Q: My approach to parenting has basically been to let my kids try an activity, and if they don't like it, we just go on to something else. Some of my friends have told me they don't agree. What's your take?
Jim: Children hate disappointment, and they'll do almost anything to avoid it. But I think that's something for parents to watch for, because your children are practicing right now how they'll react to things they don't like -- for the rest of their lives.
Do you know any adults who have trouble sticking with jobs and relationships? You can probably trace a lot of that behavior back to their childhood. They were allowed too many times to quit when things got tough.
When my boys were younger, we'd play checkers or Monopoly, and as soon as the game wasn't going their way, they'd start to complain. Maybe your children want to quit a sport before they've given it a fair shot. Or perhaps you can relate to a friend of mine who was a couple of miles into a hike when his children broke into tears about having to walk all the way back to camp.
Keep your eye out for those moments. They're an opportunity for your children to understand how to face disappointment or to struggle through something they don't like. Don't rescue your kids from everything. Some of those experiences can teach them how to hang in there.
Here's the point: Perseverance on a soccer field or in activities at home is how your children will develop the perseverance to run a business, get an education or build a strong marriage. They'll need the ability to stay committed when what they want takes a lot of hard work. Those are crucial lessons early because the stakes become much higher later. We all need to learn to persevere.
Q: My husband and I seem to be caught in a rut in our marriage. We both know we need to make some changes, but we keep falling into the same patterns of action, reaction, re-reaction, etc. I'm basically waiting for him to take the lead, but... anyway, do you have any suggestions?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: What're you're describing is something that I think happens in most marriages. It usually involves predictable back-and-forth cycles that can wear us down over time. Typically, we want our mate to make some kind of adjustment. But the only person you can change is yourself -- and that's where to start.
I like to explain the concept using the game of pingpong. Picture you and your spouse hitting the ball to each other -- but exactly the same way, game after game. Neither one of you would have to change your approach because every shot would be identical. It's always the same pattern and result. And let's face it, before long that gets pretty boring -- and perhaps frustrating.
But now imagine placing just the slightest spin on the ball or directing it to the left corner instead of the right. That subtle difference requires your spouse to make some sort of change to return the ball, which alters how you play it back. Which changes their play, etc. Before long, you're both more engaged in the game, enjoying it more, and playing it in an entirely new way.
The point is this: Marriage is never static. It's a living system of action and reaction. Changing how you interact within your relationship, even slightly, can automatically influence your spouse to make a few positive changes as well.
For insights and encouragement to help your marriage thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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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