Q: My husband was an excellent athlete growing up, and now so is our son. But the boy doesn't enjoy playing because of the pressure he gets from Dad to perform. This is becoming a real source of tension in our home. What can I do?
Jim: I grew up enjoying and benefitting from sports, so in many ways I can understand your husband's eagerness to pass some of the same positive experiences on to your son. At the same time, my own boys didn't take to sports the way, I did so I had to learn to temper my enthusiasm.
For some children, sports can be an excellent vehicle for teaching self-discipline and encouraging the pursuit of excellence. But it's critical that the parent-child relationship ALWAYS be based on unconditional love and acceptance. Kids desperately need Mom and Dad to be their biggest cheerleaders, affirming them when they succeed -- and, especially, encouraging them when they fail.
If we as dads (or moms) are overly competitive, we can often make the mistake of basing worth (our kids' or our own) on achievement. Only affirming our children when they succeed is a very bad move. It may negatively impact the child's self-esteem for the rest of his or her life. It will also place an unnecessary strain on the parent-child relationship, setting up some major explosions when the teen years roll around.
If your husband has difficulty parenting this way, you may want to get a copy of Dr. Tim Kimmel's insightful book Grace-Based Parenting and study it together. Then spend some time discussing the changes that one or both of you may need to make in your interactions with your son. I'd also invite you to give our counselors a call at 855-771-HELP (4357). I wish you all the best.
Q: I was divorced several years ago. Since that time, my ex-husband has turned his life around. We've actually started dating again and I have a feeling he's going to "pop the question" again soon. Do you think remarriage is a good idea in this case?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: These days, divorce is unfortunately rampant and reconciliation is rare. So a story like yours is encouraging. And yes, I do think remarriage is a good idea -- provided you can avoid the problems that led to your divorce in the first place.
When you say your ex-husband has "turned his life around," that suggests that the divorce was primarily the result of his bad behavior. It's great to hear that his attitudes have apparently been transformed -- but you should still proceed with caution. Given your history, make sure that you've seen concrete evidence of your husband's changed heart over time before you jump back into marriage. Don't set a timeline for moving forward until you're firmly convinced on this point.
I also recommend that you take a look at your own heart and motivations -- and honestly consider the role you may have played, however small, in the divorce. Have you sufficiently dealt with those issues? Meanwhile, if you have children, they have already been impacted by your divorce; you certainly don't want to make matters worse by remarrying and then splitting up again if things don't work out.
What you need most right now is the help and guidance of an experienced marriage counselor. He or she can help you both fully explore whether you're ready for remarriage and help you determine the best course of action. Focus on the Family's Counseling Department can refer you to qualified marriage-and-family professionals in your area; you can call the number listed above 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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