Q: Probably like most parents, we want our kids to learn and develop good character. We also want to protect them from ever getting hurt. With so much pain in the world, I think it's important to shield our children as much as we can. But how can we do that?
Jim: Actually, the greatest teacher you can invite into your home is consequences. Children will alter their behavior when the pain of their choices causes them to think, "I don't want that to happen again."
But a lot of moms and dads find it hard to let their children struggle. They swoop in and short-circuit the process before the child learns a single lesson. They rescue their child from pain, but they increase the odds that he or she will make the exact same mistake again.
Every parent should understand that there are two forms of pain: hurt and harm. And there is a very real difference between them.
Hurt is normal to life. It's like the soreness you feel when you work a muscle. There's no damage being done, but you can barely get out of bed in the morning.
Harm, on the other hand, indicates something destructive is happening. It's like climbing a mountain or running a marathon with a broken ankle.
We should protect our children from harm, but not necessarily from hurt. Negative consequences don't damage a child, but they do make him reconsider whether his choices were worth the trouble. Hurt is how children learn to make better decisions that will bring about more positive consequences.
As long as your kids' choices only hurt, let them learn from their mistakes whenever possible. The consequences of one poor decision will teach your children more than 1,000 lectures.
Q: Can you give me some tips for communicating with my husband? Sometimes when I want to talk about my day or share something important, he seems to just check out. I can tell he's trying to engage, but after a few minutes it's obvious I've lost him. Help?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: A few things come to mind. First, women seem to easily shift from topic to topic during a conversation. I'm sure this ability originates in the same part of the brain that allows you to multitask so effectively. However, covering multiple topics overwhelms the average man -- that's when our eyes glaze over. Try to finish one thought and topic before moving on to the next.
Also, most men don't realize that women use conversation to explore and organize their thoughts. We guys don't really understand that when you tell a story with details, you're discovering how you feel. Sharing details and the finer points of an experience may help you feel connected with your husband, but you're not speaking his language. Right or wrong, this is why he checks out or interrupts you once he has heard enough or feels overwhelmed by a high word count. So try offering a "diet story" -- meaning that you edit the details or trim back excessive words to keep him engaged in your account.
Finally, most guys are highly sensitive to criticism, implied disrespect or feeling like a failure. If you start a conversation with something like "You didn't..." or "We need to talk!" it emotionally shuts us down. According to research, the first three minutes of a discussion are a very reliable indicator of how things will go. The key is how you initiate the conversation. If your husband feels that your start-up is harsh, he will most likely stay silent, exit the conversation or get angry. A softened start-up -- gentle voice, kind facial expressions, relaxed body language -- goes a long way.