Three Things You Must Get Right In Your Marriage

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I love the above picture. It’s a reminder of how things change and of how people can believe they are so right about something yet be so wrong.

The picture is from the Tour De France, sometime in the 1920s. Back when smoking was considered healthy, this made perfect sense, but now we know better. Unfortunately, many have died discovering this fact for themselves. The same can be said for our marriages. We know there are better ways but we don’t take the time to consider them or look for how we can improve. Instead, we continue to have a marriage where we aren’t fulfilled.

What are some areas in your marriage that you need to improve? The following are pretty typical.

Learn to communicate better and while this is a standard answer, it is one that continues to be proven over and over again. Couples know how to yell at one another but they don’t know how to listen. They know how to complain about what’s not happening, but they don’t know how to ask for what they want.

Meet the needs of your spouse. Don’t know what they are? He/she probably doesn’t either. Willard F. Harley’s book does a great job of outlining how this issue can be resolved in your marriage. When needs aren’t being met, spouses often look elsewhere.

Learn to spend time with your spouse and enjoy it. If your daily routine does not involve regular time spent with your each other, a real change must occur. While you might not spend every night enraptured by one another, sitting close on the couch will go along way to communicate love and affection.

Life is made up of the little things and the little things must be done right.

Who’s Deaf? You or Your Child?

My son’s vision has become such that he needs to always wear his glasses now. This happened so slowly that he didn’t realize what he was missing until he finally saw it. He was excited at the world around him; like seeing things for the first time.

What are you helping your child see? My biggest concern was that he saw the songs for church that are projected on the wall. Second of course is that he see what his teacher is writing on the board. As parents we are to show our children the world around them, but if they can’t see it, hear it or comprehend it, what do we do?

I spent a weekend at a dude ranch a few years back and the family that hosted us had an adopted child from Mexico. She was about my son’s age at the time, around seven years old, and she didn’t speak. It’s not that she lacked the physical capabilities to do so or that she didn’t understand English or Spanish; she understood a little of both, but rather she had not heard much of any speech for the first few years of her life. After being abused because her parents thought she was being disrespectful in not communicating, doctors discovered that both of her ears were impacted and totally sealed off. She wasn’t being defiant; she couldn’t hear. I can’t imagine the guilt the parents must have felt when they learned this.

How many times have we as parents disciplined our children for not understanding something? Not because they chose not to, but because we weren’t communicating well. Have you yelled and screamed, frustrated at your child’s behavior only to realize later that he or she didn’t hear or understand you? It happens. We are parents but we aren’t perfect.

It is our job to help our children learn and by doing this we must also make sure they understand. Asking an 18 month old to do something he or she isn’t developmentally ready for is only asking for parental angst to begin. Not helping your teen boy with his own anxiety is setting him up to look for relief through drugs. Not telling your teenage daughter that you love her, dad, is pointing her in the direction of boys who will pay her attention to her own emotional detriment.

As you are guiding your child through life, make sure you are on the same page at the same time and in the same book. If he or she is frustrating you, chances are they are just as confused and maybe even more so than you.

Teens & Social Media: The Unattended Playground

In a recent 7th grade class I discussed the responsible use of cell phones. While in class I did a quick survey to see what percentage of my students actually had cell phones and who used social media. I’ve included the numbers below along with a few points to ponder.

  • 93% of our 7th graders have a cell phone, iPod, or tablet. While you can’t make phone calls on all of them, you can interact via social media.
  • 32% use Twitter
  • 58% use Facebook
  • 59% have YouTube accounts which allow them to post videos
  • 36% use Google+ which is like Facebook
  • 51% use Skype
  • 51% use Snap Chat
  • 59% use Instagram
  • 55% use Kik
  • 53% use Vine
My intent with this information is to show that kids are active on these platforms, several of which require parent permission. Being on these is neither good nor bad, but the behavior that takes place on them is quite often of an unsavory nature.

“Curiously, the minimum age on LinkedIn is 14. On WhatsApp it’s 16, and on Vine it’s 17. Some platforms, such as YouTube, WeChat and Kik, have a minimum age required of 18, although kids aged 13-17 can signup with parent’s permission.”

Does your child use these sites? If so, do you have access to his/her password and username? There is plenty of good that can be gained from the above sites/apps, but it is just as easy to see and experience negative things. Like an unsupervised playground, the internet has all sorts of possibilities for mayhem and for your child to be influenced in ways you do not approve of.

Consider the following article: Are Your Kids Hiding Their Apps?

Also, a program called Team Viewer will allow you to watch your child’s activity on the computer without them knowing. Sounds like a secret spy tactic doesn’t it? You may have access to all their accounts but they may also have accounts that you don’t know about. Plus, the instant message feature of Facebook is easily kept secret. So, if you really want to watch what your child is doing on the internet (while they do it in the next room in real time), you can get a free version for your home use.

Some things to consider if you go this route. First, you need two computers. There’s the one they’re on and the one you are watching them from. Second, this needs to only be done through computers you own. There are all sorts of privacy issues if you start watching on computers that aren’t yours or if you watch someone other than your child. Third, is  your child’s stage in life such that you really need to do this? You may have a level of trust here that will be breached if your child finds out. However, if you are worried he/she is hiding something from you, it is ok to start investigating. Finally, you can’t let your child know you are doing this. If you run into the next room out of anger and yell, “I saw what you just typed” they’ll know you’re watching. Then, the one and only window you had is now gone. This may keep them off those sites for a long time which isn’t a bad thing but they will find other ways to keep stuff from you if they are already doing it. So, be careful of how you handle this tool.

Parents must take steps to ensure that their child is growing and developing appropriately. This means to the point of monitoring their internet use because of the immense influence it can have on young minds.

 

How to Handle Bullies

BULLY! It seems that everyone is crying this word. “He’s bullying me. She’s a bully. You’re a bully.” It gets the attention of parents, teachers and the media, but it can eventually have an almost useless meaning because while everyone is pointing the finger, no one is looking at him or herself.

 We are always going to have mean people in the world. So, instead of only pointing the finger at the troublemaker, we need to also take a look at his/her victims and the bystanders that can have a big impact on this negative social behavior. Rather than getting the bully to stop, we also need to get others to act differently.

 First, we do need to teach empathy to bullies. We need to help them see what their behavior does to others. They need to realize that if they didn’t want to be hurt then they shouldn’t hurt others. This is a simple task that may or may not reach some since the motivation for their behavior could come from places besides a lack of empathy, but this is a good place to start.

Second, the bystanders need to be taught to act differently. They may be taking part in the bullying or they may be allowing it to happy by their inaction. Teach your children ways to reach out to those who are picked on. The targets of bullies need friends too and this is often why they are targets. They can be a friend, tell a teacher and they can tell you. When the lines of communication are open, your child will hopefully come to you about this. If they see a child who is repeatedly attacked, tell them to do what they can to stop it and that this means telling an adult

Third, the victim must act as well. Sometimes ignoring the bully diffuses his or her actions, but this isn’t always the case. So, telling an adult or simply avoiding the person when possible are good places to start.

When bullying happens on the internet, a rather ingenious idea is to keep your child away from social media. They don’t need it to survive so why put them in a place that causes them anxiety? Kids and teens are not all capable of managing the sea of anonymity and danger that comes with the internet. We were once afraid of the adult stranger behind the screen, but now our kids are attacked by their own peers. The internet is another method for them to do this so keep yours away from it if it’s causing problems.

The victim must also not fan the flames of bullying. If someone is being rude to them, if they are rude back, things won’t get better. The bully could actually escalate the situation in order to assert dominance. So, teach your child to appropriately handle bullies by telling someone or just ignoring them.

BOOK REVIEW: So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Ever had THE idea that was going to change the world, your community or at least your life? Well, I have and after reading this book I have discovered that while you may have a million dollar idea, if you lack the time, opportunity and million dollars, it should probably remain just an idea. Otherwise, you’ll lose.

Newport’s book does a fabulous job of discounting what he calls the passion myth. Do what you love and you’ll be happy. Well, I love fly fishing, yet I lack the capacity to adequately make money at it. However, many have had the same level of passion as me, quit their jobs to pursue their dream job and then failed miserably. Newport outlines very well how you can avoid this trap.

Newport doesn’t want us to avoid doing what we love, rather he wants us to not get the cart before the horse. He cites several examples of people who had an idea yet lacked the “career capital” to actually make it happen. They also didn’t research financial “viability” and thus their passion soon turned into a nightmare. They lacked the skill and never thought about whether or not they could financially pull off the venture. Failure ensued.

We seek these jobs of “passion” that are often of the self-employed type because they allow us to be creative, make an impact on the world, and give us control we wouldn’t otherwise have. Certainly, pursue your passion if you must, but go about it the right way. Too many people start with the big idea in mind and then work toward it. Big ideas that actually come to fruition are typically the result of smaller ideas falling into place over the course of many years. He calls it the craftsman mindset and it means we must craft our occupation like a craftsman builds his art.

Back to my fly fishing example. Currently, I am a counselor and will work in this capacity for many years to come. In my spare time I fly fish which requires a degree of skill and practice. It’s more than throwing a worm in the water. As I am doing this, I am building career capital as a fisherman, and at some point in the future (20+years) my skill might be such that maybe, just maybe people will pay me to guide them on various rivers in the area. If not, I will enjoy myself all the same.

Christian Parenting Books

Below are my books available on Amazon.com, all from a Christian perspective.

 

1. My latest work on parenting, published by 21st Century Christian.

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2. No More Yelling formerly titled, How to Argue with Your Teen and Win; a good primer to start communicating better, tonight. Available in Kindle .

This book was formerly titled, How to Argue with Your Teen and Win; a good primer to start communicating better, tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. A collection of my best posts on marriage. Available in Kindle and paperback.

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4 Tips for Controlling Anger & Anxiety

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Many people struggle with emotion control. This is evidenced by confusion of the person during intense emotional bouts. “Why do I feel this way, I don’t know what to do, and “I can’t help myself” are all expressions uttered by people whose emotions of anxiety, fear or anger seem to override their rational thought pattern to act in a productive manner. Whether the person experiences anxiety she knows is out of line with reality or is simply known around the office as having a “short fuse” control of these emotions can be mastered.

 We often look to our emotions as a gauge for morality. People will express that they feel that what they are doing is right. This happens a lot in religion when people base their worship and life practices on their feelings. However, Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” So, as we look to what we should do religiously, good leadership would base its practices on scripture, not the feelings of its people. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah I’m sure felt good about their actions too even though they were dreadfully wrong. So, as we progress through our daily lives, what should we do?

Certainly our feelings are important but what would happen if we always listened to them? There would be a lot more physical fights and verbal altercations since no one would stop themselves and choose a more appropriate plan of action. We must listen to our intellect and not allow our emotions to rule our lives. Think of the Incredible Hulk. He would fly into a rage every time he felt scared or angry. Thankfully Bruce Banner learns to control the monstrous beast inside of him and uses it as a tool for good. We must do the same.

First, think of anger as a fog. It clouds your head, leaving the solution just beyond our grasp and you with few resources to consider an appropriate next move. We must recognize when we are getting angry or even anxious/nervous can apply here too. When we see that our emotions are entering a state wherein our ability to think rationally is greatly diminished, we must do less, not more. Depending on the severity of your emotional spike, you must calm down. You will not find the answer to whatever is angering you because your head is clouded with emotion. Breathe deeply and calm down.

Next, search for the answer. Just because your head is clouded, it does not mean that what you need to do is completely out of reach. Talk to someone you trust or leave the situation completely until you have the answer and are confident with your decision.

Third, problem-solve. Your anger (fight) or anxiety (flee) is not the response you want to have in most situations. I say most because even Jesus went berserk on some people in the temple (Matthew 21). We lose control of our emotions because we want something to be different than it is. Think about what it is you want and focus on that. Yelling, screaming or crying are not good problem solving methods.

Finally, work to strengthen the skill of cognitive restructuring. In other words, consider how you think about anger and anxiety because nothing “makes” you angry. You choose how you react in almost every situation. Simply considering that in stressful moments can keep you from “losing it.” To practice this, awaken a negative emotion inside of you. Do this at a neutral time when you can concentrate. Then, begin searching through the “fog” for the answer you intellectually know you should pursue. When you find it, hang on to it and allow it to grow until you feel better. There are two wolves inside each of us. One represents anger and the other represents wisdom. Which will win? The one you feed.

Our emotions can run away from us sometimes, but we don’t need to let them rule us. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . . .” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Take your thoughts captive. Don’t let them rule you.

Disney’s Frozen & Emotion Control??

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Can you believe the hype over Disney’s latest masterpiece, Frozen? People are waiting for five hours to see Anna & Elsa at Disney World. It is a great movie and it can teach us a lot about emotion control. Often referred to as EQ (emotional quotient) we have the ability to be in tune with our emotions in order to make the most of what we are as humans. Emotions aren’t bad but they can be misleading and can be expressed inappropriately.

If you’ve not seen it, there are no spoilers here so don’t worry. In the movie, Elsa has the power to freeze things, and I don’t mean just freeze a small glass of water, she started the winter season in her kingdom. She had a lot of power. Her abilities were discovered when she was a young girl and in order to keep her and her sister safe, her parents told her to “conceal, don’t feel.” You can hear this line in the song by the way.

The idea was that if she suppressed her powers, which were greatly tied to her emotions, then she would be able to control them. Well, by the time she was an adult, she had almost no control over her freezing ability. All the years of suppression couldn’t hold back what was naturally there. She didn’t know what to do.

We often tell our children, and sometimes ourselves, to stop feeling a certain way. This has its place as we sometimes over react and know in our heads that crying over spilled milk all the time is no way to live. So, a proper reaction both intellectually and emotionally is necessary. Help your child construct a healthy EQ by processing the negative event. Don’t just tell your teen to “get over it.” She doesn’t know how to do that.

We sometimes believe that strong emotions are a bad thing, particularly men. However, if we are to be strong, we must conquer our feelings. We must master them because there’s nothing more manly than self-awareness. Otherwise, our emotions will rule us. If a person feels a certain way, he should express that and then think about whether or not the emotion makes sense. Suppression only serves to add the emotion up, and like a soda that’s been shaken, it will eventually explode.

 It is the expression of our emotions that often gets us in trouble. If your teenage son is angry, let him feel that. Let him experience it, but help him talk it out and get a good hold of why he feels the way he does and what he should do about it. Exploding in a rage only helps the person learn to lose control, not master his/her demons.

Like the song says, let it go.