Is Your Family a Fortress or a Façade?
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Here’s some things strong families have in common:
1. Strong sense of commitment
Seems obvious, right? But over the last decade, I’ve counseled w/ dozens of couples…pre-marital and post-marital counseling, and it’s proven to me that people today don’t understand commitment. What a relaxed attitude people enter into the holiest of unions w/ in these days of the disposable marriage. “If it works, fine, if it doesn’t, fine…I’m sure it will…I like them!”
Commitment is the assurance that this family will stay together, value each other, for a lifetime, no matter what. Whatever problems we face, we face them together/challenges. Strong marriages take the following words, and carve them in granite: I’m committed to you, no matter what. And they take the word divorce out of their vocabulary.
Parents, there’s 2 ways you can convey the sense of commitment to a child: [when we learn it!]
1. by conveying to them that they are a blessing, not a burden. This generation of children has been labeled, the unwanted generation. TV today sends the message that children are an unwanted expense, and interference in careers, or an untimely accident. There are no mistakes, accidents, or surprises w/ God. The abortionist claims there’s a clear difference between an unborn child and one that’s been born…try explaining that to a child who is looking for relevance!
Ill.—last one picked for ball team…who has to take him? I had him last time! (standing there in right field thinking, I’m here because they’re stuck w/ me!)
Suicide note from teenage girl: Dear mom, I’m sorry I was ever born. It seems to me that I’ve ruined your happiness. I’ve chosen this way out so that you can be happy again.
(chances are, this girl was genuinely loved and wanted, but somehow they failed to communicate it to her!)
2. By letting them know they are loved unconditionally. We live in an achievement oriented society. Where significance equals performance, and importance equals ability, and where self-worth equals achievement. Sorry to say, that mindset has crept into many homes.
Parents, do your kids know that there’s nothing they can do to be more loved, because they’re already loved w/ a measureless love?/nothing they can do to be more accepted, because they’re already totally accepted?/nothing they can do to be more valued, because they’re already infinitely valued?
Nothing will alienate a child more than making them work for something that should be given freely…love, acceptance, and self-worth.
If you raise a child on conditional love, to some degree, always feeling like they have to do something to make you proud of them, you will almost always wind up w/ 1 of 2 results when they’re grown:
1. Workaholic who never feels adequate, but quite self-conscious.
2. A quitter, who just gives up all-together. “I can’t please dad/mom, so I’ve decided not to even try.”
“But, aren’t I supposed to motivate my child?” Yes.
“Aren’t I supposed to encourage them on to excellence?” Yes.
“Don’t I want them to reach their full potential?” Yes.
The key is: What are you using to motivate them?
Never motivate on the basis of love and acceptance/treatment…they must be given freely.
Never motivate on how they compare to others… “Johnny can do it, why can’t you…try harder!”
Motivate on the basis of what THEIR best is.
Did you know you can be proud of your child, even if you’re displeased w/ them? You can show them love and acceptance, even when you’re disgusted w/ their attitude…even if they embarrass you out in public!
I’m convinced that some people who claim to be motivating their child for the child’s sake are actually doing it for their own sake… “so I’m not embarrassed, so I can be proud of you, so no one thinks less of you because they would then think less of me!” A parent like that was no doubt raised that way themselves. Hey, it’s time to break the cycle!
Ask yourself now: Do my children know they are a blessing, not a burden?/Do they know they’re loved unconditionally, and there’s nothing they can do to make me love them more?
That’s commitment. It’s the first thing strong families have in common. Couples: commitment to each other is just the same!...
Secondly, strong families have communion.
In a survey, 1,500 children were asked, What makes families happy?
Over 90% gave the same answer. It wasn’t a big house or lots of money…it was “doing things together”.
Are we talking quality time or quantity time? Both!
One of the biggest false bills of goods we’re being sold these days is that it doesn’t matter how much time you spend, just make it quality time! Yes, it does matter. Time together is how you get to know each other, really know each other in a deep way, where you can eventually see right into their heart just by looking into their eyes, and where you can tell when they’re lying right away!
Is your child shy or confident?/leader or follower?/interests?/what do they want to be someday?/who is their best friend, and why are they their best friend?
Some of you draw a blank at some of those questions, and the reason is how busy we are these days…we’re not spending enough time together.
Children spell love TIME / Men, you can say “love”, or you can demonstrate love by spending time w/ your wife.
Time w/ family says to them, You are a priority, I love you!
There’s no substitute for time spent together. You can’t neglect them for months, and then make up for it by taking them to DisneyWorld, or buying them something they really want. Take time to do the mundane together:
Shoot baskets/rake leaves/read a book/take them along on that errand to Wal-Mart! (they’ll just slow me down) Yes! And that’s what we need, to slow down, and experience life together!
This applies to the marriage relationship as well as parent/child.
Ill.—kid comes home from college/dad says, how’s college? “Good”/how’s your grades?/friends?/food?/dorm life?
By the way, what are you majoring in? “Communications” And unfortunately, he learned his communication skills at home, where his mom asked his dad lots of questions like that, w/ the same kind of monotone, one-word replies.
Strong families are held together by good communication. Communication is discussing the burdens of your heart…opening the windows of your soul at times, sharing your feelings.
Zig Ziglar tells the story of a lady who went to her pastor because she wanted a divorce from her husband.
“do you have any grounds?”…3 acres outside of town, you’ve been there!
“no, I mean, do you have a grudge?”…no, a carport
“no, like, does your husband beat you up?”…no, I’m up at 6, an hour before him!
“oh my, I’m saying, do you have a case?”…no, we’ve got a John Deere!
“ma’am, I’m trying to ask, are you and your husband having an troubles?”…oh yes, lots of troubles… “like what?”…He just can’t communicate!
Marriage counselors say over half of all divorces are the result of poor communication, and that if they could have just learned to talk, they could have saved their marriage.
7 “B’s” of good listening:
1. Be observant. You listen w/ your eyes as much as your ears…look at them, show you’re listening.
Albert Moravin of UCLA is a noted researcher in communication. He said that only 7% of our true feelings are conveyed by the actual words we speak/38% by WAY we say those words/whopping 55% is conveyed thru body language…non-verbal communication:
Facial expression/eye contact/posture/tone of voice.
I’ve just given in and decided it’s impossible to listen to my wife if the tv is on…I’ve honestly tried to do both, and it can’t be done. (left preaching and gone to meddlin’)…same w/ newspaper.
2. Be available. Communication is like fishing…it doesn’t do much good to go when it’s convenient, to catch fish, you have to go when they’re biting.
This is esp true w/ teens, I’m told…when teens really want to talk, which I’m told is quite rare, you’d better be available. It might be at midnite when they get in from that youth activity, but you’d better do it then…they won’t resemble the same person in the morning! It might be during your favorite TV program…better turn it off and listen. Be available.
3. Be considerate. It’s amazing how considerate we are to others out in public, but how rude we can be to our own family members. If we interrupted at work like we do at home, we’d be sent home permanently!/walk away from them while talking/ignore. We can’t take each other for granted.
4. Be demonstrative. We’re talking physical…hugs, kisses, pats, massages, etc. Use them often. Gary Smalley says women need non-sexual touch…little things, not groping like a piece of meat. He says women need 8 of these touches per day. (some of you guys will wake up tomorrow and go 12345678…) It doesn’t work that way.
5. Be wise. Learn to attack the problem, not the person. Ladies: nagging is not communicating! (not one man said Amen, bunch of cowards! Don’t leave me hangin’ here!) Bringing up past offenses is not wise! (joke—guy says, every time my wife and I fight she gets historical. “you mean hysterical?” No, historical…she brings back everything I’ve ever done since we got married.) And before I get into too much trouble…Men, sarcasm will get you nowhere! (and my wife says, Amen!)
6. Be an example. Parents, it’s a cold hard fact…I hope you’re not 90 before you realize that we don’t get what we want, we get what we ARE!
Percentage of American teens who say they want to be like their parents: 39%.
Children who see physical violence between their parents are six times more likely to abuse their own spouses after they marry. If those children were also hit by their parents as teenagers, they are 12 times more likely to abuse their spouses.
7. Be courageous. The main reason we don’t communicate is fear…we’re simply afraid of what we might hear! We’re afraid to make ourselves vulnerable, so instead, just blurt out how it’s gonna be, like it or lump it!
So, strong families have a strong sense of commitment. They have communion…spending time together. They have good communication, and express themselves well.
4. Strong families have good coping skills. They have the rare ability to solve problems together, and always see the big picture. Don’t ever think that families that break up had problems, and that families who stay together don’t. Divorces and dysfunctional families have very little to do w/ problems. All families have problems. Break-ups have to do w/ coping skills.
I bet there’s people here tonite who’ve been married 30 years or more, and they’ve had problems far worse than a lot of people who’ve divorced. The difference is in coping skills…working thru the problems.
Every family has problems. If divorces were caused by problems, we’d all be divorced. My family has problems, your family/Christian families/Adam and Eve had problems…
--Adam would come home from work, and she would start counting his ribs…just checking!
They had their problems together, and even suffered the consequences together (driven out in a fury)
--Adam and kids walked by garden…kids say, what’s that, dad? “That’s where your mother ate us out of house and home!"
Not all families respond to problems in the same way. The chinese language does not have letters, it has symbols. And the same symbol which means crisis can also mean opportunity, depending upon the context. And, you know, one family can have a problem and see it as a crisis, and another family have exactly the same problem, and see it as an opportunity.
Someone said, God’s best presents He gives to His children are wrapped in problems. The bigger the problem, the bigger the present…if you’re willing to unwrap it!
How we respond to our problems will make or break us! We’ve got to learn to attack our problems together, instead of attacking each other.
Ill—pressure: submarine/thick steel, glass/fish.
So, strong families have commitment, communion, communication, coping skills, and…
5. Strong families have a strong sense of consecration. There’s no way to have a truly successful family w/out giving God first place. And we have to convey it to our children. Kids watch carefully…what we’re like at church, and at home.
A study once disclosed that if both Mom and Dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful. If only Dad, 55% remain faithful. If only Mom, 15%. If neither attended regularly, only 6% remain faithful. The statistics speak for themselves--the example of parents and adults is more important than all the efforts of the church and Sunday School.
Ill.—little boys staying overnight in backyard in a tent. Dad listened to them talk… “my daddy knows the mayor!”/ “governor!”/then he heard the voice of his own little boy say, “that’s nothin’, my daddy knows God!” (top that!) They said, he does not! “does too!” How do you know? “I heard him talkin’ to him just this morning!”
There’s nothing greater our children can think of us, than that we know God!