Q: I want to prepare my 11-year-old to resist the peer pressure I know she'll experience in her teen years. How can I help her develop the confidence to do that?
Jim: You're wise to be setting the foundation early. Far too many teenagers seem incapable of resisting their friends when it counts. The good news is your kids can learn to say "no." Just keep in mind that you have to let them start with you. Don't panic -- I'll clarify that in a moment.
The word "no" is an important boundary, and saying it is a crucial life skill. It's a way to separate ourselves from other people. Without it, we can't have our own opinions or beliefs, and our individuality gets swept away by others more willing to speak their minds. What's more, it's self-perpetuating -- when we aren't able to draw healthy boundaries, we can end up being pulled deeper and deeper into more and more situations that compromise our convictions.
Sadly, the reluctance to express an opinion often begins at home. When a child tells a parent "no" or disagrees over some matter, it's considered "backtalk." And how does the parent usually react? They stamp out the child's behavior with a stern warning that it had better never happen again. Is it any wonder, then, that kids dread taking a stand against the outside world when their opinion is so readily condemned by those closest to them?
For sure, a child shouldn't be allowed to speak disrespectfully to a parent or to dismiss their authority. But kids learn to take value in their opinions -- and themselves -- when their parents value their perspective. So, as long as your child behaves respectfully, allow her room to have an opinion, especially when it differs from yours. It'll give her the confidence to stand behind what she believes out in the real world when it counts most.
Q: My wife and I don't doubt that we were "made for each other." Still, approaching our third anniversary, we're shocked by how much tension we feel over small differences that were fascinating before we got married. Is this normal?
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Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: This is one of the most common questions I hear about marriage. For many of us, it's perplexing how qualities we found so attractive in our future spouse when we were dating became so irritating once we tied the knot. It's helpful to remember that "different" doesn't mean "wrong."
One of the toughest challenges for newlyweds is accepting their spouse's personality. Dating couples are usually so busy trying to impress each other they overlook their partner's quirks. But once the honeymoon is over, all those irritating habits can get pretty hard to live with.
And that's where many couples make a mistake that's fatal to their marriage. They allow their mate's personality to grate on their nerves. Left unchecked, resentment will build. And once resentment takes hold, a spouse's commitment to his or her relationship can quickly erode.
Needless to say, I think there's a better path. But it starts with having the right attitude toward your spouse. The key is to recognize that "different" doesn't have to mean "wrong." Our personality is what makes us uniquely who we are. And not only can a marriage handle two unique individuals, it can actually thrive on them.
True, learning to accept your spouse's personality quirks may take some patience and growth on your part. But it's an important step in cultivating variety in your relationship. After all, variety is the spice of life -- and a little spice can go a long way toward helping your marriage thrive.
For tips and resources to build a strong marriage, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.