Tag Archives: daughters

6 Things You Can Do To Support Your Pastor

6 thingsI haven’t posted to this blog in 3 months. The reason for this leave of absence is simple: I am a small church pastor in a rural community of 700. I love my job and the people I serve. Between early October and December 26th, the busy season for church work, I didn’t have a single day when I didn’t field a work-related phone call, head over to the office to take care of a few tasks, visit with someone from the church, run into town for a hospital visit, spend time working on a sermon, sat down for counseling, attended a meeting, or spend time working. I often joke that I work every day, which is true. As the excess or work ramps up, the productivity of writing goes down. That having been said, I’m not bragging or complaining about this. I don’t consider burnout to be a sign of spiritual health. I actually really like my job and most days I don’t think I work to excess. In the past, I’ve worked at similar levels of busyness and not felt as good about it. Most ministers have experienced days when they didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning and when they felt like there was no escaping the crush of expectations.

Strangely, after nearly three years of this sort of schedule, I have yet to reach that point. I certainly have bad days and times when I grit my teeth when the phone won’t stop ringing. The difference between past times of ministry work and now seems to be the attitude of the community of believers I am serving, as well as a few things they do consistently. This is a huge deal considering how often pastors walk away from church work in a state of burnout. Here are a few of the big things I have observed that have made a big difference to me.
  1. Pray for your pastor. Praying for your pastor means more than simply telling them you will pray for them. Praying for your pastor involves asking them what they need prayer for. It’s offering prayer for them in church during community prayers. It involves praying with them before events. Pastoring is spiritual leadership. There is an inherently spiritual component to the endeavor. As such, it is important to pray for pastors and let them know you are praying for them.
  2. Let your pastor be human. I am not perfect. In fact, even on my best days, I am not anywhere close. I still sin. I get tired, frustrated, and angry. Sometimes I am thoughtless, careless, and insensitive. I’m not saying I don’t strive for holiness or that I’ve given up on trying to be a better man. What I’m saying is that Jesus is perfect and I am a work in progress. The congregation I am serving has been great about letting me be human. When I struggle, there are church members who listen and offer advice. I talk about struggling with sin when I preach and no one is lining up to fire me for it. Nothing is more tiring for a minister than putting on their “holy man” mask every morning for work. There is a great deal of peace and comfort that accompanies knowing that you can talk about your struggles. It’s crushing to constantly live in fear of minor slip-ups. It’s even worse to carry secret sin, knowing you cannot confess it to anyone lest you lose your livelihood.
  3. Offer to help. There are several people in my church who routinely offer to help with aspects of my workload. They typically do a great job of following through when I take them up on the offer. These are the same people who show up at church events, bring food to sick members of the community, and stay late to visit with other members and clean up after an event. One of the biggest frustrations that can set in as a pastor stays longer with a small congregation, is the sense that they are doing everything. To be honest, even the offer of help is heartening. The sense that others are willing to help out is huge. Very little is more frustrating than investing time, energy, and enthusiasm, only to be met with indifference. Offering to help demonstrates investment.
  4. Be concerned about your pastor’s marriage. My first pastor appreciation month in Montana, the members pitched in and got my wife and I a 3-day stay at a hot spring resort. With this gift, we were given free childcare at the ranch of one of the members. This has been the norm since. Every year, we are given our own marriage retreat. This really isn’t a once-a-year thing. There are several members who routinely take our kids so we can go on dates or just get some alone time. On top of that, I am regularly approached by members who ask about my marriage and ask for ways to support us. The single best mechanism for maintaining pastoral morale is their family. The demands of ministry work can be significant and can significantly strain a marriage. Supporting a pastor’s family and helping maintain familial health essentially protects the most important mechanism for pastoral contentedness.
  5. Offer your pastor honest accountability and meaningful praise. This doesn’t mean offering empty praise. I often joke that no one ever tells you that you preached a bad sermon. There are a handful of people in my regular contact who will tell me when a sermon wasn’t good or will hold me accountable when I am wrong. Mind you, I am not talking about nit-picking. Feedback is most effective when it deals with larger block matters. Several years ago, I encountered an individual who would make suggestions based on phrasing errors I made while preaching. I don’t preach from a manuscript. It’s nearly impossible to preach extemporaneously without phrasing a few sentences poorly. In addition to accountability, praise is important. Pastors appreciate hearing when they do well. Positive feedback lets them know that what they are doing is appreciated. This should not be empty, puffing up praise. Rather, they should be genuine positive observations. There are a few people in my church whose praise various efforts, but aren’t shy to let me know when I miss the mark. Their opinions are valuable to me. This is not an instant thing. It is a product of relationship.
  6. Develop a relationship with your pastor and his family. My family has eaten meals with most of the members of our church. When I encounter church members at the store, they converse with us. We love the folks we are serving, not just because we are supposed to. We love them because they have made it a point to be our friends. I once had a pastor tell me that it was best not to invite people from the church into your lives. He told me about folks who had personally hurt him and his family. In time, we encountered people who confirmed this as a decent suggestion. For many years, my wife and I were standoffish in church communities. During our time in Montana, we have discovered that this was not the right course. There has been little that has meant more to us than the close relationships our church has set out to form with us.
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3 Basic Steps for Avoiding Holiday Fights

images-1The city of Butte Montana is built over a mine which had been on fire for over twenty years. This was not a roaring blaze, but rather a smoldering fire that simply kept burning year after year. The fire was accidentally set by a fellow named Henshaw, who left a candle burning unattended on a pine beam. The beam caught fire. The fire spread to other beams and kept burning for decades. This is at least partially due to the miners managing to deprive the fire of oxygen, which kept it from burning out of control but also prolonged the burn.

As the holidays approach and family gathers to celebrate, it is often the case that old smoldering resentments can flare up and create chaos in their wake. Similarly, small disagreements can quickly spread and get out of control. Both of these possibilities are increased during holidays because of the stress rising from  increased financial pressures, stress related to having guests or traveling, and the addition of new chores to already-busy routines. These flare ups can ruin meals, holidays, and even families.

Be conscious of the folks who make you angry: The surest way to avoid this potentiality is by being conscious of what needs to be done in order to prevent fires. For starters, it is necessary for folks to be aware of their own stress levels, particularly when spending time with folks who tend to push buttons, whether consciously or unconsciously. Self-awareness leads to an increased ability to avoid conflict.

Be quick to apologize and let things go: Often, conflicts that arise keep going because everyone involved holds tight to resentment. When people in conflict dig in and refuse to budge or demand apologies for slights, resolution becomes impossible. Finishing the fight often means someone has to let go and say sorry. This may feel like losing, but its far better to lose a little face in the name of harmony than becoming entrenched in bitterness or ruining family time together with pettiness. Pairing the aforementioned self awareness with a willingness to apologize first for any negativity will quickly smooth over most problems.

Knowing the right way to respond: Years ago, a pastor I worked with gave me a guide for the next step for dealing with flare-ups when they arise. The pastor told me that everyone has two options when they encounter the beginnings of an angry exchange. It’s like having 2 buckets, one in each hand. A gas bucket and a water bucket. When we see a fire, we have a choice to make as to which bucket we will throw at the blaze. Our gas bucket will spread the flames with a vengeance. This is like encouraging gossip or answering insult with angry words. Throwing your gas bucket at the wrong time can result in a fire that will go in forever. If we choose to throw the water bucket, we squelch the fire before it spreads. Throwing the water bucket looks like an apology or quieting gossip or simply saying nothing in response to a slight.

The book of James compares the tongue to a spark that can cause fires that burn up people’s lives. James goes on to say that the tongue is so tough to tame that it usually just tames us. This effort to intentionally throw the right bucket when people upset you is far from easy. It takes effort, forgiveness, prayer, and a great deal of intentionally planning to respond the right way. This effort may seem like a headache, but it is worth it to avoid living over 20 years of smoldering fires in the form of family conflict.

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4 Techniques for Managing Childrens’ Behavior

IMG_2990Early in my career, I worked at a facility for children with emotional disorders. We provided services for children ranging in age from 8 to 18. Many of our clients came from juvenile detention and it wasn’t unusual for them to have received little parental discipline or direction. One of the major challenges of the job was getting our adolescent clients through their everyday routine without major blowups, violence, or even having them just sit down and refuse to do anything at all. This was particularly challenging when it came to doing chores, going to school, and going to bed on time. During the first few months at the agency the training regimen is excessive, between behavior intervention techniques, therapeutic crisis intervention, and basic relational techniques. During that time I learned a grab bag of techniques for convincing kids to follow directions or to stop acting badly without resorting to physical intervention. As a parent, I’m increasingly discovering how useful these techniques are in raising and disciplining my own children. Having options when it comes to kids is great because they can be incredibly frustrating. Being able to choose an approach gives you a sense of control that can feel like it’s in short supply when you have only one or two approaches. The following are the interventions that I have found most useful in parenting:
  • 971904_10151370209716599_114566200_nPlanned Ignoring/Positive Attention This technique is based on the assumption that kids sometimes act out in an effort to get your attention or to get you to act in a particular way. Simply put, you do not reward undesirable behavior at all. You don’t cater to it or even acknowledge it. When they do what you want, you lavish praise and attention on them. One of the most obvious examples of this is the temper tantrum. Every morning I dress my 3 year old daughter and take her to work with me. Since she reached the age of 2 she has begun to disagree with me regarding the right wardrobe choices. This sometimes results in a fit of screaming and carrying on. Since it’s in my own home, I’m under no pressure to engage it. So, I usually walk away and let her yell. When she realizes that it’s not working she stops. On the other hand, when she asks for different clothes appropriately, I praise her and listen to her opinion. This approach works best with annoying behaviors when there are no time pressures. It essentially allows the child to figure out that what they are doing isn’t working. If they have a fit in the middle of the grocery store, ignoring it isn’t the right choice. If they are playing with knives, ignoring it is a bad idea.
  • Redirection- Kids have a tendency to lock into ideas or behaviors, not easily letting go. This tunnel vision makes it hard for them to let go of what they are locked onto. This can be inconvenient when they get upset about something they don’t understand, want to do but cannot, or something they just won’t let go of. Sometimes the solution to this is redirecting their attention, getting the child to pay attention to something else that will draw their focus away from whatever it is that they are locked on to. Typically, this involves picking a new area of focus and giving them a reason to focus on it. Years ago I was working with a young man who had become very upset about losing some privileges. He worked himself into a tizzy and was acting out loudly. I sat down with him and began telling him a story about my dog. I put a lot of energy into the story and was animated in my telling of it. I maintained eye contact with the boy the whole time. He slowly calmed down as his focus shifted and he went from cussing and throwing things to listening to my silly story. The story worked because I gave him a new focus, I held his attention through eye contact, and I was energetic and interesting. This drew him away from his tunnel vision.
  • Giving them choices- For some reason, children sometimes decide to just dig in and do the opposite of whatever you tell them. I pick out a shirt for her to wear and she doesn’t want it, no matter what I pick out. Part of reason this happens is because as kids mature they begin to assert more and more control over their environment. This prompts them to simply dig in because they can. One solution is offering 2 or 3 choices, which allows us them to have some control over the situation. The approach applies in all sorts of situations. I’ve had success using this when choosing what to feed the kids, who will read bedtime stories, etc. This approach is mostly effective when the child is resisting based on their desire to control their environment.
  • Hurdle Help- Hurdle help involves turning a large task into small, easily accomplished steps. My daughter struggles with cleaning up the giant messes she seems to be able to make. When directed to clean, she will respond that it’s too much and that she cannot possibly do it by herself. Prodding and pushing only results in her yelling that she cannot do it. Instead, I tell her to pick up one specific toy, for example her toy train, and put it in the toy box. Then another and another. This continues until she is in the process of picking up toys. I’ve used it with older students who were struggling with being overwhelmed by school assignments, like writing papers. Instead of saying: “write the paper,” I tell them to pick out a smaller task to accomplish, followed by another, until the paper is completed. Hurdle help works well in situations when a task or expectation is too much to take on altogether, either because the child is overwhelmed or too stubborn to do a larger task.
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Book Review- You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity

1280x720-XqZBetween 16 years of marriage and earning my Masters Degree in pastoral counseling, I have read dozens and dozens of books on marriage, relationships, sex, and parenting. Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity is one of the best, particularly because it is one of the only that is solely devoted to marriage and family in terms of the big picture implications of faith, spiritual development, and eternal life. Whereas many books of the genre focus on particular aspects of relational dynamics, communications, or commitment, You and Me Forever presents an approach to marriage purely in the context of Paul’s directions in Ephesians 5 that the husband is to stand in the position of Christ in relation to his bride, the church. Chan argues that this means that husbands are to love sacrificially, serve, and most importantly to prepare their wives spiritually for eternity. This is accomplished through leadership, teaching, and prayer. Chan’s commitment to this approach is well illustrated in the opening chapters of the book, which do not deal with marriage directly at all, but rather present a Biblical framework for salvation and sanctification. He argues that the husband’s first responsibility is to be saved and grow spiritually. Without this foundation, he is incapable of fulfilling his role in the marriage. After establishing this basic element, Chan goes on to discuss eternity and Heaven. He asserts that if the majority of our time with our spouses is going to be spent in Heaven, Paul’s direction for husbands to live their lives preparing their wives for eternity becomes a supreme act of love. He argues that time spent in Heaven, rejoicing in God’s presence will make the work, service, and sacrifice in this life worthwhile. The text goes on to apply this concept to marital conflict, parenting, and other areas of the marriage relationship. The text presents a big picture perspective that marriage and family exist with the mission of pursuing deeper relationships with Jesus. Through those deeper relationships and our imitation of Him, harmony is introduced into the marriage because we are imitating a selfless Savior and working toward a common goal.

The ideas presented in the text aren’t new ones, per se. I’ve come across the basic ideas in other marriage books on more than one occasion. I would argue that what’s new and refreshing about this book is its undiluted focus that Chan takes in presenting the truth that marriage is an institution that exists for the purpose of discipleship and glorifying God. You and Me Forever takes this concept and works through it thoroughly, without allowing for distractions. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I like practical advice. As a guy, I want a to-do list that I can work through. Chan’s book doesn’t work toward being a self-help user manual with tidbits of advice, but I found its treatment of a topic that can be somewhat abstract to be simultaneously practical. As he works through the implications of spiritual leadership and imitating Christ, he constantly brings the ideas back to every day examples from his own life. This results in a book that presents big ideas that find application in everyday circumstances.

amazon linkOne area of trepidation I had coming into reading the book was in the idea of eternal relationship. Jesus teaches that marriage will not continue into eternity, but is instead an institution that exists in the creation only for now. I worried that he would make a theological leap that was unbiblical. I believe he handled this matter in a manner that is faithful to the scriptures. He affirms the teaching that marriage will not be for eternity, but instead suggests that the knowledge of our past relationships will continue to exist, only reframed in terms of eternal truths. This is a concept he works through his book thoroughly. I feel he spent adequate time on this idea to justify it Biblically, but not so much as to bore the non-theology-nerd readers. Some folks may find this unsatisfying, but I would argue that to do so would have detracted from the larger focus and message of the book. I’d like to read more on the idea from a Biblical perspective, but it’s hard to fault the author for making the choice he did in this component of the text.
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5 Principles to Improve Quality Time with the Kids

1975015_10152240424546599_7203914151302774949_nI take my daughter with me to the office every day. She goes on nursing home visitation with me. Sometimes she goes with me when I visit parishioners in their homes. She spends about 8 hours of every day with me. Unfortunately, there is a difference between time when she is playing with dolls in my office while I work and quality time. I’ve spent some time in previous posts discussing daddy-daughter date nights and tea parties. Those sorts of activities are great, but tend to be spread out. It’s important to spend time with your kids daily. I encourage dads to try to spend at least an hour with their kids daily, just focusing on them. This sort of invested time is important to children and will impact them well into the future. This time investment may seem difficult, but I’ve discovered that it’s all about how you spend the time. It’s easy to look at an energetic kid at the end of a long work day and cringe at the thought of trying to keep up with them for 5 minutes, let alone an hour. Or to look at your daughter’s Frozen dolls with horror at the thought of reenacting a few of the dance numbers. However, there are a few tricks that work well for making the time more enjoyable for both you and your child.
  • 1506038_10151724169801599_53124884_nFocus on the Big Picture– Everything is about the mindset you bring to it. It’s important to remember that the time you are spending is an investment in the life of a person you love and who loves you unconditionally. That investment will help shape their sense of self worth, confidence, and your influence on their values and beliefs. Further, your child is also a child of God, one who you are preparing for a life of knowing Him. Part of how they perceive God will be shaped by their relationship with you. This isn’t time wasted when you’d rather be unwinding. It’s time spent on a job that is far more important than the one you get your paycheck for doing.
  • Spend Time Reading– One of my daughter’s favorite daddy-daughter date night activities is going to the comic book store. I pick up a few comics for her every time we are in town and several times a week she sits in my lap and I read her comics. We do this because I figured out that Wonder Woman comics are more interesting to me than Elmo books. I will happily read old Batman issues to her, largely because I enjoy them, too. She wouldn’t be too excited about getting the books if we didn’t read them to her. My point is that most kids love being read to and reading is a very low key activity that requires little chasing around. It’s possible to find things to read to them that you enjoy as well. Further, reading to kids is one of the best ways to get them to read when they are older.
  • 10488087_10152055705381599_3438918976874211789_nBe Creative- I recently found myself playing with my daughter’s frozen castle and toys on the living room floor. I cannot stress enough how little interest I have in princesses. Rather than phoning the time I was spending with her in, I took out some batman toys I had picked up during one of our trips to the comic books store. Before long, Batman was saving Elsa from the Joker. There was fighting and adventure and princess stuff. She loved the silliness of it, though I suspect that my enthusiasm and energy was what she really appreciated. Kids like being the center of their parents’ attention. Bringing a little creativity to the table is important for making sure that you are able to enjoy the time as well. Don’t hear me saying that spending time with your kids is dull or that it’s all about you. What I am saying is that adult men don’t necessarily enjoy the same activities as small children. Bringing your own interests into the mix can raise the entertainment factor and make it easier to consistently put the time in every day.
  • Let them help- My daughter gets a huge kick out of helping me do almost anything I do. She wants to help do dishes, vacuum, cook dinner, change lightbulbs, and almost anything else I do during the day. Letting her help do my honey-do list often makes the tasks more difficult to complete, but it’s time that she enjoys. She loves unloading things from the car or sweeping the kitchen. Letting them help do the things you need to do is a great way to spend quality time while accomplishing other tasks.
  • Be physical– It’s important to rough house and be physical with your kids for a few reasons. First, children are often extremely energetic. Playing in a high energy way with them is valuable for burning off excess energy. Boys, in particular, need to physically engage and play rough. Doing this with their father is a huge deal. Beyond rough housing, sitting with kids in your lap, cuddling, holding hands, hugging, tickling, etc. are all important. Humans experience affection in all sorts of ways. One of them is touch. Being physically close and touching is something kids need. I worked with a client in a mental health setting who would become aggressive every day, forcing the staff to physically engage him daily. After months of this, one of the staff started hugging the child several times a day. The physical aggression stopped almost completely after that. He wanted to be held, so he found a way to force other people to hold him. Kids need affectionate physical contact, particularly from their parents.
  • 1524634_10152116874261599_8558148131602334420_nPay attention to them– Kids catch on pretty quickly when you aren’t interested in what they are doing. If you sit and surf the internet on your phone while you play with them, they’ll notice. If you ignore the stories they tell you, they’ll catch on. It won’t make them hate you. It’ll adjust where they think they land on your priority list. While you are giving the time they are getting from you, give them your undivided attention. Ask questions. Tell them things. Take the time to teach them new things.
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Raising Kids that Keep Their Faith

1618445_10151891598676835_1094650859_nAfter 15 years as a professional minister, working with kids for 13 of those years, I have watched all sorts of young people grow up and make decisions to continue in the faith of their youth or opt to walk away. I have also read arguments as to who or what is usually at fault for the exodus of young people from the church. Colleges with secular agendas, public high schools, federal education standards, pop culture, and television are among the favorite targets. While all of these things may play a part in the trend, one of the major factors that gets far less attention is parental involvement. While there is no guarantee that anything will guarantee that kids will continue in the faith after growing up, there are several common factors I have observed that influence outcomes enormously.
  • Parents who are active in their faith. Parents who actively live out what they believe raise kids who follow their parent’s example. Teaching kids to love their neighbor as themselves, to forgive enemies, the importance of caring for widows and orphans, etc. are all part of living out the teachings of Jesus. Children are observant and know when their parents say one thing and do another. Earnestly living out the teachings of Jesus is the best way to teach kids how to earnestly live out their faith.
  • Parents who talk about their faith with their kids. Talking with kids about what you believe on a regular basis is a vital part of teaching them. This is important because kids learn to think through issues and make decisions as they grow up. Teaching them how to consider various aspects of life and decisions from the perspective of their faith is important. It doesn’t happen naturally; it is the product of teaching.
  • 15807_10152392291191835_2354946417354094654_nPray with and for them. Prayer is like breathing to spiritual life and development. It’s also powerful and effective. Going before God and raising up your kids daily is important. It’s also important to teach them how to pray and its importance. Thanking God together, praising Him in prayer, learning to confess our sins against Him, and seeking His assistance in our lives are all practices we teach our children when we pray for them.
  • Active participation in their faith life. Raising a child who learns the value of their faith requires participation that goes beyond dropping them off for Sunday School or Youth Group. Asking questions, encouraging them to talk about it, participating in service opportunities together, and studying the Bible as a family. Parental involvement is important.
  • Parents demonstrating the importance of weekly worship. Attending worship as a family demonstrates the importance of worshipping God. It’s of particular importance for the father to be involved in family worship, because kids tend to watch what their father does and learn from it. Sitting together, worshipping together, praying together, and other worship activities are central to the task. Family worship participation is an important key to raising a child who values their faith.
When children grow up, they make their own choices. The best things a parent can do are 1) teach their children values and 2) teach them about their faith so that their kids can make an informed decision when they are mature enough to do so. Until then, training in the faith is more than a passing acknowledgement of it. It’s a demonstrated lifestyle.
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Meeting Your Husband’s 5 Most Important Emotional Needs

9780800719388Willard F. Harley’s excellent marriage book His Needs Her Needs, is an exploration of the major emotional needs of husbands and wives. He asserts that the major cause of extramarital affairs is unmet needs, spouses rely on each other to have their needs met. When one partner goes long enough without major needs being met, they are more susceptible to temptation. He presents the 5 most important needs for each spouse, interestingly demonstrating how the corresponding need in the opposite gender can either compliment or conflict with it. For example, the most important emotional need for wives is affection. They need shows of affection, like touching, thoughtful gifts, loving words, etc. The corresponding need in men is sexual fulfillment. Men tend to do well meeting their wive’s affection need during the courting phase of the relationship. However, after marriage meeting the affection need becomes less urgent, though for most men having their own sexual needs met becomes a more pressing concern. As focus on fulfilling the wife’s need for affection dwindles, wives tend to be less in the mood for meeting their husband’s sexual needs, largely because affection in other areas of life is a large part of foreplay. It’s important to note that this cuts both ways. When women become less interested in ensuring their husband’s sexual fulfillment, men become frustrated and are less inclined to put effort toward showing their wives affection. When both parties take a stance of intentional selflessness toward their partner, the system works better. When one or both become overly focused on their own needs, things tend to break down.

Yesterday I posted an article that looked at the 5 most important needs to women. The following are the 5 most important emotional needs for husbands:

• Sexual fulfillment- Men are sexual and sexuality tends to be the most important need for many men. Please note that this is being classified as an emotional need, not a physical one. There is a tendency to think of men’s sexuality as being a mere physical need, but men largely experience affection sexually. There is a element of physical need, but the emotional element cannot be ignored. It is to men what affection is to women. Men’s sexuality is usually deeply connected with their sense of identity, which makes it important for this need to be met, as not having this emotional need met will affect the husband to his core.

251604_10151004434496599_528697307_nRecreational Companionship- Recreational companionship refers to engaging in activities together. Where women need conversational connection, men need to do fun things with their spouse. During the courting phase of the relationship, this is easier. Dating usually revolves around engaging in activities together. After marriage it’s not uncommon to find it easy to engage in their own hobbies and activities, going their own ways. Men have a need for companionship in activities. They like it when their spouse does things with them. This is largely because men tend to be doers and enjoy action over discussion. Relational companionship need not be active participation, though it’s a good thing when husbands and wives engage in activities together. Wives can watch their husbands, support them, or take an active interest in order to meet this need.

• Physical Attractiveness- This is a harder need to understand for many people. Men are very visual creatures. They tend to experience a lot of sexual attraction through what they see, which is why pornography for men is largely visual, because men respond to visual stimulation. This doesn’t mean that the wife must fit into the same dress she wore on their wedding day or resemble a supermodel at all times. Rather, a wife’s attention to visual cues is important. It’s generally important to men that their wives take care of themselves or try to look attractive. I’ve spoken to men who lament that their wives wear lingerie with less frequency the longer they are married or stop taking care of themselves physically altogether. It sounds shallow and crass, but it’s more a product of how men are hardwired. It’s not uncommon for men to become frustrated when they find their wives less attractive, but cannot discuss it because of the overall sensitivity of the subject matter.

• Domestic support- Whereas women often have a need for their husbands should work to support the family, men tend to want for their wives to help maintain and ordered household. This may come across as a desire for the ideal 1950s TV wife. However, it’s more a need for a spouse that helps take care of the home. How pressing this need is depends on the husband and the family composition. Many men are happy to help take care of domestic responsibilities, but feel a need for their wife to help with cooking, cleaning, and childcare.

• Admiration- Men have an inborn need to be respected and looked at with admiration. When a man feels disrespected or looked down upon by their wife, their pride can be significantly wounded. This need is generally a counterpart to family commitment. Women have an emotional need that the husband be committed to caring for and raising the family. Men, on the other hand, have an emotional need to be looked on as the leader in the family. They have a need to be treated with respect and admiration.

The key to understanding the proper handling of emotional needs as presented by Mr. Harley in his book is a degree of selflessness. Meeting needs in the marital context works best when both partners set out to meet their spouse’s needs without concern for seeking out the meeting of their own needs or judging your partner’s needs. Further, communication over these things is important. People will generally vary in their relational needs. Open communication is key to helping each other know what needs to be done in order to meet needs effectively.

5 emotional needs

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Daddy-Daughter Date Night Idea: The Last Minute Tea Party

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IMG_2878The last few days, which were supposed to be days off, wound up being impromptu work days for me. When I came home this evening, my 3 year old attacked me with pleas for attention and play time. It’s important to understand that as a dad and a follower of Jesus, I consider it my duty to love my daughter in a way that shows her who Jesus is. It’s a job I take very seriously. So, I spent some time playing, but I had to start making dinner. It was late and I was tired, so dinner was not going to be anything spectacular. I put a frozen pizza in the oven and made sandwiches and salads for my wife and I, all the while my daughter was danced around me in an effort to get my attention. Then, I had an idea. I put on the kettle to boil and made tea in her teapot, one I picked up specifically for tea parties with her. As soon as she saw it out and me filling it with water, she started squealing about having a tea party. I set the table with candles, put out teacups and saucers, put her in her fancy dress, and put on my suit. My wife quickly joined the act, putting on a dress. The result was a IMG_2868 2tea party with our little girl over a regular dinner of frozen pizza and salads. It’s not an elaborate daddy-daughter date night, but throughout dinner she repeatedly exclaimed how excited she was to have a tea party for dinner. It wasn’t my preferred daddy-daughter day together. However, given the brief time I had available to plan dinner, our impromptu candlelit tea party was a huge hit with one of the people who matters most to me.   IMG_2879 IMG_2883click here for dad daughter

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4 Tough Parenting Approaches that Work

10491278_10152091318686599_8769886226755773189_nWhile watching my kids play at the park yesterday, my daughter came running to me from under play structure, crying and rubbing her forehead. She had bumped her head on the underside of of the fire engine jungle gym. A hug, a kiss on the forehead, and and a few comforting words later, she was running around again. The most natural response to my little girl’s feeling pain, is offering comfort and doing the best I can to make it better. This is a natural response for parents. Protecting our children is programmed into our DNA. The most natural thing in the world is to hurt when our kids hurt and to try to fix it. Unfortunately, as time goes on, this instinct can get in the way of healthy development into adulthood. There are times when parents need to reign in their instinct and allow their children to struggle or hurt sometimes because its whats best for them.

There is a great line in in Proverbs:

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. 

Proverbs 13:24

Many folks read this as a direction to spank their kids. While this may be the case, disciplining your child includes far more than just spanking. Discipline is a wide ranging concept that is downright difficult for parents to follow through with, largely because it runs totally contrary to our inborn parental drive to protect and comfort. Here are four difficult forms of discipline every child needs, but parents are often reluctant to provide:

Natural consequences– Natural consequences are the natural, expected outcome of poor decision making. For example, if a child waits until the night before a project is due before they start working on it, 10624972_10152244365051599_3708616376640736165_nthen the natural consequence is a poor grade. All too often, parents see their child panicked the day before, and bail them out. At times this involves doing the work for them or calling them in sick for school the next day. These situations are teachable opportunities. Parents must decide if they will teach their child that someone else will always be there to bail them out, or if they will learn the hard lesson: “If you don’t do the work, you will fail.” This is one example, but of a huge area of teaching. If you watch people long enough, you will witness parents who attack teachers because their kids aren’t getting A’s, or demanding their kid gets to play a starting position on the soccer team, or any other situation where a parent shields their child from the consequences of their actions or failures. I’m not saying that helping your kid deal with consequences isn’t okay sometimes. Rather, I am saying that protecting them from everything teaches them to be sheltered.

Let them struggle– My little girl’s theme song right now is: “I need some help to do that.” It almost always starts playing when I ask her to do something she finds distasteful, like finishing lunch or cleaning up her toys. There are other times she tries to do things that she is just too small or young to do easily. In most instances it’s easier or seems more compassionate to help. I want her to think I will help her and take care of her. However, sometimes she needs to struggle in order to build perseverance and tenacity. If quitting is always an acceptable option, then queen she doesn’t want to do things, she’ll quit. Sometimes she needs to struggle through something difficult on her own in order to understand that the sweetest victories in life are the hard fought victories. One day my son will probably have to punch a bully in the nose. My daughter will need to practice piano for an hour a day to learn to play. Letting them face these hard situations and struggle through them creates character.

Let them fail- Our culture doesn’t seem to like letting kids lose or experience sad feelings. This has spawned sports leagues that don’t keep score and situations where kids are guaranteed success. How we deal with failure is easily as important as how we deal with success. Learning to fail and keep trying is very important, largely because there is little that can be accomplished in life without failing. Parents sometimes need to back up and let their kids fail. Its hard and heartbreaking, but its an important life lesson.

Praise their effort not their existence- I’m going to admit that this is really hard for me. I spend all kinds of time talking to my kids, and really love how they react to praise. The problem with this is that praise can train the wrong lessons into kids. We want them to feel good about themselves and be confident, but praise for things that are handed to them or not earned teaches them that they are great just for being. A far stronger lesson is praising them for the work they put in. If a child learns that their hard work is worthy and good, they will work hard. If they are perfect just for getting out of bed in the morning, they’ll expect praise for getting out of bed in the morning. Praising is good, it can reinforce behaviors. It must be used properly to be effective.

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5 Date Night Ideas for Couples Stuck in a Rut

IMG_1564After 16 years of marriage, my wife and I have noticed that it has become easy to fall into a rut with the time we spend together. For example, since the kids came along we have had begun doing the “grocery store date”, which involved going out for dinner, then going grocery shopping. This date pattern came about for fairly obvious reasons. It’s easier to go to the grocery store without the kids. If we already have a babysitter, why not have an easy night of buying groceries? On the plus side, it meets the basic requirement of spending time alone together.  The problem is that this outing isn’t particularly exciting and is really just doing home maintenance without the kids along. Dating your spouse should be about enjoying each other’s company and spending quality time together, unfortunately its easy for it to devolve into an obligation or routine.Because of this, we have put effort into coming up with new and novel activities to engage in on date nights that shift us out of our rut. Here are a few of our favorites:
  • First to pick up their phone loses- This one isn’t as much a game as a strategy for enjoying the evening. Cell phones have invaded so much of our interaction and demand a great deal of attention that it is easy to sit across from each other, surf the net, and never talk. This activity is aimed at curtailing this trend. It starts with a bet. Both partners select the stakes and the first to pick up their phone for any reason loses. Some decent stakes include: breakfast in bed for the winner, loser plans the next date, or the winner gets to sleep in while the loser takes care of the kids in the morning. It’s best to be creative and friendly with this. It’s also smart to set a special ringtone for the babysitter to prevent missing emergency calls.
  • Book Store Gift Shopping- One of my favorite date night games involves a visit to Barnes and Nobles with $30. Each of us takes half and spends 20 minutes picking out a book for the other. The book can’t be an obvious choice, but should 1480537_10151792771816835_1306916336_nreflect something that you think your spouse might find interesting, something that is a sort of project or activity work on together, or anything else that might spark conversation. Afterward we spend time talking about why we picked the book we picked and our reactions to the book we received. The important part of this game is spending time talking about it afterward and sharing reasons for picking the book. It can be adapted to other settings if you aren’t a reader. The game can be played in a mall or almost anywhere else.
  • Playing Games at Denny’s- This one may sound silly, but we have done it on more than a few occasions and find that it makes for a fun evening. You go to a restaurant that would generally expect patrons to sit for a little while, like Denny’s, Perkins, Tim Hortons, or a coffee shop. (We did this at a sports bar once.) Once seated you start a game. We have played dominoes, scrabble, and cards, though these are not your only options. Pick a game you both enjoy playing. It’s kind of neat to sit and play a game while being waited on. It’s particularly great to play a game without little hands grabbing the pieces or asking to help you play your side. If you tip well, most waitresses won’t mind if you sit for a while.
  • Walking- Early this year, my wife and I had a small window to go out. We visited a local restaurant. After the meal, we were at a loss as to what to do next because we live in a very rural area, with somewhat limited options for outings. I called a friend who owns some land on the river near our town. He directed us to a trail that ended at a cliff overlooking an island on the river. We walked a few miles along the trail, enjoyed the view, held hands, talked, and spent no money. Walking in parks, along trails, even through your neighborhood provides an opportunity to spend time together and just talk. Bring dessert or a picnic for dinner as well to enhance the outing.
  • Questions- Take turns asking questions. This may sound corny, but it provides conversation starters and can lead to knowing each other more intimately. Questions can be on any subject and should be answered to the best of your ability. Some questions I remember asking include: Best time we ever had together? Most memorable date? Favorite gift you’ve gotten from me? Really, the point of this is just to ask each other’s thoughts and feelings on different issues.
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