Website Overhaul

Yes, this is still Dr. Butner’s site.  Due to some technical difficulties, my site is currently under overhaul, so to speak.  Sorry about the disruption.  I’m working on getting back better than ever right away!

Six Simple Adjustments That Will Revolutionize Your Family Life

 

1. Put phones away during mealtime. Before you roll your eyes and say you’ve heard that one plenty of times already, ask yourself this: “Have we actually tried this in our home? Consistently?”  You have no idea how much this digital connection device is disconnecting your family conversations until you actually put it on ice for a while.

2. Read together. Have at least one time a week set aside for reading something aloud as a family. Whether it is a spiritual devotional time or enjoying a gripping novel, it will reward each of you more than you can guess. The shared experience of reading together will not only bring you closer together and open new doors of discussion – it will also build treasured lifetime memories.

3. Be an encourager. Lead your family in saying good things about each other. Your young children need it. Your teens need it. And your spouse needs it. Don’t you? We all need to hear that we are worth something to someone and that our life efforts are noticed and valued. Train yourself to share words of appreciation with your family members, and you will see their spirits soar!

4. Build a family tradition. Develop a family tradition/ritual that your kids want – and stick to it. This isn’t about putting your kids in charge of your family life. But I can tell you that the value of the fifteen minutes I typically spend with my son at his bedtime playing on my iPhone together is something he looks forward to every night. He knows I value him and I’m willing to focus on his interests – not just my own.

5. Share your faith. Have at least one time set aside each week where you take the lead in sharing and discussing heart and faith matters. Tell your kids what you believe about life, God, struggles, and prayer. Ask what they believe. Dig together. Share your stories that have shaped you into the person you are today. Celebrate their stories, as well. And find ways to share your faith beyond your family. The experience will bless countless lives with your ripple effect.

6. Right your wrongs. Teach your kids to take responsibility for their mistakes by owning up to your own. Tell your spouse and your kids openly and directly when you know you have done wrong, and make it clear you get how your wrong behavior has hurt them. Don’t make excuses. Don’t minimize, avoid, or blame. Admit it and do your best to make it right. Lead your family in revolution!

3 Great Ways to Wreck Your Teen’s School Year


We all want our kids to have a great year in school this year. We are hoping they will make good grades, have healthy friendships with solid kids, succeed in their extracurricular activities, and be generally liked by their teachers. Seeing them grow emotionally and spiritually throughout the year would be great, too. Right?

Here are three common dynamics that can wreck those hopes for your teen this year:

1. Avoid discussing sex and drugs. Assume your kid is bright enough, moral enough, and strong enough to make good choices about drugs (yes, that includes marijuana) and sex without you having to embarrass either one of you by discussing it directly. Rely on whatever hints of guidance your son or daughter is getting at church on these subjects. Trust that with good friends like your teen has, these issues will never be issues for your family.

2. Focus on your teen’s mistakes and failures. Constantly stay on the alert for your youth to mess up, and be swift and liberal with your criticism of their mistakes. Be sure you make it a personal character attack, rather than a helpful correction of behavior. If you put enough effort and consistency into this department, you may just succeed in convincing your teen that you really don’t believe in her or him. At that point, huge life wrecks are sure to follow soon enough.

3. Give your teen everything he/she wants – as quickly as possible. You want your child to be happy, don’t you? And your mature adolescent is obviously the best expert on what will make him or her happy. So do your best to meet their every demand. Immediately. Tired of the gaming system we bought you last year, simply because there is a new model available? No prob – here’s the new PlayBox 5000! Need a new smartphone for the same reason, even though we haven’t even completed your contract on the one you’ve got? So what?! Have the new RoboPhablet! And a couple hundred to spend on new accessories. They may miss out on learning some life lessons like patience, diligence, gratitude, and respect, but at least they’ll be happy. Right?

5 Ways to Lead Your Teen Toward Healthy Friendships

Ask your teen what they are most looking forward to as they go back to school, and you are likely to hear something about being with their friends.  While teens today have umpteen digital options for staying connected with their friends throughout the summer break, there is simply nothing quite like being in the same place and having shared experiences.  And as they are filled with that eager anticipation for reconnecting with their favorite peeps, parents are often filled with anxiety.  Whether you are concerned about your teen hanging with the wrong crowd, struggling to make close friends, spending too much time with that one “bad seed,” or simply looking for ways to encourage good friendships, here are a few basic tips for parents that can help you influence your teen’s friendship building activity in healthy ways:

1. Have a welcoming home.  Invest the effort and money to make your home inviting for your teen’s friends.  The best place for you to impact the friendships of any of your kids is right in your own home.  If you don’t have a pool, consider converting your garage or a bedroom into a game room with a ping pong table, foosball, or pool table.  Have a great video gaming setup in a fun part of your house.  Keep good snacks (ask your kids for help with this – not the clerk at Whole Foods).  And most importantly, make sure your kids and their friends feel genuinely welcome, respected, and cared for as individuals.  They need to feel comfortable in your home, and just spending time around you.

2. Stay aware of their social media activity.  Whether your teens are into Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, or whatever with be the cool new thing in a couple months, you need to maintain an active awareness of which sites and apps they are into, how they are using them, why they like using them, and who they are “hanging out” with in each virtual space.  This doesn’t mean policing their every move.  Trust me.  That won’t work out well for all involved.  But it does mean taking the time to regularly look for yourself at what their social media presence and activity looks like, and talking with them about it regularly.  These conversations should be a mixture of curiosity, respect, and authority on your part.  I will continue to offer more specific guidance in this area via blog posts and local parenting seminars.

3. Take time to ask and listen.  One of the best ways to influence anyone, including your own teen, is to take time to ask questions about THEM with genuine curiosity, and to listen with respect.  As parents, especially once our kids become teens, it is so tempting and easy to stay in lecture mode WAY too much.  Yes, there is a place for authoritative correction and drawing boundaries.  But never forget this little nugget: Your teens don’t care how much you know…until they know how much you care.  They need to know we care about them and what they care about.  That we aren’t just interested in their compliance – we are invested in their life development.

4. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries.  Given the first three tips I’ve shared with you, please don’t mistake me for telling you to simply be good buddies with your teens.  They have those at school and church and wherever they hang out.  They need you to be a parent.  And that means loving them from a position of authority and setting clear boundaries.  While your rules should change and grow as your children age and mature, they still need to have rules, guidelines, and consequences to help lead and shape their choices.  They may think they have it all figured out, and that you are just a big idiot, but I sincerely doubt either of these is really true.

5. Become fluent in their language and favorite activities.  Don’t go overboard.  You don’t have to become totally fluent in “teenese” or a master in the latest version of whatever’s cool on the XBox.  But learn enough to actively participate in conversations and activities with your teens and their friends when they welcome you.  It’s not about whether or not YOU like the activity or even feel comfortable with the lingo.  It’s about intentionally showing YOUR TEEN and their friends that you care about them and their world – and that you care enough to be a part of it.

Family Check-Up Time

  Another school year is upon us. At our house, we are using this as an ideal time to evaluate ourselves as a family, as parents, as a student, and as individuals. We are rooting out places that need improvement and setting priorities and goals for the coming year. And based on that, we are finding help in the areas where we need it. It is an exciting time with such opportunity for growth and transformation. 

So, how about you and your family? Could you use some help making some adjustments in your relationships, attitudes, or habits? Let me know if I can help. There is no better time than now to start working toward a better tomorrow. 

Chump or Champ?


So, I fell down a couple days ago while out running. Tripped over a rough lump sticking up from the sidewalk concrete. I was running along Perkins Rd just before a busy intersection (ironically, at YMCA Plaza Dr), so there were plenty of folks to witness my grace. Once I hit that spot with my foot, there was no stopping the inevitable. And I knew it immediately.

“I’m going down like a chump in front of God and all these witnesses,” I thought to myself. Pretty sure a word or two came out of my mouth that weren’t exactly Christlike. And then I went down hard, scraping up both palms and my left knee. Despite the ugliness that spewed from my mouth, God saw fit to spare me tumbling out into the traffic flowing by on Perkins Rd, and my performance was limited to the sidewalk.

But as soon as I hit the ground, I was hit by this thought…

“I can lay here and wallow in shame, slowly getting up and slinking back home,”

OR

“I can hop up, square my shoulders, ignore the onlookers, focus on my goal, and finish this run like a man.”

I opted for the latter. Falls happen in life. And not just on sidewalks. But whether I handle it like a chump or a champ is up to me. So I fell? Big deal. Did I finish? Yes. Yes, I did.

Life won’t always be smooth sailing, my friends. You will have days of failure and discouragement along the road. But when those days come, and your knees get skinned up or worse, which will define you?

How you fell?

OR

How you got up and finished?

Keep pressing on toward the prize, Brothers and Sisters.

Nine Minutes

snooze

Nine Minutes.  I just set a timer giving me nine minutes to write this blog post.

Nine Minutes.

As of today, this is how long it takes me to run a mile.  You may think that a “good” or a “bad” time.  Think what you will about me – it doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as it once did.  And for that, I am grateful.

But I digress, and I only set nine minutes for myself to write this message to share with you.  I have long been told that the best time to run/exercise, and the best time for devotions with God, is early in the morning.  And I have long fought this bit of advice, stating that I’m just not a morning person.  Well, I recently realized that I don’t have to set my alarm “early” for me to get in a one mile run first thing in the morning.  You know why?

Because it takes me nine minutes to run a mile.  And that’s the same amount of time my alarm clock gives me for one snooze cycle.  So, the choice is mine every morning.  How will I invest the first nine minutes of my day?  Surrendering my body, mind, and spirit to my loving Creator?  Or staying in a self-centered cocoon?

These may not be the most important nine minutes in human history, but they are the ones I am given to invest or squander at the beginning of each new day.  I’ll keep you posted on this daily mile challenge.  Sure, it doesn’t sound like a lot.  And the wonderful truth is – it isn’t a lot.  So, I can manage to do at least that much every day.  And starting my day in motion with God serves me and all those around me far better than getting nine more minutes of semi-sleep.

Well, looks like my nine minutes are up.  Time to move on to the next…

p.s. – I actually wrote this post several days ago, but just got to posting it today.  Since deciding to run at least a daily mile, I have done just that for eleven straight days.  Feeling great!

Summer at Its Best: Family Games

monopoly

One of the fun things happening at the Butner home this summer is a resurgence of our family game time.  I have previously shared some of my favorite gaming memories from past and present seasons, so I’ll not repeat that in this post.  Instead, I want to continue in this summer blog series by encouraging you to see the wonderful potential for family growth through making time to play games together.  There are a number of wonderful benefits I see in playing games together.  There is even an old saying that “the family that plays (and prays) together, stays together.”  Here are just a few of the reasons I believe your family would be richly blessed by taking time together for some Monopoly, Yahtzee, Settlers of Catan, Chess, Mancala, or whatever game floats your boat:

  1. Good Clean Fun.  First and foremost, games are designed to be fun.  We all need times of fun and refreshment to recharge our batteries and help wipe away the stresses that build up on our shoulders and in our minds throughout the course of our weeks.  Playing games together with your family is such a great way to boost your mental, emotional, and even spiritual batteries.
  2. Relationship Building.  Games are such a great opportunity for both getting to know people better and building positive memories with them.  Even though we already know the members of our families, the truth is we are changing and growing all the time.  We do well to remember we should be continually working on knowing today’s version of each member of our families, especially our kids, who are changing at an exponential pace.
  3. Problem Solving.  Whether a game uses cards, dice, a board and figurines, other materials, or simply our own words, observations, or gestures, they always challenge the players with problems to solve.  Challenging our kids to solve their own problems, while having the opportunity to watch us do the same, is one of the really wonderful dynamics of playing family games.
  4. Learning to Win and Lose with Grace.  Let’s face it.  The old saying is true.  You win some.  You lose some.  And this is not only true of games.  It is true of all of life’s endeavors.  The sooner our kids learn this important reality of life, and how to handle it with grace, dignity, and respect, the better we will have served them.  And playing family games together creates the ideal setting to train them to face winning and losing well.

Given these learning and growing opportunities afforded by playing games together as a family, it is so important for us parents to keep this in mind: Carpe Diem – Seize the Day.  If we get so caught up in the playing and competing and winning of games with our families that we fail to provide training, leadership, and insight, then we have squandered some golden opportunities.  Seize the day!  Pay attention to the moments that are ripe for training your children and teens in learning and growing as you pass Go and collect $200.

Enjoy the journey!

Summer at its Best: Camps

summer-camp-sign

Summer camp was one of the most wonderful threads woven throughout the fabric of my childhood.  For years, my sisters and I would head off to “church” camp for a week of tech-free bonding with old and new friends, countless sports, activities, and crafts, memorable songs and campfires, splashing around in a lake, and growing closer to God.  From about fifth grade until some time in my early adulthood, I can truly say that camp week was the highlight of my year.  Perhaps you can relate from your own camp experience.  Or maybe you missed out on this slice of life, and you’re wondering what could really be so magical about it.  Whatever your own experience with summer camps, I want to take a bit of time today to share with you several key reasons to consider sending your kids to some kind of camp for part of their summer:

1. Camp offers a much needed break from electronic entertainment and communication while offering numerous calorie-burning alternatives to boredom.  From hiking to softball to swimming to shaving cream wars – the list goes on and on.  One thing you can count on in just about any summer camp experience is plenty of engaging, challenging, and fun activity for your kids to enjoy – without the need for a charging cord.

2. Your kids will have opportunities to learn important life lessons that you might miss teaching them.  While you, the parent, are the most important adult in your child’s life, we would all do well to remember that none of us has all the bases covered on wisdom or life skills.  Having other positive adult role models is such a wonderful asset in your child’s life.  Take advantage of this opportunity.

3. Many camps offer experiences that will directly nurture your child’s spiritual growth and awareness of self and purpose in life.  Whether through facing challenging obstacles, learning to work together as part of a team, or hearing lessons from God’s Word, camps are often designed to teach kids to dig deeper and aim higher in life.

4. The friendships formed through summer camp experiences can be so unique and powerful.  Whether your kids are gregarious extraverts or quiet introverts, they would likely reap rich benefits from the social experience of spending a week of intense activity and bonding with a group of kids – whether old friends or new faces.

5. Let’s face it – summer camps offer parents and kids a break from each other for a little while.  Don’t be ashamed of feeling your heart leap a bit at this thought.  Sometimes taking a purposeful break from one another can be some of the best medicine available to a family where kids and parents have been grinding on each others’ nerves for some time.  If this is the case for you, just be sure you take some time while the youngins are away to prepare yourself to genuinely welcome them back into your home and heart!

If you are considering sending your kids to camp, but are unsure where or what kind, let me warn you – the possibilities can be overwhelming.  Are you going with an overnight camp away or a day camp here in town?  Sports or spiritual focus?  With known friends or “on their own?”  Does a more expensive camp automatically indicate a better quality experience?  Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate to the right choice for your child:

1. Keep in mind your child’s personality, interests, and current life issues.  In order to make the best camp choice, you’ve got to start by knowing your child well.  And don’t get so caught up in the particulars of some exciting camp website that you forget who you are sending.

2. Really take time to consider why you are sending your child to camp.  May sound obvious, but this is a key issue, and easy to overlook.

3. Ask around.  Don’t just search online.  Talk to other parents and kids with camp experiences.  Ask questions.  Listen to stories.  Look at pictures.  This will help a ton.

4. Pray.  James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  I can’t speak for you, but I sure know I need all the wisdom I can get as a parent.  And being a family therapist with a blog certainly doesn’t mean I’ve got it all figured out.  But I have figured out my very best source of wisdom and direction – spending prayerful time with God and listening to His voice.

For those intrepid souls looking for specific summer camp options for your kids, below are a couple of great lists and descriptions shared by the folks at Baton Rouge Parents Magazine – thanks a bunch!

Baton Rouge Parents Magazine Residential Camp Guide

Baton Rouge Parents Magazine Day Camp Guide

Summer at its Best: Vacationing

Halloween-Disney one 160

(Above: My family at Disney World several years ago – enjoying Animal Kingdom together with a basic outline of plans to structure our day.

Below: My family on the same vacation at Disney World – clearly more focused on getting the good “photo op” than on the fact that part of our team has run out of gas and has gotten seriously cranky.)

Family vacay no-no

In the spirit of offering you practical guidance for your upcoming vacation planning and checklist, I am offering this post in the form of a Do’s and Don’ts list.  My sincere hope is this post helps to bless your family with a most peaceful, enjoyable, and refreshing time as you make memories together in your upcoming vacation experience.

Do consider each member of the family as you plan your vacation and face each day during your vacation.  Make sure your overall plans offer the genuine opportunity to bless your whole family.

Don’t plan more activity than you can actually enjoy in the time you have allowed for vacation.  No matter how much you think you are blessing your family by giving them more to experience, you need to get this straight: you are stressing, rather than blessing, when you overbook your vacation time.  Be sure you leave room for enjoying unexpected moments, taking restful pauses, adjusting plans, and even a bit of plain ole lollygagging.

Do have several family conversations before making final vacation plans. Be sure to discuss everyone’s hopes, expectations, and possible worries about your upcoming trip or time together.  This helps each family member to feel valued, and decreases the chances of parents or kids getting blindsided by the experience.

Don’t get so focused on capturing the moment with pictures or video that you forget to be present and responsive in the moment.  HD images are great and can bring enjoyment for years to come.  But everyone’s memories of your family vacation will be better if you remain fully present and a positive and active part of what is happening.

Do have a brief family talk at the end of each vacation day about what everyone enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, and about what you are expecting in the following day.

Don’t spend more money than you can reasonably afford to spend in an effort to maximize short term pleasure.  The long term stress of financial worries will far overshadow the brief window of fun you had blowing thousands of dollars on a few days.

Do have a big picture goal in mind for your family vacation, and try to keep it simple.  It may be: relaxing (together or separately), building better relationships, having fun new experiences, learning together, facing a big adventure, or any number of other options.  The key is to have a primary goal to help guide your decisions throughout your time together, and to make that goal simple enough to keep clear in your mind.

Don’t put so much time and weight on some family members’ ideas of fun that you leave no room to accommodate the family member(s) who have different ideas of fun.  Depending on ages and circumstances, this may mean planning for alternate options for some family members, or it may mean committing to balancing time spent in different activities and such.

Do remember to lighten up!  It’s vacation time.  Enjoy.  Captain Crankypants may be able to move people along and accomplish lots of stuff – but who wants to spend vacation with him?

Don’t let smartphones, tablets, gaming devices, or other electronic gizmos interfere with time together.  By all means – bring them along and enjoy them at times.  But set some boundaries around other times as digital free zones where everyone can be genuinely present with one another.  If you want to really break some ground as a family, consider planning a screen-free vacation.  Crazy – right?!!

Do consider including some “old fashioned” family fun as a counterbalance to our increasingly electronic and individualized daily culture.  Working jigsaw puzzles, hiking, playing card games or board games, kite flying, cooking together, rock collecting, sand castle building, and so many other battery-free options can be wonderfully restorative and offer very special moments and memories together.

Do use vacations as an opportunity for spiritual and relational reflection as a family.  This doesn’t have to be your primary focus, but take some time for a special family devotional or two and reflect on what positive changes your family could make when you head back to your life routine at home.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list.  What else have you learned to do or not do to make family vacation time the very best it can be?