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

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Best Parenting Teen Ideas - part 2

I've learned over the years why God made teenagers. To punish us parents for the way we acted as children. OK, maybe that's not his purpose but it sure seems reasonable.

But let's face it one of our big struggles is that we simply don't know what they're going to do much of the time and frankly they don't either. They have these maturing, growing bodies facing all sorts of unknowns, peer pressures and challenges. But they typically don't have the emotional strength to handle all that. That's why they have melt downs or act out doing crazy things or take huge risks in order to be accepted.

So how do we as parents deal with them during these tough years while still enjoying the healthy spreading of their wings that will lead them to true independence?

First, we need to do a lot of talking and listening. Unfortunately if your kids are already teens and you haven't worked at this prior to adolescence the task will be much harder. Nonetheless, make times and relatively easy opportunities to just talk. Eat meals together, do some things alone, make conversations about hard things something normal not weird.

And don't buy into the silent treatment. Do not allow for doors to be slammed and for them to just walk away from any conversation. As I mentioned in my part one blog options are important. So do the same regarding conversation. You can say things like, "Ryan, you may not want to talk right at the moment, but when we get home (or in the morning or whatever) we need to have some time to talk about last night (or about your trip or whatever)."

When it's all said and done they need to learn to talk and really want to be heard and understood.

Second, let them know that you will keep your word. You don't have to be a tyrant but make it clear if you haven't already that if there is a curfew time you will hold them to it, expect them to call or meet whatever other boundaries you set. When you do this on the little things you'll be much more likely to be taken seriously on the bigger ones.

Even teens need to learn to keep rules and meet expectations. Yes, they should be given more freedoms as they get older but only if they're earning that freedom along the way. Our son was told that he had to call if he was going to be late and I told him I would be one of two places if he didn't call - in the car looking for him or on the phone with the police, especially if I thought that was warranted.

Not two weeks later we had an incident and I met him in my car in the middle of the street as he returned significantly late.  I was looking for him. I didn't yell, berate or give greater punishment than he deserved. But he knew I was serious about both discipline and looking out for him.  We didn't have a problem with lateness after that.

Too many parents don't take the time to do the hard work of both communicating effectively or setting reasonable boundaries and keeping them. You can be your kids' friend AND their parent but the parenting part always has to come first. And if you do that the friendship part will be even richer and stronger later when they're an adult.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fighting the Good Fight In Your Marriage

A survey came out this week that suggests the average married couple fights or at least spar with each other seven times a day! That means there are some who must fight more and of course some less.  But the bigger questions seem to be, "How do we fight and why?  What purpose does our arguing accomplish? And are there better ways to handle our conflicts.

Yes, conflict is normal. Every couple has it. Couples who never disagree are likely facing some sort of denial, stonewalling or unhealthy lack of authenticity.

But there are definitely some things we can do to improve our communications at home especially when we're not on the same page. First of all, we need to deal with our personal worth. I've addressed this in other posts but if you believe that your spouse's criticisms of you have to do with your value as a person you will fight to the death to win. Unfortunately you won't fight fairly or effectively. You won't listen, you'll just be on the offensive or defensive the whole time.

The good news is that your value in God's eyes is never about other person's views of you. You can still be the important or valuable person you are whether your spouse agrees with you or not.

Second, communicate upfront more. In the age of cell phones, texting, emails and the like, we need to over-communicate. How many fights are generated because one or the other spouse simply didn't take the time to let the other person know their plans or change of plans, needs, goals, desires or even emergencies?

Do what you can ahead of time to let your spouse know what's going on in your world.  You're a team - that's only fair and right.

Third, learn to communicate your needs, concerns and frustrations in healthier ways. A most helpful tool is what is called speaking in the here and now. We tend during our spats to use phrases like you always or you never or attempt name-calling or comparisons to others to get our way. Each of those methods goes beyond the current problem and actually begins to speak unfairly about the other person's character, before, now and in the future.

Here and now communication is more like this . . . "I was really hurt last night when you talked about my weight in front of our friends."   But many couples would say, I can't believe you put me down last night just like you always do whenever you feel like it. You're just like your dad who doesn't care what he says and who hears it. I'm sick of it."

Healthy communication uses words and phrases that only speak about what is going on now. Then couples work to better understand the other person's feelings and what the other person needs or needed to avoid that feeling so much.

Changing communication patterns takes time and often the help of a counselor or therapist. But if you're arguing seven times a day, even though its supposedly average, I'd seriously consider that there is a better way!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Getting Rid of SECONDHAND SMOKE At Your House

Maybe you smoke, maybe you don't. But if you're a non-smoker then you likely don't appreciate having to breathe the billows from another person's cigarette.  A funny remark a few years ago went something like this, "I'll breathe your smoke if you'll chew my gum."

However, this post isn't about real smoke. We can debate that issue another time. But people in homes everywhere have breathed in a lot of secondhand smoke, potentially damaging emotional fumes so to speak, from the relationships they've had and lived through. They've been forced to inhale other people's pain, dysfunction, bad choices and character flaws so that it has become hard to live smoke-free anymore.

As adults they continue to own the guilt of what others do or to try to fix the people closest to them. They also often have a hard time setting boundaries and let other people regularly invade their space and force them to take responsibility that never belonged to them in the first place.

Now unless we live alone we will send some secondhand smoke to our spouses and kids.  We can't help it. We're not perfect. They'll pick up some of our habits, flaws, immaturity and unhealthy ways of relating.  However, we don't have to blow emotional rings in their faces.  How?

First, we can keep working on ourselves being honest about our weaknesses and struggles. When those we love see us being authentic and doing healthy things to grow they'll learn to do the same.

Second, we must ask others to be a mirror for us. It's healthy to let others help monitor our weaknesses and those times when we exhale in front of others in ways that are inappropriate or damaging.

Third, we can be intentional about not asking others to take on our pain.  Others can share it but we can't ask or demand that they own it. A well-meaning widow has done this when she asks her teenage son to now be the man of the house after his dad dies. Parents who divorce often send the message to their kids that they too must feel all the same hurt and disappointment. Roommates can demand that their friend absorb all the angst they feel because of hurts from their past.

So, what smoke are you blowing towards those you love?  Some issues need to be smoked outside. Some things you need to handle on your own and with God's help. Take some healthy steps to clear the air in your home and everyone will be healthier in the long run.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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