Q: I fill a lot of important roles: husband, father, breadwinner, business owner, church leader, youth sports coach, etc. But I usually feel like I'm running behind, and I guess I vent my stress on my family sometimes. How can I find a better life balance?
Jim: People are busier than ever these days. With family responsibilities, work pressures and volunteer opportunities, the list can be endless.
There's a famous quote often attributed to Samuel L. Clemens, better known by his pen name of Mark Twain: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one." I don't know if Clemens actually said that, but it's a good principle. When things start to get overwhelming, sometimes it helps to just address one person or thing at a time -- starting with those closest to you.
Maybe you need to prioritize your commitments, saying no to good things so you can say yes to better things ... like making time for dates with your wife or conversations with your kids. Maybe your family needs to turn off all the electronic devices and eat dinner together. Maybe you need to make the first move to mend a broken relationship. Maybe you need to organize your home or office.
Stress affects everyone and comes in all shapes and sizes. But how we handle it can mean the difference between sinking or swimming. And making even the smallest changes -- just taking life one day or one breath at a time -- can keep you moving forward.
For more tips to help your family thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: I want to help my children learn that their actions make a statement about their character. Do you have any suggestions?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Each of our actions suggests something about our values and motives. This goes for parents as well as kids, so what we model speaks louder than what we say.
Many of our behaviors can be interpreted in light of "I'm acting as if" statements. For example, being impatient with your children can translate into "I'm acting as if my kids are a nuisance to me." Working insanely long hours might equal "I'm acting as if rest and renewal are unimportant for me and my family."
But there are positive "I'm acting as if" messages, too. Listening intently to your daughter and talking with her conveys the idea "I'm acting as if understanding and guiding my kids is important." Setting a bedtime for your younger children says "I'm acting as if boundaries and limits are important because they encourage healthy habits."
Similarly, the phrase, "you are acting as if" holds a mirror up to your child's character. It can help start the conversation about what's observed and what may need some attention.
For instance, after observing a child's behavior, a parent could say "I've noticed you acting as if ..."
-- A smartphone is your only ticket to social survival.
-- You can't get by without video games.
-- School is a miserable place for you.
-- Winning is what gives you value.
-- Wearing certain clothes is critical to finding love.
-- Having a boyfriend or girlfriend seems like a "need" to you.
Parents can follow up on these statements by asking "Am I on target or not? Why?"
This exercise is a tool to get the conversation pointed inward rather than getting stuck on outward behaviors. It's also designed to focus your efforts on understanding, communication and guidance rather than control. Character formation takes a lot of work and grows from the inside out.
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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