I think everyone is looking for ways to make family life better. There are a few tried and true “best practices” that families should consider if they want their family to thrive. This is also a topic that I have discussed on The Andy Savage Show. You can listen to that episode here
1. Dinner together
This simple family act continues to emerge through research as an undeniable best practice. The truth is, even without research, families have known this for years. There’s just something about sitting around a table together, eating, talking, spilling the milk and cleaning it up that fuels a healthy family dynamic. In the ever connected, social and busy world we live in, it may seem nearly impossible to return to the simpler times where families had dinner together. Perhaps this blog will serve as a much needed reminder that busyness is killing family life. As a parenting coach, I cannot in good conscience suggest anything less for families than a target of four or more evenings a week around the table together. In fact, objections based on busyness only highlight the need for this more. What do you stand to lose by slowing down life enough to have dinner together? Is that loss, greater than the gain in your family life? Obviously, there are other meaningful moments together as a family, such as, playing board games, going camping and taking walks together, but nothing seems to beat a good old fashioned dinner together.
2. You live here, you work here.
I am such a believer in giving kids age appropriate responsibilities around the house. This is a factor almost essential to every positive character trait we long to see our kids grow into. A wise person once said, “We don’t raise children, we raise adults.” Whatever we want to see in the lives of our kids when they become adults starts now. Character development such as, taking responsibility, showing initiative, hard work, focus, diligence and the list goes on, can often be linked back to the requirement a parent made of a child to put in a little elbow grease around the house. Responsibility reminds children that they matter in the home. It shows them the vital link between hard work and privilege. It teaches them much of the unspoken expectations of what it means to live honorably with other people. So, parents put your kids to work. Expect them to contribute at home. And when they ask to get paid for it…laugh in their face!
3. Be THOSE parents.
Prudes, boring, out of touch, uncooperative. Consider such accusations as compliments when they come from your kids. Your children and teens are exposed to extremely dangerous forces at earlier and earlier ages. Your kids will ask you to participate in things that your gut says, “no way!” Yet, your mouth says, “Okay.” No parent wants to be hated by their kids. In fact, today’s parents are working harder than ever to keep up with their child’s need to be happy, all the while the one thing that child needs is a few good boundaries and a little disappointment. Be those parents. Don’t be complicit in your child’s foolishness. Give them appropriate guardrails to keep them from careening off the road. Sure, they will throw a fit, they will say they hate you, they will pout, kick, scream and slam doors. Be strong. You are helping them thrive.
4. Leave room to upgrade
It absolutely blows my mind when I see an eight-month-old wearing high-end, name brand clothing. I want to say to those parents, you know what your baby will do to these clothes, right? This trend continues into elementary school years and on into middle and high school. Parents seem almost desperate to fund every fashion trend, entertainment option and material desire their children have. We can be deceived by the ability to afford so many good things. It’s easy to over-bless our kids. They have the best of everything, which leaves the little room to upgrade. This is the challenge. We are literally force feeding our kids a spirit of entitlement and immediate gratification. Is it ok to give your kids nice things? Absolutely, just use a little wisdom. Allow privileges to follow responsibility and maturity. DO NOT engage the game of peer pressure with your kids. It’s a hard earned but much needed lesson to be made fun of by your peers because you don’t have the latest and greatest, only to discover that your value as a person cannot be purchased. Leave them room to upgrade and you will be upgrading their self-worth.
5. Try, try again.
There are NO perfect parents. You must be willing to accept the fact that you will miss an opportunity, your schedule will get out of hand or you will give in when you should have stood your ground, but there’s always the opportunity to try again. Good parents aren’t the ones who get everything right; they are the ones who don’t give up! Fatigue, stress and other responsibilities can often rob us of our intentionality as parents. We forget that we only have 7000days to parent our kids from crib to college. Don’t beat yourself up; just start fresh tomorrow. Try again. Why? Because you are a vital connection between our world and the next generation. We all need you to try again. Your son or daughter needs you to try again. Your spouse needs you to try again.
I intentionally left out a specific “best practice” related to putting your marriage first, simply because so many families out there are families affected by a divorce or some other reason why both parents aren’t in the immediate picture. Your family can absolutely thrive as a single parent. At the same time, the marriage coach in me is screaming, “remind them that marriage is foundation for all of family life!!” So, here it is, keep your marriage first. It is the foundation all of family life is built on. Work hard in your marriage and ask for God’s help every day. Your mediocre marriage can get better. You can work things out. You can take the love God gave you and give it to your spouse.
I hope this encourages you and helps many of you take a step and watch your family thrive!