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A Huge Parental Opportunity: Making Changes Within

Remarkably, you have the opportunity at any time, to set goals unlike those you’ve ever set before

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Maybe you’ll never be the type of parent who comes home at the end of the day with boundless energy, all smiles and hugs and ready to play with your children until their bedtime. However, some room exists for you to expand your range of behaviors.

Leave the negativity outside and switch on an upbeat attitude you before walking in the door. Your family deserves that. Before you enter, look up, smile, and ask yourself what do you love about your family? Why are you lucky? Create the energy before you walk in the door. Then, engage them with your time, attention and affection.

If your goal is to be more responsive to each member of your family, you can undertake a variety of activities that will help.

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Below are many suggestions among thousands of possibilities. Although all of the suggestions and ideas for goal-setting presented are in relation to children, with a twist and a turn, they each could be applied to your spouse as well:

Applaud Accomplishments

If your child comes home from school with an ‘A’ on her spelling test or a piece of artwork she’s particularly proud of, seize the moment. Pick up the item, look it over carefully, ask questions about it, and show interest.

It’s not difficult to show interest in something once daily that your son or daughter brings to you. Indeed, it’s a worthwhile goal for many reasons. It tells your child that you’re interested in him or her, that what he or she does is important, and, most importantly, tells your child that the next time they’re taking a test or drawing a picture, they’ll want to do their best because after all, daddy will see it.

Listen to Their Favorite Music

You might like classical music or classic rock ‘n roll. Your kids might like pop, rap, hip-hop, or who knows what. Is it too much to simply sit with them for a few minutes and listen to two of their favorite songs, even if you’re secretly thinking, “How can anybody buy that, let alone record it in the first place?”

Have you ever wondered why teenagers in those jazzed-up cars play their music above the hundred-decibel level? They want others to hear what they’re hearing. Music, and specifically lyrics, has the ability to reach deep into the human psyche.

Listening to music together, much like eating together, is a form of bonding. People seem to want others to hear what they hear and enjoy what they enjoy. Usually this happens in the car. Devise a plan to alternate who has control of the music and motor along happily.

Include Them in Your Discussions

Suppose you’re talking with your spouse and your children are nearby. Do you exclude them from the conversation as if they don’t have a worthwhile opinion?

Once a week, what if you were to say, “Mark, don’t you feel that we XYZ…?” or, “Caitlin, do you think if we were to…?”

After the initial shock wears off, you’ll find that your children are pleased to be called upon. In essence, what you’re doing is respecting them on the interpersonal level. You’re saying that they’re full-fledged human beings, even if they are smaller than you, and that they have opinions and observations that count.

Drop in on After School Activities

No matter how busy you are, how demanding your job is, or how unreasonable your boss is, you can find a way to see a few practices and attend a few games your kids would love to have you see.

When you catch your child kicking the ball over everyone’s head, participating in a sing-along, or simply having fun with other kids, you do yourself and your child a big favor. You indicate to your kid that he or she is special enough for you to break your routine now and then and see what’s happening at school or with the other kids.

Visiting your child unannounced minimizes your child’s need to have you around every minute you’re at home and enables him or her to be more understanding when you’re traveling.

After all, if daddy or mommy drops in on me unexpectedly every now and then, they certainly love and care about me. This is especially effective: dropping by for lunch when they are in grade school, but make sure you sign in first and follow school procedures.

Maybe you’ll be the only parent who does this, but so what? Why not set as a goal to visit your child once each calendar month at an after school activity.

Say Yes A Little More Often

Kids ask to do so many things that for many parents it almost becomes automatic to say no.

Can I stay up later? No.

Can I have some ice cream? No.

Can I go across the street with my friends? No.

What’s the real reason behind some of these refusals? Is it fear for their safety or well-being? Do you think they’ll be corrupted if some family rule is bent on one particular evening? Or, are you exercising authority the same way your parents did?

Often, we forget that although our rules are conceived with good intentions, some of which could be rather arbitrary. I don’t have hard evidence that each of the rules creates a desired outcome, i.e., a goal we previously established for our family and specifically for our children. Saying ‘yes’ a little more often than usual has its place.

Set a goal of saying yes one more time per week than normally. This is not so hard to monitor, since you’ll have to ponder the situation for at least a few seconds, and realize that you’re about to say yes when your instinctive reaction was to say no.

If it helps, keep a running log of the times that you surprised your child with a yes. At the least, you’ll have ammunition for later when your child says you never say yes.

Seek Their Help

Do you have business and financial problems for which you think your children cannot be of much assistance? Think again for out of the mouths of babes sometimes come great ideas.

In his book, A Whack On the Side of the Head, Dr. Roger von Oeck contends that the solution to problems often comes by looking at a situation with creativity – taking a different view than you did before. Who better to help you than someone small who doesn’t know all of the givens of the situation?

When it comes to using technology, your son or daughter might have insight that you’ve never considered. How often have you asked your children for some type of support? Could you ask this of them at least once a week? If you’re self-employed, you can lawfully hire them at a young age, pay them, and claim the labor expense.

Go Ahead and Ask

Regardless of whether or not you believe your children can help you with a particular issue, go ahead and ask them. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



 
 
 

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Family

Contemporary America: A Nation of Bottom Feeders

Have we reached the low point of Western culture and crass commercialism? Regrettably, no.

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Heading into 2023, could one say that society is becoming more genteel? Events of at least the last 20 years, up to the present, indicate otherwise.

In 2004, Janet Jackson’s pre-meditated breast-baring act during the Superbowl half-time show became part of a long line of publicity stunts at the cost of broadcast decency. Her music videos had already bordered on pornography: diverse crowds of young men and women on a dance floor contorting in orgasmic fashion, making gestures that seemingly worship each other’s genitals.

Always on the lewd side, with an audience in the hundreds of millions, on that Superbowl Sunday, she couldn’t resist doing what she does best! However, she was not alone: Two to three decades ago programming standards fell off a cliff.

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The rapper Eminem won three Grammys for his CD the Marshal Mathers LP, which was laced with misogynistic and gay-bashing language. He narrowly missed out on the coveted “best album of the year award.” It gets worst from there.

The television show Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? was quickly scrapped by television executives when it turned out that the first “millionaire” offered to a throng of willing females was not a millionaire at all, had been hit with restraining orders by previous girlfriends and had fudged other aspects of his background.

A photograph depicting Jesus Christ as a nude black woman surrounded by 12 black apostles was put on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2001. The museum received an annual subsidy of $7.2 million from New York City. This incident followed the museum’s 1999 “sensation” show that depicted the Virgin Mary smothered in elephant dung.

A Shameful Commentary on Our Society

Enter the hit TV show Survivor. Reduced to its most base elements, contestants win prize money for their success at manipulation and backstabbing. If the human race had developed along these lines, the world population would be less than 1,000, war would be eminent every time people encountered each other, and virtually none of us would be here today.

“Reality-based” television programming could have taken a different turn. People could have been rewarded for being cooperative: The composition of participants could have mirrored that of early bands of human, with a mix of ages and capabilities, seeking to make their way in the wilderness.

Prizes could have been awarded for having everyone in the tribe successfully complete some mission together — people could have been rewarded for being cooperative. Tribe members could have been praised for cross-training one another, for ensuring that no one slips through the cracks, and certainly for not voting people off of an island. Oh, well…

Exploitation for Profit, Pure and Simple

In 2001, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt died of massive head injuries on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Days after the race, his widow, who shunned publicity was forced to make a statement. Volusia County, Florida was about the release the medical examiner’s autopsy photos of Earnhardt, presumably to fulfill the public’s “right” to view “gore.” The gesture came following an Orlando Sentinel reporter’s public request for the photos.

“This is the first time I have spoken in public since we have lost Dale,” said Teresa Earnhardt reading from a prepared statement. “I am not comfortable being here, but this issue is of vital importance — not just to my family — but to anyone ever faced with being exploited after losing a loved one.”

Along with her son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., she pleaded for those who feel as “strongly as we do, to let your voices be heard.” In response, the Orlando Sentinel said that they had “no real intention” of publishing the photos. They merely wanted them so that a head trauma expert could make an “independent determination.” Yeah, and fat chance the photos wouldn’t end up spreading like wildfire on the early internet.

Not Yet at the Bottom

In 20+ years, have we reached the low point of Western culture and crass commercialism? Regrettably, no. We’re about to sink lower. The notion that “everything is art,” or that drag queens should indoctrinate school children is ludicrous. Still, we have yet to witness how low American society can go in terms of displaying vulgarity, crudeness, disrespect, and abandonment of reasonable standards, while, in many quarters, having the temerity to call garbage “art,” “newsworthy,” “the public’s right to know,” and “appropriate entertainment.”

With the Left calling the shots, no area of culture is likely to be spared, including politics, religion, science, education, health care, and media. How far are the exploiters of popular culture willing to go in the name of profit or for a warped political agenda? Further than you can imagine.

What more will they do to garner attention, notoriety, and, in this day and age, celebrity? Filmed visits to nudist colonies? Judging the best nude body on the beach? Pornographic sculpture in public display? Rock music videos with staged copulation sequences? Live, televised death in the heat of some extreme sports contest? Some network executives are drooling for it.

A live shooting massacre captured on video as the mayhem unfolds? Reality TV hosts bitterly accosting show participants before banishing them to “off air” land? Coveting interviews with serial killers, unabombers, and masters of mayhem? Child molesters, spouse beaters, and incest perpetrators offering real-time, live Webcasts?

Elsewhere is often no better. An Israeli state television news program broadcasted a home video of a man beating a woman. The attacker, who also allegedly raped the woman, filmed the assault himself. Israel’s Channel One news department defended its decision to air the rape tape. They did so to “help inform viewers about violence against women.” Station management also noted that faces were blocked out for the broadcast. How thoughtful.

Lowbrow Escalated with FCC Deregulation

Deregulation is not a random act of a handful of devious people, it is a major movement. Indeed, deregulation in and of itself is a fine principle in theory. Milton Friedman, in his landmark book Freedom to Choose, eloquently argued that by keeping markets unrestricted, competition would flourish and the ultimate benefit would be the consumer or end-user.

His theory works well for a variety of consumer goods. However, all of American society and, by relation, societies around the world have suffered. When it comes to entertainment, movies, television, the web, CDs, and video games in particular, the lack of effective government controls wreaks havoc on society.

Cornell West, Ph.D. and Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in their classic book The War Against Parents, pointed out that in the early 1980’s the FCC relaxed its standards related to the use of violence, profanity, and adult situations on television. This was all done in the name of opening up broadcast competition. Unfortunately, we got what you see today: wave after wave of communications whose main purpose is to increasingly push the sordid, content envelope.

Powerful media and entertainment moguls use deregulation to exploit the public in many ways, all in the name of profit or a political agenda, and often for both.

Unintended Consequences

A reduction of restrictions on programming and on entertainment content does not result in greater competition, more variety in choices, or, for that matter, higher quality output. The harsh reality has been the opposite. Deregulation, in terms of content, has paved the way for less appealing parts of society to be showcased in the arts and entertainment arena.

Movies are a highly visible example of entertainment that perpetually is strewn with product placements — even to this day regarding cigarettes and alcohol. Often these products are endorsed in movies whose target audience is too young to discern their appropriateness. As such, the movie rating system, while relatively noble in spirit, does nothing to assure a parent of what his or her child will or will not see.

When my daughter was young, I selected movies for her produced before 1970, and certainly before 1960. Considering sex, violence, and language, I knew that I could allow her to watch such films with little supervision and not have to worry. For movies produced after 1980, I felt compelled to sit with her the entire time, to monitor and explain the variety of sights and sounds she was likely to encounter. Movies produced after 1990, and certainly after 2000? Forget about it.

I would sit with my finger on the fast-forward button, ready to shield her relatively innocent eyes and ears from what Hollywood has foisted upon society:

* Violent treatment of one person from another.
* Language that allegedly “spices up” but simply isn’t necessary in a movie.
* Gross distortions of everyday life.
* Glorification of the absurd, the illicit, the illegal, the deviant, or the macabre.

No Way Out

Movies which ostensibly produced for the children’s market border on the lewd. The “penis breath” dialogue in the widely-circulated, original version of ET, under the careful direction of no less than Steven Spielberg, remains, to this day inexcusable. In “R” rated movies, for example, which young teenagers see eventually, the ultra graphic slashing and beheading in Braveheart, (1995 Oscar winner for Best Picture) and the rape and hanging of a mother and child in Gladiator, (2000 Oscar winner for Best Picture) were supposedly high-minded movies.

And today? Television and movies in the 2020s are designed to shock, titillate, and arouse the viewing audience. The writers, directors, and producers of such movies seemingly lack the wit, creativity, and passion to convey horrendous events with anything other than up-close, in-your-face, overly graphic camera sequences that would do the 6 o’clock news camera crew proud.

Shame on them. Shame on us all.

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Faith

The Reason for the Season

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Every Christmas, it’s easy to complain about how commercialized the season has become. Santa seems to reign supreme with fewer and fewer nativity scenes gracing the lawns of neighbors. The news gives us all the bad news we need to feed our discontent. But we don’t always hear of the blessings of the season and the thousands of stories of people finding ways bless others in their midst.

Pastor Andy Stanley, of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, has a ministry that extends far beyond the churches that stream his weekly sermons. Many thousands look forward to his messages online. This year, in his first of three Christmas messages on “The Reasons for the Season,” he shared an observation that hit home.

He reminded listeners of a bumper sticker from the past that tried to bring Christ back into Christmas–“Jesus is the reason for the season.” Every saying captures a time but tends to run its course. You don’t see many of those bumper stickers today, but the sentiment remains.

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In his sermon, Andy questioned the validity of the statement. Jesus isn’t the reason for the season. Jesus didn’t come to be honored or adored at Christmas. The real reason for the season, the reason God sent his Son, is for YOU and ME. He came to be a blessing that by believing in Him we might have a personal relationship with God. But it came with mission—through faith we are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a blessing to others.

Isn’t that what Christmas is really supposed to be about for believers? We take time to remember the greatest Christmas gift of all—God sent his Son to be in our midst and call us to a life of faith and service.

Whenever I get discouraged watching the news, I remind myself that every day the media must search to find new material to grab our attention. Some days, it’s easy to find the catchy headlines to stir our anger and despair. Some days it is thankfully harder. For in reality there’s a lot more goodness and love out there than there is hatred and crime. But the good too often goes under reported.

In this Christmas season, maybe it is time for us to put more focus on some of the blessings that we so easily take for granted. For twenty-one Christmas seasons from 1994 to 2015, I sent out a Christmas ezine “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Starting 12 days before Christmas, I would send an email every day helping to keep Christ in Christmas. I would include a thought-provoking quotation, a mirthful moment of Christmas humor, and a story that captured a Christmas blessing. People not only treasured and shared the email messages, they sent their own stories and content for me to include.

Looking back at the hundreds of past messages, I was touched again by the stories of people blessing others during the Christmas season. I’ve decided that for the next two weeks we could do with a daily story to remind us to do the same.

I have already started posting on Facebook a Christmas story designed to remind us how we too, with our words and actions, can help transform this Christmas season into memories to be treasured. You can follow me on Facebook and like or share my posts. You may even want to take time to share your own favorite memories of people who lived out the Christmas spirit in reply. Let’s let our blessings be a bit more contagious by spreading them around.

To give you an example of the postings you can enjoy let me share a family tradition that you may want to consider using in your family. With inflation hitting our pocket books and our minds struggling to find that perfect gift, here is a gift that finds a way capture the love that often goes unsaid.

Years ago, Angela shared a treasured Christmas family tradition you may want to try: “I am the fourth oldest of nineteen children. We grew up on a farm and didn’t have much money to celebrate a traditional Christmas. Each year we wrapped old shoe boxes in holiday paper and put them under our tree. Each box had a child’s name on it and a slit in the top of the box. During the entire month of December we would take time out each night to write letters to the other siblings. Sometimes we would write poems or funny stories about that person and then place them in their box. On Christmas morning the family would gather. We would read out of the Bible, sing carols, and then open our boxes and read our letters. Now that we are no longer children, and we have lives of our own, it is still the highlight of the season to wake up Christmas morning to find the ‘box from home’ with all of the letters inside. It’s not the material gifts that we look for, it is the gifts from the heart.”

What are the gifts from the heart that you treasure this year? What personal stories from Christmases past could you share to remind others what Christmas truly is about. This Christmas, remember that you are blessed, but even more important, find ways to be a blessing every day.

For now, enjoy your daily dose of Christmas cheer at https://www.facebook.com/terry.paulson and repost it to those you love.

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