Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Family Night: Improving Family Communication 2

Note: Many of you know I teach communication classes at two local colleges. I love my subject matter and have greatly benefitted personally from it. I believe there are many families who could use the information I teach to better improve their relationships at home. In response to this belief, I have created a series of family night lessons that focus on various aspects of communication. The following lesson focuses on building a positive self-concept. You can see an earlier lesson here. Want to receive notification of future lessons to be posted in this series? Like my Facebook page.

Building a Positive Self-Concept

Purpose: To help individuals understand the importance and influence of self-concept on communication.

Scripture: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).

Thought: “The dignity of self is greatly enhanced by looking upward in the search for holiness. Like the giant trees, we should reach up for the light. The most important source of light we can come to know is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is the source of inner strength and peace” (James E. Faust).[2]

Key Term: Self-concept – Idea or mental image one has of their own strengths, weaknesses, characteristics, and personality.

Lesson: Heavenly Father wants us to understand we are His children; it is one of the most fundamental doctrines of His gospel. The scriptures teach, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; . . . For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). A true understanding of our heavenly heritage is not only essential to our eternal salvation, but it also helps us to develop an accurate, healthy self-concept.
The self-concept is built during our younger, formative years and is relatively stable thereafter. It is influenced by a number of factors, including:
·         Other’s opinions of you (as expressed verbally and non-verbally).
·         Comparisons we make with others (including what is seen in media).
·         Cultural teachings.
·         Self-evaluations of our own behavior.[1]
Jesus said that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), implying the need for a healthy self-image. When we feel positive about ourselves, it is reflected in our communication with others; we are more upbeat, encouraging, and helpful. We are better able to love and serve those around us. Conversely, those with a negative self-concept are not only critical of their own actions, but often exhibit pessimistic, off-putting behavior toward others.
The self-concept can be strengthened by: 1.) Get to know yourself better; understand your strengths, weaknesses, talents, and potential; 2.) Set and work toward realistic goals to track progression and growth; 3.) Make home a warm, comfortable environment where love, appreciation, and affirmation take priority; and 4.)  Take time to learn and study gospel principles related to our divine nature. President James E. Faust stated, “May we all have a feeling of personal worth and dignity born of the knowledge that each of us is a child of God, and be strengthened by looking upwards in the pursuit of holiness.”[2]

Activity: Use scratch paper or note cards to write down a wide variety of words often used to describe personalities (about five per person; this website has a list of over 600). Before giving the lesson, spread the note cards out for everyone to see. Have each family member choose and share three they feel best describes themselves. Explain that this image we each have of ourselves is called the self-concept.

For Little Ones: Every child loves to hear the story of how they were born or came into the family. Take time to retell each child’s birth/adoption story, including how their name was chosen. Look at a few photographs of each newborn. Emphasize the positive feelings of love and excitement of welcoming a new member of the family, as well as the eternal nature of their existence.

Challenge: Emory University researchers have found family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help individuals understand who they are in the world. As a result, learning more about family history can strengthen self-concept and increase our ability to achieve desired goals.[3] Take time this week to tell favorite family stories. Be sure to include both those from current and past family members. You may also choose to browse through family photographs or other mementos as a way to share family history and values.

Suggested Music: “O My Father” (Hymns no. 292) or “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns no. 301).

[1] McCornack and Ortiz, Choices and Connections: An Introduction to Communication, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014.
[2] James E. Faust, “The Dignity of Self,” Ensign, May 1981, 10.
[3] Robyn Fivush et al, “Do You Know? The power of family history in adolescent identity and well-being,” Journal of Family Life, 23 Feb. 2010.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Coronado Island Memories

Note: In a month or so I have to teach a lesson at church for the Family History Committee on writing family stories or memories. In preparation for this I thought I would practice a little. This is a second rough draft effort. Read an earlier effort about Easter memories here.

The Hotel del Coronado and the beach of my childhood.

The most frequent family vacation I took growing up was to San Diego. My parents had made friends with Larry and Jackie Croucher when we lived back in Indianapolis. After we moved to Mesa, the Crouchers were living in San Diego. So it was an affordable vacation to go and stay with the Crouchers and visit the beach. Most often we visited Coronado Island and played on the beach in front of the Hotel del Coronado.

We loved the beach at Coronado. We built a lot of sand castles, body surfed, and played Frisbee. The first year we visited there we took hobo/tinfoil dinners to cook. They were pretty much done cooking when the beach patrol showed up and said fires were not allowed. Oops. We were also reprimanded for having a kite because it might interfere with military aircraft. We learned our lessons from these experiences and were law-abiding beach-goers afterward.

My brother James, in particular, loved Coronado Island and all of its architecture. It perfectly suited the designer in him, as well as his appreciation for history. We teased and laughed at him when on one trip he began to give us a very tour-guide-like explanation of the bungalow homes: “After the end of WWII, service men home from the war wanted to build homes off the base. However, money was tight. The solution was to build the smaller bungalow style homes we see on Coronado today…”
My parents with the Hotel del in the background (1982).

Sometimes we would wander over to the Hotel del Coronado and look around inside. The Hotel del Coronado is a Victorian resort built out of wood; it is famous for its red turrets. The dark wood interior, creaking floors, and luxury d├ęcor were always exciting to see. We especially liked the various shops inside. There was more than just a regular gift shop found in a tourist attraction; it was like a little mall of stores, most selling clothes and hats. My mom loved the Christmas shop there and we started to make it a point to visit it regularly. I think we even bought a few ornaments, including a Hummel. The Hotel del Coronado was the inspiration for the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz, and it was certainly magical for me growing up—even though I have never stayed there.

We recently took a quick trip to Coronado and I had so much fun biking around the island. The Hotel del Coronado was just as majestic and beautiful and I remembered. Looking at the bay, the blue bridge, and reliving the memories I made there growing up made me wax nostalgic. Now I only wish I had taken my own children there more often.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Family Night: Improving Family Communication

Note: Many of you know I teach communication classes at two local colleges. I love my subject matter and have greatly benefitted personally from it. I believe there are many families who could use the information I teach to better improve their relationships at home. In response to this belief, I have created a series of family night lessons that focus on various aspects of communication. The following lesson focuses on verbal communication. Want to receive notification of future lessons to be posted in this series? Like my Facebook page. If you have a specific communication need you would like to see in lesson form, let me know in a comment. Enjoy!

Verbal Communication

Purpose: To encourage effective, Christlike communication in the home.

Scripture: “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings” (D&C 108:7).

Thought: “If we want our relationships to improve, we must learn to speak in positive ways that edify and build those around us” (Mark Ogletree).[1]

Key Term: Communication – “Communication is more than a sharing of words. It is the wise sharing of emotions, feelings, and concerns.”[2]

Lesson: A young mother had the habit of watching television during the bedtime hour. Exhausted from the day’s activities, she felt torn between talking with and caring for her children and taking personal time to enjoy her shows. While pondering the problem, the mother made the decision to turn off the television and make time to talk with her children. “After about two weeks of leaving the television off, I felt a burden somehow lifted. I realized I felt better, even cleaner somehow, and I knew I had made the right choice.”[3]

Conversation is central to family relationships. It is an indicator of how close family members are, as well as the means for developing that closeness, encourage teamwork, and promote problem solving. Without communication, relationships fumble and fade. As a result, keeping an open dialogue—genuine two-way interaction—between family members is crucial. However, talking together does not always come easily. As Rosemary Wixom taught, “It takes time to focus on the things that matter most. Talking, listening, and encouraging do not happen quickly. They cannot be rushed or scheduled—they happen best along the way.”[4]

Following the Principle of Cooperation[5] while talking can help family members communicate effectively:

1.      Be Clear – communicate in a straightforward manner; avoid ambiguity. Ask directly for what you need.

2.      Be Relevant – talk about what is related to the conversation at hand. Do not jump topics too quickly.

3.      Be Honest – present only information known or assumed to be truthful; do not lie or exaggerate.

4.      Be Informative – give neither too little nor too much information; get to the point in a timely manner. Be willing to share additional information if asked.

5.      Be Positive – check thoughts before speaking; strive to uplift, encourage, and inspire. Being continuously negative or critical often leads to conflict.

Activity: Come up with a secret code (e.g., reversed words, read only every other letter, PigPen code, etc.) and have family members encode positive messages to each other. Let each person decode their messages. Use this as an attention-getter to lead into discussing the importance of effective communication.
For Little Ones: Have each child choose a favorite fairy tale, storybook, or scripture story (this video story of The 3 Billy Goats would work well). Read, watch, or re-tell the story, then discuss how effective the communication was among the characters. Ask how the characters could have improved their communication. Use each of the Principle of Cooperation points as guidelines.

Challenge: Discuss strategies for bettering family dialogue overall. Select one of the five characteristics of the Principle of Cooperation to improve on in the upcoming week.

Suggested Music: “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words” (Hymns no. 232) or “If the Savior Stood Beside Me” (available for download on, or see October 1993 Friend Magazine).

See a different communication lesson here.

[1] Mark Ogletree, “Speak, Listen and Love,” Ensign, February 2014, 15.
[2] Marvin J. Ashton, “Family Communications,” Ensign, May 1976, 52.
[3] Susan Heaton, “Talk Time Instead of TV Time,” Ensign, Oct. 1998, 73.
[4] Rosemary M. Wixom, “Taking Time to Talk and Listen,” Ensign, April 2012, 10.
[5] Adapted from Lindblom, K., “Cooperating with Grice: A cross-disciplinary metaperspective on uses of Grice’s cooperative principle,” Journal of Pragmatics, 2001, 33:1601.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Memories

Note: In a month or so I have to teach a lesson at church for the Family History Committee on writing family stories or memories. In preparation for this I thought I would practice a little. This is a rough draft effort.

My parents always treated holidays with extra flair. And Easter was no exception. We colored eggs every year well into my teens. My older brother James was exceptionally artistically talented, so the egg coloring was his wheelhouse. The things he could do with a white Crayola crayon, a Paas decorating kit, and a dozen hard-boiled eggs were amazing. He made beautifully dyed eggs with floral scenes, Victorian designs, and silly messages. Jeff and I had fun with the dyed eggs too, but we mostly stuck with simple stripes and wavy lines.

When we were younger there was generally an egg hunt. My parents put chocolate, coins, and other small goodies in the eggs for us to find. They also hid the hard-boiled, dyed eggs (which we all loved to eat). We were pretty competitive about finding the eggs and would often re-do the hunt on our own as play. When we lived in Albuquerque we re-hid the eggs around the house, but one hard-boiled egg was left unfound until the smell led to it being found a week or so later up inside one of the green ceramic elephant side tables.

The last egg hunt I remember occurred the first Easter after moving to Mesa, Arizona. Easter Sunday was fairly late that year (1977), and the 90 degree heat of early summer had arrived. My parents hid the filled eggs all around the back yard in the morning before we went to church. The plan was to hold the egg hunt after church. Unfortunately, by the time we returned home mid-day, and found the eggs, all of the chocolate had melted inside them.

Easter clothes were another part of our holiday celebration. Each year I had a new Easter dress (some beautifully made by my sweet mom) and shoes to wear. A favorite Easter dress of mine was one with carrots across the front.  Some years my parents took a snap shot of us before church in our Easter finery. Looking back at some of the photos is a funny review of 1970s and 80s fashions. Here are a few of my Easter pictures from growing up:
1975, In my favorite carrot dress.
1977, I loved this strawberry jumper my mom made.

I am grateful for the fun Easter memories my parents created for us. They worked hard to not only celebrate the day, but to teach us about the importance of the Savior and his Atonement.  Their efforts are a main reason my testimony of the Savior continues to grow today.