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Communication and Having Fun

Compiled by Norman Bates who authors the "Family Matters Newsletter" You know the famous Abbott and Costello routine,
'Who's on first?' about a baseball game in which Mr. Whooze
is on first, Mr. Whats is on second, and Mr. Heeze is on third.
As they move through this conversation the two comedians become
thoroughly and hilariously confused. At one point the
exchange goes like this:

Costello: 'I thought you said he's on second.'
Abbott: 'No, Heeze's on third.'
Costello: 'Who's on third?'
Abbott: 'No, Whooze's on first!'
Costello: 'What?'
Abbott: 'He's on second!'
Costello: 'Who's on second?'
Abbott: 'No, I told you. Whooze's on first.'

It's all very funny. But confusion in communication is generally no laughing matter. It results in hurt feelings, anger, and perhaps broken relationships. Can anything be done about poor communication? Yes, our communication skills can be improved. You know the old line: 'I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.' That doesn't have to be.

Communication is the process of exchanging information, feelings or attitudes through symbols, sounds, signs or behavior. So not all communication is verbal: your eyebrows or hands communicate as much (sometimes more) than your vocal chords.

'Communication theory' is built on the idea that all communication involves a sender, a message, one or more channels, and a receiver. The sender 'encodes' the message in some form; the receiver 'decodes' or interprets the message, and feeds back to the sender some sort of response. But for all this to happen the sender and receiver have to 'connect 'with some common knowledge and experience. So when a message is 'transmitted' it is not necessarily 'comprehended'.

All meaningful human relationships involves communication, and therefore some conflict when the communication is not understood, or is interpreted as a threat. So for communication in a family to be effective, strong personal relationships are essential: that is, there ought to be a commitment to the well-being of the other/s; you should understand their feelings; there ought to be a significant level of trust; and behaviors ought to be fairly predictable.

Here are nine rules for effective communication within a family or community:

[1] Recognize the uniqueness of each person. They do not inhabit the same 'frame of reference' you do. They feel different feelings. They may even understand words or phrases differently. You bring to a marriage the complex communication-patterns you experienced with your parents. So always be aware of the possibility of misinterpretation. As one psychologist said, 'When married couples say they've never had a disagreement, they are lying, have a poor memory, or one partner has been made a zero in the relationship.'

[2] Be committed to moving beyond superficial to a greater depth of understanding. There are various levels of communication. The most superficial is the cliché level -easy, day-to-day greetings like 'Good morning', 'How did you sleep?' The next level we call reporting - giving factual information without sharing how you feel. Then there is the opinion level. Here you are beginning to take a risk, revealing something of yourself with which another might disagree. In healthy families there is great freedom at this level. Next we have the feeling level: in good communication there is congruence between those communicating. We are truly 'heard', not only in terms of the words we use, but the 'feeling agenda' behind the words. Finally, the highest level of communication is oneness - the rare moments when you feel totally accepted, understood, 'at one' with the other. This is 'gut-level' communication, where you are unafraid to expose who you really are to another. John Powell in his book Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I am? writes: 'I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it's all I have.'

A well-put-together person has others with whom they relate at various levels; and they know the most appropriate level with each of those persons. If you don't have anyone at the 'oneness' level, find someone, even if you have to pay for the privilege!

[3] Learn to listen. Simon and Garfunkel used to sing a song describing 'people hearing without listening'. You've heard about the man a novelist described as 'far too far out all my life. Not waving but drowning...' Nobody truly 'noticed'. Nobody heard. Nobody listened. Good listening is hard work. It involves concentration: your mind must be present, not miles away. And it requires an open mind, not a prejudicial mind-set. If you are making judgments about the communicator or their ideas, you are not able to truly hear them. Avoid emotional interference: if the other's mannerisms or bad grammar bug you, ignore them, and still try to listen. Or they may say something that causes a 'red flag' to fly in your brain: that will interfere with your hearing too. Remember that you think about four times faster than a person can speak, so you will be summarizing in your mind what you are hearing, listening between the lines for nuances or interpretations you might otherwise miss.

Feed back words and phrases that indicate you're tracking with the other; 'You're saying that...' 'What I hear is...' 'So you feel...'

[4] Getting through depends on credibility. Unless others have confidence in you, they will be less inclined to listen to you. So their perceptions of your reliability, honesty and competence are key factors: and they must perceive that your non-verbal and verbal components agree with each other to be credible. People listen carefully to those they trust.

[5] Try not to be defensive. It's amazing how often married partners will have an irrational argument, and when they come for counseling, they will both agree, 'It was a stupid little thing that started it all!' Well, there's a deeper agenda at work here, and you'd better figure out what it is. For example, if she comes across like an authoritarian mother, the little boy in him will react defensively: he left one of those, and doesn't need another one in his marriage! If he is preoccupied, she will get angry: maybe her father was like that (or was not like that!). If you were criticized a lot as a child, you may tend to be overly critical of your own children. As we have said elsewhere a lot of 'Don't do that!' 'You stupid...' is not necessary for good discipline, and will foster self-doubt in your kids.

[6] Negotiate 'win-win' conflict resolutions where possible. You may have to compromise. Here's one way we do it. 'Darling, want to go out tonight?' 'Well, I've got a lot to do...' 'Well, why not a movie without the dinner this time... How would that be?' 'O.K.' Such give-and-take are the essence of a strong relationship. (By the way, a diaried time together for married partners on a regular basis is a good idea). What if your partner is irresponsible? Don't rescue them. If they're forgetful, don't buy the line 'I just forget things!' Arrange together to put a list (of birthdays, anniversaries, bills to pay etc.) in a prominent place.

[7] Realize that males and females, in all cultures, communicate differently. In Western cultures men do not easily communicate their feelings. So a question like 'What's bothering you?' is a tough one for a male. Men tend to talk about facts ('objective reality' is one of my favorite phrases when Jan and I have a difference of perception about something). Men want to analyze the problem and suggest solutions; women want to empathize. Men have more difficulty than women hearing the 'pain agenda' in other people. Men tend to interrupt more than women (and they interrupt women more often than women interrupt men). Women are more active listeners; men more passive. (So women are more likely to ask 'Did you hear me? Are you listening?'). Men need to be in control. They may speak more forcefully or loudly when they feel threatened.

[7] Keep it simple. The best communicators put interesting, or even complicated ideas, into simple language. Wisdom and simplicity go together. To communicate clearly, the words and ideas you use should be understood the same way by thehearer. Your aim is to get across your ideas or feelings, not to be impressive. Then, when you have said enough, stop.

However, please note that when some people are asked where they're going they like to describe the scenery on the way. When I ask my wife, for example, when she thinks she will be ready for us to leave, or go to bed, or whatever, she lists all the things she has to do in the meantime - interesting (and I ought to be interested if I love her), but sometimes I only want my question answered!

By the way, men are usually more economical with words. Yes, he had a 'good' time; she will fill out many of the details. Men are usually 'condensers'; women 'amplifiers'. There's nothing wrong with these approaches, but the amplifier wishes his/her partner would give more details, while the condenser wishes his/her partner would use fewer words. So each has to adapt to the style of the other for the best communication to occur. If your spouse is a condenser, match that style. It works.

[8] Choose your moment to communicate carefully. 'I want to talk, he wants peace and quiet'. Two things to avoid here are'nagging' or resentment. He may be quiet for two reasons, among others: the day has been tension-filled - people,people, people - and he needs solitude. Or the wife may be intimidating in some way and he withdraws into his shell for protection. Men tend to close up if they are accused of being insensitive, selfish, unloving, a failure, sports-mad, or sexist, or if the woman in his life collapses too often into tears! Be quietly direct: 'Would you prefer not to talk just now? Is there another way I can put things so I don't come on too strong?' Work on your timing!

[9] Spice your communication with humor. Couples who laugh together stay together, particularly when each has the kind of self-esteem that doesn't mind a joke at their expense! Research shows that couples who laugh and joke and use pet names for each other have stronger marriages. Laughter, of course, is contagious: it spreads itself around like an infection. Laughter helps reduce stress, tension and anxiety. It is therapeutic: people who laugh live longer. (An exception: humorists, people who are professional laughter-makers, are rarely happy themselves).

Here are a few examples of common communication hassles in a family:

'We've been married for 20 years; I shouldn't have to tell him'. Well, maybe you haven't been direct enough. Ask for some feedback to make sure he heard you clearly. Don't drop hints, or communicate through a third person. Or maybe you've been too direct: some males don't like being ordered around: have you discovered that? You may need to be more subtle. Or realize that he doesn't want to hear you: he's determined not to follow through on what you want for some reason. You may have to 'accept what you cannot change.'

'She really bugs me when she does that!' Communicate your feelings - own them - and do not attack your wife personally. Talk about her behaviour without putting her down. And own your own feelings. For example, say 'I get irritable when...happens, and I'm trying to figure out why!' Better still: in a 'marriage check-up' time, ask one another what gives you each the 'irrits' and listen to one another carefully.

'My kids won't do what they're told.' Every child needs the security of being told only once from when they're very young: if you have to repeat a command, link it with a clear penalty. Then apply the penalty firmly if there is still no obedience. Later, children will know the rules and be more willing to participate in conforming to them. As they get older you will negotiate with them the areas of authority and rules and discipline and work-around-the-house and then invite them rather than order them to do this or that. Negotiate household chores and make a list.

An Australian clinical psychologist, Dr Peter O'Connor lists the following warning signals which show we are taking ourselves too seriously:

Martyrdom: the husband sitting on the sofa watching TV holds up his cup wanting a refill. The wife might once have quipped, 'What's the matter, broken your ankle?' but now rises wearily with hung head and trudges to the kitchen...

One-upping: one partner has had a bad day, but the other always has had a worse one...

Playing Out the Self-fulfilling Prophecy. He says, 'You seem upset'. She says, 'I'm not'. He says, 'You look it. 'She shouts, 'I am not upset!'

Trading off: this is where one or both partners keeps a list of grievances, to slog the other with when tempers flare.

Carbon-copying: 'This occurs when we are out of ideas (or the desire) to come up with a reasonable solution to a problem, and instead of throwing up our hands and having a good laugh - or cry - as we might have done before we began to take ourselves so seriously, we retreat behind attitudes we have absorbed from our parents, or others, in times of stress.'

Scenario. 'Four-year-old sits at the kitchen table refusing to eat his greens. Two-year-old screams to be fed. Mother says "I can't cope", and runs from the room. Father either slaps the four-year-old and berates his wife for her inefficiency, or quits the house for the pub - whichever his father would have done. He doesn't laugh and take over.'
[Quoted in Glenda Banks, Your Guide to Successful Family Living, Blackburn: Dove Communications, 1985, pp. 38-40.][236]

One study which compared the communication patterns between happily and unhappily married couples found that happily married couples talked more to each other; conveyed the feeling that they understood what was being said to them; had a wider range of subjects they talked about; kept communication channels open no matter what happened; showed more sensitivity to each other's feelings; used more nonverbal means of communicating.

Humans have an immense need to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood. No one develops into afully mature human being without feeling understood by atl east one person. George Harrison, from The Beatles, had a song, 'Within You, Without You', which was really about the essence of loving communication: 'We were talking - about the space between us all/ And the people - who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion. / Never glimpse the truth - then it's far too late, when they pass away... We were talking -about the love we could share - when we find it/ To try our best to hold it there - with our love / With our love, we could save the world / If they only knew'.

Love is supposed to conquer all. In such an exalted environment, it seems quite petty to be upset that your husband didn't take the trash out. Or that it takes your wife nearly the time it took Columbus to sail the ocean blue to put on her makeup... Please, listen to me: communicate, communicate, communicate. Deal with your differences immediately. Don't store up grievances. Talk with one another about hurts, problems... If you have to schedule a time each week for a 'gripe' session, free from the heat of emotions,do it. If you voice your concerns once, and the other spouse doesn't seem to get it, voice them again. Don't ever adopt the attitude 'I'll just suppress the things that are bothering me until they go away.' They won't. When a person hides a grievance, it will boil and stir, gather other concerns to itself, and come out much the way lava explodes from a volcano.
Bill Hybels and Rob Wilkins, Tender Love, Chicago: MoodyPress, 1993, p.103. [161]

If more Americans could be persuaded to carve out of their three or four hours of television viewing each day a period of five minutes at bedtime and use this time to ask their child a simple question - 'How did things go today?' - and listen, the result in terms of individual families and society as a whole could, I believe, be highly salutary.
George Gallup Jr., Testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Family and Human Services, 22 March 1983, quoted in Dr.James Dobson and Gary L. Bauer, Children at Risk: Winning the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of your Children, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1990, p.206. [63]

Men follow a distinctive pattern in their communication style. First of all, they mull over the problem. It is put on the back burner to see if the issue will go away on its own and gets resolved with as little effort as possible. During this stage of letting the issues simmer, they may feel it is unnecessary to talk. But if mulling does not work, storing the issue deep inside is the next phase. To many men this is the easiest solution of all. But if this does not work, he will talk about it. It could be with a sigh of resignation -or with an explosion. This is a gender distinction, but varies in intensity depending upon cultural conditioning and personality type.

Often men will say...'I need a little more time to think things through. Somehow she has the idea that wanting time to think is not being open and honest with her. That's ridiculous. I'm not trying to hide anything, I'm just trying to be sure in my own mind before I talk about it.'... Men tend to communicate to resolve. They want the bottom line so they can 'fix it.' Sometimes you may not know if you want an issue resolved until you have talked about it. Many women want to express themselves because it is their way of interfacing with the world; they enjoy self-expression.
H. Norman Wright, Questions Women Ask in Private, California: Regal Books, 1993, pp.24-25. [232]

It is most often the wife who will recognize the need for deeper communication. We must help our husbands see this need, then think together as to how we can grow deeper in communicating. First we must avoid the tendency to blame our husbands. 'He won't talk to me,' is a common cry. 'Our schedules are too busy.' Or, 'His work is more important than his family.'

Blaming our husbands for a lack of communication in busy marriages with young children is not fair. It's not his fault. It's the season we're in, and it's our problem together. The first step is to recognize the normalcy of the problem and not place blame. We must realize this problem is universal, but we do not have to accept it as something we must live with. God wants us to be growing in our communication, and there are many ways this can happen, even in busy households full of small children.
Susan Alexander Yates, And Then I Had Kids, England: Word(UK) Ltd, 1992, p.88. [159]

This week write a love letter to your spouse. Concentrate on one single topic: your mate's good points. What do you appreciate about your husband or wife? Put your thoughts down on paper. Focus only on the positive side of their character- not the negative aspects.

You will be amazed how this simple exercise will change your attitude. Then, as the way you perceive your mate is changed, the problems will begin to dissolve. In fact, many of them will disappear.

Communication is an art. We need to approach it the way we would learn to play the piano or the violin... Being a good communicator does not come naturally; it is a skill that must be learned and practiced... True unity develops as husband and wife share their lives by communicating with one another. Communication must, first of all, be intellectual, then emotional and spiritual - finally it will be truly physical.
D. James Kennedy, Learning to Live with the People You Love, Springdale PA: Whitaker House, 1987, pp.32-33. [152]

A common habit of the humorless is to cue in to the worst possible interpretation of a word message sent to him/her. Thus if a husband says to his wife, 'Come here my old love', a humorless wife will pick up on the word old, completely ignoring the key word 'love'. Similarly, if a wife gives her husband a love-pinch on the paunch and calls him 'cuddles', a humorless husband will probably react defensively to his own interpretation of her love message, which he reads as criticism of his bulk.

Consequently, when working to restore a sense of humor, it is important to avoid each other's pressure points. Build up each other's self-esteem by laughing at one's self and inviting the other to join you.

Look for role models to copy. Go to funny movies together. Tune in to comedy shows on TV and read out amusing quotes from books, newspapers and magazines to each other. Don't dwell on down trips - your own or other people's.

A medical educator claims, 'Laughter can actually relieve muscular tension and reduce hostility and tension in other people.

'Laughter, you see, is the antithesis of anger. We express anger or hostility by threatening gestures which include holding our breath and taking short, deep breaths. Laughter comes out in the expulsion of breath in rapid bursts, so it is impossible to send out hostile signals while laughing.'
Glenda Banks, Your Guide to Successful Family Living, Blackburn: Dove Communications, 1985, p.41. [235]

Individual children need individual attention - quality time alone with Mum or Dad. To meet this need, from about eight or nine, plan a weekend away with each child each year. Alternate which parent goes with each child, to foster good communication with both parents.

As far as possible, allow your child to choose where you go and what you do. Budget may demand that you sleep at a relative's house, but don't hang aroung there. (I love to visit my relatives, but the goal of this trip is to be alone with my daughter. Explaining your goal to relatives should solve any misunderstanding.)
Kathy Bence, Turn off the TV: Let's have fun instead, London: Marshall Pickering, 1990, p.9. [103]

There are a number of dos and don'ts that are generally useful with minor squabbles, in keeping the heated-up fight from turning into a serious and hurtful one.

Reinforce positive behaviour and discourage negative behaviour seems like a pretty obvious thing to say, but when you realize that negative behaviour is sometimes rewarded, as in, 'I'll give it to the little lout so he'll shut up,' it bears repeating. If a kid feels neglected, we reinforce bad behaviour by paying a lot more attention to it than we normally do to the child when behaviour is neutral or positive.
Don't use your mouth or your hands before your mind.
Don't jump into the middle of arguments that are heading towards fisticuffs unless you are going to be able to smooth the rippled water. Do be calm and evenhanded so that no one in a conflict feels wronged or that you favour the other.
Whenever possible, physically separate children who are heading toward combat. Be firm, do not match violence with violence.
If you are a part of the problem, remove yourself from the danger zone.
Do not demand justice summarily done, as in 'Aren't you going to do something about your daughter? What kind of a mother are you anyway?' or the loaded 'Do you know what your son just did?' Similarly, do not bring up problems of discipline with a spouse the minute that person appears on the scene after shopping, working, whatever. The same rule applies at mealtimes.
If a fight occurs more than once, look hard at it and figure out the variables... You may find a way of preventing another occurrence.
Be consistent in all of this. Be fair.
Dr Jeffrey and Dr Carol Rubin, When Families Fight, NY:William Morrow & Co., 1989, pp.262-263. [284]

SAADD stands for surrender, sarcasm, assumptions, accusations, demands, and demeaning statements.
All of these communication errors lead to irrational interactions in the family system. Here are examples of such statements:

SURRENDER: 'That's it. I give up. The house is yours. Go to bed when you want to, do what you want do. I resign as a parent.'

SARCASM: 'Good. Good. Just go and come as you please. We love to wake up in the middle of the night worrying about you. It keeps us alert and reminds us to go to the bathroom.'

ASSUMPTIONS: 'I'm not naming names, but someone who shall be nameless probably is the one who put the rubber doorstop in the dishwasher. Now we have a nice set of spoons all melted together in one group. This will save us time setting the table. I can't imagine who could have done that, can you?'

ACCUSATIONS: 'I know you did it. I saw it. You walked right by and spilled it. You did it. Admit it. You did it. You always are the one who shows no respect for the carpet in this room.'

DEMANDS: 'Do it. Just do it. This is your father talking now. Get up and go do it. Now. Move!'

DEMEANING STATEMENTS: 'Nice going, Mr. Kind-and-Gentle. The next time I'm upset with you, I'll just act like little old immature you and punch you like you punched your brother. You are such a child. Really!'

These statements... show how irrational we can be when we live with a group of people for a long time. They all show the generalizations, magnifications, selectiveness, and absolutism... [which are at] the central cores of family irrationality.
Paul E. Pearsall, The Power of the Family, NY: Doubleday,1990. p.104 [282]

A parent without a sense of humour is like a bricklayer without a trowel: the job becomes impossible. What a relief that family life is so funny that it's hard not to laugh.
Angela Webber and Richard Glover, The P-Plate Parent, North Sydney, N.S.W.: Allen and Unwin, 1992, p.5. [33]

Humor is the one saving grace for any family, for any conflict. Comedian George Burns said, 'Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.' He was joking about the persistent conflicts that are one and the same with a close and loving family. If we are able to realize that our battles in the family stem from our closeness and caring, we can sometimes make time to let humor heal our wounds.

The Muller family told me that they have a rule that never fails them. Whenever an argument or conflict starts, someone in the family times the argument. The Muller family rule is that the family will find something funny - a book, a videotape, an audiotape or record album - to listen to or view together that is equal in length of time to the time spent fighting.

'This hasn't always been easy,' said Mr. Muller. 'We really have to search for something funny, because sometimes we fight a lot. We have found, though, that we have our favorites that we never seem to get tired of. We love to watch a Bill Cosby tape or listen to one of his albums. They have a lot of family stuff on them, and we can laugh at them a thousand times.' Laughter is the first and best of the three ways to shed tears. Cutting onions and crying can't compete with communal laughter. I suggest you get the family together for a group intestinal jog as soon as possible.
Paul E. Pearsall, The Power of the Family, NY: Doubleday,1990. p.102. [253]

Learn to listen. Listening is a skill that we can we can improve with a little effort and the rewards can be substantial.
Golden rule of listening is looking. In order to hear well we need to see the person, so sit or stand facing the person you are talking to, so that you can pick up all the non-verbal messages. It is surprising how much you miss when you have your back turned.
Give the other person time to express themselves in their own way.
A conversation doesn't have to be a grammar lesson. There is nothing more disconcerting than having a train of thought interrupted by 'I do wish you'd stop saying 'aint''.
The good listener helps the talker to keep focus on the subject, by not distracting with their own anecdotes.
Give each person time by offering your individual attention or if it's not convenient to talk because you are bathing the baby or getting the dinner, say so, and make a time as soon as possible. Don't be faced with the teenager who says despondently, 'Oh, it doesn't matter any more, it wasn't important' (then the moment has been lost).
Practice talking about the issues of the day over meals. Turn the TV off at meal times.
Have everyone sit around the table to eat. This is the best setting for developing and improving our communication skills.
Encourage people to speak one at a time. 'You can have your turn in a moment.'
Discourage interruptions. 'I can't listen to you all at the same time!'
Head off too much ridicule or putting down of one person's contribution. The odd joke or sarcasm may be fun, but it can inhibit the shy and inarticulate.
Try and develop a relaxed atmosphere for meals so that it is not a constant setting for nagging about eating habits or table manners. You may have to give up on 'I could never take you lot out to eat anywhere' in favor of 'I can never get a word in edgeways'.
Terry Colling and Janet Vickers, Teenager: A Guide to Understanding Them, Moorebank NSW: Bantam Books, 1988, p.24.[340]

The Telephone
I have just hung up; why did he telephone?
I don't know... Oh! I get it...
I talked a lot and listened very little.

Forgive me, Lord, it was a monologue and not a dialogue.
I explained my idea and did not get his;
Since I didn't listen, I learned nothing,
Since I didn't listen, I didn't help,
Since I didn't listen, we didn't communicate.

Forgive me, Lord, for we were connected,and now we are cut off.

[Michel Quoist, Prayers of Life, Dublin: Gill and Son, 1963,p. 15

save me from having endless debates about who is right
as though my very existence depended on my being right.
Rather, give me the security to admit my errors or ignorance -
even, sometimes, to my children.
And if my children find it hard to admit a mistake
even when the evidence is overwhelming
give me wisdom about figuring out the cause:
somehow the child has not felt safe being wrong.

in our family, or community, may we find it O.K. to say 'sorry'
especially at the end of the day.
Let's never go to bed without facing up to the pain, or hurt
of any conflict.

Teach me that saying 'sorry' is not
admitting defeat
or even assuming responsibility
or excusing another's behaviour;
rather, it gives the assurance that we are still family;
we still care for one another deeply.

So may our family-life be enriched by hearing sometimes
'I was wrong.'
'I am sorry.'
'I love you.'

A Benediction

May God who communicated his desire for our friendship in our
creation, and who tells us of his care in every sunrise and
every good gift he gives us, and who came among us in the
ultimate communication, Jesus of Nazareth, empower you to
communicate in love to those with whom you live. Amen.

Take a daily walk with your children.
Read a story to them.
Take them to the market with you.
Hold a gourmet dinner party for your kids and their friends.
Designate a week with no television and a different
Pick wild berries.
Crack and hull nuts for cooking.
Color in their coloring books with them.
Make your own miniature golf course inside your house.
Rake leaves and then jump into them.
Roast marshmallows.
Carve pumpkins.
Go out to an entertaining pizza restaurant.
Pay a surprise visit to family friends together.
If you are going on a trip, bring a gift for the kids to open every one hundred miles.
Learn some card tricks together.
Ask the kids what they'd like to do, then do it.
Blow bubbles.
Try to find the shapes of objects or animals within the clouds.
Watch cartoons together.
Ask 'What if' questions.
Make different costumes at home or dress up in old clothes.
Teach them a new game.
Sit by them when they're sick.
Help them with the homework.
Read the funnies together.
Just sit and talk about school or events in the neighbourhood.

Suggested by Carl Dreizler, 52 Ways to have Fun with Your Child, Nashville: Oliver Nelson Books, 1991, pp.139-140.[195]

Scripture References
If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mark 3:25)

One given to anger stirs up strife, and the hothead causes much transgression. (Proverbs 29:22) Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. (Psalm 34:13) To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone, and a word in season, how good it is! (Proverbs 15:23) Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, 'We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.' Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans2:1-3)

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy. (Job 8:21)

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11) A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones. ( Proverbs17:22) A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken. (Proverbs 15:13)

Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19) Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one. (Matthew5:37)

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)

Books to read aloud

Suggested by Kathy Bence, Turn Off the TV: Let's have fun instead!, London: Marshall Pickering, 1990

Or call 1-800-470-2230 in the United States