Local Man Duct Tapes His and His Son’s Mouths

Teaching Your Boys How to Respect Ladies

Nashville, TN — A local man used a roll of duct tape this past weekend to tape his mouth shut, as well as that of his 8-year-old son, to allow the ladies in their home to speak. “I just got so tired of interrupting my wife every time we spoke,” the local man said, “And I figured that I would do something to just SHUT UP.”

shut up bracelet

The local man also used the incident to teach his two sons about respect and encouragement: “You have to treat a lady like a lady, whether its your sister, mom, friend or spouse. And that means allowing them to speak and be a part of your conversation.  And one of these days I am going to get it right with your mom, who (when I stop to listen), has a lot of great things to say.” 

The man and his two sons have now made a line of duct tape “SHUT UP BRACELETS” to sell to other men in the world as a reminder to … JUST SHUT UP!

Okay. So this local man was me.  Not years ago. Not months ago.  This past weekend.  I think you get the picture, but there’s more to the lesson.

A couple will never be able to communicate if one of them is always talking and the other one is always listening.  I understand that we all have talents in our lives, but I have recently  learned that my talent or strength as a construction litigation attorney during the day is setting me up for conflict and failure at home in the evening.  My wife and family are not my clients, they are not a judge or jury, they are not my legal problem to solve.  They are my family.  Many times, my wife just wants me to listen as I walk into the door: listen to her problems, listen to her excitements, listen to her ideas….JUST LISTEN TO HER.

So what’s your challenge in communication with your spouse or children?  Do you need to listen more?

A Good Daddy Would Help His Son

There is nothing better than your own bed, particularly when you have been working late nights all week long.  So when I lay my tired body to rest last night, I was one happy dude. I immediately faded off to sleep. Peace.

At about 3:30 in the morning, I heard the whisper of a six-year-old boy: “Dad. Dad. My blanket won’t work. I can’t fix it.”

What?” I groaned back to him.

“Dad. My blanket doesn’t work. I can’t put it on my bed. I need help.”

Are you kidding me? I looked at the clock across the room. The red digital lights screamed out 3:32. What’s wrong with the blanket? How does a blanket fail to work? I will solve this: “Son, your blanket works fine. Just pull it up. You can do it.”

“But … Dad …”

“Son! Go back to your room. It’s night time.”

Although I couldn’t see his face or body, I knew he walked away rejected. I’ve seen the look before. He won’t remember, I reasoned to myself, because it’s the middle of the night. I rolled over, thinking I could still get a few more hours of good rest.

My wife whispered in my ear. The words pierced my eardrums and went straight to my heart. She was right. I jumped up quickly and ran down the hall.

The rejected son had his door shut, but I could see the light peering from underneath. I quietly opened the door and he stood the end of his bed. I now understood his dilemma. The top blanket was on the floor and the sheets were wrinkled up in a knot at the bottom edge of the bed.

“Need some help?”

His smile was all that I needed to see to reassure me that he was okay. “Yes, sir.

I threw him on the bed, hugged him, and gave a few tickles. “Hold still now.” He spred his body out and I lofted the top sheet up in the air. It landed perfectly over his body. I tucked in the bottom and edges. I took the top blanket and did the same. I saw his homemade quilt from GG lying on the floor. Better add that one, too.

“Is that better?” I asked.

“Yes. Thanks, Dad.”

I gave him a wink. I mouthed the words “I LOVE YOU.” I turned out the light and walked out the door.

Not even the best sleep could replace that feeling of joy I then experienced. And all because of that little whisper in the ear from my wife. Wanna know what she said?

A good daddy would help his son.

Three Practical Ways to Kill Your Child’s Joy and Excitement This Holiday Season

There is nothing like a 45-minute commute on your way home in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a cold Monday evening to stifle your holiday cheer.  As I unpacked my briefcase and pulled off my tie, Jackson (my fourth child) came running into the bedroom wearing a chef’s hat.  He cheerfully said, “Dad, I’m in charge of dinner tonight.  I made a menu and I’m ready to serve you.”

jack

I grumpily walked down the stairs to the kitchen, where I saw that the table had been set (…with various sizes of plates and different cups…). On the counter, Jackson had pulled out all the leftovers from the refrigerator.  Since we have been dealing with a family crisis and I have been playing single parent for the past few weeks, its no surprise that every one of the leftovers was old and moldy.

So, I threw away Jackson’s dinner.

He sat at the table with a crossed-look of horror, sadness and disappointment as I threw out his dinner.  And rather than console him, I legitimized my actions: “Jackson, the food was rotten.  Get over it.”  (Ouch! I actually said that.)

I realized my mistake later.  Not when I was making his favorite sweet potatoes and marshmallows.  Not when we were saying prayers and reading in bed that night.  Not the next morning as I walked out to work with a kiss on his forehead.  But, later, as I was driving home the next evening—stuck in traffic again—and preparing for a better evening.  It dawned on me that on the previous night I had killed my child’s joy and excitement.  Here are three practical ways that you can do the same this holiday season:

  1. Put on your frown and ignore smiles and laughter.  There is no better way to kill joy when you come home from work, with a room of children excited to see you, than to “wear your day” on your face.  If you have had a bad day, and your face shows it, and you ignore the fun and excitement of seeing your family in the evening, then you will surely set the tone.  Your frown can be infectious, and lead to a handful of frowns on your spouse and children.  Try it.
  2. Focus on your day, rather than their day.  Another practical way to kill the joy of your family when you come home from work is by stealing it, tying it to a concrete block and throwing it into a lake.  In other words, you should steal the opportunity from them when you walk into the house and focus on your day (whether good or bad).  Don’t let them tell you about the dragons they slayed, the forts they built, the knock-knock joke they made up.  Keep it all about you.
  3. Don’t ever say sorry. Sometimes you will realize that you are crushing your children’s joy and excitement and you will have the urge to correct yourself.  But don’t.  Instead, rationalize your actions, tell them to “Grow up!” in a stern voice, and bury any desire to apologize.  Kids are smart enough to know when you messed up and they never need to hear those weak words, “I’m sorry.”

If you add family health issues, work demands, financial stresses and everyday family squabbles to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, you have a recipe for imbalance.  In our household, while we experience all of these pressures right now, our kids need joy and excitement.  And so do yours.  So ignore my words.

Now That You Are Fearful, You Can Let the Courage Take Over

Tired? Restless? Fearful? Can’t sleep? Ready to give up? Overwhelmed? Hurting? Numb? Lost? Betrayed? Angry? Just getting by? What’s your pain? Better yet…What’s your plan?

Fear-Courage

I’ve been there. I understand late nights. I appreciate what if feels like to be alone. And, yet, through it all, my tormented mind always came to the same resolve: What’s your plan? What can you control? What can you not control?

Michael Hyatt believes that “…Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.” For Hyatt, the particular lesson was about a fear of confronting a demanding client.  His torment was real:

I had to make a choice. I could let it go, hoping he would improve without intervention … or I could speak up. I wrestled with it all night. I tossed and turned. I got sick to my stomach. I played out every scenario. Finally, things came into focus: I could either be brave and call him on it, or I could be a coward and stop growing as a leader.

In the end, Hyatt confronted the fear and learned to press forward.

What about you? I imagine that your torment feels absolutely overwhelming right now. Why else would you be staring at the computer screen or thumbing through your phone, mesmerized by the words on this page.  First, you are drawn to the fact that you are not alone…some one else has been here before.  Second, you find hope that there is a way through it:  Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear.

Now that you are fearful (or tired…or restless…or angry…or betrayed…), you can let courage take over.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” So, what does it take to live through this horror?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Recognize you are not alone. Let me say that again, you are not alone.  Money problems? Marital conflict? Jobless? There are thousands and thousands of people who have been through (or going through) the same torment as you.  Seek them. Find them. Walk next to them.
  2. Control that which you can control.  You may not be able to control the manner in which your boss talks negatively towards you, but you can finish that report on time.  You may not be able to change the mortgage payment, but you can sell your baseball card collection.  You may not be able to heal family wounds that have festered for years, but you can love your children unconditionally so as to change their family tree.  Make a list of the things you can control, and focus on them.
  3. Give up control where you have no control. At the same time, make a list of the things you cannot control, and give them up.  I often use the analogy that you cannot push a wet noodle up a wall.  Likewise, you cannot change your spouse.  You cannot make your children sleep.  You cannot force someone to do something to improve your circumstances. 
  4. Pray or meditate on your resolve. Whether you are talking about fear, anger, frustration, or any other emotion that builds inside you, find solace and refuge in a quiet place.  For me, it looks like finding a passage from the Bible that helps sustain my journey: “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10).  For you, it may be a time of mediation and prayer.  Focus on the result and allow your courage to press forward.

Question: What helps you live through the torment and horror?

Image: Star-Dust

You Bring Your Work to Home, So Why Not Bring Your Home to Work?

My credenza does not normally look like a construction site. (…What am I saying? I am a construction lawyer!…) Let’s say my credenza does not normally this cluttered. However, this is what it looks like after having brought two separate kids to my office recently on two separate days. Joy.

Kids at Work

Since I had to get some work done on the day after Thanksgiving, I brought Jack into the office with me.  He’s our tornado.  I knew I would not be interrupting other people’s work schedule because no one in their right mind works on Black Friday.  The entire professional world is shut down.  It’s one of those freebie three-day weekends.  And I brought Faith to work a couple weeks later because my wife had her hands full and just needed some help.

The point is that so many times we bring our work home to the family…so every now and then we should bring our family to work. The kids love it!  Happy Holidays.

Can You Say “Dude” When Praying with Your Kids? Yes!

I have been praying with my children a lot more recently.  If the kids are sitting down for breakfast and I am running late to work, I stop and pray over them God’s blessings.  When there is a stubbed toe or cat scratch, we pray before finding the Barbie and Superman bandages.  And when we do our evening tuck-ins,  prayer comes before books, songs or tickles.


Sounds like I got it all together, right?  NOT AT ALL!  You see, I am the same as you.  I raise my voice at the kids (…a/k/a/ scream at them…).  I fail to take out the trash.  I don’t give my wife the encouragement she needs everyday.  But, like you, I am a work in progress  learned about praying with your kids: 

  1. Make it about God. Remember the ultimate point of the prayer . . . to communicate with our Creator . . . to praise Him for all things . . . to thank Him for the blessings he bestows . . . to ask Him for wisdom . . . to hand Him your worries . . . to claim His healing.  Your children need to hear these words on a regular basis so they “get it” later in life.
  2. Make it about the child. After giving thanks and praise to God, we then pray about other friends and family.  Then we conclude with our own desires and struggles.  For each of my children, I use age appropriate words and always pray for: (a) their past day; (b) their evening protection; (c) their tomorrow’s blessings; and (d) their future contribution to the Kingdom.
  3. Make it fun and joyful. Last time I checked, there was not an Eleventh Commandment — Thou shalt not have fun. Instead, we are to go to the altar of God with our “exceeding joy” (Ps. 43:4).  To me, this means having a joyful and vibrant voice of excite when I pray with my kids.  Be animated.  Let them experience joyful prayer flowing from your lips.  It’s perfectly okay to say “dude” in your prayer with your six-year-old boy, which sounds something like this:

God, I just thank you for the strong little man that you gave to our family.  I ask that you continue to strengthen Jackson in all that he does.  Build him. Use him. Make him into a great, God-loving, change all nations, people leading, prayer warrior dude!!!

When I see the smile on the little one’s face as we say Amen . . . I know that I reached his heart and mind. There are really two major reasons to pray with your children.  First, to communicate with God as a family.  Second, to teach your little one how to pray.  If you are just trying to check “pray with kid” off your checklist, then your heart is really not there.

Question: Are your praying with your children?  Why not?

Top Signs You Know Your Work-Life Balance is Out of Whack

One evening after I returned from an extended out-of-town work trip, I overhead my eldest daughter Alex tell my wife that she (my wife) would make a great single mom.  Ouch!  That’s not something you want to hear when you are married to this supposed single mom.

mia

While my daughter meant no harm by the statement, it’s the underlying meaning behind the statement that was important.  Here are some of the top signs you know you work-life balance is out of whack:

  1. Your family jokes about your absence.  Alex is quite the comedienne. But underneath the laughter there is a grain (or sandbox…) of truth.  You see, in my daughter’s eyes, my wife has carried the brunt of the family workload over the past few weeks.  In my daughter’s eyes, my wife has been living like a single mom and doing a great job at keeping the household together.  In my daughter’s eyes, I have been absent from the family.  That’s a sign!
  2. You see disappointment in little faces.  Just last week as I was heading out the front door at about 6:00am for an early morning of work, my second daughter Addy ran downstairs to give me a hug.  I filled up with joy as I heard those first few words, “I love you! Have a good day!”  Then, as a took a step away from my home life and towards my work life, I saw and heard her disappointment, “See you tonight…maybe…”  That precious 8-year-old voice crushed me with a boulder of truth.  By saying “maybe” she knew that I was not going to be home another night.  And that’s a sign!
  3. You miss details of family life.   You certainly may be busy with work obligations that keep you from home activities during the week.  But when you get home,  you have to check-in to your surroundings  If you find that you missed a soccer practice, or a birthday party, or a family outing to the park, DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOUR SPOUSE TOLD YOU MULTIPLE TIMES, then that’s a sign.

You and I can make all the excuses we want about how much work has to be completed during the week, but if we miss the signs and details of what is happening at home, we cannot find balance.

Question: What signs tell you that your work-life balance is out of whack?

Lessons from a Father and His Blind Son

Some time ago, I saw a man and his young song walking along Broadway Street in downtown Nashville.   I witnessed a great lesson in parenting … leading with love, standing side-by-side, and pressing forward.

Leading in love, side-by-side, pressing forward.

The extraordinary thing about this event was that the young boy was blind.  It appeared to have been a recent condition because the father was trying to teach his son how to navigate with a walking stick.   As exhibited by this father, parenting involves the following:

  1. Leading with love is about reaching the heart of your child. Too often I get caught up in the outward behavior of my children and forget about the inward heart.  I’m learning that if I reach the heart my children, and teach them the lesson that will be forever pressed in their soul, then their “good behavior” will follow.  This father did not waste any time, energy and frustration just to get his son to walk straight and avoid objects like street signs and benches.  He was focused on his son’s challenges and building his heart and esteem to face those challenges.
  2. Standing side-by-side is right where your kids need you to be.  For this father helping his blind son to walk … there he stood right by his son’s side.  Leading him … hand to arm … arm to hand … down the street.  Then the father would let go, while continuing to walk by his side.  As parents, we need to not only stand beside our children, we need to get down on their level and talk to them eye-to-eye.  I mean this literally and figuratively.  Literally, our kids need to see our eyes when we talk to them (and particularly when we talk about life issues).  Figuratively, they need to know we understand what they are saying.  For instance, if your young man is excited about his green bean, pickle, and peanut butter “Alien Sandwich” … then so should you.
  3. Pressing forward means we must continually grow. In life, our children will be challenged to accept mediocrity, the norm, or the worldly standard of what is considered “right.”  As parents, we have to push, press, encourage and in some instances force them to reach for excellence.  Notice I did not say, perfection, but excellence. We must not get caught up in the mistakes we have made in the past.  Press forward in all things.

As I watched this father lead  his blind son along a busy street in downtown Nashville, I wondered truly about the father’s resolve and the son’s reliance.  Certainly, this man could have bullied his son to use or rely on that walking stick.  But that is not what I witnessed.  And the son, at some point in this experience, ultimately had to come to the realization that he was going to rely on his father’s leading.

Question: Are you leading your children in love, side-by-side, pressing forward?

Image: justinknol

Luck is the By-Product of Busting Your Fanny

Our Sunday meal this past weekend at the local Chinese food restaurant ended with the kid’s favorite pastime…the opening of fortune cookies.  We each take turns ripping open the plastic wrapper, breaking the sugar-laden treat, and giggling about the words inside.

What is your fortune?

This week, the small fortune in my cookie represented a long-held principle of mine for finding a successful work-life balance:

Luck is the by-product of busting your fanny.

When it comes to family, I cannot tell you how many times that some one meets our children and the words blurt out: “Wow! Your children are so well-behaved.  You are so lucky!

I don’t want to be a downer, but I totally disagree with those words.  First, our children are the same as yours.  They scream. They cry. They whine. They hit. They poop, pee and puke…anytime…anywhere! Did I say they scream?  Not a day goes by without my wife or me saying, “UGGGGHHHH!”

Second, it’s not luck.  We work very hard to be purposeful in our parenting.  We want to instill character and integrity in them.  We teach them virtues like patience, including workable definitions for even the young ones to understand.  We practice “sit time” in the home so they know how to sit still in real life situations.  If they say something wrong, we make them say the correct words…over and over again…until they say it correctly.  (Translation: “Yes ma’am.”)  Even when a child decides to throw trash in the middle of the living room, it is guaranteed that we will make them pick it and throw back down ten times just to teach them a hard lesson.

The same goes for your work life.  Most successful businessmen and businesswomen that I know are “bust your fanny” hard workers.  Sure, there are a few exceptions who were born with the silver spoon in their mouth, but most entrepreneurs have a strong work ethic. They are willing to go into work early.  They are willing to stay late in the evening.  They are willing to teach others how to do it right, even when it is sometimes easier to do it themselves.  They are willing to walk in a room full of strangers and get over their fears by extending a hand with a warm smile.  All of these take hard work.

Now, if you want to have a healthy family life and maintain a successful career, it is going to take a lot more than luck. Even though it will be difficult, when you reach balance, you will find comfort. In what Seth Godin calls the hard parts, “it’s the difficult work that’s worth doing. It’s worth doing because difficult work allows you to stand out, create value and become the one worth choosing.”

Questions: Do you think people are just lucky in success?  Other than “hard work” what else contributes to success?  Please leave a comment here.

Image: Tom Giebel

What Does Patience Mean to You? Here’s A Good Definition.

We teach our kids about patience almost everyday.  Go ahead, ask them.  And if you do, you will hear them recite our family definition of patience: “Waiting for something you want without crying, complaining or getting angry.” From our oldest to the young toddler, they all know the definition.

 Patience

But what happens when mom or dad are not patient?

What happens when we cry, complain or get angry while we are waiting on something? We need to learn a lesson in patience.  As some of you recall, we had some major complications with our latest pregnancy.

Why am I saying we?  I mean, she.  If I could take away the pain from her, I would do it immediately.

But there she was, sitting up all night, wincing with each movement, mumbling and praying for an answer.  If I was awake and I actually heard her, I would roll over and place my hand on her shoulder.   I whispered, “What can I do?”

The silence told me nothing.

Exhaustion turned to frustration, which turned to anger.  I was whining, complaining and getting angry on the inside.  Every now and then it creeps out of my lips.  And I am reminded of my kids’ lesson on patience.

That sounds like good advice for a child wanting to tell you about their day the second you arrive home from work.  It can buy you a few more minutes until (or even postpone) the evening story because you are simply too tired.   Have you been there?  What can you do to find your own patience?

  1. Time out. Not in the “punishment” manner, but in the “set yourself aside” and take a break from your circumstances.  Perhaps you need the “time out” as you pull your car into the driveway after a long day of work.  Perhaps you need the “time out” as the kids are whining about how hungry they are just before the meal is placed on the table.  No matter the circumstances, take a “time out” from the circumstance.
  2. Meditate or pray. In his pain, King David was crying to the Lord with his voice?, and He answered from His holy mountain. Do you know what happened next?  David said, “I laid down and slept. I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.”  (Ps 3:4-5)  David could have had sleepless nights, but in his rebellion he slept peacefully because he prayed to the Lord, and those prayers were answered.
  3. Substitute your wait. Accept the fact that patience requires a time of waiting.  If you expect, plan and prepare for that time of waiting, you can begin to avoid the onset of complaints or anger.  For my wife during the evening, it means offering the children an alternative to whining as they wait for dinner, such as: “Sweetie, I want you think of the story you are going to share with the family during dinner time.  That will give Mommy time to finish preparing the food.”  The same goes for us.

Question: When are you most impatient? What do you do to find comfort?