As the year comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on the importance of family in the world today. So many of the issues we struggle with as a nation could be lessened, if not eliminated, by healthy families, families based on the values of honor, grace, & celebration. Families that practice and teach these values become the cornerstone of healthy communities. They improve their communities and the overall world by living out the values of honor, grace, and celebration learned in the microcosmic community of their family. Consider just a few lessons learned in a family of honor, grace, and celebration that will then be extended to the community and world around them.
Honor causes us to humbly see one another as diamonds rather than coal, someone to be cherished and admired rather than used for my comforts and my ends.
Honor teaches us to communicate love and respect to one another—young and old, male and female. It teaches us to respect one another in our uniqueness.
Honor compels us to esteem one another in spite of differences we might have. It teaches us to respect even when we disagree.
Grace enables us offer one another unconditional acceptance.
Grace teaches us to live sensible and righteous lives—lives that serve rather than abuse, lives that sacrifice for others rather than take from others.
Grace empowers us to practice extravagant generosity in our availability, attention, and meeting of one another’s needs.
Grace leads us to forgive those who offend us and to seek reconciliation when possible, releasing us from the burden of vengeance.
Grace frees us from the crushing weight of anger and bitterness as we seek It frees us from the shackles of guilt as we receive forgiveness.
Honor and grace combine to create a sense of security, a sanctuary of acceptance.
Honor and grace build a safe haven in which disagreements can be discussed, options explored, and solutions discovered.
Honor and grace drive us to connect with one another on a deep emotional level.
Honor and grace liberate us from the entanglements of narcissism and self-centeredness.
Honor and grace make celebration possible. In honor, we celebrate our diversity. In grace, we even celebrate with those who disagree with us.
Celebration allows us to play and laugh together, revealing ourselves more full and without pretense.
Celebration refreshes our perspective of others, allowing us to see one another with fresh eyes of understanding and joy.
Celebration enhances intimacy, allowing us to know one another more deeply.
Celebration restores our trust in humanity as we celebrate those successes and achievements that value all we honor.
Healthy families not only practice honor, grace, and celebration they teach these values to future generations. In so doing, they build people of honor, grace, and celebration who then build communities of honor, grace, and celebration. People who live in families of honor, grace, and celebration go into the world and create positive change (Read Hot Sauces Vs. the Power of Relationship for an example of this positive impact). In this coming year, recommit to making your family a celebrating community of honor and grace. You need it. Your family needs it. Our world needs it!
The UK has engaged in a longitudinal study called Understanding Society. The study started gathering data on 40,000 households in 2009. They also incorporated data from the British Household Panel Survey which began in 1991. That’s 25 years of data about families, relationship, health, and so much more! (Learn more about it at Understanding Society). Why do I tell you about this study? Because this study, with the largest household panel from which to gather data over an extended period of time, has revealed three things parents can do to raise happier children! It’s true. Happy adults were raised by parents who did three things…three things that you can do today to help your children become happy adults. Let me share them with you now.
First and foremost, work to build a healthy, happy marriage. In particular, children become happier adults when their mother is happy in her marital relationship. Their father’s happiness in the marital relationship, although important, did not have as significant an impact as their mother’s happiness did. I would add, however, that most men in healthy marriages are happiest when they know their spouse is happy. So, to have happier children, maintain a healthy, happy marriage. Men, find ways to bring joy and happiness to your wife. Speak her love language. Share the household chores. Pursue dreams together. The healthier and more secure your marriage, the happier your wife; the happier your wife, the happier your children.
Pursue peace. The study actually reports happiest people are raised by parents who “avoid regular arguments.” Unfortunately, simply avoiding arguments tends to escalate the tension and increase the possibility of “a big blowout.” Instead of simply avoiding arguments, pursue peace. You can pursue peace by keeping promises, discussing decisions, allowing your spouse to influence you, resolving differences before they become arguments. In other words, you can pursue peace by honoring, serving, and celebrating your spouse. Pursuing peace decreases arguments and, when disagreements do occur (which they will), pursing peace leads to quicker, calmer, and more satisfying resolutions. That will contribute to happier children. (For more on pursuing peace, read The Secret to Family Peace)
Eat at least three meals as a family each week. Eating meals as a family offers benefits in every area of family life—physical, mental (Have Fun, Eat, &..What?), emotional, and relational (Read A Special Ingredient for Happy Families for more). Your children will have fond memories of family meals. Fond memories, by the way, contribute to happiness. Family meals provide one cornerstone of happiness for every family. Enjoy them as often as you can.
A happy marriage, the pursuit of peace, and regular family meals all contribute to happier children who grow into happy adults. Sounds like the makings of a great New Year’s resolution. I think I’ll do it. Won’t you do the same?
Maria Montessori once said, “Play is the child’s work.” All work requires tools, not just any tools but the right tools. It does no good to cut a 2X4 with a hammer or a screwdriver to pound in a nail. No, we need the right tools for the right job. Play is a child’s job. In play, children work to build independent skills. They work to gain confidence and become better problem-solvers. Children gain an understanding of their world and how to navigate that world through play. “Play is the child’s work;” their maturity and wisdom depend on them doing this work with the right tools. What are the right tools for the work of play? Good question.
Toys, of course…but not just any toys. The best toys to get a child’s job done right are those that encourage imagination, investigation, interaction, problem-solving, exploration, or invention. Magda Gerber notes that the best tools, the best toys, for a child’s play, “don’t do anything.” Children must actively engage in and interact with the toy and those enjoying the toy with him to have fun, which brings us to tool #2…
Imagination. Sometimes having too many toys get in the way of getting the job done. Encourage your children to play imaginative games in which they pretend to be various characters and act out various roles. Give them play clothes and costumes, action figures and dolls, props and room to pretend. Like Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Encourage imagination. (Read Make Your Child “a Head Taller Than Himself” for more.)
Boredom. Boredom is a fundamental tool for learning to entertain the self. Boredom encourages your child to better use the tool of imagination. Boredom sparks creativity. It promotes resourcefulness. Boredom teaches children to entertain themselves. I’m not promoting constant boredom, but some boredom is a great tool in the toolbox of your child’s play. (Read 3 Responses to the Summer Mantra “I’m Bored” for more.)
Friends. Children also need time to play with friends. They learn so many skills while engaged in play with friends, skills like communication, compromise, negotiation, and problem-solving to name a few. Set up play dates. When problems arise, step back and let them solve the problem on their own. Step in only when if they absolutely need your assistance. (Become Your Child’s Friendship Coach will offer more suggestions.)
Outdoors. A recent study suggests outdoor play increases executive functioning skills and decreases inattentive-hyperactivity symptoms. Unstructured play in a natural/outdoor setting is also linked with improved mental health and better emotional regulation (Year round outdoor play can boost kids’ performance in school describes more). So, encourage your children to get off the video games and play outdoors as often as possible.
Make sure these 5 tools remain in your child’s toolbox for play so they can do the work of play in the most effective and productive manner possible. You’ll enjoy watching them build a mature, independent, and kind adult through the children’s work of play.
Don’t you wish we had a book of love, a book that would explain all the nuances of love? A book that describes all the idiosyncratic steps of a loving relationship? Then again, maybe not. The author of the book would try to explain the “facts” and figures of love…and that would likely prove long and boring. The author would also include charts that would be so confusing and difficult to understand. But, if you had a loved one to read it with you…that would change everything. Reading it with a loved one will result in the most beautiful music. You’ll discover flowers and heart-shaped boxes. You’ll love to read the book then…but only when you read it with the one you love. You’ll sing the songs of love together and share a dance to the music of love. As you put down the book and enjoy one another’s company, as you share your lives and emotions, you’ll discover fascinating joys flowing from the book of love. So, take a moment now and enjoy “The Book of Love” as sung by Peter Gabriel. Grab your spouse and dance to the tune. Enjoy a moment of love!
There’s a killer loose in the family! He’s popping up everywhere: on the news, in social media, from other people. He may live in your home. He may even live in you! Every time he mutters his loathsome words he vandalizes our brains, packing down a neural rut leading to pain and misery. In time he will establish a rut so deep that just a word or even a look will send your whole family tumbling down the pathway toward more of the same agitation, misery, and depression! Who is this vandal? The Constant Complainer! That’s right. Constant complaining creates a neural pathway in our brains that makes complaining easier and more likely to occur. In time it will even become the default pathway…a highway leading straight to agitation, misery, and depression for everyone in the family. It doesn’t matter if the Constant Complainer is a Venter, a Chronic Complainer, or a Sympathy Seeker the result is the same. They suck the energy out of the whole family and leave everyone feeling empty, agitated, and miserable (Read Research Shows That Physically Complaining Rewires Your Brain to be Depressed and Anxious for more). I do have good news though. You can kick the Constant Complainer out of your family by practicing these skills.
Change your expectations. Generally, complaining is unproductive. It accomplishes nothing but increasing frustration, misery, depression, and anxiety for you and everyone around you. In college I hated to wash clothes and I complained about it every time. My complaining fueled my hatred and increased my misery each time I had to wash my clothes. Then it dawned on me. Complain or not, I still have to wash clothes…or stink. Might as well accept it and figure out a way to enjoy it. I changed my expectation from “this is wasting my time” to “at least it gives me a chance to read my book or talk with friends.” I still don’t jump for joy to wash clothes, but I do it without complaint. Sometimes we have to change our expectations.
If you are going to complain, do it right! Rather than complain for complaining’s sake, make sure you have a positive goal in mind. Pause and think about the reason you want to complain and what you want to accomplish. What is underlying your complaint: anger, frustration, hurt, irritation? What do you really want to see changed to make things better? Who would be the right person to take your concern to? What solution can you offer when you voice your concern? These questions will help you do more than just complain constantly. They will help you find a way to remedy the problem and reach an outcome that will bring you satisfaction. (Read Five Mistakes We Make When Complaining for more details)
Share gratitude. Don’t get stuck in the rut of complaining when you don’t have the power to change something. Instead, think about what you have to be thankful for. For instance, rather than complain about the traffic, be grateful you have a car and can go so many places. Rather than complain about having to do the dishes, be grateful you have dishes and the opportunity to enjoy the delicious meals that result in dirty dishes. Rather than complain about your spouse, consider what they do for your family and you. Be grateful. Make it a habit to voice your gratitude to others. Rather than packing down a neural rut of complaining you will establish a neural highway of joyful gratitude.
Think about the positive memories of your life and family. Even though this is similar to sharing gratitude it adds another positive neural highway to help eliminate complaining from your home. Ponder the positive memories of family vacations. Contemplate the intimate conversations with your wife. Dwell on the memories of laughter with your children. Create more positive memories by participating in family game nights, vacations, outings, family dinners, and family celebrations. Each time you engage in a family activity, intentionally focus on the positive times you are enjoying and the joyous memories you are creating.
Practice these four actions and you will get that killer, the Constant Complainer, out of your home. You will replace those neural ruts of complaining with neural highways to joy and intimacy.
Have you ever found yourself constantly irritated with your teen? It just seems that everything they do is done to agitate us and push us away. We begin to wonder where our sweet little girl who cuddled up with us has gone or what happened to our little boy who loved to play games with us. Unfortunately, we seem to notice more and more negative behaviors that reinforce and increase our agitation and worry. Those small but negative behaviors begin to form a filter through which we see every action and hear every word. We begin to hear simple replies as replies filled with attitude. Gestures and faces take on significant and negative meaning. Disrespect grows in our minds while our teens attempt to assure us they do not intend disrespect. Even this seems disrespectful. Part of the problem we are experiencing was explained over 100 years ago by William James when he said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” In the mid-1900’s we learned that the brain only has a limited attentional capacity. We can only attend to so many things at a time (psychologists tell us we only have the capacity to attend to 7+2 chunks of information at a time). In other words, we cannot attend to every aspect of our teens’ behaviors. We are going to attend to and remember only those behaviors we “agree to attend to,” those behaviors we focus on. If we focus on all the things we don’t like, we will begin to see only cause for worry and concern when we see our teens. If, on the other hand, we focus on those things we can admire and be proud of, we will see those things that create further admiration and pride. Don’t worry, we’ll still see behaviors that need corrected. But, we will also increase the joy of having an intimate relationship with our teen. How can you keep the positive aspects of your teen in mind when their hormones and argumentative behaviors seem to overwhelm us? Here are a few ideas.
Remember, your teen is growing up. Their argumentativeness is preparing them to take a firm stand for their values in the world. Their risk taking behaviors are preparing them to take the risk of leaving home for college or vocational training. Rather than see these as negative aspects of their behavior, see them as training opportunities. Help them learn to channel those behaviors in a positive direction. (Read The ESSENCE of Adolescence for more)
Hug your teen as often as you can each day. Virginia Satir, a highly respected family therapist, once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Aim to promote growth for your teen by sharing as many hugs as they’ll accept each day.
Set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to stop three times every day for 10 seconds. During those 10 seconds write down three positive thoughts about each of your teens. At the end of the day, tell them at least one of the things you wrote down.
Think of a gesture, picture, phrase, or object that reminds you of your teen. Each day briefly look at the picture or object, repeat the phrase, or make the gesture three to four times. You might do it when you wake up, eat lunch, return home, or before you go to bed. Each time you do, let positive, adoring memories of your teen come to mind.
Pray for your teen daily. Prayer really does change things. Ironically, the change often begins with the changed attitude of the one praying.
As you put these five bullets into practice, you will find your image of your teen changes. You will notice more positive behaviors. You will find yourself in a more satisfying relationship with them. You will enjoy their company more and admire their accomplishments. You will have improved your relationship with your teen!
Healthy families celebrate. They need to celebrate. Celebration creates even healthier families. How does celebration build a healthier family? “Let me count the ways.”
Celebration fosters an abundant family life filled with joy. It’s just plain fun! And fun adds abundance and vitality to life.
Celebration helps families balance their approach to one another and life. Celebrating families learn to not take themselves or one another too seriously. It frees them to experiment with new activities, to explore the world around them and learn about themselves and one another.
Celebration enhances and restores intimacy in your family. Celebration helps us set aside disagreements for a time. It lets us have an experience of joy with the one who disagreed with us. Those who disagreed find themselves in harmony as they celebrate together. They discover a basis on which to restore the intimacy of their relationship, even though they might disagree. Plato reportedly said, “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in an hour of conversation.” I think it’s true for celebration as well as play. Try it out and see if you agree.
Celebration refreshes our perspective of other family members. While we will likely encounter frustrating interactions with family members, celebration teaches us that the same person can laugh. They have an inner playfulness. We learn a whole new side of the people with whom we celebrate. We learn that we celebrate similar things even though we might have disagreements in other areas. We can disagree and celebrate. We can disagree and live at peace. We can disagree and love.
Celebration will energize your family. It culminates in a renewed vitality for life. When we celebrate accomplishments, relationships, or effort, we encourage continued effort. The celebration of effort and achievements revitalizes the desire to keep trying and do more. Why? We all enjoy being recognized and acknowledged.
Celebration reveals and strengthens your family’s priorities and values. We celebrate those things we value. And, we engage in those things we celebrate most often. Celebration will increase behaviors that match your priorities.
Celebration creates an upward spiral of positive experiences and joy for your family. It reinforces the priorities, encourages repeating the priorities, and increases the joy of celebrating those priorities. Celebration will help drive your family toward a future of more success and joy. Who wouldn’t want to do the right thing when you know it will be acknowledged and celebrated?
Yes, healthy families celebrate. Celebration creates an even healthier family. Why not start celebrating your family today?
Denzel Washington’s most recent movie is Roman J. Israel, Esq, a film about a lawyer, the law and America’s justice system. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I –have enjoyed hearing Denzel Washington’s quotes about fatherhood during interviews about the movie. Here is the quote getting a lot of notice.
“It starts in the home. It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure. So, you know, I can’t blame the system. It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.” He added, “If the streets raise you, then the judge becomes your mother and prison becomes your home.” (Read more in Denzel Washington on Fatherhood, Family, and Family Values)
I’d like to add something wise and inspirational to his statement, but I really find nothing to add. I completely agree with his statement. If I were to add anything it would be a call to action. If you want to improve our communities and our country, step up as a Dad. Don’t let the streets raise your children. Don’t leave them empty and searching for a father figure. Become actively involved in their lives. Teach them values that will cultivate personal integrity, strengthen family ties, and enhance community stability. Let’s get started today!