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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Five Differences Easter Makes

Most of us will buy candy for our kids, put on our better clothes for church and attend a special service or two this Easter season. Perhaps we'll even get up early and go to a sunrise service nearby.

But the question will still always be, Does Easter make any difference in my life?  

Hopefully, of course, we know that Easter is not about bunnies and pastels, parades or special dinners, as enjoyable as those may be. Easter is when we remember both the death and resurrection of Jesus. It's being reminded that a relationship with God the Father is only possible through Christ because we could never get to God on our own.

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  And when we put our trust in Christ and invite Him in we begin a family relationship with God and a life forever in His presence.

So if that is true what differences can we experience in our lives right now?  Let me suggest five things that I hope you're embracing and enjoying already.

We have freedom from shame. It doesn't matter how we've messed up, God still values us.

We have freedom from fear. Yes we have concerns about lots of things, but fear never can own us.

We have freedom from selfishness. No, we'll never be 100% selfless but God's Spirit in us helps us become more about Him and others, less about us.

We have freedom from materialism. Things become less important and doing or having things that matter for eternal benefits become a higher priority.

Finally, we have freedom from death. Bad things still happen to Christians. People die early, get diseases and have accidents. But we can know that this life is not the end. Death is simply the start of something new and beyond imagination.

So as you celebrate Easter this weekend, sing songs, enjoy other inspiring music, take communion and delight in your family, remember that Easter does make a difference. Tell others about it. Think on it. Thank God for what He gave you that first Easter weekend. It literally changed the world.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Championing, Not Lamenting Our Differences

I was privileged to attend an NCAA basketball tournament game this week watching one of my favorite teams from another part of the country play in my current hometown. And because we had very good seats I got to see the players up close and personal most of the time.

However, I was reminded that not every player has the same responsibilities. I saw the shooters hitting short and long jump shots. Others spent most of their time dribbling and passing off to others while some played a lot of minutes and didn't score a point.

They had different abilities, styles and roles in getting the win. The same will always be true in families - husbands, wives and kids. They're all different. Their roles will not be identical nor will their abilities or personalities be alike.

Unfortunately many spouses and parents bemoan the differences in one another or at best refuse to account for them. They want all their kids to be athletes or musicians. They expect their happy-go-lucky spouse to be as ordered and meticulous as they are. We often don't realize that God actually knew what He was doing when he made us unique at least in part so that we might complement one another and fill in for many of our weaknesses.

So what would it look like for us to be champions for our family differences as opposed to critics. First, we would bless one another by speaking to those uniquenesses. "Mark, one of the things mom and I appreciate about you is that you love doing things really well. Sometimes, you can overdo it but you know most of the time you actually help the rest of us do better."

Or, "Honey, I so value that you love being around people. If it weren't for you I wouldn't have a social life and I know we need that. Thank you for planning so many great things even though there are times we disagree and have to work through what's realistic."  Get the idea?

Second, we would let go of the "my kids have to" mentality. Sure, if we see potential then it's realistic to make sure we give them opportunities to learn to blossom. But too many kids are being pushed into sports, music lessons and other activities that have long shown to have not aptitude or interest in them.  As a result our family is just busier and if you're married, you and your spouse merely spend more time on the road and in the stands accomplishing little.

Third, we would enjoy the unique things that each person does and naturally talk about and applaud them. You'll celebrate that mom went back to school, that John isn't an athlete but loves serving at an old folks home and that your daughter loves debate and not cheerleading.

Aa a result you will likely have more margin in your home for rest, quiet and relaxation because you're not trying to have everyone do everything. And that is worth a fortune. 
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Gets You Results As A Parent?

I'll bet you've had a scenario something like this one. Little Ryan needs to go to bed but he's playing with his favorite game. So you respond, "Ryan, it's time for you to finish your game, pick up your toys and head for bed." Ryan replies of course, "OK, mom, just a minute. I have to finish this last level."

So you give him some grace for a few minutes and then try again. "Ryan, it's time for bed. I'll be in there in a minute and when I come you need to have things picked up."  "OK, mom."

You know where I'm going with this, right?  You and Ryan go back and forth several more times until finally you (or your spouse if you're married) explodes, "Ryan, pick up your toys right now and get your butt into your bedroom!!"  Ryan finally knows that you're serious and heads for his room, the toys still on the floor. He's perhaps crying or at best now scared and the rest of your time is tense and difficult.

Sadly, what got Ryan to finally move was not a willingness to obey or a predetermined, healthy pattern of responding. No, he finally did what he was told because you got angry enough. And who taught him that this was how it works. You did. I've done it too. We've sent the message loud and clear that our kids do not have to really obey us until we reach a certain boiling point.

And as a result we suffer and so do they.

The good news is that there is a better way. We must make our actions not our anger the trigger for them to act. For example, if Ryan doesn't respond the way we want him to at an appropriate and reasonable time, then we must act in a way that convinces him we are serious. This doesn't require being mean or hitting him. But it does mean that we must help move him to action.

Some options . . . "Ryan, do you want to walk into your bedroom or should one of us carry you?" might be a next question. It could mean picking up the game right then and seeing that he puts it away after he takes it out of your hand. It could involve some other options like, "Ryan, you can either go right now to your room and get changed or tomorrow night you will go to bed thirty minutes earlier."

There are lots of ways to do this and they will differ depending upon the child's age, size and personality. The key is that you do something that requires he act and not stall.  With younger children it's wise to give them a pre-obedience phase where perhaps you set the timer on your phone or microwave to ring letting him know that there is a deadline but he has some acceptable time before he must respond.  Make sure that  your expectations, whatever they are, are also age-appropriate.

With teens, you will want to use the options idea more than most because you obviously can't pick them up. Nonetheless, the same principles are true.

The key is letting our actions do the talking not our anger. You will get far better results, harm your kids less and sleep better later that night!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, March 7, 2013

THE Number One Tip For Parents!

I've been a parent for nearly thirty-five years and have counseled hundreds, if not thousands, of parents over the years. I've also read books, attended seminars and listened to people who have far more expertise than me. My wife and I have done quite a few things right and certainly made our share of mistakes.

But I know this: there is one rule for parents that supercedes them all. If you aren't all in on this one any other methodology is doomed to numerous points of failure. You want to know what it is, right?

Here you go: MOM AND DAD MUST BE ON THE SAME PAGE!  Yes, you may have different personalities, tones of voice and personal styles but the principle is still true. You as a couple must BOTH hold to the values, parameters and practices set up in the home or your discipline is doomed. (And I'll give the single parent version of this in a minute, so read on.)

Nothing confuses a child and leads to their trying to ultimately play one parent against another more than one parents standards being different than the other. Kids subtly learn to go back and forth to find who's offering the best deal. Or they figure out that one parent is softer than the other so they always check with them last!  In addition the parent who is trying to hold to the predetermined rules feels disrespected and undermined when the other caves in.

Kids need to learn early on that mom and dad basically say the same thing when it comes to discipline.  Of course, sometimes you are apart. What do you do?  Try this.  When a child comes to you with a request that you know needs to be confirmed or run by your spouse who is not right there you say: You know, if you need an answer now, the answer is no.  If you can wait for twenty minutes (or whatever time you need), the answer is maybe.

This gives you time to check in with your spouse and agree upon the next step. Your kids will learn that this is how things are done. If you're both there but caught on the spot needing to make a quick decision, take a time out. Tell the kids dad and mom need to talk first and then you'll decide.  The operative phrase there is:  We'll decide. 

And no giving free passes or reduced expectations without conferring with your spouse. Trust me.  While you still will have your battles, they will be less dramatic and challenging when your kids know the two of you will agree.

And if you're a single parent?  Then your version of this principle is simple too: be consistent. You have to be on the same page with yourself. You can't hold one standard one day and then totally change it the next. Of course there can be an exception or grace now and then but consistency must be the norm.

If you've not been doing any of this, start now. It may take a little doing but the benefits will be well worth taking on the challenge.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Some Praise For Single Parents

I remember years ago when our kids were little that my wife and I were often exhausted. Trying to handle two young children, diapers, laundry, getting them in and out of the car, meals, picking up toys and then finally getting them into bed was sometimes more than we could endure. And there were two of us.

But unless we're a single parent ourselves, we probably don't even think about the incredible challenge it must be for a lone mom or dad to handle parenting by themselves. There is rarely that other person around to pitch in or to take one child while they focus on the other. There's no one to handle kid duties while they clean clothes, take a nap or fix dinner.

And perhaps most importantly there's typically no one to talk to about it. No one to share ideas with about new discipline tactics, changing the rules or just feeling like a failure. Singleness means just that much of the time - you're doing this alone.

And unfortunately even though there are more single parents than ever, we're still pretty much a couples-driven culture. Most every activity, small group and special program seems to work better for married people.  I know that in our church when we speak on marriage we try to be very intentional about remembering that there will be singles in the audience and to be sure that we include them somehow.  But often singles are just left out.

So how might we praise and encourage you single parents who are reading this or those we know? Let me suggest a couple of ways.

First, get to know and build relationships with some singles, especially if you're married. As you learn of some of their needs, be willing to become an advocate for even one single mom or dad by pitching in and helping, becoming a listening ear, sharing resources and inviting them into social settings.

Second, if you're a leader at church, work or in the community, be sure to start thinking about how you can also meet the needs of singles as you plan events, activities and programs. Can you include childcare or even help with transportation?  Are there things your organization could do to specifically meet the needs of single parents?  When people speak do they intentionally mention the singles in the audience?

Third, let a single parent know that you care and notice how hard they work.  Sure, some parents are single largely because of their own doing but that's the exception more than the rule. And even if they did generally put themselves in that spot, they still deserve our love and care. Jesus would do no less. Like many of us do when we see a soldier and thank them for their service, my hunch is that many singles would love to know that we notice the sacrifices they continue to make for their kids.

Fourth, pray specifically for a single or two that you know. It's likely they don't have that many people who will help build them up by asking God for strength, wisdom and direction as they try to parent the best they can.

So, who do you know who's parenting by themselves? Think about how you can start to help and serve them. When you do I'm pretty sure there will be some new lumps in throats and tears in eyes when people notice you really do care and they've not been forgotten.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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