Q: How can I stop my child from swearing? I've confronted him about this several times. But the problem only gets worse. What can I do?
Jim: Assuming you don't swear at home yourself, there are many places where he could have picked up this bad habit. The most likely culprits are the media and school. Although you can't shield him from every negative influence, it's important that you regulate his media habits and oversee his social interactions.
Also, our counseling team recommends that you consider his motivations. Why is he using these words, especially in your presence? Is it a symptom of rebellion? An expression of anger? A reaction to feelings of rejection? In that case, it might be wise to ignore the language for a moment and deal with the deeper emotions. Ask him some strategic questions about school, his social life and how he feels about his relationship with you.
Eventually you'll want to make the point that profane language is inappropriate in polite society. (This can be a tough case to make -- sadly, many U.S. presidents have been caught using swear words.) Make it clear that he's expected to clean up his language as long as he's in your home. If he refuses to cooperate, apply appropriate consequences -- for example, the loss of television, computer or video game privileges for a period of time.
Q: My wife and I have wronged each other in many ways over the years. Affairs, lies, you name it. We've forgiven each other and committed to rebuilding our marriage. But how can we restore trust?
Dr. Greg Smalley, executive director of Marriage and Family Formation: First, congratulations on your determination to fight for your marriage. That's an encouraging sign!
When it comes to rebuilding trust, be wary of cliches and pat answers that promise quick solutions. It's taken many years to build the wall of suspicion that now stands at the heart of your relationship. You can't expect to tear it down in a single day. Restoring trust takes time.
This is especially true when the offenses in question were unusually hurtful or if they've been repeated numerous times. When a person has been wounded, it's difficult to trust again unless they can see tangible evidence that things are going to be different in the future. Here are some things that you and your wife need to look for as you seek to rebuild trust:
1) Take personal responsibility for the damage done without shifting blame or adopting evasive tactics.
2) Focus on empathy. Trust is hard to rebuild until your spouse knows that you really "get it" -- that you deeply understand the hurt and pain you've caused. Sympathy is when you feel bad "for" your spouse, but empathy is when you feel bad "with" your spouse. Invite your wife to share how your behavior made her feel, and vice versa. Empathy says, "I accept responsibility for my actions, but more importantly, I care that I hurt you."
3) Come up with a precise and definitive plan designed to prevent further offenses.
4) Commit to seeking counseling. This would include an active resolve to sort through all problematic issues and to make all the necessary changes.
5) Demonstrate patience and forbearance in allowing both of you the time necessary to heal from the hurts you've endured without undue pressure.
When it comes to point No. 4, I hope you'll call Focus for a free consultation with one of our counselors, who can also refer you to a qualified marriage counselor in your area. May God bless you as you seek to restore your marriage.
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.