Tag Archives: Parenting

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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Real Men Shave? Understanding Biblical Manhood

IMG_1061One of the newest trends in men’s grooming is premium shaving gear. This includes all sorts of oils, different shaving cream styles, suggested variations in shaving ritual, and assorted styles of razors. Most of these products are marketed with the basic premise that they are part of rediscovering manhood or some aspect of being a man that is authentically male. A few weeks ago, I came across an old safety razor at an antique sale, and having read all sorts of material on how they were more of a Mercedes shaving experience compared to my Pinto experience with the disposable razor, I invested $3 on a 60-year old shaver. After thoroughly researching the technique involved, I made my first few attempts at grooming with my antique razor. Incidentally, I also learned all about the proper use of a styptic pencil. For those unfamiliar with the styptic pencil, it is used to staunch blood flow for minor cuts and nicks. I also learned that the reason that multi-bladed modern razors exist is because shaving with a safety razor is difficult, more time consuming, and potentially much harder on your face. The other thing I discovered is that shaving with an antique razor, the way my grandfather probably did, didn’t make me feel more manly. I didn’t feel like I had discovered some secret to manhood. Really, all of the mystique of the experience seems to be a little overstated. Perhaps I am doing it wrong. Perhaps when I have completed the hazing period and have the scars to prove it, then I will understand. More likely, I suspect that the ads are attempting to tap into a deep-seated need in our culture. Many men are searching for a definition of manhood because they aren’t certain as to what it really means to be a man. They don’t have a clear definition or standard by which to measure themselves, and as a result, they struggle with a core component of their identity. We live in a culture that is uncomfortable with manhood and where fathers being estranged from their sons is increasingly common. Boys learn to be men by watching their fathers. They observe, imitate, and learn. Without a father who models manhood, many young men grow up with no real concept of what it means to be a man. Such young men must teach themselves about manhood. Self-taught men often grow up with learning about manhood from pop culture, peers, or not at all. Many live with a need, whether it is conscious or not, to be validated as a man or find manhood standards to live up to. These often materialize as success at work, sexual dominance, or even being the opposite of their own dads. They need not be so overt, as some men live out this need by simply swallowing it or drifting in their life course.
GR6-DJT6Ultimately, if you ask most males what it means to be a man you will get a hodgepodge of activities that men associate with manhood and even some isolated values that are associated with male identity. What is far less common is a clear definition of the foundational values or focus of manhood and from where they are derived. This results in some perplexing behaviors that are labeled “being a man” that are likely far from a complete male identity.
There is an obvious opening question to further discussion about manhood: How do we know what it means to be a man? Where does this standard come from? I’d suggest that any conversation should begin with Genesis. The creation of man gives us a hint as to what he was supposed to be.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…
Genesis 1:26
267685_10151393255501835_1082856663_nIn Genesis 5:3, after the fall of man into sin, Adam has a son. Interestingly, the text says that Adam’s son was in Adam’s likeness. The reason for this shift is that man is now sinful. Instead of being as we were created to be, we are fallen. All people fall short of what they were meant to be. However, in Jesus we see the perfect representation of God and man without sin. In Him, we see what we were meant to be. Men may wander, chasing after images of manhood that fall well short of the ideal, because in Adam, we are fallen. In Christ, we can be what we were created to be. In fact, Paul writes that those who are in Christ are new creations. They become new for the purpose of imitating Christ. We can rediscover manhood in Him. The beginning of recovering real manhood is recognizing that He is the perfect model for us to emulate.
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Seeds Planted in Our Children’s Hearts

A couple of weeks ago, my 3-year old started going to our church’s midweek program. One of the things they do each week is memorize Bible verses. The first week, my beautiful 3-year old learned Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”

We’ve had her practice it a few times, and she has enjoyed sharing the verse she learned.

Every week, my daughter also goes to the nursing home in town to visit. She has been eating meals with and helping residents there for over 2 years. One of the gals we have spent a lot of time with, who always shares her dessert with my girl, passed away this week. On receiving the news, I sat down with my daughter to explain that we wouldn’t see our friend any more. I began to explain that our friend had died and we will see her again one day when we go to be with Jesus, too. When I said that she had gone to heaven, she immediately recited her Bible verse. I didn’t prompt her to say it. She just heard me say heaven and immediately associated it with the scripture verse she had memorized. I don’t think she fully grasps death or heaven. But, I know that she is remembering God’s word and that word will always be there. Even from this early age, she can connect God’s word to the things we discuss.

That morning I received a powerful and convicted illustration of a concept I’ve been talking about with people for years. Kids remember what we teach them. The seeds we plant in our children’s hearts can sprout and grow. It’s easy to assume that they don’t understand or don’t remember such things, but the seeds we plant and water will grow. It’s so important to plant the seeds.

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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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Meeting Your Wife’s 5 Most Important Emotional Needs

9780800719388One of the better books I have read on marriage is His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley. Harley’s text deals with the major emotional needs that are typical of husbands and wives. He argues that one of the major causes of extramarital affairs is unmet needs in the relationship. Spouses cheat because they are looking to have their needs met. The books operates on the premise that meeting each other’s needs is a way of affair-proofing your marriage. Aside from affair-proofing, meeting the needs of your spouse is a good way of helping to ensure happiness in the marriage. Further, knowing the needs of your spouse is important for selflessly serving her or him.

The book addresses the five most common emotional needs found in husbands and wives. Interestingly, each of the major needs corresponds with a similar need in the spouse of the opposite gender. Often, these needs can make meeting the spouse’s corresponding need difficult if either partner is wholly focused on themselves. A degree of selflessness is vital in this discussion because it requires that we stop looking to what we desire and instead focus on meeting their needs.

This post will focus on the 5 most important needs for women, as described by Harley’s text. A future post will consider the most important needs for husbands. I am choosing to start with wives’ needs because I would argue that husbands have a special obligation to serve their wives, as a matter of divine directive.

  • 221957_10150160757389352_1925480_nAffection– Affection is the expression of care and attention. Acts of affection include hugs, touching (generally non-sexual), holding hands, giving flowers, going for walks, writing love notes, thoughtful gestures, etc. Women largely experience love through shows of affection. During the courting and early stages of the relationship, this need is usually well met. However, as time passes, men often shift out of courting mode and affection wanes.
  • Conversation- From an early age women are more verbal. They learn to talk earlier and tend to be much more expressive. In relationships, women need communication. They feel connected when talking takes place because it involves sharing openly of themselves. It involves attentiveness, balance, and sharing. One of the challenges that takes place in marriage involves the tendency of men to talk less. They are typically less verbal and tend to see less value in conversation.
  • Honesty and Openness- Wives tend to feel more secure in their relationship when their husband shares his thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs with them. The connection created by openness builds trust. Many women feel more fulfilled when their husbands are open with them.
  • Financial Support- This need can be misunderstood. It is easy to misperceive this need as a wife wanting her husband to work while she fulfills the 1950s housewife role. The reality behind this need involves a sense that men ought to work and provide. At a minimum, they ought to contribute to the family’s financial security. Expectations in this area are often difficult to express and deal with because there is a sense that it is a shallow expectation or counter to romantic love. In the real world, a working/providing husband is important.
  • Family Commitment- The need for family support is the need for commitment to family. Wives have an emotional need for their husbands to be committed to caring for and raising the family. Family commitment goes beyond just sticking around to help take care of the family, though that is certainly a part of the need. It also includes mentoring and loving the children. Wives need husbands to be committed to being fathers to their children.
These needs are not definitive of every wife in the world, largely because all people are different. However, these represent the typical needs wives have. For husbands, this list is best used as a guide for serving and caring for his wife. His major job in the marriage is showing Jesus to his wife through his actions and attitudes. Knowing the right areas to serve his wife is vital to doing this job right.
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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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Understanding Pornography Addiction

Cycle_of_AbuseIt’s easy to understand how alcohol or cocaine are addictive substances, but when it comes to pornography addiction understanding the issues involved can be more difficult for a variety of reasons. For starters, discovering a hidden pornography habit can result in significant feelings of betrayal for a wife and can make understanding the addiction component very difficult. In addition, pornography use carries some stigma, which clouds perspective and makes understanding the addiction more difficult. However, pornography addiction is a real illness, it’s diagnosable, and it’s treatable. Looking at pornography produces similar brain functions that take place with using cocaine. It is highly addictive for the same reasons as any other drug. This is not to excuse the betrayal of a spouse or anything of the sort. Rather, it is to say that an individual can develop an illness, which prevents them from quitting the behavior. Let there be no mistake, addicts cannot stop a behavior on their own. Denial, thinking errors, shame, and an out-of-control reward response system in their brains literally result in the addictive patterns becoming compulsive.

A behavior is an addiction, rather than just being a set of sinful decisions, if it features certain common qualities:
  1. Increased tolerance– Increased tolerance as it relates to pornography use involves getting into increasingly harder-core porn or much more of it in order to achieve the same results that were achieved with less before. Increased frequency of use can also be associated with increased tolerance.
  2. Withdrawal- Withdrawal from pornography use can involve cravings, restlessness, anxiety, depression, etc. Withdrawal doesn’t necessarily happen instantly. It can take as much as a week or more to fire up.
  3. Continued use despite harm- When an addict recognizes that their addiction is hurting them, they continue to use. They may get caught, feel shame, or other negative effects, but they do not stop, largely because they cannot.
  4. Using more or for longer periods than intended- This is essentially a loss of control. A pornography addict will struggle with limiting their use. They may intend to look for only a few minutes, but then spend hours using porn. Addicts often comment that they are never really sure how long their using episodes may last.
  5. Attempts to control use- Pornography addicts may swear over and over again that they will never use again, but they will inevitably find themselves using again. They may try to come up with ways to prevent themselves from looking at porn, but they will inevitably find ways around these measures.
  6. Excessive time spent acquiring pornography or thinking about using– People who become addicted to pornography find themselves spending more and more time thinking about using it or hunting for new and different porn. This is especially the case for those who are hiding their addiction from family members, which then requires them to spend enormous amounts of time protecting their addiction by hiding it.
  7. Reduced involvement in work, social, or family obligations- Pornography addiction becomes increasingly time consuming as the addiction advances in severity,  withdrawing from obligations as they get in the way of using.

In order to be diagnosed as an addiction, the individual must exhibit three or more of these criteria.

Dealing with the problem is uniquely difficult for pornography addiction for several reasons. For starters, hiding pornography use from a spouse is much easier than hiding substance abuse. As a result, treating the addiction can involve revealing some huge and hurtful secrets. In addition, pornography addiction is far less recognized and exists more in the shadows of our culture. Consequently, there are far fewer support group and treatment options. This is not to say that pornography addiction is a hopeless situation. Dealing with it begins with acknowledging that the problem has gotten out of control and turning control of your life over to God. Seeking help from an addictions counselor, a pastor, or a support group is a good next step. There are several terrific resources available as well. I highly recommend the book: Sampson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood by Nate Larkin. It is the best book I have read on the subject that is written for the average man.

Pornography addiction is treatable and there is hope. Further, as long as the addiction is out of control and untreated, the addict will live with a significant degree of fear and shame. There is also a constant danger of discovery, particularly by any children who live in the home. Early exposure to pornography by a parent is very common among addicts, largely because kids find their way into all sorts of things that you never intend for them to get into. Taking the first difficult steps toward dealing with addiction are difficult, but worthwhile once the painful early stages have been worked through.

For its part, the church needs to learn to look past the inclination to judge, protect the privacy of those seeking help, and learn to offer help to addicts who are seeking help. This may require specialized training and some uncomfortable topics being addressed from the pulpit at times, but its part of our calling to be salt and light to the world.
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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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