Q: My husband is a workaholic -- he spends very little time with our sons and me, but when I approach him, he simply says, "Things will be better soon." Do you have any suggestions?
Jim: Men are wired to provide for our wives and children. But because we're imperfect human beings, that natural, God-given desire can sometimes become distorted. Some men become so focused on their role as provider that they end up neglecting the emotional and relational needs of their wives and kids. Far too many dads in our society fit this description.
Your husband needs love, support and encouragement in order to feel good about himself not only as a provider but as a husband, a father and a person. But remember that none of us respond well to nagging or demands.
I'd suggest planning a dinner out with your husband on a weekend -- get a sitter, go to a nice restaurant, etc. Put aside your frustration and reinforce how much you love him and appreciate his work ethic and his dedication to his role as family provider. At the same time, be honest and let him know that his job seems to be taking precedence over his family. Tell him you value his involvement as a father, and ask him if he'd be willing to examine his schedule and work together with you to make some changes.
If you can deliver this message in a spirit of love and concern rather than bitterness and anger, you may be surprised at how positively he responds -- although don't expect complete change overnight. But if he denies there's a problem, it may be time to seek professional help. You can start by contacting Focus on the Family's Counseling Department Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. (MST) at 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: You always encourage parents to keep tabs on their kids' music and to have regular conversations with them about the lyrics. Your advice assumes that lyrics have a strong and lasting influence on kids, but frankly I've seen little evidence of that. Can you convince me that all this isn't a waste of a busy parent's time? I'm skeptical.
Bob Waliszewski, Director, Plugged-In: For years when asked this question, I appealed to common sense, making the case that musicians were "instructors" of sorts, and just as a teacher in the classroom can mold and shape students' beliefs and behaviors -- isn't that why schools hire them? -- so, too, can recording artists.
But I wanted solid research to back it up. Fortunately, in 2006 the Rand Corporation published a study of 1,461 adolescents, finding that those who frequently listened to sexualized music lyrics were almost twice as likely to engage in intercourse within two years after being surveyed as their peers who seldom listened to such songs. This was the first of many research projects that came to similar conclusions.
I'll note one more because it was quite comprehensive. After examining 173 other studies, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (working with Common Sense Media) found that 80 percent of those projects linked media -- defined as music, TV, movies, video games and the Internet -- to a number of adverse outcomes for children including smoking, drug and alcohol use, obesity, sexual activity, attention problems and poor grades (nyti.ms/1JiV0yS).
Beyond research, let me add testimonial evidence: I interviewed school shooter Jamie Rouse (Lynnville, Tennessee, 1995), who directly told me -- and others -- that he was influenced by music lyrics to commit murder. I also spoke extensively with the parents of Elyse Pahler (Arroyo Grande, California, 1995), who explained how lyrics influenced three teen boys to torture and kill their 15-year-old daughter.
Bottom line: There are plenty of solid reasons to set healthy lyrical boundaries in your home.
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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