Parents often base their actions on how they were raised. If it worked on them, they will use it. If they are bitter about it, they will cut it out of their parenting style. The trouble with this approach is that parenting is not a one to one science. It’s not a recipe or a blueprint where if you apply the right ingredients or materials at the correct time, you will reap the desired results.
In his book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, David Brooks describes the difference between a clock and a cloud. A clock can be taken apart, its pieces measured and then reassembled. A cloud on the other hand is more fluid in nature and while it can be studied, its behavior can also be unpredictable and puzzling. Humans are like clouds in many ways especially in respect to how we relate to one another.
With your children you can do all that you can for them and they may still disappoint you. You can read books, seek counseling and even pray but at the end of the day, your children are human and contain a will of their own. In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15), the father lets his boy go. He felt it was time to say goodbye to a boy who was discontent at home. What should parents do when they feel their own child pulling away?
First, gain understanding. Proverbs 3:13 says, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver, and her gain better than fine gold.” With the books we read, we gain knowledge, but do we really gain an understanding of what is happening in our families. What is underneath the surface? There may be a lot going on and it may be out of your control.
Second, Proverbs 22:6 says to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Well, why do Christian families lose their children to the world? This is a proverb, not a money back guarantee. Those who are faithful as adults were likely taught at a young age and many who leave return to their faith because of those teachings. So, teaching your child is still imperative in Christian homes. You must also remember that even God loses His children.
Third, treat your child for who he is, not for who you think he should be. It is important to consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses and build from there. Where can they be successful? Where do they need help? You may get a “that’s not fair response” from siblings who view your treatment of them with disdain, but you must remind them that fair doesn’t mean equal and you are only giving each of them what they need.
Finally, your child isn’t a microwave dinner, scheduled to be done at age 18. We rush our children into adulthood too fast sometimes without giving them the proper experiences that help them grow appropriately. Some are ready for college right after high school while others could use some work experience first. Maybe they need to experience some independence or maybe they need to sleep with the hogs. Wherever they find themselves in their path, be there to help them and know that God isn’t done with them yet.
The following article appeared in the Hendersonville Standard, the Gallatin News and The Wilson Post the week of February 3, 2014.
When you marry, this new relationship presents issues neither of you have ever faced before. It’s a scary time. However, you bring into this union the hope that it will be the start of a life that will bring you rich fulfillment. You are also both bringing into the relationship your faults, your strengths, and the possibility that your marriage will endure or fail. How you tend to your marriage will determine the level of satisfaction you experience and whether or not your ideal is realized. Hopefully, the following tips can give a new marriage the charge it needs or restart a once happy one.
Expect that your relationship will change. Within the first few months and even years of marriage your life will be relatively easy. You work and live for each other. There’s little else that takes your attention and what does typically has its own time slot (ie. exercise, work, and friends). However, as children enter the picture, you will be spread thin and forced to continually reconsider your priorities. This change can be good if you accept and adapt to it, or the metamorphosis can be your undoing.
As a result of your changing relationship, the excitement level you have consistently maintained will begin to fall. This is a practical matter because we can’t remain in a state of lover’s euphoria forever. This is life. The question is, can you find happiness in the little things? Can you connect over a cup of coffee or while playing with the kids? These moments of contentment and shared joy are what will prolong your marriage. Trips and dates are fun, but must not be relied upon to fully engage with your spouse. While what you deemed exciting as a young married adult may lessen, moments of intimate connection can be more intense than you ever thought possible. Why? You get better at being you, at being a lover, and you learn how wonderful the person you married actually is.
Discuss your values. You may have entered the marriage with a well thought-out plan or you may have fallen into it with little discussion about matters of importance. Where do you each stand on politics, religion, and children? Depending on their importance to you as individuals, they can either push you apart or bring you together. Talk about what is important to you.
Don’t be selfish. Your decisions are no longer about what you want, but about what is best for the family. This makes goal setting an important part of your relationship. If you have goals, both of you know what you are working for materially speaking. Then, saying no to a new boat or other luxury item will be easier if it’s not in the current plan. Talk to a financial planner and be on the same page regarding money.
Time apart is a good thing. In our families we give and give without taking personal time and this can be bad news. It could be as small as 30 minutes at the end of the day, but we must nurture ourselves. This will enable us to have something to give to our family; our best. That being said, time together is equally as important. You can’t be apart on a regular basis and then act surprised because of the lack of affection.
Read at least one book per year on how to improve your marriage. You can also follow blogs or someone’s Twitter feed who gives good advice on marriage. There are also podcasts to glean inspiration from. It’s easier to maintain a good marriage than it is to fix a broken one. A good book to start with is Willard F. Harley’s Fall In Love Stay In Love. In it he explains how spouses should work to meet each other’s needs.
Always strive to be the best spouse you can be. It’s very common for battling spouses to point at their counterpart and say, “when you change, I will.” In this case, neither party is winning. The only thing that is being built is a wall that grows stronger with each passing day. Forgiveness must be a part of your lifestyle. If you both strive to be the best spouse you can be, you won’t be pointing out the faults of the other. Rather, you’ll be working towards reconciliation.
As in many of the Proverbs, there's little explanation that follows except to say that containing this type of woman is like containing the wind or holding oil in your hand. Maybe one of Solomon's wives was looking on and he didn't want her to know whom he was writing about. Maybe his reference to the wind led her to believe it was the wife who talked too much. Or his allusion to oil was a nod to the woman who used more than her fair share of the perfume.
What a shame that the wisest man to ever live had to do so with an argumentative woman/women. I can see him now, on his throne, head resting patiently, thoughtlessly on his fist with his wife, standing above him, her ever thrusting finger in rhythmic time with her verbal barrage. "Yes dear," he would say hoping it would bring him a moment's peace, no doubt remembering what he had previously written in chapter 21, "It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman." By chapter 27 he had probably worked up enough courage to say what he really meant, but made sure the words were hidden between the parts about blessing a friend with a loud voice and of iron sharpening iron.
Little is said of a contentious woman other than she will drive you stark raving mad. Rain doesn't stop while it is rain. As the verse states, it continues dropping, dropping, and dropping with no thought of your feelings or the fact that you are wearing your suede jacket. "Maybe if I let the rain completely cover my shoes, it will be alright," you think. "Darker suede, like a new pair." But no, the rain ruins them all the same.
Similarly, a contentious woman cares little that her words tear up her husband's manhood, and by doing so he is not becoming the man she thinks she wants him to be. Rather, she is beating him like a helpless puppy and probably becoming her mother at the same time. This is a thought that never occurs to her but that would do her irreparable damage were the observation to be made. Her family thinks, "we should tell her what she's doing and how she acts."
Would it be so bad to tell her? It's likely that in some rickety gym bleachers during a high school pep rally she uttered the words to her BFF, "don't ever let me become my mother." Probably because of a fight they had over her short skirt, but telling her that her pseudo-prophecy is coming true would do no good. It would just be more ammunition to throw at her targets. As though she needs more. "You said I was just like my mother so I guess I need to live up to the expectation." Visions of the Wicked Witch of the West come to mind as well as the large collection of wire hangers I have in my closet.
While the husband is often the hapless victim in circumstances like this, the children also get a good lesson in manipulation and family dysfunction. If you cause people enough guilt yet make them feel sorry for you at the same time, you are in charge and can get whatever you want. The daughter might view her parents' relationship much like the relationship she has with her hamster, locked in his cage in her room. "I'll play with it," she pleaded at the pet store, so giddy and ready to raise a national champion hamster . . . if there is such a thing. Weeks have past and he sits in his cage until she finally takes him out to clean it. "You dirty rat. I can't stand you," she mutters as her once prized possession is now little more than an inconvenience. When she finishes with her task, her disposition is more solidified as she hears her mother yell, “Have you swept the floor yet you lazy man?”
The other lesson contentious women give here? "Men are scum, and if we don't tear them down, they'll be lazy, good-for-nothings and will probably cheat on us." It's true. For generations men have been scoundrels, competing masses of conquering adrenaline that are not fit to be in the presence of refined women who are about the only things we don't hit over the head anymore. Most of us anyway. And this is for the better because we should be domesticated by now. If I lose at a card game, my instinct is to jump up, allow my chair to scrape against the wooden floor and then punch the guy. Next, if old western have taught us anything, the piano will strike up as we duke it out until being thrown into the horse trough outside. But society and my wife say that this is wrong. I should be a good sport and not a sore loser.
Men are domesticated thanks to women, but in our hearts most of us are still wild. The desire to conquer is strong in us. We still retreat to the woods, we still eat hoards of meat and the desire to drive recklessly is tempered only by the loving eyes of our family. To deal with this, women have two options. First, she can be the type of woman a man longs for, and if he’s smart, he will pursue her with all the gusto he can muster. This will result in a happy and productive marriage along with the occasional trip to the woods or river. We’re still wild, remember? The other option is to be a Trojan horse to him. Lure him in with her seductive ways and promise him happiness until she has him around the throat and his other sensitive parts. This places her in a prime position to get exactly what she wants from him, which may be a child, money or simply the satisfaction that she can rule his life because of her low opinion of men. These women are sick. Her husband bought a ring as a token showing he can care for her and she has slowly become something that he can’t do anything with. She sees no wrong in her selfish actions and everyone is left with an open heart where a loving mother should be.
Proverbs 31 speaks of the virtuous woman, lauding her business sense, piety, and care for her family. Women are one of God’s most precious gifts to us. They are gentle and loving, but when they do not take their place in this world seriously, or worse, use their talents for selfish reasons, everyone suffers.
In their weekly podcast, Steven Levit and Stephen Dubner discuss a variety of topics and one of their most famous shows is devoted to commitment devices. This involves any concept that forces your future self to behave in a manner consistent with what your current self hopes to be.
It’s the New Year and everyone is still obsessed over his or her resolutions with diet and exercise being among the biggest. In another two weeks, they’ll be forgotten most likely but right now is a good time to discuss and assess them so hopefully you won’t fall back.
Paying a gym membership or going to weight loss meetings are both examples of commitment devices. While you want something to change, the rewards of not changing are often greater than the future payoff and the current consequences aren’t all that bad so you stay home or just give up.
You can even generate your own commitment device. Part of their podcast was devoted to a man (I’ll call Brian) who despised Oprah Winfrey. Additionally, he wanted to develop some better living habits that primarily involved his physical health. So, Brian wrote a $700 check to Oprah Winfrey and enlisted the help of a friend. Where Brian to fail in his challenge that spanned several weeks, his friend/judge was to send the check to Oprah. He mistakenly put milk in his coffee and left it up to Oprah. As of the podcast, she hadn’t cashed it.
To begin a new commitment to your marriage, I suggest the Couple Checkup. It is an assessment that can show the strengths and weaknesses in your relationship, which will thereby give you a place to start working. www.couplecheckup.com
The month of January has been cold to say the least. Much of the southeast has seen prolonged temperatures that haven't happened in a long time. Especially in Tennessee, we are a bit crazy when it comes to the cold. We don't have snow blowers or even shovels much because we know that even if we get several inches, it will melt in a day or two. No big deal. Head a few hours north or south and it is a completely different story. They are either constantly dealing with the white stuff or they have never seen it.
To give you a little more of a window into Tennessee weather as it relates to the cold, many people don't own heavy jackets. Unless you hunt or work outside, there's little purpose for them around here. They are more of a fashion statement. Furthermore, our buildings are heated well and so long as you can stand the temp from your car to the door, who needs gloves, a hat or a scarf? I suppose people who live in Michigan do but not us.
Given the winter of 2014 many parents may reconsider whether or not they will equip their children with adequate cold wear next season. Many cry out when the mercury dips below 20, "it's too cold to send our kids to school." Granted, there are some of these circumstances where the cancelling of school might be necessary. I would submit that this might also be an indication that parents aren't working to prepare their children for difficult times in general.
All too often parents try to hide their children from any form of discomfort. Why? It is through difficult times that a child is made stronger and learns he or she can do it himself. I am not suggesting that we send our children outside when it's five degrees to see who will come in first. Frost bite is real, people. But I am asking all parents to look at their behavior and ask, "Am I developing a strong individual or raising a wimp?"
I am a marriage counselor and a minister. With these two dynamics at play, I definitely see the need for the Lord's church to do more in respect to marriage. In his book, The Marriage Friendly Church, Dr. Camp has developed a method by which congregations can effectively assess the state of marriage among their members and work to turn it into what God would have it be.
It is important to note what this book is not, since it is easy to go into it with some preconceived ideas. Camp states very plainly that it is not a guide to a better marriage. Also, it is not a study on any doctrinal issue (i.e. marriage, divorce, & remarriage, or woman’s role in the home/church.) It is also not a “30 Days to a Great Marriage Ministry” guidebook. However, this book does outline a thorough “assessment process” that can change your church culture into one that helps strengthen marriages.
Camp addresses several issues within the church that may actually hurt marriages. He discusses the “church face” phenomenon where spouses act as though all is well when in reality they are crumbling. He challenges the idea that a busy church is a healthy church. Your over-packed schedule may do plenty for certain subgroups of your membership while actually destroying marriages in the process.
Much of the book is about listening to determine how your membership views marriage. This will give your marriage ministry a solid start as you work to minister to a portion of our society that is in desperate need of God’s love and direction. Camp then lays out a plan to get you started in a marriage ministry that will affect your families positively for years to come.
The book (with accompanying workbook) lays out an assessment plan that will work well for larger congregations, but anyone who wants to improve marriages within their membership will learn a great deal from this well-written book.
BOOK REVIEW - David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell considers the characteristics of those who overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to become champions.
Gladwell is one of my favorite authors and he does not disappoint in David and Goliath. I always finish his books with a tremendous sense of clarity of the world around me. In classic Gladwell fashion he challenges conventional thinking on how we consider obstacles and disadvantages.
He begins with the most famous of underdog stories, David & Goliath. He outlines the obvious vs the not so obvious advantages and disadvantages that cause this true story to be one we still discuss today. God was certainly with David, and while it appears on the surface that he should have lost, there are many reasons why his win was inevitable.
His stories involve common people doing extraordinary things and even historical accounts of wars, scientific studies and law. What do you think it means to face discrimination, cope with a disability or lose a parent? Are these advantages or disadvantages? Many are willing to give up in the face of these, but Gladwell shows how the potential loser can end up being the obvious winner.
You will be encouraged and enlightened.
In honor of December's character word of the month, caring, the Video Club shares this message.
I'm proud of the Video Club at Portland East Middle for their hard work on our latest video.
I think it's hilarious when I hear people who were born after 1975 say, "I want my child to have what I didn't." Granted, there were poor people then who struggled and did without, but the majority of Americans, even what you'd consider poor, had more than any previous generation. My dad worked to give me what he didn't have; a house with running water and heat. Yes, those are things people in a civilized society need and deserve. However, for those who had Little Debbie cakes served to them every afternoon and a beta player or VCR, to your lament over luxury, I say, "Give me a break."
If you've ever seen a Duck Dynasty episode you may have heard one or more of the family members speak fondly of the poverty they endured growing up. "We didn't know we were poor." I'm afraid that the standard of poverty for some today means having anything other than a smart phone, jeans that cost less than $20, and owning only one video game system.
Going without teaches you a lot of things. It teaches humility, self-reliance, and an appreciation for what you do have. It teaches that you don't need things to be happy which forces you to look at your family and get along; things that really matter.
Having too much can teach you a lot of the wrong things. It can teach entitlement and a dependence on others and things for your happiness. It does not teach hard work but rather that luxury can simply be handed to you if you ask the right way.
What did you do without? Maybe you did without some comforts and are working to ensure a better lifestyle for your family so they have fewer worries which will enable them to succeed beyond your level. That's good.
Maybe you did without some basic teachings like empathy, commitment and honesty. That's what's missing in our homes today. Instead of more and more toys for Christmas, our kids need things that you can't touch; they need character.