Q: What is the secret to keeping New Year's resolutions? Do they ever work?
Juli: In the month of January, the gyms are filled, health food flies off the shelves and the consumption of vices decreases as people temporarily change their habits. But by February, almost every resolution has been broken! I'm sure a few people every year manage to get in shape, stop smoking, read through the Bible, and become better parents.
What's the "secret"? Some would say discipline, accountability and choosing reasonable goals. Those are certainly important ingredients to lasting change. But I think the secret is something very different: motivation.
I've seen very few people change important habits in their lives starting on Jan. 1. When the beginning of a fresh, new year prompts the desire for growth, the motivation goes only as deep as the calendar. When people truly revolutionize an area of their lives, it is because they begin to confront pain. I'm not speaking of the temporary pain of a hangover or a fight with your spouse. I'm referring to the pain of looking in the mirror and asking, "What am I doing with my life?"
Change comes when we recognize at the deepest level that the way we're currently living is causing pain for us and for others. Ironically, most of our bad habits are ways of escaping pain. Addictions like smoking and overeating temporarily relieve anxiety. Explosive anger and avoidance are attempts to avoid the agony of abandonment and rejection.
You will change when you realize that the pain of your coping is more destructive than the pain you're avoiding. And you will change when you realize that there's hope for healing. Focus on the Family exists to point you to that hope found in trusting God and His design for family and restoration. If you're ready for change and think we can help, call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
Q: My wife believes all three of our kids need cellphones in order to keep connected with us. But only one of them, our daughter, is even old enough to drive. Is this a good idea?
Jim: A cellphone hardly seems like a necessity for an 8-year-old. But if your daughter has reached the age of 16 and not yet begged you for a phone, I'm impressed!
There's certainly value in having your family connected via phone once your kids enter the high school years. Knowing your daughter is just a phone call or a text away can bring peace of mind. For this reason alone, we'd recommend that you allow her to get a phone.
Of course, she'll be using it for more than just emergencies or checking in. While many teens avoid using their phones for nefarious purposes, they do end up simply wasting a lot of time texting, Facebooking and so on. And there are genuine dangers, as well. You need to warn your daughter about harmful activities such as "sexting," or talking or texting while driving. One way to avoid some of this would be to go the ultra-cheap route -- either getting a voice-only plan (no data options for texting or the Web), or even finding a used "emergencies only" phone that can dial 911, without purchasing a calling plan.
Whether you get a phone only for your daughter or for every child in the family, you'll need to lay down some ground rules. Will the kids help cover the cost of your plan? If there are monthly limits on talking and texting, how will they be penalized if those limits are exceeded? Make sure the rules are laid out in advance, as well as the consequences for breaking those rules. Help your kids understand that having a phone is a privilege that can be revoked if it is abused.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.)
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