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    How to Balance Marriage and Children

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    The Reason Why Boys Are Struggling

    Activist, educator and author Dr. Warren Farrell is at it again with his just-released book co-authored by Dr. John Gray, The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We can Do About It. For many years, Farrell has been concerned for the welfare of boys, and he believes that fatherlessness is at the very heart of the issue.

    In an Institute for Family Studies interview, Farrell asserts that today’s boys often struggle with a sense of hopelessness and a lack of purpose linked in part to family breakdown and father deprivation. He also believes that boys’ and men’s weakness is their facade of strength. 

    A recent United Nations study found boys lagging behind girls in all the developed nations. The women’s movement has really helped young girls recognize that girls can take many paths and be successful. However, while girls’ sense of purpose has grown, boys’ sense of purpose has not. Boys seem to hear either that it’s all about earning money or being a loser. Farrell wonders what would happen if we told boys that being a full-time caregiver is a worthy option?

    After poring through the related research, Farrell believes the gap between dad-deprived boys and dad-enriched boys will become the single biggest predictor of those who become economically poor versus economically rich. 

    Boys with little to no father involvement often look to their dads as role models, but without much time with their dads, their role models are more “straw men” or “straw dads,” says Farrell. 

    “These boys don’t benefit from overnights, hang-out time, and the many hours it takes for boys to bond with their dads and trust that their feelings won’t be dismissed. Dads tend to build bonds with their sons by, for example, playing games and rough-housing, and then use the resulting bond as leverage for their sons to “get to bed on time” lest there be “no playing tomorrow night.” 

    This boundary enforcement teaches boys postponed gratification, whereas boys with minimal or no father involvement are more frequently addicted to immediate gratification.  Additionally, having minimal or no father involvement increases the chances of video game addiction, ADHD, bad grades, less empathy, less assertiveness, more aggression, fewer social skills, more alienation and loneliness, more obesity, rudderlessness, anger, drugs, drinking, delinquency, disobedience, depression and suicide. Fatherless boys are also more likely to be imprisoned. 

    In a TEdx Talk on “The Boy Crisis,” Farrell cites that since 1980 in California, 18 new prisons have been built, but only one new university. There has been a 700 percent increase in the prison population and it is mostly a dad-deprived male population. 

    As an example of the pain of fatherlessness, Farrell mentioned Anthony Sims, known as the Oakland Killer. His last Facebook post was this:  “I wish I had a father.”

    While many see guns as the problem, Farrell contends that school shootings are mostly white boys’ method of acting out their hopelessness. He says guns are also white boys’ method of committing suicide, and serve as a reflection of our inability to help constructively track boys to manhood. He points out that girls living in those same homes with the same family values and issues are not killing people at school.

    Farrell speaks of attending a party once where he learned that a men’s group formed by Farrell had impacted a man named John more than any other thing in his life. When group members asked the man, “What is the biggest hole in your heart?” he blurted out, “I was so involved in my career, I neglected my wife and my son. That’s the biggest hole and a deeper hole because I ended up divorced. I remarried and the group knew that my wife was pregnant with our son.” The group then asked, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you like to do?” He said he would take five years off and help raise his son. He talked with his wife, who told him to go for it. He shared that it had been two years.

    When Farrell asked John if it was a good decision, he replied, “No. The best decision of my life. Up until I took care of my son, my whole life was about me, me, me. Suddenly it was about my son. I suddenly learned to love and be loved.” 

    As they were wrapping up their conversation, someone asked for an autograph. Farrell thought it was for him, but it was for John. Farrell said, “I guess you’re famous. What’s your last name, John?" 

    “Lennon,” he said. John Lennon had discovered he was not giving love by earning money as a human doing, but by being love. 

    Many boys wander aimlessly, looking for their purpose. Farrell and many others believe one way to end the boy crisis is for fathers, uncles, grandfathers and other male role models to step up and stand in the gap, and for women to encourage men in their efforts to raise men of purpose.

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    What You Can Do to End Human Trafficking

    An alert American Airlines ticket agent has been hailed a hero after preventing two teen girls from becoming part of a human trafficking scam. The girls showed up with one-way first-class tickets to New York City from California. They had no identification on them and the agent discovered the tickets were purchased with a fraudulent credit card. The suspicious ticket agent denied the girls’ tickets. While the teens walked over to a Starbucks table and made a call, the ticket agent alerted authorities.

    Authorities learned that a guy had invited the girls to New York City for the weekend so they could earn $2,000 performing in music videos and modeling. The teens had no idea their tickets were one-way.

    Who wouldn’t be excited about earning $2,000 in a weekend? Human traffickers often portray themselves as agents to connect young people to their dream career or to easy money. But that’s not the only way people end up being trafficked. Stories abound of people being preyed upon in stores, at truck stops and online.

    Research indicates that while human traffickers look for the most vulnerable at-risk youth, even young people who have loving, caring parents can fall victim to traffickers. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s website:

    • In the United States, on average, every two minutes, a child is bought or sold for sex.

    • The average age of a child sold for sex is 13 years old.

    • Human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking.

    “According to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, 41 percent of those who are trafficked are trafficked by family members,” says Emily Aikins, director of survivor services at Second Life, an anti-human trafficking nonprofit in Tennessee. “Many people have this stereotype in their mind of the kind of person that is trafficked when in reality, victims of human trafficking come from literally all walks of life.”

    Todd Womack, Senator Bob Corker’s chief-of-staff, happened to hear a human trafficking-focused sermon delivered by International Justice Mission’s Gary Haugen at Passion City Church in Atlanta a few years ago. At the end of Haugen’s talk, he made a plea to attendees, saying the only way to end human trafficking is if everybody looks around and decides what they can do to shed light on this tragedy in their own sphere of influence. 

    Womack and Corker took that call to heart and began working with the END IT Movement and other nonprofit organizations to envision, develop and pass into law the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which is now operating as the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. 

    You may be wondering how you can help prevent young people from becoming human trafficking victims. Here are some ways anyone can help:

    • Get educated. Educate yourself and family members, especially your teens, and friends about the signs of human trafficking. The more educated you are, the more prepared you will be to stop it.

    • Be alert. Whether you are in a restaurant, airport, walking on the street, at a sporting event or getting a pedicure, you can help prevent children from becoming victims - just like the American Airlines agent. If something looks suspicious, alert authorities by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center line at 1-888-373-7888. Tennessee’s own trafficking hotline is 855-558-6484.

    • Teach your children good internet safety skills. Know who is in your kids’ social network. Many predators connect with teens on social media and begin grooming them - then they do exactly as the person did with the two girls headed to New York City. They offer them something too good to be true, but even though they may know their parents wouldn’t approve, they aren’t quite discerning enough to realize they could be getting themselves into a dangerous situation.

    • Talk with your teens about healthy sexuality. Help them to know that sex is not a commodity to be bought and sold.

    No matter the size of your platform, everyone can do something. 

    Turner Matthews, who interned in Senator Corker’s office, learned of the END IT Movement two years ago. Upon returning to his school, he painted a huge rock on campus known as the “The Rock with a red X.” This year he not only painted “The Rock with a red X,” he also created an event around it to bring attention to human trafficking issues. He, like so many others, is using his personal sphere of influence to bring light to the problem.

    What will you do?

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    7 Life Hacks for Working Moms

    When it comes to being a mom and a businesswoman, things can get kind of crazy. Some days it feels nonstop as you move from changing diapers and cleaning up messes to taking conference calls and looking over balance sheets. 

    Plenty of moms have felt the angst of believing they don’t measure up as a mom or businesswoman. Jennifer Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway and current CEO and co-founder of Code 8, is no exception, and she definitely has some thoughts about it.

    “I think we all have to cut ourselves a little slack and realize that we probably aren’t going to have a perfect balance,” says Fleiss. “No one is perfect. We all have to figure out what works in our particular circumstance, which might mean shaving off a little bit on each end.”

    Fleiss confesses that she is her own toughest critic.

    “As a mom, I definitely feel the tug of guilt when I miss drop-offs, reading class books, cooking for bake sales, planning birthday parties and making lunches,” Fleiss says. “However, I think my husband and I have been able to work out a system that works well for our family.”

    When it came down to figuring out what worked, Fleiss understood the importance of having home, work and school nearby in order to save commute time. Additionally, both she and her husband intentionally try to only travel once a month, and syncing schedules helps them avoid being out of town at the same time.

    “I think one of the most powerful things that has come out of this is empowering my husband,” Fleiss asserts. “He bears a huge amount of the responsibilities in our home, which is what keeps me sane - and he is awesome at it. Our children (6, 3 and 1) have strong relationships with both of us, which I believe is a very good thing. And, I have learned not to go behind him and rearrange the dishwasher, or get bent out of shape when something is missing from the diaper bag. In the scheme of things those aren’t worth the time and energy.”

    Fleiss contends that in some strange way, being a businesswoman has made her a better mom. 

    “In the midst of the craziness, you learn not to sweat the small stuff,” Fleiss shares. “I don’t get as flustered as I used to, and I am more thoughtful when I respond to my family and others. I think I have learned to decipher between vitally important things that are a really big deal and those that are smaller deals which fall in the tyranny of the urgent category.”

    When it comes to her best mom hacks, Fleiss offers the following:

    • Wear ear plugs at night (so your husband hears the kids wake up first).

    • Dance parties count as workouts.

    • Going for a run with your husband equals date/catch-up time as a couple.

    • Getting things organized the night before makes mornings less chaotic.

    • Have hard-boiled eggs and bananas always at the ready.

    • Choose your battles.

    • Push-ups with kids on your back is a great workout, and it’s fun for the kids.

    “What I have learned about myself is that success isn’t just about business for me, it is about being able to enjoy and appreciate every aspect of my life,” Fleiss says.

    Fleiss learned from her own mother that balance is the key to enjoying both worlds. 

    “‘Why not do both?’ was something my mother often said to me, encouraging me to go after every opportunity and find a way to fit everything into my life to create fullness and composite happiness. She also constantly reminded me to slow down, smile and enjoy life.”

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    Tips for Creating a Family Safety Plan

    In a matter of days there has been a mass shooting at a Florida school, a drive-by shooting at a local eatery and bar, and a tragic accident resulting in a young mother’s death.

    Some say these events make them want to go somewhere and hide. Unfortunately, running away from it all is not an option for most people, but you can take steps to help keep your family members safe.

    We have all been taught to “stop, drop and roll” in the event of a fire, and for years we have taught children about stranger danger in an effort to avoid child abductions. Now, says we should be ready to “run, hide and fight.” 

    Although the thought of having this discussion with your kids can make you sad, talking about it and sharing ways your children can protect themselves may help them feel more secure. Your discussion will certainly vary based on age, however. 

    For elementary-age children, the American School Counselor Association recommends the following: 

    • Try to keep routines as normal as possible. Children gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.

    • Limit a younger child’s exposure to television and the news. This is actually good for adults as well.

    • Be honest and share as much information as your child is developmentally able to handle. Listen to their fears and concerns. Reassure them that the world is a good place to be, but there are people who do bad things.

    For older tweens and teens, specifically talk with them about how to take action should they find themselves in danger. For example, if they see something, they should say something. Show them how to be aware of their environment and to notice anything that looks out of the ordinary.

    In addition to these things, you can make a family plan to ensure everyone anticipates what they would do if confronted with an active shooter or some other type of violent situation. Look for the two nearest exits anywhere you go - the mall, a movie theater or restaurant - and have an escape path in mind or identify places you could hide. 

    If you ever find yourself in an active shooter situation, getting away from the danger is the top priority. Leave your belongings behind and get away. Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow. Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be. Call 911 when you are safe, and describe the shooter, location and weapons if you can.

    If you can’t escape, hide. Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet. Silence all electronic devices and make sure they won’t vibrate. Lock and block doors, close blinds and turn off lights. Don’t hide in groups - spread out along walls or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter. Try to communicate silently with police. Use text messaging or social media to tag your location, or put a sign in a window. Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all-clear. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.

    As a last resort, fight. Commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible against the shooter. Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc. Throw items to distract and disarm the shooter, and be prepared to cause severe or fatal injury to the shooter. 

    Clearly, this sensitive and intense topic should be handled with the utmost care. You know your family and what is in their best interest. These are trying times for everyone, so make sure you take the time to listen to your children. Encourage them to ask questions and to share their thoughts and feelings. Watch for any changes in their behavior, too, because stress and anxiety can show themselves in different ways depending on the child.

    Our world has changed, and many are experiencing a level of fear and anxiety that has not been present before. Sticking our heads in the sand or being unprepared is not constructive, and although accidents happen and you can’t prepare for everything, the best offense may be a good defense. Just as “stop, drop and roll” has saved many lives, learning protective strategies to implement in the event of violence can also make an impact. 

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    4 Tips for Becoming a Team in Marriage

    After you marry, who should you approach first as your confidant, to ask for an opinion or to work through an issue? Your spouse or your parents? Many couples wrestle with this in the early stages of marriage.

    One woman shared that she resented her husband of two years going to his mother about everything. He responded that he is closer to his mother and that she knows him better.

    “My husband and I dealt with this in the first few years of our marriage,” says marriage educator, wife and mother, Gena Ellis. “When I showed up on my parents’ doorstep, my mother told me to go home. She said I didn’t live there anymore and I needed to go home to my husband. My husband was not being mean or hurting me. I was just spoiled and mad that things weren’t going my way, so I ran home to Mama. I am grateful my mom set these boundaries.”

    Even though you love your spouse, learning how to get along together and grow your trust level takes time.

    “I think a lot of men don’t realize how their relationship with their mom can lead to their wife's insecurity in the marriage relationship,” says marriage coach Dr. David Banks. 

    “For example, many well-intentioned men do not realize that confiding in mom after getting married is like being traded from one sports team to another and going back to your former coach for advice. This actually works against building trust in the marriage and figuring out how to rely on each other.”

    Both Ellis and Banks agree that parents should receive, raise and ultimately, release their children.

    “It is truly in a couple's best interest if parents are a safety net rather than the first line of defense,” Ellis says. “If your adult child is having trouble 'cutting the apron strings,' helping him/her do that provides the best chance of a healthy and successful marriage. It is not helpful to say things like, ‘You will always have a room here.’ Or, ‘If she starts treating you bad, you just come home to Mama.’”

    If you are a newlywed, Banks and Ellis offer these tips as you leave your parents and join forces with your spouse.

    • First, sit down together and talk about what it means to be a team.

    • Resist the urge to run to your parents at every turn. Set healthy boundaries for you as the couple and for your parents. Constantly turning to your parents creates difficulty in building trust and confidence in each other.

    • Watch the influences you allow around your marriage. People who have a negative view of marriage don’t typically help you to build a healthy relationship with your spouse. In other words, you may have hung out with people before marriage that you should see less often now.

    • Consider attending a marriage enrichment class. There are great tools to help you build a strong, lasting marriage.

    “Loyalty is foundational to a healthy marriage team,” Banks says. “You may feel like your parents know you better and can offer better advice. But think of your marriage as your new team. Even though your old team knows you better, your job now is to make sure your new team knows you. This isn’t about giving up your relationship with your parents. It is about creating a new system where there is balance and everyone understands their appropriate role.”

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    How to Balance Marriage and Children

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    How to Balance Marriage and Children

    Some couples marry and have lots of time to nurture their relationship before children come along. Other couples marry and bring children into the marriage relationship immediately. Either way, when children enter the picture, the marriage relationship often resembles two ships passing in the night.

    There is no question that parenting focuses a lot of energy and love toward the children. And sometimes it becomes a challenge to have anything left for your spouse.

    While research indicates that marital satisfaction decreases when you have children, it doesn’t mean couples should throw in the towel. Many assume that after children come along, the kids should be the main focus. But studies show that child-centered marriages are the ones that are most at risk for distress. Focusing on building a strong marriage is a wonderful thing to give your children... and yourself. But, any parent can tell you that is easier said than done!

    In many instances both spouses are running 90 to nothing trying to juggle the kids, work, take care of household duties and care for their marriage. If couples don’t have their guard up, tyranny of the urgent can push date night to the bottom of the list in a flash.

    “If your marriage is strong, your whole family will be strong - your life will be more peaceful, you’ll be a better parent, and you’ll, quite simply, have more fun in your life,” says Elizabeth Pantley, mother, author and parenting expert.

    Being intentional about taking care of your marriage doesn’t have to be complicated. Pantley offers some helpful (and free) tips that don’t require extra hours in your day.

    • Look for the good and overlook the bad. When you are tired and stressed, it's easy to focus on the negative. Train yourself to look for the good qualities in your spouse.

    • Give two compliments every day. Life often gets so crazy that you might think something like, “She sure looks pretty in that outfit,” or “I really appreciate the ways he engages our children,” without actually saying it. Think about how you feel when you receive a compliment. They aren’t hard to give and they don’t cost a dime.

    • Pick your battles. It is easy to fall into the trap of fighting over silly things that truly will not matter 24 hours from now. Before you gear up for battle, ask yourself if this is really a big deal. In many instances the answer is no.

    • Be intentional about spending time with your spouse. It might be early in the morning or in the evening after you have put the children to bed, or even better – a date night. This is the hardest part because the tyranny of the urgent typically reigns. Some parents have formed a co-op where they take turns taking care of each other’s children in order to allow for couple time.

    While loving your children is important, making time for each other should be at the top of the list. After all, the heart of the family is marriage and it's really important to keep that focus. Even though it probably doesn’t feel like it right now, your children will become adults in the blink of an eye. Then they will start their own families and it will just be the two of you again.