Two Ways to Improve your Connection with your child

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I often work with children and teens in my profession, and in doing so, along with having two children of my own, I have discovered two things that can help improve the connection with a child. I have found that owning up to your mistakes, and entering your child’s world are incredible ways to show genuine love and deepen connections.  At times I do a good job with this and see my connection with my girls improve, While other times I struggle and succumb to my weaknesses. I have found that when I turn to God for help I am capable of being who He wants me to be for my children, humble and selfless. I know He can do the same for you. 

Own up to your mistakes: If you have caused your child pain, either directly or indirectly, and you don’t own up to it, connecting will be very difficult to do. If someone else hurts your child and you ignore it, you are indirectly Causing him or her pain. Even if you do everything else right, your child wants to hear you take responsibility and apologize for pain your choices have caused them. This shows genuine love and care. It proves that you can set aside your own pride for the sake of your son or daughter. Honestly, to me this is critical! Not only does this show that you are willing to admit your fault and share regret for pain you’ve caused, it also teaches him or her a valuable life lesson that will help in their future relationships.

Avoid excuses like the plague. An excuse voids your apology and relinquishes responsibility to someone or something else. Your child wants to hear you share sorrow and regret for your wrongs, not an excuse for why you did what you did. When I lose my patience with my daughter and react poorly I tell her how sorry I am and that my reaction wasn’t okay. She always responds well and forgives me! What if I said, “I’m sorry I reacted poorly, but it was because you were acting up.” Does this apology mean anything? Not at all. (This works the same in marriage). I can sometimes be the queen of excuses so learning this has been a challenge for me, but with God’s help I am improving and connecting better with my family as a result. 

Think about your own life, are there things you wish your parents took responsibility for that they didn’t? How would you have felt and how different might your connection to them have been? Admitting your faults to your child doesn’t make you appear weak, it shows your child what humility and honesty looks like (James 5:16). PS: It’s never too late to do this by the way! No matter how much time has passed, doing this can make a world of difference for your child.

One last thought on this point. Don’t believe the lie that your child is resilient and can handle pain without recourse. Every child wants to be accepted and validated. All children are effected by pain and need to know you care. An amazing way to do this is by acknowledging hurts and taking responsibility. 

Enter their world: the world of a child is drastically different than that of an adult. Its easy to want our children to enter our world because that’s what we are more comfortable with. Showing our kids that what matters to them matters to us is a big way to deepen our connections with them. Maybe coloring, doing puzzles, pretending to be a prince or princess, having tea parties, watching super hero movies, doing crafts, going on roller coasters, playing ball in the backyard, or reading books about dinosaurs isn’t interesting to you, but doing these things because your child loves to do them will greatly improve your bond. This was challenging for me as a new Mom, but with dedication and God’s help we can overcome our weaknesses in order to be the parents God desires us to be and connect well with our children.

This point is especially important with teenagers. Maybe you would say that your teen isn’t interested in doing things with you or doesn’t talk to you. Have you hurt him or her in some way? Take responsibility for the hurt you have caused first. Maybe you have and your teen still acts uninterested. This is a normal part of being a teen, but don’t let it scare you away. Instead of asking just plan a surprise outing to your teens favorite place. I promise this will make a difference and will show genuine interest. Over time your connection will begin to deepen. 

When you connect on a deeper level with your child it’s easier to be aware of what’s going on in his or her life. Your child will feel safe, secure, and trusting, and will be willing to share thoughts and feelings with you. When they do, be careful to validate those feelings even if you might disagree. Entering your child’s world means taking them seriously. Instead of putting down their feelings try putting yourself in their shoes. This is another way to enter their world and improve your connection.

Thanks for reading!

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Secret Faults

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Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from my secret faults.
Psalm 19:12

This verse sheds so much light on why so many of us struggle in the various relationships in our lives. All the way from our familial And professional relationships to our relationship with God. We all have secret faults that we are blind to and none of us are immune to this fact! If each of us were praying this prayer, as David did, and opening our eyes to see these faults in ourselves, don’t you think it would eliminate a lot of our relational struggles? Perhaps the biggest of which being our relationship with God. To make it worse, often our faults that are secret to us are not so secret to those around us, causing frustration and conflict. So what can we do about it?

Here are some things I’ve learned and have had to work on in order to see my faults more clearly. By the way, I’m still a work in progress!

I have had to accept that I am not immune to secret faults and I am not everybody else’s savior. Maybe you have a tendency to always see the faults in others but not in yourself. If we were more focused on our own sins and flaws and changing them maybe we wouldn’t be so bothered by the faults of others. If you always find yourself feeling the need to confront others and “help” them by sharing your thoughts on their sins it might be because you are not looking at yourself and the areas you need to change. Are there times when we need to confront the people we care about in love? Of course! but this should not be happening all the time. It is God’s job to save not yours. If you have this savior mentality it is likely hurting your relationships and blinding you to your own faults.

I have had to stop being so defensive: when someone confronts me on something I’ve done wrong, whether it’s the Holy Spirit or a person, It can be really hard to see and admit my fault. Something I’ve always kind of struggled with when confronted with faults is the tendency to become defensive. Maybe this is true for you? When someone shares a hurt with you and you make an excuse it tells the other person that you think they are crazy and that you don’t care about their feelings. There’s a pretty good chance that you have in fact done something wrong. Especially when it’s the Holy Spirit doing the confronting! Instead of defending yourself, try objectively looking at the situation to find your fault in the matter. This will enable you to not only be more caring, but to see the areas you need to work on changing. (This is a hard one for me!)

I have had to specifically pray that God would reveal my secret sin and help me make changes. This doesn’t happen naturally, it takes serious work. It
All comes down to how badly I want to change and whether or not I’m willing to do what it takes. I personally believe that Satan can really create strongholds when it comes to secret, indiscreet sin because it’s different than the BIG in your face sins. Maybe you don’t get hammered every night, cheat on your spouse, or lie on your taxes. Maybe instead you judge people who think differently than you, live with discontent, or neglect spending quality time with Jesus (all of which at times I’ve been guilty of). These are the sins satan can easily trick us into believing aren’t really sins at all. If we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to reveal them to us we are in serious spiritual and relational danger. The good news is God always comes through if your heart is willing! He continues to do so for me and desires to do the same for you.

 

Expecting what God Expects for your Marriage

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If you’re married you’ve probably been given this advice: “If you want to be satisfied in your marriage lower your expectations.” This advice is awful so don’t believe it. Couples who have high expectations and standards are the ones who experience satisfaction and have lasting marriages.

Expectation is defined as “a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen.” To put it plainly, what you expect is likely what will happen. If you expect greatness in your marriage you will fight for it. If you expect anything less you’ll accept it. This is a pretty big deal in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but I want my marriage to be great! Not just okay. Having high expectations, or better yet, expecting what God expects, is the way to achieve greatness in your marriage. Don’t be confused. High expectations are not the same thing as unrealistic expectations, in the same way that low expectations are not the same thing as realistic expectations.

God thinks pretty highly of marriage and so should we. It is beyond me how we as christians have been accepting of so much less than God desires for our marriages for so long. This truly needs to change if we are to reclaim what God has designed to be beautiful and satisfying. God tells us that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and died for her, and that women are to respect and honor their husbands as the great women of the Bible did before us. Not to mention, have you read Proverbs 31!?  Biblical expectations for husbands and wives are seriously high if you ask me! So why are we ready and willing to accept such low worldly expectations for our marriages?

Lets talk about some ways to go about setting high expectations and throwing out the low ones you’ve allowed yourself to adapt to in your marriage.

Determine what your expectations for your marriage are. You have to make the decision that you want what God wants for your marriage. Anything other than this will leave you unsatisfied and longing for more. This doesn’t just happen naturally because you’re a Christian. Next, you have to Define what this actually looks like. Simply saying you want a godly marriage isn’t enough, you have to know what a godly marriage should be. If you’re not sure pick up the Bible and start reading! Honestly that’s what I had to do. I didn’t have a perfect example of this growing up so I had to go to God’s Word and figure it out. Defining your expectations will get you nowhere if you don’t Discuss it with your spouse. Be honest about your hopes and fears. If you have never talked to your husband or wife about what you are expecting for your marriage now is a good time to start doing it. This will put  you on the offense. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Proverbs 27:12 says “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished.” Be on the lookout for those things that might threaten your marriage and guard against it.

If you do these things I promise you will notice when something’s off. When this happens, because you’ve set these standards and talked about them, your natural instinct will be to do something about it. This doesn’t mean that it wont be a challenge, it means that you will be willing and ready to fight hard and win the battle.

For any of this to really work you have got to let go of the low and negative expectations you’ve allowed yourself to have regarding your marriage. If you expect it, when it happens you likely wont do anything about it. You might think you can “just get over it” but this will not last forever, I promise you that. Not only that, but it will chip away at your marriage until you find yourself at the place you feared all along. In a marriage that is empty, together for the kids, and headed for destruction. In a society with a divorce rate of 50% it’s not enough to just assume this could never happen to you.

Below are four negative expectations that I believe can kill marriages and what God’s Word has to say about them:

-Are any couples really best friends? Its silly to expect this in my marriage. Genesis 2:24 says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In my opinion, being one with somebody translates to the deepest level of intimacy. This is knowing someone inside and out, and to me, this is what it means to be best friends. If you don’t feel this way about your spouse you might have this negative expectation in your marriage. I believe that a deep friendship is the key to everything in marriage.

It’s okay to check out other women and men and watch pornography, this is normal. If you expect this in your marriage you need to do something about it immediately! Nothing will kill your intimacy and friendship faster. God’s Word has a lot to say about this in fact. Matthew 5:28 says “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” God sees this as adultery, not a normal acceptable thing. I promise it will destroy your chances of having a godly marriage.

Couples don’t have sex much after kids are born. That’s just the way it is. This low expectation is a huge marriage killer. 1 Corinthians 7:5 says about sex in marriage ” Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” This verse applies before and after children. Listen, I have two children and I will tell you that you can and should expect to be intimate with your spouse after children. Don’t believe the lie that it’s normal for intimacy to dissolve after children, this is certainly not God’s opinion.

My husband or wife likely won’t meet my needs and that’s okay. Yes, it is true that God is the one who should ultimately be meeting your needs, but one way that He does this is through your spouse. In Genesis God said that it isn’t good for man to be alone so He made him a helper. As a wife you are your husband’s helper, you alone are capable of enabling your husband to be the man he needs to be. In the same way, as a husband you are called to care for your wife in the same way that Christ cares for the church. This is huge! Expecting that you will meet each other’s needs is critical to your marriage thriving. You have to talk to each other about what you need and work together to define what this looks like.

Having high standards and expectations won’t prevent trials or conflict in your marriage. What it will do is enable you to face and overcome them, coming out stronger and closer than ever before.  You don’t have to be exceptional to accomplish this, you just have to fight hard for what you want your marriage to be and rely on God and His Word to help you do it.

I can promise you one thing, you’re marriage doesn’t become what you fear overnight. It’s a slow progression that results from low expectations and standards. Thankfully you can change this by changing your expectations and expecting what God expects for your marriage, Greatness.

6 Negative Outcomes of Self-Absorption

%22Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, its thinking of yourself less.%22-2Being thoughtful of others can require some serious effort. This is especially true in the midst of a culture that promotes self-absorption through multiple platforms. Everybody wants to talk about what they did today, all that they have accomplished, the new toys they bought, how adorable their children are, etc. We have all been guilty of this and are all capable of being roped into believing the lie “its all about me.” So how do we overcome this tragic misfortune?

First of all, we need to realize that it is in fact not “all about me.” The people around us matter and thinking more of them than ourselves will lead to a depth of satisfaction selfishness can never achieve.

Here are some negative outcomes of self-absorption that will hopefully inspire change:

Increased Stress: often when you are self-absorbed you focus a lot of your attention on what other people think of you. This can sometimes include imaginations and negative assumptions, leading to increased defensive or avoidant behaviors. This includes worrying about whether or not people like you, if they think what you say sounds stupid, or if you offer value at all. Gosh that’s a lot to worry about! Additionally, people who are totally consumed with self and the way they appear to others will put an excessive amount of effort into attempting perfection. Think of how much less stressful life would be if you didn’t care about what other people were thinking of you and focused instead on how you can positively impact others. Stress levels could be reduced dramatically.

Here is a personal story. I used to have this weird concern about my clothes fitting just right. If something didn’t tuck in properly or seemed a little too baggy or a little too loose on me I refused to wear it. I was so worried people would think I looked stupid because I was focused entirely too much on myself. This caused a lot of unneeded stress. Once I recognized this and made some changes the stress over what to wear totally disappeared, leaving me more capable of thinking about more important things.

Lowered self-esteem: The more you think about yourself the greater the risk of developing a negative opinion of yourself, decreasing self-esteem. Think about it, if you find out a friend got a promotion and you immediately think “wow why haven’t I gotten a promotion?” what happens? You immediately think less of yourself and are also in danger of thinking less of your friend. The healthy response when confronted with joys and successes of others is to rejoice with them. Being consumed with self makes this much more difficult. Additionally, comparison is bred by self-focus, often leading to depression and bitterness. Stop comparing yourself to that beautiful friend of yours and instead give her a nice compliment. You will quickly realize the difference this can make and the joy it can produce.

Damaged relationships: Who wants a relationship with someone who thinks only of him or herself? In a blog titled The Pursuit of Selflessness, Joshua Becker writes “Nobody is intimately drawn to selfishness. Nobody seeks the wise counsel of a selfish person. Nobody is willing to give themselves up for one who desires his own kingdom above all things.” How right he is! Selflessness is the glue that holds marriages and friendships together. Everybody wants a selfless friend or spouse. The problem is, a selfless person wont be drawn to a selfish person, unless its out of compassion and a desire to help, lets face it that’s what selflessness does, but this likely wont last.. Jealousy, conceitedness, and bitterness, direct causes of self-absorption, are easily detected and often avoided.  Start focusing on others more than yourself and you will notice some serious positive changes in your relationships. You might even develop some new and exciting ones too.

Distraction from the needs of others: When you are busy thinking about yourself you are less capable of thinking of the needs of others. I’m not referring to neglecting self-care, as this is really important. I’m talking about self-absorption: preoccupation with ones own emotions, interests, or situations. A person preoccupied with their own “stuff” won’t notice when the people in his or her life are in need and will likely ignore those needs. Unmet needs can lead to serious conflict in relationships, especially in marriage.

Missed opportunities: The joy that comes from encouraging, supporting, and cheering others on is irreplaceable. If you are self-absorbed you might not realize this. But I promise, its true! I won’t lie, I can occasionally revert to my selfish side, thinking only of myself, and I know the lack of joy I experience in that place. When a friend shares a heartache and all you can think to do is make it about you you miss out on the chance to offer support and love. Risk focusing on yourself less so you can recognize the opportunities to serve and love others around you and experience a new kind of happiness.

Increased pride: The more you think of yourself the more you are in danger of becoming prideful. As you focus on self you focus on impressing and appearing worthy to others. This is a dangerous road to travel and one that becomes murky quickly. The deeper you go the less able you are to realize how far you have gone, and the less capable you are of turning back.

Don’t fool yourself: we have all been guilty of self-promotion. We tell the world about the great things we’ve done in order to “encourage” others. It’s really important that we, me included, really examine our motives. Are we really trying to help others or are we simply trying to promote ourselves and gain recognition? Instead of talking about yourself and what you did try talking about what you saw or heard someone else do. You want to encourage others, that’s great! Just don’t do it to commend self. share of a recent good deed you noticed someone else doing or an accomplishment someone else achieved. This will not only encourage others, but will protect you from promoting yourself and missing out on God’s blessings in favor of public praise.

For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.             2 Corinthians 10:18 (NKJV)

“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, And a man is valued by what others say of him.” Proverbs 27:21

What other negative outcomes of self-absorption can you think of? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!