Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holidays and In-Laws

As my semester winds down and I find myself buried in papers to edit and grade, finale exams to prepare, and 100 students concerned about grades they should have been concerned about 10 weeks ago, I find myself pondering that in the middle of all that, I must prepare for the holidays. Thanksgiving will occur in between grading papers and final exams. Then when my exams are over, the Christmas rush will begin.

I know that my story is not unique. All of you have busy schedules, no matter how much we tell ourselves we need to slow down.

So, when this article came through my e-mail inbox, I thought I should share it here.
I hope it helps at least one family navigate those tricky in-law issues during the holidays!

As my papers slow down and final exams are created, I'll be back with more tips for communication successfully in our families.

Until then, enjoy your November!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sweet and Salty Words

Yin and Yang. Black and White. Discipline and Reward. 

Our lives often seem to be held in a balance. Every day we have a series of choices to make that govern the path of our lives.

The same is true in our communication. In the field of interpersonal communication, we are aware that people face opposites every day, but they occur in a "both/and" format. For instance, at times I want to be with my partner, while at the same time I want time apart from my partner. I want to be with you, but I want time alone. These dialectics, as they are called, occur in various parts of our relationships, and between those in relationship and their social world.

We see evidence of this "both/and" concept in today's verse: "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6) that speaks directly to the concept of opposites presenting a choice in our lives.

Let's unpack this a bit and see how we can live Paul's direction.  According to Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, "Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, and keeps it from corrupting."
My New American Standard Bible (study version) says that the salt is used for preserving, as in with meat. 

In looking at these two sources, it seems that our words should be both sweet and salty. I'm picturing a good piece of ginger-pistachio chocolate bark right now! Lots of salty pistachio with sweet, tangy ginger wrapped up in dark chocolate. Can you feel all those tastes and textures?

The way we talk with people should be just like that. We should be sweet (gracious, kind, loving, understanding; think Proverbs 4:7 - Wisdom is the main thing; Therefore get wisdom; And in all your getting, get understanding.) We should also be salty (lively, preserving, life-giving, ready to give an account for what we believe, wholesome, filled with Truth). 

We can be both at one time. We can speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) in all that we do. When we do this, we will know how to answer each person. Too often, I think I am trying to come up with the "right" answer, instead of the answer that is both sweet and salty - and in line with what God wants - the truth in love. When we focus on answering the way we learn from Colossians and Ephesians  we will know what to say...whether to our spouse, kids, or friends. 

Happy Communicating,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Where Do a Fool's Lips Walk?

After beginning this week in the book of Proverbs, I decided to camp out here for the week. Proverbs is filled with simple, realistic advice about how to handle our relationships. While some people advocate reading one chapter for each day of the month (there are 31 chapters), I find that too much to chew at one time. I prefer to dig into just a few verses at a time to really implement the lessons. 

Today's lesson is about fools. I know, WE aren't fools. But we certainly know who ARE!

So, whether the fool is US or THEM, Solomon tell us that, 
"A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating." (Proverbs 18:6)

In this case a fool refers to unwise or ungodly people. These wise or ungodly people are quick to quarrel. 

I don't know about you, but I never intend to let my foolish lips walk into an argument. Yet, I consistently jump to being defensive, instead of listening first. I assume that friends and loved ones might be insulting me instead of seeking to understand their perspective first (Proverbs 4:7). 
My experience tells me that when my foolish lips walk into a fight, the consequences are not pleasant. While those consequences don't lead to beatings in my life, they do lead to damaged relationships. In many ways, when I speak foolishly, my relationship is the one to suffer the beating. There are far too many people who want to see our families fall apart. We shouldn't be sabotaging them from within.

In light of this knowledge, today I'm in prayer to understand my loved ones and implement another wonderful Proverb: 
"Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." (Proverbs 141:3)


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver

      Many years ago, I became interested in studying how families can talk with each other to be happier, peaceful, and more productive. After formal schooling, this study led me back to the Bible. What does the Bible say about how we can have happier, more fulfilling family relationships?

One of the first verses that leapt out for me was Proverbs 25:11 - “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” King Solomon, the author of this proverb, tells us in Proverbs 8:19 that silver and gold are the fruit of wisdom. If a word is “aptly spoken,” it happens at just the right time and circumstance. So here we learn that saying the right thing at the right time is very wise. 

      I find these opportunities come when I least want them, however…when it’s late and a child has worked very hard on homework for hours, yet I want to push her to the shower instead of taking a moment to praise her perseverance. . .  when my child responds with joy instead of frustration to his younger sibling’s fit throwing and I'm tempted to only address the fit and not the wise response. 

     The examples are everywhere in our lives. Proverbs 25:11 reminds us to take that extra second to praise what is good about our spouse and children. 

How can you incorporate Proverbs 25:11 into your family this October? 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Summer Fun

As we head into summer, I know most parents feel a mix of emotions. They love to be with their kids, but also need to figure out what to DO with their kids all summer. This is especially challenging for those parents who work through the summer.

Before school ends is the perfect time to ask your kids what THEY would like to do this summer. Be sure they know in advance that everything they want may not happen! Think of it like brainstorming. Talk with each child and have him tell you five things he would love to do this summer. One of you write them down. Then go through the list and pick the ones that are doable for your family. That may be one item...three...or all five! Pick what can work for you.

Ask why your child wants to do the things on the list. What makes those items special? Your goal is to understand how your child thinks and what she values. You are not critiquing their choices or reasons.

Then, make plans to do the item(s) you can do. Your child will love that you took the time to talk to her and you will build trust and respect as you do the activities they requested. In the process, you'll have fun over the summer.

Happy Summer Planning!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Great big THANK YOU!

Sending out a great big THANK YOU to St. Barnabas Episcopal School in DeLand today. The asked me to come speak to parents about successful family communication. I felt like it went well and hope the participants came away with some useful tools for improving their family.

If you would like a speaker for your event or organization, please see the 'Speaker Services' tab at the top.

Happy Communicating!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tips for Effective Family Decision Making

As we near the end of the school year, it seems like more decisions need to be made: what will we do this summer? Will we take a vacation? If so, to where and for how long? How much money do we have to spend? Will the kids go to camps? Can we take any time off? Just making that list exhausts me...not to mention actually making the decisions. 

And, of course, decisions must be made all year. Families are no strangers to decision making. Yet not all families make decisions successfully. Sometimes one person just chooses what he or she wants and that's it. Other times the kids make decisions. Some families have a family meeting to discuss options (more on family meetings in a future post!). 

No matter what your past style of family decision making, here are some tips for improving the process. 


  1. Create a sense of justice by treating family members equally, regardless of sex or power resources. Even children who do not have much influence can be treated with respect. 
  2. Create a sense of autonomy by respecting each family member’s rights to free choices in order to carry out actions that enhance their lives (this includes giving adolescents a full understanding of consequences of approved options and letting them decide and then face consequences). Not everyone has to agree. And that's okay! Most people simply want the right to feel how they feel. Seek to understand each other before determining whose ideas feed the end goal best. 
  3. Create a sense of caring by helping other family members achieve their goals (even if they aren’t OUR goals). If someone brings up an unrelated issue during a discussion, make a note and be sure to get back to it. Our spouses and children will be so glad we took their concerns seriously
  4. Create an awareness of which decisions lead to actions and behaviors that harm family members or put them at risk. If someone is fearful of a particular option, don't go that route. If a family member feels at risk, trust plummets. 
  5. Create a sense of loyalty by keeping promises. James 5:12 says  “Let your yes be yes and your no be no." This means that we do what we say see will and don't do what we say we won't. So think carefully before saying yes or no! 
As you can see, these strategies require some family time. Designate someone to take notes. We have a sliding glass door and we occasionally use window markers to make notes there. It's a fun way to keep a visible record of our ideas. If everyone's ideas go on the board, then everyone feels valuable. And we are all valuable. 

Happy Communicating!


Thank you to my faithful followers who have stood by me through the years. 

I've taken some time off, but I'm back. In getting other areas of my life under control, I needed to let some things go. Recently, God has shown me that He wants me to continue teaching others about successful family communication, so I'm excited to begin again. 

I'm adding a new post today, so please check it out. Today I'll be talking about some tips for successful decision making. 

Happy Communicating!