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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Most Offensive Blog Ever . . . For Parents

Alright, let's just say it.  I'm going to offend many of you with the premise of this blog. Some of you might even quit reading my stuff. A few will wonder how I can be so misguided but I'll take my chances.

Because here's my observation. And like Simon Cowell on American Idol or Howard Stern on America's Got Talent, I know I'm right.

The universe does not revolve around your children! Nor my children nor anyone else's kids. Our children are not the most important people in the world, our church, school or neighborhood. They do not deserve more than others and are not entitled to the first, best, optimum, finest anything. The world has not been looking for or waiting for your child or my child to arrive on the scene any more than anyone else's son or daughter.

Now let me be clear. I'm a parent and now a grandparent too. I love my kids and their kids. I want the best for them and tried along with my wife to give them as many favorable and positive experiences and training opportunities as possible. There is nothing wrong with desiring the best for our kids. But too many parents demand it and shove their way to the head of every line so to speak to get it.

I recently heard of a mom who was attending a Christian women's activity and who demanded that her preschooler be in the same childcare room with his friend, a friend who was not even the same age. Parents in a host of situations demand the best teacher, trainer, room, nursery worker, class, summer activity or coach and if they don't get it for little Connor or Clarissa they vent their anger, pull strings until they get it, make life hell for the leadership or find another program.

Comedian Bryan Regan talks about the people on airplanes who take ten minutes trying to get their large case crammed into the overhead compartment while oblivious to the people waiting to get to their seats. His description is hilarious though these rude travelers are not. You do wonder sometimes if this person in row 20A really thinks they are the only one on the airplane.

Pushy, demanding parents aren't funny either nor are we if we live our lives forcing our kids to the front of every social line. Sometimes in life we just don't get what we want. We need to get over ourselves.

Why might parents like us overreach, overreact and over- respond when it comes to our kids?

Perhaps we didn't get the perks and opportunities we would have liked when we were growing up. And yes, that is disappointing but we're not helping our kids by letting them think that they need every advantage now or are more important than the others. And we certainly aren't wise to use our children as some sort of payback for the childhood we never had. We're only going to injure our kids or a relationship somewhere.

We're fearful that if our kids miss out on that one teacher, class or experience they will be scarred for life.  Guess what?  They won't. In fact, part of growing, learning and maturing is to face experiences that are extra-challenging, where you don't have all the advantages others have and work through it anyway. Many of the perks we're perhaps panicky about today won't even be remembered by us or our children in five or ten years.

We're just plain selfish. I know none of us like to hear this one but it's worth asking. Have we become a little too entitled, arrogant and self-centered? Is it time for us to care about others more than ourselves? If we are Christ followers are we modeling the kind of spirit and attitude Jesus modeled? He modeled humility and restraint and was always sinless even in His dissent.

Is it time to take a step back, breathe in deeply and remember that life is about far more than being first or getting our own way?  Maybe.

One final caution. What our kids expect in life today is likely what they will expect tomorrow.  If they live an entitled life and watch mom or dad demand more for them at every turn, they will probably expect the same when they are adults. But they will be disappointed and likely hurt big-time when they find out that people and  life in general doesn't cater to them.

So enjoy your kids. Help them succeed, grow and mature. But they aren't the only star in the heavens. Just yours. Appreciate and love them for that.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Is Fear of Missing Out Driving You?

I was just checking my smart phone again and found three new emails with ideas that could streamline my productivity.  I need to try them. I recently got a new computer and the directions tell me about twenty new little shortcuts and timesavers that came with this new electronic beauty.  I need to memorize them.

I saw an ad for several new television programs that look really interesting and would probably expand my knowledge about people, life and the world around me. I should watch them.

I have a stack of good books waiting to be read or finished (I read thirty a year or more as is) and I have an exercise workout, Russian lessons and distant family also inviting me to give them my time.  I need to figure out how to add these back into my life.

Can you relate?  Do you, like me, hate to say "no" to any of these options because, "I don't want to miss out on something great."  Or "I want my kids to have the best so we'll do it all no matter what it takes."  Or, "That's a good thing, an important thing, I must figure out how to do that too!"

I've got news for you . . . and me.  We'll never do it all. Or as one wise pastor said, "We'll never accomplish all of our potential."  Don't even try.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the plate of options for learning, productivity, entertainment, knowledge, growth and experience continues to increase geometrically every day.  We can't have or know it all.  But we are tempted to try, aren't we?  We feel guilty when we hit delete or throw a book away or erase a program from our television list.

We fear that our child will miss out on something vital for life if they don't take that class, play that semester or sports or get that lesson.

So what are we to do?

First, accept the fact that you can't do it all.  Period. Live with that truth.  It's OK.  Our worth is not based on how productive we are or how much we know.

Second, start conscientiously saying "no."  Don't order that new book, keep your kids out of a sport, turn the television off, skip that latest article you saw on Facebook. Be a chooser, not a responder. Learn to do only the best things or the most important things or the things that will add to your feeling alive or doing something God has called you to do.

Third, learn to rest or fast. Take a total break for a while from some of those things that have the greatest seductive pull on you. Get off of the internet or Facebook, don't watch television for a week or take a major break from some activity or even ministry for a season. Quit your hobby for a while. Remind yourself that you can live without some things and not die or shrivel up.

Fourth, embrace slowing down and resting. It's good for the body, soul and spirit.

You may miss out on some activities that could have enriched you but you will more likely not miss out on the ones that make you truly feel alive.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

Parents . . . Pick Your Battles

When law enforcement or military personnel get into a firefight, they usually take time to assess both the enemy and how much ammunition they have. While on television the heroes often unload their guns on the bad guys, that is not always wise. Sometimes you need to save your ammunition and as we say pick your battles. The wise fighter decides quickly how much attention they are going to give to the potential threats around them.

Parents must do something similar at home. Yes, parenting can seem like a battle or war at times but I want to think a bit more practically. There are actions, responses and other things that bother us from our children that we could fight against and expend all sorts of energy on, but wise parents fight the most important ones.  Somet things just aren't that big of a deal.

For example, is that clothing choice your eight-year-old made worth fighting over?  How about the toy your three-year-old wants to bring in the car or the friend your teen would like to take to the mall with you?

You see, there are usually bigger things to fight for or about and that's where our attention needs to be as we make our decisions concerning our kids' choices.

Let me suggest a few.

Is their choice immoral or dangerous?
Are they responding to you disrespectfully?
Are you being played against the other spouse?
Has this decision already been made in previous discussions?  (Like bedtime, watching a certain kind of movie, etc.)
Is this a watershed moment where you need to make or reinforce a point?

If the answer is "yes" to any of these or other similar questions then start "shooting" your parental bullets and be sure you win the battle.

But there are some things you can do that will help the battle keep from unnecessarily escalating.  First, give them choices when you can.

Second, speak firmly but nonchalantly. You don't have to shout to get them to make a better choice.

Third, hold your ground. Only make "threats" you're willing to keep.

Yes, at times parenting will seem like a war but we can help keep it civil and with minimal friendly fire if we'll just pick and choose when it comes to which skirmish we're going to face head on.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Home Ain't Your House

My mom is moving this week from her home of fifty-eight years! Who lives that long anywhere anymore these days?  I know she, my sister and I all have lots of great and no-so-great memories of that place and we will until we die. I'm sure there will be some tears shed as we drive her out of the driveway for the last time.

But I've been reminded as we've done a good bit of cleaning out the last couple of years that our home was never really the bricks and mortal or lawn or the linoleum in the basement. That was merely a part of the "tent" of sorts for a family, a group of people who loved each other and helped each other to be who God intended them to be.

The day we sign the papers and it's officially gone will not be the end of our family. It will just mean that the last person in the family, my mom, has moved out.

I wonder how many of us, if we're honest, put a lot more stock in the buildings we live in than we should. We often spend an exorbitant amount to buy our house, then spend thousands more each year to keep it up or improve it. Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing immoral about a house. We're blessed to have so many in this country, something different from so many other countries.

But we do need to be careful that we care more about hanging on to our family than our actual house.

How do we keep it all in perspective?  Well there's no magic way but consider trying a few of these things:

Think about downsizing or at least throwing a lot away.  Do you really have too much?  Could some of it be given away or could the money be better spent elsewhere?

Be intentional about doing more with less. Don't buy as many of everyday things, settle for only one of most things, make things do a little longer and let them wear out. You won't get as attached to all of that stuff.

Share your house more. Let it become other people's home, too, in a sense through sharing it often.  When's the last time you had people over on a regular basis?  Is there someone in need who would love a place to hang out a bit more often with some really great people?

Dedicate your home again to the Lord. Tell him you remember that it was never yours in the first place.  Have your pastor or small group or other friend come and pray over it with you and write down the date.

Because you see one of these days you will have to leave.  Maybe not fifty-eight years from now, but you will leave. Remembering it's not yours will help you let it go.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, October 4, 2013

Don't Miss The Warning Signs Before Marriage

John and Alice were so in love.  They couldn't wait to get married.  They'd known each other for a good while and everyone expected marriage was a given. They had a date planned for a wedding in about a year and were just beginning to put some details in place for their special day.

Nothing in their minds could keep them from committing to spend the rest of their lives together.

Sure there were a few things that irritated John. For one thing Alice spent nearly an hour every day on the phone with her mom. But they were probably also talking about wedding details so that didn't seem like a big deal.

He did notice that Alice's dad was pretty quiet and never said much but he was nice nonetheless and he and John's future mother-in-law seemed to get along well.

John did wonder from time to time about Alice's continued connection to an old boyfriend, but they just seemed to be good friends and John liked the guy too, so what was the big deal? Alice would often tell John that she wished he was a little more like Alex the former boyfriend, but she was just trying to help John, right?

But five years later, John began to wonder if he should have noticed some of Alice's tendencies, actions and habits. No, there would never be a perfect wife but had he missed some warning signs that would have told him about potential big problems later.

Because now, Alice continues to put more stock in her mother's views than his. Alice still sneaks around texting Alex, keeping their "friendship" going but not telling John. And to this day John has still never felt any respect or deep affection from Alice. She continues to belittle him about most everything and they have little intimacy of body, soul or spirit. He wonders if that's really the way her dad is.

When I deal with couples in marriage counseling, I have found (and so have they) that there were almost always signs during the dating phase of their relationship of potentially bad things to come.  But instead of talking about them, exploring more and even deciding not to marry the couples simply ignored the signs and hoped things would change or never show up at all.

Of course we must understand that we can never know our spouse completely when we marry. People change and so do circumstances. The covenant we make at the altar must endure beyond good feelings and be lived out through two imperfect people.

But there are warning signs that may also tell us this marriage shouldn't happen, that there are qualities, habits or attitudes in the other person or their family that will not help that marriage be a healthy and godly one. Do not ignore them.  You must explore them, talk through them with a qualified pastor or counselor and prayerfully consider whether the marriage will work and be fruitful.  A spouse who is not willing to look deeply within themselves is going to have trouble with honesty and authenticity later.

Some potential areas of concern to watch for are: unhealthy relationships or connections with parents or other family, unresolved abuse issues, strange marriage role perspectives, distorted views toward the opposite sex, unaddressed fear and anxiety concerns, distorted ideas concerning money, children or God.

So what does a person or couple do to avoid trouble later. First, take notice of the signs.  It may just start as a bad feeling but don't ignore it. Explore, get wisdom, find out more.

Second, talk about it with the other person.  Most of the time you need to get someone else involved who will help you both look honestly at your concern to determine if it's anything significant. This is why quality premarital counseling is essential!

Third, be willing to postpone your wedding or break up. There are far worse things one of them being sitting in an office like mine years later in despair with little hope knowing you made a big mistake and those hidden problems are now major problems for your relationship.

Marriage can be wonderful and it's always a growing, learning, giving and sacrificial commitment and covenant. But marriages with unrevealed disease and dysfunction are usually doomed to die a slow death. Don't miss the signs.  They're usually more obvious than you think.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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