Q: My wife and I generally get along great, but I'm surprised how much we argue about little chores around the house. Is this normal?
Jim: When couples are asked about stress points in marriage, things like kids and finances usually come up first. But studies show that household chores rank third on that list!
It's easy to understand how something as simple as housework can fuel conflict in a marriage. Life gets busy for couples. Before long, they're each focused on the tasks they care about, while forgetting the burdens their spouse is carrying. The next thing you know, they're locked in power struggles over who does more and who works harder.
I'd encourage you to try to change your mindset, and remind yourselves you're on the same team. The household chores should benefit your relationship, not tear it down. In fact, instead of arguing over who does more, what would happen if you each tried to "out-serve" one another?
There are also practical ways to avoid conflict. Say a particular chore is your spouse's responsibility. Don't dictate how and when they do it just because that's when you think it ought to be done. And don't forget to leave some room for individual preferences. Even though you'd prefer the bed be made each morning, is that really an issue important enough to come between you?
As with any other area of your marriage, sorting out the housework is all about connection and communication. I encourage you to prioritize honoring one another and finding some common ground.
Q: As a first-time parent of a very bright child, I want to encourage her creativity as she grows up. Do you have any suggestions?
Danny Huerta, Executive Director, Parenting & Youth: Every child is born with creative potential. Creativity is essential in art, science and business, and also allows us to express ourselves in constructive and beautiful ways -- playing an instrument, cooking a meal, building furniture, etc. Helping our kids develop imagination, original thinking, and innovative problem solving is one of the greatest privileges of parenting. Here are just a few ideas:
-- Let them play. Some structured activity, like a team sport, is healthy. But, especially as she gets older, leave room in the schedule for your child to exercise her imagination and experience wonder at the world around her.
-- Nurture curiosity. A toddler's favorite question is "Why?" But inquisitiveness can get quashed as children get older. Use open-ended questions in your conversations -- from practical ("How could we clean up all these toys faster?") to abstract ("What do you think that cloud looks like?"). Focus on the Family's conversation-starter app, "Make Every Day Count," provides lots of fun and thought-provoking questions.
-- Don't be afraid of boredom. Children don't have to be constantly entertained, and definitely shouldn't resort to electronic devices every time they're bored. You'll be surprised how quickly imagination kicks in with just a few simple tools for creative expression.
-- Don't micromanage creativity. Some creative people color inside the lines, some don't. Let expression be about creating, not about yielding a perfect product.
-- Allow for messes. Developing creative problem-solving skills can sometimes be messy. Find a safe, appropriate place, and then let your child experiment!
-- Encourage "failure." Let your child attempt things without the pressure of doing everything perfectly. If she is taught to fear making mistakes, she's less likely to engage the world creatively and take a confident approach to life.
-- Create alongside your child. Pursuing creative interests with your child -- piano lessons, baking, photography, etc. -- allows for fun interaction and strengthens relational bonds.
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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