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

Friday, April 29, 2011

I"m Not Listening . . . Humperdink, Humperdink, Humperdink

OK, so one of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. And many of you know there's this hilarious Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) scene where Max doesn't want to hear anything about Humperdink the king he formerly served.  So as Max's wife shouts "Humperdink, Humperdink, Humperdink," Max runs around with his hands over his ears saying, "I'm not listening."

Unfortunately there are many spouses who for all practical purposes act just like Max when their spouse tries to talk to them. There are lots of reasons why the listening is on hold, however. For some they're easily distracted. They don't intend to not listen but they can see a bird fly by and they are now thinking about something else.

Others try to multi-task all the time. They intend to listen but have a remote, newspaper or smart phone in one hand. They end up really showing disrespect to their spouse but feel like those other things can't wait or that they're simply talented enough to do both.

Some, however, don't want to hear what their spouse says because they feel inadequate to respond or simply don't want to face their own failure or wrongdoing.

However, if meaningful, effective and intimate conversation and communication will ever happen in a marriage spouses must let go of their belief that their worth is on the line during conflict.  When we're wrong we need to learn to face it. We won't be less of a person. We'll actually get stronger.

When our spouse needs us to hear them whether it's because of our mistake or merely their need for a listening ear we can go there and must. And if we're not very good at it we need to start practicing.  If we're a multi-tasker then we need to start by putting the other things aside and giving our mate some focused attention.

A few suggestions: turn off the TV, computer or other distractions that keep you from listening well.

Find regular time to focus on each other and hear the other person completely.

If we're easily distracted we need to enumerate those things that steal our attention and determine a way for them not to control us any more.  And if we thought we just didn't want to hear it well . . . decide for a change that it won't kill you. You'll survive and yes, your marriage will be even stronger. And your spouse will know that in you they truly have a friend and confidante.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Power of Modeling In Your Home

I was at a friend's house recently where his family owned two dogs. One was a small Shorkey puppy while the other was an older mix. As I reached down to pet the lovable  white pup, my friend pointed out how oddly the dog was sitting up against the counter wall.

And  he was right. The little guy was sort of hunched up with part of its behind against the wall while it's front was at a funny angle. Nonetheless, the dog looked comfortable and happy. My friend explained that the older dog had endured some serious hip and hind legs problems for years so was forced to sit that way all the time. The puppy, who had lived his whole life around the elder one, had apparently decided that was the way all dogs sit and as a result did the same.

I saw the comparison to people right away. Do you?  Dysfunction is modeled and passed on to others even if there's no reason for the others to adopt it. They see it over and over and begin to think of that as normal.

In fact, sometimes our homes are havens for major inappropriate behaviors but we don't see them. That's why it's important to get some periodic input from certain wise people who don't live where we live.

Who? First, consider a personal or marriage mentor. Spend regular time with a same sex friend or insightful individual who will simply speak honestly with you about your home, marriage, personality, etc.  A couple can do the same if you're a couple.

Ask them to think through your home, your life, your ways of responding and tell you if they see anything that seems abnormal to them. You can find them in your church, community or even workplace by starting with someone you really respect and you sense is probably a bit wiser than you. Sometimes churches even have ministries where such people can be found.

A second option is a professional counselor - therapist, pastor trained in counseling, or psychologist.  You don't have to be royally messed up to see someone like this. They, however, can help you sort out any significant issues or dysfunctions that may be impacting your home or friendships. They can go deeper into problematic areas. The small investment in time and perhaps money will be well worth it.

Third, do a self-assessment. Take inventory and ask yourself, "What do I do that may not be healthy for our home or my relationships?" Be bold, be honest and be ruthless. Consider praying for help on this. Remember, like the little dog, your unhealthy and healthy ways of responding will likely be copied by those who live around you, especially the young "puppies" in your home.

The old song lyric from Cats in The Cradle is so true . . . my boy was just like me, he grew up just like me.  Wouldn't it be great if we could answer with, "And I'm glad he did."
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, April 9, 2011

When Kids Think They're Ready For Adulthood

Ryan was a junior in high school. Worked for decent grades, rarely got in trouble and was well liked. However, at home he was starting to push harder on his parents to have more freedom, to be more independent. He had begun asking that the curfew be taken away, that he be able to make even more of his decisions without parental advisement and that he not have to always let mom and dad know where he was.

Of course his parents were leery of giving him that much freedom even though they knew that soon he would have to be given all the freedom he was desiring and more.

It's important to understand that Ryan was actually being normal and when it's all said and done seeking a good thing - adulthood. The challenge is how to let our children begin to swim in that pool without just throwing them in.

The wise parent will try to do a couple of things.  First of all, give your children some gradual addition of freedoms and responsibilities. Especially as they move through high school begin to introduce some ways that they can feel a bit more adult. Perhaps instead of removing the curfew you can just extend it a little more. When it comes time to buying clothes you might give them so much money to spend themselves and see how much they can purchase for that amount. It's a great time to teach them some of your favorite getting a bargain tricks.

Second, be sure they understand that becoming an adult has responsibilities with it. For example, if they think they're old enough to work and get a part-time job, let them contribute something to help with the household expenses. Of course it may not be much but they'll learn that freedom isn't really free in everyday life. Make sure that once they're making money (or having their allowance increased) that they need to also save a certain portion.

Third, expect them to relate more and more to you like an adult.  Many kids do this pretty naturally but some will not. They can improve in their communication skills by being expected to stay and talk with you, share details, let you know when they will be there for meals, etc.  Healthy adults know what common courtesies are and your kids can learn those too.  If they want to have their room look the way they want it, fine, but then treat them like a resident.

That means they do all their own laundry, cleaning, etc. unless you agree upon a different arrangement.  You get the idea. We must teach our kids that being an adult is a good thing, but it also will take some real growing up on their part not just enjoying a free ride.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Power of Words of Life

Most of us have forgotten most of what happened or was said to us five, ten, twenty, or forty years ago. But there are likely a couple of things that DO stand out. Things that were special, events that were surprises, opportunities that were incredibly amazing and words that hurt.

Yes, words that stung, that attacked our character, that made us feel ashamed are ones that stay with us for awhile, sometimes forever. Why?  Because they went deeply into our souls, they described to us (or so we thought) who we really are in the eyes of the other person and they often seemed to speak about things that we could never change.

If some of us reading this right now were to actually think again about hearing those words we would get a tear in our eye or a lump in our throat. Others might become enraged or find themselves in a moment of despair. The harmful, death-like words of those who mean the most to us can injure, abuse and destroy.

Sadly, those kinds of words may be coming from our mouths and we don't even realize it. We may blame them on a moment of anger or the bad behavior of the kids. We can couch our response in "that's just how I respond, but I get over it," but those who bear the brunt of our words don't get over it.

That's why we need to keep the focus of our language on words of life, words that encourage, build up and are offered to help keep the other person's dignity and personhood still intact.  We can say hard things, deal with conflicts and express differences of opinions and still speak words of life, not words of death.

Words of death usually have phrases in them like, you always, you never, you're just a . . .  , etc. Words of death are typically accompanied by a tone and/or look of disdain that makes the other person cower and want to leave.

In a negative situation words of life will sound more like, "I'm really angry right now because it seems like you said one thing last night and are changing your mind now without consulting me."  That's a fair statement. No one is being condemned, no one's character is under attack.  The speaker is simply expressing their emotions and why and talking about a current event or action and no other.

Words of death bring shame.  Words of life offer hope.  Words of death push away while words of life draw people together.

The familiar credit card ad regularly asks, "What's in your wallet?"  So let me ask, "What's in your vocabulary?"  Words of life or death.  A famous Proverb from the Bible says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue."  No words could be more true . . . or important.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Our Kids Have A Front Row Seat to Us.

Periodically, I see tendencies in me that remind me of my parents. And while sometimes that's a positive, many times I just say, "Oh no!"  I've become one of them. I'd like to blame it all on genetics, but most of the time it's just modeling. I learned to do things their way, right or wrong.

That's a pretty important reality for us when we become parents ourselves. Because everyday our children have a front row seat to our marriage, our parenting, our spirituality and our way of handling challenges.  And of course while they can and should learn from our imperfections, it's vital that we model healthy thinking, attitudes and behaviors in front of them.  If not, they, too, will acquire parts of us that we wish they would have never gotten.

So let's start with this question:  What do you do in front of your kids that would be better not done at all or taken to another room? Here are a few things I would consider keeping separate from them for the most part:  bad language, personal information, other people's business, the crux of your husband and wife differences and arguing, discussions about the specifics of discipline, and other age-inappropriate issues.

Second, what subtle lessons are you or you and your spouse teaching them?  For example, are they learning that you really don't mean what you say because you don't show up when you say you will and you don't follow through with what you said would happen?  Or are they figuring out that they really can't say what they think about anything because all you tend to do is keep them quiet whenever they have an idea or suggestion?

What are they embracing about how husbands and wives treat each other?  Do they ever hear you say affirming words to your spouse or see you give appropriate affection around the house?  Do you exhibit good manners and act politely to them, your spouse and others?  How do they see you spend your money?  Do you give to others and to God?

Third, what do they learn is important in life from you?  Money, fame, success, activities and possessions or something far more important and longlasting.

It would be worth it for us to take inventory sometime of ourselves or our marriage, stepping back to imagine what our kids are learning from us as they sit in the front row seat of our home.  There's always time to change things but it will be getting shorter every day.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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