Q: Do you have any suggestions for helping our kids learn how to handle money in practical ways?
Jim: I think there's a financial application that many of us overlook as parents: Paying for extracurricular activities. We all know they can take a big bite out of the family budget, but it's usually a sacrifice we're happy to make because we know the importance of those opportunities. Still, I wonder if we're doing our children a disservice by just handing over the cash.
Part of our job as parents is to instill a strong work ethic in our kids. It's never too early to guide children toward age-appropriate projects that nurture lifelong skills and have financial returns. After all, when kids learn the value of a dollar, they develop an appreciation for the effort that goes in to earning one. And if we choose to have our children cover at least part of the cost of sports, camps or lessons, they're more invested in the process -- and they'll probably get more out of the experience.
The best idea for a moneymaking project is one that fits your child's age, skill and temperament. Research ideas with your kids, and then encourage and support them along the way. Maybe it's making jewelry, offering computer services or walking dogs. It might even be running a lemonade stand by the curb. And if that doesn't work, don't be afraid to change course (that's Business 101). In the end, your children will reach some immediate goals while gaining a sense of accomplishment. But more importantly, you'll help them realize it's possible to find work they love -- and that has lasting effect.
Q: My marriage is struggling. I'm not really sure how we got to this point, but it seems like we spend most of our time fighting over who did what. I want to recapture the good relationship that we had once upon a time; do you have any advice?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Almost every marriage in crisis shares an identical problem. At least one member of the couple has a bad habit of blaming their own poor behavior on their spouse. In other words, a husband blames his wife for his affair; a wife blames her husband for her unhappiness. Or they blame one another for ... fill in the blank: Angry outbursts, critical attitudes, pornography or alcohol addictions -- the list goes on and on.
This all keeps a marriage stuck in conflict and at high risk for divorce. That's because casting blame is all about avoiding responsibility. If a problem is your fault, then you're the one who needs to change, not me. That attitude prevents couples from getting to the source of their issues and resolving them.
If you're stuck in the "blame game," there's only one way to turn things around. You must recognize and admit that your behavior is your own responsibility. After all, the only person you can change is yourself.
Now, I get it. Your spouse may have a knack for getting under your skin and provoking you. They may even be guilty of unhealthy and harmful behaviors. Still, when it comes down to it, how you respond is up to you. You can choose to meet your spouse's poor choices head-on with a healthy response of your own.
That takes humility. In some cases it might require "tough love" (perhaps even separating temporarily to work out your respective issues). But when couples acknowledge their own shortcomings and refuse to shift blame, even the most difficult conflict has a chance of getting resolved.
Our staff counselors can help; feel free to call them at 855-771-HELP (4357) or visit 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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