turn,” thinking ahead, or focusing. Interactive social games and social interactions teach these skills. Turn off the TV and refer to #1.
  5. Maintain age appropriate expectations. Adjust your expectations to match your children’s age. Your 6-year-old will not have the same level of self-control as your 12-year-old…or your 16-year-old. Your 6-year-old will need more hands-on assistance, which will slowly change to more verbal prompting as she moves toward puberty and adolescence. Age appropriate expectations include age appropriate discipline. A toddler who won’t sit still in a restaurant requires different instruction than a 12-year-old who won’t sit still in the same situation.
  6. Do not assume a lapse of self-control is just bad behavior…listen. Allow your children to explain their choices and actions. Listen carefully to determine if they have an unmet need and teach them how to address that need. Listen for emotions that need soothed and help them learn to soothe them. Listen for motivations and intention that represent positive values and reinforce them while teaching appropriate ways to implement those motives and intention. Don’t assume a lapse in self-control is bad behavior…listen.

When you implement these 6 actions, you will encourage greater self-control in your children…from toddler to teen!

Parents, Are You a Slingshot or an Anchor?

Michael Byron, Smith, retired Air Force officer, wrote an excellent blog for the National Fatherhood Institute (click here to read it). In this blog, he wrote: “Families should be slingshots, throwing children into the world prepared for what lies ahead. Unfortunately, the problems of dysfunctional families are like anchors, dragging down their children’s potential….” So, I have to ask: Have you created a family environment that will serve as a slingshot for your children or an anchor? 

Anchor families:

  • Punishment concept.Place unrealistic expectations on their children.
  • Make demeaning, degrading, and discouraging remarks about their children or their children’s activities.
  • Imply greater acceptance of their children only after they have performed to a certain level (good grades, starting team, practiced their instrument, etc.).
  • Punish or demean children for times they experience failure.
  • Offer rude criticisms about their child’s character or performance.
  • Engage in name-calling.
  • Disregard their children’s feelings…or even punishing their children for “negative” feelings like anger, frustration, sorrow, or tearfulness.
  • Tell or imply they know more about what their children feel, think, or like than their children do themselves.

 

These behaviors act as anchors around your children’s neck. They weigh your children down, drowning them under the waves of guilt and shame.

 

Slingshot families, on the other hand:

  • grandfather and granddaughter with computer at homeLearn about the development of children, their children’s development in particular, so they can maintain realistic expectations.
  • Encourage their children.
  • Make sure their children know they are loved even when they fall short of perfection or have a particularly bad day.
  • Teach their children that failure is an opportunity to learn. They encourage determination and healthy persistence.
  • Offer their children constructive criticism in a loving manner.
  • Use “negative” feelings like anger, frustration, sorrow, or tearfulness as opportunities to grow more intimate with their children.
  • Remain curious about their children’s feelings, thoughts, and interests…using them as touch-points from which to deepen intimacy.

 

These behaviors serve as slingshots for your children. They help your children develop the skills necessary to navigate the world with courage, confidence, and poise.

 

So, I ask again. Which one are you—an anchor family or a slingshot family?

What Drives Your Family?

What drives your family? I am not asking who drives your family…nor am I asking if your family owns a Chevy, Ford, or Toyota. I am asking, “What motivates your family life?” What Fun Vaninfluences your family decisions? What is the heartbeat of your family? Many families allow fear or guilt to sit in the driver’s seat.  When fear or guilt sits in your family’s driver seat you are in for a wreck. For instance, families driven by fear of bad behavior believe that structures and rules will make everything “work out alright.” As a result, when the fear of bad behavior sits in the driver’s seat, the family finds themselves on the road of over-rigid, legalistic, and unrealistic expectations.  Fear-driven families remain overly vigilant to assure the loose morals of society do not creep into their family. If anyone’s behavior starts to do down the “wrong road,” the family simply adds another rule to detour the negative behavior; and rules of avoidance are put in place to keep family members away from the “immoral influences” of society.  Rules pile upon rules. The structure becomes the top priority in the family…until the family experiences the inevitable collision with rebellion resulting from an inability to meet the expectations. Yes, the wreck is inevitable. Family members never internalize healthy limits in the family driven by the fear of bad behavior. When they find themselves “out from under” the family rules, they rebel. Or, when they feel that “no matter what they do it is never enough,” they give up and rebel. As the saying goes, “Rules without Relationship leads to Rebellion.”

 

Other families are driven by the fear of looking bad. When children throw a tantrum in the store, the parents in this family begin to worry that everyone will think they are bad parents who have no control in their home. Their embarrassment overrides the need to stand firm; and, they give in to their children’s tantrum behavior. This family, driven by the fear of looking bad, is more concerned with appearance than character. Their children have to perform to a certain level to experience acceptance and feel appreciated. This family believes that only the star athlete, the straight “A” student, the lead actor, the first chair musician, or the first whatever has truly achieved their potential. Anything short of this visible success brings “encouragement” in the form of prodding, nagging, or comparisons. Appearance, however, is fleeting. Achieving top status is not fulfilling. Sooner or later we all fall short of perfection. And, we all want something that no amount of success can grant us…acceptance. When that moment hits the family driven by the fear of looking bad, the wheels go into a skid, the sparks fly, and the family crashes into the wall of disappointment, anger, resentment, and isolation.

 

Families may also find guilt in the driver’s seat. Families driven by guilt often want to make up for some past hurt…the divorced parent who gives their kids everything they want; the parent who feels guilty when inducing the pain of discipline so puts up with inappropriate lovebehavior; the spouse who hurt his partner unintentionally so now gives in to her every desire. Each of these families, and more, are driven by guilt. Families driven by guilt may “discourage” unwanted behavior with guilt-inducing discipline. When guilt drives a family, you can expect a wreck. Intimacy is replaced with anger and bitterness. Family members help one another while harboring resentment that “I have to do this.” Even activities normally thought of as enjoyable become a burden, stressing the family relationships.

 

Instead of letting fear or guilt drive your family, put love in the driver’s seat. With love driving your family, each person will find acceptance and intimacy. The whole family will experience honor and respect. Mutual acceptance, honor, and respect will open the door for reasonable rules and structure to be internalized. Positive behavior will be lived out more intentionally. With love in the driver’s seat, no one worries about being made to look bad. Instead, each person encourages and lifts the other person, striving to make other family members look good. A family driven by love still disciplines as well. In fact, they discipline more effectively because they discipline with truth and grace, love and limits. They do not easily give in or give up. They graciously discipline in love, teaching a better way to live sensibly in this world.

 

So, what drives your family? Fear? Guilt? Or love? Think hard and answer honestly. A wreck awaits your family unless love is in the driver’s seat!

6 Family Priorities to Consider

I remember when my wife was pregnant with our first child. I was excited…and a little bit nervous. I wanted to provide a great family environment and be a “perfect father.” Eighteen years later I know I fell short on the “perfect father” part. No one does this “parenting thing” perfectly. We all make our mistakes. However, that time of nervousness did make me think about the family priorities I wanted to instill in my children. Having values in mind helped cover my imperfections. Rather than dwell on my mistakes, I could pull back to our family values. Chaos ahead signOur family priorities became the foundation on which we could build a healthy family…the roadmap that kept us on the track toward a healthy family life. I realize now that without clearly defined priorities, each family member eventually drifts away and does their own thing…alone, without support or direction. Family values and priorities make up the glue that holds our family together when times get rough.  They are the life-giving “meat-n-potatoes” of our days together. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

 

Aye, that gives me an idea. Sometimes we focus on the icing. I mean, I love icing, but, if all I eat is icing I get a headache, my stomach hurts, my thoughts become fuzzy, and I get downright mean. I need “meat-n-potatoes” to live a healthy life. Our family needs the “meat-n-potatoes” of values as well. So, where do you focus your attention: on the “meat-n-potato” values and priorities that make for healthy family life? Or, on the sweet icing that leads to headaches, fuzzy thinking, and conflict? Take some time now to consider your family values, the meat-n-potatoes of your family life. To help you do so, consider these ideas. Which do you value more?

  1. Do you value successful performance and achievement or learning resilience and perseverance? Of course we want our children to succeed. More importantly, we want them to learn to persevere in the face of difficulties. We want them to “bounce back” from seeming failures. Learning resilience and perseverance encourages them to try new things and not fear being less than perfect. It encourages them to keep working for improvement. When we focus on performance, our children become afraid to try new things, afraid to fail…afraid to disappoint.
  2. Do you value structured routines or time with family? I believe in having structure based on routines and respect in the home. At the same time, those structures remain secondary to family relationships. If a structure begins to interfere with family relationships, we need to change it. In some cultures this means that bed times, although generally structured, are changed and modified for times of family gatherings.
  3. Do you value the independent person or the person who accepts help and helps others? Our culture tends to emphasize the self-made man, the independent person who has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. However, do we really want our children to believe they are completely independent?  Don’t we want them to reach out to others and offer assistance when appropriate? Isn’t it beneficial to have the ability to reach out to others when in need? Surely we have to establish a balance in this area.
  4. Do you value getting great grades or becoming a well-rounded, socially adept, and hard-working person? When your child is 30, no one will remember whether they got a “C” or an “A” in Physics. What will really pay off when they are 30 is that they learned to work hard for the best grade they could earn. And social skills will most likely have a greater influence on their long-time work success than their high school GPA. So, we may want our children to develop a well-rounded education that included academics, social activities, and a variety of interests.
  5. Do you value getting the athletic scholarship or learning self-discipline, humility,To live by and teamwork? We love to see our children score the winning touchdown, block the shot to save the game, or outmaneuver their opponent to move the ball down field. It is exciting. But we have to face the facts…only a very small percentage of excellent high school athletes actually earn a living playing their sport. On the other hand, athletic practice and competition is an excellent arena to learn self-discipline, teamwork, how to bounce back after a failure, and how to lose (and win) with grace and humility.  Which will you emphasize?
  6. Do you value your reputation or your child’s character? It is easy to get caught up in our children’s behavior…to believe their successes and failures are a reflection on us. We push them to achieve on the sport’s field or earn high academic honors or get the star role in the musical or band…all for the parental bragging rights. Sure we are going to be proud of our children’s achievements…but won’t we be even more proud to witness our children’s character of humility, integrity, and selflessness toward others!

 

There are many other areas of priority to consider, but these six represent an excellent starting point. Take some time to think about these priorities. What do you want for your family? How will you model these priorities for your family? What practical steps will you take to assure that you and your family live these values over time? It takes some thought…and then some effort…but the long term returns are a celebrating family filled with honor and grace!

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