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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Maximizing Your Family Time: Slow Down

There was a popular song when I was much younger that started with the lyrics, "Slow down, you move too fast, got to make the morning last."  Sadly the title of that song included less than profound and meaningful words, "Feelin' Groovy."

However, I wonder if those first lines of that song aren't still a wise admonition for much of our culture today and perhaps for you at your house . . . "Slow down, you move too fast."

If you've traveled to other cultures, particularly in some of the poorer countries,  you know that living life slowly or simply isn't necessarily a detriment. Families who have few resources, a smattering of things to entertain and whose meals may last for hours are often some of the happiest people on earth.  And if they are facing challenges and times of despair, it's usually because of their terrible conditions or a recent catastrophe not because they have so little to keep them occupied.

Living life faster rarely makes us happier. If anything, it only adds more stress, worry and a diluting of our relationships. Yes, we live in a fast-paced society but there are some things we can do to slow the pace for our family.

First, take inventory of how many things you're attending, participating in and committed to. Are they all really worthy it?  Have they become "doable hard" or "destructive hard?"  There's a difference.  Are some of our activities stealing from our time together, rest and well-being?  Ask yourself not only, "How much is this costing us financially?"  But ponder, "How much is this costing us emotionally and personally?"

Second, prioritize and then cut some things.  You'll have to do what you can to be fair and it's likely that your kids will be mad if one of the cuts involves them, but do it anyway. You're the parent and they are not. They'll survive and you might be surprised that in some cases they're actually happy about it while other times they will be relieved.

Third, determine some intentional connecting and just resting that you will use with your time.  Just filling your extra hours with more planned busyness wouldn't make much sense.  However,  part of the goal is to get some meaningful moments together so think of what you might do to connect. Perhaps it's just spending a little more time at the dinner table. Maybe you can do something around the house that you can all contribute to.  But also don't hesitate to just give everyone a breather.

Finally, consider doing something that would serve others. Having a needy couple, single or family over could be a starting place that would still keep you at home. But if it's not too demanding, go together and help out a neighbor, friend or relative. Giving instead of taking is always a great teaching opportunity and takes the attention off yourselves.

Whatever you decide, do what you can to slow life down. The choices each family makes will be unique to their situation, interests and location. But I'm pretty confident that a few significant attempts to reduce your family's miles per hour will likely have you feelin' groovy.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Lasting Marriage: The Power of a Kiss

The other day I discovered that my wife had a bag of Hershey's Kisses in the pantry. I hadn't seen that many of those for a while but I quickly remembered how much I had always enjoyed them. And then I also realized that they've been making those kisses for a long time.

I remember having them as a kid, pulling on the little string sticking out on top, unwrapping the shiny cover and popping it into my mouth. In fact, just to enjoy that memory a bit more I took a few out of the bag in the pantry and re-did my ritual from years ago.

I'm glad those Hershey Kisses are still around but I wonder how many couples are taking advantage of the importance of a kiss or two around their house. Sure, the passionate kind are probably still pretty popular in our most romantic moments but I'm talking about the small ones that come in simple wrapping and are just a taste for more.

I think those little kisses represent a lot in a marriage and say much to our spouse about what they mean to us. Regular little kisses are first of all touches. You probably know about the studies done on the importance of touch with a newborn. The truth of the matter is we all need human touch on a regular basis and a kiss adds extra spark and importance to that touch when it's with your spouse.

Second, little kisses show that we notice each other and that we're important to the other. When we come together after a few hours, a day or even weeks, a kiss says, "I missed you," and "No one or no thing is more important than seeing you again right now."

Third, kisses suggest that we want to be with and show affection that isn't only centered around sex. When we skip simple acts of touch, tenderness and closeness we can send the message to the other person that we only value that intimacy when it's in the bedroom. Chances are that if we regularly give kisses we're also often holding hands, giving back rubs and sharing hugs.

Finally, regular kisses can be one of many good habits that add to our relationship. Like having date nights, regular time together, praying for each other and the like, kissing adds a healthy connection that will add strength to your emotional foundations and love for each other.

So, if you've been off the "kisses" lately, try a handful in the next few days. Somehow I have a feeling you'll be saying to yourself like I did with those Hershey ones, "You know, I think I'd like another."
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Legacy: A Model To Follow At Home

My mom's neighbor died recently. His name was Ernie. I didn't know him well although I'd met him a few times while visiting my former home. But I'd heard about him many times, usually through my mom, about how much he was known for helping others.

He'd watch over her house while she was gone, see that the yard got watered or whatever else was needed. I've also heard similar stories or comments from other neighbors like, "There's nothing Ernie wouldn't do to help you."

At the funeral home I met his three daughters and I could tell that they were proud of their dad and had seen evidence of his caring, giving heart. I'm pretty sure they will continue to be impacted by the gentle, servant spirit of their dad and how he cared for others. One of the daughters called him her "hero" at his funeral.

The "Ernie's" of the world are helpful reminders for us all to regularly consider what we're going to leave as a legacy for our family members. Will they remember us in the same way as people who gave more than they took? Will they speak our name and naturally say, "Yes, he (she) cared about people and was willing to help them any way they could?"

You can't orchestrate an authentic legacy but you can live in such a way that you leave a lasting, eternal one.  A couple of principles seem to be important at least from my perspective.

First, as the popular Tim McGraw song says, live like you're dying. I don't think we need to be morbid but if we thought of any given day as one of the last weeks, months or even moments we had left we'd likely change a few things. We'd certainly spend less time on the mundane and more on the vital.  You can figure out what that would be for you.

Second, serve other people even if you're facing your own struggles. When we take at least some of the focus off the mountain we're climbing and walk with someone on theirs or simply share what we have with them our perspective changes. And in the process we leave something special in this world that will impact others.

Third, fight against consumerism.  It's so easy to think that life is about getting more.  But being and feeling really alive is about giving more. Consuming by itself isn't wrong or unhealthy. But worshipping what we consume is and will steal from any meaningful legacy not add to it.

Finally, do the above with the people you love - your spouse, kids, friends. Teach and help them to live the same way and to leave their own legacy that others will certainly praise at their funerals and hopefully long before.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rewards For Kids or Good For Nothing?

The Smiths pay their kids for good grades. The Johnsons wouldn't think of it. The Andersons have found that providing financial and privilege incentives for their elementary-aged children really motivates them but the Davis' think kids need to learn to do their part without complaining.

Parents and so-called parenting "experts" have disagreed for decades about whether children should be given anything beyond the pride of accomplishment for helping at home, doing well in school, practicing their instrument and the like. And my hunch is that you blog readers will have varying views on the subject. I'd love to hear from you.

Nonetheless, while I'm far from the last word on anything, let me offer a few principles or guidelines that you might at least ponder as you do your best to teach, motivate and mature your kids.

First, remember what motivates you. My hunch is that while you may love your job, it's the money, bonuses and vacation time that keep you at the top of your game and going to work everyday. Incentives aren't inherently wrong so don't totally throw them out of your parenting manual.

Second, if you use rewards, allowance and other incentives don't apply them to everything or use them all the time.  Special bonuses should come later and not be the norm. When your kids are little they can learn how to help pick up, do simple chores and assist mom and dad just because they're family too. Teaching kids a healthy work ethic usually finds its foundation in learning to labor well whether there's a personal benefit or not.

Third, you can use rewards to teach children important life lessons.  For example, they can learn to save, to not always get what they want immediately and even to begin to give offerings to God. A simple allowance or some special pay for an over-the-expected chore can provide you  and them some learning capital with which to teach and train. They can also learn that even though you have something (like a salary) you won't keep it if you don't work, show up on time and do things well.

Finally, rewards can often help a child who is struggling an extra push toward reaching an important goal. Not every child will be a naturally good student, athlete, musician or worker at home. Sometimes though that extra nudge from mom and dad with a reward can motivate them and teach them that sometimes working extra hard is worth it in very tangible ways.

So, you'll have to decide what works best at your house but keep the options open when it comes to motivating your kids. I don't think I've ever met an adult who felt like they were emotionally messed up because their parents rewarded them now and then for hard work. But I have met a lot more individuals and couples whose parents didn't teach them much of anything about money, time and resources and they're paying a high price now.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Love Means You Really Do Need To Say You're Sorry

If you're at least forty-five or fifty then you probably remember a sappy, but very popular movie from years ago called Love Story. It was probably one of the most viewed movies that year although I don't think it won any major awards.  Nonetheless, the most famous line of that film was no doubt, Love means you never have to say you're sorry.

Yep, nice movie line. Unfortunately it was untrue then and it's just as silly today. In fact, the more counseling I do, the more I see struggling couples digging in their heals to do anything but say they're sorry.

Why? Well for some their worth as a person is horribly fragile. They simply do not want to admit they're wrong. To admit a mistake about this one thing (as simple as it might be) is to risk the possibility that their spouse will think they are a total loser. Of course that would rarely be the case but the fear is too great.

Others have unfortunately been brought up that way. Mom and/or dad just said things - rude, crude or lewd - and everyone just looked the other way or went on with business as usual. Manners along with kind words of "thanks, please or excuse me" just weren't part of the family's vocabulary. It was the "sticks and stones may break my bones . . . " mentality but no one ever talked about it and the pain it caused.

And yet marriage experts such as John Gottman and others have shown how statements like I'm sorry show the other person that you really are willing to try to repair a mistake or situation and it encourages the spouse to believe that you will do it again. It's a function of learning to start over or re-try a situation so that it's handled more effectively and with compassion, not enmity. It's part of friendship development, something sadly missing in most troubled marriages.

Saying I'm sorry is not an admission that you're the whole problem. It's just taking ownership for your part in it. It doesn't diminish your personhood, it enhances it. Admitting you've made a mistake keeps you real, human and more accepting of other's errors including those of your spouse or children.

Showing humility in this way also teaches your kids healthier and more effective ways to handle disagreements and personal slip-ups, to be authentic and real.

And perhaps most importantly, you model in your home what real love is.  The love chapter (I Corinthians 13) in the New Testament speaks of love being patient, kind, gentle and not keeping an account of wrongs suffered. God's love in us flourishes most when grace is needed.

So say you're sorry, will you?  To your kids, your spouse, your friends, your associates.  It really won't hurt you. it certainly won't kill you and you will be no less as a person. In fact, it will slowly begin to change you . . . for the better.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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