Q: How can I help my 14-year-old son turn his grades around? I used to tutor him when he was younger, but lately he's refused my help. Right now the only thing he's into is basketball. I don't want to take that away, since it's all he has. We're also isolated from family and friends. What should I do?
Jim: During their early teen years, most kids are looking to establish some sense of independence. This may be the reason your son is resisting your help. Fortunately, this is fairly easy to get around. I'd suggest you work closely with his school to find him tutors in subjects where he's struggling. You should also keep in close contact with his teachers, preferably on a weekly basis. That way, he can get the help he needs without feeling that he's dependent upon you.
While you have some thoughtful concerns about not wanting to restrict his basketball privileges, it's possible that you're forfeiting the most effective weapon in your arsenal. Since it's the one thing that matters most to him, it may be your best option to motivate him to work harder academically. I'd encourage you to have a private conversation with his basketball coach and ask him if he'd be willing to make continued participation on the team dependent upon your son's grades. Chances are he'll go along with the plan. Most good coaches want their players to succeed in class as well as on the court.
Finally, where you find yourselves isolated from family and friends, it's possible that depression could be contributing to your son's problems in school. If you think he's depressed, your first concern is to look into this possibility. Our Counseling Department would be happy to assist you in this process. You can contact them at 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: My husband and I recently learned that we're expecting. We're thrilled, but I'm also afraid that the demands of a baby will cause us to neglect each other and our relationship. Do you have any advice for us?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: First of all, congratulations! That is very exciting. I remember feeling just like you. Erin and I really struggled early in our marriage, and when we learned we were pregnant, I thought our marriage was doomed. Boy, was I wrong!
The truth is, no one is perfectly prepared for having children. The key for each of us was learning how to balance being a parent and a spouse, and specifically, learning each other's love language. Our love language is made up of those things that our mate does which make us feel loved or cared for. Not everyone's language is the same, and that may be true for you and your husband.
One simple way to discover your mate's love language is by asking what he needs to feel loved. We use the phrase: "I feel loved when you ..." Make your love language specific and measurable. Instead of saying "I want intimacy," say, "I need you to say you love me at least once a day," "Let's make love twice a week," or "I need you to ask me about my day." It's also critical that you follow up. On a regular basis, ask each other: "On a scale from zero to 10, how have I done this week in making you feel loved according to your unique needs?"
As you look forward to growing your family, remember that the best way to love your child is to love your spouse. By discovering your mate's love language, you'll be better equipped to meet the exciting challenges awaiting you.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.