Q: Sometimes I feel like a complete failure as a parent. I try to be consistent with my kids, but there are days when I just don't give them the attention they deserve, or have the patience with them that I should. I'm afraid that I'm going to mess things up and lose my connection with them by the time they're grown.
Jim: I know how you feel because I've been there, too! But that's one reason I love this time of year. Spring is all about renewal. The warm weather is coming, the flowers are poking out of the dirt, and the days are getting longer. Of course, we also celebrate Easter, which for many people is all about God reaching down and offering humanity a second chance.
As parents, we know that second chances are a part of everyday life. We struggle and strive to help our children do the right thing. But sometimes, they fall short of the mark. When that happens, it's our job to help them get back up, dust themselves off and try again. Sometimes, if they've been disobedient, they might need appropriate correction to get them back on track. Other times, our kids simply need an arm around them and a word of encouragement to do better next time. Either way, it's all about extending grace and forgiveness.
Here's the crazy thing: As Moms and Dads, you and I need that grace and forgiveness from our children! There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Sometimes -- maybe even much of the time -- we make mistakes. We lose our temper. We fail to make time for our kids. We accuse them of something they didn't do. Thankfully, children are resilient. If we're honest and humble when we mess up, they're more than happy to come running back into our arms and forgive us.
Within a loving family, there is always room for second chances. And thirds. And fourths.
Q: I'm recently married. My husband and I are discovering (the hard way) that we deal with life stresses differently, and we're struggling to understand each other. What can we do?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Welcome to married life -- and a reality check! Stress can often cause us to function in an out-of-balance mode where we end up operating in the extremes of our personalities. This perhaps occurs most often when we feel pressured.
Research shows that men and women deal with stress differently. As a man's stress level increases, his body produces more of the oxytocin hormone, which is further influenced by testosterone. These chemicals trigger a fight-or-flight response. In other words, when stressed, men either act more aggressively or withdraw (we like to say "go into their cave").
Women also produce more oxytocin, but it's coupled with estrogen and has a different result: When stressed, women tend to lean into relationships, either protectively nurturing their children or seeking out other female friends. Researchers have called this the "tend and befriend" response.
Basically, these chemical reactions set men and women up to respond very differently during times of stress -- the perfect combination for conflict. Women want to connect, while men may feel more ready to pick a fight or withdraw. Understanding that contrast can go a long way toward helping you find common ground.
Note that sometimes gender differences can seem pretty stereotypical. This scenario may look somewhat different in your marriage, but researchers have found it to occur in many relationships.
How you respond to your spouse when they're under stress has a direct impact on their behavior toward you -- and, of course, vice versa. As we continue to understand how our mates are different, it allows us to love them more fully. If you'd like more ideas for ways to connect and thrive as a couple, check out our website at 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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