Q: Every now and then I'll see these "man on the street" interviews on television where people's ignorance of history is on display -- and it discourages me that our culture doesn't seem to value its importance. I'd like to cultivate a deeper interest with my own kids but don't know where to start. Any ideas?
Jim: I appreciate the concern behind your question, as well as its timeliness. Today is, after all, a significant day in U.S. history: the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into World War II.
History is important, though sadly some have come to regard it as just a bunch of dates and events from long ago that have no relevance today. That's unfortunate because this sentiment couldn't be more misguided. As philosopher George Santayana observed, "Those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it." I believe there's great value in history's ability to teach lessons, impart wisdom, inspire and build character.
I'd suggest you begin by exposing your kids to biographies and stories that will help them "enter the worlds" of key historical figures, as well as everyday people of the past. Who were they? What did they value? What conflicts did they confront? Was their response virtuous or villainous? As you actively engage them this way, chances are your children will see that the universality of the struggles and principles are just as applicable today.
For good material on American history, you can visit wallbuilders.com. And though we haven't yet seen it, you might consider reviewing (for appropriateness) the upcoming film "Unbroken," which tells the story of WWII hero Louis Zamperini. Focus on the Family has also produced numerous award-winning, historically based audio dramas, as well as the popular DVD series "Drive Thru History." Call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY for more information.
Q: I'm already starting to dread Christmas. My mother-in-law enjoys showering our 5-year-old son with extravagant gifts. I want to discuss it with her, but my wife says we need to graciously accept them and keep quiet. What should I do?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: I can appreciate your concerns. As we've touched on recently here in this column, overindulging our kids can block their "gratitude receptors" and breed a sense of entitlement. And as you've discovered, the challenges become more difficult when well-intentioned or uncooperative in-laws are involved.
Given the potential long-term negative impact on your son, I'd strongly encourage you and your wife to address the issue with her mom. But before you do, you both need to discuss your individual concerns and work toward getting on the same team. It's likely your wife is feeling the same as you, but with the added burden of not wanting to confront or alienate her mother. You, on the other hand, might feel that her mom's benevolence is undermining your family's goals and values -- or that your own efforts to provide aren't adequate. It's important that you voice and understand each other's emotions before moving forward.
When the time is right, it's best if your wife has this discussion privately with her mom. But however you choose to approach the conversation, unless it's clear that your mother-in-law is deliberately defying your wishes, her motives and actions ought to be given the benefit of the doubt. Express appreciation for the love she shows your son -- and invite her to join in helping develop his character by putting limits on the gifts he receives. You might suggest a dollar amount, or perhaps alternatives for the excess such as contributions to school expenses or a college fund.
For further help and support, please give our counselors a call.
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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