Monthly Archives

July 2011

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Give Them Choices


A Great Idea …

“By permitting your child to exercise some self-direction at home, you’ll help him develop, refine, and practice the skills you want him to be able to draw on when he’s not with his parents.” (Psychologist Laurence Steinberg, in his book The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting p.109)

In Other Words …

Giving children lots of opportunities to make choices can prepare them to be good decision makers. We can let little children decide what kind of sandwich they want for lunch. We can let older children decide which chores they want to be assigned. We can let teens decide where to do their homework.

How This Applies to You …

Find ways to let your child have some control over his or her life in the next week. You can still set limits, but let the child decide within those limits.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more in depth reading on parenting, we recommend The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting by Laurence Steinberg or Soft-spoken Parenting by H. Wallace Goddard.

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Cure For Irritation


A Great Idea …

“If looking on the bright side doesn’t come naturally to you, start with small steps. Make a list of your partner’s positive qualities-the things he or she does to contribute to your life together. Memorize this list and think about how much harder life would be without these positives. When you find yourself following a critical train of thought about your mate, use elements from the list to interrupt your thinking.” (John Gottman, Ph.D., marriage researcher, in his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail p. 183)

In Other Words …

Being irritated comes naturally to us humans-especially when we are tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or angry. We may get irritated a lot in family life. If we don’t want irritation to take over our relationships, we need to be prepared to defend against it. We need to have reminders of positives readily accessible to keep us from giving in to irritation and sliding into negativity.

How This Applies to You…

Sit down and make a list of positive qualities and experiences with your partner. You might consider sharing this list with your partner and telling him or her how much you appreciate these things. Keep the list handy to help you deal with those inevitable bad moods.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For excellent books focused on marriage, read Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

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No Shortcut to Happiness


A Great Idea …

“The belief that we can rely on shortcuts to gratification and bypass the exercise of personal strengths and virtues is folly. It leads…to legions of humanity who are depressed in the middle of great wealth and are starving to death spiritually.” (Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, p. 120)

In Other Words …

We like to find shortcuts to everything. Research has shown that there are no shortcuts to gratification, the fulfillment that comes from using our strengths and virtues. Gratification can only be achieved through designing our lives to use our strengths in productive activity.

How this Applies to You …

Rather than relying on shortcuts to happiness, such as television, web-surfing, or snacking, do something that builds a sense of accomplishment. You might make something, fix the plumbing, cook a favorite recipe, comfort a neighbor, or read a good book. Try it today. See if it doesn’t bring an abiding feeling of gratification.

To Find Out More …

For excellent (and free!) programs on improving your personal well being, check out The Personal Journey and Managing Stress at www.arfamilies.org.

For in-depth reading, we recommend Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman or Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

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Crying Over Spilled Milk


A Great Idea …

“From minor mishaps children can learn major lessons in values. Children need to learn from their parents to distinguish between events that are merely unpleasant and annoying and those that are tragic and catastrophic.” (Child psychologist, Haim Ginott, in his book, Between Parent and Child, p. 41)

In Other Words …

When we blow up over spilled milk (and other minor problems), we communicate that we care more about milk than about children and their feelings. There are better responses. When milk is spilled, we can say simply: “That’s a shame. Here’s a cloth.” We can offer gentle compassion and appropriate consequences-but blowing up is not helpful.

How This Applies to You …

The next time something happens that upsets you, stop. This is an opportunity to show your values. Offer compassion to your child. Invite him or her to help you solve the problem. You will feel much better and your child will learn what matters most.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more in-depth reading, we recommend Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott or Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.

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Finding Your Silver Lining


A Great Idea …

“The beauty of emotions is that they are highly individualized, depending more on your inner interpretations than on your outer circumstances.” (Barbara L. Fredrickson, Professor of Psychology, in her book, Positivity p. 40)

In Other Words …

We often think that we cannot help the way we feel about things. It turns out that the way we look at something has a greater impact on our emotions than the event itself. We can focus on the storm cloud or the silver lining. By finding positive things in even negative events, we can experience more of the life-building emotions, joy and peace.

How this Applies to You …

Next time a cloud threatens to block your view of the sun, look for the radiant beauty-the silver lining. What good things may come from the challenges you face? When you focus on them, you are less likely to get swamped by darkness.

To Find Out More …

For excellent (and free!) programs on improving your personal well being, check out The Personal Journey and Managing Stress at www.arfamilies.org.

For in-depth reading, we recommend Positivity by Barbara L. Fredrickson or Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman.

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Something Better Than Change


A Great Idea …

“[In times of conflict] the natural inclination is to try to change your partner, but efforts directed solely at such change often make the conflict worse. When you genuinely accept your partner, you may achieve peace from the conflict and, paradoxically, change from your partner.” (Andrew Christensen and Neil S. Jacobson in their book, Reconcilable Differences, p. 11)

In Other Words …

Acceptance is the gateway to marital satisfaction. When we try to force our partners to change, they are likely to feel threatened and become defensive, digging in their heels and refusing to budge. Change is most likely when our partners feel loved and accepted as they are.

How This Applies to You…

Next time you are tempted to demand changes from your partner, try acceptance instead. Consider the qualities you enjoy. Dwell on the good times you’ve shared. You can’t change your partner but you can change yourself and your way of thinking about your partner.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For an excellent book focused on marriage, read Reconcilable Differences by Andrew Christensen & Neil S. Jacobson or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

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Seeing the Forest in the Trees: The Sacred Invitation of the Temple



Several years ago I knew a man who said that he had mastered the temple endowment. I was intrigued. He claimed that he could sit down and sleep for an entire session with only minor interruptions. That was his definition of temple mastery. I once heard another man speculate that the LDS have temples to satisfy their relentless craving for busy-ness. And many times I have heard saints express that they don’t quite “get” the purpose of the temple endowment.

I am confident that God provided temples and their attendant ceremonies for higher purposes than napping or keeping ourselves busy. And I believe that we can each understand those purposes.

The temple is sacred, and we speak of its functions with reverence and caution. It is also a place where God teaches us lessons suited to our specific lives and readiness. I don’t claim to have the secrets to temple meaning. I certainly haven’t “mastered” God’s messages delivered in those sacred sanctuaries. Yet I hope it is appropriate to share some of what I have learned by going to the temple to be taught.

1. A new identity. The scriptures speak of receiving a new name (See Revelation 3:12, D&C 130:11). Names are related to identities, and we get names to capture and communicate our identities and relationships. Do we receive a new name in the temple to remind us of a heavenly life before this earthly one? Is a new name supposed to reinforce the idea that there is much more to our identities and personal stories than we know under our earthly names? Or maybe a new name reminds us that we are to become new creatures in Christ, leaving behind our old identities and self-definitions. Perhaps receiving a new name suggests all that and much more.

2. A special creation. The creation accounts in scripture are surprisingly similar to each other whether we reads the account in Genesis (chapter 1), Moses (chapter 2), or Abraham (chapters 4-5). Yet those accounts are different in intriguing ways from the creation story recounted in the temple. While the scriptural accounts focus on God (or the Gods) adjusting the lights and waters and installing animals on multiple days, the temple creation account has a different focus. It is simple, orderly, and hierarchal.

Why are the accounts different? I don’t have a definitive and authoritative answer. Yet it seems to me that the scriptural accounts are about creating worlds. Their advances and recursions are exactly what we might expect in an account of setting up a complex world populated with all manner of creatures. I think that the temple account is different because it is not about creating worlds but about creating gods. When we study the specific activities of each period of temple creation, God shows us a pattern for spiritual progression.

3. Covenants and promises. It is no small thing that God offers to make sacred covenants with us in the temple. Covenants are an invitation and contract for blessings. As we bind ourselves to God, we are connecting with the richest and most gracious Being in creation. We should rejoice to be invited into covenants with Him. As we strive to honor our covenants, He endows us with power from on High and He fills us with joy beyond description.

I believe that the temple sealing contains more glorious blessings per word than can be found anywhere else in this world. Consider the related promises in D&C 132:19: “Ye . . . shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.” When God says that He will install us among the great patriarchs of the human family, we should each gasp in humble wonder. God is determined to bless and redeem those who will come to Him.

4. The life-saving grasp of the atonement. In the temple we might have expected great sermons about the life of Christ, but God is the master teacher and has chosen another way. Rather than provide sermons, He uses the story of Adam to dramatize the path Home. However, the temple drama is not really Adam’s story; it is our story. Adam and Eve represent each of us. God is teaching each person who attends just how to find their way back to Him.

For example, when we have sinned, we are tempted to hide from God. That is foolishness because He is our only hope. In the temple, we are taught that we must run to God and bind ourselves to Him through covenants. In response, Jesus and His atonement get a tighter and tighter grasp on us, pulling us ever closer to Father.

5. Power in prayer. Many of our prayers are trite beg-athons that are devoid of power. In the temple, we are taught a special process and attitude of prayer. While the process may be restricted to use in the temple, the attitude should carry into our daily conversations with God.

I think that is exactly the point of the story of the brother of Jared. He was chided for failing to use the power of prayer. Then he launched a prayer that pushed him into the divine presence.

Through the brother of Jared’s example, we can identify four components of powerful prayer (See Ether 3): 1. Father, thou art holy and dwellest in the heaven. 2. We are fallen. Because of the fall our natures have become evil continually. 3. Look upon us in pity. Have mercy. 4. Grant according to our desires.

These four parts seem to me to correspond to the pattern taught in the temples of God. What a sacred gift that God has taught us how to access heavenly power!

6. The climax. The preparatory ordinances of the temple endowment feel like the beginning of a coronation. So we might have expected some ceremony or celebration upon our arrival in the Celestial room. Instead, the temple endowment concludes when we are pulled into God’s presence. We peacefully relax into the companionship of our Father and innumerable loved ones.

When we finally arrive in the Celestial Kingdom on high, a whole new set of lessons will prepare us for our work in eternity. Coming into the presence of God is the focus of temple worship on earth.

In the temple, we have the luxury of shutting off the mundane and profane chatter of daily life so that we can focus on God’s invitation to us. As each of us opens our hearts to Heavenly Father’s lessons, we will extract personal instructions and meanings. As we seek to see God’s purposes in temple ceremony, we will be tutored on the process and power for getting Home. I believe that the temples offer far more than a nap to those who seek to be taught from on High.

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What To Do When You Disagree


A Great Idea …

“So the issue is not whether you and your child will get into struggles; you will. The issue is how you will resolve them and how you and your child will feel when you walk away from the dispute…Children, in general, like to feel that their opinion was heard and considered (even if it didn’t carry the day), and they are more likely to comply in the future if they believe a dispute was handled fairly than if they think it was not.”  (Psychologist Laurence Steinberg, in his book The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting, pp. 98-99)

In Other Words …

Children need to feel respected just as much as we adults do. If our children don’t feel that they are being listened to, they will often become resistant, resentful, and rebellious. When we take time to understand and appreciate what our children have to say, they will be much more likely to respect our ultimate decisions. In our dealings with children, we are not only helping them make good decisions, we’re teaching them a process for understanding.

How This Applies to You …

The next time you and your child disagree on something, take time to hear and consider the child’s point of view. Describe back to the child what you like about his or her position. Then, if your view is different, tell why you favor the decision you do. You may not persuade your child but you can show respect.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more in-depth reading, we recommend The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting by Laurence Steinberg or Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott.

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In Response: Teaching Our Children to Love and Serve Each Other


We recently had one of our readers ask a challenging question. We felt like it would be useful to share her question and Dr. Wally’s response in hopes that others will find benefit from it.

Question:

I recently found you through an article you had published in Meridian Magazine. I am so grateful for the insights you share on the Internet so freely. I really appreciate your emphasis on compassion and empathy.

I know this is not an “Ask Dr. Wally” website so I feel rather presumptious asking you for some advice, but I am desperate enough right now in looking for new ideas to do so.

My oldest child who is almost 14 regularly and frequently insults his younger brother (who is almost 3 years his junior). He calls him “idiot” or “stupid” several times a day, particularly during the long summer vacation days. We have talked to our son on several occasions about compassion and caring about his brother, but the habit persists. For some time now, we have given him extra chores when the insulting continues (normally doing some of his younger brother’s work). I am just wondering if you have any other thoughts about the situation. I realize that there are limits on how much I can communicate about our specific family situation in a short comment. I am only asking this sort of question here because I deeply respect your views and I suspect that other parents might have issues with the same type of thing. No problem at all if you are not able to address this issue at this time. I would just love to hear any thoughts you have on raising teenagers either now or in the future.

Response:

Thank you for writing. You ask a challenging question.

The challenge for your older son is to develop more compassion. Yet our usual ways of lecturing children actually dull their compassion. This is not an indictment of you. This is the reality of the human condition. I don’t think the older boy will be able to show compassion until he has felt it. While you have probably shown him a lot of compassion, his behavior may be telling you that he is still hurting and he needs more.

I recommend that, next time he treats his younger brother badly, you take him aside for some one-on-one. Be sure to beg heaven to expand your wisdom and compassion. Then try to express to your son what he might be feeling.

“I guess your brother bothers you?”

“You’re feeling pretty frustrated with him?”

“Sometimes you wish he would leave you alone?”

(You can get great ideas for this by reading Between Parent and Teenager FREE at www.betweenparentandchild.com

Let him talk or clarify. Take as long as you need for your understanding and compassion to be fully felt by your older son. WHEN he feels understood, then you might say, “I can see that you’re having a hard time. I’m sorry about that and want to do anything I can to help. I wonder if we can think about what your comments are like for your brother.” Let him try to express how it might be affecting the picked-on brother. The purpose of all this is to give the older son compassion and then help him feel it for his brother.

Obviously this process takes time, wisdom, and inspiration. But it is likely to develop compassion. If your older son has practiced hard-heartedness for years, it may take a while to develop compassion. But he can learn to understand the real pain he creates when he treats his brother badly.

This does not mean that you have to allow older brother to abuse younger brother while he learns the lessons. You can set boundaries. You may say, “I understand that you have many challenges and that your brother bugs you. I need to ask you to avoid insulting him.” Help him see that he can take a break rather than attack and insult his brother. You may need to establish a consequence for violation of this rule. For example, if the older son insults the younger one, you might say, “Rats. That’s too bad that you were so overwhelmed that you broke our agreement. We need to establish some quiet time for you to think about this and get your feelings under control.” Quiet time might essentially mean that he is grounded for 24 hours and expected to take time to reflect on how to get his feelings under control. (Btw, the classic book on emotion coaching is Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.)

While God does have infinite compassion, He also imposes consequences for bad deeds.

Blessings to you,

Wally

Additional Reading:

I have written an article for the Ensign about cultivating compassion. While it is still in the process of being reviewed and edited, a very similar version of the article appeared on Meridian in two parts:

Part One

Part Two

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When Your Partner Hurts You


A Great Idea …

“See beyond your partner’s negative actions in the moment to the good intentions from which they spring or the positive consequences they sometimes have.” (Andrew Christensen in his book, Reconcilable Differences, p. 6)

In Other Words …

Even when our partners’ words and actions sting us, we can resist the urge to sting back. We can recognize that maybe they were trying to be helpful. Or maybe they didn’t know that their actions would hurt us.

When we react, we start a war that no one wins. By choosing to look for something helpful, we make it likely that our relationships will be stronger and happier.

How This Applies to You…

Next time you feel stung by your partner’s action, take a deep breath. Rather than defend yourself, put all your energy into understanding and appreciating your partner’s helpful intent.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For an excellent book focused on marriage, read Reconcilable Differences by Andrew Christenson & Neil S. Jacobson or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.