Tim Butler

Counselor, Life Coach & Speaker

Filtering by Tag: family

Get Real

In the messiness of life, it is necessary to Get Real to better understand and manage our unrealistic expectations.

Whether it is a marriage that seems messy, or the family life that leaves us pulling our hair out, we all have some form of less-than-ideal conditions which need attention. Stress can rob us of joy; not living in reality can lead to increased levels of stress.

Taking into consideration the fact that we are not always able to change our circumstances to match our expectations, learn how to find peace with it all. There is peace in resignation.

Listen to the full version of this 30 minute topic.

5 Parenting Points to Ponder

Depending where you are on the continuum of parenting, you have learned, or are learning, that parenting is a blend of art and science.  Since every child is different, our parenting styles must flex to meet the child where he or she is currently. There are some absolutes though. In my own 27 years of parenting and my 17 years of marriage and family counseling, I have seen some timeless tips emerge:

1. Be the parent.

Too often the tendency is to be so much of a friend to your child that you forget that you are some 20+ years older than they are. No matter what you know or don’t know, you know more than they.

Display that.

Be the mature, self-controlled parent who is leading them into life.

The friendship will grow over time; be someone they can reach up to and find comfort, protection, and wisdom.

2. More is caught than taught.

I learned way too late that my pre-teen daughter was watching the way I drove a car way more than she was listening to my sage wisdom on driving. No surprise, when she got behind the wheel of her car, she drove just like me—which was not good.

We think we can merely tell our kiddos the right way to live life (don’t smoke; use appropriate language; no need for yelling; patience; etc.) but we forget that those little impressionable minds have no filter for separating our actions from our words.

What we do speaks volumes more than what we say.

Screaming at your child, for example, to, stop screaming, would be funny if it was not so common and so damaging.

3. Keep expectations age-appropriate.

There is a notion that since I told my child one time to do something, they will forever remember it. Have you noticed that even adults do not perform so well?

The marathon of raising a child from infancy to independence will necessitate parents repeating the exact same message again and again. Repetition builds retention.

4. Avoid the clinical definition of insanity.

We have all heard the idea that repeating the same pattern again and again and expecting a different outcome is the stuff of looney tunes. Considering my comment on #3, this one might seem contradictory.

Teaching your child to tie his shoes, or, learn her weekly spelling words will take repetition. Asking a child to please pick up their toys now and put them in the box, needs only be said once. More than that requires appropriate consequences.

I see some humorous—but sad—versions of kids training parents to repeat things so often the parent ends up doing their own toy pick up. Score: One point for the child.

Multiple episodes of this renders the parent helpless to get the child to ever listen to their voice.

Actual quote heard in my office: “You mean I can actually get my child to obey me?”Seriously?

5. Seek wisdom from those who are ahead of you.

You are not the first parent to be exhausted and exasperated with trying to be a quality parent. As special as your little bundle of joy might be, they are not so unique that other parents experience will not apply.

Some parents truly believe that their journey is a one-of-a-kind. Spoil alert: Your child has many equals in this Cosmos. Find a mother or father who has had some parenting years under their belt and drain their wisdom bucket.

It is amazing how simple tips from an outsider will make a huge difference in your own parenting efforts. I know, I am that objective voice on a daily basis to my patients. No, I am not a genius, I am just seasoned a bit and have seen most every variation at least once or twice.

Keep your sanity and draw on someone else who can look back to give you counsel.

BONUS: Remember, any child younger than their low 20’s is legitimately brain damaged. The brain is still developing, so, no, your child is NOT an adult when they are merely 12. “Act like an adult!” Impossible until the brain grows to maturity. There even may be some structural changes after the low 20’s. Continuous learner.

A View From The Bridge

Time creates a bridge that spans the hole, created by the death of a loved one. One has to decide whether to cross over the bridge, or choose to walk down into the depths of the crevasse. This choice has to be made often. Clearly the walk over the depressive opening is harder and takes intentionality.

The week between March 25th and the 30th always presents that same opportunity for me to stop on the bridge and look down. Looking contemplatively, into the vast expanse of emptiness resulting from the death of our daughter.

Emotionally it seems so attractive to dive into the depths below. Over the years, however, and after a few trips down, I come back to the surface realizing I am not able to accomplish what I thought I might, namely, feeling better for having drowned in my sorrows.

Instead, I have learned the beauty of stopping—intentionally—on my otherwise activity-filled life to remember what the hole really means to me: The joys and sorrows that accompany the life and death of our sweet little Linette. Born on the 2nd of January, 1990, and advanced to Heavenly bliss on the 25th of March, 2002.

As I look over the bridge this year I find myself healthier than I was in 2002.

I find myself a much stronger person as a result of clamoring up the banks of the deep divide to find footing on the bridge.

I find myself cherishing all the memories of her life, and being less traumatized by the events preceding her death.

I am able to clearly see the beauty of my life, and yet still embrace the tears when thoughts of missing her come to mind.

I do not push the thoughts away, but I am able to breathe deeply the bittersweet fragrance of her short life and still maintain my footing, as I journey life without her. For those who knew her, feel free to look over the bridge for your own contemplative remembrances. Share them with me if you like.

For others who only have heard the stories, take time to pray that her impact will penetrate the beauty of life for those of us who have learned to walk with a limp.

The Power Of Relationships

The blogs will be numerous on this very tragic and sudden topic of innocent children and adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Multiple blogs will facilitate highlighting awareness to the various facets of this tragedy.

Certainly the foremost issue at this point is the parent’s loss as a result of the death of their children. Having gone through the loss of my own daughter 10 years ago, I can relate to the great chasm created by such an event and the deep depressive fall each grieving parent will find themselves uncontrollably thrust into. Pray for their comfort as they attempt to move on and rebuild from this event. Pray for them in the months and years to come. Their journey will be long.

As a clinician in the mental health field I am intimately acquainted with those who suffer from emotional and mental illness. Whereas there are no easy answers, there are some points that need to be made.

First, let me say that I have no more knowledge of the specific details of the shooter, Adam Lanza, than you have. We have all read the same news accounts and everyone is searching for the same answer to the elusive question…Why?

Let me state this with certainty; emotionally healthy and mentally sane people do not kill innocent children—with all due respect to those who advocate for greater restrictions of gun sales.

From what we know today, the shooter was not healthy emotionally and probably not stable mentally. Clearly we cannot legislate common sense, and we will never be able to eradicate horrific things being done by those with evil intentions.

It also seems the shooter lacked healthy relationships—either friends or family. Clearly there were many reasons for this, not the least of which is the relational limitations that a mentally/emotionally challenged person struggles with.

However, that leads me to at least one thing to learn from this event: The power of relationships to prevent unhealthy actions and promote normalicy and empathy.

Kids with healthy relationships with their parents tend to be healthier as adults; even kids with mental illnesses. Parents, who model healthy relationships with each another, will serve the children well in developing healthy, nurturing relationships themselves.

In my practice I am seeing more and more families that are broken by divorce, lack of emotional self-control, or, severely hampered by both parents working full time and choosing not to make time for being a relational parent. Kids grow up creating their own version of reality, rather than having a healthy parent guiding them into truth, with morals and values. Kids are learning “reality” from the preponderance of violent video games. Killing becomes a game.

If you have the privilege of being a parent (biological, adoptive, foster, grandparent), make it your plan to be an active, healthy parent. I have yet to meet with with any school-aged child who tells me they prefer to spend less time with their parents.

The breakdown of the family is a major contributor—if not the major contributor—of many of the social ills we are witnessing today. Kids are learning to be adults though the broken and uncontrolled lives of their parents. Much more is caught, than taught, when raising children.

What are they seeing in your shadow?

Parents need to be healthy themselves—body, soul, spirit—so they can model healthy relational living to the ones they love the most.

Take time to be an active parent today, and all the days of their young, formative years. The payback will be a healthier family and a healthier community.

Maybe then we will be in a better place to see how “these tragedies must end” as spoken by our President on Sunday evening.

Fighting For Your Marriage (Video and Audio)

This past weekend CedarCreek continued their series with Fighting for your Marriage. During that time I shared of the need for taking care of your own contribution in the areas of (1) managing conflict (2) appropriate treatment of your partner and (3) seeing to your own spiritual, physical, and emotions health.

The feedback was indicative of a generation who may have forgotten that message but very much appreciated the opportunity to be stretched.

People don’t really want to get divorced. People do not really want to continue the ongoing stress. If pressed, people know the only person they can change is themselves, yet they still try to do the impossible. Admittedly it is hard to look into the mirror of your own reality and ask yourself how you are contributing to the problem, and, more importantly, what you could do differently to improve things.

Reactively we want to pass blame on the other person—making a case for our own victimhood. It is way easier to try to identify the errors in our spouse than to look truthfully into our own emotions and actions. Human nature to be sure.

I spoke with several folks who had taken the challenge to change themselves; amazing stories. Congrats!

Listen to Fighting For Your Marriage

Hear the audio version of my talk below or download it and take it with you.

Fighting For Your Marriage

Married? Planning on getting married anytime soon? Finding marriage harder than you thought? You are not alone.

Marriage is an institution created by God in which He designed two very different people and told them to live together—in harmony. Does that sound easy? Not always. But there are some definite do’s and don’t in the winding road of marriage.

This Sunday, 6/7, I will be speaking on the topic of Fighting for your Marriage at Cedar Creek Church. Come hear what to do that will go a long way toward making your marriage as divorce-proof as possible. Clearly, your spouse can always leave you, but find out how to be the kind of person your partner would want to be married to, and not leave.

These days, when you hear of a fight breaking out as it relates to one’s marriage, you likely think the worst. Why wouldn’t you? Approximately 50% of all marriages in America end in divorce. Most television and movies portray marriages in disarray, fighting over petty things and damaging families. Our court system keeps a steady stream of cases trying to juggle the many complaints for divorce that come through their doors. Sadly, some divorcees think that the issue was solely their spouse and simply turn around and get remarried. That’s where we see an even steeper downward cycle because 60% of second marriages and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.

Married people spend most of their “marriage repair” time in trying to fix or change the other person. As I ask my patients in my counseling sessions, how’s that working for you? Changing other people is so over-rated, but yet we try to do it all the time.

Did you know that how you manage conflict is the greatest predictor of how well a marriage will be lived and how long it will last. Add that to the fact that over 60% of conflict in marriage never goes away, and you have an idea of what you will hear this weekend.

Holidays: Love 'em or Leave 'em?

Say what you want about the holiday season, but the reality is, the holidays are upon us, as happens every year. For some it is the happiest time of the year, but for many, it represents a time for emotional turmoil, frenzied schedules, and grand disillusionment. Pace and balance are two words in scarcity during these months. We tend to get caught up in the social momentum; throwing regard for personal stability out with the summer toys. We lose our sense of homeostasis when the holiday music begins (way too early for many), and find ourselves racing toward the grand and glorious finish line. However, as we learn every year, and unlearn by the time November rolls around again, on the other side of the finish line is a dark hole. Let down. Awkward silence. Dark days ahead. Ever wonder why January and February are the biggest months for mental health services? For many, the emotional crash leaves us gasping for breath in our innermost being, yearning for the joy and warmth that was promised just a few weeks back. What is the problem? What can be done about it?

Be Realistic. Put together a realistic plan that incorporates all the subtle nuances in your life this year. Remember, every year brings its own challenges and burdens. Ignoring the unique load on your shoulders this year, will be as effective as leaving the gravy on the stove top too long. The expectations of others are not necessarily a good guide for your holiday journey. Meeting—or exceeding—last year’s performance may be unrealistic for you and your family. Memories are made whether we plan or not. Set your sights on the plan of action that best suits all involved. Whether the plan is on paper (preferred) or stored in the already-crowded closets of your mind (overloaded), be realistic as to what you can do and what simply is not going to fit in. Then, keep your plan, to the best of your ability; making slight course corrections along the way. You will find you have more joy and peace.

Learn To Say No. Social pressures can mount exponentially during these emotional months. Being forced into spaces with not-so-loved ones can leave us wishing we were wearing a pager to allow us a graceful exit. To be sure, some familial encounters are necessary and important; grin and bear it. But, for other invites, a simple response is all that you need to effectively communicate…”No, it is just not going to work out this year. But thanks”. Weigh demands against your own reality before you agree.

Lastly, remember: this season will pass as it does every year. Try to maintain your emotional balance during the various demands on your time, schedule, and emotions.