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How To Cope With an Embarrassing Incident

Dear Dr. Bill,

Our 9-year-old, who had always been very independent, became sick while eating out at a restaurant three months ago. Since that time, she has been extremely resistant to things that never bothered her before. She doesn’t want to eat out, she asks for notes to get out of gym class, and she doesn’t want to venture from home.  What do you suggest?

–Terry

Dear Terry,

From your description, it sounds like the “restaurant incident” was quite traumatic for your daughter.  If she already leans toward self-consciousness, she now may be fearful of suffering another embarrassing moment in public.  It’s likely she’s trying avoid any situation where she could possibly be scrutinized or subject to embarrassment.

Right now needs an extra measure of your patience, love and encouragement.  Spend some time processing what actually happened in the restaurant.  Encourage your daughter to talk about the emotions she felt.  Was she scared, embarrassed, or feel out-of-control?

Be careful not to “correct” or minimize her emotions by telling her “you shouldn’t feel that way.”  Instead, empathize with her feelings of fear or embarrassment.  This may help her to better understand and emotionally process the experience.

Also, don’t reinforce her avoidant behavior by giving in to her requests to stay away from all social situations.  If you continually allow her to “escape” you will only compound the problem.

Be caring but firm, and insist that she return to her previous schedule and the activities that you know she enjoys.  If she needs a little “hand holding” at first, that’s okay, but eventually insist that she demonstrate the independence she displayed before she became ill in the restaurant.

If the behavior persists, consult with a child psychologist or family therapist.

Thanks for writing, Terry.  I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Winning Mealtime Battles

Dear Dr. Bill,

Do you have any suggestions for encouraging a 5 year old boy to eat without it becoming a huge issue?

–Kim 

Dear Kim,

Judging from your question, it sounds like mealtime for your 5 year old has already become an issue.

Many parents give in to their child’s finicky eating patterns when they are toddlers.  They let their child dictate what they will eat, how much they will eat, and when they will eat it.  Now that your son is 5, he’s had his way for several years and he’s pretty much running the show.

It’s time for you to regain your role as parent, and show your little guy who’s boss.  Your job is to provide him with a variety of healthy foods at predictable meal times, and his job is to eat them.

If he decides he doesn’t like what the rest of the family is eating and insists on something different, don’t give in to him.  Simply inform him that this is what the family is eating for dinner tonight, and there are no other options.

If your son decides he wants to go on a hunger strike, let him.  Wrap up his dinner, put it in the fridge, and let him know that when he gets hungry you’ll heat it up for him.  Then you need to stick to your guns, no matter how much he whines and complains.

Whatever you do, DON’T allow him to snack on anything else.  Your son won’t starve, trust me.  The amazing thing about the stomach…eventually it contracts and sends strong signals to the brain that can’t be ignored. At that point, even cold mashed potatoes look good.

Thanks for writing, Kim.  I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Kids & Dieting

You’ve heard a lot about childhood obesity, but what do you do if one of your kids is overweight? The actions you take can have a lifelong impact—for better or worse.

Research shows the way we communicate to our kids makes all the difference. Talking to children about dieting, telling them they’re too fat, or nagging them to lose weight actually increases the risk of eating disorders, unhealthy dieting, or binge eating. Plus it devastates their emotional health.

So what should you do? Talk to your kids often about the importance of healthy nutrition, exercise and sleep. Help them make good choices—without adding weight or size to the conversation.

But, more than your words, your kids need you to take the lead. Your actions always speak louder than your words, and will feed them a good example.

Stronger Families. Stronger Communities. I’m Dr. Walt Larimore for Shine dot FM.

You can read additional blogs by Dr. Larimore on this topic here. Just scroll down the home page to find and click on the article in which you’re interested. In addition, you can see Dr. Walt’s twice-daily devotional, Morning Glory, Evening Grace, here. Last, but not least, limited numbers of autographed copies of Dr. Walt’s books are available here.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Breaking Destructive Family Patterns

Dear Dr. Bill,

I grew up in a home where I received a lot of verbal abuse from my parents.  I’m now a mother of a three-year-old, and lately I’ve caught myself saying things to her that I’m not proud of.  Can you tell me what I can do to change?

–Karen

Dear Karen,

The words we use when speaking to our children are extremely powerful. If we constantly belittle and criticize them, we set the stage for low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and shame, even problems with anxiety and depression later in life.

We should be our children’s biggest cheerleaders…affirming them when they succeed and encouraging them when they fail.

The bible commands not to “exasperate our children” (Ephesians 6:4) and to let our “gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5).

Based on your e-mail, it sounds like you may be repeating some of the negative behavior patterns you experienced growing up.  The best way to break out of those negative patterns is to do the work necessary to understand how your past has affected you.

If you grew up in a home where you were constantly criticized, put down, or verbally abused, it’s important to grieve that fact honestly and understand how it has affected you.

Then you need to repent of any sinful behavior on your part, ask the Lord’s forgiveness, and make the changes necessary to break patterns of generational sin.

Joining a support group or seeing a Christian therapist would be a helpful first step.

By the way, an excellent book on this topic is “Verbal Abuse,” by Dr. Grace Ketterman. Thanks for writing, Karen.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The Impact of Mobile Technology on Teens and Young Adults

What impact is mobile technology having on teens and young adults?

According to a new study from Kent State University, the more time college students spend talking, texting, Facebooking or surfing the Internet on their smartphones, the more likely they are to be anxious, unhappy and get lower grades.

Plugged In.com reports on the research, in which students kept a record of their mobile phone use.  They also took psychological tests designed to measure anxiety and life satisfaction.

Andrew Lepp, the co-author of the study says “The lower frequency users use their phone to keep in touch, check the Web and update Facebook but they can put it away and get on with other tasks.”

“But the higher users are not able to control it and are glued to the cellphone. They need to unplug and find some personal time where they can disconnect from the network.”

Dr. Lepp says we all need time to be alone with our thought and recover from the daily stresses of life in a way that doesn’t involve electronic media.

Meanwhile, some teenagers are sleeping with their cellphones—and sending texts during the night without any memory of it the next morning.

Dr. Gerald Rosen, who leads the pediatric sleep disorders program at Children’s Hospitals of Minnesota, believes teens are being conditioned to respond to their phones almost like a mother responds to her baby.

He says “If you’re a mother, you awaken to the sound of your child crying.  Even if it’s not a loud noise, it will trigger an awakening. That’s essentially what’s happening with lots of kids with their phones.”

Dr. Rosen also believes there are deeper problems to explore when anyone is so attached to a piece of technology that they have to sleep with it.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

One of the Best Gifts You Can Give Your Kids in 2014

Happy New Year!  If you’re a parent, here’s one of the best New Years’ resolutions you can make.  It’s giving your kids your TIME.

A few years ago, some so-called parenting experts who told us that our kids really need is QUALITY time, not QUANTITY time.

I’m convinced they came up with that slogan to make overworked, overcommitted parents feel better about themselves.  They also wanted them to feel less guilty about sticking their kids in daycare from sunrise to sunset.

But the reality is you can’t have QUALITY time without QUANTITY time.  Quality time only occurs in the context of QUANTITY time.

For some of us, that means we need to take a hard look at our schedules.  We may need to cut back on some of the activities we enjoy or that we think are so important.

And yes, that might even mean cutting back on ministry activities, if they are interfering with our ability to be available to our kids.

And just because you are PHYSICALLY present, doesn’t mean you are truly present.  Technology and entertainment are big culprits in that area.

Research shows that in the average American home, the TV is on 49 hours per week.  But sadly, the average parent only spends 39 MINUTES per week in meaningful conversation with their kids.

And how much time are you spending on Facebook these days?  In a recent survey of social media users, more than 40% of women referred to themselves “Facebook addicts.”

For more advice on spending quality AND quantity time with your kids, go to focusonthefamily.com.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

“Help—My 12-year-old Daughter Needs Me to be With Her All the Time!”

Dear Dr. Bill,

My middle child is a 12-year-old girl named Audrey.  Over the past few months she’s been dealing with separation anxiety — she doesn’t want me to leave the house without her.  She says she misses me and that when we’re apart, she feels like I don’t love her.  Nothing has changed in our family life during this time, and our household seems “normal” with a great husband and three children.  What should I do?

–Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

If it’s true that nothing has changed at home, then there is a possibility that something has changed in your daughter’s school environment or that she’s experienced some type of stressful event that you don’t know about.

The first thing to do is to talk your daughter about the changes in her behavior.  You might say something like “Honey, lately I’ve noticed that it’s really hard for you to do things on your own or be apart from me.  I’m wondering if you’ve been feeling scared or worried about something in your life.”  If she says “no,” don’t push her, but reassure her that she can talk to you about anything at all, anytime.

Also, could it be that you aren’t actually spending enough time with her?  If you work outside the home, have your hours increased?  Have you or your daughter become so busy with activities outside the home that you spend very little time together?

If it’s simply a matter of clinginess, make sure to praise her when she acts independently or succeeds at doing things on her own.  Even if she takes small steps in that direction, let her know that you’re proud of her for showing initiative and independence.

Also, schedule regular mother-daughter time with her.  This should be one-on-one times, with no other family members present.  It can be as simple as taking a walk together one day each week, reading a book together for 30 minutes on a weeknight evening, or a trip to the grocery store together.

If the problems persist, I would encourage you to consult with a family therapist.

Thanks for writing, Stephanie.  I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

New Year’s Advice for Christian Parents

As we get ready to kick off a new year, here’s a question for you:  do you want your kids to grow up with a strong, vibrant, Christian faith?

If so, you’ll need to be intentional about building healthy, lasting relationships with other Christian families.

When I was growing up, we knew our neighbors.  My parents watched out for the other kids in the neighborhood and the other parents on the block watched out for us.

If my brother and I were doing something we weren’t supposed to be doing and someone spotted us, my parents would get a call from one of those neighbors.

I believe my brother referred to them as “snitches” or “narcs.”  ;-]

But today, the sad truth is that in most suburban neighborhoods we DON’T know our neighbors—or at least we don’t know many of them.

Neighbors come home at the end of the day and the garage door goes up, the car pulls in, and the garage door goes down.

In our disconnected world we need to be deliberate about building solid relationships with other Christian parents who share our values regarding things like entertainment, internet use, drug and alcohol use and sexual purity.

By the way, new research has found that if teenagers have other Christian adults in their life who care about them—in addition to their mom and dad—they are much LESS likely to abandon their faith when they go off to college.

Drs. Chap Clark and Kara Powell at the Fuller Youth Institute recommend that in addition to their parents, every Christian teen should have 5 other adults in their life who will commit to building relationships with them.

These adults can pray for that young person, be a listening ear during times of conflict, and reinforce the values held by the teen’s own parents.

To learn more about this research, go to stickyfaith.org.  I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The “Jesus” vs. “Santa” Controversy

Dear Dr. Bill,

Before our kids were born, my wife and I decided we wouldn’t teach them about Santa Claus — because we didn’t want him to replace Jesus as the reason for this season.  But we’ve been getting criticism from our family, friends and now even from members of our own church.  They say that we’re spoiling our kids’ imagination.  I’m frustrated because I feel like my church, the one place that should encourage the truth, is betraying me!  What should I do?

–Sam

Dear Sam,

I appreciate your dedication to biblical truth, but frankly, I think you need to relax.  Here’s how you might talk to your kids about this the Santa vs. Jesus controversy:

“It’s fun to believe in Santa, but we know that believing in Jesus is what’s most important.  He is our Lord and Savior, and a relationship with him gives our lives true meaning and purpose.

Families all over the world have stories about a person like Santa Claus, and young children love to believe in him.  Santa represents good things, like kindness, generosity, and joy.”

You can also tell your children about the real Saint Nicolas, who Santa Claus is based on.  He was born in Turkey, about two hundred years after Jesus.  He was a Christian, and when he was a teenager he heard about a poor family that couldn’t afford to buy food.

He sneaked up to their house one night and tossed a handful of gold coins through the window. They were overjoyed when they found the coins the next morning, but they never learned who did it.

Nicholas was so thrilled about helping a family in need that he dedicated his entire life to giving to others.

Thanks for writing, Sam.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give Your Kids This Year

What’s one of the best Christmas gifts you can give your kids this year?

Well, it’s NOT an i-phone, i-pod, or i-pad…or a deluxe Rainbow Loom set for your 7-year-old daughter!

It’s making faith relevant in your home.

Unfortunately, several studies show that a large number of Christian teens are abandoning their faith in college.  And new research indicates that many of these kids aren’t coming back to the church—or to Christianity.

That’s why it’s crucial for us to be intentional about passing our faith to our children.

If our Christianity is limited to an hour or two on Sunday mornings, our kids will come to view our faith as hypocritical and meaningless.

Also, research conducted at the University of North Carolina shows that teens who are actively involved in a faith community are much less likely to be involved in some of the risky behaviors that so many kids fall victim to these days.

Also, if you have a tee or pre-teen at home—it is VITAL for them to be involved in a healthy, discipleship-oriented youth group.

And of course PRAYER is critical in making faith relevant in your home.

Pray for your kids, and pray WITH your kids.  And as you pray, ask God to help you provide your children with the kind of unfailing love and clear moral guidance that they’ll need to survive in a world that is full of a bunch of dangers and temptations.

An excellent place to go for resources that will help you be more intentional about passing on your faith is Focus on the Family.  I’ll admit that I’m kind of partial to that ministry since I worked there for 8 years.  You can reach them at 1-800-A-FAMILY and find them on the web at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.