Tag Archive for security

The Gift Every Child Wants (& Only You Can Give)

All children desire this gift, but very few cannot articulate it. This gift will provide your children with an amazing sense of security. Although it demands some effort, it will provide African American Couple Laughing On The Floorimmeasurable benefits to you and your children throughout your lifetimes. In fact, your children will benefit from this gift even after you have passed away. Your grandchildren can even benefit from this gift! And, only you can give this gift to your children. Sounds like an expensive gift, doesn’t it? It does carry a price; but the price is mostly measured in the coinage of effort. What is this amazing gift your children desire? What is this gift that carries such great benefits with it? The gift of having parents with a healthy marriage! Let me “unwrap this gift” a little…just to give you a peek into its benefits.


When a marriage relationship is filled with strained and succumbing to the pull of distraction, the home is filled with tension. When the home is filled with tension, children experience stress. Stress creates insecurity. A healthy marriage, on the other hand, lays the foundation for peace and harmony in the home.  Children experience this peace and harmony as security. They feel safe. Moreover, children feel valued and worthy when outside distractions do not impinge on their family life. They desire to remain a part of this peaceful, harmonious home founded on a healthy marriage.


When a marriage is filled with constant conflict and on the verge of collapse, the future of the family, your children’s safe haven, becomes doubtful. Children who have doubts about the future stability of their safe haven feel insecure. As a result, they invest all their energy trying to secure the pillars of their safe haven, you. They invest their energy in your happiness and your marriage rather than investing in their own growth and development, their maturity, and their future. When a marriage is strong and disagreements openly resolved, the future of your children’s safe haven is certain. With confidence in their family’s future, children feel secure enough to explore their world and their selves. They feel safe enough to invest energy in growing their interests and their healthy future lives, which will ultimately bring happiness to the whole family.


When a marriage is in question and spouses at war with one another, children feel responsible to make peace.  They assume a parental role and strive to become the one who negotiates peace between their parents.  When they do not succeed (and they cannot succeed because it is beyond their ability to make peace between warring parents), children begin to feel guilty and anxious. They take the blame for their parents’ failure and unhappiness. They begin to feel inadequate since they cannot “fix” the family. They feel insecure both in relation to others (like their battling parents) and themselves (since they feel inadequate to fix even their home). In a strong marriage, on the other hand, children witness their parents resolving conflict and creating peace in the home. This peace produces a sense of security that allows “kids to be kids.”  It provides a strong foundation from which children can explore, achieve, learn, and grow confident in the trustworthiness of those around them as well as a trust in themselves.


You children desire the gift of living with parents who do the work necessary to build a strong, healthy marriage. Even more, they deserve this gift. When you invest in your marriage, you give your children the gift they desire more than they even know; and, you give them the added gifts of peace of mind, a sense of security, and a confidence in themselves and their future. Do your children a huge favor. Get your spouse and wrap up a beautiful, healthy marriage as a gift for them to witness and receive.

Hot Sauce Vs. the Power of Relationship

When you build strong, secure relationships with your children, you promote world peace. Does that sound like an overstatement? Well, consider Mikulincer’s research. Mikulincer rescuerasked 120 undergraduate Israeli Jews to give both an Israeli Jew and an Israeli Arab a sample of hot sauce. He used these two groups because “research has shown that [these two groups] tend to react to each other with prejudice, hostility, and overt aggression” (you know this by watching the news).  Before the undergraduates set apart a sample amount of hot sauce to give an Israeli and an Arab, half were subliminally primed with the name of a person with whom they have a secure attachment (a strong, loving, life-enhancing relationship). The other half of the group was not. The results: the Israeli Jews who were not primed with the name of a person they have a secure relationship with were more likely to give larger amounts of hot sauce to the Israeli Arab than to the fellow Israeli Jew. Those primed with the name of person they have a secure relationship with gave equal amounts to each and kept the amounts relatively small. The participants showed more tolerance and even compassion after being primed with a secure relationship. They held to more harmonious values, even when engaging a group of people with whom they have long-standing conflict.


Obviously, relationships are powerful. Family relationships (our primary attachment relationships) are even more powerful. They impact more than our immediate family. When children leave the nest, their family relationship goes with them. It impacts how they view and respond to other people. Do you want to raise children who exhibit tolerance toward other people? Do you want your children to act compassionately toward others? It begins you’re your relationship to them. The more secure your relationship with your children, the more likely they will exhibit tolerance and compassion toward others. To build a secure relationship with your children:

  • Prioritize spending time with your children.
  • Verbally express how much you love your children. Tell them you love them. Acknowledge their work. Recognize their efforts. Encourage them. Validate them. Each of these verbally expresses love.
  • Practice healthy, loving touch with your children. Give them a kiss good-bye or good-night. Put an arm around their shoulder. Slap a high five. Even the NBA (link) has found that appropriate touch increases trust and security.
  • Offer age appropriate limits, boundaries, and consequences. Yes, discipline is an essential part of a secure relationship. No need to become harsh. Simply make the limits known and understood. Then, as calmly as possible, enforce the consequences of breaking those limits and boundaries.


These four tips will go a long way in helping you develop a secure relationship with your children. By developing that secure relationship, you will raise more tolerant and compassionate children. You will be doing your part to promote world peace in your own corner of the world!

One Practice for a Healthier New Year

Apple TreeAn old proverb encouraged healthy eating by reminding us “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I do agree that an apple a day beats getting sick. Carnegie Mellon University has discovered another way to keep the doctor away, another daily practice that can encourage healthy living. This one is free and I love it! To test this method of encouraging health, researchers exposed 404 adults to a common cold virus. (The volunteers knew about the exposure and were paid $1,000 for their involvement. What would you do for a thousand bucks?) After the initial exposure, volunteers were quarantined and monitored for symptoms. Some of the volunteers developed cold symptoms. Some did not. Researchers compared who did and did not develop cold symptoms with perceived social support in general and being hugged by a trusted person, in particular. The results showed that being hugged by a trusted person actually protected participants from the cold virus. In other words, those who reported receiving more hugs over the two weeks prior to exposure were less likely to catch a cold…even when intentionally exposed to the virus! And, for those who did catch the cold, the volunteers who reported more frequent hugs in the two weeks prior to exposure developed less severe symptoms. It seems a hug a day can keep the doctor away. I’ve been requesting extra hugs since I read this article…for purposes of remaining healthy of course.


Now you know this free health promoting practice: hugging. If you want a healthy family this year, go ahead and encourage everyone to eat an apple a day. But, don’t stop there. Add a new action to your family health plan. This year, prevent illness by giving your spouse and kids at least one hug a day. If you really want to make it special and enjoy even more benefits, share an oxytocin hug each day. Help your family stay healthy. Share a hug every day. After all, it seems “a hug a day keeps the doctor away.”

Family Fun Night is for the Birds

Yellow Billed HornbillSome people believe “this Family Fun Night stuff” is for the birds. Well…I agree. It’s a great idea. Head out to your local aviary and share a Family Fun Night with the birds. Now I know this may sound like a bird-brained idea, but you only need to check out your local aviary to see how much fun you can have with this flight of fancy. The National Aviary in Pittsburgh, PA (my hometown, btw) is celebrating “Owl-O-Ween” on October 18 and 25. Every day, you can watch the birds get fed…and, even participate in feeding them. To satisfy your artistic flair, you might pick your favorite colors for the penguins to use in creating an artistic masterpiece…and take the picture home! You can also celebrate your child’s birthday (“bird-day”) at the Aviary. To add soaring heights of fun to your flight, listen to “The Birds” as you migrate to and from the Aviary. Would it be too much to devour chicken sandwiches for lunch beforehand? Better not, stick with a burger. (My apology to the cows.) At any rate, Family Fun Night is now for the birds…and the ornithologist (bird-lover) in your family. Fly on over to the Aviary to see the unusual, the colorful, the graceful, and the bizarre (hey, that sounds like my family…I’m just saying!) and discover how a great Family Fun Night is for the birds.

I’m Afraid to Discipline

I was speaking to a young father about parenting and discipline. He knew his children often misbehaved even when he was present; and, he wanted to learn how to “be a fun guy” while remaining an authority. As we spoke, he made a telling statement. “I have a Disobedient boyproblem being stern,” he said.


“I don’t know. I guess I’m afraid my kids will get mad and not like me anymore. They need my love more than my discipline anyway, right?”


This young father verbalized something many parents believe and feel but fear to say. Discipline is hard work. It takes effort. It can easily arouse our fears and insecurities. Here are a couple of fears we might experience as we discipline our children.

  • The fear that our children will get mad at us and, as a result of that anger, our relationship with them will somehow be damaged.
  • The fear that our children will rebel even more because we have set a firm limit on certain behaviors.
  • The fear that our children will no longer like us and we will “lose them.”
  • The fear that our children will not recognize how much we love them.
  • The fear of experiencing our own emotional pain when we witness our children in distress and discomfort, even if discipline is deserved.


If we allow these fears to control our parenting, we have abdicated our parental authority and influence. We have relinquished our authority to guide our children. We have renounced our influence to help our children learn what is right and wrong. We have abandoned our children to make life decisions for which they lack sufficient experience and knowledge. We vacated our role as an authority to constrain their dangerous behaviors and protect them from negative influences. We have lost the opportunity to help our children struggle with life values and beliefs. We have surrendered, bailed out, left our children high and dry with little to no protection or guidance.  Our children will ultimately realize that vacuum that we have left unfilled and seek out a way to fill it with the opinions and beliefs of peers, other adults who may hold different values than we do, or misguided behaviors that will make them feel accepted by someone. Ultimately, they recognize our fear to discipline as a lack of love.


A loving parent does discipline. Loving parents risk their children’s anger and endure personal discomfort in order to guide them toward values that can create a healthy and happy future. When you think about it, really good parents love their children too much to not offer stern discipline when necessary. After all,…

  • Stern discipline is one part of our expression of love.
  • Stern discipline protects our children and teaches them to protect themselves.
  • Stern discipline helps our children determine and internalize personal values and beliefs that can bring true happiness. We, as parents, become the sounding board, the “other side of the debate,” during their internal struggle to determine personal values and beliefs.
  • Stern discipline strengthens our relationship with our children. It allows them to see us as authentic people of integrity. They will observe our struggle to discipline while we continue to stand for what we believe is right behavior and interactions. And, our children will respect us for that.


Without stern discipline, I am afraid our children will wander down the path to self-destruction, addiction, disrespect, and arrogant opposition to authority. Of course stern discipline must be balanced with love and acceptance, listening and understanding, grace and respect. Nonetheless, without stern discipline, our love has fallen short…and the consequences are dire.

Arghh Matey, Send Your Family on a Treasure Hunt

Pirates always seem to have fun in the movies. They search for treasure and share fun times together. (I realize the realism of the movies may be somewhat lacking, but we want families happy pirate familyto have fun not suffer scurvy or malaria.) This family fun night will allow your family to “sail the high seas” of adventure in search of the greatest family treasure of all—fun times together. Although this activity involves some planning, it will prove very “rewarding” in the end (I mean you get a treasure…how much more rewarding can it get?)! Here is what you do, step by step.

  1. Think of a simple activity your family enjoys. It can be anything from swimming, getting ice cream, having a campfire, or meeting friends at the park.


  1. Find a picture of that activity. Laminate the picture and cut it into pieces to form a puzzle.


  1. Think of different hiding places for each piece of the puzzle. You can hide the puzzle pieces in your own back yard or, to create a bigger adventure, hide them around your neighborhood or in a shopping center. (Do not hide the puzzle pieces yet. Read steps four and five before you actually hide the pieces of the puzzle.)


  1. Write a clue, on a plain piece of paper, leading to the place you plan to hide the first piece of the puzzle. Then write a clue leading from the first piece of the puzzle to the second, from the second puzzle piece to the third, and so on. When you have a clue leading to each piece of the puzzle, move on to step five.


  1. Hide the puzzle pieces. Keep the clue to the first puzzle piece wherever you plan to start the treasure hunt. Hide the other clues with the puzzle pieces. The second puzzle piece will be hidden with the clue to the third puzzle piece. The third puzzle piece will be hidden with the clue to the fourth puzzle piece and so on. Each puzzle piece will have a clue leading to the next puzzle piece hidden with the next clue.


  1. Now you are ready for a family fun night. Read the first clue and let the treasure hunt begin. When all the pieces are found, put the puzzle together to discover the activity pictured. Then, enjoy the activity together. (I am partial to ice cream as an ending, btw.)


Enjoy your family fun night sailing the high seas of adventure and following the clues to your family treasure.

There’s a New Teacher in Town…Get to Know Him

I have observed a new teacher in town interacting with our children. This teacher is a pro…incredible, amazingly effective. He actively engages our children to get them involved in the learning process. Children learn under his tutelage without even knowing it; and, even more amazing, they have fun doing it! This teacher gets children to practice skills and thinking patterns over and over again without getting bored. In fact, after practicing skills and thinking patterns all afternoon, the children under his tutelage are still eager and excited to practice some more. They even beg to continue. When the children make a mistake, he dishes out a quick and simple punishment and then offers them another chance before they forget the videogame addictionlesson of the mistake. This teacher also follows each success, each accomplishment, with a swift reward. He really is an amazing teacher…one of the best. His name is Mr. Video Game. That’s right. Video games, whether X-Box, Play Station, I-Phones, I-Pads, or home computers are the new teachers in town. They are teaching our children lessons every step of the way, changing their brains and impacting their thinking in amazing ways…some good and some not so good.


First, here are some good lessons learned and mental skills enhanced by playing video games:

  • Following instructions is a must for playing video games. Break the rules of the game and your game ends quickly.
  • Problem solving. Many video games encourage the player to devise creative ways to solve puzzles and problems or to get around various obstacles.
  • Dexterity. Video games require the player to use fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination to manage their character and manipulate virtual objects.
  • Attention to detail and spatial relations. Video game players must keep track of their characters position, movement in space, speed, and aim as well as the details of the objects, friends, and enemies in their environment. Interestingly, at least one study suggests that video game experience is related to better surgical skills for adults (read it here).
  • Planning and use of resources. Successful players learn to plan ahead in order to make the most efficient use of limited resources in games like Minecraft.
  • Quick thinking and decision making. Many video games demand that a player quickly analyze a situation and decide on a plan of action. The more accurate their decision, the more successful the game. This is a useful skill in today’s fast-paced world (read about it here).
  • Studies have also shown that video games can be used to successfully reduce anxiety (read a study here) and reduce cravings (read abstract here).
  • Video games can also result in increased gray matter in parts of the brain associated with memory, strategic planning, and working memory. This increase may help reduce the risk of dementia (read about it here).
  • We could list other benefits like providing the opportunity for parent and child to play together, perseverance, memory, teamwork, fun, etc.   Many of these benefits can be had outside of video games as well.


On the other hand, video games can teach negative lessons as well. For instance…

  • Social isolation can result from spending too much time playing video games and not becoming involved in other face-to-face activities.
  • Video games can become addictive (read more here). Kids who appear addicted to video games often exhibit more anxiety and depression. They fight more often with peers and argue more with teachers.
  • Video games can contribute to obesity and muscular issues when played too often.
  • Academic achievement decreases as video game playing increases. Children will skip homework to play and play instead of reading or engaging in an educational activity (read study here).
  • Video games can teach negative values. Some video games include violent behaviors, sexually provocative characters, and inappropriate language. Many video games also reward vengeance, aggression, and violent solutions.
  • Research also suggests that children who play more violent video games are more likely to engage in aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The video game allows the player to repeatedly view violence from the perspective of a perpetrator and then experience a reward.


As you can see, video games teach our children a lot…some good lessons and some dangerous lessons. Ultimately, parents are responsible for their children’s education. We need to monitor this new teacher in town, make some hard decisions and establish some firm boundaries. Here are some suggestions to help monitor the impact of video games in your child’s life.

  • Keep the video game console in a common area of the home. This way you will know when your children play, what game they play, and the content of that game.
  • Animated family playing video game lying down on bedPlay the video game with your children. You do not have to play every time they play. However, playing sometimes when they play will establish your “presence” as part of the game just as going to visit their school helps to establish your presence in the school.
  • Check the game ratings. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has established ratings to help parents know the age appropriateness of game content. For instance, a “M-Mature” game is rated by the ESRB as a game for 17-years-old and up.
  • Set limits around video game playing. Limits can include: the amount of time your children play video games, what games they play, when they play, expected behaviors during and after game playing, and other tasks that take priority over game playing.
  • Educate your children about internet safety and protocol. Teach them to not share personal information with other players. Watch for “cyberbullies” or other inappropriate materials that your children might encounter. Monitor your children to assure they do not engage in cyberbullying or the sending of inappropriate materials. Children often do things without thinking through the consequences. So, even if you have generally well-behaved children, monitor their activity to prevent immature, but dangerous, mistakes.
  • Learn how to use the parental controls on your video game system to monitor activity, block players if necessary, limit inappropriate material, etc. ESRB and the PTA offer an excellent brochure that can help in each of these areas (download it here).

Family Night at the Movies

Movies can provide the starting point for a great family fun night. A family movie night can begin as easily as renting a movie to watch as a family. Order some pizza and pop some popcorn, turn up the sound, and turn down the house lights to get the real flavor of going to the theater.  When everything is in place, you have the makings of a great family fun night.

Toy Story Green Alien CupcakesIf you want to go all out for your movie-based family fun night, let the movie serve as a theme for a whole evening of fun. Dress up according to the movie theme. Fix dinner and snacks that fit into the movie theme. For instance, you could dress up as Vikings to watch “How to Train Your Dragon.”  While you watch “How to Train Your Dragon,” enjoy some Viking themed snacks like cheese and crackers, sausage, and berries. Or, you might enjoy watching “Toy Story.” Bring your favorite toys to the movie viewing (so they can enjoy the movie with you of course). Dress up like Woody, Buzz Lightyear, or one of the other characters (like Hamm). Enjoy some ham sandwiches (not to be confused with the character Hamm) and a dessert of “Squeeze Toy Alien” (AKA-Little Green Men) cupcakes (click here for recipe).

Use your imagination, watch a movie with your family, and, above all, have a great family fun night!

The Not-So-Silent Killer Stalking Your Family!

There is a killer stalking your family. This killer does not physically attack families; but it will destroy family relationships and devastate each person’s self-image. Sometimes it works subtly, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, hiding behind humor, knowledge, and deception. At other times it blatantly attacks family members. This enemy of your family goes by many names, but ultimately we know it goes by the name of disrespect.


馬鹿にするビジネスマンDisrespect harms individuals and devastates relationships. It creates wounds so toxic they can remain open and unhealed for a lifetime! Disrespect thrusts a person into an inferior role.  It creates an environment of inequality, an environment in which the disrespected person is treated as less valuable, less worthy, and less esteemed. The very act of disrespect sets up a hierarchy in which the disrespectful person assumes the role of a controlling master and assigns the role of a less capable, less intelligent serf onto the one he disrespects. The disrespected person naturally responds with anger and rebellion, self-hate and emotional withdrawal, or both. Communication falters and, eventually, the relationship dies. Disrespect is a killer stalking your family!


A person can show disrespect toward family in several ways. Jennifer Gill Rosier, PhD (The Family Coach) discusses five ways family members can show disrespect to one another:

  • Disgracing. Family members show this type of disrespect when they criticize or insult other family members. Disgracing includes name calling, shaming, and attacks on a person’s character.
  • Dramatizing. We dramatize by using absolute language (words like “always,” “never,” “all,” “none,” etc.) to describe other family members or their behavior in a negative way. For example, “You never did care about me;” “You never listen to me;” “You always boss me around;” “You will always be a loser;” etc.
  • Dictating. This type of disrespect occurs when we give orders, commands, or communicate in a way that implies a hierarchy with us on top. A person who shows this type of disrespect often expects family members to make huge investments in family relationships or household duties while making no investment of their own.
  • Disregarding. Family members disregard one another by ignoring or rejecting. Disregarding shows its ugly head when a person ignores a family member’s attempts to converse, a family member’s feelings, or family member’s interests, among other things. The disregarding person can also simply reject other family members directly—”leave me alone”—for no real reason.
  • Dominating. We exhibit disrespect when we control the conversation, inhibiting our spouse or child from involvement by interrupting them, talking over them, or simply overpowering them during a conversation. A person can also show this type of disrespect by telling another person what to feel, think, or find interesting rather than allowing them to determine their own feelings, thoughts, and interests.


We may all show disrespect to family members from time to time. However, if disrespect becomes the norm, family relationships die. So, if you find yourself becoming disrespectful, apologize and change your behavior. Here are some behaviors to replace disrespect.

  • Rather than disgracing family members, encourage family members. Build up your family members. Make statements that will bring them joy. Honor them with your words.
  • Stop using words like “always” and “never.” Instead, deal with each situation as it arises. Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Invest in your family. Rather than barking out orders and commands, work with your family to get things done. Make chores and household duties a family project. Involve everyone, especially yourself!
  • Honor family members with your time and attention. Turn off the TV, take a break from the video game, and focus on your family members.
  • Include everyone in the conversation. That means you have to listen. Look each person in the eye and listen. Get curious about each family member’s feelings, thoughts, and desires…and consider those feelings, thoughts, and desires as you make plans.

Those are just a few ways to replace disrespect with respect in your home. The ideas are simple, but they will have a long-lasting and magnificent impact on your family life and joy!

A Taste of Heaven on Earth

Last weekend my wife and I enjoyed the opportunity to attend a wedding. It was a wonderful wedding.  The families of the bride and groom joyfully welcomed one another into their  growing The Holy Bible and the Crown of Thornsfamily. An acoustic guitar played quietly as the people gathered. The bride was radiant and the ceremony was beautiful.  A lovely young girl read scripture. The minister (also the father of the groom) shared some humorous family stories and, amazing to me, held back tears as he completed the ceremony that welcomed a lovely young lady into the life of his son and their family. Afterward, friends congratulated the bride and groom. The reception was a carry in dinner…the food was amazing and plenteous. Some people danced. Some people mingled and talked. Everyone smiled and laughed and hugged and hugged again. It really was a wonderful wedding.


Listening to the vows and enjoying the ceremony, I began to marvel at the people who had gathered to support the marriage of these two young people. All marriages need this type of support…a community to celebrate, nurture, and encourage their love. This couple is very fortunate to have this kind of supportive community…a community that extends beyond their biological family…a community that will reinforce their love when they experience the inevitable hard times.


I was also reminded of the joy marriage can bring to a man and woman. Two people who nurture their marriage will experience a little taste of heaven on earth. As they humbly submit to one another rather than “lord it over one another,” they will know the joy of acceptance, adoration, and true leadership. As each one becomes a student of the other, they will experience the wonder of being fully known yet delighted in and loved as they never believed possible. As each person strives to please and encourage the other, they will both find they have become their best  because of their relationship to one another. As each one sacrifices for the good of the other and serves the other from a heart of generosity, they will know the euphoria of becoming one in a sense that only love can teach us. They will know laughter in times of joy; and they will know comfort in times of sorrow. They will grow intimate beyond what they can currently believe possible. All in all, they will know God in a sense they could never imagine. They will experience a little taste of heaven on earth. And, as they do, they will share that taste of heaven with everyone they meet. Their children, their parents, their church family, their friends, and even their coworkers will enjoy a refreshing taste of heaven in their marriage. So, to Stephen and Melanie…God bless you as you enjoy your own taste of heaven, a celebrating community of honor and grace.

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