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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don't Add to The Bumper Bowling Generation

For years bowling alleys have utilized a system to help youngsters still have fun when they try to bowl. They put these foam cushions or bumpers in each gutter so no matter where the child rolls the ball it will at least go down the alley and hit a few pins and not end up in the channel.

And for those purposes it was and is a great idea. Most of those kids would never hit any pins the whole time if it weren't for the bumpers.

Unfortunately, our society seems to want kids to live all of life that way, with bumpers everywhere so they always succeed, never really lose and avoid most of life's disappointments. All the kids get trophies, ribbons and "good job" comments no matter how they perform.  In many ways we've almost removed disappointment, hard work and healthy competition from everyday life for kids, something that simply isn't true in the real world.

So should we go to the other extreme and just make every activity, sport and class tough, raw and ultimately may the best kid win?  Probably not. But there is a place for balance and letting our children experience life more the way it truly is and will be when they are older.

The benefits are important.  For example, kids need to learn to lose. They will not always be first, number one or get a trophy. Sometimes you give your best and someone else is better. That's OK and normal is the lesson we can teach here. We can show them how to lose graciously and as a good sport in the process. But what's the value in going over and shaking hands or telling the other team they did great when nobody won and it's pretty easy to do and say?

Second, losing can help increase their motivation to do better. Who wants to try harder when the result next week will be the same?  "I will get a prize whether I work hard or not. Everyone will think I'm wonderful even if I don't care and don't try."  And so they look for another "bumper" from mom and dad or the coaches to just make them feel good again for trying.

Third, facing hardships grows our inner strength.  In the Bible, God rarely took people around problems.  Instead he made them, including Jesus, go through them,. God knows that we learn to trust Him more not our abilities when we struggle, face problems and have to overcome obstacles.  Let's face it many of us face more struggle than victories in life anyway.  Now's the time to prepare them to still have joy and peace in the middle of our challenges.

So yes, we need to encourage our children and not make expectations so high they become exasperated as the Bible points out. But we also need to let them fail, make a mistake and not be the winner every time. And if we do, they will "win" in the biggest challenge of all, being the person of character and integrity God wanted them to be all along.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Top Five Things NOT To Do As A Parent

There are lots of things parents do and don't do that are certainly unique and special in their home. Even things like discipline can vary from family to family depending on the size of the family, setting and personalities involved.

However, after decades of parenting and counseling others, I'm pretty convinced of at least five things that parents should definitly stay away from no matter the nature of their household.  And yet as you look at the list I'll bet that you've done at least a few if not more of these. Read the list and then consider some better options that I'll throw in.

5. Don't try to get your kids to behave by yelling louder.  Yelling should be reserved for when our child is about to be injured, but not to get t hem to act. It's our actions that will get our kids to obey more than the tone of our voice.

4.  Don't forget to follow through on your promises - good or bad.  Discipline tanks when we are inconsistent.  When spouses have different rules and expectations or even as a single parent when we do one thing one time and something else another.  Say what you mean and mean what you say. 

3.  Don't try to be like them. Too many parents are trying to be their child or teen's friend before being their parent. As a result we give in more and often still try to live vicariously through them. Many parents are still trying to dress and talk like them too and if the kids are honest they hate it when we do that so stop.

2. Don't fight with your spouse in front of them. Of course we've all had those split-second moments when something flared up between us with the kids right there. But wise parents don't continue the argument with the kids as spectators. Yes, kids need to know that parents may not get along sometimes but they also need to be shown how to take the next step. Let them see you talk about how you're going to work through things and resolve them . . . somewhere else.

1. Don't trivialize your faith. So many parents make their love for Jesus and belief in God a little nice practice that the family engages in every week. They make sure they get their church time in and maybe even get the kids to the camps and other special programs. But it's essential that we teach and model for our children that our faith is the center of who we are and what we do, not just a fraction.

You can find other blog posts on each of these ideas by going through the index. But if you find any of these cropping up in your parenting . . . just say no.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Best Defense Isn't Usually Helpful in Marriage

If you follow sports at all you know that sometimes great defense wins games. Stopping the other person from scoring points or goals is often what helps the offense the most.

But in marriage defensive responding is rarely helpful. Playing defense usually means several things happen often in a marriage: one or both spouses rarely think they are wrong, neither are willing to look at their own issues and most conflict ends in stalemates, hurt and anger.

And yet many couples go to defensiveness immediately when they feel threatened or there is a chance they are wrong. Rather than explore how they might have hurt or let the other person down, they frantically hope to make their case for themselves.

For some this reaction came from their childhood where they were often told they were wrong or could never measure up. For others they're just competitive and always want to win.  Whatever the cause, playing defense has to go in a marriage. That doesn't mean that there is never a place for explaining yourself or getting the facts straight.

But let's walk through the process that a defensive spouse often faces and find a better way.

First, they hear something that potentially makes them look bad, have to admit an error or lack of judgment. That usually causes anger, panic or despair to well up within so they must do something to fight back.

Second, they begin to explain away their action, hoping to convince the other person that they aren't so bad or didn't do anything wrong.

Third, the other person continues to make their point. The arguing continues and both now try to win the battle.  They're playing defense and as a reult become offensive.  This never works.

The answer?  Don't explain, explore. Be willing to ask the other person how what you did made them feel and what you could have done differently. This isn't an admission of guilt. It's an acceptance of your own mistake and an understanding that your worth is not on the the line (See other posts I've written on this.).

Play more appropriate offense where you work at trying to understand and restore the relationship.

You see a great defense never wins the marriage game.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Will Our Kids Remember Most About Us?

You probably need to be at least forty to remember a comedien named Bob Hope. He was corny, schmaltzy and threw out the best one-liners you could buy in a writing team. He also sang, starred in movies and loved golf. One of his biggest accomplishments was his year after year commitment to entertaining our troops all over the world. However, his theme song was simply entitlted, Thanks For the Memories. And I'm sure he had many great memories about the people he encouraged and helped over the years.

But I often wonder of my children and grandchildren, "What memories of me, our family and our home will they remember and be thankful for?"  Will they remember who I really was or some facade of who they thought I was?  Will they joyfully look back on meaningful times with me that were impacting and lifechanging or will they just remember that I was around and did things for them?

Will they remember that I loved them in very real and passionate ways or that my love really centered on what I got out of it?

You see, it's possible that many of us parents or grandparents think we're helping our kids most when we give them lots of special opportunities or what they think they want or our best imitation of coolness and relevance. But in reality if that's all they remember we're in trouble.

Contrary to much popular action and belief today, our children need a mom and dad who gave them rich memories where we did some things together that changed us both, where the memories stand out from most of what everyone else is doing, where the memories will stick and not fade.  Is there a list somewhere of what those memories could or should be?  No, but I have some places you might look.

Look for activities and events that help other people. 
Look for things that require God to show up big time, that you couldn't do without His help.
Look for ideas that will grab at your emotions and heart strings, that will put a lump in your throat after you're finished. 
Look for opportunities that put you second and someone or something else first. 

Start with this list and you'll start to make memories of your own that yes they will remember and no doubt someday say thank you for. You'll have to work at it and not just do what everyone else is doing. But you can do it. Don't settle for anything less.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, May 6, 2013

Commitment Is A Long Journey, Not a Short Walk

I have been having fun recently with an anagram finder website.  It takes a word, name or short phrase and tells you what words or phrases would use the same letters. Some of them are silly but some are pretty funny. For example, my name Gary Sinclair also spells Scary Liar Gin or Sangria Lyric.

However, I recently tried the word commitment and guess what?  There is only one other option:  commitment.  

I guess it's hard to say commitment any other way than just commitment.  In other words there are no cheap substitutes. What might that mean?

Well, a lot of us would like our commitment to something - marriage, parenting, a changed life, devotion to Christ and the like - to be pretty easy.  Check off a few boxes, have an emotional moment or special gathering, think about it now and then and we're done.

But commitment to anything for a long time requires giving oneself to it one step, one moment, one day at a time. We can't just go, "Oh yeah, you know I need to give a little attention to my parenting or marriage.  It's been a while."  Or, "Jesus is important to me but I'm not going to get too radical about my faith."

But you see anything great takes hard, consistent, passionate effort and thought - all the time.  Look at outstanding athletes, musicians, artists, authors and saints. They all had to give their life to it. But even so they had to first commit to a daily mindset and way of life.  What might that look like?

First,  do we think about the true significance of that part of our life?  Do we have it near the center or just along the periphery of our mind?  I wrote about this in my last blog concerning our faith in Christ.  Is Jesus the center or just a piece of the pie?  If our goal is a great one then we must come to grips with how important it is that we reach that goal.

We must think, "This matters.  I have to do this well."

Second, have we put habits into our life that cause that area to grow in us and others?  For example, do we habitually spend time with our spouse or include meaningful activities with our kids?  A lot of families these days are on cruise control every week and instead of them running life it runs them. Or in our spiritual lives, do we read the Bible, pray and spend time learning from others at church, small group or one to one?

Third, do we have people around us who will keep us focused?  We all need partners, cohorts, mentors and fellow-runners who will encourage us not to quit.  Ecclesiastes 4:9,10, says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down his friend can help him up." Find someone who will be relentless in helping you reach your goal.  I think of Michael Phelps, perhaps the best swimmer of all time.  But if he didn't have his coach Bob Bowman it's unlikely Phelps would have accomplished all he did.

So whatever commitment you made long ago or just recently, remember the hardest part is keeping it. It's a long journey.  As some like to say it's a marathon. But it will be worth it when you look back someday and realize you made it.  Not without some challenges or bumps and bruises but you will have made it.  Good things, great things, lifechanging things and most importantly the things of God will not happen any other way.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, May 3, 2013

In Which Part of the Pie Is Your Family's Faith?

There are millions of people in our country and around the world who would say they are people of faith, Christians, who would consider their relationship with God important. They attend church fairly regularly, take their kids to the programs and activities, probably read their Bible some and may even attend a small group or Bible study.

They probably pray with their family at meal times (if they eat together) and even give something financially or of their time to God's work.

But even so, their faith, religion of sorts, and relationship with God may still be tucked away somewhere rather than the central, motivating influence for most all they do or think. It's like a pie.

In many cases, people make their relationship with God just one of many pieces of a pie. There's the work piece, activities piece, child piece, vacation piece, leisure piece, hobby piece, etc. and then there's also the God/Jesus piece. Faith gets one sixth, eighth or tenth but their faith rarely strays into the other areas of life. It's as though church on the weekend or time with God is just another thing to get done in a busy week.

They don't live a life for or with Christ. They just live one that includes Him when there is time. Their faith doesn't really impact those other pieces most of the time.

I'd like to suggest that if we're going to follow Jesus and live for God that the pie has to look differently.  Instead of our faith being one piece it needs to be the CENTER of the pie.  When God is in the middle then He impacts everything. We take him to work, to our parenting, to our goalsetting, to our bedroom, to our giving and to all of life.

And our kids begin to see in us someone living a life that is truly Christ-centered, focused on things that matter.

You see, let me be brutally honest here.  Many Christian homes are no different than their secular counterparts except for the fact that they go to church now and then. The moms and dads and the kids are for the most part doing and experiencing the same things their friends are who don't know Christ. Something is wrong. And it may be due to the fact that Jesus is just a piece of the pie not the center of it.

Will you and your family be different?  It may be hard but it will be for the best for you and the people who are impacted by you. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow. And I think that means he needs to be in the center.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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