Loving Our Parents

Enhancing or reestablishing a relationship with a parent may have a profound impact upon a person’s emotional well-being. It isn’t random chance that one of the ten fundamental commandments given to ancient Israel was “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” This benefit of developing a positive, loving relationship with one’s parents is affirmed in the New Testament: “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Ideally, love should flow from parent to child. When this takes place and the child genuinely feels loved, it is easy for them to honor their parents. However, when a single adult grew up in a home where he felt unloved, abandoned, or abused, it is much more difficult to honor these parents. I believe that as adults we must take responsibility for enhancing the relationship with our parents; this is especially important if they were deficient in meeting our needs. There is nothing more important than love in this process. Love breaks down barriers, leaps over walls, and seeks the well-being of another.

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Teaching Tolerance

Last night the news covered the story of an 11-year-old who committed suicide due to relentless bullying about his sexual orientation. Again - he was ELEVEN YEARS OLD. The news program I watched featured a myriad of resources for parents of children who might be bullied. But for me, I think this is a wake-up call to ALL parents, to make sure that our children are not the ones committing acts of bullying and hate to other children. From what I gathered watching the news, a majority of the children in his class were engaed in this kind of taunting towards him.

The harassment of children who may or may not be gay is not a political or religious issue, and really has nothing to do with our own ideologies or moral convictions. This is one of those situations where we need to set aside our polarized feelings.   Teaching and modeling tolerance has nothing to do with how we voted on Prop 8 or how we interpret scripture regarding homosexuality. 

Single Parent Minute: Helping Your Child Feel Loved

The question is not: “Do you as a single parent love your children?” The question is: “Do your children feel loved?” Parental sincerity is not enough. We must learn to speak the child’s primary love language. I am convinced that much of the misbehavior of children is rooted in an empty love tank. Each child has a primary love language—the language that speaks most deeply to his soul and meets his emotional need to feel loved. If parents fail to discover and speak the child’s primary love language, the he may feel unloved even though the parent is speaking other languages.

Let me briefly review the five love languages, and let’s focus on seeking to apply them to your child.

...Through Words of Affirmation
This language lets you affirm your child’s worth through verbal expression. “I love you. You look nice in that dress. You did a good job making your bed. Great catch! Thanks for helping me wash the car. I’m proud of you.” These are words of affirmation.

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Mom Can I Have?

Gifts are great, but do they always send the right message to your kids? The purpose of a gift is to emotionally communicate, “I love you. I hope this gift will enhance your life.” This is extremely important for single parents (and really, all parents) to remember. Gifts should never be given simply because a child or teenager begs for them. The question should be, “Is this gift for the well-being of my teenager?”
If the answer is no, then the parent cannot conscientiously give the gift to a teenager. For example, consider the now common practice in middle-class America for many affluent parents to give their sixteen-year-old a car. I’m not suggesting this is always bad for every family. What I am suggesting is that parents need to ask the question, “Is the gift of a car a good thing for my teenager?”
In answering that question parents must weigh a couple of factors. One is the level of maturity and responsibility of the teenager himself. Just because the state says they can legally drive doesn’t mean everyone is emotionally ready for a car at age sixteen. Some teens have not demonstrated a sufficient level of responsibility in other areas that merit the giving of a car.
A second factor is the financial ability of a single parent to provide a car. Overly committing yourself financially to give such a gift to a teenager is not ultimately good for them or for you.
While I’m talking to single parents, let me say a word to some other parents, usually fathers (sorry dads), who try to make up for their failures by lavishing unnecessary gifts on their children. There is one kind of gift that no teenager needs. It is what I call the counterfeit gift. This is the gift—often gifts—designed to take the place of true love. Such gifts are given by busy and sometimes absentee parents who are caught up in the busyness of life and have little time for speaking the love languages of words of affirmation and the remaining three languages of love: quality time, acts of service, and physical touch. So they try to make up for this deficit by giving the teenager extraneous gifts.
One single mom said, “Every time my sixteen-year-old goes to visit her father, she comes home with a suitcase full of gifts. He is not willing to help me with her medical and dental bills, but he always has money for gifts. He seldom calls her on the phone and only spends two weeks in the summer with her. But somehow the gifts are supposed to make everything all right.”
This kind of gift giving on the part of non-involved parents has become commonplace. The teenager typically receives the gifts, expresses verbal appreciation, and goes home with an empty love tank. When gifts are given as a substitute for genuine love, the teenager sees them as the shallow counterfeit they are.
Gifts are great, but don’t forget to think about the need and message before you gift.

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Everyone loves a pregnant women (but kids we could do without)

I've been noticing something funny lately. There have been more and more situations this month (thanks to having an amazingly hands-on husband) where I have been running errands or grabbing coffee by myself instead of with two kids in tow. And you know . . . it is truly incredible how nice people are to me when they see that I am pregnant. Chivalry is NOT dead. It is just reserved for the really, really big-bellied. I have people constantly opening doors for me, smiling and saying congratulations, helping me with my bags, and generally falling over themselves to serve me, inquire about my well-being, or wish me luck. It is like a big, fat love-fest, this being pregnant.

I was thinking about how warm and fuzzy the world had been to me one day last week, and wondering why it only happens on certain days. And then it dawned on me: People love to help pregnant women. They don't love to help frazzled mothers to small children.


Last night Caleb (my 6 year son) and I found ourselves alone. Alex was at a sleepover and Mike is at his 20 year high school reunion in California. (He's called a few times to report that the homecoming queen and prom princess have lost some sparkle and that many of his buddies are bald.)I asked Caleb to go on a date with me. He accepted with a cute little smile.

"Buddy, pick anywhere you want...just not Chuck E. Cheese...Ok?"
"Mama, I want to eat at your restaurant. I want to stay home with you and play."

How could I say no? All he wanted to do was stay home and play with me. I was able to convince him that mommy's restaurant was kind of closed and we should go grab food and bring it back. We had a picnic in the front yard and played "superheroes" while we ate. My super hero name was Supersonic. I had laser vision, super strength, nostril power, and could fly. 
Caleb had a host of powers I can't remember now but I do remember the bad guy had vomit power.

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Thirty Eight Weeks in Reverse

My family is in an expectant mode these days, as our second son goes through the college application process and awaits responses from schools.   His process is particularly complex, as he is required to undergo auditions in several cities in addition to the usual written applications.   Another layer of complexity is added by the option of taking a semester or a year off between high school and college to work in the music world.    As our son prepares for all things new, I am filled with the sense that I have had this dream before, felt these feelings, thought these thoughts.    It occurs to me that launching a child feels a lot like pregnancy.   Our family is traveling through thirty-eight weeks in reverse.

Last fall, the start of senior year, was the excited but nauseous stage, as our son’s new life outside of our home became tangible.   He and others said things like, “Next Thanksgiving you’ll be coming back from college for the holiday.”    The nausea enters when we consider how strong the competition is for entry into these schools.   It seems that other applicants and their parents must be doing more, or doing it better.     It’s not the Sartre-esque nausea of despair and meaningless, thank goodness; only the kind of nausea that comes with anxious nerves.   But in a lot of households despair can and does set in, and this is something I watch for very closely as a clinician and as a friend.   
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Tags | Family

5 Reasons Why It is Good To Be A Dad

1. No breastfeeding or mucus plugs (yuck)

2. Playing Wii Mario Cart  with my 5 year old son counts as "quality time"

3. Cultural expectations are low, really low

4. The kids only want mommy in the middle of the night

5. My son is in kindergarden. He had a day last fall called "All About Me," where he told the class about himself and his family. He was asked, "What do your mommy and daddy like to do?" His reply:  "Daddy loves watching football on TV. Mommy loves cooking."  I was thrilled with his response...mommy wasn't.  

Process Addictions

I just had my first class for the semester at Vanguard University. I teach a class on Addictive Behavior in their graduate psychology program. It's a fun class to teach, but I've noticed an interesting thing over the past five years since I started teaching.

Every semester, the students are getting more and more zombie-like during class. Every semester, I am seeing more faces staring at their computer screens during class intead of paying attention (probably facebooking or emailing as opposed to writing notes). Or texting on their phone. Or otherwise multi-tasking or engaging in technological brain-numb while I'm talking.

Now I realize that they could be doing this because my lectures are incredibly boring. I''d like to think I'm a dynamic and funny professor, but am humble enough to acknowledge that is a possibility that I just plain suck. But in talking to other professors, this "zoning out" thing seems to be a university-wide epidemic. It's gotten so bad that there was some serious discussion amongst the faculty as to how to deal with it.
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Two Boys

The latest Christmas Podcast from scholar, theologian, and dad, Dr. John Mark Reynolds.

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