Posts Tagged ‘Rhett Smith’

failing-grade-mNot many of us particularly want to fail at anything in life…and for me that goes for anything from my marriage, family, career…and all the way to checkers and video games.  Bottom line…I like to win!  And if we’re being truthful, well…don’t we all?  We live in a society where we reward people for just about anything, and in fact, in our attempt at fairness and equality, we’ll give out medals and ribbons just for showing up!

Now for the record, I do think there’s some benefit to downplaying the ‘win-at-all-costs’ attitude, especially for those parents that try to live vicariously through their children.  But I also think our society has gone a little overboard with the paranoia that not rewarding a 17th place finish may just hurt little Timmy’s feelings and crush him for life!  It’s a delicate balance for sure as a parent to reward and strive for the right things, yet to also acknowledge the realities that not everyone wins at everything in life.  We’re dealing with that in the lives of our children right now.  Yesterday we were at a family bbq and games night at our church, and there was a game where you could win a glass jar with a goldfish.  One of our kids won…the other came up short.  You would have thought it was the end of the world to not take home a $.50 goldfish!  But to offset the remorse of the kids who didn’t get a goldfish, they did end up walking out with a ‘consolation’ prize for…yep…just stepping in line and trying.

Again, I think it’s good to offer rewards, but when our kids are raised in an environment that can’t tolerate any mention or notion of failure, it really causes me to ask; “what kind of kids are we raising, and will they be able to handle the inevitable rejection and failure that awaits us at some level in life (school tests, job interviews, rejection letters from post-secondary schools, dating relationships, sports…)?”  I mean, even the bible makes it pretty clear that it’s not the goal of a devoted Christ-follower to just be in the race, but to strive and press on towards the prize (Heaven, a life in pursuit of Christ…hearing God say “well done good and faithful one…nice work!).  At some point you have to make a decision as to whether or not you’re gonna actually get in the game and do something…there’s not much fanfare mentioned in scripture for those who simply ‘participate.’  But that’s a discussion for another post!!

So I found it refreshing today when I found this article from Rhett Smith waiting for me in my inbox.  Rhett is a professional counselor and author, and contributes to numerous article on family and parenting with the Fuller Youth Institute.  His article adeptly addresses the same question I asked above, and elaborates on the theology and fear of failure, as well as what parents can do to actually embrace failure as sacred and fertile ground for growth in our lives, and our kids.  You’ll also find some helpful action steps to take as a family so you can start the process of assessing failure as a tool to move ahead, not behind!


If you’re a student you’re at one of the most exciting times of the year…summer break.  If you’re a parent summer break is also one of the most anticipated seasons, or it could be one of the most fearful times of year!

It’s kind of like A Tale of Two Cities where it’s the best and worst of times all combined together.  It can be a great time for families because the kids schedules free up for lots of extra time together, but all that spare time can create pressure and anxiety trying to find ways to fill that time.  Last year almost half our summer was taken up with a family road trip across Canada when we moved back to Ontario from the West Coast.  Add in a few out-of-town job interviews, family visits, and a couple of beach trips, and a large chunk of the summer was taken care of.  What was frustrating were those days in between when the kids wanted something to do, money was tight, humidity was at 90%, and mommy and daddy were at a loss for ideas.

That’s the fearful part…those lazy days when the kids are at home, filled with energy and you’re searching not only for something to do to burn off that energy, but finding creative ways to do it together and create memories and family momentum.  Well before you start trying to book every week with VBS and community center programs, why not step back and have a family meeting to figure out what goals you want to achieve as a family this summer?

In his latest FYI post, Rhett Smith offers some practical coaching to families who want to make the most of their summer together before it slips away.  You can read the source article here, or just continue reading below.

Happy Summer planning!!  And if you have any summer planning ideas that have worked well for your family, why not share them with us?

The Best Family Summer Ever

Ideas to Help Families Connect Before Summer Slips Away


School’s out for summer!

Long gone are the enthusiastic days when I excitedly anticipated the end of school so I could “do nothing” for three months.

Summer was a magical time of playing with friends, staying up late, sleeping in, and taking family vacations. I look back on those memories with great fondness, but now that I’m a parent I am beginning to realize that summer can be either a really great experience for the family, or a very frustrating and exhausting one. That has led my wife and me to begin plotting out the summer for our family with more intentionality.

We know that if we don’t, summer will not only slip away very fast, but also could be full of conflict and power struggles with our kids.

One of the things that I have noticed with increasing frequency is the number of parents who want me to help them explore in family therapy what the summer is “going to look like.” Just last week I spent several sessions with different families helping them communicate realistic expectations between parent and child. And a few weeks ago, upon finishing a church parenting class on anxiety in the family, several parents came up to me to thank me for how timely the topic of anxiety was for their family as they head into the long summer.

Whether you are a parent or a ministry leader, and whether your summer is just beginning or already near its mid-point, our hope is that this summer will be one of the best summers that you have had with your family and with the families you minister to. But in order to make that dream become a reality, below are a few ingredients that can help you prepare.

Communicate Expectations

One of the mistakes that many families make going into the summer is assuming that everyone in the family has the same idea about what summer is going to look like. If these expectations are not communicated clearly to one another, it can be hard to get on the same page.

For example, a 5th-grade student may create an expectation that summer means playing video games all day with little to no responsibility. A 16 year-old may have the expectation of taking on a summer job, an extended curfew, and little family contact, hoping instead to hang out with friends all summer. Meanwhile, a parent may have developed expectations of summer camps, daily chores, summer reading material and a family vacation to the beach. In being more intentional with their summers, families can begin by clarifying everyone’s hopes.

Here are a few helpful tips for communicating summer expectations:

1.    Hold a Family Meeting – Schedule a family meeting for every member of the family to gather and share their expectations for summer. This is actually a very important and crucial step, because families often don’t get together to discuss their plans and hopes, instead finding out each other’s expectations as they unfold throughout the summer. (Hint: It’s never too late to have this meeting, even if you need to frame it as “expectations for the last few weeks of summer.”)

2.    Empower Every Member to Have a Voice – When you hold that family meeting, make sure to give every member a voice. This is simply an opportunity for the entire family to brainstorm ideas for the summer.

3.    Decide on Some Options as a Family – After you have listened to each family member’s desire for the summer, then begin the process of making decisions and prioritizing items. In doing so, make sure that each member has various wishes that are honored. This can be tricky, so I recommend a few resources that may be helpful in that process:

  • I have found Patrick Lencioni’s book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family  1 to be a very useful tool in my personal life and the lives of families who I work with and minister to. I love the way Lencioni helps a family discover what makes them unique, therefore empowering everyone to rally around a goal for a period of time (e.g., a summer).
  • More recently, I was informed by a client of the “summer bucket list” she discovered. This idea helped her plan out the summer with her family in a way that was empowering for everyone, using an actual bucket they could see in their home.

Create a Rhythm of Downtime and Activity

Striking a balance between being super busy and doing nothing over the summer can often be difficult for families. Hopefully in the process of communicating expectations for the family a good rhythm can unfold between busyness and rest.

Lots of kids, as well as parents, come to the end of the school year completely exhausted. Sometimes a period is needed for families to rest and rejuvenate before launching fully into busy summer mode. But the reality of family life today is often that both parents are working, and therefore kids need to move quickly from school into summer activities.

Depending on your family, you may have characteristics that help you go about finding the right rhythm. But here are a few suggestions that I have found to be helpful:

1.    Create “White Space” – As you look at your summer calendar, make sure there are days on the calendar where there is nothing planned. There should be “white space” on those days. In our busy world, it’s important to have days where kids and parents don’t have something to do.  These days allow families to be spontaneous and creative in the absence of planned activity.  I recommending purchasing a large white board calendar if you don’t have one, or drawing a calendar on a white board. Capture all the planned activities on the calendar, which will give you a visual picture of whether the “white space” is being honored.

2.    Observe a Sabbath – Whether the day falls on Sunday or another day of the week, a family needs to have one day when nothing gets accomplished. Sabbath reminds us that our relationship with God is not about what we can do for God, but that we are God’s children and can rest in our relationship with him.

If you do something on your Sabbath, stick to activities that are life-giving and that remind or point family members towards their relationship with God. I like how Eugene Peterson talks about the Sabbath pattern he and his wife created for most of their life in pastoral ministry. Every Monday they would take off and hike for most of the entire morning in silence, then gather to eat lunch together and reflect upon what they had seen. Your family can create your own Sabbath rituals—including time to play and time to pray. 2

Connect by Disconnecting

The more we immerse ourselves in a technologically-driven world, the more we need to thoughtfully reflect on how we use technology and how it impacts our relationships with one another. 3   If summer is an important time for us to connect as family, then our use of technology is one of the things we need to be thinking about. I love the words of Ronald Rolheiser recalling a conversation with a nun. The nun tells him, “My vocation is, at each moment, to make the person in front of me the most important person in my life.” 4

As a family this summer, how do you go about making each person in your family the most important person in your life?

1. Put Away the Cell Phone – The cell phone is often a constant reminder to our kids that someone or something else is more important than them. No matter how much I think I don’t let technology get in the way of my relationship with my kids, I usually underestimate. So I was convicted the other night when I read the article “How to Miss a Childhood” at the Hands Free Mama blog.  It’s a pretty sobering read, so I recommend you check it out. Here are some ideas for going cell-free:

  • Use a technology basket in your house. 5
  • Leave cell phones in cars or at home when you do activities.
  • Stay engaged by limiting the amount of photos you take. Check out the article by technologist John Dyer, “Parenting Tip: Three Photos and I’m Out.” 6

How to Get Started:

  1. If you are married, I recommend first meeting with your spouse so that the two of you can get on the same page. If you are not married, I recommend discussing these ideas with the kids’ father/mother so that co-parenting may be approached together. Grandparents or other summer caregivers should be part of the conversation as well. I also recommend sharing ideas with a friend, especially if you are not able to discuss them with anyone else. It’s helpful to get feedback, as well as garnering support and encouragement so that teamwork may come more easily this summer.
  2. Once you have met and discussed these ideas with others who will surround your kids this summer, I recommend having a family meeting right away. Just get the ball rolling before the summer gets out of reach. Plan an initial family meeting where you have every member of the family give input to what they want to do this summer. Give them 2-3 days to brainstorm ideas, and then come back for another meeting where you begin to put the ideas into action.
  3. Schedule a time at the end of the summer (put it on the calendar now!) when you will come back together for a family meeting to reflect, celebrate, and share both wins and losses from your family summer experience. This can be a great time to think together about creating expectations, rhythms, and ways to stay connected during the school year.  Keep a record of your insights so you will have them handy for next summer as your family continues to learn and grow together.

Rhett Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in private practice at Auxano Counseling in Plano, TX. His new book, The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety…continue reading and see more Sticky Faith resources by Rhett Smith


Follow Rhett Smith on Twitter!

  1. Lencioni, P. The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A Leadership Fable About Restoring Sanity To The Most Important Organization In Your Life, Jossey Bass. 2008. 
  2. Peterson, E. The Pastor: A Memoir. Harper One. 2011. 
  3. Smith, R. Maintaining Relational Presence in a Technological World. Fuller Youth Institute. 
  4. Rolheiser, R. The Restless Heart: Finding Our Home in Times of Spiritual Loneliness. 
  5. Pure Hope, Sixty Second Solutions: The Tech Basket. 
  6. Dyer, J. Parenting Tip: Three Photos and I’m Out. 

As I write this post I do so during one of the biggest and most frustrating seasons of transition that I have known, and I still don’t know how this chapter will end.  Any way you slice it, change is tough…even good change.  Any time you have to make adjustments to your lifestyle, habits, vocation, family there’s always some tension to navigate.  Not all tension is negative, as tension is often one of those warning signs that simply lets us know that something needs changing (like the check engine light on your car!).  But when change is thrust upon you quickly, well it’s not often easy to deal with.  Right now I’m in the midst of a transition that has taken much longer than we ever anticipated, and our family has had to navigate different waters and currents we didn’t see coming.  However, even within the uncertainty of where we find ourselves, I’ve learned to trust God deeper, positioned myself to know Him (and myself) more, and I’ve grown closer with my family than I likely would have if this transition had never taken place.

Now have you noticed the use of the words change and transition?  Both are used to describe our journey, but I’ve recently learned the difference in the meaning of the two.  In Rhett Smith‘s article, Anxiety in the In-Between Stages of Our Lives, he talks about change being situational (divorce, job loss, tragedy, moving, etc…), but transition is much more about how we process the events of change in the ‘in-between’ stages of getting ‘there’…wherever ‘there’ is.  Listen to what William Bridges says about change and transition (Smith quotes Bridges work: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, for his research while writing his new book, The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good);

Our society confuses them constantly, leading us to imagine that transition is just another word for change. But it isn’t…Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner re-orientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, that change doesn’t work, because it doesn’t ‘take.’ Whatever word we use, our society talks a lot about change; but it seldom deals with transition.

Smith later discusses how anxiety creeps into the transition stages during those ‘in-between’ times, and when not dealt with, leads to depression, anger, withdrawal, self-injury, and suicide.  Now I can honestly say I’ve never even come close to the point of self-injury or suicide, but I have battled thoughts of anger, depression and withdrawal during seasons of transition.  And it’s during these transitional seasons that real change can take place within us, if we allow God to transform and refine us in the fires of change.

Shouldn’t we be used to transition by now?  After all, we’ve been a transitional people since the garden incident where sin entered in and disrupted the original plan God had for mankind and forever changed the way we approach God.  It continued through the Exodus of God’s people from captivity in Egypt, and into the wilderness of change where the promised land awaited them.  Those were two of the biggest transition points in the history of the human race, not-to-mention numerous transitions during Old and New Testament times, and throughout the age of enlightenment, the industrial revolution, the reformation, the fall of communism, the world wars, and the Renaissance.  But going back to the exodus, which was a key moment for God’s people Israel.  The journey, changes and transition that took place was far more than just about moving into a new living space and escaping a bunch of angry Egyptians and a slighted Pharaoh.  It was about the transformation of individuals as a nation and people, and the transition taking place within them as they moved closer to the destination of change.  Or in simpler terms, it was more about the process than it was about the address change.

When I read the article, it gave me a renewed, and reminded, sense of hope in the midst of change.  God is far more concerned with the process, than He is with the actual destination…although it does matter.  But it’s the work that happens in between ‘here’ and ‘there’ that is the focal point (did you catch that unintended plug…Here & There…??).  Some of my biggest personal and spiritual growth moments have come during this season of transition, and because of that my leadership capacity as a husband, father, leader and child of God has experienced tremendous life and increase.  And it happened in the tension of change!

Make sure you give Rhett Smith’s article a read, and take note of the action steps he gives near the end that parents can use to effectively deal with the seasons of transition we all inevitably go through in life, especially the transitions kids go through as they grow and mature.  He points out 4 key strategies;

Talking About It- should go without saying…communication is vital during any change!  “Talking about our feelings, especially anxiety, helps us build a vocabulary that enables us to better understand how we feel, as well as connecting us with the listener.”
Ask Questions and Listen- Any time I have anxiety I find myself asking God, “What are you saying to me in my anxiety? What are you trying to teach me? How do you want me to respond to it?” Or, “Why am I anxious? Is there something in my life that needs changing?”
Co-Create Meaning- “Co-create a family story with your spouse and kids. Talk about what kind of story you have all been living, and whether or not it carries the meaning you desire.”
Practice Self-Care- “Someone who doesn’t practice self-care has nothing to offer their neighbor. They become an empty well with no living water flowing out of it.”

I hope this insight has been as helpful to you during your season of transition and change, as it has been for me and my family.  May our Lord and God continue to lead you through the season you’re in, and when you think you just can’t go any further without giving in, I leave you with 2 Corinthians 12:8-10;

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I pray you allow His grace to guide and sustain you, and don’t forget to check out Rhett Smith’s newly released book: The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good