Building a Healthy and Vibrant Marriage

The Three Keys - and a Bonus

Mother’s Day is coming in ten days. So it’s a good time to focus on mom.

Partnering well with mom is a critical part of being a Great Dad to your kids. So if you are currently married – or you think you will be married in the future – there are a couple of “keys” to building a healthy and vibrant marriage you should bear in mind.

Couples who had been happily married for 50 years or more were given a list of 39 statements and asked to choose which explained why their marriage had prospered so well. Each husband and wife responded separately.

The three top winners – for both the husbands and the wives – were in the exact same order:

My spouse is my best friend.
I like my spouse as a person.
Marriage is a long-term commitment.
If you can say that about your wife and your marriage, you are well on your way to a long-term, happy marriage.

And here is a bonus. Several Gallup national surveys have shown that couples who prayed often together scored higher on every aspect of marital happiness.

So see, it really is quite simple: if you want a happy marriage, pray together with your wife!

Disciplining Your Child – A Whole New Perspective Part 4

Tying Privileges to Responsibility

I will conclude our look at four offensive strategies to discipline our children constructively. In the past three posts, we looked at modeling good behavior, paying attention to your child’s good behavior, and establishing fair rules and boundaries. Now we look at tying privileges to responsibility.

We don’t live in a free-lunch world, but too many kids don’t realize that. Their view of the world is that parents [and other people] are there to serve them, to meet their every desire. They believe that rewards come easy.

Do your children a big favor: tie privileges and rewards to responsibilities so they can learn that personal satisfaction comes from setting small and big goals, short- and long-term goals, and then reaching them through dedicated effort.

The rule that will teach them this valuable lesson is, “When you have …, then you may…,” as in “When you have picked up your room, then you may go outside to play.”

Through accomplishing genuine, helpful work, they develop such valuable qualities as perseverance and diligence, and they are rewarded with a sense of satisfaction.


Disciplining Your Child – A Whole New Perspective Part 3

Establishing Fair Rules and Boundaries

We continue our look at four offensive strategies to discipline our children constructively. In the past two posts, we looked at modeling good behavior and paying attention to your child’s good behavior.

Now we look at establishing fair rules and boundaries.  While the topic of establishing rules is a broad one, two basic points need to be understood and applied.

The first is that all families need a well-understood set of household rules—some boundaries—so that children know the territory they can operate within safely and freely. This sense allows children to experience, grow, and develop. Without rules and boundaries, there are only chaos and confusion. Thus, we have this paradoxical conclusion: firm and fair rules give freedom to a child.

Remember in establishing rules and boundaries that a combination of flexibility and inflexibility is called for. As dad, you must at times say a firm no—a no that is really meant and clearly understood.

But dads also need to be flexible—to cut some slack for our kids. Try to say yes to everything you can so that when you do say no, it will be one your child understands.

The second basic point is what Josh McDowell calls “the #1 rule” for parents who want to be heroes to their kids:  Rules without Relationship Lead to Rebellion  Rules with a Relationship Lead to Response

How many dads have said, or are saying right now, “We have some very clear rules in our house, and my child seems to be out to break every one of them”? Why? In 99 homes out of 100, the relationship isn’t there.

As Josh eloquently puts it, “Children do not respond to rules; they respond to relationships.”  Build that strong relationship with your child.



Disciplining Your Child – A Whole New Perspective Part 2

Pay Attention to Child's Good Behavior

We are in the middle of looking at four offensive strategies to discipline our children constructively. Last post, we looked at the first of these: modeling good behavior.

The second is to pay attention to your child’s good behavior.

This strategy is basic, but too often neglected. As dad, pay attention to, acknowledge, and affirm your child’s good behavior.

All children, of any age, want attention. They so crave it that much misbehavior results from seeking parents’ attention. Given these basic facts, it stands to reason that we can minimize the misbehavior by paying attention to, thereby reinforcing, the good behavior.

As dads, we give kids our attention by noticing and praising their good behavior. So they practice further good behavior to get more of our attention. Pretty soon, in a positive self-reinforcing cycle of father-child behavior, a relationship develops in which children have the confidence and the desire to do what is right.

Children will perform in the way that pays off. Encourage the good behavior by providing a big payoff for it.

In the next post, we will look at establishing fair rules and boundaries.

Disciplining Your Child – A Whole New Perspective

Modeling Good Behavior

I said in my last post that we will look at four offensive strategies to discipline our children constructively.

The first of these is modeling good behavior. We begin with this because of the definition of discipline which is an instruction to be imparted to “disciples’ or learners.

This means that a dad must first live a life worthy of his children’s emulation. To do this, we must have our own values clearly established, and we must live them.

The importance of having such values and living them was demonstrated persuasively in a Swedish study, which found that well-disciplined adults who live in accordance with their values hardly need to preach self-control to their children and rarely do it. It also found that the converse was true: parents who tell children to be disciplined but who lead undisciplined lives are ineffectual.

True. And easy to say, but oh so hard to do.

I’m reminded of the poignant imagery conveyed by Robert Bly of what children get from all too many modern day dads. He talks about how children used to receive the father’s teaching and his temperament. Now when dad drags himself home from the office or factory at 6:30 or even 8, the children get only his temperament. Dad’s tired, and he probably has had a rough day. That’s reality.

It is also what Great Dads are called to rise above. It’s quite basic. If you want disciplined children, be a responsible, upright, self-disciplined person—a living example of the values you embrace.

Disciplining Your Child — A Whole New Perspective

It Can and Should Be Quite Positive

Discipline. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Punishment? Making kids shape up or ship out? A child crying or fighting back?

This is what I mainly thought of in my early parenting years—kind of a drill sergeant’s perspective. So I was shocked to discover that rather than being negative, discipline can be and should be quite positive.

The new perspective begins with recognizing that the word discipline is derived from the Latin word “to disciple”. And to disciple someone is to teach and to lead them.

Teach them what? We dads should teach our children principles and values that will help them develop an inner guidance system so they can function responsibly by themselves. In short, we discipline so our child can learn self-discipline.

To discipline is to lead. To lead is to set an example. Next month we will focus on this one key topic – how to model good behavior.

A third, even more usual meaning of to discipline, is to love. Solomon, the wise king of Israel, was probably one of the first humans to link love with discipline: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him.” In modern day parlance, “rather than causing your child to question your love, discipline confirms your love (Chuck Swindoll)

[in my next post we will look at the first of 4 strategies in an offensive drive by dads to discipline constructively]

What Am I Doing Regarding My Child’s Spiritual Development?

The Answer Could Well Determine Your Child's Future

I want to ask you one of the most significant questions that you as a dad have to answer.

First, do a brief exercise. Look at each of your children in your mind’s eye. What do you see? You should see a physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual being. As a dad, we should be concerned with how they develop in each area.

If you are the typical dad, you either have already poured — or will pour — dozens if not hundreds of hours into their intellectual development — helping them with homework, and those Science Fair projects, etc, etc.

Now, how many hours have you spent in helping them develop spiritually? Again, if you are the “average” dad and honest, the answer will be a big fat zero.

That is tragic. Far too many dads are busy building intellectual mansions on a foundation of emotional and spiritual quicksand. So when you send that “mansion” off to a great college, the problem is that with the first real crisis, that “mansion” – that son or daughter – could come crashing down.

So the BIG question is this: What as I doing – or what will I commit to do – regarding my child’s spiritual development? That could be the most significant question you ever ask – as the answer could well determine your child’s future.


The Best New Year’s Resolution

Just Maybe Your Best Decision Ever

We just had our three adult children with us for Christmas.  Before they left, we all participated in a sacred Hamrin tradition — done for the past 31 years.  We all went through our New Year’s Resolutions for 2016, scoring them for which we kept and did not keep.  Then we wrote down our new ones for 2017.

Dad, here’s a terrific New Year’s resolution for you to make: I am going to give it my best shot in 2017 to be a Great Dad to my child.

If you make this resolution – and most importantly if you keep it – then you will likely see 2017 be one of the most significant years in your life. Because what could be more important than laying the foundation of being a Great Dad to your child for the rest of our life on earth?

How do you begin this journey? Two ways.

The first is to get a copy of Great Dads – building lasting, loving relationship with your children. This book contains all the key principles and practices that you need to be a Great Dad to your child. (available at

Second, take “The 6 Basics of Being Great Dad” training. You can do so easily at where there is a series of video training modules that will lead you one-by-one through each of the 6 Basics.

Dad, I’ve heard from over 53,000 fathers that we have trained in the 6 Basics how their relationship with their child(ten) was wonderfully transformed. And I’ve sought to apply them for the 39 years of my fathering journey with our three children.

Trust me – making this resolution and keeping it will be something you will be deeply grateful for the rest of your life. You may well view it as your BEST decision ever.

And your children will be so blessed and grateful.

Practice What You Know

It Will Pay Long-Run Dividends

In a national survey, fathers were shown 116 fathering practices and they judged four to be the most important: (1) showing affection, (2) being a good example, (3) exhibiting parental togetherness, and (4) being spiritually mature.

This shows the dads had great knowledge. They knew the critical factors in being a great dad.

The big problem came in the practice. These were the same four practices that the dads said they did least well in with their children.

Thus, these dads get an “A” for knowledge, an “F” for practice.

Dad, your kids deserve your DAILY PRACTICE of what you know:

  • show them affection,
  • be a good example,
  • exhibit parental togetherness
  • be spiritually mature.

Such daily practice will pay long-run dividends in their lives.


Expressing Thanks To Your Child

Could be Best Thanksgiving Ever

It is all too easy in our fast-paced world to not really think through what key holidays really mean.

For instance, Thanksigivng is tomorrow. “Ah” you think, “good turkey, lots of food, a football game, a day off, some out of town relatives.”

I invite you to just stop and think for a moment what you are really thankful for. For those of you who are married, I trust that your wife comes to mind right away. And right after her should be each child you have blessed with.

So why not do something very different this Thanksgiving. Why don’t you let each child you have know just how thankful you are for them.

Buy them a card. Or better yet – create your won Thanksgiving card – or Thanksgiving love note. Nothing fancy – just a few simple words to say, “I am so thankful today to have you as my son – my daughter.”

It could just be the best Thanksgiving ever – for you and for each of your children.