Before You Say “I Do”

Summer is finally here and you know what that means. At least for our friends and family, summer means lots of swimming, grill outs, graduations, and yes, weddings. Merrill and I were married on a sweltering July day back in 1987; we will be married 32 years on July 24. If you’re married and reading this, maybe you had a summer wedding too. I don’t know about you, but we were such young pups when we got married without a clue of what we were doing when we said, “I Do”. I’m not sure where we would be today without God’s unmerited favor.  I thank God every day for His grace and the blessing of Merrill, our five children, two amazing daughter in laws and 2 ⅓ adorable grandchildren (Yep, another one is on the way). Each one of them is a blessing in my life I do not deserve.

I say all this not just to reminisce but to attack some myths Merrill and I have seen young couples fall for over the past 25 years. Over and over again, couples have fallen into the same traps creating trouble for them years down the road. None of these are easy topics. There are as many opinions as there are words in a dictionary. We could spend days unpacking each one, but in this season of weddings and engagements, I feel like it’s time to do some myth busting about marriage and relationships.

BUSTING SOME MARRIAGE MYTHS

Photo Credit: Olivia Strohm Photography

Photo Credit: Olivia Strohm Photography

  1. “Love is All We Need”-That’s a great title for a movie or love song, but that’s not real life. Without investing in each other and nurturing that relationship through good communication and conflict resolution skills...that infatuation quickly begins to fade away. Why do you think only 2% of new marriages started as high school sweethearts? Love is not a feeling, but instead a conscious decision that must be fed and nurtured. A healthy marriage takes each partner giving 100% to the relationship. Besides healthy relationship skills, the greatest tool in our marriage toolbox is God Himself.  Without the Lord at the center of their relationship, couples are building on sinking sand.

  2. “Time Will Resolve Our Problems”- Sometimes it’s the little things over time that destroy trust and slowly eat away at a relationship. If you and your partner have things that have never been addressed or resolved and they are causing bitterness and anger to build up, it’s time to get some help. Work toward compromise and resolution BEFORE you say “I do”.  Time does not heal all wounds. Over time, it can be the little things that hardened your heart toward your partner. Don’t let things go unresolved thinking they are “no big deal”. If you keep brushing things under the rug without ever dealing with them...you eventually start tripping over the rug!

  3. “My Partner is My Everything”- Putting your partner on a pedestal and declaring him/her to be your world is setting your partner up for horrible failure. God never intended your partner to be your savior...your everything. Your partner IS going to disappoint you. He/She IS going to let you down over and over again. That’s called being human, and that’s why we all need to extend this thing called grace. Look in the mirror. You’re not perfect either and you’re going to need your partner to extend grace to you. We all do.  We’re going to disappoint and let others down. We see couples all the time enter into a relationship with rose colored glasses assuming their partner can meet all their needs. Good luck with that one! That’s not how God designed marriage. There is still a need for outside friendships. There is still a need for alone time, and there is still a HUGE need for God. I tell couples all the time. God is a jealous God, and he won’t settle for second place even in your marriage.

  4. “Living Together Helps Prepare Us For Marriage”-This one depends on what you’re preparing for. If you want to know if your partner snores or is a good cook, maybe that’s true, but if you are looking for a forever commitment, not so much. When a couple chooses to live together before marriage, it can infuse doubt and mistrust into the very core of the relationship. It’s hard to trust someone completely when they have an easy exit strategy. The message living together often sends to a partner is “I’m not sure you’re the one for me”. I want to “test drive” the relationship. Well, test driving is great for cars you want to buy, but we’re not dealing with cars here. We’re dealing with people’s emotions and when we start intertwining sexual intimacy and financial bank accounts together without a forever commitment-things get really messy.  It’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. I’m not here to say that couples who live together before marriage won’t last, but I am saying it definitely starts the building process on shaky ground. Regardless of what people may say, Cohabitation is NOT the best way to prepare for marriage.

A healthy marriage is not about what we selfishly GET from the relationship, but what we selflessly GIVE. It’s more about BEING the one than finding “the one”. When we look at our partner and say “I’m ALL IN” and approach marriage as a lifetime commitment through the good times and the bad, that’s when we create a relationship of love and trust.  That’s when you begin to build on a rock solid foundation for your new life together. The best way to prepare for marriage is to pursue God as a couple and get wise premarital counsel.

Many couples spend years saving and planning for their wedding day. Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the United States last year was over $33,000? That is crazy! Couples spend a ton of money and time picking out dresses, flowers and venues. What if couples would take that same kind of time and attention in seeking God as the center of their relationship? Take the time to pray for your relationship, for each other, and for your future family. Statistics show that over 99% of married couples who pray together on a regular basis stay together. I don’t know of anything else that compares to that success rate. Research also shows that 80% of couples that get quality premarital counseling stay married.

So before you say “I do”, take the time to pursue God together. Talk to your priest or pastor. Invest in premarital counseling. Find a Christian mentor couple to walk alongside you. Slow down and do this right. After all, it’s not about one special day on the calendar, but a very special relationship you want to last a lifetime.

Marriage First Aid

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I still remember where I was when I got the call. I was in Orlando, Florida at a ministry conference when one of my key church volunteers called me in tears. He and his wife were in marital crisis. She was ready to leave.  How could that be? They looked like they had it all together. I was with their whole family just the week before. How could I have missed the storm brewing and growing inside their home?

I remember that day like it was yesterday, but in reality it was over 15 years ago. That day is forever seared in my mind, because it stirred something inside that has never left me - a heart for couples in crisis. Working with couples and families was nothing new for my husband and I. For years, we had been working with engaged couples walking alongside them before they said “I Do”. For years, I had worked with families as a teacher and children’s minister. But this was different. This time, I felt ill-equipped and blindsided.

Maybe you’ve been there.  A family member or friend calls you to say, “I can’t do this anymore” or “He/She left”, and you’re left holding the phone in shock. Now what? Often we feel helpless wishing we had a band-aid or some magic words, but we don’t. The helplessness I felt that winter day in Orlando Florida sent me on a quest for truth and tools for my friends and the countless other couples God would put in my path.

If you are reading this today, I’m first here to share with you some truth. There is NOTHING that you or someone you love is experiencing right now that God can not bring beauty from (Isaiah 61:1-3). In 20 years of ministry, I have seen God bring healing and beauty out of the ugliest of circumstances. Adultery, Addiction, Illness, Bankruptcy, Felonies, Abuse….you name it; God can redeem it! Now, I didn’t say every marriage will be restored. Restoration takes two willing partners which doesn’t always happen in marital conflict. But if you are willing to do it His way, God is ABLE! My husband and I host a weekly radio show called ROCK SOLID RADIO and recently did an episode on this very topic. Check it out at eaglecountryonline.com or just click HERE

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking it’s already too late. Maybe you and your spouse have already divorced and moved on. God can still make something beautiful out of your pain and heartache if you surrender it to Him. He is still able to do more than all you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). Maybe, it’s not you but a friend, and you have no idea what to say or do. First and foremost, pray for them. Ask God to give you the wisdom and discernment in knowing what to say and what not to say. But what if there was more we could do? What if we had some first aid tools when the bleeding starts to occur?

MARRIAGE FIRST AID KIT
Just like students in school, it’s important we all have an emergency plan and practice it BEFORE the storm comes. Whether it’s a tornado or fire, students and adults practice the plan AHEAD of time.  It helps take the emotion out of the emergency and allows everyone to handle things in a safe and calm way. What if you and your spouse did the same thing? Sit down with your spouse and go over this together when things are good or when the emotion is out of the conflict.

Get a plan NOW on how you will handle the next storm or conflict that arises. No matter if it’s you or someone you know, there is hope and healing when conflict occurs.  Here are some tried and true tools I believe every first aid plan should include:

  1. Take a Time Out-Don’t try and resolve conflict in the heat of emotion. Take time to cool down. If it is your spouse who is angry, walk away to allow the situation to deescalate. Go for a walk, take a drive, go in your room. Take time to step away from the emotion and calm down with the commitment that you will be back to resolve it later when the emotion has subsided. It may be an hour or a day, but don’t allow the negative emotion to fester and grow.

  2. Initiate a sincere apology-Take the time to reflect on how you contributed to the conflict and own it. Even if you think your spouse was 95% in the wrong, own your 5%. (Don’t tell them you are only 5% in the wrong...that’s not going to help!) After a cooling down period, approach your spouse and apologize for your part of the argument and then STOP. Don’t go on to crucify their response or justify yours. That will only put your partner on the defense and shut down any possibility of healing your relationship. If your partner isn’t willing to apologize, don’t give up and strike back. It may take time for your partner to believe you are sincere and not just wanting to throw them under the bus.

  3. Don’t keep score-Once you have apologized, let it go. Don’t keep bringing up the past and throwing it in their face. If you are a couple that keeps score, you may win an argument but you will lose your marriage.

  4. Daily Investment of Time- I believe many couples are struggling because they have not made their marriage a priority. They’ve put everything in front of their marriage relationship. Work, Kids, Screens, you name it and it has replaced the marriage as the daily priority. Your spouse needs to know that he/she is the most important person in your life. If they’re not….that’s the problem. It’s time to make your spouse a priority. Every day for about 15-20 min, take the time to sit down with your partner uninterrupted and just dialogue. Ask them how they are doing and what’s going on in their world. Compliment and thank them whenever possible. No kids, no screens, no dishes...just the two of you. You will be amazed how esteemed and valued your spouse will feel. You will be surprised how much you learn in just 15-20 minutes. So many conflicts come from a break down of communication. This daily investment would save so many storms from brewing.

  5. Christ Centered Marriage-You want to storm proof your marriage? Take your child off the throne. Take your work off it’s pedestal. Stop expecting your spouse to be something God never created them to be. All of those things...our children, our work, even our spouse make lousy gods. Put Jesus Christ on the throne in your home. Build your home on a foundation that is unshakable and can weather ANY storm. As a couple, pray for each other and for your family every day. The divorce rate for couples who pray together on a regular basis is less than 1 percent. I don’t know of a better way to storm proof your marriage. When Christ is our focus, we begin to understand how to love our wife and respect our husband unconditionally. We begin to extend grace and offer forgiveness, because we realize how WE have been forgiven by our Heavenly Father who loves us and forgives us daily.  

  6. Seek Professional Help Early-Don’t wait until your spouse walks out the door. If you can’t seem to resolve the conflict on your own, seek professional help. Call a counselor. Reach out to a priest/pastor. Contact us at Rock Solid Families for marriage/family coaching. There is help and hope available.

Like I mentioned before, there are no magic words that can instantly repair a hurting relationship.  There is no magic pill you can swallow and heal deep wounds, but there is a Heavenly Father who has given us a way to have all those things we so desperately desire...peace, love, joy, and hope.

At Rock Solid Families, we are here to help you find those things in a Christ-centered home. If we can help you or your family, please don’t hesitate to call our St. Leon, IN office at 812-576-ROCK or contact us through our website at rocksolidfamilies.org. In the meantime, please know that if you’re reading this, we are praying for YOU and asking God to help you build a Rock Solid Family!


Negotiating with Your Child?

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Ever have this at your dinner table? You spent a long time preparing a great meal only to have your child turn her nose up at it. She pouts and shouts and refuses to eat until you finally give in and let her eat whatever she wants out of the fridge.

Negotiation is a great thing when it is done correctly.  Over my years of working with others, I’ve had many opportunities to walk through the negotiation process.  Early on, I realized that for me to even think about entering into this process, several key understandings and beliefs had to be in place between the involved parties.  If they were not, it was better to not even entertain the process. Negotiations will only stand a chance at being successful if the process is standing on the following pillars:

  • Mutual Respect

  • Trust

  • Good Faith and Intent

  • Understanding and Belief in the Process

  • Shared Values

Whether it be purchasing a car or a house.  Interviewing for a job, or settling a business deal.  Negotiations can be very rewarding and successful when they stand on the above pillars. Without these, the process will at best, fall short, at worst, be disastrous and potentially harmful and costly to the involved parties.

So what does all of this have to do with negotiating with your child? Over the years, I’ve had many discussions with parents about negotiating with their children.  I’ve even had several cases in which parents were impressed that their elementary aged child was becoming a skilled negotiator. They seemed to applaud the process. Often, they would state something to the effect of, “Hey, in my world, learning to be a strong negotiator is a valuable skill.  Someday, it may make them a lot of money!”

Yes, there may be some truth to this, but here is my opinion on negotiating with a child.  I would never want to negotiate with someone that did not work from the pillars previously mentioned:  Mutual Respect, Trust, Good Faith/Intent, Understanding/ Belief in the Process, and Shared Values. With that being said, I strongly encourage parents to avoid negotiating with their young children.  Why you may ask? Let’s look at the typical child. Now, this isn’t meant to be mean or ill-spirited, but rather, truthful. Our kids are born and quickly develop into selfish beings. If you don’t believe me, go hang around a 2 - 3-year old for about 30 minutes. The terrible twos are terrible because the child has become aware of themselves and how they interact with the world. Their little brains are excited to think about things they want and finding ways to execute getting those things...at any and all cost! Tantrums, crying, sibling rivalry, and attempts at negotiating are just part of a young child’s day.

Our young children are not bad or evil for thinking of themselves first but do not be fooled.  Children are by their nature, selfish. It is a very abstract thought process to step outside of your own thoughts and desires and think about what someone else might be feeling or thinking.  This process is slowly learned, and the brain has to develop and mature just to be capable of doing such thinking.

You may be asking…why don’t you trust your kids? My response is simple…I do not trust them YET! Trust is something that must be developed and grown.  Trust occurs when people are working from a respected and shared value system.  A child doesn’t know what is valued in a relationship until they are old enough to understand how a relationship works? I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with thousands of kids.  What I know to be true is that no matter how good that child is, they simply are not ready for high level or abstract thinking An elementary age child is still learning how to interact with others and how to combat the selfish tendency hardwired into all of us.  

Watching kids on the playground is a perfect example.  You will see them argue and bicker back and forth to the point that sometimes just seems cruel.  This cruelty comes out simply because a child is acting like a child, selfish. They want what they want no matter what you want.  

So, as part of the process of becoming a well adjusted and successful adult, we learn to temper our selfish hard wiring and develop important relationship tools such as empathy, understanding, and effective communication.  These skills may not seem difficult on the surface, but I believe it is the reason for much of the conflict in our world today.  Politics, business, marriage, parenting, etc…, trouble comes when we revert back to our selfish tendencies and presume our way is the only way.

So, let me suggest that we don’t negotiate with our children until they have learned the following:  

  • Mutual Respect

  • Trust

  • Good Faith and Intent

  • Understanding and Belief in the Process

  • Shared Values

The way kids learn and understand these essential pillars of negotiation is by first teaching them the tools of empathy, understanding, and effective communication.  This can be more difficult for some children than others.  As the parent, you want to teach these skills and then help them understand how they build strong and healthy relationships.  So, if you want your children to grow up to be successful and well-adjusted adults, please do not spend your time negotiating with them.  Rather, spend your time teaching and encouraging your children to understand the value of valuing others.  Once you begin to have confidence in their ability to value others, then you will find yourself being more comfortable entering into the negotiation process.  Not only will this help your children, but it will help all the people your children come into a relationship with as an adult.  I don’t know about you, but I would call that a Win-Win DEAL!


Baby, its Cold Outside!

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I know, I’m supposed to be content in all situations. I’m not supposed to grumble or complain. Okay! Okay!  But can you just give me a minute to vent? I hate WINTER! Great! Now that I got that off my chest, let’s move on.  I really don’t hate everything about winter. I like the snow and the holidays, but I hate not being outside and active like I am in the warmer months.  The limited daylight and colder temperatures make it much less inviting to do the things I enjoy outside. In the wonderful Ohio Valley, we have more than our share of cloudy and raining days in the winter.  I think I must have some hibernation tendencies in me because it’s a pretty much a guarantee that I’m going to gain an extra 10 pounds every winter. I also notice that my energy and mood tend to be lower. My wife might even say I have a bad attitude in the winter.  And she might be right!

So, over the years, I’ve had to be very intentional about taking care of myself especially in the winter months.  I understand that I have a choice in how my winters are going to go, and how I’m going to deal with them. Here are some of the things that I have used to stay healthy and keep my winter blues in check:

  • Be intentional about your exercise and activity level.  Typically this is so much easier in the summer. But in the winter you have to make it a priority.  Join a gym. Schedule a time in your day to workout. Sign up for a basketball or volleyball league. Join us at Rock Solid Families for a fitness class.

  • Limit your screen time.  TV’s, computers, and phones all have one thing in common, they have you sitting on your tail way too much.  Excessive sitting causes muscles and joints to get stiff. It also is not demanding many calories, so your calories are stored as fat.  Ugh!

  • Start an indoor project. Maybe it’s time to remodel or paint a room. Do you have a garage or barn that you can fix a vehicle or restore an old car in?  How about a woodworking project? My mom used to love to do a winter puzzle!

  • Commit to an activity or organization several hours a week.  Maybe it’s a bible study at church, or lunch with friends. Putting this on the calendar gives you something to look forward to and gets you out and moving.

  • Be mindful of your eating, especially the carbs!  Carbohydrates are sometimes called “feel-good” foods.  Sugars and grains that taste good and make us feel good, but only for a short time.  Carbohydrates play havoc on your body. You crave them, they make you feel good, then, crash!  Yes, due to the insulin rush into your bloodstream to pull all that sugar out of the blood and into the cells as fast as possible.  The problem is this immediate rise and fall of sugar in the bloodstream leaves us feeling tired, groggy, and even depressed. If this is happening on a daily basis, we can find ourselves dealing with sugar-induced depression.

  • Sunlight exposure!  There is no shortage of research data that demonstrates how exposure to sunlight helps to lift our mood.  Over the years, researches have coined the phrase S.A.D., Seasonal Affective Disorder. S.A.D., is actually nothing new.  It used to go by such terms as Winter Blues or Cabin Fever. S.A.D. is simply a drop in mood and energy that is triggered by the reduced amount of sunlight exposure.  Most people experience some level of this but are able to work through it without incident. However, if S.A.D symptoms are keeping you from being the person you know you can be, then it may be time to get help.  Diet, exercise, prayer, artificial sun-lamps, talk therapy, and even medications are among the few things available to reverse S.A.D.

Okay, so now that I’ve reminded myself on how to get through these cold, dark dreary days of winter.  I need to get out of my chair and go for walk! Embrace the cold!

Philippians 2:14

Do everything without complaining and arguing...


One Size Does Not Fit All

How many times have you made the statement; “I wish these kids came with an instruction manual!” Yes, don’t we all!  

One Size Does Not Fit All!

One Size Does Not Fit All!

In an effort to help people, many experts have written books about child rearing, but all too often, the information falls short. This is especially true in dealing with difficult subjects such as discipline, self-esteem, confidence, and social interaction.  You quickly glean through the well-intended tactics from your favorite new book, only to find out that it doesn’t quite work like they said it would. Ugh!!! What’s even more frustrating is when you use the material on one of your children with excellent outcomes, but it’s a complete failure on their sibling.  Typically, I will hear parents say, “They both live in the same house, have the same parents, live with the same rules and experiences, how could they be so different?”

Welcome to parenting! If it were only so easy as to read a book and have all the answers.  What many fail to realize is the uniqueness of every child. It’s for that reason that one size simply does not fit all.  So, how do we go about raising these unique beings? Over the years, I have had the opportunity to try many different tactics and ideas.  Some made me a believer, others, not so much. One thing I came to realize is that I needed to stop looking for “cookie-cutter” answers and take the time to learn who the child was.  Let me explain.

I listen to people talk about bringing back paddling into the school, of which I’m not opposed. However, I will tell you that paddling is not the answer for all kids. I've dealt with some kids that need little more than a stern voice to curb an unwanted behavior.  On the other hand, I’ve seen kids that I truly believed you could have hit with a 2x4 and they would respond with, “is that all you got”?

I’ve also heard people discuss how building confidence and self-esteem is critical.  On the surface, this seems reasonable, but again one size does not fit all. Some kids come to us with confidence dripping out of their pores.  In fact, if they don’t know how to handle it, they can be some of the worst people to associate with. Ever met someone who was always right or difficult to teach or coach? This type of confidence exudes itself as arrogance.  And, yes, there are those kids that doubt everything they say or do. Never believing they are good enough, constantly seeking affirmation, and quite frankly, often just as difficult to be around as the arrogant child.

As a parent, understanding this scripture is critical to raising your unique child.

Romans 12:4-8 (NIV)

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Yes, every body part has significant value to the total body.  One is not better than another. Would it make sense to make your eye function and behave like your ear?  That’s ridiculous! So is it ridiculous to think we should expect the same function and behavior from our kids. Should they all go to college? Should they all play sports? Should they all like to read? Should they all be leaders? The easy answer is NO!  But, way too often we see parents pushing things that may very well be what the world is saying is important, but not what God intended for your child.

 How do we deal with these unique kiddos?  

1. Spend time working on what your child needs the most help with.  If your child is a naturally confident, borderline arrogant child, you may have to help them understand and practice humility.  Teaching them how to listen to other’s point of view.  Teaching them how to let others go first. Teaching them to be better listeners and value the opinions of others. Teaching them to openly admit when they are wrong and make necessary apologies.

If your child lacks confidence, then you most likely do not need to spend a great deal of time teaching humility. Rather, you could begin to work on their positive self-talk.  You do not tolerate or accept excuses or down-trodden talk. You strongly challenge them to take action. If it leads to a win, you celebrate it. If it leads to a loss, you teach them how to learn from the failure.  

2. Teach your child to NEVER be a Victim! No matter what cards your child has been dealt, they will have their share of failure in their life. Teaching your child to come out as a victor rather than a victim is a lifelong tool that will serve your child well no matter who they are. Whether your child is an academic genius, or struggling to pass school, a potential pro-athlete, or sitting the bench, you can still teach them the value in never being a victim. We do this by teaching our kids to own or take responsibility for everything they do.  We do not tolerate excuses or blames.  No, it’s not the referee’s fault that you lost the game.  It may sound good at the time, but it completely removes responsibility from your child to get better.  Teaching your child to be a victor is one of the most empowering things that you can do. They will no longer have to wait for things to go their way.  They will begin to understand what it means to Make it a Great Day rather than Have a Great Day!

3. Teach your child the value of Self-Discipline. I remind my kids even when they don’t want to hear it; “I will discipline you until you can learn to discipline yourself!”  That is the key to why we discipline our children.  We really just need them to self-discipline. Again, no matter who your child is, research has proven time and time again, that a necessary trait for happiness and success in life is self-control. https://www.inc.com/rohini-venkatraman/science-says-self-control-is-a-key-success-factor-boost-yours-immediately-with-these-tips.html

Your kids will not like this parenting tactic, but you owe it to them to help them to practice the skill of self-control in their daily activities and decision making. Immediate gratification and self-control are on two opposite ends of the spectrum.  Help your child move toward the side of long term success and happiness - self control!

4. Teach your child about God and why he created them the way they are.  As your child grows up, they begin to have the ability to compare.  Yes, they compare how good they are, how bad they are, how tall they are, how smart they are, how athletic they are, how artistic they are, and the list goes on.  They soon realize that they are never going to be the best at everything. Someone will always be better! This is where we get into the self-esteem concerns. Self-esteem drops when a child believes there is something wrong with them.  Simply stated; they aren’t good enough!

Teach your child about their total uniqueness. They entered this world as a unique Child of God made in His image.  No one in the world is who they are. No one in the world has the exact combinations of talents, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses.  This combination has been hand selected by God. Teach them to stop wanting to change what God has created and embrace who He intended them to be.  Teach them to identify their strengths and then build them. Teach them to identify their weaknesses and how these weaknesses will help steer their path to serve out God’s intention for their life.  

Don’t fall into the trap of letting the world determine who your child should be.  Encourage them to be who God intended them to be. Like the old adage says, “God doesn’t make junk”!  


Never Enough

It was one of those days. I’m sure you’ve had them too. No matter what you said or did, it was never enough. That was me last Friday.  No school, no power, and three kids who were sick of being together but too cold to go outside. And yes, a mother who was ready for them to go back to school. PLEEEASE, Lord let them go back to school!!

NOPE! At 5:15 am on Friday morning, we got the call. Day TWO of no school, but praise God through the night our power had come back on. Thank you, Jesus at least we had power! Some of our family and friends around us were not as lucky which is why they had to call off school again. Let’s face it; an ice storm is not much fun to play in while you’re off school. Our three youngest still woke up super early and excited because it was Friday, and they had plans for the weekend. All three of them had been invited to spend the weekend with their former foster family. They were excited about celebrating the birthday of their former foster sister. She was turning 5. They could not wait to get there. They had their bags packed sitting by the door first thing in the morning, and then the wait began.

They figured if they were off, everyone should be off. They could start the festivities early. They had dreams of going over our friend’s house before lunch and playing with the birthday girl. They assumed they were getting picked up early and most definitely eating dinner with them, but that wasn’t our original plan. Most of us have this thing called “work”. It’s a really strange thing that adults do when children go to school. You’ve probably experienced it too.

I say all this to set the stage for the kind of day we had. It wasn’t pretty. Nothing I said or did was enough. Trust me, I would have been ecstatic if they would have gotten their wish and gotten to go over early. I had a list of things I was hoping to get done at work and at home before the weekend began, which left me in a pretty frustrated mood.

By the time, the kids left the house at 6pm, we had ALL had enough of each other. Merrill and I decided to go to the movies that night to blow off some steam. We talked the whole way down to Greendale Cinemas sharing our hearts and struggles with each other. Here we were leading a new ministry called Rock Solid Families, and at that moment we didn’t feel very Rock Solid. We were also preparing to tape our weekly radio show, Rock Solid Radio and felt totally unworthy to speak with any kind of authority or expertise. Satan was having a field day with both of us. He was in our heads having a field day.

In God’s divine timing, you won’t believe the movie we went to see that night.  It was Instant Family about a couple adopting three hard to place foster children. It was one I had wanted to see for a long time, but I had no idea how God would use it in that moment. We laughed. I cried. (I think Merrill did too but I can’t confirm. It was dark.) That has been our story...every stinking scene we could relate to. We drove home that night shocked at how real that movie was and how relatable it was to our story.

When we got home, we got ready for bed. Merrill and I laid in bed and prayed together as we do every night. We prayed for each other, we prayed for all five of our children, our daughter in laws, our two grand babies, our ministry, the families we work with, and then the tears started to flow for me. In that moment, I cried out to the Lord and asked for his forgiveness. I asked him to help me in my weakness as a wife and mom. I asked for his forgiveness for my struggles that day with the kids. We both finished praying and kissed each other good night.

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As I laid there still beating myself up over my day, I heard God speak to me. No, I didn’t hear his audible voice, but I did hear him very clearly speak into my spirit that night. I heard the Lord say….”Linda, you’re not ROCK SOLID, I am!” “You were never meant to be. That’s my job, not yours!” If you try to do it on your own….you’ll never be enough.  I can not tell you how those words from the Lord ministered to my heart that Friday night. I went to sleep that night with such a peace, not because I was good enough, but because He was!

Maybe you need to hear those words from the Lord too. Folks, we will NEVER be enough! That’s not His design for us to be on our own. He’s the Rock-not us!  Check out the scripture we had up in our Rock Solid Families fitness room that very same week. This was what the Lord said to the apostle Paul as he battled those same insecure thoughts and what He’s saying to you and I today…. ““My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.(2 Cor. 12:9-10 NLT)

We’re going to be talking more about the subject of NEVER ENOUGH on our Rock Solid Radio show on Sunday, December 16 from 7:30-8:00 pm on Eagle Country 99.3 FM. We’d love for you to tune in and even join in on the conversation. Remember He’s the Rock-not us! He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:2)


Parenting After Divorce

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Nobody goes into a marriage with the intention of divorcing.  Most couples get married with the intention of being with their spouse for a lifetime.  Kids, houses, cars, pets, everything they bring into the relationship is usually done thinking “together forever”.  But...life often takes turns they did not intend. Marriages begin to develop small cracks that often lead to full-blown fractures or in other words…divorce.  

Today’s blog is not about how to prevent the divorce.  We have spoken many times on that topic and will continue to do so.  That is energy well spent and should be at the forefront of our efforts.  With that being said, however, we do want to help couples successfully manage their families after a divorce has occurred.  In particular, I’m going to discuss parenting after the divorce. Below is a common description of what I have witnessed and experienced in my work as a school counselor over the past 20 years.

After differences become “irreconcilable”, couples are often stirred with emotions such as: pain, hurt, anger, jealousy, anxiety, and depression.  The idea of working with the person that they once said, “till death do us part”, brings up a well of nausea. Words like hate, stupid, jerk, selfish, along with a cast of other words unfit to put in print start to get thrown back and forth to each other.  Sometimes, it even feels good to use such derogatory words to describe their ex-spouse. Then reality hits… “Ugh, we have three children together. I have to deal with this idiot for the next 18 years! OMG!”

This is a serious crossroads in determining how well a family is going to fare through this difficult time.  When a divorced spouse responds out of those charged emotions, they often feel justified to speak negativity toward their ex-spouse.  But at what expense? This is what I have seen in my 20 years working with families. Couples who parent out of hurt and emotion are setting their children up for trouble. Parenting out of emotion often creates immediate turmoil in the family and long term issues for the child.

Initially, children are hurt and confused by the attitude and approach divorced parents take toward one another. They are saddened by any critical words and quickly start to resent one or both parents if the criticism continues or festers.  As they grow, children become desensitized to the critical speech and even begin to use it to their benefit. They begin to harden to the divorce, and approach life as a more self-centered survivor. They may even say or think things like, “I can’t worry about making them happy. I can only make myself happy.”  At that point, they begin to approach their relationship with both parents as a way to take care of their needs and desires. They stop worrying or caring about anyone else but themselves.

Children of divorce can become masters at manipulation as they try to adapt to their new normal.  They begin to work the parents against each other to meet their own needs. They make comments like, “I wished I lived with dad!”  “Mom doesn’t make us do this.” “You’re mean, you’re always on my case.” Often times, this creates a tension where the child may even demand to leave one parent and go live with the other.  If left unchecked, parents may find themselves with very confused, selfish, and disruptive children who sabotage every environment they enter. In many cases, these children struggle with coping skills and begin to demonstrate these destructive behaviors in a multitude of settings: school, home, teams, etc.  As children of divorce grow into adulthood, we often see them take these same unhealthy patterns into their careers and future relationships. They sabotage them with the same destructive behaviors, and the cycle continues.

How do we stop the insanity?  First, let me state up front, divorce is typically not good and frequently involves a great deal of hurt in all directions.  Husbands and wives should do everything possible to avoid divorce by working towards reconciliation and healing of the marriage.  

However, if someone has already found themselves in a divorce situation, here are some essentials to successfully parenting children to become well-adjusted and healthy adults.   

  1. Time needs to be equally split between both parents.  Many divorces place the children with one parent a majority of the time while the other receives visits and weekend sleepovers.  This may be convenient, but research has proven it to be detrimental to children and even parents. https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/26/divorce-shared-parenting-children-health/

  2. Put feelings aside and focus on raising the children.  I know this is easier said than done when emotions are charged and there has been lots of hurt and betrayal.  But, if parents want to start healing and provide the best parenting possible for their children, they have to dig deep and swallow their pride. They must put aside the hurt feelings and start cooperating with the other parent.  

  3. This is not about you.  It is about your children! Just as a couple would discuss how to handle various situations concerning their children if they were married, a divorce couple needs to work hard to have these same discussions after divorce.  

  4. Privately set ground rules ahead of time. Maybe there are certain topics that need to be off limits due to past issues, but both parents must agree that the welfare of the child is a top priority.  Divorce parents need to set up healthy boundaries for conversations. They will need to keep focused on what is best for the child and keep the other junk off the table.

  5. Never talk bad about your “X” around the children.  This is often a selfish way divorced parents try to manipulate the child to see their point of view and jump on their side.  When parents use negative talk to manipulate, they soon find the child mimicking it as well. This will eventually come back to hurt the entire family especially the child. Divorced parents need to stay respectable and civil toward each other regardless of how much they have been hurt.

  6. Reinforce what each parent stands for or enforces in their home.  Even if they don’t completely agree, a divorced parent should never undermine the authority and rules of the other parent. Parents will be doing their children a huge favor if things like curfew, privileges, chores, etc are agreed upon and enforced regardless of what house they are in. If parents work hard to find common rules, the child may not like it but they will feel safe and secure no matter what home they are in.

Parenting after divorce is the ultimate lesson in civility. I have seen amazing outcomes when parents make the choice to drop their selfish ways and do what is best for the children.  Doing this creates a multi-generational payoff. Not doing this leads to a multi-generational debt.

These guidelines are so important to the future of the family. If you or someone you know needs help with this process, please contact Rock Solid Families at 812-576-ROCK, or visit our website at rocksolidfamiles.org. We’d love to help!

My Top Ten List for Discipline

In my last blog, When Did Discipline Become a Dirty Word?, I promised my top ten list of discipline principles we have used when working with families over the past 30 years. We know these principles work, and we are intentional about applying them in our own home. Yes, they are very common sense, but I think as parents we have made this discipline thing too complicated. Keep it simple. Trust me; my wife and I blow it on a regular basis.  But when things get tough in our home, it’s usually because we are not following one of these ten principles. So here’s our Top Ten:

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Top Ten List of Discipline Practices:

  1. Be An Authoritative Parent Not An Authoritarian One -Did you even know there was a difference?  Authoritative parenting simply means your children know who’s in charge and they trust and respect your leadership.  The authoritative parent demonstrates what the family values through a consistent example. Authoritative parents model things like hard work, strong academics, faith, manners, respect, honesty, integrity, etc. You determine your home’s environment, educate, and then reinforce those values in your children. Think of yourself as the captain of the team.  The captain leads, and the team follows because they trust the captain. There is peace and order in the home, because the kids know mom and dad have a plan and know how to carry it out. Many parents confuse this with being an authoritarian where there is super high expectation and little freedom and communication. That’s not what we are talking about. That’s more like being a dictator. Remember... Rules without relationship equal rebellion.  

  2. Model and Teach Them To Serve Others- You may already be shaking your head because as good as that sounds on paper, your children are still not following your lead. Hang with me. Children come into this world as selfish beings. This selfishness usually begins to rear its ugly head between the ages of 2-3 years old, which is why they call it the “Terrible Twos”  If our kids have any chance at all at being well adjusted, successful adults, they must learn how to serve others. When children learn to serve and help others, they learn to live for something bigger than themselves, whether it be their family, team, community, business, etc. When they don’t learn to be good servants, they become selfish individuals that range from being annoying to being dangerous and self-destructive.

  3. Model and Teach Good Character -Often, we think of good character as just having good manners, but it goes far beyond manners.  Good character includes: honesty, trust, integrity, work ethic, responsibility, self-control, and resourcefulness just to name a few.  Yes, parents should expect these attributes to be enforced at school, but first and foremost, they start in the home. This is best done by modeling it to your children, and then expecting it from them in return.

  4. Model And Teach Respect and Obedience for Authority - Respect for authority is essential in in developing your child’s gifts, talents, skills, and aptitude. If your child is left to think they are in charge and know what’s best, they will fall short of all God has planned for their life. Adults like teachers, coaches, mentors, pastors, police, firemen, etc. have a tremendous opportunity to influence and help our children grow to their fullest potential.  That’s only if the child is raised to honor, listen, and learn. The fastest way to lose this positive influence and growth opportunity in your child is for YOU to argue with the authority figures in your child’s life. Disagreeing with teachers, coaches, referees, police, etc. only shows your child disrespect for authority. This is not to say authority figures don’t make mistakes, but it’s still important to always treat them with respect and the benefit of the doubt.

  5. Set Reasonable And Clear Expectations -As a parent, it’s important to let your children know what you expect up front.  At the age of two or so, you can begin to let your child know what you expect in your home.  Whether it’s to say “please and thank you” or to return a toy back to its proper place. These are things that you must make clear.  Otherwise, you will find yourself frustrated when your child doesn’t behave like you think they should. You often will take it as misbehaving, when in fact, you simply have made your expectations clear.

  6. Enforce And Follow Up on Expectations -So often I am asked, what is the best technique for discipline. Is it rewards, spankings, timeouts, remove privileges, chores, etc? Let me be clear, it is not about the technique or consequence you use.  The best form of discipline is the one that is effective, safe, and implemented consistently in an age-appropriate way. I have seen positive rewards work and fail. I have seen spankings work and fail. I have seen raising your voice work and fail.  My point is this; come to an agreement with your partner on what you are going to enforce. Let your child know what your expectations are, and then enforce those expectations using an effective, safe, and age-appropriate discipline. Most parents believe they are disciplining their child when they are yelling all the time, or telling their child to do something over and over again.  If you have to constantly yell or repeat yourself multiple times, you are not using an effective approach to discipline. You may have to change a consequence depending on it’s effectiveness, but your values and expectations should be consistent. Believe it or not, those consistent values and expectations are what gives your child emotional peace and security. Even when they don’t like the consequences.

  7. Talk Less; Act More -We can all fall guilty with this.  I can’t tell you how many times I have sat in my office with a student and talked way too much about how to solve a problem.  The student would nod as if he understood what I was saying, and I would think “yes, he’s getting it”! Only to have the student walk out of my office and commit the same offense 20 minutes later.  Ugh! Bottom line - talk is cheap when it comes to discipline.  Lay out your expectations, let the child know what the consequences will be, both good and bad, and then carry them out!  If you are telling your child five times to pick up their shoes with no consequences, then you are sending a loud message that you really don’t mean what you say.  Mean what you say and say what you mean. Your expectation should be- when I ask you to do something I mean it! Yes, they may not do it the first time, but make sure they experience a consequence if they don’t. This creates a clear expectation, which creates predictability and ultimately results in security for the child.

  8. Follow Up with Love and Encouragement- So often when discipline is taking place, emotions are usually running high. There is often a storm brewing inside the mind of the child, and quite often, inside the mind of the parent.  There is anger, fear, anxiety, frustration- you name it. Humans have a difficult time using both the emotional side and the logical side of the brain at the same time. For this reason, when the parent is disciplining, he or she needs to refrain from using too many words.  I have been guilty of thinking that the more I talk and explain myself, the more they will understand. WRONG! When the child’s brain is emotionally charged, they are hearing very little of what you are saying. They are just thinking, “oh no, what’s going to happen next?”.  So, be of few words, say what needs to be said, then allow a time for emotions to settle. This may be 30 - 60 minutes. Once you have seen the emotions calm, then it is essential for you to follow up with your child. This is when you briefly recap what the discipline was for, and what your expectations will be in the future. This is when you let your child know that you were upset with a specific behavior, but your love for them is unwavering. Once this conversation is finished, do not continue to rehash or throw it back into their face. Let it go and move on! 

  9. Encourage And Praise Often - You are your child’s number one fan! You are their first mentor, provider, and encourager. Most every word that comes out of your mouth carries incredible influence in the life of your child.  More than buying gifts and material rewards, your child thrives on your honest praise and encouragement.  I say honest, because false praise and encouragement can be more detrimental than good. Don’t falsely inflate your child’s self-concept.  Yes, they need to be effectively corrected and told when they have done something wrong and ways to improve. Please refrain from giving gifts and rewards for expected behaviors.  Your words are so valuable, they mean so much more in the long run than any gift you could give. Make sure to encourage the things you value like their effort, attitude, or sportsmanship.  

  10. Never Argue With Your Child -Yes, I said NEVER.  When you argue with your child, you send the message that they have the ability to change who you are as the parent and what you stand for.  If they feel like they won you over once, you can guarantee they will push back over and over again. Think back for a moment, would you ever even imagined arguing with your parents?  As a kid, I was frequently annoyed and upset with my parents, but the idea of arguing with them, especially as a young child, never crossed my mind. I clearly understood they were in charge, and I lived in THEIR house.  As a parent, don’t argue or negotiate with your child, until you can trust their value system. Once you trust that they are operating with a similar set of values, then you can allow more back and forth conversation and let them weigh in on different decisions.   

In the end, your child needs you to be their leader and encourager.  They need to learn from your example. More is caught than ever taught. This top ten list is what we use in our home to develop mental, physical, social, and emotional tools in our children. Research has shown these tools to be essential in growing to be a well-adjusted successful adult.  So set the values, goals, and expectations you want for your family, model them in your home, and don’t look back. Our kids are counting on us!

When Did Discipline Become a Dirty Word?

God has such a sense of humor.  When Linda and I adopted our three younger kids, we knew we would be jumping back into the world of disciplining children all over again.  What we didn’t realize was how much God was going to teach and discipline us. Trust me; I’m no different than the kids. I hate being disciplined.

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Parenting and discipline have taken some crazy turns the past 30 years.  Over three decades ago, theories on parenting and discipline began to change.  Phrases like: “Treat your child like an adult.” Negotiate with your child.” “Don’t scold your child, or it will cause them permanent damage.” “It’s best to raise your child in a child-centered home.”  “Your child’s self-esteem is based on how awesome you tell them they are...everyday!” And yes, the now infamous one-”every child deserves a trophy!”

After 30 plus years of this parenting approach, we are now seeing the byproduct - many entitled, self centered men, women, and children.  It’s the “Me first. I deserve better. All things must be fair and equal.” trap. This approach to life and to parenting only creates victims and entitled individuals, but I think there is hope on the horizon. I believe the tide is starting to change in our homes.

Parents are slowly realizing that the above approach didn’t work.  Many parents are returning to a more common sense, biblical approach to parenting and discipline. Experts are calling this new approach-Growth Mindset. What exactly is Growth Mindset you may be asking?  To keep it simple, Growth Mindset is about letting your child struggle and problem-solve. It’s about delaying gratification and ultimately helping your child understand-life is not always fair and easy. It’s about encouraging and disciplining your child to never be a victim, but rather, be a person who learns from both the good and bad in their life. It’s about not “saving” your child from life’s difficulties or inflating them to be something they’re not. Growth Mindset is about strengthening your child through trials, experiences, losses, and wins. It’s about teaching your child the value of self-control, hard-work, and integrity.

 As much as we hate to admit it, discipline is the foundation of self-control.  Good character, self-control, and working through failure as a child have proven to be the most solid indicators of a well-adjusted, successful adult. As I frequently remind my kids, “I discipline you now, so that hopefully, you will learn to self-discipline later.”  None of this is really new. In fact, it’s biblical. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11. The apostle, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews knew how important discipline was back then and how important it would be to us today.

Like most things in my life, I like to keep things simple.  My simple mind and approach to life is what gives me peace, and I want our home to be a “house of peace”. Of course, we have our crazy days like any family does, but our home runs so much smoother if the tension is out and peace is in. Next week, I’ll be sharing my top ten list of things we as parents can do to bring peace into our homes and give our children the discipline and structure they need. Don’t miss it.

Athletics and Kids-At What Cost?

STOP THE INSANITY!

It’s that time of year again.  Summer is winding down and fall schedules are getting ready to kick in.  Is your house anything like ours when it comes to activities and athletics?  My wife, Linda, and I typically find ourselves looking over the family's schedule for the week and both scratching our heads. How in the world did our schedule get so packed?

Now, let me be clear, I am not anti-athletics.  In fact, athletics have been a huge part of most of my life.  Whether it was participating, coaching, training, or supporting. I love athletics and all they have to offer.  But, as parents, I think it's time to have a serious conversation about the priority we put on them.  I believe we need to have more dialogue about what athletics and activities are costing our families verses what we get in return.

Before we go any farther, spend a moment to reflect on a few important questions:         

1. What do you want for your child with their athletics? (short term, long term)

2. What is that going to cost you, your family, and your child? (time, money, relationships, faith, school, stress, sanity etc.)

3. How much does your child like the sport?

4. How good is your child relative to his peers? (locally, regionally, nationally)

It's best to answer these questions for yourself BEFORE your child gets involved in a sport or activity.  Is your goal simply to aid your child’s development? Or is your child aiming for the pros?

Linda and I have set a few ground rules for our family to help us work through this predicament.  We are not saying our way is the only way or even the right way. What we are saying is that it is important to put some thought and perspective into what your child’s athletics will cost your family verses what you'll be getting in return. 

The ground rules we've set in our home are primarily for athletics and activities BEFORE high school.  We understand that as an athlete comes into high school he or she may need to focus on one or two sports in order to develop the skills and conditioning necessary to be competitive. But as parents we've gotten this way out of balance for our younger kids.

Ground Rules for Athletics:

  1. No more than two sport seasons per child per school year.  This usually allows for at least one season of downtime for each child. This not only benefits the child with a less chaotic schedule, but also helps Linda and I keep our sanity especially when you have more than one child. This may have to change as the child progresses into high school and they are able to participate without the need for us to transport on a daily basis.  

  2. No teams that involve regular or mandatory overnight travel for tournaments and games. This rules out many of the “select” teams for our kids.  The cost is just too high not just monetarily but also with time and our other kids.  When our kids are traveling over the weekend, they are less likely to attend and be involved in church.   We believe in the long run our child will benefit more from his or her’s relationship with Christ and a positive church family, than from any sport. What is valued is protected!

  3. No playing the same sport for more than one season during the school year.  Again, this mostly applies for children before they enter high school. Students playing the same sport at a young age comes at an incredibly high cost.  Burn-out, injury, loss of interest, etc.. My involvement and study of children in athletics reveals time and time again, that playing the same sport for prolonged seasons does not place your child in a better place for long term success in that sport.  In fact, it may lead them to quit the sport prematurely. Variety of activities, use of the body, coaches, teammates, and a variety of skills prove to be more valuable in the long run for our athletes.

  4. If you start the season, you will finish the season. We encourage our kids to try a variety of sports that they show an interest in.  We have found  that some sports just didn’t end up like they thought they would.  Our daughter could not stop talking about running Cross-Country. That sounded great to us! We signed her up, bought the shoes, and started practice!  After about two weeks we began to see that her excitement for cross-country was quickly waning. Before you knew it, she said she hated running and wanted to quit. Not so fast girl! You started the team now you need to work on persevering to the end. Wow! This was the best value for a sport that we could have ever given to our girl! What she learned about commitment, positive attitude, hard-work, and working through a daily challenge was priceless! (With that being said, I still don’t think  we'll see her on a cross-country team any time soon and that's okay.)

*Obviously, we would make an exception to this rule if we were worried about the care or safety of one of our children.  If we believed our child was being hurt by a coach, coaching style, or significant injury, then we would have the discussion on what we believed was in the best interest of our child.

We believe it’s important to encourage our kids to participate, work hard, learn to win, learn to lose, learn to work within a team, and learn the importance of being coachable. We do not want to mislead our kids into thinking they are better than they really are by giving them inflated complements and accolades.  No, we really don’t want them to have a trophy, unless they have truly earned a trophy. 

We see great value in our kids playing athletics.  But in the end, especially with our younger children, it's about keeping them in a healthy balance within the family. For us, we had to weigh their value over their cost to our family.  In our family, God, family meals, school, homework, daily chores, and family commitments are valuable things in life we will fight hard to protect.

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