Q: Our daughter's first semester away at college was an academic disaster. We haven't seen evidence of any other troubling behaviors, so we're not quite sure what to think. Should we threaten to withdraw funding for college?
Jim: Sending a child off to college can be an emotionally difficult event for a family, and when the initial result is disappointing, it's hard not to feel upset. Even the best of students often experience a drop-off in grades during their first year in college. The world of the university is very different from that of high school, and a freshman typically undergoes a certain amount of culture shock. She has to learn her way around a new and confusing campus, and adapt to a strange schedule that involves a great deal more time working outside of class than sitting in a lecture hall.
In your daughter's case, she has to adjust to a new living situation and being responsible for her own eating, sleeping and study habits. It also involves processing a whole host of new friends and acquaintances. On top of everything else, she may suffer from homesickness. Once she's navigated this, she has to find time and energy to devote to physics, English, geography, French and chemistry. It's not an easy assignment.
You should certainly retain the option to defund her education if things don't improve. But for now, I'd encourage you to find out what's going on, what she needs from you, and what will help ease the adjustment process. It's possible that she's longing for some reassurance from you. She may be desperate to know that you have confidence in her and are willing to stand by and support her during this challenging transition. I have a feeling that specific answers will emerge out of your relationship with your daughter. So don't jump to conclusions. Instead, take the time you need to talk things through.
Q: My wife and I are constantly getting in power struggles. How can we get beyond this?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Why do power struggles cause us such trouble? It's simple. In every power struggle, couples see themselves as adversaries. This can be as subtle as insisting on "making a point." The problem is, even if one member of the pair "wins" the point, it means an automatic loss for the relationship. If one person in the marriage "loses," then both persons in the marriage lose. There is no such thing as a win/lose scenario in marriage.
I encourage you to make a commitment to a new way of doing things and to abandon the failed, old model. This begins by establishing what my colleague, Bob Paul, calls a "No Losers Policy." In a No Losers Policy, couples agree that it will never be acceptable, from this point on, for either of them to walk away from any interaction feeling as if they had lost. Each spouse has to feel good about the solution.
Creating a No Losers Policy goes a long way toward creating the kind of relationships that yield joy and satisfaction rather than grief and frustration. It's worked for my wife, Erin, and I, and it can work equally well for you, regardless of the type of relationship in which you apply it. Although it takes some work, we have yet to be unable to find a win/win solution when addressing a decision or issue.
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.