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Research conducted by Gallup from January to September 2013 reveals that married Americans tend to have an above average income. This leads to more spending, which stimulates the economy.

In fact, married Americans spend more than those in any other marital status category across age groups. Americans who have never married spend significantly less, particularly those younger than 50. The study suggests that if marriage rates increase, overall spending in the United States may increase.

Interestingly, W. Bradford Wilcox, director of The National Marriage Project, has been studying the impact of marriage on financial stability.

Writing for The Atlantic Monthly, Wilcox states, “The Add Health dataset for the Home Economics Project, a new joint initiative between the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies, indicates that adolescents raised in intact, married homes are significantly more likely to succeed educationally and financially.

“Young adults who were raised in a home by their married parents are 44 percent more likely to graduate from college. College graduates have better job prospects, tend to make more than minimum wage and are less likely to be unemployed. The benefits are greatest for less privileged homes, that is, where their mother did not have a college degree. Young people from less-privileged homes with married parents are more likely to graduate from college and earn about $4,000 more than their peers from non-intact families.”

Wilcox goes on to talk about the implications between adolescent family structure and family formation for young adults. Men and women who come from intact families are approximately 40 percent less likely to have a child out of wedlock. Why is this significant? Because research from numerous groups including Brookings Institution and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies indicates that unwed childbearing decreases your chances of marrying.

By following the success sequence – complete high school (at a minimum), work full time and marry before having children, a person’s chances of being poor fall from 12 to 2 percent. And, their chances of joining the middle class or above rise from 56 to 74 percent. (Middle class has an income of at least $50,000 a year for a family of three).

This information is not new. Tons of research show the financial benefits of healthy marriage for adults and their children, including Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences to The Case for Marriage.

The influence married people have on the economy is new however. Married people have more expendable income. As a result, they are able to buy more, which positively impacts our country’s economy.

Despite a decrease in the U.S. marriage rate and people’s apparent skepticism about the prospect of marriage, there is convincing evidence that marriage’s financial benefits impact more than just the couple.

The Gallup research, along with other studies, indicates that no other living arrangement offers these benefits to the same degree as marriage. The ripple effect of healthy marriage affects the economy and so much more. Perhaps all of us would benefit from learning how to do marriage well.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist with a lifelong fascination for how our minds react to and organize information. He is currently an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University. 

One of the outcomes of his journey is the New York Times bestseller, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. The provocative read takes on the designs of our schools and work environments.

“Your brain is fully capable of taking little black squiggles on this piece of bleached wood and deriving meaning from them,” Medina says in an email. “To accomplish this miracle, your brain sends jolts of electricity crackling through hundreds of miles of wires composed of brain cells so small that thousands of them could fit into the period at the end of this sentence. You accomplish all of this in less time than it takes you to blink. Indeed, you have just done it. What’s equally incredible, given our intimate association with it, is this: Most of us have no idea how our brain works.”

Consider this. We try to talk on our cellphones and drive at the same time, even though it is literally impossible for our brains to multitask when it comes to paying attention. We have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive. The layout of our schools requires most real learning to occur at home.

“This would be funny, if it weren’t so harmful,” says Medina. “Brain scientists rarely have conversations with teachers and business professionals, education majors and accountants, superintendents and CEOs. Unless you have the Journal of Neuroscience sitting on your coffee table, you’re out of the loop. I wrote Brain Rules to help people become more productive by understanding what little we do know about how the brain operates.”

Medina asserts that, if you wanted to create an education environment directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that opposes what the brain is good at doing, you’d probably design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.

“My goal is to introduce people to the 12 things we know about how the brain works,” says Medina. “I call these brain rules. For each rule, I present the science. And then I offer ideas for investigating how the rule might apply to our daily lives, especially at work and school.

“Whether you are teachers, parents, business leaders or students, by using what we know about how the brain works — such as how it’s affected by stress, how it forms memories and what it takes to engage it — we can identify ways to better harness its power and improve performance.”

Admiral William McRaven, bestselling author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, delivered the 2014 commencement address at his alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. He shared that after he graduated, he went straight to be commissioned in the Navy and on to SEAL training.

Although McRaven retired as a Navy SEAL after 37 years of service, his accomplishments were not easy. He recounted six months of grueling exercise, sleepless nights and harassment by professionally-trained warriors seeking to weed out those incapable of leading in an environment of constant stress, chaos and hardships.

McRaven challenged the graduates, reminding them of their school slogan: What starts here changes the world.

“According to Ask.com, the average person meets 10,000 people throughout their lifetime,” said McRaven. “If the 8,000 plus graduates here tonight changed the lives of 10 people, and those people changed the lives of 10 people and another 10, in five generations, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800,000,000 people in 125 years. If that kept going for another generation, you could change the entire population of the world.”

Additionally, McRaven highlighted 10 lessons from SEAL training he believes are relevant to changing the world:

  • Start off by making your bed. By doing this, you have accomplished the first task of the day.

  • Find someone to help you paddle. You can’t change the world alone. Getting to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide you.

  • Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. SEAL training is the great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed.

  • Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or perform, you will still end up as a sugar cookie.

  • Don’t be afraid of the circuses. The circus was a form of SEAL punishment which consisted of two extra hours of calisthenics for those who failed to meet physical standards. Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful and discouraging. At times, it will test you to the very core.

  • Slide down the obstacle head first. One SEAL went head first during an exercise. It was risky, dangerous and seemed foolish, but he finished in record time.

  • Don’t back down from the sharks. There are sharks in the world. If you want to complete your swim, you will have to deal with them.

  • You must be your very best in the darkest moment. Every SEAL knows that the darkest moment of the mission is the time to be calm and composed, and when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

  • Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. During Hell Week, SEALS spent 15 hours up to their neck in bone-chilling, cold mud. One student started singing and they all joined in, which helped them survive. The power of one person can change the world by giving people hope.

  • Don’t ever, ever ring the bell. In other words, never ever give up.

These are powerful words for us all. Are you up to the challenge?

When Susan Packard was 25 and working in a sales position at Home Box Office, she saw an opportunity to advance in the organization.

“I went to my boss, Bill Grumbles, and told him I thought I was the right person for the position,” says Packard, co-founder of HGTV and author of New Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace. “He paused, looked at me and said, ‘Susan, do you want to run a company some day?’ I replied yes. He proceeded to tell me why I did not want to take that particular position and educated me on the types of jobs that would best position me for my future aspirations.”

That was the first of many educational moments for Packard as she began her ascent to the C-suite. She went on to be founder of Scripps Network Interactive and co-founder of HGTV.

“A few years ago, a friend of mine said she thought my story was interesting and I ought to consider writing a book for women on navigating the workplace,” Packard says. “The more I thought about it and the more time I spent mentoring women in the workplace, I realized my friend was right. There are many lessons I have learned through the years that could be beneficial for other working women.”

Packard’s book serves as a toolkit of behaviors and strategies to help women advance in the workplace. She refers to the behaviors and strategies as gamesmanship. 

“I talk about why it is a bad idea for women to act like men, the importance of composure, why women need to create a network around them of people they trust, how to dress and why competition isn’t a bad thing,” Packard says.

Another strategy in Packard’s book is the art of brinksmanship to gain an advantage without clearly stating your goal. In poker, this is the art of reading “the tell.”

For example, Packard recalls taking her HGTV CEO to meet with the head of Tele-Communications, the cable industry’s leader at the time. They arrived for the meeting and had to wait two hours. When the meeting finally began, the guy stated his company’s position. Packard believed it was ridiculous. About fifteen minutes into the meeting, Packard stood up and declared the meeting over. When her CEO asked why the meeting went so badly, Packard replied, “It did not go badly. We actually won that round. They wanted us to beg. We needed to tilt the power in our favor.”

It took two years, but they eventually closed the deal. Packard contends it is that kind of dealmaking that helps perfect the art of business brinkmanship.

The book cover has a queen chess piece with a king chess piece in the shadows. Packard explains that the queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board. She is the only one who can move any direction on the board. Similarly, women in the workplace are adaptable, mentally fluid, and typically can juggle a lot of balls simultaneously. Women have unique opportunities to shine powerfully and positively. There’s no need to hide behind the shadows of men in the workplace.

Joanie Sompayrac has taught college students for more than two decades. She began to notice a change in her students about 10 years ago.

“I enjoy teaching and I love my students,” says Sompayrac. “The last 10 years have been really interesting as I have watched students move away from being independent thinkers not afraid to speak their mind. I used to ask questions in class and students would be eager to answer. Today they are terrified to be wrong.

“I have students in my class who are terrible at accounting. I ask them why they are majoring in it and they say, ‘Because my parents told me to,’ not because they are passionate about the subject. They have bought into the notion that their parents know best.”

Sompayrac isn’t alone. Colleges across the country are experiencing this same phenomenon. As a result, Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford University dean of freshmen, began to research the surprising trend. You can read about in her book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.

“Parents are applauding kids at every turn just for showing up versus when they accomplish something,” says Lythcott-Haims. “They are constructing play through play dates. When kids have been raised like this, it is not a surprise that, as young adults, they are still looking for their parents’ approval, direction and protection in college and the world of work.

“The students were becoming less independent as parents increased control over their children’s lives,” she says. “I noticed that too many students weren’t trying to get their parents off their back; they were relieved to have their parents do the hard work.”

While both believe that parents mean well in their attempts to help, neither Lythcott-Haims or Sompayrac believes this kind of parental engagement ultimately helps the students.

“When college students have no idea how to think for themselves, problem-solve and be critical thinkers, that is not a good thing,” Sompayrac contends. “When parents choose their child’s major, intervene in resolving roommate issues or contact a professor about a grade, they are depriving their child of the opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Yet these are the very experiences that help young people build confidence, make mistakes, experience consequences, pick themselves back up and keep going.”

So, how can you be helpful without being overbearing? Lythcott-Haims offers these tips:

  • Accept that it’s not about you, it’s about your kid.

  • Notice who your kid actually is, what they’re good at and what they love.

  • Explore diagnostic tools such as StrengthsFinder to help your kid discover what energizes them.

  • Express interest and be helpful.

  • Know when to push forward; know when to pull back.

  • Help them find mentors outside the home.

  • Prepare them for the hard work to come.

  • Don’t do too much for them.

  • Have your own purpose.

Perhaps the greatest way you can prepare children for adulthood is to stop hovering, encourage independent thinking and help them fulfill their calling in life.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

How do you teach respect? Will your child’s strong will conquer you before you conquer it? 

As a parent, you have probably thought about these questions and experienced the confusion of trying to figure out the best way to raise your children

According to psychologist and author Dr. Kevin Leman, we have arrived at a place in our society where the family focuses solely on the child. He says American parents have become permissive and democratic, and children have become sassy and entitled.

Today, many popular dramas portray children in adult roles with little respect for parents. The shows depict parents as ignorant, out of touch with the culture and not smart enough to raise a child. Innocent as it may appear, this role reversal seems to encourage teens to be disrespectful to their parents, discounting their authority and their understanding about life issues.

If a child wants to do something and their parents say no, they sneak and do it anyway. Instead of earning money to buy new shoes, many teens believe parents should foot the bill. In fact, many young people think the idea of doing chores around the house without getting paid is unfair and beyond the call of duty.

Leman believes that allowing young people to operate in this manner is counterproductive.

“There are certain realities by which children are going to have to live their adult lives,” says Leman. “The sooner we start teaching what I refer to as the rules of the game, the better.” These are:

  • You’re never going to be the center of everyone’s attention all the time. This means that children should not be the center of attention in their families. Parents should be the center of attention.

  • Everyone must obey a higher authority no matter how old they are. Therefore, parents should expect children to obey, not hope that they will obey.

  • Everyone needs to be a contributing member of society. Too many children constantly take from their families without ever giving back. Leman suggests parents ask themselves if their children ever perform routine chores around the home for which they do not get paid. The only acceptable answer is yes.

  • Everyone is responsible for his or her own behavior. A child who does something wrong ought to feel bad about it and be held accountable for his behavior. Too often parents feel bad when a child does something wrong. Why should a child accept responsibility for his behavior if someone else takes responsibility for him?

  • You can’t always get what you want and what you do get, you get by working and waiting. Children should receive the things they need and a conservative amount of the things they want. More children need to hear the word “no!”

  • You experience happiness, which is the elixir of success, in direct proportion to how sensitive to and considerate you are of others. Self-centeredness and unhappiness go hand in hand.

Finally, Leman admits that teaching your children these rules won’t create “perfect kids.” We all make mistakes and sometimes children have to learn these lessons the hard way, but by making them aware of the real world, children will have a better chance at becoming happy, well-adjusted young adults.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

If you’re a parent, you’re probably bracing yourself for the summer with your teen. There are so many things to consider: everything from what time your teenager needs to be out of the bed in the morning, how much time they should spend gaming, expectations around the house and curfew, just to name a few. And typically, the teen’s perspective is vastly different from your point of view.

Obviously, the school year can be very taxing and it’s nice to have less stress during the summer. But experts encourage you to avoid throwing structure out the window as your kids rest up for the next school year.

One way to keep your teen constructively involved is to strongly encourage them to find a summer job. While 13 or 14 may be too young for employment, they do have other options. It isn’t too young to do yard work, babysit, clean houses, or some other type of work.

Teens can learn so much from a job experience. In fact, it can help prepare them for life. Actually going through the interview process is a serious accomplishment, as many young people struggle with conversations that don’t involve texting. Learning how to look someone in the eyes and answer questions about yourself is huge.

Once they have secured a job, they typically have the chance to learn a few things, like how to:

  • Get along with a diverse team of people,
  • Manage their time,
  • Deal with authority figures other than their parents,
  • Engage with people who are rude and difficult,
  • Build relationships with kind and encouraging people,
  • Develop an understanding of a work ethic, and
  • Handle the money they earn.

One teenager accepted an 8-week job as a summer camp counselor. The job was not glamorous and many of her co-workers were challenging, so the teen frequently talked with her parents about the difficulties she was experiencing. Halfway into her commitment, she told her parents that four other camp counselors had just quit. The parents felt like the teen was looking for a way out as well.

Both parents strongly advised her not to quit, reminding her of the commitment she made. She stayed, and to this day has never forgotten the lessons she learned about how to treat people, what respect looks like and that she had it in her to overcome adversity and finish what she started. She also learned a lot about herself that summer, and while she wouldn’t want to repeat it, she would not trade those valuable lessons.

Summer jobs can teach the life lessons most parents want to instill in their children as they prepare for independent living.

Your teen may simply want to build their resume for college or prepare to learn a vocation. Either way, securing a summer job can be just the character-building experience they need to give them that extra boost. It will certainly teach them lessons that will serve them wherever life takes them.

A college freshman working as a summer camp counselor called her parents to vent about how bad things were with her supervisor. It was halfway through the program and six other counselors had quit because they were unhappy and not having fun. As the conversation continued, the parents realized their child wanted their permission to quit as well. Although it was a difficult situation, her parents told her to finish her commitment.

Have you ever watched your child struggle with something so much that it made you sick, and you wanted to rescue them? At that moment, what should you do?

  • Swoop in and save them from experiencing further pain?

  • Watch from a distance, knowing this is part of growing up?

  • Move closer and offer to assist them as they work to figure it out?

In many instances, parents are actually “swooping in” instead of letting their children struggle. It could be anything from a tough game, a difficult teacher, a complicated paper, an honest mistake or a friendship gone awry. But are parents really “saving the day?”

Most parenting experts would say these parents are actually hurting their children in the long run. They mean well when they seek to protect their children from experiencing pain, disappointment and/or failure. In fact, the parents’ goal is to set their children up for success. But unfortunately, young people who are never allowed to fail, experience consequences or problem-solve become adults who are ill-equipped to deal with adversity, setbacks and failure.

An ancient Chinese proverb says. “Failure is the mother of success.”

Think about it.

How many times has difficulty motivated you to keep on trying until you figured it out? Whether it was memorizing a recital piece, learning a football play, writing a paper or tying shoes, how did you feel when you finally accomplished the task? More than likely, you felt a sense of pride, newfound confidence and perhaps a little more independent. All of these are important ingredients for success in life. Consider how you would have felt had your parent swooped in to do these things for you.

Beginning with the end in mind, besides academics, what do you want your child to learn this year? If helping your child to be confident, independent and unafraid of failure is your goal, it may require some restraint on your part.

Here are some tips for when your children fail:

  • Unless they are in harm’s way, avoid fixing it for them.

  • Allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions, even when it is painful to watch.

  • When they do fail, address what happened and ask what they would do differently next time.

  • Instead of taking matters into your own hands, go with your child and stand with them as they learn how to discuss an issue with their teacher.

Failure can be a powerful motivator. Instead of viewing your child’s failures as a direct reflection of your parenting skills, see them as steps toward future success.

If you happen to be a Tennessee or UTC fan, it has been painful to watch both football teams struggle to even get on the scoreboard. There’s usually a lot of armchair quarterbacking and coaching going on anyway, but now it has reached a fever pitch. People are calling for the coaches’ jobs and trash-talking team members.

Don’t think it is about just these two schools. We could all list coaches who have been fired because of a losing season. One coach commented that it’s always interesting when the fate of one’s career rests in the hands of 18- to 22-year-olds. 

After a weekend of tough losses in college football, this post appeared on Facebook:

“ … I grew up in a house where my Daddy was born and raised an Alabama boy and my Mama was born and raised a Tennessee girl. We never ever talked trash. Did we have healthy teasing? Sure! But never ugly at all! I also grew up with my Daddy being a referee and was taught to show respect to the umpire or referee and to never EVER run my mouth. What I have found is we have a stadium full of disrespectful people who boo kids, coaches and referees and could care less what anyone thinks. 

“ … I challenge anyone who has ever played a competitive sport to stop and think. Did you ever think, man I can’t wait to go out and suck today?! NO! Not once did I ever think that and I bet there isn’t another athlete OR COACH who has either! How about your boss?! How about if you messed up or if your team messed up and people started screaming for your job!? Tonight I hurt for a couple who I met and know are amazing because I know their love for these kids. So scream all you want but maybe just maybe it might be about more than points on a scoreboard. Maybe it’s about a family, a kid who did their best but still isn’t good enough but had so much pressure.” 

This post brings up a really great point – what exactly are these kids doing? Is there more to this picture than winning and the fact that college athletics is big business that brings in money for the school? Every institution of higher learning would probably say their goal is to produce successful leaders, and for their athletes to graduate. They understand that very few of their athletes will go on to play professional sports. 

It’s helpful to know that the prefrontal cortex of the brain where mental control and self-regulation takes place isn’t fully formed until around age 25. These coaches and their staff are taking kids who are still maturing and not only helping them develop as players, but as people. They spend a lot of time making sure team players have access to helpful resources for academics, character development, personal boundaries and decision-making. 

Family members of coaches or players on the field also feel the sting of the boos from supposed fans when their family member or their team isn’t having a good game. Even some coaches’ family members experience ruthless bullying. People talk about players on social media as if they were NFL professionals, when in reality they are 18- to 22-year-olds.  

So, what exactly is college football or any other collegiate sport really about? 

When Kansas State University Head Coach Bill Snyder took over the football program in 1989, he took over the “worst NCAA Division 1 football program on planet Earth.” The team is now ranked third in the Big 12 Conference. In his book, They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, Snyder outlines how he transformed a losing team into a winning team with his 16 goals for success.

Here’s the list:

  1. Commitment – To common goals and to being successful.
  2. Unselfishness – There is no “I” in TEAM
  3. Unity – Come together as never before.
  4. Improve – Everyday … as a player, person and student.
  5. Be tough – Mentally and physically.
  6. Self-discipline – Do it right, don’t accept less.
  7. Great effort.
  8. Enthusiasm
  9. Eliminate mistakes – Don’t beat yourself.
  10. Never give up.
  11. Don’t accept losing – If you do so one time, it will be easy to do so for the rest of your life.
  12. No self-limitations – Expect more of yourself.
  13. Expect to win – And truly believe we will.
  14. Consistency – Your very, very best every time.
  15. Leadership – Everyone can set an example.
  16. Responsibility – You are responsible for your own performance.

Snyder’s list is clearly about far more than football – it’s about life. It’s about helping young men who are playing football to be winners in life, to understand a commitment to something they believe matters and to pursue excellence in their accomplishments. It’s also about helping these men understand what it means to persist against the odds, teaching them how to pick themselves up after making a mistake and carry on, and showing them what it looks like to give their best. This mindset can lead to a life of success off the field, on the job and in all of life’s relationships.

Before school starts, you can’t go into a store without seeing school supplies. Kids are cramming in their summer reading and some parents are relieved that summer is almost over.

The new school year seems like a natural time to think about your child’s future. Parents often say they want health, happiness and success for their children, but do their actions actually help or hurt when it comes to preparing their kids for these things?

“Many parents micromanage their children’s lives,” says Charlie Sykes, author of 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education and Dumbing Down our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write or Add. “Between parents who are extremely anxious to make sure their children are always happy and the obsession of the education system about self-esteem, we have this weird stew that profoundly impacts our children in lasting ways.”

How do children become responsible adults if they don’t work through problems, experience failure or deal with difficult people?

Numerous media stories highlight parents hovering over their children in the young adult years. Some parents even call employers and involve themselves in their child’s love life.

“Instead of allowing them to experience adversities, parents bubble-wrap their kids,” Sykes says. “This keeps children from developing coping and problem-solving skills. People learn how to be competent adults by working through the bumps and bruises and ups and downs. If parents do this for them, the kids have no immunity to the normal curve balls life throws at us.”

Sykes contends that parents who really want to help their kids be successful must learn to say no. Unfortunately, many parents want to enable, be a good buddy or be constantly concerned about staying on their kids’ good side.

“I think I had wonderful parents,” Sykes says. “I guarantee you they were not obsessed about what I thought or felt about them. They did not freak out when I was unhappy about their decisions. They stayed the course as my parents. Instead of being concerned about how I felt on a particular day, they were focused on the end results.”

Sykes believes we aren’t doing children any favors by insulating them from reality and responsibility. He encourages parents to pick positive and negative role models, and find out what they do with their children. Use them as examples of what you want to see and what is not appropriate.

“If you inflate your children’s expectations, every area of life, including work, marriage and parenting will disappoint them,” Sykes says. “Parents who believe it is their job to meet every single ‘want’ of their child run the risk of creating unrealistic expectations. This will probably lead to great disappointment in life.”

So, step back and evaluate the things you currently do for your child. If those things aren’t moving your child toward adulthood, it’s a great time to try something different.

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