Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How will American Christians Cope?

I get emails and newsletters every day, speculating about the collapse of the American economy and what it will mean to us, as Christians, as our civil and religious freedoms are taken away. We've seen the 10 Commandments removed from public; God, Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity in history verboten in schools; Cursing Jesus' name is OK, but praising it is ridiculed or forbidden; evolution the new state religion; constitutional foundations cast aside as old fashioned ... on and on and on. What does all this mean to us, to individual Christians and to our children and our families?

I can tell you exactly what it all means to us - relatively little! People, of all the  American citizens, WE have the least to be concerned about. Why? Because we have been through all this and much worse before! Time and time again!

We like to ignore history because it's hard to keep up with, and it's uncomfortable to think of how things have been before. I don't know about your (step)children, but for mine getting her interested in history was like trying to feed her spinach! But if you push your children (and yourself) to take a bit of time to look back, you'll be very encouraged by what you see ... eventually.

Just after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, the brand new baby church was almost snuffed out by the current general public. Civil religious rights? How about being shunned by businesses and government services? How about a school system that taught our kids to actually worship idols? How about being hustled out of our beds and homes in the middle of the night to be dragged into mock courts where we were charged with everything under the sun, found guilty without representation or recourse? How about having your family taken from you and probably tortured and killed? How about being the entertainment for a blood thirsty mob as you are murdered publicly in cruel and imaginative ways?

In the Dark Ages, we true Christians even had these things done to us by "The Church." If we refused to accept the world government's twisted version of Christianity, the very religion (in name) that we followed would jail, torture, or kill us!

Even following the Great Enlightening and the Reformation, which broke the monopoly of the false Catholic church, we were subject to the nearest king's warped ideas of how we should worship, pray, or even believe. When we finally got miraculous freedom to worship publicly and we gained some influence over our own lives here in this new experiment of America, we saw enemies confront us on every front.

Despite political challenges, evolution, and a slowly eroding government, we have been able to relax into our illusion of security, forgetting where we have been and what we have come through to get here. We have found it easy and comfortable to think we have permanent home here in this world, when Jesus Himself regularly reminded us that we are strangers in a hostile land. We used to sing songs that were to serve as reminders: This World Is Not My Home, I'm only passing through, among others. But history is just to pesky to remember. And we've let ourselves and our children get lazy and complacent about our real position in a lost world.

And so, here we are again, about to be shaken from our reverie and woken to the harsh reality that we are Christians in a lost world. We may lose our temporary liberties to exercise our beliefs freely and openly. We may lose the right to worship at the corner church or promote our convictions in elections or wear t-shirts or bumper stickers that shout our ideals to the world. And we may feel really, really put upon and downtrodden and persecuted. And we may in fact be outlawed.

But, whatever else we lose, whatever else is taken away from us (or pried from our cold, dead fingers), Christians - true Christians will never lose our faith. Just as school boards may insist on no prayer in schools, but our kids can still pray silently whenever they want, in the same way we, their parents, can never be stopped from believing in our hearts that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. We may have to use codes, as some of our ancestors did in Ireland or Poland, but we will still be able to encourage each other. We may meet in back rooms and basements, but we will still pray and praise together.

So my idea of preparing for hard times is not to stockpile gold or bonds. Rather I'm concentrating on increasing my dependence on God's providence, my familiarity with scriptures, and leading my family into a greater understanding of those Words of life. I know that, no matter what happens with the government, the economy, the ecology, the world community, or even the New World Order, my God will still answer prayer, He will still watch over His children, and He will provide for His own.

If we only survive a few years or months or weeks as fugitives and secret worshipers, we will leave others behind who know the truth and who know how to share it. And we will still have a wonderful, perfect future to look forward to in Heaven, then the New Earth with our God and our family. And it will be unimaginably better than anything we have had here, in America, over the last couple of centuries.

So, bring it on world, and Come Lord Jesus, Come!

STEPcoach (and Christian!) Bob Collins

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Love On Me.flv

I just found this, while searching for class materials, and thought you'd appreciate it. The singer/writer is telling of his relationship with his stepdad. Title of the song is "Love On Me" by Jeff Payne. His site is at http://hismessagemedia.com/

Enjoy!



All rights reverved. Entire song copyrighted 2008 by DTJ Music, a division of DTJ Marketing Inc., Nashville, TN 615-469-5883. Written by J. Alan (Jeff) Payne. Used by permission.

What do you think of this song? What does it make you think of? How's your relationship with your stepparents?


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

YOU are NOT Alone!

As I've met with thousands of stepparenting couples, I've noticed that most of them fear that they are alone in their struggles in building a new family together. Most remarried couples are unaware they are, in fact, part of the majority of families in America today.

The same stressful challenges you face with your stepfamily - the rebellious stepkids, the interfering ex-spouses, the difficulty in getting past your painful past, fears, confusion, hurt feelings - are the same issues virtually every stepfamily is trying to survive. And many times, it helps these stepfamilies to learn they are not failing, after all.

If you are a stepparent, or married to the stepparent of your children, let me assure you that you are not alone either in the challenges you face, or in finding solutions to those. Let's look at the most common trials among blending families - and some tips that have helped others to overcome.
  1. My stepkids hate/resent/don't like me!
    Even if your new spouse's children were crazy about you before you married their mom (or dad), you should know that it is very common for them to resent your presence in their family. In fact, it's even understandable, if you think of their point of view. These kids have witnessed their mother and father turn their world into a war zone where the kids have to constantly switch their allegiances from one to another. Their future is uncertain; their past is memories of chaos, and now you have popped into the picture, another adult to complicate things. Who wouldn't resent that?

    So what do you do about it? The best advice is to slow down, move back, and step carefully. Show your stepkids how unshakable you are, even when they test you. Demonstrate to them how steady is your care and concern for their parent, and that you are a calming influence in their home. Whatever you do, DON'T add to the tension in the home by charging in with a whole new set of your rules to further complicate their lives. Don't try to be either an instant buddy or an instant authority figure. Allow the biological parent to be the parent. You just concentrate on being a blessing to your new spouse. Give your stepkids time to "adopt" you based on your charming, calming presence in their parent's life.

  2. My spouse's/my ex is driving us nuts!
    Another basic fact of life in stepfamilies is the ex-spouse or ex-spouses. Some are nearly invisible, but many others are far too involved in your life. When you dreamed of marrying this dream boat you've won, you most likely acknowledged the existence of that "other person," but you probably also didn't expect them to be part of your family. For better or worse, the other parent - whether your ex or your new mate's ex -will become an important part of your new life.

    How do you handle them?
    Well, that depends on a few factors: first, what does your mate want you to do? Always (always!) put your spouse's desires and needs before your ex-es' wants. Second, how will your "help" affect your relationship with your stepkids? You are building a future of friendship with them; attacking their other parent is a sure killer! Third, try objectively to see how your participation affects the overall family health. If your chipping in of advice causes more tension, go take a walk! Your overall goal is a peaceful, happy family. Don't rock the boat.
  3. My spouse and I seem to fight too much!
    While a few blending families move smoothly into the new relationship with few explosions, most experience many upsetting disagreements for various lengths of time. Often these "settling in times" can last for the first few years of your new marriage. Why do stepcouples fight more than first marriage newly weds? Because they are build on a foundation of brokenness, disappointment, and failure. One, if not both, of you have been through a traumatic breakup or divorce before finding each other. Those leave scars of fears and sensitivities that are difficult to just ignore, as much as you may try.

    How can we stop the fights? You can't - at least not immediately. You have a lot of issues in your past. To deny that and act like this is your first marriage is dangerous. Accept that you each have a past. Accept that both of you are rebuilding your trust, your hearts, and your skills as spouses. Give your mate much more forgiveness than you ever did your first partner. Your love is going through the same confusing feelings and tumultuous emotions you are. This is a natural part of remarriage! You have been betrayed or hurt and you have to grow past your past. You have to relearn trust. This can be extremely difficult. If you feel your relationship is being damaged, GET HELP! Do-it-yourself mediators wind up divorced.
You can build a happy, healthy new future in this family you've created. I've done it, and I've seen thousands succeed where it looked impossible. One of the most important facts to remember is to be patient and to give yourself and your mate time to work through the newness. Nationally, it takes from FOUR to SEVEN years for a stepfamily to blend successfully. If you're in the first year or two of your marriage and still stumbling along - THAT'S NORMAL! It's just a part of the rebuilding process which is so necessary in second or third relationships.

Don't panic. Don't give up.
Instead, remember your vows - "through sickness and health, til death do us part." You're committed to this for the rest of your life. Don't give up - make it better. If you can't do that on your own (and the divorce rate shows how tough it can be!), then get help. Call or write me, find a pastor or priest who understands divorce recovery and remarriage, or look for a counselor to help. One note of caution: make sure any counselor you work with is fully competent to work with remarriages - one who is a stepparent him or herself is often best.

Bottom line: you can do this. If you will work together as a team, you can build a super family. A husband and wife who are committed partners can over come any of the challenges common to stepfamilies. In fact, a team like that can overcome anything that comes along.

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Monday, October 4, 2010

Divorced Kids: Painful Complications

[NOTE: the following is an excerpt from my newest marriage relationship book, Guiding Your Children through Divorce

° Two thirds of children of divorce say they felt like they grew up in two families, not one, which creates “endless and often painful complications for a child.”

To a child, “family” means Me, Mom, and Dad. That’s the same for a child whose parents live together in one house or for a child whose parents are divorced and live across the state from each other.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine a little boy whose 
dad is stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, while Mom is raising that little boy in their home town....

Even though there may be five or six thousand miles between them, that little boy sees 
his family as him, his mama, and his daddy, all one clan. And his dad is most likely very actively involved in his son’s life. ... if that little boy gets in trouble in school, his daddy will be talking to him by phone or web cam to help straighten him out, or if he gets straight As on his report card, Daddy will email him a card or call him to say “Good job, Son!”

And the same should be true for your children, even if you’re not 5,000 miles away, if you’re just across town you should still be very actively involved in their schooling, their discipline, the important details of their day-to-day lives.

° Fully 44 percent of children of divorce said “I was alone a lot as a child,” 
vs. Only 14 percent of those in intact families— a three-fold difference.

And these children aren’t happily reporting that they were able to sneak away from a loud, annoying sister to find some peace and quiet to read a book. Rather they’re saying that, when they needed Dad for some advice or some encouragement, he wasn’t around for them. And when they needed Mom to comfort them or needed her to just be Mom, she was too busy with something else.

Granted, this is one of the most hectic, frantic, upsetting times of your life. I recall my own divorce and all the chaos involved. I had to find a new place to live, pay deposits, 
get utilities started and pay deposits on them, open a new savings and a new checking account. Some people have even more to deal with following their divorce.

It’s a very 
busy time.

However, right in the middle of all this hectic running around, your children are desperately needing you. In fact, during the first two years of your divorce, your children are more dependent on you than they have since they were in diapers! They are facing feelings, issues, and crises they have no experience with and no frame of reference to know how to handle. They are looking directly to you— both their biological parents— for some idea how to act and react to the new situations they find themselves in.

Be careful not to let them down by showing them the wrong way!
---------------------------------

Your children will be dealing with these and similar complications for the rest of their lives - but especially while they're minors living with you. The divorce was not their idea. You owe it to them to make all the effort necessary to help them recover. It's in your best interest, too, you know. When your children are more comfortable with your new family setup, including your divorce, they will make your whole life more manageable.

I'll be talking more about how to make this work in upcoming blog posts. This new guidebook is taken directly from my award winning lessons for newly divorcing parents, which I've taught for nearly seven years to thousands of about-to-be single parents. You can get a copy for yourself at http://www.familymediator.org/childrendivorce.html

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Please the Master

This cute little video is really a life lesson lived out before you. In it, we learn all we need to do to please our Master.




1) come when we are called - even if we're tired or doing something else

2) give Him our full attention, sit quietly

3) unless asked to speak up for Him

4) heed His call to prayer

5) bow humbly at your Master's feet

6) pray sincerely, remembering others and to say thank you

7) never fear to ask for help to be a better person

8) enjoy His blessings and provision

9) accept and enjoy His love and praise when we do well

-------------------
Bob Collins
stepcoach@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How Long? - Ex-files

[NOTE: the following is an excerpt from my newest marriage relationship book, Guiding Your Children through Divorce]

An important factor to hold onto is that your relationship with your children’s other parent will never, never end. Far too many people are under the misconception that a divorce ends the relationship between a husband and wife. But if you have children, 
your lives are tied together forever.

Let me explain what I mean. Your children hold certain expectations for you and their other parent, expectations they will almost demand you either uphold or pay dearly for not upholding. In your children’s eyes, parents are supposed to do certain things, like attend their school functions, their ball games, band concerts, or whatever. No matter 
how you get along with your soon-to-be ex, your kids will expect to see the two of you sitting in the bleachers to watch them play— maybe they don’t expect you to be seated together holding hands and visiting pleasantly, but they do expect you both to show up. You’ll be called on to attend second grade plays, and junior high and senior high ball games. And you’ll be expected to both be at their high school graduation. Now, they won’t expect you to talk to each other because they’ll be teenagers and with their friends, but they will want to see that Mom and Dad cared enough to show up.

Then, shortly after graduation, you’ll both be expected to attend their wedding. And they won’t want to have someone poke their head in the back room and say, “Hey, can you come out here and get your mom and dad to settle down. They’re making everyone uncomfortable.” This is their special day. They want you to show up, look pretty, pose 
for pictures, and play nice together. In fact, they’ll be counting on it.

And then after that, probably in the middle of the night, you’ll get a phone call saying 
to hurry to the hospital because the baby is about to be born. And you’ll hustle off to 
see your baby have a baby. And I promise you, they won’t want to hear anything like, “Well you know I can’t come up while she’s there!” or “Not while that woman’s around, 
I won’t!” They frankly won’t give a single care about your petty squabbles or your hurt feelings. They’ve just had a baby. They’re tired and starry-eyed. They just want you to come in quietly, ooo and aww over the baby, pose for more pictures, then get out so they can rest. And THEN, that baby will expect (brace yourself) grandma and grandpa (that’s you) to both show up for his or her kindergarten graduation and little play and choral concert, and so on. It goes on and on.

Your responsibilities to work together and to get along will go on as long as your children and your grandchildren are alive. So you’d do well to figure out now a way to make this work. Because some very important people are demanding a lot from you. And there’s no piece of paper that will get you out of their needs and expectations.
------------

Since your children will be a primary focus in your life for a long time to come, how you handle your divorce is extremely important to your new relationship. Your new spouse will be profoundly affected by the way you build your new relationship with your ex-spouse and your children. I've seen far too many second or third marriages destroyed by a mis-managed earlier divorce.

I'll be talking more about how to make this work in upcoming blog posts. This new guidebook is taken directly from my award winning lessons for newly divorcing parents, which I've taught for nearly seven years to thousands of about-to-be single parents. You can get a copy for yourself at http://www.familymediator.org/childrendivorce.html

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When I Am the Brat

Twila Paris sings a song, The Warrior is A Child, about a Christian minister who falls into his Father's arms when he gets hurt or tired, despite others thinking he is a tough warrior. I love that song because it so clearly depicts the parent's or stepparent's dilemma. We are supposed to be strong, to remain calm and wise, to bear all the stepkids' attacks and our own children's tests, and to be saintly to our dear spouse. But we can be just as weak and just as prone to failures as anyone else in our family ... can't we?

I lost it last night. I have excuses. Input overload; tired from pressures of work; frustrated over numerous small problems; a slow Internet signal; cats determined to steal some of our cheese dip; on and on. You know, life. Anyway, one straw too many was dropped onto this camel's back and I sort of, you know, ... exploded at everyone. Threw a fit. Had a tantrum. Acted inappropriately. And ruined what had been until my outburst a perfect evening at home. My darling wife had blessed me with a short nap when we got home, then a wonderful dinner, then a quiet evening together. And I blew it.

On my way to work this morning I stopped at a little park on the way and gathered the fragments of my mind for a moment by the lake. It is a perfectly still, cool morning today, so the surface of the lake is like a sheet of glass. No ducks or geese make trails across the water today. As I look at the lake, I see so clearly the trees, rocks, and walkers on the other side of the lake, reflected in the pristine surface. An occasional bubble from a bottom feeding turtle breaks the surface and causes ripples that disrupt the serene picture in the liquid mirror, but overall it's perfect.

The Bible says, "Be still and know that I Am God." And, once again, He is right.

When I am at peace, I more clearly reflect God. Looking at that lake surface, you have to really focus to see the lake itself. Instead, you see what is reflected on it's peaceful face, in this case, the beautiful natural setting on the other side of the lake. When I am at peace, you do not at first see me. You see what I reflect.

However, on a windy day when waves disrupt the lake, or when outside forces disturb it (like ducks or rocks thrown by someone), the lake itself jumps into view. You lose the serene picture of the reflection and are jolted back to looking only at the lake and what's disturbing it.

How much time do you devote to peaceful meditation and prayer? How many times during the day do you sit aside the jangling issues of your life to find your peaceful, quiet center? ("Be still and know that I Am God.")

If you are a spouse to someone you value; if you are a parent to a normal child; if you are a stepparent to a "typical" stepchild, you need to "renew your strength" on a regular basis. To be who your mate, your children, and your stepchildren depend on, you must give them the gift of a peaceful you. And in order to have that peaceful you available for them, you must take time for your surface to grow calm.

I know, I know. In a hectic daily grind life of work, chores, responsibilities, parenting, marriage, and everything else, it can seem impossible to find your quiet self. But of all your tasks, this one is one of the most important. You MUST do it. In order to be the person your family is depending upon, you MUST repair your soul regularly. Join a prayer group or a Bible study class or a yoga class. Find a quiet park on the way to work and leave early enough to stop there. Hire a coach to guide you.

Get something in place to help you. Because, if you're like the vast majority of overburdened individuals out there, you'll set it aside and place your serenity last. If you put it off, if you let it slide, you will wake up someday ashamed and disturbed at what you've become. You owe it to your family, your God, and yourself to do this.

If you just cannot find a way to find your peaceful center otherwise, I will help. But whatever method or assistant you choose, DO IT. Your future is counting on you.


God bless your whole family!
STEPcoach Bob Collins

To hear Twila Paris' song and read the lyrics, you can go here: http://artists.letssingit.com/twila-paris-lyrics-warrior-is-a-child-dcc26pg

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Empty Bird Cages

This is about the clearest, most fitting description of Christian salvation I've ever seen. Please read it and let me know if you "get it," agree, disagree, or even have your own "bird cage" story to share.

God bless y'all!
---- ---- ---- ----

GOD’S GRACE

There once was a man named George Thomas, pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit.

Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak....
 
"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright.

 I stopped the lad and asked, "What do you have there, son?"

"Just some old birds," he replied.

"What are you going to do with them?" I asked.
"Take 'em home and have fun with'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease'em and pull out their feathers to make'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time."

 "But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?"

"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll take'em to them."

The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"

"Huh?? !!! Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing. They ain't even pretty!"

"How much?" the pastor asked again.
The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?"
 
The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free. Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story:

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden,
and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught a world full of people down there. Set me a trap,
used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.
 
Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!"

 "And what will you do when you are done with them?" Jesus asked.
 
"Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly.

"How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!!"

"How much? He asked again.
 
Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life."

Jesus said, "DONE!" Then He paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage and walked from the pulpit.
__._,_.___

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Smother Your Stepchildren!

I rarely work with children. My specialty and my gift is working with couples, either current couples or former (divorced) couples who are trying to work out conflicts that interfere with their relating. But occasionally I will work with kids, if their parents really want it, and if the conflict is between the parent and child. Sometimes (like you didn't know!) it's just impossible to get your children to hear you. And it's often even more difficult with your stepchildren, right?

Well, this stepmom and her nine-year-old stepson were at "that point." Their communication had been reduced to either screaming at each other or sulking in their respective corners. So I agreed to meet with stepmom and stepson. Biological Dad refused to attend, saying this was a problem between them. Shrug.

When we began, "Billy" we'll call him, was sullen and silent - not uncommon in this sort of setting where yet another adult was present to gang up on him. So I let stepmom go first; to tell her side of the story. As she told how unfair and mean Billy was to her, he quickly found his tongue and warmed up to the discussion, also the typical response.

Stepmom, let's call her Meg, and Billy had been together since he was an infant. She married his dad when Billy was just nine months old. So they knew each other pretty well. She had watched him develop and he had learned many of his basic life lessons from her, as well as his dad. Their relationship should have been pretty solid, right. (We both know better than that, don't we?)

As Billy had grown up he had developed a confusion about his biological mom, who was rarely in his life, and his stepmom, who was there daily. He found himself conflicted about which "mom" he should be loyal to. And this lead to acting out against his stepmother. Meg was at first hurt and confused herself about this once sweet little boy's turning into a sulky enemy. As they battles wore on, her hurt turned to anger and resentment. And the war was on.

At the point we met, the relationship between Billy and Meg had been reduced to the screaming/sulking attitude mentioned before. Meg's attitude had become one of "I know he's not going to do what I say, so I try to just ignore him, until I can't stand it anymore and I start yelling at him to try to make him do what I want."

Billy was getting good at ignoring Meg, too, and them screaming back at her before he slammed his bedroom door for a good sulk. Dad was avoiding the tension and fussing at home, which left Billy and Meg even more in each other's company. Something was going to break is something wasn't done soon, and Meg was talking about a divorce and getting out of the situation.

After Meg and Billy spouted out their anger toward each other for a while, I asked Meg to let me talk to Billy alone. He told me in no uncertain terms that he hated his stepmother and resented his dad for marrying her (and leaving his mother). Billy's biological mom had been telling him for a few years that Meg didn't really love him and she was wanting him gone so she could have Dad to herself. (In other words, Mom was jealous of her son's close relationship with his stepmom, even though she didn't do much to foster a better relationship with him.)

We talked for a little while, then I asked Meg to come in and Billy to step out. I told her what Billy had said (I had gotten Billy's permission to do so), and she said she wasn't too surprised. The ex had tried the same thing with Meg's husband early on, but husband had seen through it and nipped in the bud quickly. I asked her what her true feelings for Billy were, and she said she loved him with all her heart and wanted a close friendship with him again.

"How long since you demonstrated that to Billy?" I asked her. She admitted that it had been awhile since he'd let her hug him or even listened when she said she loved him.
"So, while he has his bio-mom telling him you don't love him, you aren't showing him otherwise, right?" I asked. She thought about it and said, "I've fallen into her trap, haven't I?"

We talked about nine year old boys and their insecurities and fears. We talked about what she and Billy used to do; and we talked about possibilities for reconnecting. Then I asked Billy back in. Meg apologized to him for being so cranky and short tempered, and she said that she was going to dedicate herself to being a better friend and stepmom to him. Billy stared at his feet, but I could tell he was listening. He finally agreed to try to step screaming in the house and to at least attempt to be a friend to Meg. They shook hands on the deal and left to begin starting over.

Children - step or biological - can easily get confused about how their family feels about them, especially if there are other conflicts going on, such as fighting between the parents or a biological parent injecting trouble. However, all children want and need affection and acceptance.

My advice to Meg is the same as I would offer to you - don't get pulled into your child's childish attitude. If you want them to be nicer to you, demonstrate what you want by being nicer to them. And always, no matter what else is going on, smother them with love. You won't spoil a child by loving them too much; you won't lead them into expecting too much by giving them attention and affection.

When the flames of sulking, anger, and rudeness break out, smother them with a warm blanket of love.

God bless your whole family!
STEPcoach Bob Collins

Friday, July 23, 2010

Temper Tantrum!!

I was working away at my neighborhood Panera Bread when World War 3 erupted at a nearby table. The two or three year old toddler who had just before been quietly gnawing on a bagel suddenly went nuclear and got everyone's attention.

I watched as Mom went from shock to embarrassment as her pride and joy let everyone around know that he was very unhappy about ... something, and he wasn't going to take it any longer. She tried placating, fussing, demanding, pleading, and almost weeping to get him under control as we all snuck peeks at the excitement. She was very aware of the attention she was getting! Finally she apologized to her friends, gathered her things, gave up, and left. It was a sad sight.

This wasn't the first public tantrum I'd witnessed. And, in fact, I'd been involved in a few with my grandson when he was that age. Some I felt like I won, some I definitely lost! So, I started making notes of what I've learned and observed and then went digging for other experts' ideas on the topic of public temper tantrums and how to handle them.

First of all, realize that every toddler has tantrums. Some just seem more embarrassing because they're yours. "The terrible twos" didn't become known as such just because of your cranky child. Every mom and dad has gone through the same thing. Forget about others' judgment. Just deal with your child.

But do be sensitive to the needs of others. If you're in a church service, a movie theater, or (horrors!) a funeral, quickly and as quietly as possible take your child outside to deal with his or her actions. A restaurant setting is iffy - are there more parents there, or is it a pretty formal place? At the mall or in a grocery store you don't necessarily need to run outside. You're probably surrounded by other parents who are more understanding.

PREPARE AND PREVENT
You can often prevent tantrums by preparing before your trip by feeding your child, giving them a nap, and making sure they understand the rules and consequences ("if you decide to throw a fit in the store like last time, you will get in very big trouble") - and goal of shopping trip (just groceries, no toy). For many children, preparation and a good discussion will help greatly.

You can also prevent some tantrums by thinking ahead for possible triggers your child my encounter. If you know she will see her favorite candy store on the way to your destination, either go a different way or plan time to go to the candy store first. You're not giving in to her tantrum if you take preemptive action and pacify her before she gets upset.

#1 ADVICE
If these preventative measures don't work (and they won't always), the number one advice by most experts about how to deal with a tantrum is to ignore it. Yeah, you say, easier said than done! But remember that your young child is not out to embarrass you. He is screaming for a reason. Granted the reason may be to try to make you go back to the toy aisle, but there is a reason behind the fit. What you don't want to do is to reward his fit with attention.

How do you handle temper tantrums at home? Probably by ignoring them or sending him to a cooling off place - like his room or a quiet corner. As hard as it may be with thousands of eyes glaring at you for being an awful parent (not really, but it can feel that way!), the best tact is to be consistent. Focus on your child and deal with it the same way as at home.

CHANGE THE VENUE
If you feel you must, you can take him somewhere more private - to a bathroom, to your car, or just outside. But don't indicate that you are surrendering or attacking. Just move the contest to a different location. Quietly, calmly explain to your child that she is not getting her way, and you are prepared to wait her out. Don't entertain her or reward her during this time. In some cases, just moving your child away from the triggers can stop the fit. Triggers might be tempting toys, other children, a boring situation, or any other thing that sets off your child. When she calms down, take her back to where you were.

THREATEN CAREFULLY
Be careful that you don't make empty threats - you will HAVE TO follow through on whatever you threaten, so be careful what you say. If you tell your daughter that the trip to the park is off, you'll have to stick to it. That may mean you'll miss out on something you and she both need or are really wanting. And what will the results be of the punishment? Don't make things a lot harder on yourself just for the sake of a scary sounding threat!

COMFORT AND CONGRATULATE
Finally, bear in mind that a tantrum can also be frightening for the child who's throwing it. Sometimes a child will lose control completely and even scare the child himself. Afterward the storm has passed - immediately after he calms down, you can respond positively. Reinforce your loving relationship with your upset young'un. Congratulate her on getting over her anger. Comfort her with a hug, and reassure her that you still love her, you just didn't like the way she was acting. Don't be tempted to reward her with a present, she may equate that with winning the tantrum and try it again!

Tantrums happen (good bumper sticker, huh?). They're part of a child learning self-control and appropriate behavior. A fit doesn't mean you have a bad child. It just means you have a child. See it as an opportunity to teach and guide your child and you will survive this phase much more successfully.

PLEASE COMMENT with your own horror story or your personal best advice for dealing with tantrums. Share with others!

Dr. Sears has some more detailed, great advice for tantrum prone children at http://www.askdrsears.com/html/6/t063300.asp

And here are some tips from dealing with autistic children: http://special-needs.families.com/blog/whenyourchildthrowstantrumsinpubli

Love them no matter what!
STEPcoach Bob Collins

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot!

MAN! it's hot! We hit 100 degrees this weekend, here in Western Arkansas, right on the Oklahoma border, in the wild, wild western town of Fort Smith, where "Hangin' Judge Parker" kept the law with a vicious posse of US Marshalls and gallows he kept busy all year long.

Speaking of hanging outlaws, what are your plans for your stepkids this summer? You know, hot weather just brings out the outlaw in bored kids. Just compare the attitudes of folks who live near the equator and those who live 'way up in Canada! When it's hot, tempers are more prone to flare.

So it's not unusual for stepfamilies to report more temper tantrums - from both the kids and the adults! A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how to keep yourself from losing it this summer. But this post talks more about helping your kids to be less of a trial to you. (So, see, it's still about you!)

Here are a couple of things you can do to keep the tempers a little more under control. I'll offer mine here, and I hope you'll not be too selfish to offer your ideas with other stepfamilies (hint hint!).

First and most important is for you to keep your sense of humor and keep things in perspective. Go to bed every night and wake up every morning praying for an extra dose of patience to guide, rather than shove your kids and stepkids through the coming day. If you think praying for patience with your kids doesn't work, clearly you haven't tried it (and applied it)! That's all that got us through Jennifer's teen years!

Yes, Judge Parker hung (hanged?) hundreds of outlaws in his days on the bench. But that fearsome old man also exercised a lit of mercy and prayer for the criminals brought before him. He was known to give bad guys a second or even third chance to prove themselves too good for hangin'. And these were some cast iron hard cases! So you can allow yourself some kindness, too.

Next suggestion is to keep 'em busy. Bored kids are much more likely to dream up ways to torture you than are busy kids. You used to hear a lot, "idle hands are the devil's tools." And though we don't hear that said much anymore, it still rings true. If you're feeling stuck for fresh ideas, here are a couple of good web sources for you:
200+ Ideas for Summer Fun
Kids' Turn Central
Teen Jobs and Working Teens

And finally, it's always a great idea to use the summer daze to get your kids more involved in their faith. Take advantage of the many Vacation Bible School programs in your town. Besides giving you an entire morning (Praise God!) free of your little darlings, VBS can begin instilling in them a sense of respect for you and for your religion. AND churches usually stagger their VBS programs so they don't all fall on the same week, so you can often enroll your kiddos in more than one program for summer.

That's all my suggestions for now - I'm not going to do ALL your work for you! Now you pass is on by commenting with your own ideas, or even your own summer situations. Remember, we're a community. We can make our burden lighter if we share.

God bless y'all!


Bob Collins, STEPcoach

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers' Day

Happy Fathers' Day to all STEPdads. 
If you're feeling unappreciated or left out today - join the party! Me too. 
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that we have a super role model. Jesus' stepdad, Joseph, is often overlooked, too. He even risked death for his wife's son.

So, to all us Josephs - you deserve a great Fathers' Day, too! You are heroes!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summertime Suggestions

Summer days out of school always bring questions about how to keep kids occupied. Toss in the extra "challenges" of visiting stepkids and you can wind up with a scheduling horror show! Here are a couple of time-tested ideas - THEN I'd like for you to share your own suggestions to help out other steppers this Summer.

1) Keep to a schedule. Even though it's school-out time, your family still needs some rules. Don't let your kids fall into the trap of just laying around, waiting for school to start back. Give any kid a chance and he or she will end up wasting their vacation with boredom.

Chores have to be done all year round, right? So kids need to be held to their responsibilities all year round, too. Instead of weekly timetables (Monday: take out trash; Wednesday: gather laundry; etc), set hourly deadlines during Summer days (have trash out by 1:00 on Monday; have laundry gathered by 10:00 am on Wednesday; etc). This will help your young'uns to have a sense of structure in their days.

2) Try time-sharing with another parent. One week, take their kids on, say, at Tuesday afternoon. The next week they take your kids for an afternoon. Both parents get a free day; while you also get the "bonus" of extra kids one day. Why is this a bonus? As most parents have discovered, it's often easier to ride herd on a few extra kiddos. They tend to keep each other's attention distracted from you.

Plan a busy activity for your day with the gang. Take them to the park, the beach, the zoo, the kid-friendly museum, etc. You'll probably have a much easier day if you plan it right, even with the extra noses to wipe.

3) Take time for yourself! Use that free afternoon to pamper yourself. Don't just do your chores or pay bills. Get a massage. Take a nap. Visit your best friend. Read a book at the pool or beach.

Your family depends on you to keep yourself in good shape. You need time to yourself to do that. This is not selfish if you do it with a purpose. Focus on recharging your batteries or renewing your inner peace.

4) Now, what is YOUR Summer-time suggestion? Don't be selfish. Take a minute to reply with your own helpful hint for other stepparents this Summer.

God bless y'all!
Bob C. - STEPcoach

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mr. Cranky

There once was a man who was very unhappy. He worked at a coffee shop and he was unhappy about his job. He had to wait on customers and he was unhappy about dealing with so many people. His first wife had left him for another man and he was understandably unhappy about that. But he'd gotten re-married and he was unhappy about his new marriage. His new wife had brought along two teenaged children from her first marriage and he was very, very unhappy about his stepchildren.

He was quite unhappy.

One day at work, a customer got upset about how the unhappy man treated her when he took her order, so she told the manager that they should do something about that cranky man. Others heard the comment and they all began calling the unhappy man "Mr. Cranky." This, too, made him very unhappy. When he told his wife about the mean name his co-workers had given him, his stepchildren overheard and it wasn't long before they, too, began calling him Mr. Cranky. Soon the nickname seemed to attach itself to the unhappy man and everyone called him Mr. Cranky.

This made him even more unhappy.

The more unhappy Mr. Cranky became, the more things seemed to make him unhappy. He started to notice more and more unhappy things about his life. He drove an old car and he became very unhappy about not having a newer one. For the first time, Mr. Cranky realized that he lived in a hot, humid town and he was unhappy about being sticky all the time.

Unhappiness just seemed to grow in the pit of his stomach until it filled him up.

And it kept getting worse. The unhappier Mr. Cranky was about work, the customers, his car, and the weather, the crankier he was at home. His work days were miserable; when he got off work and walked outside into the hot, humid air he got cranky. Driving his old car home made him unhappy. So whenever he came home from work, he carried a load of unhappy into the house with him. This made his wife and stepchildren unhappy, too, so they argued and fussed more. Which made his wife more unhappy and she acted cranky whenever he came home.

His life, he confessed to his also unhappy dog, was just an unhappy mess.

Mr. Cranky collected enough complaints at work that his manager finally had to talk to him about it. His manager, a happy lady named Sharon, was more concerned about Mr. Cranky's unhappiness than about the complaints. So, one day she asked Mr. Cranky to come into her office where they could talk privately. Instead of fussing at him about his poor work performance - because Ms. Sharon just wasn't a fusser - she asked him about his life.

Mr. Cranky told her about his unhappiness with the customers, his car, the weather, and about his unhappy family life. Ms. Sharon knew about his divorce and how his wife had broken his heart, and as he talked about all the unhappiness in his life, she began to wonder if the divorce hadn't been the start of his downward slide into the unhappy state he was now in.

"Have you ever forgiven your first wife for leaving you?" Ms. Sharon asked her employee.
"I don't think I could do that," Mr. Cranky said, his eyes on the floor.
"I'm going to ask you to do something this afternoon," she said. "I want you to go to your ex-wife and tell her you forgive her for leaving you. Then you must come in tomorrow and tell me about it."
Mr. Cranky told his boss that he would try, but that it would be very hard.

But he did it.

His ex-wife was not very pleasant about the idea, but she agreed to talk to him for a few moments. Mr. Cranky squeezed his sweating hands into fists as he looked into the eyes of the woman who had betrayed his love, wrecked his world, and broken his heart. She stared back.

Mr. Cranky said, "I have been very unhappy since you left me for that other man. It seems like my entire life has gone rotten and bitter since you let me down so badly. But I am here today to forgive you for everything you did to me when you left. I want to let go of the anger and the disappointment and the unhappiness that have taken over my life. I don't know if I can forget everything, but I am making a commitment to do my very best to forgive you and move past what happened."

Although his ex-wife wasn't very helpful or encouraging (she didn't really say much at all), as Mr. Cranky drove home, he felt a little better about himself and his life. Thinking about what he'd just done, he didn't really notice the humid weather, and he had no time to dwell on his old car. When he got home, his unhappy dog slowly walked up the drive to meet his master. Mr. Cranky did a strange thing, something he hadn't done in a long time. He picked up a stick, waved it at his dog and tossed it across the yard. The dog ran after the stick and brought it back, with a noticeable spring in his step.

When Mr. Cranky walked through his front door, he noticed that his wife, who was talking to her children, didn't look up to greet him, and his stepchildren didn't say anything either. So, feeling a bit better about himself, Mr. Cranky said, "Hello my family. I'm so glad to see you. I have something to talk to you about." You'd have thought someone had dropped a whole set of cookware on a tile floor! They all stopped what they were doing and stared at him.

Mr. Cranky sat down and told his family that he had just forgiven his ex-wife for leaving him. Then he asked his wife and her children to forgive him for allowing his ex-wife to control his life. Because, he explained, by holding on to his anger and sense of betrayal against her for what she had done to him, he was putting that unhappiness in front of his love for his family, his job, and his whole outlook on life.

"What's more," he told them, "I am going to start putting you first in my life. I don't want us to be unhappy anymore. I love you and want to give you a happy home."

His wife smiled and said that it was about time, and hugged him tightly. His stepchildren weren't sure how to take this news, but they smiled and told him they were glad he felt better. His dog laid his head on his master's lap and smiled, too.

Next morning, when the now-happier man got to work, he went into his boss's office and told her all that had happened. He asked if he could please have a chance to start over at his job and to
try to be a better employee. Ms. Sharon was very pleased to say yes, and that she was looking forward to a new beginning.

The rest of that day the happy man had a wonderful time recreating himself in his job. He was glad to see old customers and to watch their faces as they saw the new man he was becoming. Ms. Sharon got more compliments on the happy man's new attitude than she ever got complaints about the old, cranky man. His fellow workers stopped calling him Mr. Cranky. And his day flew past happily.

When he got home, after playing catch with his happy dog, the happy man, his happy wife, and his less unhappy stepchildren enjoyed an evening together starting over.

And the unhappy man and his family lived happily ever after.

MORAL OF THE STORY

If you let anger and bitterness eat at your heart, you will be eaten up with unhappiness. YOU are the only one who chooses how happy or unhappy your life will be. Unfaithful spouses, less-than-ideal jobs, old cars, and cranky family members (or situations similar to those) are in everyone's life. YOU have the wonderful power to CHOOSE to live that life happily or unhappily. God had given each person the gift of Free Will, with which to choose our outlook, if not our life.

Begin your new life by forgiving anyone in your past who has hurt you. Take back your power over your life. Then apply that Power to all the other aspects of your life. YOU can take over your life and make it happier.

Jesus teaches in Luke 6:
"… love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great," and
"Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Annoying Is That???

So, we pull up to the bookstore for our date night. Get out of the car, grab our computers. I ask my darling wife:

"Aren't you going to get your jacket?"
"No, I don't think I'll need it tonight."

(she always needs a jacket!)

"Really, don't you want to take it just in case?"
"No, I said I'm fine. I'm fine."

Into the bookstore, which is as chilly as always. We get our table, set up our computers, and order our drinks. (OK, so we're not necessarily big on hot, wild dates.)

Just as we're getting settled in to surf and visit, my sweetheart says,

"You know what? It is pretty nippy in here tonight. (I roll my eyes.) I guess I do need my jacket after all."
(I mutter)" I told you you'd need it."

And out to the car I trek to get her jacket, which I had told her to get - twice! I fuss every step of the way. Couldn't just grab the stupid jacket when you were at the car, could you? Like you've never needed your jacket before - only every time!

Across the parking lot to our car. Then I think, for some reason, what if at some point I'm coming here alone, without her? What if the day comes I don't have her to fetch a jacket for?

Then my fussing turns to, "Thank you God for such a wonderful wife to run errands for. Thank you for the privilege to serve her, and You. Please allow me to keep fetching for her the rest of my life. Please. Thank You!"

She smiles as I help her on with her jacket and give her a kiss on the cheek.

Do you appreciate your errands for your love? Some day you may miss them.

Bob C. - STEPcoach

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