Q: Our two teenagers -- brother and sister -- both seem to get overwhelmed when they're assigned tasks at home or school. They start projects, but don't finish them. Do you have any advice?
Jim: There's a great quote attributed to Mark Twain: "The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."
I like to use a story to illustrate how to achieve what may seem like an impossible goal, by breaking it down into smaller steps. In 1848, a suspension bridge was scheduled to be built near Niagara Falls, connecting the United States with Canada. The engineers faced a daunting challenge: How were they to get the bridge's first cables across the 800-foot river gorge? The water was too swift and dangerous to pull their lines across by boat.
Their solution was clever. A teenager, Homan Walsh, flew a kite from the Canadian side until it landed on the American side. With this accomplished, the thin kite string was used to pull a slightly thicker rope across the river. Then that rope pulled an even stronger one across. Repeating this method, the engineers were soon able to pull the first steel cable from shore to shore, and the bridge's construction was underway.
Teenagers (and really, all of us) can easily become overwhelmed when facing a large project. But by remembering to "fly a kite," they'll learn how to break assignments into more manageable pieces -- and accomplish more than they ever dreamed.
Q: How can I get my husband to help keep the house clean? I never noticed that he was messy before we were married. Since I'm the one who likes the house clean and orderly, I'm the one who picks up after him and does all the housework. I'm getting tired of it. What should I do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: This is actually a fairly common problem. When you and your spouse fell in love, you weren't thinking about housework. Now that you're married, it's a whole different ball game.
If your relationship is to thrive, you'll have to find a mutually satisfactory way to manage this aspect of your life together. It may help to remember that, to a certain extent, this is a question of conflicting personalities. Creative types, for instance, are often less concerned about neatness than people who take a more left-brained approach to life.
Ultimately, nobody can change another person. The only person you can change is yourself. But you can make positive alterations in your living situation and your relationship if you're willing to approach the problem with patience, understanding and lots of love. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
-- Be upfront and honest. Assume ownership of your feelings, then voice them candidly and respectfully. Approach the situation as equal partners with the goal of working out an arrangement that's acceptable to both of you.
-- Don't attack your mate. Confront the problem; don't belittle the person.
-- Encourage growth. When you see positive progress taking place, offer praise for your mate's efforts.
-- Recognize that change takes time. Be patient, and let your spouse know that you're in this together for the long haul.
As you go through this process, try to view it as an opportunity for cooperation rather than conflict. A key to the challenge of marriage is striving to understand each other and seeking to meet each other's needs. This is a great area in which to put these principles into practice.
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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