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

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good Discipline: Parenting Like You Mean It

We've all had a child or two push us on our expectations, right? Your son should know that he can't be a jerk in public but he makes a scene in the restaurant nonetheless. Your daughter seems like she knows that she just can't wear anything to school but one morning she throws a tantrum demanding she get to put on her favorite outfit when you object.

So what do you do? How do you handle those sudden push backs on your guidelines and authority without using live ammunition to quell the problem?

I'm pretty confident that you actually set the stage for what you will do before these big-time struggles ever happen. How?

First, you keep your word in the little things. You parent like you mean it. No, you don't have to be a tyrant but you do need to follow through even on the small stuff especially when your kids are little. If your kids know you'll stick to your guns about bed time and you do it every night for the most part, then they'll likely better understand that you're going to follow through in the restaurant or before school during the blow-up.

Second, if you're married you keep your word as a team. Kids need to know that mom or dad are not the easy out to the tough decisions that the other parent makes. If mom says it's bedtime and then dad comes in and changes the rule and allows them to stay up, the children begin to figure out the difference in mom and dad and begin to use it to their advantage. Moms and dads must be on the same page when it comes to how you follow through on your disciplinary commitments.

Third, it never hurts to address some of the more major possibilities ahead of time.  I remember telling our kids that we would have a curfew time for when they went out, one that varied depending upon the event, how far away it was, etc. But we also told them that if they didn't show up very close to on time, that we would either be in the car looking for them or on the phone with the police.  Interestingly, one of our kids went well beyond this rule about two weeks after we had that discussion.

They found out very quickly that we meant what we said when they met me on their way home . . . in my car looking for them.

A big percentage of parent/child discipline problems could be resolved if the parents just parented as though they meant it. And the sooner the better.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Five Things Every Parent Must Do

All families are different and unique. They come in varying sizes, shapes, locations, and personalities. There are lots of things that one family will do or enjoy that another family would hate. That's normal and OK.

However, I want to suggest five priorities that every parent needs to include in their home no matter who you are, where you live or what you have. These five actions are not only essential but their presence will help determine whether your family will be healthy and stay healthy.

First, make time to rest, relax and reflect. People are just too busy today. Children are pushed to be in a sport or activity every season. Parents work crazy hours so they look for even that much more for their kids to do while they're gone. Being involved in good things is fine, but never slowing down is insane and destructive.

Second, speak words of life often. Words of life are not always compliments or mere flattery. Words of life speak to one's soul about who they are, why they are valued and how they make a difference in your life. We can't say these vital phrases enough but often those rich kinds of words are drowned out by mere platitudes, empty praise or plain silence.

Third, make lifelong memories. Yes, great memories can and should be spawned in the everyday of life - the little things, the surprises and the day to day moments that are special and revered. But it's important to be even more intentional by discovering ways that you will make memories together in unique and more grand ways. Take some vacations, plan unique trips with each child, develop a few hobbies and special activities that are your family's favorites.

This is how we began climbing mountains. And we'll never forget our experiences together.

Fourth, teach and model your faith journey. Some parents want their kids to have some sort of religious instruction so they make sure the kids get to church and hope some of it sinks in. That may be helpful and the children might deepen their own faith that way, but you'll make a far greater impact in them and you if you're the one who is their model and guide concerning spiritual things.

Finally, love your spouse openly. Remember your home is marriage training for your kids. It will be the major classroom where they will learn how to treat their husband or wife someday. Let them see your affection, kindness, respect and commitment to one another every day. Show them how to handle conflict appropriately and wisely. Admit when you make mistakes, let them know you won't be perfect and teach them how to handle those imperfections in healthy ways.

Yes, your home will be special and one-of-a-kind in many ways but you will have a richer home if you'll make these fabulous five actions prominent at your house.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, August 15, 2011

How To Avoid Letting Tradition and the Past Paralyze You

This past weekend my wife and I stayed in a hotel overlooking Reliant Stadium in Houston where their pro football team plays and other large stadium events are held. The arena is a beautiful facility, modern and impressive especially at first glance.

However, right next to it stands a large, greyish, starkly naked building that looks like it was once something but clearly no longer has any usefulness. I eventually found out that it's the once famous Astrodome, the first building of its kind built decades ago.

I couldn't believe it is still around. I actually had a tour of it with my wife and small son in the early 80's. It was unique, brand new and something we'd certainly never seen the likes of before. But it's none of those things now.  Its presence alone is stealing from the attractiveness of the new stadium.

I thought they must have torn it down at least once they built the current stadiums. It turns out there are some people, a council, historians or someone who has influence who don't want to get rid of it just yet.

I found myself thinking that's the way a lot of families, churches, neighborhoods and other organizations are. The leaders and people in general are more committed to their memories of the past than doing something to change the future. They long for the good old days and so they hang on to habits, traditions, ways of doing things and vision that are really hurting themselves and those around them, often causing an organizational or familial paralysis.

Is your family, church or other group still hanging on to their version of the Astrodome just because you or they don't want to let go of a memory?  If you're honest, has it hamstrung your growth and change?

If so, think about doing a couple of things where you have influence. First, keep celebrating the goodness and good people of the past. It's uplifting to now and then look at old pictures, tell great stories of bygone days and honor those whose efforts have helped you be what you are today. Tradition isn't a bad thing unless it becomes the only thing or the major motivation behind what we do today.

Second, take time to grieve or at least be sad about situations, people or things in the past that you don't enjoy in the same way. Thinking honestly about those items will help you both emotionally begin to let go and start to free you over time to move on even though it's hard. Keep some appropriate momentos of the past but limit them and don't let them run your life any more.

Third, tear down, put away or throw away those Astrodomes in your world. In a family, those might involve traditions that you just don't need to keep up any more or being involved in an activity that has outworn its purpose. Many church leaders need to finally get rid of a traditional service, add a new style of service or change other things in a major way.

Fourth, celebrate the newness and change in your life, family or church. I'm confident that healthy, God-directed change will bring new life into you and those around you just like a new stadium, house or town hall does for a city. Start somewhere, be honest, but don't stay paralyzed.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Five Ways To Find Balance In Your Home

If you've ever written a comment on someone's blog you know that sometimes you get a message like, "This comment awaiting moderation." That means that someone needs to review  your comments, make sure they're not out of line, laced with profanity or too long.  You have to be reviewed by a moderator.  Good idea unless you don't care what shows up on your public blog.

However, I wonder if that phrase shouldn't be written in bold letters somewhere for our families to see every day.  "Awaiting moderation."  How many of our homes are places where we're just doing too much of so many things? I've spoken before about our pace being too quick but that's only part of the problem. Even if we're moving fairly slowly we still may be doing way too much.

What are some of the areas in our homes where we may have gone overboard and need moderation?  How about:  activities, kids' responsibilities, house maintenance projects, weekly chores, meetings outside the home, hobbies, educational demands, school service commitments, church obligations. The list could go on and on, right?  You can add your own that I didn't mention.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself that might help you identify the items needing moderation at your house. Do I dread this commitment every time it comes around? Do I fudge on my preparation and planning for it because I simply do not have time?  Do I see joy in others in my home when we're involved in it or could they just take it or leave it?

Are several of these activities just more of the same?  Would I just rather be doing something else?

In addition, talk about what things are we missing out on, skimming on, barely doing but need to be doing because other things are crowding them outMy hunch is that most parents had certain desires and goals for their families that have gotten lost because we're simply doing too much of things that don't really matter that much.

So start somewhere. Where can you trim?  Where must you cut back?  Then add one thing in that you'd rather be doing or need to do as a family that you'll all be glad you did later. And don't forget to include just some quiet time, time that doesn't have to be so productive and results oriented.

Do more playing, praying and staying. You'll be glad you did.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

Marital Conflict: How To Fight Fairly

All couples fight or at least disagree. However, not all couples do it well. Sadly, some marriages have ended not because they weren't in love, but because they did so much damage when they weren't feeling very loving. Their words, expressions, and responses all spoke more to their winning their own personal battle than trying to understand the other person.

Other had terrible models in their home growing up. The only things they know to do are yell, scream and demand their own way. 

So how do we fight and face conflict more effectively?  Most of these principles are common knowledge and often taught by counselors but my experience is that most couples, especially those in trouble, don't have a clue about them. Or if they have heard them they simply don't use them.

First, speak only in the here and now. It's not fair nor helpful to bring up the past or predict the future. We do that when we tie the current struggle to a past action or attitude. When we use always and you never we immediately move our discussion out of the current situation.

To speak in the here and now you talk only about your feelings and needs related to the problem at hand, nothing else. "I'm angry and confused because this morning you said we were not going to go away during the holidays and tonight you want to change everything."

However, what would an unfair fight sound like in the same setting? "Don, this is what you always do. You say one thing and do another. I can never count on knowing what's in your head because you'll change your mind on a dime and I'm sick of it!"

Second, listen and seek to understand. So often the deepest need both partners have is first to be understood. In fact sometimes understanding is the only thing needed. Try to find out both the other person's real feelings and what they need from you that would help them feel less that way next time. Don't either of you be satisfied until you feel like you've accomplished both for each other.

Third, determine a first step that you will take to make things better. A lot of spouses get frustrated because even if something is talked about often the other person never does it. Showing your mate that you are actually going to make changes and vice versa will help you want to go through the process again.  It gets results!

So next time you feel the heat rising and tempers getting ready to blow, try some here and now listening and discussion followed by some actual changes. Quit the posturing and demanding that you win the argument.  Remember that awhile back you stood before God and some people and vowed to love each other through the good and the bad. Now is your chance to really put that into practice.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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