Category: Parenting

Q+A: Keeping Love Alive When Focus is Elsewhere

Q: Gary, our kids are taking more and more time and my husband and I seem tired ALL of the time. How can we keep our love alive when all focus is going elsewhere?

Gary: Well if all focus is going elsewhere, you can’t keep love alive. there has to be time to stimulate love in a marriage relationship. It’s a matter of priorities. Listen, children are important, but marriage is the most fundamental relationship in a family. If the two of you grow apart, what is that going to do for your children?

I think you need to look again at your schedule. Make time. Put it on the schedule. “We’re going to have dinner on these nights this month,” “We’re going to do this,” etc. Make plans, spend time with each other. Get a babysitter! There are people who would be happy to watch your children while you go out together. You have to make time to have a loving marriage.

Q&A: Dealing with a Secretive Teen

Q: Gary, my teenager is somewhat secretive. How do I monitor their activity without violating trust?

Gary Chapman: I think teenagers being secretive often has to do with their whole move toward independence. This is a good shift because we want them to be independent by the time they’re 18 and moving on to college or joining the military. At the same time, if they’re being secretive about things that are detrimental to them, that’s a different matter. Even at the expense of their thinking you are violating their space, if you think something very negative is going on, you should violate their space. You should find out and confront them with it because you don’t want to let it get established as a habit in their lives.

53 Hours a Week

Is technology bringing your family closer together, or is it driving your family apart? The average American child spends 53 hours a week with media and technology. It is easy for parents to use the screen to entertain their children and keep them happy (which normally means quiet).

Screen time that is not purposeful tends to be a waste of time and a negative influence. Children are like wet cement, and many children are being imprinted by screens not by parents. In my book: Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen Driven World, Arlene Pellicane and I seek to give parents practical help with screen management.

Freedom of Religion

Parents often find themselves in conflict with their young adult children. Sometimes these conflicts focus on religion. They become involved in a different religion or a cult. How is the Christian parent to respond?

First, let me remind you that the greatest influence you have on your children’s religious beliefs happens in the first eighteen years of their lives. They have heard you and watched you for many years. The closer your practice is to your preaching, the more they respect your beliefs. If you have failed, it’s time to repent and apologize. Then, it’s time to listen and dialogue. The days for preaching are over. They are young adults and you must respect their freedom. It’s the same freedom that God gives to all of us.

In Conflict with Child’s Sexual Behavior

In the fifties it was called “shacking up”. Today it’s “cohabitation,” or simply “living together.” So what are Christian parents to do when they find themselves in conflict with their child’s sexual behavior? Some parents have tried the ‘ostrich’ approach, denying that it’s happening. Others take the ‘missile’ approach, launching verbal condemnation. I believe the Christian approach is to speak the truth in love. “I think you know that I don’t approve of what you are doing. I think it is detrimental to your future. But I know that you are an adult and I cannot make decisions for you. I do request that you respect our beliefs and not sleep together at our house.” Then treat the couple with love and respect. Pray, and give God a chance to work.

Understanding Homosexuality

I am meeting more and more Christian parents who are struggling in their efforts to understand homosexuality. Almost all parents – even those who say we should tolerate all lifestyles – will feel shock and deep pain if one of their children announces that he is homosexual. The initial reaction is that they have failed their child in some critical way. The fact is that research has failed to discover the causes of homosexuality. We simply don’t know why some people have “same sex” attraction. So what’s a Christian parent to do? The example of Jesus would lead us to spend time with them, communicate with them, and demonstrate love for them, even though we do not approve of their lifestyle.

Q&A: I’m The Disciplinarian

Q: As the mom, I have the reputation as the disciplinarian toward the kids while my husband is looked at as the “fun one” who stays out of conflict. What steps can we take to balance this out?

Gary: You and your husband need to talk. I think that one of the key issues is learning how to make rules together and decide on consequences together. So that no matter who is at home the same consequence for the same crime is going to be dished out. You’ll find a lot of help in the book, The 5 Love Languages of Children, where we deal with making rules and consequences. I suggest you discuss that chapter together.

Positive Influence

Children are greatly influenced by parents. We want to make sure that the influence is positive. First, we love our children. Then, we train them. Training involves having rules and setting consequences. Never make a rule without also telling the child what will happen if they break the rule. Then, consistently apply the consequences. If you don’t put your bicycle away at night, you loose the privilege of riding the next day. Setting the consequences will keep the parent from over-reacting in the heat of the moment. Kindly and firmly applying the consequences will teach your child responsibility. Make life easier for everyone: have clear rules and reasonable consequences.

Developing Responsibility

If we want our children to become responsible adults, we must teach them when they are young. Requiring a child to ‘make his bed’ or vacuum her floor are first steps in developing responsibility. And what of good manners? Corporate America is now hiring ‘etiquette trainers’ because employees don’t know the simply rules of courtesy. If as parents we believe that ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ are better than ‘gimmie’ and ‘yuck,’ then we have rules that teach such manners. Rules must be clearly explained to children. Unspoken rules are unfair rules. In most cases, parents are older than children. So, they have the responsibility to make rules that will protect and guide the child.

Discipline Is Not a Negative Word

The word discipline is not a negative word, nor is it to be equated with spanking or yelling at children. The word discipline means literally “to train”. Without positive discipline children will self-destruct; they cannot train themselves. Training begins with love, followed by a clear statement of the rules. There are some things we do and some things we don’t do. Rules should always be reasonable. Some rules keep children from danger. “Look both ways before crossing the street.” Some rules protect property. “Never play baseball in the back yard.” Some rules teach children responsibility. “Always put the football in the garage when you finish playing.” Simple rules develop character and responsibility.

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