The world has changed, the pressures on families have changed. Heck, the very concept of “the family” appears to have changed with forty percent of children being born to unwed parents. So how do you have a happy successful family? Scientific study shows that the systems that made families happy and successful hundreds of years ago are the things that promote family well-being today.
No matter what kind of family you have, there are time-proven, scientifically tested family “systems” that ensure that children feel safe and cared for, learn values and principles, and succeed in life.
If you want to have a happy more successful family there are several principles you can work with. The top five principles are creating positive family relationships, creating family rituals, a family meal routine, open Family communication, and sharing family stories.
Embracing these five principles will help combat the problems we’re seeing with the intrusion of technology in our families, and even combat the after-effects of the pandemic.
The research shows that strong leadership and examples make all the difference in child-rearing. This kind of example is what makes the central difference.
Modeling positive traits sets the most solid foundation for happy successful children. At the core, there are three attitudes that are impactful.
Have high expectations of your children, this will tell them where to grow.
Give them consistent positive feedback on how they are doing combined with sharing experiences as they inevitably struggle to meet expectations at times.
Be highly responsive to their needs- don’t give them too much time to stew when they feel “up against it”.
Show them consistent kindness in the following ways:
- Be Consistent. Exercise patience continuously with your children, especially when your nerves are frayed. Show up at daycare/school for events, get involved with their activities as a coach or another supporting role. Keep an eye on them and help them with schoolwork.
- Be Present. Let them take the lead when you are out for a walk together, and let them go the wrong way while letting them discover that they made a mistake rather than looking for ways to correct when they are leading.
- Show Your Love. You can never over encourage a child. Children crave reinforcement and acknowledgment from their parents. Give them loving nicknames. Share inside jokes together.
- Teach Discipline. You can “discipline” your child and/or you can teach them discipline. When they veer off course, remind them of the right direction. Ask them what they think the consequences should be before you fall back on old-school punishment. They will surprise you!
- “Do As I Act”. Kids will always follow the way we act over the words of our mouth so watch your own behavior closely. Act your true values. They will test them and when they do, gently call them back to the values that you feel are important.
Children feel safe with regularity and consistency.
Family rituals give children the consistency they crave and teach them what we value as a family as well.
Simple rituals like making the bed daily communicate cleanliness and orderliness while helping children learn to care for themselves for example.
Playing football or soccer after the Thanksgiving meal teaches the importance of exercise in relation to eating and values around play, fun, and competition.
Reading bedtime stories communicates the value of reading and education as well as time together and how to relax before sleep.
Look at the rituals you have now. Are they constructive? Do they communicate what you value most?
Set up the family game night, movie night, novel night. Create new rituals! Have fun with this.
As we learned last week, meal routines, particularly family-together meals are the basis for lessons on manner, healthy eating, and communication.
Studies show that families who eat together regularly have more successful children. These children have consistently higher grades, are less likely to experiment with alcohol or smoking at an early age and are more socially interactive outside of the house.
Basically, kids learn how to interact and communicate at the dinner table. Set up a regular meal schedule in your home and watch your children open up about school, friends and so much more!
Shared meals don’t have to be just dinner.
They can be regular lunches, Sunday breakfast, tea time. While you’re sitting together, you will want to eliminate screens from the room so that everyone is focusing on everyone else.
Let’s focus first on communication.
Teaching your children about communication is a self explorative journey. Children naturally read body language, and tone before they ever give value to words.
They do it naturally and often unconsciously. Demonstrate and talk about different kinds of communication so that they engage more and more consciously.
Kinds of communication as well as topic will be driven very much by child age and development.
For younger children, encourage them to speak about their own feelings.
Ask them for a story about the best and worst parts of their day.
When you read to them at night, pause to ask them what they think characters might be feeling. Learning to articulate feelings is central to healthy relationships!
When they express a destructive emotion regarding a sibling or another child, explore it with them rather than chastising them for it.
They will have those feelings no matter what, our job is to teach them how to manage them so that they don’t act out on them.
To help with this process, share your own experience with anger or sadness, feelings of hurt and discouragement, and how you have learned to have those feelings without the feelings dominating your communication with others.
With your older children (who got the feelings lesson) you are building trust and respect.
After all, they are in the process of creating their own sense of self in the world that will guide them someday as adults.
These conversations will be more around empathy and understanding of the feelings of others, how to disagree without going to war.
With older children, you will be teaching them life skills like financial awareness through an allowance, or time management when it comes to when and how much time to dedicate to homework and extracurricular activities.
Be sure to have these be conversations, rather than lectures if you really want them to get it. The key is that they feel loved.
Studies show that children who learn about their family history are more resilient.
Resilience is the quality of bouncing back from adversity. Children who know what their families have overcome in their life, where they have succeeded, and even where they have “failed ” learn from those stories.
They learn the strengths that they have inherited in their line as well as weaknesses to look out for.
Share your own stories with them, share what you know about your family history with them. Engage in a journey of cross-generational self-discovery with them by interviewing grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
All of these activities will also increase family bonds as well. Be sure to emphasize the moral of the story when retelling family history.
This will reinforce shared family values and principles and in return will help you have a happy and successful family.