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

Monday, April 29, 2013

YOLO . . . A Hidden Danger In Your Family

I'm sure you've at least heard about it if not having had it already impact your home. It's a current slang acrostic that unfortunately is leading many young people to do things almost unimagineable to many. And sadly, many of their parents, perhaps you, are looking the other way or saying to themselves, "Yep, that's not that big of a deal."

What is it?  It's something called YOLO. It's an acrostic that stands for , You only live once. 

Now on the one hand that little phrase could be an inspiring and positive one. But usually it or ones like it have been give a quite different application. Most have meant something more like this: You only have one life to live so make the most of it. It has challenged people to serve God, not get caught up in things that don't matter and use one's gifts and talents for the eternal more than the temporary.

Today, however, YOLO has become the mantra for: do anything, even if its risky, because you'll never get another chance. Unfortunately, anything has led to young kids having sex, sending suggestive, even nude, pictures to each other, more drinking binges, bullying and scores of other dangerous actions toward themselves or others. It has become the free pass to lower one's standards, not take the high road.

Granted, some would say that much of this has been going on for centuries in some form or another. And they would be right. But first, does that make it OK?  And second, are we going to accept this behavior happening in upper elementary school and middle school now?  And third, do we care that more and more parents who call themselves Christians are also looking the other way and making excuses for their children? The results of YOLO today are kids ruining their lives and reputations and in some cases going to jail or juvenile detention centers.

The idea of morality and character no matter what have dwindled to dangerously low priorities for even homes where families at least say that God matters in their homes.

But wise parents will stop and ask, What must we do in our home at least to avoid a YOLO mentality?

First, we must open our eyes. This is probably happening in your child's school - today, this year, right now. Find out what you can and help your kids to navigate the challenges it brings. Start with them as young as possible where appropriate. Talk about it. Monitor their phone and computer usage. Check out parties and sleepovers before you let them attend.

Second, teach your kids a better way. Explain why they are not missing out when they don't jump on the social bandwagon to do the same things others do. Give them responses to use that will keep them loving, able to still be friends with many kids and yet able to say "no."

Third, model a Christ-like lifestyle. Make serving and helping others the norm. Be sure that your kids aren't just getting huge doses of the world's thinking that everything is alright, that marriage and healthy relationships are a thing of the past and that getting more and looking better are the answer to everything. Take your learning from church, Bible study and other godly input and help your kids apply it to life.  Look at your own life, too, and ask, "What am I modeling for my kids that may be helping them think and act the way they do?"

We really do only live once. But let's help our kids to make the most of that life, not the least.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Great Marriages Require Significant Investment

The Wall Street Journal recently reported the costs for a typical wedding dropped by 32% during the recent recessionary times. Wow, sounds like the wedding business is in serious trouble right?  Well, consider that the drop means that the average wedding costs plummeted from $28,730 to a mere $19, 581 between 2007 and 2009. I guess we should all be encouraged that in 2012 it went back up to over $25K per wedding.

Now I suppose that if people have the money they should be free to spend whatever they want on their special day and arguments to the contrary are for some others to discuss. What concerns me is that based on the hundreds of couples I've worked with in marriage counseling over the years, very few people are spending that kind of money on their marriage even over years of matrimony.

In other words, too many spouses don't think it necessary to continue to significantly invest in themselves as a married couple. Their money and time soon go only to work, adding to their estate, caring for their children and pursuing individual hobbies and goals.

But like anything of value we must consistently ask ourselves what we're doing to make sure it holds its value.  How and where can we invest in the most significant relationship we have if we're married?

First, invest TIME. We must simply make sure that we have face-to-face time with each other on a regular basis, time that is uninterrupted and unimpeded as much as possible. As circumstances change (for example, children are born) we will have to get more creative with this but it can be done. Plan getaways and other special opportunities for just the two of you. In our marriage we have found it helpful to have a morning, evening or day of the week that is typically just for us.

Second, invest in PLANNING.  I've mentioned this in other posts but when you plan to together you also dream, have fun and get into each others hearts. You find out what is really important to the other person and get a chance to see them live out some things they really enjoy.  On a recent trip to Alaska I even learned that my wife had an even more special interest in photography than I'd know before and that led to getting her a better camera, lenses and other learning tools. It's been fun to watch her enjoy all that.

Third, invest in SERVING others together. Yes, it's time spent but it's also focusing on others. And when we do that we grow ourselves, become deeper people doing things that matter for eternity not just the present.

I'm sure you can think of other ways to invest in each other. The important thing is that you make regular deposits in your relationship. Trust me, the dividends will multiply for years to come, no matter what the economy is looking like!

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Messed Up Kids? It May Be Your Fault!

All of us have dreams of being great parents, even the best parents ever, don't we?  We do our best, read books, attend a seminar if needed and watch others hoping to get a few tips that will help. And often we succeed and do pretty well. Other times we just pray that we can keep our kids out of therapy someday.

And while sometimes our kids mess up and make their own bad choices there are some ways that our kids' actions are probably the result of our poor parenting or modeling or perhaps just looking the other way.  Let me suggest a few examples.

Too involved in their technology. They watch too many video games, overuse their phone, sit in front of the television for hours and the like. In many cases we've given them all that and bought into their cries that everyone else has one of those or whatever. But the wise parent instead puts limits and boundaries on those things and requires that kids go outside, play with others or get involved in other healthy activities. And not every child needs their own smart phone or TV in their room.

Focused on themselves not others. We can subtly give our kids the impression that our home and lives in general centers around them.  Wrong. Early on they need to learn that yes they are loved and valued but that everyone in the home matters. How do you send a different message perhaps?  Fixing food all the time just for them, letting them constantly interrupt, allowing them to change their plans (and yours) all the time last minute. You can no doubt think of others. Take inventory.

Can't talk with adults. We let them go to another room as soon as adults enter our home or location. We don't teach them to speak politely, respectfully and intellectually because we always assume that they have no place in the conversation.

Don't make spiritual things important. The question is, how important is God and serving Christ to us?  Chances are they are modeling our behaviors and attitudes.

Get the idea?  It's important to understand that parenting does make a difference. And if we do it well the pressures from other parts of the culture will make a much smaller impact than we ever thought.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Is Your Family Led or Driven?

I'll never forget a horseback ride I took once with my roommate in college. We had made our way over to the riding stables behind the school knowing that horses could be ridden for an hour or so. While I hadn't ridden a lot I knew enough to guide a horse, gallop a little and still have a good time. However, I must also admit that the majority of my riding has also been done with horses in a line going down a trail.

Nonetheless, the stables personnel saddled up two horses for us and sent us off into several large fields with access to a nearby road as well. What were they thinking?

We each gave our horse a slight kick and began to move letting the horses more or less saunter while we enjoyed some relaxed time.  Now and then we got them going a little faster but playing it safe knowing that we weren't exactly the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

Near the end of our ride we decided to leisurely come back to the stables using the small road since that seemed like an easier task. However, the horses had a different plan. Once they saw that we were headed back they immediately began to gallop full stride. And there was little we could do to slow them down much less stop them.

Thankfully we made it back unharmed but our hearts were racing when they finally slowed near the entrance.

Unforunately, a lot of families live life this way. Every day is a constant, non-stop gallop. Everyone is running from event to event, practice to practice, obligation to obligation. These homes are not being led or nurtured. They are just hanging on.

Is this your home?  Then let me suggest several things you might consider to slow things down, get life under more control and do more things that really matter.

First, stop some things. Take inventory and ask what you can cut out that is just more of the same, a needless addition or not really that essential.

Second, examine your priorities. Is your schedule being driven by greed, envy or status-seeking?  Are you just trying to have your kids as successful as the neighbors or other family members?  Perhaps they will be more successful at a sport or instrument.  But what is teaching them how to be a great person?

Third, rediscover rest and relaxation. Make time to do some enjoying things as a family, teach the value of sabbath or breaks and find an outlet to serve others.

Homes that are well-led find meaning and purpose in what they do. Homes that are driven?  They just feel like one more horse headed to the barn.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lunch In a Brown Paper Bag

Recently I heard a young man interviewed who had at one time been homeless. A women and her family, however, took him in, loved on him, provided for him and he has become a successful, caring person in his own right.

However, during the interview he mentioned that at one point his new "mom" asked him if he wanted lunch money for the day. But he responded, "No, what I'd really like is to have my lunch in a brown paper bag."  When the woman asked why he said, "Because if you have your lunch in a paper bag people know there's someone at home who cares about you.

What a powerful picture of the longing we all have for someone to be at home who cares about us!

And often it's those little things that go missing even in apparently successful, together and happy families. We can get so busy that we stop doing things that make our family members feel like we really care. Let me suggest a few brown paper bag things we might ask ourselves if we're doing to make home feel like home:

Tuck your kids in at night. Sure kids get older and the "tuck" begins to look different. But a touch, a word, a quick talk, a hug, a prayer . . . can always be fit in somewhere no matter the age of the child. Don't just let your kids head off to bed without some kind of connection with you.

Have meals around a table. Yes, we're busy and can't always eat together but a home where there is rarely a table time for the family will likely become a struggling family at least relationally. And if the TV's always on during meals turn it off and talk to each other. Find at least a few meal times each week where you sit down and interact.

Attend each other's events some of the time. So often kids begin to think that they are the center of the family universe and rarely see what others in the family do. So when you can have the kids support each other's activities and celebrate the uniqueness of each one. And if mom and dad do something special go see that too.

Make some personal time with each person. And no, sitting in the stands watching their game or practice is not personal time. Go on a date, to a concert, fishing, hiking, something that puts you face to face without interruption. Cell phones should be on vibrate and in a pocket. Enjoy each other - period.

I'm sure you can think of many more ideas that will make those in your family feel like someone at home loves them. Think of some more and then start making those sandwiches.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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