Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Building Block #2: LOVE part 2 of 4

To review... the Love we are describing in this second building block is being described with the acronym T.L.C.  Part 1 of this "T" describes the element of TOUCH.  However, love is not completed with positive touch.  The "L" describes the next important element of Love which is LIMITS.

Love must always be expressed with Limits.  Without limits, there is no true love.  Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have done a tremendous job explaining the necessity of Limits in their book, Boundaries.  In any relationship (i.e., marriage, friends, children), even positively relating to self, appropriate limits are necessary to communicate love.

There are, however, inappropriate limits  that are seen in selfish expressions of love.

  1. CONTROLLING LIMITS:  These are sometimes called rigid boundaries.  These type of limits are not for the benefit of the other person, but are set by the "limit maker" to either make them feel powerful, and to provide a false sense of security.  Controlling Limits can be seen in an overbearing husband that doesn't want his wife to have relationships outside the home.  This type of controlling behavior can be expressed in guilt-producing statement such as "Aren't I enough?" or in more extreme/abrasive comments such as "Call and cancel... You're place is in the home taking care of the children." 
  2. LACK OF LIMITS:  This is just the opposite of the Controlling Limits.  This is the disengaged spouse, or emotional absent/unavailable parent.  Bottom line, there isn't the care or energy necessary to provide the needed limits.  I think this below illustration will help:
A study was once performed of school age children antics on the playground.  When the recess bell sounded they flooded the playground.  They lined the fences and laughed and played.  Then the fences that lined the playground were removed.  The change was remarkable.  The next morning the children huddled to the middle of the playground.  They were anxious and insecure.  They did not roam and play as normal.  Then, the fences were put back in place.  Do you want to guess what happened?  The next day they were all over the playground again, happy and secure.

So, what are the benefits of limits and how do they translate into LOVE?  Here are the two main benefits to loving with limits:
  • SAFETY:  As illustrated above, limits (boundaries) provide each of us with safety.  Not only for children, but adult relationships with appropriate limits also provide safety.  One of the most popular limits are written as Marriage Vows.  The vows are bow declarations of Love, as well as Limits.  
    • Limits provide the environment for LEARNING.  When there are limit, we know what we can explore and then discover.  
    • Limits also provide the environment for failing.  Being free to Fail, also makes us free to try and then succeed.  Limits provide trust with a fence.  
  • GUIDANCE:  Limits also provide the guidance or instructions concerning how love is needed.  Jesus said, "If you love me, you'll obey my commandments."  Through the limits in relationships, we instruct others how we need to be loved, we learn how they need to be loved, and we also learn what will undermine that love in the relationship.  From a child keeping their room clean, to fidelity in a marriage... limits guide us in giving and receiving love.  The only danger here is conditional or performance driven love. 
So, as you consider your relationship and the appropriate limit/boundaries let me suggest that you don't set the limits in an adult relationship in isolation. Work them out ahead of time.  And with children, express them clearly, be consistent and remind them often.  When limits are crossed, care enough to confront.  Finally, Limits are not "the law", but they do provide the environment for LOVE to Grow!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Building Block #2: LOVE, part 1 of 4

This next building block seem so obvious, but it can't go with out mentioning.  Every happy home, no matter how different has the common thread of LOVE. 

There have been entire books written on this subject, store rooms of film recorded on the subject, and I'm sure millions of songs sung about this great subject of love.

Some would say it's an emotion, others say it is a noun.  Still others make a strong case for love being a verb (action oriented).

However, one common thread (no matter what your grammatical conviction) is that Love is An Experience.  Whether it is romantic love, parental love, or friendship.  Love is to be experience.  It is not to be defined, but it can be described.  1 Corinthians 13 (from the Bible) does a grand job describing the attribute which comes from God and experienced with humanity.


Before we read this description, let me briefly set the stage of what love looks like in the happy home.  I'll use the acronym TLC.

T- Touch:  Love has always been expressed in the form of a touch.  Love is an intangible concept that becomes tangible with touch.  We experience love through touch.  Touch has to exist for a marriage to be stable.  This is experienced in a kiss before leaving for work, holding hands while watching the news, or allowing your feet to touch under the covers as you fall asleep. Touch is necessary for children to experience love.  Friends even need some type of touch.

Diapers and "Full Nelsons"

Touch communicates love.  It doesn't erase the need to verbally communicate love or the need to show other expressions, but happy homes always express love through touch.

Children are no different.  The style of touch changes the older kids get, but touch is always important in communicating love.  For me, I knew that I would be the type of dad to change diapers.  WHY?  Not because I like dealing with my kid's poop & pee, but because when a child is wet/dirty, there is a bonding that takes place with that child and the one who makes them clean and comfortable.  It was one of the few needs they had as infants and I wanted to be one of those who met that need.  Since my wife breastfed all our kids, there wasn't much room to meet that need, so I met the needs I could.  It was never just Rene's job to comfort and console our children.

Of course, that touch has changed for our older boys.  It now takes the form of pats on the back, an arm around their shoulder, rubbing their back to wake them up, or a favorite of theirs.... WRESTLING!  That's right... putting my sons in a "Full-Nelson" communicates my love. You know what is said, "No Pain, No Gain". Often times when I am sitting peacefully on the couch, one of my boys will grab my arm and try to twist it off or they'll try to take one of my slippers off my feet.  They are not doing this to be annoying, it is their way of "asking" for a touch of love.  SOOO I oblige and give them a fore-arm-shiver of love.  If you know know what this is, its kind of hard to explain so you'll have to just take me at my word, it's what they need .

Having had our 2 boys first, I had to get used to communicating love to my daughters when they came.  I found out in the first few years that girls are MUCH DIFFERENT than boys.  They were much quicker to sit on my lap, give me hugs and kisses, comb my hair (even though there's not much left) and even rub my back.  Wrestling moves would not work for my girls.  They needed a different type of touch to experience my love. 

Whether with a son or daughter or spouse, the touch of love communicates safety, trust, and confidence.  Even if you think you're not the touchy type, or your parents didn't do that with you... make a choice.  Your home needs YOUR TOUCH OF LOVE!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Buildling Block #1 - BELIEF

A happy home is a home that knows what they believe.  There is no great need in our generation's homes than to have parents know and show their belief, so that children have HOOKS OF TRUTH TO HANG THEIR COATS ON. In an era that is so focused on education, we have abandoned the bedrock of the home... BELIEF.  One doesn't have to look to far past Jim-Bob & Michelle Duggar from "19 Kids and Counting" to see the benefit of this building block.

Why is belief so important?  Simply put, Belief Builds a Person.  It is the material of character, integrity, truthfulness and conviction.  The home is not a place to "have" kids, but rather a place to "raise" kids.  Without belief, our children are adrift in a Sea of Confusion without a rudder or rows.  

Raising children is much like the construction of a building.  This short antedote illustrates what happen in parenting when we forget the bigger picture:

A reporter spoke with three construction workers pouring concrete at a building site. “What are you doing?” he asked the first worker.

I’m earning a paycheck,” he grumbled.

The reporter asked the same question of a second laborer, who looked over his shoulder and said, “What’s it look like I’m doing? I’m pouring concrete.”

Then he noticed a third man who was smiling and whistling as he worked. “What are you doing?” he asked the third worker.

He stopped what he was doing and said excitedly, “I’m building a shelter for the homeless.” He wiped his hands clean on a rag and then pointed, “Look, over there is where the kitchen will be. And that over there is the women’s dormitory. This here . . .”

Each man was doing the same job. But only the third was motivated by the larger vision.  Let me offer two suggestions for you to consider:

1.  Know What You Believe:  For many of those in the 25-45 age range, we have not had anyone pass on belief, so we have had to define for ourselves what truth is.  This is not surprising as the Baby-Boomber generation made all truth relative.  And trust me, children will test what you know.  They are the best at spotting a fake. 

2.  Show What You Believe:  We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.  As a parent it is not enough to teach your children about being truthful, when they see you being deceitful.  The proverbial situation is the phone call the child answers, as the parent whispers, "Tell them I'm not here."  However it goes much deeper than that.  How you treat, interact with, and respond to your spouse, provides your children the model for all future relationships (with siblings, friends, boy friends or girl friends, and eventually their own marriage).
We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.

Recently we had a family member pass away prematurely.  I say prematurely because none of us were ready for it.  As one of his daughters shared what their father had meant and taught them, I'll never forget her statement as I sat on the second row of a packed auditorium with 500+ in attendance. "He showed us what to look for and expect from a husband." 

He was not a man of many words, but he KNEW what he believed, and he SHOWED what he believed to the most important people in his life... those who lived with him.

I'm putting additional thought together about this area of BELIEF.  I would be interested in your thoughts both about WHAT to pass on, as well as HOW to pass it on.  I would welcome your ideas and response!?!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why French Parents are Superior

Why French Parents Are Superior.  Strong and controversial statement.  

First, let me say this is not my statement, but an article posted in the Wall Street Journal online which was written by Pamela Druckerman.  She has also written this book, Bringing up Bebe. Pamela is American and her husband British.

At first I was OFFENDED.  How dare she say we don't know what were doing with our children in America.  However, my own observations of parents in general in America could not deny that we seem to have the "tail that wags the dog" syndrome.  So... I read the article as I murmured to myself, "I'm not quite ready to defend American parenting as a whole."

The two take aways I got from this article were:
  1. She claims that French parents taught their children to be RESPECTFUL, not only to their parents, but to the world in general.  This included when mommy and daddy are on the phone, talking with other adults, or out to eat at a restaurant.  She observed this while at the beach and her child was the only one taking a tantrum.
  2. Druckerman also claims in the article that  French parents, unlike most American parents, encourage and teach their children to "self-entertain".  To put it another way... "THE WORLD DOESN'T REVOLVE AROUND THEM."  Hmmmmm!  Not only do our children now demand most of our attention, but the now command our schedules, restaurant choices, etc...  

Bottom line for me:  I certainly don't disagree with her assessment of American homes, but am not sure that I am comfortable crowning the French with the crown jewel of parenting.  However, perhaps we could learn something from another country. 

How about YOU... What are your thoughts on this article or perhaps even on the book itself (if you've read it)?  If she is accurate in her assessment, what should we do about it? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

What's a Happy Home?

Now, before we get very far in defining these Building BLOCKS of a Happy Home, it is important to clarify what I don't mean and what I mean by a "Happy Home."  before we can build with these "blocks" we must first assure that we have a solid foundation.  This cannot be overlooked, or all our efforts will be waisted.
  • Matthew 7: 24-27, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
First, a Happy Home is NOT a home completely absent of conflict or difficulty.  This included both internal (disobedient children, disagreement between spouses, etc...) and external difficulties (i.e., difficulty getting pregnant, major illness, etc...).  A Happy Home is simply a home that deals with these differently than unhappy homes. They deal constructively, not DE-structively.  The building blocks that we will cover  are more than some montra on a wall, they permeate their values, affect their reactions (planned & unplanned).  One such verse touches on this issue both with children and the parents:
  • Ephesians 6:1-4, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Second, a Happy Home is NOT free of boundaries and discipline.  In fact, clearly defined rules, expectations and boundaries are a key element for home to have happiness.  Nor are these homes absent from discipline.  Perhaps you've seen the home that avoids discipline in the hope that their child might be free to express themselves and find themselves.  The only result of this type of home (children or none) is CHAOS.  To keep with our analogy... without boundaries, the Building Blocks of Happy Homes comes crashing down.
  • Proverbs 13:24, "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them."  

Finally, a Happy Home is NOT isolated from unhappiness.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  Happy Homes embrace and bring healing to the hurt around them.  Many think they can isolate their children and families from negative outside influence and the moral ROT that seems to have permeated our culture.  However, Happy Homes have been built with the BLOCKS that provide the firm foundation for their family as a whole to deal with ALL OF LIFE, not just the happy stuff.  The remedy to isolation is using Wisdom as your Foundation. These homes epitomizes the following verse:
  • Matthew 5:14-16,  "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Having laid out these foundations, it would only be fair for me throw out a quick red flag.  I actually don't think our homes (marriages, children or parents) exist to make us "happy".  In fact, happiness should never be our goal.  Chasing after happiness is like chasing the wind, futile!  I believe that our homes exist NOT to make us happy, rather our Homes exist to make us Holy.  And from my understanding in the Bible, holiness is the pathway to happiness; cause happiness is found in God.  So, in a very real way, as you read through these following entries, they will not just be building blocks of happiness, but actually are building blocks of holiness.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Happy Home & the Myth of Mr. Rogers

Is it possible to have a truly Happy  Home? 

For some a Happy Home is simply another Urban Myth that doesn't exist or is not possible. 

One of my favorite urban myths revolves around the "star" from the ever popular TV show for children, "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" which showed from 1968-2001. The myth claims that Fred McFeely Rogers (aka. Mr. Rogers) had served as a Navy Seal.  The myth further stated that he had an impress list of "kills" during his time of service.  Interesting!?!  It continues with the explanation of his long sleeved sweaters that supposively hid all his tatoos. 

I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but all the claims of this myth are ABSOLUTELY FALSE!

Which brings us back to our original question... Is it possible to have a truly Happy Home, or is this another myth that needs to be BUSTED?!? 

 Well, I for one believe there is such a thing as a Happy Home. Why?  Cause I've seen it and experienced it first hand.  Also, I've noticed the same principles at work in other's homes that are "Happy!"

Over the next number of blogs, I'll be sharing the Building BLOCKS of a Happy Home, and how you can build this home as well! 

SIMPLE... Extremly!   EASY... Not always!  WORTH IT?... You betcha!

However, I'd be interested in your thought about what make a Happy Home, Happy?