Smartphones are endemic in our society today…and they impact our marriages and families. For example, we can “phub” our spouse and family with our smartphones, sometimes in very subtle ways. “Phubbing”—that is “snubbing” another person by focusing on our phone when in the midst of interacting with them. One survey found that 46% of the adult respondents reported experiencing phubbing from their spouse. I’m actually surprised it’s that low.
Phubbing can occur in more ways than one. Obviously, when your spouse or family member pulls out their cellphone to respond to a notification during your time together, you’ve been phubbed. Or, vice versa, when you pull out your smartphone to respond to that “important” email, you have just phubbed your family.
But there are more subtle ways of phubbing as well. For instance, one study had participants share a restaurant meal. Some shared a meal with their phones on the table and others shared a meal with no phone on the table. Those who had their phone on the table enjoyed the restaurant meal LESS. The phones on the table led to greater distraction and less enjoyment with friends or family. In other words, just having your phone visible is a subtle form of phubbing your family.
Another study allowed participants to sit behind a person in a video and put themselves in that person’s shoes. They could see the face of the person interacting with them in this digital format. The person who was interacting with them put their phone on the table. From there, they either ignored their phone, occasionally looked down and swiped, or picked it up and answered. The greater the intensity of phubbing, the more distance the participant reported. They reported they felt like they “didn’t belong,” like they weren’t important enough to attend to. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my spouse or family to feel that way. (Both studies are briefly described in Smartphones, Phubbing, and Relationship Satisfaction.)
So what do we do to protect our family from phubbing? Here are a couple of ideas.
First, and foremost, model a “no-phubbing policy” by applying these ideas to yourself. Our children, in particular, learn more from our example than our teaching.
When eating dinner, put the phones in the different room, away from the table. This will likely arouse some discomfort and desire to look at the phone at first, a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) on something important during the mealtime. But everyone will get used to setting the phone aside and enjoying one another’s company. After all, isn’t enjoying our family one of the most important things we don’t want to miss out on?
When you go out to dinner, leave the phones in your car, your purse, or your pocket. Do not look at them while you are out. This may mean having conversations or playing simple games while waiting for your food. It may lead to greater intimacy as you gain knowledge about one another’s day, dreams, goals, etc., through conversation.
If another family member picks up their phone in mid-conversation, stop talking until they reestablish eye contact. If they say you can continue while they “just answer this text,” politely tell them you’ll be glad to wait until they are finished and can fully attend to your interaction because they are important to you.
Enjoy family “tech-free” times—an hour or two or three or even a full day together engaging in an activity with no cellphone interaction.
Allow your family member time to respond when you call or text them. Allow for the possibility that they are busy, in the midst of some activity or interaction, and just cannot respond immediately. After all, you and you’re learning to manage your phone’s influence more effectively. This will apply when someone is out with friends as well.
In many ways, these ideas simply represent taking “microvacations” from your phone, but they cause me to reminisce. Remember the days before smartphones. People called and perhaps no one was in the home to answer. The caller simply left a message. We retrieved those messages at a later time. Everyone survived. Everyone enjoyed the day even though we might be “receiving an important message” at any moment. There was no expectation of an immediate response or a need to know immediately. We patiently waited and enjoyed the moment knowing the message would be there when we got to it. Perhaps we can bring some of that mentality (a mentality of patience and a priority that focused on the current face-to-face interaction) back into our families.
Our children have questions that only we, their parents, can answer…and we need to answer them. They don’t ask these questions directly and they may not even realize they ask them at all. But they do. They ask these questions with their quiet presence and their disruptive presence. They ask them while waiting for us to notice and acknowledge them. They also ask these questions in the form of more subtle, seemingly benign questions like, “Do you like my new hair color?” or “Can we get dessert?” They even ask them with their misbehaviors. Let me share just 6 of the real questions our children are asking in these behaviors, 6 questions they need us to answer.
Am I important? When our children know we value them, they feel valuable. We communicate how much we value our children by accepting them, listening to them, and taking time to learn about their world. We also express how much we value our children through gratitude. Become a student of your children. Spend time with them. Communicate how important they truly are to you.
Am I good enough? In fact, am I enough? This question is a question of identity. Our children need to know we that know them and recognize their worth, even when they feel like they’ve failed. This requires us to give them space and assistance, support and encouragement, in exploring their strengths and interests. Our children also need to know they are good enough even when we discipline them. To communicate this message, we need to give them unconditional positive regard, even when we disagree with them or discipline them.
Do I belong? As our children turn to teens, friends become increasingly important. Still, they need and want family. They need to have a sense of belonging in their family even while they explore and establish a sense of belonging among their peers. This is a tightrope for many families. Let your children try new things. Encourage then to recognize how various groups of people impact them and their behavior. Help them find the peer group in which they feel most comfortable, whether it be the theatre group, the music group, the sports group, the academic group, or some combination of them all. At the same time, always communicate that they will belong in your family no matter the peer group they choose.
Am I romantic enough? I’m not sure this represents the best way to word this question. It’s a question delving into attraction, romance, and intimacy. Teach your children from an early age that romance entails mutual kindness and respect. Teach them that physical and emotional intimacy cannot be separated without resulting pain. Teach them that restraint and self-control are as important as sex; and, without self-control, sex leads to emotional hurt. “Ultimately, encourage them to wait and wait and then wait a little longer. Waiting for sex is based on good science” (From Raising Healthy Girls). (See Cheat Codes” for Dads: Your Daughter’s Beauty for more.)
Do you trust me? The answer we give our children to this question begins much earlier than most of us imagine. It begins as early as those toddler years when our toddler says, “No” to our assistance and we step back, trusting them to work at completing the task. It extends into the school years when we put a reasonable structure in place and trust they will complete their schoolwork. They continue this question into adolescence when they ask us if they can “go to my friend’s party” or ” use the car tonight.” Trusting demands a step of faith on our part. Take the step. Trust unless given a clear reason not to. Even then, leave the door open to reestablish trust by taking a step of faith. Remember, a child who feels their parent trusts them is more likely to act in a trustworthy manner.
Am I strong enough to be my own person? The most difficult aspect of a parent’s job is to prepare their children to become independent adults, to let them leave home and become their own person. This goal is the end result of a process that evolves over their first two decades of life. It is the result of a parent teaching their child a task and then letting them do it independently, even if they want to do it differently than us. It is the result of letting go when they go to preschool, letting go when they go on their first dates, letting go when they drive to the mall on their own for the first time…all while remaining available in the background as a safety net, ready to respond to their call for help IF they need it.
Our children ask these questions every day. We answer them through our words, our actions, and our interactions. For your children’s sake, answer them wisely.
Family offers the soil in which we nurture one another’s sense of value and worth. That sounds kind of sentimental, doesn’t it? It’s also an obvious statement barely worth repeating. Nonetheless, it is true. But do you know what one major soil nutrient will contribute to your spouse’s and your children’s sense of value and worth? Well…there is more than one but this one has the power to enhance a person’s sense of worth and value more than you might imagine. In fact, it is essential in the nurturance of each family member’s mental and emotional health. It’s time we stop overlooking it and make sure the soil of our families is rich in this nutrient. It won’t be difficult because this nutrient is easily added to your home and family. It is simple, can be added daily, and has amazing power. What is it? Gratitude. All you need to do is express gratitude and thanks. Sounds too easy to be true, doesn’t it? However, a series of four studies shows it is true. Gratitude does nurture value and worth in your family members. Let me briefly share what these four studies revealed about the impact of gratitude.
People who received thanks showed more willingness to continue helping the person who gave them thanks. In fact, the expression of gratitude “more than doubled the likelihood that helpers would provide assistance again.”
People who received thanks showed a greater willingness to help a third party after receiving thanks. They were more willing to help a person other than the one who thanked them.
People who received thanks, worked longer to help the one who thanked them. They increased their productivity by more than 50% and spent 15% more time helping.
Moreover, analysis of these findings reveals that when a person receives thanks, they feel more socially valued. This increase in feeling socially valued led to their greater willingness to continue helping and to persist longer in their helping activities.
Gratitude is powerful. It enhances our family members sense of personal value…and their willingness to help others. So, if you want your family members to help more within the family, help those outside the family, and do it more often, thank them for their contributions to the home. Share gratitude. Vocalize your gratitude for all they do. They will know you value them and their help. As a result, they will help more people, more often, and with greater effort.
It is a new year and a new opportunity to fill your family with honor, grace, and celebration.
We honor what we value so honor your family. Fill your home with honor by sharing words and actions that express value and love to each family member. Honor fills our homes when our actions reveal how much we value and appreciation each family member. Acts of kindness and service honor by communicating the “full extent of our love.” Words that acknowledge strengths and effort, words that express gratitude, and words that communicate admiration express honor to all who hear them. These words of honor pour a sense of value and worth into our family members.
A home filled with grace becomes a safe haven, a place where each person knows they will find acceptance with no strings attached. Grace apologizes for wrongs committed and forgives generously. Grace disciplines in love, teaching us to live a healthy life emotionally, physically, and mentally. Grace reveals love in the sacrifice of “my” desires to meet the needs of my family. Grace keeps us available, attentive, and emotionally connected to one another.
A home filled with celebration flows out of a home filled with honor and grace. When honor and grace undergird our interactions, we can “let our hair down,” reveal ourselves fully, and know one another intimately. We can laugh freely and play with abandon. Overall, celebration fosters an abundant life, refreshes our perspective of others, and restores intimacy. Filling our family with celebration intimacy and culminates in a renewed vitality for life.
Take the opportunity provided by a new year to fill your home with honor, grace, and celebration. You can find many ideas for sharing honor, grace, & celebration under the Family Bank of Honor. You will love it and your family will love it…for years to come.
If you play video games, you know
the value of a good “cheat code.” “Cheat codes” help the player
advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes”
help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon they need to succeed in the
If you’re a Dad of daughters, you
probably feel like you need a “cheat code.” You want some inside information to
help you move up to an advanced level of understanding or win points to deepen
your relationship your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” for
obtaining the special power needed to influence your daughter toward
maturity. If so, I have just what you’re
looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.
The Cheat Code:Spend Time With Your Daughter.
Purpose:Spending Time With Your Daughter will…
deepen your relationship with her,
increase your understanding of her,
strengthen your influence with her.
Value: Why is spending time with your daughter important? Your
daughter does not spell “love” with the letter “L.” She
spells it with the letter “T” for T.I.M.E. Spending time with your
daughter communicates your love for her. It increases her sense of value and
Instructions: In order to communicate love effectively through time, you
have to make some adjustments.
Put down your cell phone.
Turn off the TV. Quit reading the
paper. Stop watching the game.
Spend 20-30 minutes simply
interacting with your daughter. You can do this by going for a walk with her or
simply sitting down with her and talking. You could take a ride to the ice
cream shop and talk over an ice cream cone. Let your creativity and your
daughter’s interests guide the where and when of the conversation.
Use your time to time to listen
“twice as much as you talk.” Let her set the topic of conversation.
If she does not initiate a topic, ask about her interests, her activities, her
friends, or her dreams. Compliment some aspect of her that you admire.
When she does bring up a topic, show
interest. You may not really be interested in the “best color skirt”
to wear to the dance or the ongoing saga of girl life in middle school. Show
interest anyway. Ask a few questions. Be excited with her and mourn with her.
Learn about how she thinks about everything.
As you spend time with your
daughter, she will learn of her value. She will learn she is valuable enough to
have your undivided attention for a period of time every day. You will also
develop a stronger relationship with her…one that will last a lifetime.
A couple years ago, during my daughter’s sophomore year in college, we went to a high school football game together. She saw a young college age man wearing a sweatshirt from the college she attended. Excited to meet someone who attended the same college as her, she walked up to him and said, “Hey, I go to that college too!” The young man smiled, eyes wide. She said, “What’s your major?” His arms began to move in motions indicative of speech and he opened his mouth as though to speak, but the words did not flow. After a very brief moment, sounds began to emanate from his moving lips as he stuttered, “Huh…well…I…huh…oh man,” his hand landed on the top of his head, “I can’t remember my major!” He looked hopelessly to his friend and then said, “I gotta go.” I just smiled. He did return later and had a more intelligible conversation with my daughter. He was a nice young man…very intelligent actually. He just “got lost in her eyes.” When she “ambushed him” that way his intelligence went adrift in her eyes.
Watching this brief interaction brought two things to my mind. One, I recalled the scene from Inside Out. You can check it out here. Two, it reminded me of a study completed in 2009 in which people interacted with attractive members of the opposite sex before completing cognitive tests (What Sexy People Do To Your Intelligence). Both males and females performed worse on the cognitive tests in the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex. But males exhibited a stronger drop in ability than women. Why? The authors of the study believed that it had to do with “impression management.” It seems that trying to make a positive impression on another person sucks up enough brain power that our cognitive skills, our intelligence, is weakened. (That must be why I can’t speak intelligently when my wife walks into the room…oh, come one guys…give me a break. I’m trying to earn some brownie points here if my wife happens to read my blog!) My daughter knows about these studies since I talk about them (she would say I talk about them too much). She had compassion for the guy. She was patient and didn’t make a deal out of it. In other words, she treated him with respect and honor. Teaching our children to respond to others with respect and honor is an important part of equipping them for the world…and making the world a better place. Let’s teach our children these values early. Let’s give the values of honor and respect a central place in our families and in our training of children. We can still enjoy the intelligence that goes adrift in the sea of beautiful eyes, but we can also admire the compassion, patience, honor, and respect we witness in return.
You’ve heard songs lament, “You’ve lost that loving feeling….” You’ve probably even heard people you know declare, “I love you; I just don’t feel the love anymore.” That’s great news. Now those “loving feelings” won’t interfere with you revealing your true level of love. After all, true love is a verb, not an emotion. Feelings wax and wane. Emotions come and go. But true love includes more than emotion. True love is a verb that involves decisions and actions. True love engages in loving acts toward the one you love even when the feelings of love weaken or seem nonexistent. Think of those loving actions you engaged in when you first met and began to pursue a relationship.
The effort you made to spend time engaged in conversation and getting to know one another.
The time spent sharing interests and opinions over a cup of coffee or a meal.
Think about how often you “picked up a little something” you thought “the one you loved” might like and gave it to them when you met. It might have been anything from flowers to a pack of gum to a picture of something you thought they’d enjoy.
Recall how often you complimented them on their appearance, their cooking, an achievement, or something they did for another.
Remember the times you admired their character as you saw it in action.
Think about the simple acts of physical affection like holding hands, sitting snuggled up in one another’s arms, or walking arm in arm.
Consider how often you offered to do something nice for them. You might have offered to get them a drink while you were in the kitchen, pick up milk on your way to their apartment, or carry a bag for them while they opened the door.
The acts of love go on. There are many more. Not so surprisingly, engaging in these acts of love reignites those dormant feelings of love. I fear we often put the cart before the horse when thinking about love. We think loving feelings drive loving actions. While that might be true at times, real growth, real movement toward a stronger marriage, occurs when the horse of loving action drives the cart of loving feelings to a new and better place in our relationship. Of course, the one steering the cart and directing the horse, the coachman, is you and your decision to go in the direction of love. So, if you’re singing the blues (“I’ve lost that loving feeling”), cheer up. Rejoice in the great opportunity presenting itself to you. Jump in the driver’s seat and take the challenge of driving the horse…eh, I mean, your loving actions. Engage in loving actions, the same type of actions you engaged in when you first “fell in love.” Celebrate the opportunity to reveal your true love in action and the cart of “loving feelings” will follow into an even more beautiful love than ever before.
Loving parents establish loving limits for their children. It’s true. We need to do it. We set limits for their safety and the safety of others. We develop limits to teach them polite behaviors and mature attitudes that will allow them to find success outside the home. We put limits in place to guide our children toward becoming the best versions of themselves. But, you know what our children do with those limits. They bump up against them. They push the limits. They try to sneak around the limits and undermine the limits. Sometimes they bump so hard against the limits we get angry and frustrated. Don’t get too frustrated though because children bumping up against limits is a great thing, especially when we respond in love. Children bumping up against limits provides great opportunities and benefits. Let me explain.
When children bump up against limits they learn how to manage their frustrations. Life will not give them everything they want. They will encounter roadblocks and limits outside the family. Best to learn how to manage the frustration around limits in the loving womb of family rather than the harsh desert of the world. Let them bump…and help them learn how to manage the frustration of bumping a limit in a healthy, mature manner.
When children bump up against limits they learn about our true values. They learn long-term character is more important than immediate gratification or temporary wishes. They learn which values we truly find important and will “stick to our guns” for and which we will “give in” on. They learn which values we truly hold dear and which values we are willing to forfeit to avoid the hassle. They learn which values they really need to internalize and which they leave behind as they leave home.
When children bump up against our limits we have an opportunity to show our them love by explaining the reasons for the limit. They learn we believe in their ability to understand the reason behind the limit. They learn we respect them enough to explain those reasons to them in a calm manner. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we argue with them about the reasons. We simply inform them of the reasons. Then we show our love by standing firm and not budging while they bump up against a good limit.
When children bump up against a limit we have an opportunity to show them our love by listening to their outpouring of emotion. We can hear their explanation and simply be with them in their frustration. They will learn we love them enough to understand their frustrations and remain present in their anger. They learn we love them enough to hear them and understand their concerns…which brings me to the next bullet…
When children bump up against a limit we learn about our children. As they explain their frustration and “everything wrong with the limit,” we gain insight into our children. We may even find their complaint makes sense. We may even discover a need to modify the limit to better support their safety and growth. We will encounter times when our children’s insight and wisdom will influence us to change the limit…and that shows the depth of our love as well.
When children bump up against limits we have established for their safety and healthy development we can become frustrated. But remember, children bumping up against the limits presents wonderful opportunities to teach and love. Let them bump and find a loving, gracious limit that holds them secure. Let them bump and learn. Let them bump and hold them close.
As the year comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on the importance of family in the world today. So many of the issues we struggle with as a nation could be lessened, if not eliminated, by healthy families, families based on the values of honor, grace, & celebration. Families that practice and teach these values become the cornerstone of healthy communities. They improve their communities and the overall world by living out the values of honor, grace, and celebration learned in the microcosmic community of their family. Consider just a few lessons learned in a family of honor, grace, and celebration that will then be extended to the community and world around them.
Honor causes us to humbly see one another as diamonds rather than coal, someone to be cherished and admired rather than used for my comforts and my ends.
Honor teaches us to communicate love and respect to one another—young and old, male and female. It teaches us to respect one another in our uniqueness.
Honor compels us to esteem one another in spite of differences we might have. It teaches us to respect even when we disagree.
Grace enables us offer one another unconditional acceptance.
Grace teaches us to live sensible and righteous lives—lives that serve rather than abuse, lives that sacrifice for others rather than take from others.
Grace empowers us to practice extravagant generosity in our availability, attention, and meeting of one another’s needs.
Grace leads us to forgive those who offend us and to seek reconciliation when possible, releasing us from the burden of vengeance.
Grace frees us from the crushing weight of anger and bitterness as we seek It frees us from the shackles of guilt as we receive forgiveness.
Honor and grace combine to create a sense of security, a sanctuary of acceptance.
Honor and grace build a safe haven in which disagreements can be discussed, options explored, and solutions discovered.
Honor and grace drive us to connect with one another on a deep emotional level.
Honor and grace liberate us from the entanglements of narcissism and self-centeredness.
Honor and grace make celebration possible. In honor, we celebrate our diversity. In grace, we even celebrate with those who disagree with us.
Celebration allows us to play and laugh together, revealing ourselves more full and without pretense.
Celebration refreshes our perspective of others, allowing us to see one another with fresh eyes of understanding and joy.
Celebration enhances intimacy, allowing us to know one another more deeply.
Celebration restores our trust in humanity as we celebrate those successes and achievements that value all we honor.
Healthy families not only practice honor, grace, and celebration they teach these values to future generations. In so doing, they build people of honor, grace, and celebration who then build communities of honor, grace, and celebration. People who live in families of honor, grace, and celebration go into the world and create positive change (Read Hot Sauces Vs. the Power of Relationship for an example of this positive impact). In this coming year, recommit to making your family a celebrating community of honor and grace. You need it. Your family needs it. Our world needs it!
Don’t you wish we had a book of love, a book that would explain all the nuances of love? A book that describes all the idiosyncratic steps of a loving relationship? Then again, maybe not. The author of the book would try to explain the “facts” and figures of love…and that would likely prove long and boring. The author would also include charts that would be so confusing and difficult to understand. But, if you had a loved one to read it with you…that would change everything. Reading it with a loved one will result in the most beautiful music. You’ll discover flowers and heart-shaped boxes. You’ll love to read the book then…but only when you read it with the one you love. You’ll sing the songs of love together and share a dance to the music of love. As you put down the book and enjoy one another’s company, as you share your lives and emotions, you’ll discover fascinating joys flowing from the book of love. So, take a moment now and enjoy “The Book of Love” as sung by Peter Gabriel. Grab your spouse and dance to the tune. Enjoy a moment of love!