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with Win and Bill Sweet
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 What family activity do you think contributes the most to creating joyful family living?

  True play is one of the cornerstones of healthy childhood development. Unfortunately, in our culture there are many false concepts about play; therefore, families tend to lose sight of true play and replace it with unsatisfying substitute activities. Abundant noncompetitive play with your children on their level, taking their lead, contributes the most to creating joyful family living.

We delight in playing the games that our grandchildren make up and direct. There is never any thought of winning or losing. Keeping score is an adult idea; children would not naturally do this. Use your creativity. Take a game like Monopoly and pay no attention to the official rules. Make up new ones using the same cards, hotels, and houses. You will find it is lots of fun.

We often get questions about the teen years. When the family consistently and genuinely plays together through the younger years, we have found that the teen years are much more harmonious than most families find them to be. Having fun every day enjoying life together creates trust, honor, and caring that supports a joyful family environment. Try it, you’ll like it! 

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 My son is a very bright boy, however, his report card would never give you that impression. I talk to him a lot about this and keep urging him to try harder. Nothing changes.

  Perhaps you are unintentionally discouraging him. Try this consistently for one month and see if there is a change:

Keep the conversation light when any discussion comes up about his performance in school, sports, music, table manners or anything else in which he might be engaged. Remark only on the positive in an appreciative way. The negative may correct itself. If it doesn't, choose a non-confrontational time to present a better way. Do everything you can to help your son save face and keep a good sense of self-esteem in tact.

Strive to get to the place where you don't express a desperate, frightened attitude, but rather express faith and trust in him. Above all, never say "Try harder." Every time he hears that phrase he feels he has failed. It's like being told over and over, "You have failed, there is something wrong with you, you are bad, I'm very disappointed in you," etc. This is discouraging, a "downer." Soon it may turn into, "Why try at all anymore?"

As often as you can, and with a smile, insert a substitute phrase, "Do your best." This is encouraging, an "upper." Everyone functions much better when up, than when down. And there is nothing more wonderful than having a parent who believes in you. 

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 I have two teenagers who never can remember their chores and other things I ask of them. It drives me crazy to be after them all of the time, (and I suppose it drives them crazy, too). Any ideas for this problem?

  Understanding the development of the teen brain helps to constructively approach family situations such as you describe. Just because teens look like adults, parents expect them to think like adults. This is an unrealistic expectation. Teens cannot think like adults, because their brains are still developing--a work in progress. That natural progress will sometimes include irrationality, faulty decisions, and failure to carry through on responsibilities. Adults should not expect otherwise. In fact, the unrealistic expectations of the mature adult world are often the cause of dissension between adults and teens.

Teen brains have difficulty with multiple directions. Instead of giving multiple directions, give directions one at a time. As you apply this principle to your family life, you will experience greater family harmony. 

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 The weight of the responsibility of parenting is so great that I can't imagine being able to relax enough to live joyfully with my children. How would it be possible?

  There are several principles, that when adopted and applied, work together to create an atmosphere in which joy can reside and thrive. One of the principles is "Honor the true Self of the child." Another helpful principle is: "Criticism cripples." Constant correcting is very stressful for children. In reality, they long to be honored and valued for who they truly are, rather than to ride the "roller coaster" of being judged according to what they do or don't do. As you trust the true Self of your children and recognize their natural joy you can relax and let your joy flow, too. 

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