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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Don't Wait To Do What Matters Most

It may sound a bit morbid but a lot of people die before they plan on it.  In fact most do.  I think of a former pastor we knew who was so looking forward to retirement and to doing some of those things with his wife that he felt had to wait during his ministry years. Unfortunately he contracted a swift-growing cancer and died at sixty-five.

However, dreams and doing special, life-changing things with our spouse and kids aren't shattered just by death. They can vanish because of chronic illness, family breakups, job losses and a host of other unplanned occurrences. Kids grow and move out of the house. People can relocate to other parts of the country or world.  Lots of things can inhibit doing the things that we long to do and know would be legacy-leaving events and opportunities.

So . . . .do as many as you can now.  No, we can't do everything.  Time commitments, finances, having children and life in general will likely forbid doing many things. But we can do some.  I've talked before about planning and doing things out of the ordinary. But even everyday things like a simple vacation dare not be put off for too long either. If you don't have the money for a big trip, take a small one but do something.

Spouses, don't wait to spend meaningful time with each other. If you're dreaming of a European vacation after you retire make sure you take at least one before then. After retirement go back and see more. If you're looking forward to spending some alone time after you're sixty-five, make sure you're getting regular alone time now.

Don't wait to say what you need to say.  Yes, say the obvious things like I love you.  But add some others like I'm proud of you, You changed my life, Thank you, You're a great dad/mom and If I had it to do over again I'd choose you.

Don't postpone what God may be asking you to do now.  Serve others, start an impacting project, change careers to do something that matters more, slow down . . . . you get the idea.  Sure, be wise, get counsel and don't just do something to avoid facing the hard things of today. But as Seth Godin, marketing guru, says, You don't need more time, just decide.  That's where many of us are when it comes to these kinds of decisions.  You've been waiting around for the perfect time. A perfect time will never come.

But if God's nudging you and you can't shake the idea or challenge that keeps ruminating in your mind, then now is the time. Go for it. Don't look back someday with regrets. In fact keep this catchy phrase in mind that I might market myself sometime, Just Do It.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Getting Parenting Results Shouldn't Require Anger

It happens all the time. Little Ryan's parents tell him that it's time to go and take his bath but Ryan doesn't move. Five minutes pass and they tell him again. This time he says, "OK, but I just want to reach one more level on my game."

Five more minutes go by and Ryan is still intently working his joy stick. Mom comes in and says with more intensity, "Ryan, I'm not going to tell you again. Put the game away and get in the tub." Ryan hears her but again responds with, "Alright, I'm going," but he hasn't budged.

Three more exchanges take place and finally dad enters the room and literally yells, "Ryan, get your butt into the tub right now and give me the controller!!" Ryan now knows he has passed his parents' limit on grace and he runs to the bathroom for his bath.

Have you been there? Does a similar scene happen in some form at your house on a regular basis?  If so, you're not alone. Children often learn that the first, second and even fifth time that mom and/or dad asks them to do something that they really don't mean it or at least won't follow through. Instead the children have been programmed to wait for the anger level to reach it's high point before they act.

Wise and effective parents, however, know that they can and must expect action sooner and can do so without blowing their gourd.

How? First, make reasonable expectations. Young children especially need some time to prepare for an expectation. You can use a timer or with older kids give them a clear time limit.

Second, immediately expect and enforce the action you're requiring. When Ryan's time was up the parents needed to make sure that he complied right then. With a cool and calm voice they could have said, "Ryan, look at me. We're going to your bath right now. Hand me the controller. We're putting it away."

Some kids will respond well and others may balk. If they do, just say the same thing again. With younger and more strong-willed kids, you may have to walk them in to the bathroom or even pick them up. Whatever your choice is, stay cool and nonchalant while in control of your emotions.

You might have a child or teen say, "I hate you," because you're requiring a certain action. Again, with as much calmness as you can muster look right at them and say, "I don't hate you. You could never do anything that would make me hate you, but I'm sorry you feel that way today about me. Nonetheless, you need to go to bed."

It will take practice and patience to learn to respond quickly and without anger. But I promise you that you will get better results and use less energy if you don't let anger be your most effective way to get action from your kids. Keep on.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

How We Respond To Our Spouse Is A Gamechanger

Have you ever tried to get someone's attention?  The nurse at the hospital, the vendor at the game, the teller at the bank or a clerk in the department store? And isn't it horribly frustrating when they don't seem to notice you or give you that look like, "I really don't have time for you, right now?"

But isn't it refreshing when one of those same people gives you the sense that they want to do everything possible to help you, even if they are busy?

Husbands and wives can respond the same way. We each make attempts to emotionally connect with the other and wise couples learn how to acknowledge that desire, even if we have to put off the best of responses for the time being.

For example, Mike has been thinking all day about taking his wife out for breakfast the next weekend.  They've not had a mini-date for awhile, they've both been incredibly busy and while he's not the greatest planner Mike was hoping to make his wife Connie's day. So he calls her at lunch and says, "Hey, hon, how about we find a sitter for Ryan Saturday morning and go have a leisurely breakfast?"

To which Connie says, "Mike, are you kidding? No teenager is going to come babysit on Saturday morning and for Pete's sake, I don't have time to even eat breakfast at home, much less go sit somewhere and pretend to relax!"

As you can imagine, Mike is deflated and finds himself thinking, I won't be asking her to do that again.

On the other hand, Gina has been waiting all afternoon for Ron to get home from work to tell him about a vacation idea she has for the family. She works half days and has been determining how to use a little of her extra earnings to do something special. As Ron walks in, he grabs a beer out of the refrigerator.  Nonetheless, she asks him how his day was.  "Hard," he says and heads for the TV.

After giving him a few minutes to relax, Gina, however, suggests, "Hey, after dinner, I was wondering if we could talk about an idea I ran across for our vacation this summer."  As he takes a gulp of his Budweiser he manages an, "Uh-huh," and keeps watching ESPN. Gina is pretty sure their talk won't happen that night if ever.  Maybe I should have just never tried, she thinks.

In both cases, the spouse just wanted to connect with the other person about something meaningful and important to them. In the first case, Connie responded but totally missed Mike's intention. In the second, Ron simply avoided her reaching out. And the right answer in each scenario was not necessarily for each spouse to drop everything and agree.

Rather, they needed to respond, to affirm the other's good intentions and honor in some way their desire to relate on some deeper level.  They could have said something like, "Mike, I'd love to do breakfast or any meal with you. It's been a long time. I wonder if Saturday is the best time but let's talk about it."

Or, "Gina, thanks for checking into that for us. I don't know quite what a vacation will look like this year, but let's see what you've got. Maybe we can work it out."  Both responses say, "I value you and what you love, think and care about."

Whatever you do, acknowledge and affirm first. The rest of the discussion will depend on you and your circumstances. But the more you respond and don't deflect or defer, the more your spouse will come back for more.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Making the Most (Or Least) of Television At Your House

Since 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics has been discouraging parents from allowing kids under two to watch television. However, many parents, leaders and even some pediatricians have felt that the academy's views were draconian and out of touch at best.

However, ongoing study and more recent research have showed a couple of concepts to still be true. First, young children learn best from real people and playing with real objects. And second, kids over two can learn language and social skills from high-quality programs.

In fact, there is evidence that watching significant television, even the usual teaching shows such as Sesame Street, can hurt their language development, reduce the quality of sleep and detract from unplugged, unstructured playtime.

In addition, when parents watch a lot of TV they tend to talk and interact less with their children in general and the TV distracts the child even if they are not actively watching the parent's show.

So, while only a few parents would choose or need to enforce a totally no-TV rule, there are some basic principles that the research seems to suggest for the wise parent.

First, don't just leave the television on in your home. Whether we like it or not, it distracts and impedes healthy and rich interactions while stealing from a family's ability to concentrate on each other.

Second, limit the amount of time your child who is two or older spends in front of the television.  Of course, choose programming that is enriching or appropriately entertaining but limit the amount as well. Make television a treat or something special, not the norm. Be intentional about the plan you put in place for the role of television in your child's life.

Third, as kids begin school, don't allow the television to be on while they do schoolwork. You as a parent may need to change some of your habits but your life will be better too as you focus on reading,  hobbies or interaction with your spouse or friends.

Fourth, develop habits of doing things together as a family that might have been spent in front of the television. Playing games, reading, watch a video of interest and just talking are nurturing activities that are often lost in many homes these days.

Finally, when you can watch television together and discuss some of what you saw, good or bad, afterwards. Sometimes you will get sideswiped by a negative impression or scene that you weren't planning on.  Use it as a teaching opportunity and lead-in for further discussion depending upon the ages of your kids.

Television isn't evil or harmful in and of itself. It can just be used that way. However, we can also turn it into a valuable means of enhancing our kids' worldview, knowledge and growth if we'll just manage it well. And that won't happen by itself.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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