Q: My spouse and I are trying to dream together about our future, but we're struggling. It's hard to see past our present stage in life. What would you suggest?
Jim: Thinking about the future can be fun and energizing. But I think it's a good idea to reflect on your past, too -- especially if you feel stuck.
Reminiscing is a valuable activity for couples to engage in from time to time. There's a bond that forms between two people who have shared experiences together. Your past is more than a collection of random memories. It represents a journey you and your spouse have taken together that infuses your relationship with richness and meaning. And it's the launch pad for your next mission of discovery.
That's why reminiscing is especially helpful for those who have been married for a long time. It's healthy to remember the good times you've shared and the difficulties you've faced and overcome. It can encourage you to hope for good times ahead and remind you of the troubles you can get through if you stick together.
But reminiscing is for new couples, as well. If you're a newlywed, you obviously don't have many years' worth of shared experiences to reminisce about. But you do probably have a lot of good memories together from the months or years before you got engaged. Reflect on those times, even if they weren't that long ago.
Intimacy doesn't develop in the newness of a relationship, but over the miles you travel together through life. Fun memories about when you first met, your first date, or other funny or heartwarming stories from your relationship are crucial building blocks that will carry you into the future.
Q: I'm fairly new at the parenting game. Are there times when I should simply chill out and refrain from disciplining a kid who misbehaves?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: To some extent, child discipline is just common sense and more art than science -- a skill acquired gradually and almost imperceptibly. So, relax, take it one day at a time, and allow the parent-child relationship to unfold naturally. As the years go by, you'll perfect your skills in a very normal and intuitive way.
In the meantime, the only kind of behavior that merits disciplinary action is willful disobedience. Otherwise, there are some rather obvious situations where traditional disciplinary action is not appropriate:
-- Normal exploratory behavior in infants and toddlers. Little ones need the freedom to discover their environment without getting their hands slapped. Childproof your home by keeping fragile items out of their reach.
-- Toilet training. This can't be rushed. A harsh response to failure only creates confusion, anxiety and frustration for the child.
-- Bed-wetting. This physiological event is usually not under conscious control, and rarely (if ever) responds to rewards or punishment.
-- Accidents. Again, if the behavior wasn't willful or intentional, it doesn't call for discipline. But it's fair and appropriate to require an older child to help clean up or repair, especially if carelessness was involved.
-- Irritability and negativity specifically related to illness or extreme fatigue. Extend grace for grumpiness when your child simply doesn't feel well, is "hangry" or tired.
-- Less-than-perfect report cards. If a child's school performance is falling short of his or her capability, more self-discipline may be the answer. But kids shouldn't be punished for not having straight A's.
-- Performance in sports. If the child chooses to engage in sports and cares deeply about succeeding, parental support and encouragement is extremely important. But they shouldn't be forced to play against their will or beyond their skill level.
If you'd like to discuss this subject with our staff counselors, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
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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