I read Eric Barker’s post 6 Things the Happiest Families Have in Common. I’d like to take his ideas and personalize them.
Have a mission statement
The happiest families have a mission statement. Another way to describe a mission statement is a set of goals the family is reaching for. It is very hard to know if we have done well, if we don’t know what the goal is. Having goals, we can periodically assess our progress and make adjustments to more nearly meet our goals. Or we may decide a goal has been reached or is no longer important and make some new goals.
You may need to take some time as parents to think and pray about what are your values and what goals you want for your family. You may make several goals as your mission statement. To help you get started, try completing the following statements.
- “We want our family to be. . .”
- “We want to be a family that. . .”
You may decide you want your family to be supportive of each member developing their talents. Or, you want to be a family that reaches out to those less fortunate than you are.
Share your family history
The happiest families tell and retell the family history. Grandparents and aunts and uncles tell stories from their childhood and even what they heard from their grandparents. Tell the good things to instill hope for success. But also share the tough times and how the family came through the crises. What did family members do that was praiseworthy? What has set your family apart from others?
When children know they are part of a family with a history, it can give them confidence to stand in times when they have to be different than the culture around them. They can say, “I’m a famly name, and our family doesn’t do things like that!”
Weekly family meetings
Many of you don’t have children old enough to have a family meeting. For you, it might be wise as parents to have a weekly meeting together and answer these questions for yourselves and with your little children in mind.
For those of you with children old enough to take part, set aside about 20 minutes once a week to give everyone a chance to answer these questions.
- What worked well this week?
- What didn’t work well this week?
- What will we agree to work on in the coming week?
If the kids met the previous week’s goal, they get to pick a reward (with parent’s approval). If they did not meet their goal, they get to pick from previously agreed upon punishments.
Following this plan helps keep the goal before everyone’s minds. It also means you’re keeping short accounts and not adding to the list of failures week after week. There is much better chance of success if things are dealt with quickly and rewarded fairly.
How to fight right
Since no family can always escape fights between members, here’s a way to deal with fights where each one feels it is fair. When a fight breaks out:
- Separate everybody to think about what just happened. This reduces the emotions that boiled over.
- They get back together and come up with three alternatives. There must be three choices of resolutions.
- They pick the one they like the best. This way everyone has a say and they have agreed on the solution. This keeps the parents from being dictators.
With our busy schedules dinnertime may not work to get everyone together. You may choose any meal of the day when everyone should be present nearly every day. In most family dinners the amount of time for ‘real’ talk is only about 10 minutes when “pass the salt” and “get your elbows off the table” are excluded. In most families, the parents talk at least 2/3 of that 10 minutes. The happiest families turn it upside down and the children are the ones who talk 2/3 of the time.
Make sure everyone has a chance to say something to the whole family. They may tell about something that happened during the day, some news that others should know, or why they feel happy or sad.
Parents should teach one new word each day. Children who eat a meal each day with their parents are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, or develop eating disorders than kids who don’t eat with their family. They also have better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems. So it is worth rearranging your schedule to include one family meal everyday.
Everyone wants a happier family. These are things that the happiest families all do. Will you succeed at all of them? Probably not, at least not all the time. But if you want to have a happier family, try to include these strategies into your family’s life. Just try! If you can’t do all of them, start with one of them. When you see that you can do that, try adding another.
Remember to pray for each member of your family every day. Bless your children as they begin and end their day. God will help you to set good goals and give you the wisdom you need to help your children grow to be the best possible version of themselves.
Eric Barker compiles information from many reputable sources to answer questions many of us have. You can receive his emails by requesting them at his blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
For another article on finding fun in marriage see, Have Fun or Else!