Focus on the Family

Q: What is it about preteen boys not wanting to bathe? My 10-year-old will run around playing and sweat buckets, but sees no reason to take a shower afterward. This frustrated Mom just doesn't understand. How can I keep our house (and especially his room) from becoming increasingly pungent?

Jim: The first thing is to be patient. Body odor is like a rite of passage into manhood for many boys. I'll never forget a mom who told me about her 10-year-old son, who said to her, "Hey, Mom. Smell my armpit. I think I'm going into poverty." Of course, he meant "puberty." He didn't know the right word, but he knew that odd smell meant he was growing into a man.

You'll probably have to require your son to bathe in the same way you require him to do his chores and homework. At that age, a lot of boys just don't get it. It's like the time I told one of my sons, "You could use a bath -- you kinda stink." He actually looked at me and said, "Really?" He couldn't smell himself (scientists call this olfactory adaptation), so there was no reason to think anyone else could.

But here's the good news I've learned with my own boys: Positive peer pressure will fix a lot. As they get older, they'll start to notice girls, and they'll notice girls noticing them. Suddenly, the need to shower, brush their teeth and comb their hair will take on new significance.

Until then, hand your son the soap and a towel and point him toward the shower. And here's one more tip: If the direct approach ("you smell") is required, it can be more effective coming from Dad or Grandpa, if possible.

For more tips to help your children thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.

Q: My wife and I don't argue often, but when we do I sometimes find myself spiraling into negative thoughts about her. Is there a practical way to keep myself from going there?

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: My father, the late Gary Smalley, was a renowned relationship expert whose insights have helped millions. But he and my mom, Norma, still had their occasional "moments."

One Thanksgiving, my parents got into a huge argument. They were both so frustrated that they each retreated to different parts of the house. After a few minutes, I followed Dad to his study and found him at his computer. I was surprised to see him reading a document entitled "Why Norma Is So Valuable."

When I asked him about it, he said, "Years ago I started a list of why your mom is valuable. So when I'm upset with her or when we've had a fight, I've learned that instead of sitting here thinking about how hurt or frustrated I am, I make myself read through this list." This amazing document contained hundreds of words and phrases describing my mom's value.

This is the best idea I've ever heard of for cherishing your mate. Think about why she is so valuable to you and simply begin to write. For example, you might list character traits, gender differences, talents, personal values, parenting skills, personality characteristics, physical traits, the roles she plays that you appreciate, honorable ways in which she treats you and so on.

Be sure to keep this list handy so you can periodically add to it and revise it when you need to remember your spouse's value. When the tense moments come and you need to refocus, stop and read the list. Also, don't keep it to yourself -- share it with your wife.

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.

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