How to Destroy Your Marriage

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If you want to know what the Bible says about marriage there are many places to look for answers. None, however, sums up the advice I seem to always fall back on when counseling married couples in need better than this one section of Proverbs 24:

If you will allow me to paraphrase for our purposes….

One day I walked by the relationship of a very passive, lazy husband,
    and then noticed the home of his very busy, distracted wife;
They were overgrown with problems,
    thick with dissension, all the protective fences broken down.
I took a long look and pondered what I saw;
    their marriage preached me a sermon and I listened:
“It’s not that bad, I’ll work on it later, let’s not rock the boat,
    sit back, take it easy, maybe it will go away” we convince ourselves —do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to an unfulfilling, unhappy marriage,
    with disappointment as your permanent houseguest!”

An unattended lawn will grow thick with weeds, vines and thorns. An unmaintained car will end up on the side of the highway. A neglected, unmaintained marriage will eventually end up in ruin: unfulfilling, unhappy and broken.

A healthy relationship requires work. Like a lawn or a vehicle, it needs regular attention to keep “running” properly. Don’t ever assume you can coast your way to a great marriage. Work at it regularly – before troubles overtake you – and see how God will bless you for it.

Those who work their land will have abundant food – Prov. 28:18

 

Start today,

 

Rob

3 Things to Never Do When You Disagree

 

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We all disagree. When a disagreement happens, the last thing you really want to do…is have it escalate into an argument. So…don’t do any of these……

Start an argument – all married couples disagree on things. This is normal. What is not normal and not Biblical, is to allow these disagreements to escalate into arguments. Arguing involves raising voices, threatening body language, anger, and harsh words – but above all, arguing involves selfishness. We argue typically because we think we’re right, or won’t bend on our demands or expectations (see James 4). So, if you find yourself in a disagreement, or should I say “when” you find yourself in a disagreement, take the time to pray together before things have a chance to escalate. Simply grab each other’s hand and ask God for direction and wisdom as you discuss the issue at hand. You will be surprised how many issues never escalate into arguments again, and also how much closer you will feel as a couple.

Assume you are right – we all have a tendency to assume we are right. Whether we’re driving, or playing or embroiled in a conversation – our way is the “best” way by default. We are born selfish and it really shows when someone challenges us or disagrees with us. As was mentioned in point #1, because of this natural bent, we dig in our heels and fight for what is “right”. It takes a real man/woman of character and maturity to have the courage to set their way aside and honestly listen and consider another person’s feelings, insights and desires. Remember – God put the two of you together to be “one” and to work together as a team to glorify Him in your relationship. Sometimes you will actually be right. Sometimes your spouse will have a way that will work better than yours. We have to be mature enough to work together and embrace each other’s opinions and feelings in order to make progress on our journey.

Walk away – when confronted with a differing opinion or challenging point of view, some of us have a tendency to simply walk away. We tell ourselves that our retreat is going to help matters by diffusing the situation and that somehow by avoiding the issue it might magically go away. Problem is – it never does. If your spouse is having a problem, or wants to talk through a troubling issue, he or she will only be exasperated by you avoiding it. This is never the answer. Even if you are a peacemaker or a harmonizer personality, you have to have the courage to hear out your spouse, accept their viewpoint as what they really think and feel – and then, in love, respond. Again, the goal is not to be right. The goal is oneness, harmony and the glory of God.

Arguing doesn’t ever solve anything. Arguing inflames. Arguing separates. Arguing damages. And arguing does not glorify God.

The only way to avoid arguing is to walk in the Spirit. A sure sign of not walking in the Spirit – is finding yourself arguing. When that happens – take the opportunity to reconnect with God before re-engaging with your spouse. What is at stake is not the problem at hand, but your personal walk with Him. Always look vertically before your look horizontally at your spouse. He/she is not the problem.

Keep these scriptures in mind when you are tempted to fight for your rights during your next disagreement….

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

Starting a quarrel (argument) is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Proverbs 17:14

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  I Peter 5:5

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

 

Rob

Lies Couples Believe

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We have all heard lies, half-truths and inaccuracies our entire lives. They started when we were kids (“don’t cross your eyes or they will stick that way”) and continue today as adults (“there is no difference between men and women”).

Married couples bring these into their relationships and seem to add more to the pile along the way. Here are five that are particularly dangerous to fall for:

  1. My spouse will make me happy. Some interpret this to also mean my spouse will fulfill all my expectations, needs and desires. Trouble is – they don’t. The truth is – they can’t. God didn’t create your spouse to do these things. Yes, they will hake you happy often and many times meet and exceed your expectations. But only God can make you truly happy (‘blessed, fulfilled’). Until we put Him first in our daily lives, we will never find true meaning and happiness in life.
  2. Marriage shouldn’t be hard. This is actually code for : I didn’t think I was going to have to work at this. Truth is – life is hard, and therefore marriage is too. Marriage takes work and in order to enjoy it as it was created and intended – each spouse has to diligently work at it. If they don’t, they will drift slowly apart until they barely recognize each other. God didn’t design marriage to be hard (Genesis 1-2), but because of the fall of Adam/Eve, it became obvious that two selfish people living together for a lifetime was going to be extremely difficult. Also see 1 Corinthians 7:28.
  3. Christian couples shouldn’t disagree and argue. I agree that Christian couples shouldn’t argue, but it is nearly impossible to agree on everything for a lifetime. How we handle this disagreement is the key. We must allow the Spirit to direct our words, responses, reactions, tone, body language, etc. or we will find that our flesh (selfishness) will easily take charge and make small matter into large ones.
  4. The relationship is over if you “fall out of love”. My wife and I hear this over and over as we mentor couples of all ages. “I just don’t love him/her any more”. God would remind you that marriage isn’t about love – it’s about Him and His glory. Feelings of love will rise and fall over the lifetime of your marriage, but those feelings are not the gauge by which you measure your marriage. Once again, if each spouse is putting their relationship with Christ as their #1 priority, this will not become an issue. Seek Him first and he will provide everything we need in our marriage. (Matt.6:33)
  5. Satan doesn’t exist and therefore isn’t a viable threat. What a huge lie from the “father of lies”. Believers are told often and specifically about the spiritual war that rages around us, the authority and weapons we have at our disposal, and the armor we are to wear every day in order to remain victorious. Denying this truth or simply hiding our head in the sand and hoping it doesn’t affect us – will be disastrous. There are many books, dvds and other resources available that will teach you more about this warfare and how to fight it. If we don’t believe we have an enemy who hates us and is out to destroy us and our marriages – we will remain in a powerless struggle to find fulfillment in our marriage.

We are told several times in the Bible to “be alert”, to “be on guard”, or to be deliberate in how we live. We are not on a Christian cruise ship, sailing through life hearing great music and messages until we pull into port in heaven. Jesus called us to battle. Our personal, daily relationship with Christ is our primary battlefront, but our marriage is #2. Satan hates marriage and always has. He will continue to destroy it any way he can. Don’t fall for the lies, and stay in God’s Word every day so you know what the truth is and how to live in it.

Blessings,
Rob

 

The Top 3 Ways to Love Your Wife

 

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The Bible says much about loving our spouse. Yes, this goes both ways, but God has some specific commandments for husbands. These are not “holy suggestions” as we will be accountable to Him for how well we did them.

1. Love your wife “as Christ loved the church (his bride) and gave himself up for her”. Most of us are very familiar with this passage from Ephesians 5:25, but the question is….do we actually understand what this means and do we do it?

Simply put – how did Christ love His bride? Answer? He loved her to death…he died. He gave everything up for her: his daily agenda, his comforts, his desires, – his very life. He volunteered for this assignment. He initiated. He subjected himself to a frail human body, was tempted, ministered long hours to people who never really understood him. At a young age he was unjustly accused, sentenced and suffered an agonizing death – why? Because he loved his bride (us) too much to let her suffer God’s wrath and live eternally separated from Him. We are called to love our wife – to death.

2. “Sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”.  (Eph. 5:26-27)

We are called to sanctify or “set her apart” and protect her from being stained, spotted and wrinkled by the evil, fallen world we live in together. It is our great responsibility to pray for her, read God’s Word with her and encourage her to thrive in the gifting she has been given by God. We are to fight the enemy on her behalf. We are to keep her eyes and ears from seeing/hearing/experiencing evil , harmful things that would “stain” her. She is God’s precious daughter and we are to treat her as such.

God places us as the “head” of the home not to be the king or the bully, but to be the servant leader. We are to follow His example by humbling ourselves, putting her needs ahead of our own – and laying our life down for her. We are to protect and defend her, love and pray for her – like He does us.

3. Love your wife “as your own body” (Eph. 5:28). This verse reminds us that we are to “nourish and cherish” her in the same way we nourish and cherish our own bodies. Think about it – we treat ourselves pretty well. We eat when we’re hungry. We indulge our appetites for food, entertainment, adventure and pleasure. It comes very naturally that we think about and pamper ourselves above everyone else. We don’t have to be taught to be selfish (self-focused). When our body is tired – we rest. When we are hungry – we eat. We don’t like to deny ourselves.

What then does Jesus mean when he tells us to love our wife like this? Basically, he is calling us to a very high standard. He is calling us to put her needs, desires, agenda ahead of our own. He is telling us that her life and her needs should come first – in the same way we currently put our own first.

The commandments to husbands are not meant to frustrate or exasperate us. It is easy to see that they are impossible to obey without help – His help. That is why we are first called in Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit” because it is impossible to love our wife “as Christ loved the church” without His life living and loving in and through us.

Marriage was never intended to be lived apart from God. It is only as we walk with Him (every day) that we will ever experience marriage as it was created and intended by Him.

 

The One Thing – You Can Do to Improve Your Marriage

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On September 25th,  1942, Jewish physician Victor Frankl, his wife, and parents were deported to the Nazi Theresienstadt Ghetto. Two years later Frankl and his wife Tilly were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was processed. He was moved to Kaufering, a Nazi concentration camp affiliated with Dachau concentration camp, where he arrived on 25 October 1944. There he was to spend five months working as a slave laborer. In March 1945, he was offered a move to the so-called rest-camp, Türkheim, also affiliated with Dachau. He decided to go to Türkheim, where he worked as a physician until 27 April 1945, when Frankl was liberated by the Americans.

Meanwhile, his wife Tilly was transferred from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died. Frankl’s mother Elsa was killed by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and his brother Walter died working in a mining operation that was part of Auschwitz.

How does anyone survive such an ordeal? When asked this same question years after his imprisonment, Frankl replied –

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

How do any of us survive hard times? What about hard times in our marriage? For many of us, including myself, we just stuff our feelings deep inside our soul and hope for the best. For others, they can’t/won’t tolerate hard times, so they leave. They try to avoid them by running away.

What if we practiced the secret that Frankl, and countless others, have relied upon to get them through – adjusting our attitude. Do you want to know what God says is the secret to not only surviving hard times, but enjoying a marriage relationship like it was intended to be enjoyed? Sure you do…..

“Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.” Phil.2:5-8

Jesus chose to humble himself and become a servant. Even when we didn’t deserve it (and still don’t) or appreciate it. He volunteered; he initiated; he scarified himself on behalf of his bride.

What about you? What about me? Is that our attitude when it comes to loving (verb) our bride? Are we ready to lay our lives down, to humble ourselves, to sacrifice anything – all for our bride – for our marriage. And all without ever demanding anything in return or any performance from our wife?

Well, that is what the Bible clearly says is the key….having the same attitude as Jesus. Remember Victor Frankl – no one else is responsible for your attitude; no one else can take it away. We (you and me) are responsible for ours. Is it like Christ’s?

Willing to die…..

Rob

The Delights of Your Heart

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What do you delight in….really? Think about the word “delight”. The question is not, what do you like, or even what do you love – but what do you “delight in”.

The dictionary defines “delight” as “something that makes you very happy and/or gives you great pleasure or satisfaction“.

Now, think about the question again. You love your spouse, but does he/she “bring you great joy, happiness or pleasure”? Your kids? Your work? Your ministry? What in your life brings you the most pure joy or pleasure?

It’s easy for me to name a couple: my wife of nearly 40 years continues to bring me much delight, and my three sons have filled my heart with delight since they were born. Nothing could haven delighted me more than being the husband of my great wife and the father of three amazing boys. I have been truly blessed.

I am humbled and convicted though when I read the words of David and how many times he says how he delights in God’s commandments, and in His Word. Psalms is full of David’s professions. Do I delight in God’s Word like that? Does it “bring me great joy, happiness and pleasure“?

What about delighting in God Himself? Do I even do that, or am I just going through the motions and trying to be a good boy so God won’t punish me somehow? Am I being religious, or truly enjoying a relationship with my heavenly Father?

Psalm 37:4 says if I will delight myself in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart. So, why wouldn’t I want to do that?

But do I even know what delighting in God looks like? How do I do that?

The best I can come up with is to compare it to something or someone I have delighted in in the my past. When I was seriously dating my wife, we would talk often during the day. I would think about her constantly. I would count the minutes until we could be together again. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her when we were in the same room. I was captivated by her.

So, do I love Christ that much? Do I run to meet Him in the morning, or eagerly engage Him in conversation throughout the day? Am I hungry to hear His voice and simply be in His presence?

The honest answer for me was …no. For some reason I had bought into the lie that He was upset with me over my past sins and that I needed to work harder to get on his “good list”.

Thankfully, God has shown me over these last few years that I do NOT have to perform or tap-dance  to win His approval or love. He loves me – period, and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me any more, or any less. What freedom this has brought to my relationship with Him. I pray the same for you.

You are loved; completely, unconditionally and irregardless of your performance. You will never deserve it, and can never earn it. You just have to accept it, appreciate it, and walk in it. Your life will never be the same.

You know what God delights in?

but the prayer of the upright is his delight. Prov. 15:8

He delights in talking with you, in hearing your voice, in sharing your heart. You and I are His delight, and we desperately need to embrace this truth….and learn to make Him our delight as well.

Rob

Keeping Your Marriage Like New

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My wife and I bought new car last at the end of last year. We would normally choose a late-model used car, but the deal we got was truly a good one, so I went for it. There’s just something about a brand new vehicle with 10 miles on the odometer.

It smells so good, and rides so well. We don’t have to worry about the transmission going out, the tires going flat or the pumps/belts failing. If we could only keep it this way…..

In many ways, it reminds me of a new marriage. Everything about it is wonderful. The sights and sounds; the feeling of adventure; the feeling of confidence that all is well. In the beginning, everything is pretty much on auto-pilot. Like the new car, there’s not much to fix or maintain for a while.

The manufacturer of every car includes a maintenance guide in the vehicle. In it, there is a recommended schedule of actions that the owner(s) should take in order to keep the car running at peak levels and be able to enjoy the vehicle for many years to come. These actions typically include: regular oil changes, regular tire rotation and an annual checkup by a professional to see that all systems are working as designed.

You see, cars can’t take care of themselves. As we add mileage the oil gets thicker, the tires get thinner and the parts begin to simply wear down. The key to enjoying a great vehicle for many  years is to do what the maintenance guide says to do. Change to oil, rotate and replace the tires, and monitor all the vital engine parts to make sure they function well for the life of the car.

Marriages too can’t take care of themselves. As months and years go by, our heads get thicker, our skin gets thinner and the our hearts begin to wear down. All of these happen sooner as we tow addition along with us – multiple children, illness, stressful jobs and simply a hectic lifestyle. All of these add additional pressure to the vital components of our marriage while taking away time for critical maintenance.

A lack of regular care and maintenance will make our new car age faster and make us lose our sense of confidence and joy. The same will happen to a marriage. In the same way you can’t expect your vehicle to hold your excitement and confidence if you neglect to care for it – your marriage will begin to run poorly and even break down without regular care as well.

Do we take better care of our things than we do our most valuable relationship? Do we regularly and deliberately maintain our marriage? Do we read the maintenance Manual regularly and do what the Manufacturer says?

This year, let’s pay closer attention to how our marriage is running, and ask God to show us regularly how we can keep it running in tip-top condition. If we don’t, we don’t have anyone else to blame but ourselves when something goes wrong.

Stay deliberate,

Rob

 

The Best Gift to Give Your Wife This Year

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Boots are in. Clothes are always a hit, if they fit.

Jewelry is awesome, but most of us can’t afford what we really want to give him/her.

Technology? Something useful? (hint: never). What size? What color? What store? Geeeezz…….

What would be the perfect gift – meaningful, affordable, useful, appreciated and doable?

As I scoured websites and walked through retail stores aimlessly this year, I felt a strong impression that maybe God might have something to tell me on the matter. Maybe a hint, a tip or some specific direction from on high…

So, as I so often do, I went to Him last, after exhausting nearly every other option I could come up with on my own.

You know what He said?

“What she really needs this year is: tangible and unconditional love; deep and satisfying joy flowing out of a heart that is full of gladness; soul-satisfying peace in her heart, in her home and with her husband; 12 months of really trying to understand her heart, her feelings and her needs and a boatload of patience in the process; abundant grace and kindness from the one closest to her; a true sense of goodness in her life – the kind that keeps her smiling and provides her a constant feeling of “life is good”, “my marriage is in a good place”, and my God is so good to me”; the faithfulness of a man she can trust explicitly with her life and her heart; the gentleness and humility of a man who knows God and walks in step with Him; all of which culminate in a deep-seated sense that life is not out of control. In spite of the whirlwind pace of life all around her – she is content, she is at peace, she is loved and secure”.

I then asked the obvious question? Where can all of that be found? He responded with a smile on His face –

It’s not on Amazon or on sale at the mall. The gift is inside you and can be given every day – you just have to open it. The gift is “me”, He said. I am what she truly needs. Everything that she secretly, deeply yearns for – I am. And I live in you. You are my body, my means, my vessel. Through you I can meet her deepest needs, fill her soul with peace and her heart with abundant joy. You were never meant to meet these needs, but if you will allow me the opportunities, I will meet them through you. With your cooperation, your wife, my daughter, will have the best year ever this coming year.

That’s what He said to me. That’s what He is saying to you. Will we cooperate, or will we choose to turn away, reject His offer and settle for the “okay” marriage we live in today?

I told Him I am ALL IN. I want a wife who experiences Him and all He is – every day. If I can help facilitate that – then let’s get started. Christmas isn’t just a day – it’s a lifestyle. We can give His life away – every day.

Are you in?

Rob

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

 

Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?

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When a college freshman received a C- on her first test, she literally had a meltdown in class. Sobbing, she texted her mother who called back, demanding to talk to the professor immediately (he, of course, declined). Another mother accompanied her child on a job interview, then wondered why he didn’t get the job.

A major employer reported that during a job interview, a potential employee told him that she would have his job within 18 months. It didn’t even cross her mind that he had worked 20 years to achieve his goal.

Sound crazy?

Sadly, the stories are all true, says Tim Elmore, founder and president of a non-profit, Growing Leaders, and author of the “Habitudes®” series of books, teacher guides, DVD kits and survey courses. “Gen Y (and iY) kids born between 1984 and 2002 have grown up in an age of instant gratification. iPhones, iPads, instant messaging and immediate access to data is at their fingertips,” he says. “Their grades in school are often negotiated by parents rather than earned and they are praised for accomplishing little. They have hundreds of Facebook and Twitter ‘friends,’ but often few real connections.”

To turn the tide, Growing Leaders is working with 5,000 public schools, universities, civic organizations, sports teams and corporations across the country and internationally to help turn young people — particularly those 16 to 24 — into leaders. “We want to give them the tools they lack before they’ve gone through three marriages and several failed business ventures,” he says.

But why have parents shifted from teaching self-reliance to becoming hovering helicopter parents who want to protect their children at all costs?

“I think it began in the fall of 1982, when seven people died after taking extra-strength Tylenol laced with poison after it left the factory,” he says. Halloween was just around the corner, and parents began checking every item in the loot bags. Homemade brownies and cookies (usually the most coveted items) hit the garbage; unwrapped candy followed close behind.

That led to an obsession with their children’s safety in every aspect of their lives. Instead of letting them go outside to play, parents filled their kid’s spare time with organized activities, did their homework for them, resolved their conflicts at school with both friends and teachers, and handed out trophies for just showing up.

“These well-intentioned messages of ‘you’re special’ have come back to haunt us,” Elmore says. “We are consumed with protecting them instead of preparing them for the future. We haven’t let them fall, fail and fear. The problem is that if they don’t take risks early on like climbing the monkey bars and possibly falling off, they are fearful of every new endeavor at age 29.”

Psychologists and psychiatrists are seeing more and more young people having a quarter-life crisis and more cases of clinical depression. The reason? Young people tell them it’s because they haven’t yet made their first million or found the perfect mate.

Teachers, coaches and executives complain that Gen Y kids have short attention spans and rely on external, instead of internal motivation. The goal of Growing Leaders is to reverse the trend and help young people become more creative and self-motivated so they can rely on themselves and don’t need external motivation.

Family psychologist John Rosemond agrees. In a February 2 article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he points out that new research finds that rewards often backfire, producing the opposite effect of that intended. When an aggressive child is rewarded for not being aggressive for a short period of time, he is likely to repeat the bad behavior to keep the rewards coming.

Where did we go wrong?

• We’ve told our kids to dream big – and now any small act seems insignificant. In the great scheme of things, kids can’t instantly change the world. They have to take small, first steps – which seem like no progress at all to them. Nothing short of instant fame is good enough. “It’s time we tell them that doing great things starts with accomplishing small goals,” he says.

• We’ve told our kids that they are special – for no reason, even though they didn’t display excellent character or skill, and now they demand special treatment. The problem is that kids assumed they didn’t have to do anything special in order to be special.

• We gave our kids every comfort – and now they can’t delay gratification. And we heard the message loud and clear. We, too, pace in front of the microwave, become angry when things don’t go our way at work, rage at traffic. “Now it’s time to relay the importance of waiting for the things we want, deferring to the wishes of others and surrendering personal desires in the pursuit of something bigger than ‘me,'” Elmore says.

• We made our kid’s happiness a central goal – and now it’s difficult for them to generate happiness — the by-product of living a meaningful life. “It’s time we tell them that our goal is to enable them to discover their gifts, passions and purposes in life so they can help others. Happiness comes as a result.”

The uncomfortable solutions:

“We need to let our kids fail at 12 – which is far better than at 42,” he says. “We need to tell them the truth (with grace) that the notion of ‘you can do anything you want’ is not necessarily true.”

Kids need to align their dreams with their gifts. Every girl with a lovely voice won’t sing at the Met; every Little League baseball star won’t play for the major leagues.

• Allow them to get into trouble and accept the consequences. It’s okay to make a “C-.” Next time, they’ll try harder to make an “A”.

• Balance autonomy with responsibility. If your son borrows the car, he also has to re-fill the tank.

• Collaborate with the teacher, but don’t do the work for your child. If he fails a test, let him take the consequences.

“We need to become velvet bricks,” Elmore says, “soft on the outside and hard on the inside and allow children to fail while they are young in order to succeed when they are adults.”

 

Tim Elmore

2012