Build a Happy Family
- Monday, December 29, 2003
Like most parents, you likely want to do your very best to achieve a happy family life. But the myriad of parenting advice out there can be overwhelming - and even conflicting. While no family is perfect, most parents are doing a good job and don't even know it. Achieving a happy family may be more simple than you think.
Here are 10 basic building blocks of a happy family:
(1.) Be there. Know that your presence is vital to your children. Don't buy into the myth that small amounts of "quality time" will make a real difference in their lives. Instead, structure your schedule so you have lots of "quantity time" to spend with them.
Realize that your job as a parent is a calling from God and that your impact on your child or children will be your greatest legacy. Shower your children with lots of affection, remembering that when you welcome a child, you welcome Jesus. Know that whenever you invest time and energy into your children, it's worth it. Ask your children what activities they'd most enjoy doing with you on a regular basis, then do those things together.
(2.) Express affirmation, warmth, and encouragement. Forget about shame-based parenting, which simply doesn't work in the long run. Instead, concentrate on placing deposits in your children's emotional bank accounts. Ask God to help you believe the best about your children. Then shower them with genuine praise whenever you get an opportunity. Set realistic expectations for them that take into account their ages and how God has uniquely wired them. Create a warm atmosphere in your home. Be generous with loving gestures like hugs and notes. Forgive your children whenever they make mistakes.
(3.) Build healthy morals and values. Realize that the decisions your children make today will affect them for the rest of their lives. Understand the factors involved in those decisions so you'll be prepared to respond to them proactively and effectively - peer pressure, emotional involvement that exceeds their maturity level, and a lack of information. Don't rely on your children's school, TV, or even your church to be your children's primary teacher. Accept your God-given responsibility to fill that role yourself, personally teaching your children biblical morals and values.
Give them honest information about sexuality. Monitor and control their TV, Internet and music use to help ensure that media influences them positively rather than negatively. Teach your children why alcohol and drugs can be dangerous, and set a good example for them by avoiding alcohol and drug abuse yourself.
(4.) Discipline with consistency. Express your expectations clearly and stick to your boundaries. Follow through with consequences when your children misbehave. Let your children help you decide on appropriate consequences for various types of misbehavior; then, they should more readily accept those consequences. Know that it's more loving to discipline your children and help them develop strong character than it is to simply try to be your children's best friend. Create a family contract that lists expectations and consequences on which you all have agreed.
Make sure you keep your children's spirits open by maintaining a loving relationship with them even while enforcing rules or implementing consequences. Don't nag them, choose your battles wisely, respect their feelings and their privacy, and discipline them calmly rather than in anger.
(5.) Ruthlessly eliminate stress. Create margins on the pages of your life. Make time with your family an absolute priority. Choose from among the many good options to focus just on the very best ways to invest your time and energy. Eliminate all activities that aren't vital to following God's call on your life.
Allocate regular time to spend in silence and solitude. Get enough sleep. Keep physically fit. Make time for relaxing, recreational activities on a regular basis.
(6.) Maintain positive communication. Avoid negative communication and strive for positive communication, recognizing that words have awesome power to either build up or destroy people's spirits. Show your family members that you highly value them by actively listening to them and asking them questions about their lives.
Learn which "love language" speaks most effectively to each of your family members - words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch - and put that knowledge into practice by communicating in each person's "love language."
Admit your mistakes, regularly ask your family members to forgive you, and don't expect them to be perfect themselves.
(7.) Make play a priority. Schedule times to play together as a family on a regular basis and for special occasions. Know that sharing fun times will create lasting memories and strengthen your bonds with each other. Go on trips together.
Attend each other's activities (such as sports games or music recitals). Create family traditions such as annual mission trips together or weekly family fun nights.
(8.) Love your spouse. Know that a loving marriage will bring hope and security to your children. Keep romance alive in your marriage by scheduling a date at least every week, spending most evenings together (no more than three nights apart each week), and giving each other veto power over each other's schedules.
Pray together on a regular basis.
If you're a single parent, don't be afraid to seek out relationships with friends and family members who will give you breaks from your children and replenish your energy.
(9.) Avoid materialism. Understand that the best things in life are not things. Know that God's value system and the world's value system are in conflict and battling for your soul. Ask God to give you the grace you need to live by His financial principles.
Create and stick to a budget. Spend less than you earn. Pay off existing debt and avoid taking on new debt. Delay gratification until you can afford to pay cash for an item or service. Give 10 percent of your income away to help others, and save another 10 percent.
Consider your children's allowance to be their paycheck. Teach your children early to save and tithe, and help them understand why it's important to have and use a budget.
(10.) Energize your family's spiritual growth. Know that your greatest calling in life is to leave a spiritual legacy for your children. Spend regular devotional times alone with God. Make sure you have at least one person with whom you pray regularly and who will help encourage you and hold you accountable as you grow spiritually.
Ask all your family members to help create family devotional time activities that are enjoyable, enriching, and interactive. Then participate in family devotions on a regular basis. Write a family constitution to express your family's values and desires, as God leads. Then ask use the constitution to remind yourself of the ways in which God is leading your family.
Adapted from 10 Building Blocks of a Happy Family , copyright © 2003 by Jim Burns. Published by Regal Books from Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com .
Jim Burns, Ph.D., is the president of YouthBuilders, the nonprofit organization that helps adults help kids. YouthBuilders provides practical resources for parents and youth workers around the world. Jim is heard by more than on million people a day on radio and thousands more are helped at www.YouthBuilders.com . In addition to authoring many books, including the YouthBuilders curriculum series No Compromise and Addicted to God, Jim writes a column for Campus Life magazine and Christian Parenting Today. Jim, his wife Cathy, and their three children currently reside in Southern California.
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