Friday, December 21, 2007

Anger and Heart Problems

Reuters Updated: March 3, 2006 Research by Timothy Smith, Ph. D. University of Utah

The manner in which husbands and wives argue over such hot-button topics such as money, in-laws, and children, may be a factor in their risk of developing coronary atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries of the heart.

In a study of 150 couples, mostly in their 60s, researchers found that women who behaved in a hostile manner during marital disputes were more likely to have atherosclerosis, especially if their husbands were also hostile.

In men, hostility -- their own or their wives -- was not related to atherosclerosis. However, men who behaved in a dominating or controlling manner -- or whose wives behaved in that way -- were more likely to have clogged coronary arteries.

"The only group of men that had very little atherosclerosis were those where both they and their wives were able to talk about a disagreement without being controlling at all," Smith said. "So the absence of a power play in the conversation seemed to be heart protective for men," he concluded.

This study supports a "small but growing body of research that suggests that beyond the health benefits of being married, marital quality seems to make a difference in heart health," Dr. Timothy Smith, a psychologist from the University of Utah noted in an interview with Reuters Health.

My posts here will be few so go to my other blogs for more great stuff

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Family Affair

Take a look at my Seasoned Believers blog for an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal.

How Did It Help You?

I just received a letter from Beech Acres Parenting Center asking for testimonies. They want to know if any of your students have benefited from their training.

One of the hallmarks of good teachers is a feedback system that tries to discern what is working. That leads to this mantra:

If it works, do more of it.

If it does not work, stop it.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I hope our teaching and training couples how to minister to others works. But, if it did not we want to fix it. We need your feedback and feed forward to do better the next time.

Send your comments to me. Dr. Gary Sweeten

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chuch Atttendance Brings Health

What are the deepest beliefs of Americans? According to polls a whopping majority of over 80% of us come from a Christian tradition. About 42% of Americans attend religious/church services weekly. This is far more than those who attend all professional sports in an entire year.

Some 95% of Americans believe in God. In 1985 George Gallup found that 72% stated: "My whole approach to life is based on my religion." We are the most religious western nation by far. This is especially shocking when we realize that the country is divided almost 50/50 in politics. America, for all her weaknesses, is a religious nation. As one wag noted, ”India is the most religious country in the world and Sweden the least. America is a bunch of Indians ruled by Swedes.”

Research shows that 91% of blacks, 93% of Hispanics and 88% of whites report a religious affiliation. Even more startling is the number for attendance: 51% of Blacks, 48% of Hispanics and 43% of Whites attend weekly or more often.

Sixty four percent (64%) of blacks in the national sample were members of religious communities (churches) with 59% of whites and 43% of Hispanics. Participation in religious activities outside weekend services is also high with 47% blacks, 41% whites and 31% Hispanics saying they are in church during the week as well as on Sunday.

(Social Capital

In a nation obsessed with racial and cultural diversity the facts about minorities and religious faith have been strangely absent from the dialogue. There is one astounding statistic about African American longevity and church attendance that is rarely if ever mentioned in the debates about faith based organizations and health care. An article by Hummer et al in Demography Journal, 36:273-285 in 1999, Blacks who attend church live much longer than those who do not.

Attendance------------White life expectancy---Black life expectancy

Never-----------------77 Years----------------67 = A 10 year difference
Less than or weekly---80 Years----------------75 = A 5 year difference
Weekly or more-------83 Years----------------80 = A 3 year difference

Whites who attend services more than weekly gain an average of six years in longevity but African Americans who attend services weekly or more gain a whopping 13 years in life expectancy. The difference in longevity is almost eclipsed by church attendance. In fact, attending church more often than weekly raises Blacks life expectancy to that of whites who attend weekly or less.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Great News!

Today is our anniversary. Karen and I married after a whirlwind courtship of six months on the Thanksgiving Holiday in 1961. I was 23 and she had just turned 21 when we went down the aisle of the First Baptist Church in Pinckneyville, Illinois.

I was a school teacher at the Ina Grade School where I had the 5Th and 6Th Grades and taught all the subjects while coaching all the sports and driving the school bus. My salary was, as best I remember, about $3,000.00 but I received another $100.00 per month for driving the bus.

We were in love and wanted to marry so Thanksgiving seemed like a good time because I was off for vacation from Thursday through Sunday. We chose November 21 because it gave us a couple of extra days for a honeymoon.

Time flies when you are very busy and involved in life and that has been true for us. Our two children and three grand kids have provided lots of joy and lots of worry. That is life.

Marriage is not easy, that is for sure. Some marriage and family therapists say it is the most daunting of all mergers. Taking two people who are radically different as humans and asking them to live together in a mutually up building manner is a great but invigorating challenge.

After almost half a century, Karen and I usually mirror each other's thoughts and values. But is was always so. It has taken many misunderstandings and many discussions and puzzling conversations, fights and times of forgiveness. And, most importantly, God has been the glue of our relationship.

Take a look at this article in The Wall Street Journal to see how important marriage is to all people. I am very blessed after 46 Thanksgivings as a husband to have a wife of my youth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Committed Couples and Poverty

Poverty is Real around the World
Last night at the monthly meeting of the Organizational Development Network of Cincinnati we heard two great guys from City Cure of Cincinnati talk about poverty. They mentioned that the city of Cincinnati has one of the highest percentages of persons living in poverty in the US. WOW!

When we think of poverty the first thing that comes to mind is a lack of money. That is only part of the problem. The definition offered by Barry Baker of City Cure was broader and more helpful. Chronic Poverty is a "Chronic lack of resources" such as finances, education, emotional balance, supportive relationships, spiritual support, etc. Without all of these resources finances will not last long.

Go to my Brave Heart Blog for the rest of this information.

The state and federal grants that led us to post this blog have ended and so I am placing the blog on hiatus. I will continue to write on Brave Heart and

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dr. Phil and Hope

My wife told me that the famous, and very wealthy, Dr. Phil had a couple on his TV show this week who was having some serious problems in their marriage. Phil, in his usual confident manner, said: "I can tell in just a few minutes of an interview whether there is any hope for a couple. "

Phil proceeded to tell the couple, and the entire world, that the signs of a hopeless marriage are simple: Personal attacks that include Criticism and Contempt.

Phil was partially correct, Criticism and Contempt along with acting like a stone wall and withdrawing into a cold shell, are usually of a divorce train a coming. However, Phil failed to mention that such marriages can be saved and healed if a couple will work hard in good faith.

He also forgot to mention that the signs of divorce he was quoting came from Dr. John Gottman's research. Gottman's materials are those we referenced in our June training in Clermont County, Ohio. That is the DVD we are giving away for the asking.

Why is Phil acting so hopeless? Why are so many secular therapists feeling so helpless about helping people in trouble? Now the American Psychological Association even says it is wrong to help a man or woman who wants to change his/her sexual compulsions.

Why are they feeling so helpless and hopeless when we know people can change? We know that counseling actually works in most cases. We see evidence of changed lives daily.

So, don't give up. If you are having conflict with someone you love, get a counselor, social worker or psychologist. You can also get our DVD and read our books. Don't give up!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Free Video on DVD

We video taped the two presentations in June for Committed Couples and last week a friend, Karl Metzler, finished up his volunteer work of placing all nine sessions on DVDs. He did a terrific job by designing a beautiful package and placing the Power Point Slides on the last DVD.

These can be used for your own information about how to have a healthy relationship or put it in the DVD player and use it to teach a small group. If you are a church volunteer, small group leader, Pastor or educator you will find them very provocative and useful. Each session is about 20 to 25 minutes.

If you would like to have one write me at

Listen Up!

I did a doctorate in the Sixties and Seventies graduating in 1975. Even back then the leaders of the counseling professions like Carl Rogers were saying that listening well was the key to being a good or great counselor.

But that seemed unlikely because most of the books and classes I took emphasized how much I was supposed to know about the theories of psychology and human development.But, when researchers started doing what is called, "Outcome Studies" and discovered that Dr. Rogers and Dr. Carkhuff were right.

I became convinced that the ways we treat people are more important than what we know about people. As the old saying goes, "People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care." The outcome research made a lot of sense to me so I did a lot of reading and discovered that the key to good marriages, good parenting, good sales, good pastoral care, good management, good leadership and good living was also good listening and good caring.

Listening with love and understanding are not just for the pros. Everybody can grow and learn to relate better by learning the simple skills of listening. Why not order my book, Listening for Heaven's Sake from

Just type in Gary Sweeten and see all the titles that come up. Buy one of the books and write me what you think. We have just published a version of Listening in Russia to join those published in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. All told we hav sold over 250,000 copies world wide.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Social Skills for Children and Youth

The Future Welfare of the nation depends upon the education and welfare of our families and how they rear their children. The following article emphasizes that kids must learn realtional skills from their parents and the quality of those relationship skills will largely determine how well your kids do in life.

The depression and violence among young people concern us all. The pain of families whose children hurt themselves or others causes us deep pain. There are, of course, no instant experts and no instant answers on how to change the situation. However, we do know how children develop the interpersonal and social skills necessary for success in life and that will reduce their need to react inappropriately to disappointments.

The data on reducing children’s problems are clear. Research indicates that we should involve children in church, extra-curricular school activities with caring adults who listen. Structure, discipline, adult role models, hard work and good social skills are the foundation for a secure and happy life. Below we list the skills that are most important for children to know.

Beginning Social skills
1. Listening to other people
2. Preparing for a conversation-focusing on a topic
3. Starting a conversation
4. Carrying out an interactive conversation
5. Asking good questions
6. Saying, thank you
7. Self introduction
8. Introducing other people
9. Offering compliments to others

Advanced Social Skills
10. Asking why
11. Asking for help
12. Joining in with others
13. Giving instructions
14. Following instructions
15. Apologizing
16. Convincing others

Emotional Skills
17. Emotional self knowledge
18. Expressing feelings
19. Understanding others’ feelings
20. Putting self in the place of others
21. Dealing with others’ anger
22. Expressing affection
23. Dealing with fears
24. Rewarding self

Alternatives to aggression
25. Asking permission
26. Sharing with others
27. Helping others
28. Negotiation
29. Self-control
30. Standing up for personal rights
31. Saying no
32. Responding to teasing
33. Avoiding trouble with others
34. Keeping out of fights

Stress Skills
35. Expressing a complaint
36. Answering a complaint
37. Talking after a competition
38. Dealing with embarrassment
39. Dealing with being ignored
40. Resisting group pressure
41. Responding to failure
42. Dealing with false accusation
43. Planning Skills
44. Dealing with boredom
45. Suggesting something to do
46. Finding a problem’s cause
47. Setting a goal
48. Gathering information
49. Prioritizing problems
50. Making decisions
51. Concentrating on a task

Goldstein, A.P., Sherman, M., Gershaw, N.J., Sprafkin, R.P., and Glick. Training Aggressive Youth in Prosocial Behavior, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1973

Americans Agree: Kids Are Not Being Prepared for Life

Barna Report from October 26, 2004

(Ventura, CA) - The presidential election season has brought to light numerous issues on which the nation’s population is divided. According to a new survey from The Barna Group, however, there is one issue on which most adults agree: the nation’s children are not being adequately prepared for life.

Based on interviews with more than 1000 adults nationwide, the survey discovered that less than one out of every five adults believes that children under the age of 13 are being “superbly” or “pretty well” prepared for life emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually or physically. Fewer than one out of every twenty adults believe that America’s youngsters are receiving above average preparation in all five of those areas of life.

Moral and Spiritual Development Lags the Most

Adults were asked to evaluate how well children under the age of 13 are being prepared for life in each of five dimensions. Using a scale that ranged from “superbly” to “poorly,” half or more of all adults contended that children are “not being prepared well enough” or are “poorly prepared” for the life that awaits them in relation to each of the five dimensions tested.
Adults feel most confident in the intellectual preparation that children receive these days. However, just 18% said kids are prepared “superbly” or “pretty well” in the intellectual dimension. In comparison, half of all adults said kids are “not prepared well enough” or are “poorly prepared” intellectually to effectively grapple with life.

Physical development generated a similar response pattern. One-sixth of adults (16%) felt that children were being superbly or pretty well prepared physically, while a slight majority (54%) felt they were not being prepared well enough or were being poorly prepared physically.
Adults indicated that children are faring somewhat worse in the area of emotional preparation: only 12% gave positive ratings compared 62% offering a negative assessment.

The lowest ratings, however, were reserved for the moral and spiritual preparation of children. Only 8% of adults said kids get better-than-adequate preparation in the spiritual realm, while more than 7-out-of-10 adults (71%) said children get inadequate spiritual training. Similarly, 8% said kids get above average moral preparation while three-fourths said youngsters get inadequate moral preparation.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


In June we sponsored workshops on consecutive Saturdays to train mature couples how to reach out and help other couples and families. We were sponsored by grants from both the Federal Government and the State of Ohio through Beech Acres Center.

Before the month of September is over we are going to have a dynamic reunion for all the original attendees. We will answer questions, find out what the trainees have been doing or are planning to do to support committed couples and happy families.

Stay tuned for the exact day, date and time as well as the place.

Girls and Suicide

ATLANTA (AP) -- The suicide rate among preteen and young teen girls spiked 76 percent, a disturbing sign that federal health officials say they can't fully explain.
For all young people between ages 10 to 24, the suicide rate rose 8 percent from 2003 to 2004 - the biggest single-year bump in 15 years - in what one official called "a dramatic and huge increase."

The report, based on the latest numbers available, was released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and suggests a troubling reversal in recent trends. Suicide rates had fallen by 28.5 percent since 1990 among young people.

The biggest increase - about 76 percent - was in the suicide rate for 10- to 14-year-old girls. There were 94 suicides in that age group in 2004, compared to 56 in 2003. The rate is still low - fewer than one per 100,000 population.

Suicide rates among older teen girls, those aged 15-19 shot up 32 percent; rates for males in that age group rose 9 percent.

"In surveillance speak, this is a dramatic and huge increase," Dr. Ileana Arias said of the overall picture. She is director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

More research is needed to determine whether this is a trend or just a blip, said one child psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Cummins of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "We all need to keep our eye on this over time to see if this is a continuing trend."

Overall, there were 4,599 suicides among young people in 2004, making it the third-leading cause of death, surpassed only by car crashes and homicide, Arias said. Males committed suicide far more often than females, accounting for about three-quarters of suicides in this age group.

By GREG BLUESTEIN Associated Press Writer

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ohio Labor Stats

Study of Ohio's work force by Policy Matters Ohio, a union-backed advocacy group:

Ohio has 2.8 percent fewer jobs, or 158,000, than when a recession began in 2001.

The state has lost almost 21 percent of its manufacturing jobs over that period.

Ohio's gross domestic product grew 22.3 percent between 1990 and 1997 but only 13.3 percent between 1997 and 2006.

Two-parent families increased their working hours by 17 percent between 1979 and 2006 to 3,488 hours a year.

The likelihood of being in a union declined in Ohio from more than one-fourth of workers in 1983 to just over 16 percent in 2006.

Source: Policy Matters Ohio

More pressure on families. We really need to support each other now.

Americans Work a Lot

Yep, we who live in America work an awfully lot. It seems to be part of our DNA and our heritage to put in a lot of hours in the market place.

GENEVA - American workers stay longer in the office, at the factory or on the farm than their counterparts in Europe and most other rich nations, and they produce more per person over the year.

They also get more done per hour than everyone but the Norwegians, according to a U.N. report released today, which said the United States "leads the world in labor productivity."
The average U.S. worker produces $63,885 of wealth per year, more than their counterparts in all other countries, the International Labor Organization said in its report. Ireland comes in second at $55,986, followed by Luxembourg at $55,641, Belgium at $55,235 and France at $54,609.

The productivity figure is found by dividing the country's gross domestic product by the number of people employed. The U.N. report is based on 2006 figures for many countries, or the most recent available.

Only part of the U.S. productivity growth, which has outpaced that of many other developed economies, can be explained by the longer hours Americans are putting in, the ILO said.
The U.S., according to the report, also beats all 27 nations in the European Union, Japan and Switzerland in the amount of wealth created per hour of work - a second key measure of productivity.

When I was in college the professors called it, "The Protestant Work Ethic" and suggested that the root cause of our work obsession was John Calvin's theology. I do not know if it has that root cause but I agree that Americans, by and large, go to work earlier and stay later than any other developed nation in the northern hemisphere.

Our passion for work can be positive or negative. I was so interested in work that for several years I neglected my family. The people I loved most actually suffered because I was so over committed to people I worked for. NOT SO GOOD!

Now I try to keep my life in better balance but it is not easy. I have the kind of personality that sees "Work as play and play as work." So, I have decided to make sure I work at play. Now, Golf is my main work.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Maddening Men and Wild Women

A report from Atlanta shows how even well known ministers can get caught up in the pain of a relationship and end up in a physical conflict. As I explained in my call at the Committed Couples' Workshop at Love and Faith Fellowship last June, when males are over stimulated and angry they tend to with draw from the relationship like a "stone wall". This drives the woman Wild and she tends to pursue him demanding more discussion. This leads to an explosion of emotions.

ATLANTA (FOX 5) -- Atlanta police said Wednesday that well-known television minister, Juanita Bynum, became the victim of domestic abuse after her husband savagely beat her in a hotel parking lot Tuesday night. A relative of Reverend Bynum told FOX 5 News that the Reverend Bynum and her husband, Bishop Thomas Weeks, are in the middle of a separation.

The relative said the two agreed to meet Tuesday night in the dining room of the Renaissance Hotel near Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

The meeting reportedly did not go well and ended with Bishop Weeks leaving abruptly.

The relative said Reverend Bynum followed him to the parking lot where the two exchanged words.
According to an Atlanta Police Department report, that's when Weeks allegedly attacked her। In a statement to police, Reverend Bynum said her husband, Thomas Weeks, "choked her, pushed her down, kicked her and stomped her in the Renaissance parking lot।"

Here is the dangerous scenario. The husband is angry and withdraws to cool down.

The wife is rejected and follows him, demanding that he talk more.

His anger turns into rage and he attacks her.

This type of interaction is repeated thousands of times each day. Here is how we can break the cycle of conflict. When you get mad and emotionally flooded, call a time out. Both must recognize that more talk is impossible. Cool down. Agree before hand to separate until you are calm.

Write for my Cycle of Conflict Management Chart.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Marital Conflict and Iraqi Missiles

Study Shows Decreased Coronary Blood Flow in Some Heart Patients
By Salynn BoylesWebMD Medical News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MDon Tuesday, March 07, 2006
March 7, 2006 - Mental stress has long been suspected of playing an important role in heart disease, and now new research suggests that this might be true for some patients more than others.

Researchers from the University of Florida found that about a third of the patients with known coronary artery disease in their study experienced decreased coronary blood flow while they were under mental duress, even though they performed well on treadmill stress tests or chemical cardiac stress tests. The coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle itself.

Decreased blood flow to heart muscle -- known medically as cardiac ischemia -- deprives heart muscle of oxygen, which can be a warning for a future heart attack. Ischemia may or may not cause a person to feel chest pain. Physical and chemical stress tests are used to check for ischemia.

Several previous studies by the University of Florida research team indicate that mental stresses are among the most important risk factors for death in heart patients. In one study, the researchers found that for some heart patients, mental stress is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes or having high cholesterol.

"We believe the phenomenon of mental-stress-induced reductions in blood flow to the heart is much more common than has been previously recognized," says researcher David S. Sheps, MD, MSPH.

Measuring Mental Stress

Fourteen men and seven women with coronary artery disease were included in the study, and all of them had a recent negative stress test result, meaning that they showed no evidence of decreased blood flow during a treadmill or chemical stress test. "These would be the people who would generally be believed to have a good prognosis," Sheps tells WebMD.

But when the patients participated in a test designed to measure mental stress, six of the 21 (29%) showed evidence of decreased blood flow. None experienced chest pain during the mental stress test.

All 21 people included in this study had known coronary artery disease, with exercise or chemical stress tests within six months prior that showed no evidence of ischemia. Participants were asked to imagine a stressful situation that was unique to their lives. They were then given two minutes to prepare to deliver a four-minute speech about the situation. Blood pressure was measured and electrocardiograms taken every minute during the speech and for 10 minutes afterward. Heart imaging scans were also performed to check for ischemia.

"The results tend to support [the idea] that mental stress works through a different mechanism than physical stress," Sheps says.

But he is quick to point out that the study says little about the clinical implications of mental-stress-related reductions in blood flow to the heart. The patients in the study, as well as 300 others particip ating in a similarly designed study, will continue to be followed in hopes of answering this question.

The researchers are also conducting a study to determine if efforts to reduce mental stress have an impact on cardiovascular outcomes.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb and was reported in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Impact of Wars and Disasters

Mental stress is not officially recognized as a contributing factor in heart disease by many health groups, including the American Heart Association.

While acknowledging that "managing stress makes sense for a person's overall health," it is the AHA's position, a spokeswoman tells WebMD, that there is not yet enough clinical evidence to recommend the use of stress management for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence linking mental stress to heart attacks and sudden death from cardiovascular causes, however, including reports of dramatic rises in such deaths after disasters like Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, and the bombing of Israel during the first Gulf War.

Six months after Hurricane Katrina, it is apparent that many victims died not from the hurricane, but from physical causes brought on by the stresses associated with it.
According to Louis Cataldie, MD, who is acting state medical examiner for Louisiana, a disproportionate number of the roughly 1,300 confirmed Katrina deaths occurred among older people, and most victims did not drown.

In an interview with WebMD, Cataldie confirmed previous news reports that nearly 40% of the victims were over the age of 70. Almost 200 of the victims were evacuees who died outside the state within about a month of the hurricane.

Although the exact cause of death for many Katrina victims will never be known, Cataldie says mental stresses probably played a role in many deaths. "That certainly seems to be the case," he says.

In a 1991 study, researchers in Israel reported a sharp rise in heart attacks and sudden deaths in Tel Aviv during the Iraqi missile attacks of the first Gulf War. They noted that the increase lasted only a few days, after which time the incidence of heart attacks and deaths returned to normal.

SOURCES: Ramachandruni, S., Journal of the American College of Cardiology, March 2006; vol 47: pp 987-991. David S. Sheps, MD, MSPH, professor, associate chairman of cardiovascular medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine and Malcolm Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Gainesville, Fla. Louis Cataldie, MD, Louisiana State Department of Health.
© 2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved

Friday, August 3, 2007

Adverse Childhood Events and Adult Diseases

Many parents engage in behavior that is harmful to them but they refuse to change because they rebel at the idea that anybody should tell them to do anything. Even positive ideas about their own health turn them off. However, parents will often change their behavior if they are convinced that it is harmful to the Long term welfare of their children.

A few years ago medical researchers in California were trying to figure out why so many of their most successful weight loss clients were dropping out of the programs they entered to lose weight in the first place. Because they had a host of data about the clients' childhood they noted a remarkable correlation between Adverse Childhood Events and Adult obesity. Upon further research they saw an even more striking set of correlations between ACE and Adult Diseases of all sorts.

Perhaps most striking was the stair step correlations between the number of Adverse Childhood Events and the associated Adult Diseases. For example, if a child grew up without a parent in the home due to divorce, crime, death or prison time the child was likely to experience an adult disease. However, if there was alcoholism, drugs, jail time and divorce making the count be four of five Adverse Events the child would be more likely to experience several Adult diseases.

If you want to insure that your child has a healthy future be sure to stay married, stay sober and stay out of jail.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Time Magazine has a great article on raising boys to men. Here is a small part of it.

If The Dangerous Book were a place, it would look like the Falling Creek Camp for Boys in North Carolina--a rustic paradise complete with a rifle range, nearby mountains to climb and a lake complete with swimming dock and rope swing. The choice of activities at the camp is dizzying, from soccer to blacksmithing, from kayaking to watercolors, but no pastime is more popular than building forts of fallen tree limbs and poking at turtles in the creek. Leave your cell phones, laptops and iPods at home.

There I met Margaret Anderson, a pediatric nurse from Nashville and a member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University. She works in the infirmary while her 11-year-old son Gage discovers the woods on multi-day pack trips. "I call this place Boy Heaven," she says.

Falling Creek subscribes to a philosophy of "structured freedom," which is essentially the same philosophy paying dividends among boys at the opposite end of the economic ladder at the Frederick Douglass Academy. It works across the board, says Anderson, and she wishes more of the boys she sees in her busy Nashville practice lived lives of structured freedom too.

"Whether it's urban kids who can't go outside because it's too dangerous or the overscheduled, over parented kids at the other end of the spectrum--I'm worried that boys have lost the chance to play and to explore," Anderson told me. Our society takes a dim view of idle time and casts a skeptical eye on free play--play driven by a boy's curiosity rather than the league schedule or the folks at Nintendo. But listen to Anderson as she lists the virtues of letting boys run themselves occasionally.

"When no one's looming over them, they begin making choices of their own," she says. "They discover consequences and learn to take responsibility for themselves and their emotions. They start learning self-discipline, self-confidence, team building. If we don't let kids work through their own problems, we get a generation of whiners."

That made sense to me. As I watched the boys at Falling Creek do things that would scare me to death if my own son were doing them--hammering white-hot pieces of metal, clinging to a zip line two stories above a lake, examining native rattlesnakes--I didn't notice many whining boys. Yates Pharr, director of Falling Creek, seemed to read my mind. "It's the parents who have the anxieties nowadays, far more than the boys," he said. "We've started posting photographs of each day's activity on our website, and still I'll get complaints if we don't have a picture of every camper every day."

Worrying about our boys--reading and writing books about them, wringing our hands over dire trends and especially taking more time to parent them--is paying off. The next step is to let them really blossom, and for that we have to trust them, give them room. The time for fearing our sons, or fearing for their futures, is behind us. The challenge now is to believe in them. [This article contains charts. Please see hardcopy or pdf.]

Find this article at,9171,1647452,00.html

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Doing the same things and expecting different results

It has been a staple of American thought for decades and fodder for late night TV to summarize a person with bad habits as "insane" because they "Do the same things over and over and expect different results."

After decades of counseling people, especially couples, I have decided that helping people to get out of the rut of bad habits that do not work is quite simple but extremely difficult. It is like telling people to stop eating and writing with the right hand. When I reflexively pick up an item with my right hand I am acting from long habit rather than a conscious decision. That is hard to change.

When a woman viciously attacks the man she loves because he forgot to bring home a gallon of milk on the way work it is habit speaking. She is automatically doing what she has always done and it seems right for her to keep doing it.

But when that habit pattern destroys what she really wants, love, then she needs to stop it and develop a new habit. That seems simple enough but most people look at me as if I had told them to stop gravity when I suggest it.

When a man habitually comes home from work late and is unavailable to help his wife and kids it surely upsets the apple cart. He knows it is a bad habit but he just keeps doing the same thing over and over until his wife and kids are disgusted with him. But when I suggest ways he could be on time he is shocked at the possibility of a change.

Here is a simple formula:

If what you are doing helps you get what you want-keep doing it.

If what you are doing is not working-stop doing it.

In the first year of so of my marriage to Karen I had a great suggestion for how she should wash her hair. (This was in the era of curlers and so forth.)Karen was already fed up with my arrogance and superior airs but this was the last straw. She exploded and, looking around to find something to hit me with that was not fatal, picked up a pile of freshly washed towels and smacked me with them.

That was enough to help me see that telling my wife how to do things was not working!!! (I was pretty smart, eh?) I did not completely stop my long habit of arrogance immediately but over time I have gotten better. Why?? Because it was not working. It did not build peace, harmony and romance in our tiny little apartment in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.

Conflict is inevitable but misery is optional. Stop stuff that causes you and your family misery. "Wise up, son!" as my daddy would say.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Help The Needy

Dope and Dopers

One out of every 12 full-time workers in the United States admit illegal drug use in the past month according to a new survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Among those who admitted using illegal drugs in the past month:

19.0% were ages 18 to 25
10.3% were ages 26 to 34
7.0% were ages 35 to 49
2.6% were ages 50 to 64

The ways parents relate with each other has a great effect on kids. If you want to promote alcohol and drug abuse by your children make sure you and your spouse also drink and smoke dope. And, fight a lot so your children are very insecure.

Drugs and alcohol are highly correlated with poverty, mental and emotional illness and violence. If you really want to see your kids and grand kids sick, poor and violent you can do it by making a mess of your own life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Our New Focus

We are in the midst of changing the name and focus of our non-profit organization. It has always been Life Way Inc but in the future shall be called, Sweeten Life Systems.

The old name is too confusing for people. Many get us confused with the Southern Baptists who operate a group with the Lifeway name and others with Life Way Counseling.

So, get used to the new name, Sweeten Life Systems. Sweeten, of course, is my family name and it makes confusion about who this is less likely.

Second, our focus is on Life Systems. Family systems, organizational systems and educational systems. That means we know something about the ways groups act and not just individuals. For example, the way Mom and Dad treat each other and their own parents may have more to do with the way Junior acts than how they treat him directly.

Systemic Thinking goes back many thousands of years. The holy books of the Jews and Christians are primarily written from a systemic perspective. They say, for example, "Honor your father and mother so you will live a long time on this earth." You might ask, "How does my attitude toward my Dad affect my long term health?"

Recent research shows a very clear and very strong correlation between Adverse Childhood Events and later Adult Diseases. In other words, kids who lose a parent to drugs, divorce, prison, etc are much more likely to develop a chronic disease. People whose lives are filled with grief, anger, hurts and bitterness do not live as long as others.

If you are interested in this research, write me at

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Foolish Freedom of the Press

The New York Times, the once proud "paper of record," has fallen far from its lofty position atop the news media pyramid. It has made some ridiculous claims in recent years but perhaps the most ludicrous was in last Sunday's paper. The article was a review of a book on economics that suggested that people who resisted promiscuous sex were really causing AIDS.

Here is their blurb:

"It's true: AIDS is nature's awful retribution for our tolerance of immoderate and socially irresponsible sexual behavior. The epidemic is the price of our permissive attitudes toward monogamy, chastity, and other forms of extreme sexual conservatism. You've read elsewhere about the sin of promiscuity. Let me tell you about the sin of self-restraint.

Consider Martin, a charming and generally prudent young man with a limited sexual history, who has been gently flirting with his coworker Joan. As last week's office party approached, both Joan and Martin silently and separately entertained the prospect that they just might be going home together. Unfortunately, Fate, through its agents at the Centers for Disease Control, intervened. The morning of the party, Martin happened to notice one of those CDC-sponsored subway ads touting the virtues of abstinence. Chastened, he decided to stay home. In Martin's absence, Joan hooked up with the equally charming but considerably less prudent Maxwell - and Joan got AIDS.

When the cautious Martin withdraws from the mating game, he makes it easier for the reckless Maxwell to prey on the hapless Joan. If those subway ads are more effective against Martin than against Maxwell, they are a threat to Joan's safety. This is especially so when they displace Calvin Klein ads, which might have put Martin in a more socially beneficent mood."

The author, Mr. Landsburg, says: "If multiple partnerships save lives, then monogamy can be deadly. Martin's chastity is a form of pollution -- chastity pollutes the sexual environment by reducing the fraction of relatively safe partners in the dating pool. Factory owners pollute too much because they have to breathe only a fraction of their own pollution; Martin stays home alone too much because he bears only a fraction of the consequences."

I love it. Now I can say that the reason I have flunked my diet is because so many others are failing to eat all the food and leave just enough for me to survive. All those skinny, self controlled folks have led me to be fat against my will.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Anger Inventory

As children, many of us made choices about the way we were going to relate to our feelings. These early decisions may still shape our emotional life today.

Answer the following questions about your childhood experiences with anger. If you didn't grow-up with a mother and/or a father, substitute the name of someone who took care of you as a child.

When my mother got angry, she __________________________________

When my father got angry, he ___________________________________

When __________ another household or family member got angry, he/she


When I got angry (as a child), I _____________________________________________

Based on my experiences while growing up, I think that anger is: ____________________________________________________________________

Now, when I get angry, I ___________________________________________

Now, when someone else gets angry with me, I ______________________________________________________________

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Marital Cross Roads

Couples come to a critical path in the road of marital togetherness. If they turn the positive way and travel along that path, the marriage will grow. If not, it will dissolve.

That fork in the road is called, attack or attend. If one of the mates begins to personally attack the other, the marriage is in real danger. If, however, they find a way to attend to each other the marriage will grow. Christian attacks are as traumatic as a non-Christian attack.

This research looks at the changes in a mate's heart rate, breathing and other physical manifestations of anxiety as shown on monitors. It is not based on self-reports or observations. It is very accurate in predicting present and future problems.

Gottman and his colleagues have gathered and sorted data about thousands of marriages. They correlated that data with marital satisfaction and marital disillusion and have a good record at sensing when a couple is in trouble.

I adapted the Gottman information into a simple, seven-point scale, which can be used to assess the level of a couple’s marital stress. The scale is useful for teaching couples how to assess their own level of resiliency or danger. It also offers suggestions for taking appropriate action at each stage of the scale. Gottman’s insights, and my adaptation of it, can be used to prepare couples to avoid the attack marriage and emphasize attending skills.

I presented these materials and discussed my scale at a recent conference in Taiwan. Before the talk, I received a note from a person whose husband had left her for another woman. She asked How do I deal with this man now that we are divorced? Should I allow him to our children? I think he will damage the children. She was thinking like a victim rather than a victor. Such thinking can destroy her and her children.

After seeing the conflict chart, she wrote another note. I now know why my husband wanted to be with someone else. I never gave him a chance to tell his side of things and I attacked him about a lot of issues. Thanks for teaching. I am going to ask him for forgiveness and tell him that he can see the children.

Many see themselves as the innocent parties in a divorce or serious marital conflict. Since they never committed adultery or another gross sin, they perceive themselves to be the good guys and their partners to have been the bad guys. However, the sins of the mouth can be as damaging as the sins of sex to our intimate relationships.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

Be Healthy and Happy

There is no doubt that a stable family life is a great contributor to healthy lives. According to Family in America, experiencing parental divorce is associated with a 44% increase in mortality risk, shortening the life span of a white male child by an average of 4.5 years.

Marriage and family life are strong medicine for steering young people and adults, especially males, away from destructive life styles. Fewer married men drink, smoke and do other drugs. They also avoid dangerous sexual practices and other risky behavior. Marriage is healthy for the adults and for the children. Divorce is unhealthy for everybody.

There is good news about the family. Ken Bryson, co-author of a recent report on family trends, says, The perceived decline of the American family is vanishing and the '90s represents a stabilization period. For example, the percentage of married couples with children fell from 50 percent to 37 percent of all families between 1970 and 1990. It only dropped 1 percentage point (to 36 percent) since then.

According to Policy Review, about two-thirds of all divorces is the result of what they call low-level conflict rather than trauma or long term abuse. A key to successful coupleling is learning how to resolve these conflicts before it is too late.

If you are unhappy in marriage, call for help. If you are fed up with conflict, do not despair. Help is on the way. It is not hopeless.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Helpful Books

If you are interested in helping people in need, one easy way to improve your knowledge is to read one or more of my books. Two of the best are listed below.
Listening for Heaven's Sake and Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty are the places to begin.

By the way, none of my books tell you how to act like Superman!

Lawyers and Divorce

I recently played golf with an attorney and his college age son. We had a great time hitting that little ball around the cow pasture but before long Jim asked me if I was retired? "No" I answered. "I have stopped running the counseling center. Now I work with people and groups to prevent people from going to see you for a divorce."

Jim laughed and replied, "My firm does not do domestic cases. However, we do have to get involved in businesses when there are family squabbles. But I hate it. People hold grudges and try to punish other family members over nothing. I wouldn't want your job."

My Professor, Dr. Ed Friedman, was fond of saying, "In America divorce is easy but separation if impossible." Legally divorce can be accomplished in a very short time, but separating the emotional and spiritual connections of a family can prove to be daunting.

Many couples divorce and still argue over the businesses, the kids and grand kids for thirty years. This is especially true when the kids take sides against one parent and for the "Victim". This often leads to years of them punishing the "bad" parent and even try to destroy the family business.

At one time I was naively thinking that I could talk people into being nice or acting Christ like. Now I know differently and pray a lot more for a couple than I preach to them. I am trying to stop being a rescuer and allow God to save people. After all, only God can send a Messiah.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Does the Culture Support Marriages?

I read the following article in Christianity Today online. It is self explanatory.

A recent billboard advertisement for the law firm Fetman, Garland & Associates targeted young, wealthy, married couples of Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. Its message was simple: "Life's short. Get a divorce." On either side of the words were sexually-charged images of a man and a woman.

It is no wonder that people marry late if ever and divorce quickly even in multiples. With professional groups like the law firm mentioned here divorce and sex outside of marriage seems the way to go.

But as a marriage and family counselor for over 30 years I can say with confidence that marriage of one man and one woman for one entire life is the best way to live a long and happy life. Married people feel better, live longer, have more and better sex and enjoy better jobs and more financial blessings.

Take your choice: Keep your marriage, your money and health or give all three to some legal shysters who want your money to spend on debouchery.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Divorce Stats

According to the 1990 U.S. Census (the 2000 census didn't ask about marital status), at least 52% of all first marriages will end in divorce.

Among those who have been divorced, 75% will remarry. And 60% of those remarriages will end in divorce.

Christianity is no panacea for the divorce epidemic, either.

While 25% of all adults in America have experienced at least one divorce, 27% of Christians will split up. Evangelical Christians appear to fare even worse: Members of nondenominational Protestant and Baptist churches experience the nation's highest divorce rates at 34% and 29%, respectively. The article is located at:

Most people never intend to get a divorce but have lost hope.

More Workshops

Beech acres Center for Families and Children are interested in sponsoring more couples' worshops. I want to know if any of you are interested in more free workshops.

Just write your comments on this blog send an email to me

TV Show

I stumbled on to a pretty good TV show last night. It is called One Week to Save Your Marriage from

ONE WEEK TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE Hosted by Dr. Robi Ludwig TLC’s bold new reality show for 2006

America’s marriages are in crisis with divorce rates shooting through the roof. Many couples find that even within the first five years of marriage, they are in a matrimonial rut of arguments, resentments and bitterness, and can see no other way out.

Now, TLC’s bold new TV series, ONE WEEK TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE, aims to get those relationships back on track. Psychotherapist host Dr. Robi Ludwig, a divorce buster for over fifteen years, is given just seven days to steer a couple’s marriage off the rocks.

In an exclusive social experiment, couples allow their homes to be rigged with remotely operated cameras that record their natural behavior around the clock. Dr. Ludwig is thus able to observe their marriages in the raw. With this unique access she’s able to figure what the flash-points are in the couple’s relationship. When things go wrong she’s there to fix it.

Following her intensive observation, Dr. Ludwig devises a customized series of challenging and revealing tasks for the couple to perform that help her offer them valuable tips about getting their marriage back on the right path.

I suggest that couples watch it together and discuss the principles. They might work for you.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Father's Day is Here

What a joy to have my kids and grand kids by my side on Fathers' Day. I love seeing my son Tim play with Jack, his two year old Jack-Out-Of-The-Box, and act like a fool as they rough house and bounce around all over the place with Jack squealing and Tim laughing.

Tim is a man of 37 who I thought would never settle down as an executive or father. He was the poster child for hyped up kids everywhere and should there have been an advertisement for ADHD medicines back in the day he could have given a great testimonial. But he did not want no stinkin meds because, as he told me, "I only feel really alive when I am buzzing".

Now Tim is a consultant with doctors and medical clinics who has learned to use ADHD as an inner stimulant to keep him sharp. I admire his insights and ability to bring relational skills and Six Sigma into the workplace. But most of all I admire Tim for loving his son. The delight Tim shows when he and Jack are interacting is wonderful. Tim is fully present when he is present. Nothing could be better than that.

By the way, I have found a great blog on parenting.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kep Parenting in Perspective

Dear Mom and Dad:

Since I left for college I have been remiss in writing and I am very sad and sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on. You are not to read any further unless you are sitting down. Okay?

Well then, I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out of the window of my dormitory when it caught fire shortly after my arrival here is pretty well healed now. I only spent two weeks in the hospital and now I can see almost normally and only get those sick headaches once a day.

Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory and my jump were witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm, and he was the one who called the Fire Department and the ambulance. He also visited me in the hospital, and since I have nowhere to live because of the burned-out dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It's really a basement room, but it is kind of cute.

He is a very fine boy and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning on getting married. We haven't got the date exactly yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.

Yes mother and Dad, I am pregnant. I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents and I know that you will welcome the baby and give it the same love and devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child.

The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has a minor infection which prevents us from passing our premarital blood tests and I carelessly caught it from him.I know that you will welcome him into our family with open arms. He is kind, and, although he is of a different race and religion than ours, I know your often-expressed tolerance will not permit you to be bothered by that.

(How are you doing with this information?)

Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you that there was no dormitory fire, I did not have a concussion or skull fracture, I was not in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged, I am not infected and there is no boyfriend in my life. However, I am getting a D in Calculus and F in Chemistry and I want you to see those marks in their proper perspective.

Your loving daughter,


Needed: A New Children's Prayer

For many years I have had the feeling that our favorite prayer to teach children at night was badly flawed. It is so flawed that I am concerned that it was actually causing children to develop a deep-seated fear of God and developing a pattern of insomnia.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die,
Before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take

Analyze this prayer for a moment. The last thing a child hears at night is the fear inducing message that he or she may not survive the rigors of sleep. Can you see why this could be a cause of insomnia?

The prayer was originally written during the Black Plague that killed millions of people including numerous children. It was a fearful time so a fearful prayer was the result. But we need a positive prayer and I wrote one for my grand kids.

New Prayer For Sleeping
(C) Gary Sweeten

Now I lay me down to sleep
I thank the Lord my soul to keep.
No fear of night, He will provide-
His angels near, my sleeping side.
At morning's dawn, I will awake,
To live again for Jesus' sake.
He gives me strength, the whole night rest,
Enough each day to give my best.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Good Book on Marriage

The best counseling and family development book ever written is the Holy Bible. For the past decade or so behavioral scientists have been studying the factors that keep couples and families strong. Dr. John Gottman, for example, concludes that unforgiveness, bitterness and contempt are so toxic that few marriages can overcome them. This is no surprise to Christians who know the Bible. We have read about the positive power of mercy, grace, forgiveness and honor.

Gottman has also mentioned that those couples that send signals of blessing, respect, care, nurture and love to loved ones each day will likely have a successful family life. Gottman goes farther and concludes that there is a ratio of success that each of us can rather easily accomplish unless we are fresh out of grace and love. That ratio is 5 to 1.

Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, 23Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [[that can bring a charge]. 25If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Love All the other moral qualities in the list define and flow from love. Joy is the result of healthy relationships. When relationships fall apart because of broken commitments, there is a loss of joy. When there is conflict and bitterness there is no joy. Peace is also the result of relationships built by loving service. Instead of "hatred, discord, . . . dissensions, factions" there is harmony and order in relationships.

Patience is the opposite of "fits of rage" or short temper. It is the quality of staying with people even when constantly wronged and irritated by them. Kindness and goodness are joined with patience to teach that a sweet disposition and doing good toward people (see v. 10) is the way to stay with them in love. Faithfulness is keeping commitments in relationships. Only the Spirit can produce the quality of loyalty no matter the cost. Gentleness is the opposite of selfish ambition is not conceited, provoking and envying each other Self-control is the opposite of self-indulgence. Spirit-led people will not prmote and encourage their sin nature.

On a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being very poor and 10 being the best possible, where are you on each fruit of the Spirit?

Unconcerned 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Love
Grumpiness 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Joy
Anxiety 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Peace
Easily Upset 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Patience
Legalistic 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Kindness
Stingy 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Goodness
Undependable 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Faithfulness
Ambitious 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Gentleness
Selfishness 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Self-Control

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Two Workshops Completed

June 2 and June 9 saw a bunch of us gather at Love and Faith Christian Center and go over some of the key dimensions of developing Committed Couples. We had a great time and it appears that we will get to do at least two more before October 1 when the 2007 Federal Grant runs out.

We will follow up with all the participants and send each of you a DVD of the teachings. In retrospect, I wish we had also taped the discussions when so many of our students had great questions.

I have the following ideas about how to raise up more good people to lead you church's ministries in marriage and family life.

1. Start small and grow slowly. Do not bite off too much for you to chew. Work with a few people and see them grow. Testimonies are the best advertisements.

2. Start with couples who are not in a crisis. Build up the stable marriages and help them stay stable and get stronger. You who attended our training will remember that I have Seven levels of need for training and support by church leaders.

a. Prevention: Teach people how to prevent serious problems and deal with various crises.
b. Personal Growth: Give people who are presently doing well the skills to do better. One of the ideas that came out of the YMCA research I have on my web site is the notion that people need to be affirmed for doing well. (See )
c. Peer Support: People talk about their issues, problems and needs to family and friends so the church can provide many people to be positive peers to people in need.
d. Para-Professional Helpers: These are folks who have bee trained to be Mentors, Coaches, Teachers, Helpers and Group Leaders the groups above. They are Para-Professional in that they work along side the Professionals as Lay Volunteers. Refer all seriously disturbed couples to the people below.
e. Professional Helpers; New credentialed Counselors and Social Workers.
f. Professional Clinical Helpers: Independent Licensed Counselors, Social Workers, Psychiatrists and Psychologists.
g. Professional Experts: Advanced in Marriage and Family Therapy

Sunday, June 3, 2007

How to Promote Poverty

Many people say they want to promote prosperity and health for all people but they so often pursue practices and perhaps even policies that have the opposite effect. Many people seem to actually promote abject chronic poverty.

In her book about ways to defeat poverty, Ruby Payne, offers several ways to lessen poverty and even break the chains of its long term strangle hold on so many generations of families. Take a look at some insights about the ways poverty affects people. .

•Chronic Dependence-
–Must have support from government, families, churches, etc.
•Chronic Counter-Dependence
–Reject support and rules about prosperity and fights healthy systems
•Chronic Independence-
–Support systems neglected so poor people do not reach out to others

Poor Kids Under Six Year of Age

•In Extreme Poverty
28% Live with Single Mothers
2% Live with Married Parents

In Poverty
9% Live with Married Parents
–49% Live with Single Mother
•In Near Poverty
14% Live with Married Parents
59% Live with Single Mother

Single parents are almost always thrust into poverty.

So, if we as a society wish to promote long term poverty all we need to do is promote sex outside of marriage and establish a system that rewards single parenting.

Go to for more data about marriage and family strengths.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Free Couple Counseling

Available for Clermont County Residents

§ Improve your communication skills
§ Learn to resolve conflict effectively
§ Understand your partner better
§ Coordinate your parenting efforts
§ Establish realistic expectations
§ Improve your budget planning
§ And more…

Family Service-Eastgate Center and Beech Acres Parenting Center have teamed up under a new federal marriage grant to provide a relationship assessment and four follow-up counseling sessions for Clermont County residents in committed relationships.

Whether you are married, living together, engaged, previously divorced, or remarried; whether you want to work on pressing issues that are challenging your relationship or just make a good relationship better, please call:

Maggie Hallam, CT or Mary Le Gouellec, CT with Family Service at 513-354-5671 to schedule your first session as soon as possible. Space is limited. First come. First Served.

Funding for this project was provided by the Beech Acres Parenting Center & United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant: 90-FE-0100

Thanks to Love and Faith Christian Center

There are some churches and church leaders who really, "GET IT!" Pastors Dale and Cathi Campfield are two of the most creative and in touch leaders in Greater Cincinnati. Not only do they create and maintain a dynamic church in Clermont County they have developed a passion to serve others throughout the community.

If you go to their church web site you will see the wide variety of programs and ministries Love and Faith Christian Center sponsor each month, but that is not half the total of the ways they serve God and their neighbors in our region. (See their link at the bottom of the page.)

Because of Pastor Dale and Pastor Cathi and the staff at Love and Faith we are able to hold our first Committed Couples' seminars on June 2 and June 9 at a reasonable cost. Love and Faith Center will not only host us but have volunteered to video tape it free of charge. This is real agape love arising out of their compassion and desire to promote marriage and family health for all people.

Some people talk the walk and others walk their talk. Love and Faith Center put their talk into action with humility and concern for the people in Greater Cincinnati.

Babies and Our Future are at Risk

One in three babies in Ohio is born outside of marriage. They are more likely to be poor and disadvantaged.

Rate of divorce remains flat, but break-up rate of co-habitating relationships is higher.

Despite low marriage and high divorce rates, the majority of young adults want to marry.

The percentage of African-American children growing up in 2 parent households was 95% in 1940. Today it is less than 35%.

When parents get married and stay married, children win. Research shows that children from two-parent families get a better start in life. But every parent knows that marriage isn't always easy.

Luckily, there's a community of support nearby. Funded by the Ohio Strengthening Families Initiative, Southwest Ohio Building Strong Families and Children is a coalition of 13 community agencies in the Greater Cincinnati area, led by Beech Acres Parenting Center. Member agencies provide parents with positive, practical tools to build stronger families and give our children a great start in life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Research on Prevention: What Really Works?

D.A.R.E. to Work: The Failure of American Drug Prevention Programs

It would be nice if it worked--but it doesn't! In spite of broad public support for the harem-scarem approach to drug abuse prevention, two recent studies demonstrate that the school-wide program simply doesn't keep kids off drugs. However, parents, the schools, and even President Clinton liked the program --a fact which virtually guarantees that it will continue to make up the anti-drug/drug prevention curriculum of most public schools.

Sadly, other effective alternatives exist. In contrast to the DARE education and drug resistance approach, research suggests that psychosocial skills programs offer kids best chances of staying away from drugs. Such approaches teach kids the risk factors for drug abuse as well as practical skills for dealing with feelings of alienation and anxiety and improving self-esteem and assertiveness.

Murray, B. (September, 1997). Why aren't anti-drug programs working. APA Monitor, 28(9), 30. Health Education and Behavior (1997), 24(2), 165-176. American Journal of Public Health (1994), 84(9), 1394-1401.

Note: This corresponds with the research on how to influence people to change and grow in counseling. Make sure your program adds caring relationships, modeling, social support and practice to the curriculum so people can learn how to DO what you are teaching. This is one of the reasons that church ministries are so much more effective than other types of interventions. (See the paper on Marriage and Religion @ )

Attempts to prevent problems in any group are always dependent upon teaching the people in the group why and how to resist the temptations of bad habits. This goes for smoking, alcohol, divorce, abuse, sexual promiscuity and suicide. Read my book, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty for more about how to influence others to change.

The programs that work always show a lot of Genuine Respect, Empathy and Warmth for the students. Lectures alone, especially those that seem "parental" or "personally condemning" are rarely effective.

Remember, the First of two workshops is this Saturday at 8:30 AM at Love and Faith Center off Beechmont Avenue on Hopper Hill Road.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Our Deepest Values in America

What are the deepest beliefs of Americans? According to polls a whopping majority of over 80% of us come from a Christian tradition. About 42% of Americans attend religious/church services weekly. This is far more than those who attend all professional sports in an entire year.

Some 95% of Americans believe in God. In 1985 George Gallup found that 72% stated: "My whole approach to life is based on my religion." We are the most religious western nation by far. This is especially shocking when we realize that the country is divided almost 50/50 in politics. America, for all her weaknesses, is a religious nation. As one wag noted, ”India is the most religious country in the world and Sweden the least. America is a bunch of Indians ruled by Swedes.”

Research shows that 91% of blacks, 93% of Hispanics and 88% of whites report a religious affiliation. Even more startling is the number for regular attendance: 51% of blacks, 48% of Hispanics and 43% of whites attend services weekly or more often.

Sixty four percent (64%) of blacks in the national sample were members of religious communities (churches) with 59% of whites and 43% of Hispanics. Participation in religious activities outside weekend services is also high with 47% blacks, 41% whites and 31% Hispanics saying they are in church during the week as well as on Sunday. (Social Capital

In a nation obsessed with racial and cultural diversity the facts about minorities and religious faith have been strangely absent from the dialogue. There is one astounding statistic about African American longevity and church attendance that is rarely if ever mentioned in the debates about faith based organizations and health care. An article by Hummer et al in Demography Journal, 36:273-285 in 1999, Blacks who attend church live much longer than those who do not.

Church Attendance White life expectancy---Black life expectancy
Never ------------------------77 Years---------------67 =10 year difference
Less than weekly/weekly--80 Years---------------75 = 5 year difference
Weekly or more------------83 Years----------------80 = 3 year difference

Whites who attend services more than weekly gain an average of six years in longevity!

Blacks who attend services weekly or more gain a whopping 13 years in life expectancy!

The difference in longevity is almost eclipsed by church attendance. Attending church more often than weekly raises Blacks life expectancy to that of whites who attend weekly or less.

It is also a historic fact that the Abolitionist Movement to free slaves in this country originated largely in Christian churches and revival meetings. Despite the strong resistance of many rich and powerful church leaders at the time, those who were revived in the Spirit placed their lives, church membership and treasure at risk. They insisted on offering freedom to those in bondage.

Happiness if Free

Survey links happiness to marriage, children, church
Scripps Howard

The keys to happiness are simple — grow up, get married, have children, go to church and try to forget about the wilder days of youth.Only 52 percent of Americans say they are "very happy" with their lives, according to a Scripps Howard/Ohio University survey of 1,007 adult residents of the United States.

Forty-three percent said they are "fairly happy," 3 percent said they are "not too happy" and 2 percent are undecided.That might not seem sufficiently ebullient for a nation that embraces the pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right. But the survey found Americans with particular lifestyles more likely to say they have found contentment.

While wealth has a modest impact on well-being, other social factors appear to have greater influence."It's a lot of fun to see what the correlations are for happiness," said Glenn Van Ekeren, an elder-care executive in Omaha, Neb., who has published three books on the secrets to happiness.

One of the most important things Americans can do to improve the odds of being happy, the survey found, is to get married. Sixty percent of married people are very happy, compared with 41 percent of singles, the poll found.

Most people who have children said they are very happy in life, while most people who had never been parents said they are only "fairly happy" or "not too happy." Even among single people, having children in their lives increased the odds they will be happy.

An even stronger factor is the power of organized religion on a sense of well-being.

Although their numbers were small, Jewish participants in the poll were the most likely of any group to say they are very happy.

Protestants — especially self-identified "born again" evangelicals — also reported a high rate of contentment.Sixty percent of people who had recently attended worship services said they are very happy, compared with 46 percent who had not done so.

(Originally posted on Brave Heart Blog)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Articles

This is one happy couple after over 45 years. Karen Mayer and Gary Sweeten had their first date on May 6, 1961.
I have added some great new articles on my web site, about how happy marriages make us healthier people. Karen and I will live to be 107 at least.

If you are looking for research and information to make your teaching, preaching and mentoring more lively, take a look at them.

For example, had Web Master Dave Baker upload a fantastic article on the high correlation between stable marriages and healthy lives. Men and women live longer and better as well as happier lives if they have committed, stable marriages. And, marriage is better for us than living together.

I am excited about the two workshops on June 2 and June 9 at Love and Faith Fellowship Church. If you know of other couples who are interested in helping marriages and families have them contact us and we will enroll them asap. The can contact me at

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Servant Encouragement

Several years ago, Vineyard Cincinnati Pastor Steve Sjogren was thoroughly disgusted on a Monday morning. He had just woken up after sleeping off an 18 hour day of praying, preaching and ministering his heart out with very little visible results and he was mad. Maybe he should just quit and drive a school bus all the time instead of part time like now.

But the Holy Spirit had some encouraging words for Steve and those words turned into an approach to outreach that has taken the world by storm. It is called, Servant Evangelism.

SE is a simple idea. Go out into the highways and byways and do good works for the people you meet. Such activities would be well received and people would then be attracted to God. It has worked all over the world. Write Steve at

Serving one another is a very good way to defeat the devil's defenses and draw the best emotions from people to the Lord. We know it was the preference of Jesus as a means of evangelism because He did it in Luke 9 and Luke 10 with startling results. But, will it actually have a positive effect in Christians as well as Pre-believers?

What if a husband were to decide to win his wife's heart by serving her instead of criticizing her? Would she be likely to show him more affection after being served than before? Pre-believers seem to have more trust for God and the church after being touched by folks who offer them God's love "with no strings attached".

Would a wife develop more trust and openness if a man were to offer her Servant Encouragement with no strings attached?

Think about it. Would you like to ask the Lord to help you develop an attitude of Servant Encouragement for the people in your family? Do you have enough grace and mercy to serve them and demand nothing in return? (Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave His life for her. Ephesians 5:25)

Can Servant Encouragement take the Christian world by storm? (Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also forgave you. Eph 4:32)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Can People Change?

Think back on your life and consider for a moment what habits or activities you pursued as a young person that you have changed. Go through the various stages of change and think upon what happened each step of the way.

I stopped smoking almost 40 years ago. I can remember it well. My daughter, Julie, was born on April 28 1967 and I was ecstatic about having this beautiful little child in my family. I wanted to do everything I could to live in a healthy way. But, I had some bad habits that concerned me and really concerned my wife, Karen. She begged me to stop smoking but I demurred.

I was a grown man and I knew perfectly well how to take care of myself. I certainly did not need a women to tell me what to do, even if it was for my own good. I yearned for freedom if it killed me! I hated for my wife to lecture me about my health and every time I coughed up a lung I resented it even more. In my opinion, I did not have a problem!

Then Julie was born. This was a little girl that quickly got under my skin. I had tried to quit smoking numerous times but I relapsed at least one more time than I quit. One night I was watching TV and a man came on who talked about the dangers of smoking. I hated those interviews. I knew what they would say because I had been a basketball player and a coach and we were never allowed to smoke because of the way it destroyed our ability to breathe.

But what should I do? I was convicted about my bad habit and I knew I needed to quit. So, said to myself, "I will quit when I am older."

In a millisecond, the Lord spoke to me and said, "You are not going to 'Get old" you are getting older every minute that passes." I threw my pack of Herbert Taretons away at that moment and have not lit one since.

Can we change bad habits?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Who is this guy?

Why should you trust me to train you how to help couples and families? Do I know what I am doing? Thos are good questions.
Karen Judy Mayer and I had our first date 45 years ago on May 6, 2007. We have two children and three grand children. She is still my first wife and the love of my life. Despite many differences we thrive as a couple.
I received an Ed. D. from University of Cincinnati in 1975 on the topic of training lay people to care and counsel one another. Over the years I wrote and published seven books, some of which have sold a half a million copies around the world.
Our team has set up training centers in many countries including Norway, Sweden and Denmark as well as Russia. Our most important insights have come training ordinary lay men and women how to live more exciting and fulfilled lives by learning how to communicate with each other more effectively.
I have trained hundreds of faith based leaders how to set up Helping Centers and many thousands have been blessed as a result. I also set up a Christian in-patient psychiatric hospital and outpatient clinic in Cincinnati. I have seen both lay and professional counselors up close and personal and I know how they can benefit others.
I am a Family Therapist and until I retired from private practice carried an LPCC license.
Training must be fun and practical. It must also be down to earth and easily grasped. I am not Dr. Phil or Dr. Freud so do not expect a lot of psycho-babble. (IT IS NOT BRAIN SURGERY!!)
Come and learn how to make your own family better.

Hamilton County Grant

The couples of Hamilton County are going to be blessed like those in Clermont County, Ohio. The State of Ohio has released monies for Life Way Ministries, Inc to equip leaders, mostly couples, from some twenty churches and faith based groups to expand their work of encouraging couples to marry and develop stable partnerships.

There will be an Organizational Pre-Meeting for representatives on Thursday morning, May 17 at 10:30 to discuss and explain the requirements for participating in the two workshops. This meeting will be held at the Kenwood Baptist Church on Kenwood Road just north of the Kenwood Centre.

Interested in the two workshops on June 2 and June 9? Then contact us:

Ron Peake, 513-260-0877,
Dr. Gary Sweeten, 513-300-5065,
Kenwood Baptist Church is located at 8341 Kenwood Rd, enter at the north entrance.