Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Complementary Roles

John Gray’s book entitled, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, uses an analogy that men and women are so different they could be from different planets. Men draw their sense of identity from their exploits and are preoccupied with the “things” that can help them express power by creating results and achieving their goals. Women on the other hand value love, communication, beauty, and relationships. Their sense of self is defined through their feelings and the quality of their relationships.
Gray talks about a common communication problem between men and women. When a woman wants to share her feelings and vent about a stressful day, she lets out her emotions by talking about her problems. The man will often react by becoming Mr. Fix-it. His suggestions are not welcomed because she wants to be heard not told what to do. On the other hand, when a man receives unsolicited advice from his wife, especially at a time when he may be struggling to complete a task, he will often perceive the advice as being critical.[i]
Despite the fact that there are incredible differences between men and women, those very differences make parenting more effective when a mother and a father work together. Mothers’ and fathers’ roles complement each other in parenting. When parents agree on the method and way they are going to parent their children, there will be cohesion and harmony in the family. That doesn’t mean that there will not be problems and conflict to deal with, but it does mean that they will deal with it in a responsive way and not a reactive way.
Their unique differences give each one certain advantages and gifts the other does not have or at least does not have in the same capacity. Most women are gifted with more relational connection, and that seems to be instinctual. This asset allows them to have quicker insight into their children’s emotional lives. Most men project more physical strength than women simply because they are bigger and stronger, and that strength helps them give direction to their children.
God made a mother in such a way that she forms a special secure attachment with her child. It is as if she were primed to care for this child and give the child exactly what he or she needs.[ii] That attachment promotes feelings of self-worth, exploration, and positive interactions with other people.[iii] The father helps form the identity of the children by providing protection and warmth.
Parenting in harmony means compensating for each other’s weaknesses. For example, when children have a depressed mother, they are at greater risk of internalizing and externalizing the behavior.  The risk is greatly reduced, however, when the father, who is not depressed, serves in a supportive role doing what the mother does not do for the child. The mother, for example, may have a greater impact on the child’s academic competence, but the father may impact the child’s social competence.  The mother may bring out the child’s originality better, but the father’s interaction may have a greater impact on teaching the child emotional regulation.[iv] Mothers are the best at nurturing, but fathers are often the best at teaching skills and helping the child master a task. Mothers help the child understand their emotions, while fathers help them learn how to control them.[v]
When parents understand their core values and they are consistent in daily interactions, then those values will be integrated in the child’s life. When parents take ownership for their own life and show the child what they believe, it makes sense to him or her.[vi] The real integration of core values depends on the quality of the relationship between the youth and the parents. A warm, connected parent is associated with fewer problem behaviors in adolescence. Adolescents who receive more parental warmth tend to engage less in antisocial behavior and engage in more positive behavior.  When adolescents feel valued, accepted and loved, they are more inclined to internalize parental values and accept parents’ rules and attitudes.[vii]

[i] Gray, John (2009-10-13). Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Practical Guide for Improving Communication (Kindle Locations 412-438). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
[ii] Baumrind, D. (1980). New directions in socialization research. American Psychologist, 35, 636-
[iii] Martin, A., Ryan, R., & Gunn, J. (2010). When father’s supportiveness matters most:
Maternal and paternal parenting and children’s school readiness. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(2), 145-155. doi:10.1037/a0018073
[iv] Martin, A., Ryan, R., & Gunn, J. (2010). When father’s supportiveness matters most:
Maternal and paternal parenting and children’s school readiness. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(2), 145-155. doi:10.1037/a0018073
[v] Bayan, D., Baruah, J., & Holland, G. (2013). Parents’ roles in guiding children’s educational,
religious, and other trajectories. Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 3(1), 244-252. doi:10.5539/jedp.v3n1p244
[vi] Sweeney, P., & Fry, L. (2012) Character development through spiritual leadership. Consulting
Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 64(2), 89-107. doi:10.1037/a0028966
[vii] Wang, M., Dishion, T., Stormshak, E., & Willett, J. (2011). Trajectories of family management
practices and early adolescent behavioral outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 47(5), 1324-1341. doi:10.1037/a0024026

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Made for Connection

During World War II Allied pilots returning from bombing raids on the oil fields in Romania were forced to bail out over Yugoslavia. Over time hundreds of pilots were found and protected by the villagers and the soldiers of the Yougoslavian General Mihailovich. These soldiers suffered from little amounts of food, lack of medical attention and most of all they were disconnected from the units. In August of 1944 the Allied Air force organized a secret mission consisting of dozens of C-47’s that flew in with the cover of dozens of fighter planes and rescued 512 airmen.[i]
Just as those airmen longed to be reconnected to their units, so couples who are cut off from each other in their marriages long for connection. The same longing happens with children and parents. We all long for connection.
People were made by God for connection, and this connection was meant to begin in the earliest stages of our lives. I love to see young parents excited about parenting, and how enjoyable it is to see them playing and interacting with their small children. Something incredibly wonderful happens when parents interact in a positive way with their little children.

Research has shown that isolation is more damaging to an infant than early mistreatment.  Isolation hinders the baby’s neurological brain circuity from fully developing which will eventually show up in the child’s ability to concentrate and to control his or her emotions. For example, a baby that is ignored for hours on end in a neglectful home will eventually stop crying. The emotions of this little infant simply just shut down after being ignored for hour on end.[ii]
When Romania’s brutal dictatorship ended in 1989, there were state run orphanages that housed more than 100,000 abandoned children. Growing up in a loving home where parents give you more than food and shelter is essential to brain development.  Romanian children from the orphanages prove that when a child does not have someone in their little life to give them attention and stimulate their brain—brain growth is stunted. The long term result is cognitive and emotional problems.
There is a special window for a child to be stimulated emotionally and intellectually by his or her parents. If that happens, the brain develops, and if it doesn’t, there will be odd behaviors. The child will have difficulty interacting with other people. Motor skills, language and personality development will be delayed. The brain activity of such children is diminished, and the physical size of the brain will be smaller.[iii]
Many problems have one root cause, and that cause is an emotional disconnection with the person or persons they love. When a husband and wife lose their connection, they are going to experience difficulties. If they don’t recognize what is happening and go to work on it immediately, there will be consequences. When a couple has to deal with the pain of an affair, it is a horrible experience. What is so important for them to discover is that the affair was the culmination of their emotional disconnection—not the beginning. Disconnections always begin in simple ways, such as that of not doing the kind and loving things for each other that characterize connected relationships. However, they also include an element of betrayal. Brene Brown has capably written on this subject in a fine book entitled Daring Greatly:
When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears— the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can’t point to the source of our pain—there’s no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness.[iv]
Every person who knows the genuine satisfaction of being connected to another person in a loving relationship (the best example of this is marriage) also knows the work of guarding that connection. There are a host of things that can erode that connection: work, sickness, depression, disappointment, or just the unpredictability of life. Healthy relationships stay healthy because they stay connected. That doesn’t happen by accident, but rather because two people choose to make it happen every day of their lives.
The wrong is not in the disconnection, but in the failure to work on it and put things right. When couples feel their relationship is stagnated and they don’t know what to do, then they need help and should seek help.
Several years ago while living in Argentina, I left my family for the evening to attend a service some twenty miles away. I drove across a bridge that spanned the ParanĂ¡ River. When I returned, the bridge was closed, and I couldn’t get home. Though I was only a little over a mile away and could actually see my neighborhood, I was cut off from my family.
I walked to a little fishing village up stream and inquired if there were any fisherman who had an available boat to take me across. It took a while, but I finally found someone. The mayonero, as they are called, had certainly had one too many drinks, so I was a little apprehensive as to whether or not he would really get me across. As we were making our way across the mammoth river, I noticed a substantial amount of water getting in the boat. I asked the man, “Aren’t you worried about the water in the boat?” He replied, “No, it can handle twice that much before we sink.” The trip across the river seemed like it took forever, but we finally arrived on the other side, and I disembarked right in the middle of a beach party. I got the stares as I got out of the fishing boat wearing a suit and carrying a brief case, but it didn’t matter because I would be home in a few short minutes.
Maybe you find yourself cut off from your wife or husband or a son or daughter or other family member or friend today. For some unexpected reason the path to clear communication and friendship is closed. I encourage you to find a way to get across the barriers and restore the relationship. Your marriage, your son, your daughter, your parent or your friend is worth the sacrifice. Find out what has come between you and let them know you value the relationship. If you have done wrong, then by all means be quick to apologize and ask forgiveness. Life is simply too short to live another day without restoring the relationships that really matter in our lives. Let God intervene for you today; he will carry you across the divide and reunite you with your loved one. God will help you reconnect if you are willing to ask for his help. Whatever it takes find a way to get across the barriers and reconnect with your family. Go home today!

[i] Freeman, Gregory A. (2008-09-02). The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II (Kindle Locations 3809-3810). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[ii] Karyn Purvis, David Cross, & Wendy Lyons Sunsine, The Connected Child, New York: McGraw Hill, 2007, p. 26.
[iv] Brown, Brene (2012-09-11). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (pp. 51-52). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Inner Beauty

If you wanted to find rare and exquisite treasure, where would you look? One place to look is inside of a godly mother. The Apostle Peter exhorted women to prize inner beauty more than outer beauty because it is “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight” (1 Pet 3:4). This is an enormous challenge for a woman today living in a world where such inordinate significance is placed on outward appearance. Our culture screams out loudly that outer beauty is everything—but this is yet another lie that so many accept as truth.
This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and I want to pay tribute to all the mothers who day in and day out demonstrate this inner beauty for their families. My mother has always been a giving mother, putting her family first. My wife has also demonstrated that quality for our children. I have seen this inner beauty in both of them.
When Moses needed more bronze to make one final item (the basin) for the tabernacle in the desert, some special women who helped in the tabernacle volunteered their bronze mirrors (Ex 38:8). Undoubtedly these women had received these mirrors from their Egyptian mistresses right before the Exodus. These mirrors would have been extremely valuable and certainly were useful to the women in making themselves beautiful. These women, however, must have caught a glimpse of what God was doing in the tabernacle and wanted to be part of it. In giving those valuable mirrors, they demonstrated for us their inner beauty.
This inner beauty is displayed by mothers every time they demonstrate self-control and teach that self-control to their children. For example, what a beautiful sight to see a mother control her emotions, especially her anger, which may be the hardest emotion to regulate. Anger is one of the most debilitating and unpredictable emotions known to humans. When a mother demonstrates restraint in the face of a frustrating or disappointing situation, she is modeling the inner beauty that will be reflected in her family.
Outer beauty may be appealing, but it is also fleeting; however, inner beauty is permanent and transformative. It is this beauty that helps a child learn how to control his emotions and face difficult circumstances with the right attitude. The inner beauty of a mother helps a child learn to think logically and biblically and make good choices. Unlike the outer beauty that fades with time, the inner beauty is unfading and is of great worth to God and all of us.