Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Intention Is Only One Thing . . .

Have you ever seen someone respond badly to a medicine?  Allergic reactions can be dangerous, even deadly, and if nothing else can cause the adult or child to be miserable.  But here's the odd part.  The doctor or parent who gave the medicine meant no harm. Their plan and goal was to help the person to actually feel better and to be healed from their ailment.

Unfortunately, the same scenario can occur in family relationships. Our intention was good but the result was disastrous or at best problematic.  What happened?  As a husband we thought we were just trying to give our wife some help and she took it as a put down. Or as a wife you were simply telling your husband about how he could have responded differently and he thought you were berating him.

Intention is one thing, perception is everything.  

Or your teenager came home feeling pretty defeated after not making the team or getting a part in the play and you tried to build them up by suggesting they didn't need to feel that way.  However, they just felt worse and walked out of the room. Most of us can come up with hundred of other examples, can't we, where our good intentions weren't well received or turned out badly.

Let me say it again.  Intention is one thing, perception is everything.

This important maxim also impacts the things we do as a family that we intend to be good but in the long run can be detrimental to the health of our home.  For example, the parents who want their kids to be involved in everything to develop their minds, improve their skills and help them feel better about themselves may one day regret their choices.

They can discover that much of that money, time and energy could have been better used to be together, slow down and focus on some other more important priorities.

So how do you decide what is really effective and what might have been or will be received poorly or have a negative result?

First of all, listen. Yes, listen to what your spouse, your kids and others in your world are saying about your actions and choices. That means asking them good questions and not being afraid to hear something negative. Listen as well to those who have gone before you - wise friends, parents and counselors.
Second, continually re-evaluate your priorities.  Think through what your choices as a parent or spouse are doing to enhance or hurt the most important things you want to develop in your home.  And if some activities or commitments are getting in the way, make some changes.  Have the guts to say, "No, we're just not going to do that any more. It's not worth it."

Third, pray.  Ask God to reveal to you where your words, actions, comments, habits, etc. are getting in the way of what He knows is best for you and your family.  Sometimes we have blind spots that God can reveal to us.

Finally, have someone who you're accountable to for what you say, commit or respond to.  Make sure they're honest with you and know your weaknesses.

Remember that even with the best of intentions, the results can be disastrous. Intention is one thing, perception is everything.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just Say KNOW - part 2

In my last post I spoke about four things that Jackie and I wanted to make sure our kids knew before they left our nest.  Let me suggest four more to ponder and see if they stimulate some other teachable ideas at your house.

We also wanted our kids to know how blessed they are.  It really doesn't matter how much or little you have in America, you're at an advantage compared to much of the world. Thanksgiving ought to be a normative expression in every household year round.  Even the Bible says, In everything give thanks.  Teach your kids to say thank you to God for even the everyday things they enjoy.  And don't always let them have the latest and newest just because everyone else is getting it. Show them how to give more than get and they'll likely become more thankful now and later in life.

Second, we wanted our kids to know what healthy married people are like.  We were far from perfect but we wanted them to see us work through problems or disagreements, see us not afraid to show appropriate affection or spend time together as a couple and notice that our relationship with God impacted everyday life. We became intentional about certain lessons we wanted them to grasp while trying to model lots of things that they would hopefully translate into their own marriages.

Third, we wanted them to have a healthy view of themselves.  That meant teaching them that first of all they are not the center of the universe.  There are other people in this world. And while there is a time and place for taking care of ourselves,  loving others is essential to a fulfilling and joy-filled life.  However, at the same time, we wanted them to understand how God sees them - they matter to Him, have purpose, are loved, have been forgiven and when they accept Christ are children of God.  Their view of themselves and understanding how God sees them will impact the rest of their lives.

Fourth, we wanted them to know how to talk to adults.  So many young people today have little to no experience talking to people who are older than themselves. And part of the problem may be that parents never encouraged or required them to sit in a room for a time and talk to adults.  Often kids are told to go to their room once the adults show up.  There's a time for that but give your kids the opportunities to learn to interact with the adult population.  Teach them how to address them politely and give them a chance to try their wings at a little adult-level conversation.

Do you have ideas to add?  Share them at the bottom of this post!  I'd love to hear from you!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just Say KNOW At Home

If you could pick a handful of things you would want your kids to know the day they walk out the door of your home, what would they be?  Have you thought about them? If so, are you conscientiously teaching those things?  Chances are they won't learn them in one lesson. It will take repetition, years of modeling and lots of practical life experiences for those lessons to truly sink in.

Let me share a few that were on our list. I'm sure we didn't do them perfectly, but I think they're worth sharing with you. First, we wanted our kids to know and experience our Christian faith story. Yes, the first part of that goal is teaching them the basics of Christianity and I couldn't merely leave that to the church or other faith group. It was first and foremost our task.  But in addition we needed to give them and encourage experiences that would help that faith come alive and deeply resonate within them.

Second, we wanted them to know that their actions have consequences. That's part of life isn't it?  If you don't work, you don't get paid.  If you do something poorly the results will be poor.  If you don't practice you won't be a great athlete or musician.  Our culture has a way of coddling kids and always bailing them out even when they are clearly irresponsible.  Yes, we need to be understanding of a child's age or circumstances and give grace but we must not simply look the other way or only give praise but not correction.

Third, we wanted them to know how to love their spouse.  Our homes are Marriage 101 for our children.  Where else will they learn how to be married?  Nowhere.  So we need to model love, caring and even how to deal with conflict well.  Our kids are watching and will notice.  How we talk to each other, how often we compliment and express love will make a difference in our kids' marriages.  And if you're a single parent you can model well how you respond now to your former spouse and others.

Fourth, we wanted our kids to learn to give to others.  So much of what kids hear about life today is to get more for yourself.  It's all about you they're told  And unfortunately many parents foster that attitude in their homes.  Everyone gets what they want it when they want it.  We must do what we can to help our kids invest in others even when it costs them something. Teach them to give of their time, money and skills to help someone else through serving locally, missions trips, being involved in the church and the like. Go together and care for a neighbor and serve others on a holiday instead of having your own gathering sometime.

There are lots more key lessons and I'll share a few more next time.  In the meantime, think up your own list and then set some goals to start teaching them now before one or more of your kids is driving down the driveway for that last time and you've lost the chance.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Teach the Importance of ONE

Last weekend I had the chance to spend a couple of days with two of my three grandsons and their mommy and daddy. Jeremiah, the three-year-old, and I would spend a good bit of time "working" outside - shoveling dirt, raking leaves and watering the flowers.

And being November there were a lot of leaves on the ground - thousands? tens of thousands?  hundreds of thousands?  Who knows? But that didn't phase Jeremiah. He would take a few leaves in his little pail and walk them over to the burn pile. Sometimes he only had one leaf.  But he moved the leaves anyway.  He didn't care that in the big picture of things he wasn't making much of a dent in the leaf problem.

But as I watched him at work I realized that what he was doing did make a difference.  It wasn't much compared to what an adult with a rake or leaf blower could do. But it was something.

In the same way, we all need to be reminded that doing something for one or two at a time can make a difference, too.  Adopting one child, helping one homeless person, listening to one friend, giving to one child or family overseas all counts. Who knows what could happen in a community, city or state if thousands were willing to just do one of something?

We might be able to literally wipe out the orphan problem in a city if many of the Christian families were to pitch in and adopt one child.  We might end poverty or provide tutors for every child who needed one if we all just did our part.

What would that look like in your home?  What need could you and your spouse or children solve that others could also join you in accomplishing?  Could you develop something that would be a grass roots solution to some major problem or issue?  I think it's possible if we'll all just start with ONE.  And whether our efforts become a movement or not, there will be one person who's been touched in some special way and we'll know that we've made a difference.

Holiday seasons are a great time to try something but don't limit yourself to just one event or season. Start something that you'll want to keep doing.  I guarantee you if you get your kids involved they'll want to go back again. And you'll be teaching them some life lessons that will hopefully set the stage for their own caring about the ONE someday when they're older.

Remember the starfish story. A young boy was walking along the beach and threw a starfish back into the water. A man walking by said to him,  "Son, your throwing one little starfish back isn't going to matter much when there are so many."  To which the boy said, "It mattered to that one."  Somehow I think Jesus thought the same way.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Love Is Not Always Obvious

I was driving down the road at a conference this week when I came upon a huge sign that said Hell Is Real.  That was it.  No explanation, no place to find out more, just this in-your-face message about Hell.  Well, I'm thinking, cancer is real and abuse is real and messy marriages are real.  They're all bad, too.  Why don't we put them up on big signs reminding people of their existence?

Some of us probably remember when the John 3:16 placards were in every end zone of the football games each weekend. I always wondered how many people even knew what John 3:16 said anymore and even if they did, would they all of a sudden think, "Oh yeah, that's about Jesus being the savior of the world. I'd better think about that?"  I doubt it.

You see unfortunately,when it comes to messages many people think that other people just get it.  They believe that no matter what else is going on at the time or what form our communication takes, if we're sincere and the message is important others will figure it out.

Wrong. Communication is both an art and a skill. We dare not assume that people will embrace our message just because we think we've put it out there.  And most importantly we must learn to communicate well when it comes to those we love the most. For example,what if someone were to ask your children, do your parents really love you?  Particularly consider about the older ones who can now think subjectively.

Would they respond with a resounding "yes?"  Maybe. But some of them may wonder about our love because we haven't said it lately or we've missed sharing a compliment or encouragement of late.  We may be providing for their needs and attending their events but have we looked them in the eye and told them we love them just because?

How about our spouse?  Same questions. Don't assume they just know of our love, pride in them and appreciation.

Here are the problems with the signs I mentioned earlier.  They first of all have no context.  There's no explanation, no relationship and no understanding of the reader.  Our comments in our families have so much more potential because they can be heard in the context of a home.  But we must speak the words.  Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).

Second, we must offer more detail. It's great to say love you! on a regular basis as a little reminder of our affections.  I do.  But at times we must say and offer more.  Sometimes we need to tell something specific about them that we especially love.  Yes, our love is to be unconditional, but detail adds to the depth of our commitment.

Third, we must speak it loudly. No, I don't mean you need to shout.  But we used to talk about a principle in drama that makes sense here.  If you want your expression to reach the back of the room you had to sometimes make it larger than normal.  It felt weird on stage but it made sense to the people in the last row. In the same way sometimes we'll need to repeat our expressions of affection.  Other times we need to make a big deal of them through a gift, surprise or special honor.  You'll have to determine what's appropriate and helpful.

In fact Gary Chapman's series of books on the 5 Love Languages would help you learn how different people feel loved in varying ways.

So today and this week when you want to show your love, be obvious.  Just don't put it on a sign, OK?
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Moving from ME to OTHERS in your home

Do you know what everyone born in the 70's, 80's, 90's and through today has in common?  They're technically called the ME Generation. Somewhere in time our society began to subtly become more and more focused on MY needs, MY possessions, MY success and MY pleasures.  It's kind of sad, in one sense, that someone had to actually name it.

However, if we're honest the ME in us didn't begin in the 70's. Since the creation of mankind, we all have had a major tendency within us to think about ourselves first and others second. While we don't say this in public, we might as well:  OK, enough of me talking about me.  Why don't YOU talk about me?  In fact, a recent country western song by Toby Keith was entitled exactly that . . . I Wanna Talk About Me!

And unfortunately the focus on me rather than others can seep into the fabric of our homes. We can schedule all our time around our desires, we let our kids be involved in every extra opportunity and we even troll the church scene to make sure our kids hear the best youth speaker in one church, get the best Bible study at another and enjoy the ultimate worship at another.

Let's be careful that we're not sending the message that life really is all about us. Do we want our kids to only be consumers and not investors in the lives of other people?  Of course wanting to provide excellent educational and personal growth experiences for our kids and family as a whole are fine. But do we balance all that with focusing on others?

Here are a few ideas. How about next Christmas taking most of the money you would have spent on gifts for each other and giving it away to another family, service organization or special project?  Why not substitute an extra gymnastics or music class some semester with going and serving at a church ministry or community shelter?

Could you go as a family or couple on a missions trip using money you would have just kept for yourselves?  You can seen that the ideas to teach about caring for others and not ourselves are many.  Think of ones that would work for your family.

In fact, be careful that even your words of praise at home might send an it's-all-about-me message.  If we never tell our kids, for example, when they make a mistake or could do something better, but always encourage them anyway, we're setting them up for false confidence and arrogance. They can begin to believe that they deserve to be complimented, affirmed and applauded no matter what. They'll expect the same in school, in work and in life . . . and be disappointed.

So yes, build each other up but do it appropriately, honestly and with balance. Show them how to be more like Jesus who was always looking out for someone else.  Don't let ME become the dominant goal at your house. Make more of life about others.  That's when you really feel alive.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.