The year: 1938. The question posed by the Bolton Evening News: “What does happiness mean to you and yours?” Bolton is a town in northwest England. Bolton “reached it’s zenith in 1929” with over 200 cotton mills and textile industries. Recently, researchers from the University of Bolton recovered and analyzed the answers given by the original 226 respondents. Three themes emerged in the analysis of the respondents’ answers.
- “Contentment” and “peace of mind” contributed to happiness. In other words, being satisfied with what one has rather than constantly seeking more contributes to happiness. Having a healthy family filled with emotional connection and acts of honor increases a sense of contentment, even when we don’t have the most expensive shoes or the newest gadgets.
- “Family” and “home” were important to happiness. A happy marriage, healthy children, loving family contribute to happiness. A home is a celebrating community of honor and grace. As we shape our homes around honoring one another and sharing grace to one another we find greater contentment and more happiness. That is a reason to celebrate!
- Helping “other people” contributed to happiness. Actively seeking ways to help other people brings happiness. It turns our focus outward and opens our lives to relationship. Helping others as a family strengthens our family. And family, as noted in #2, contributes to happiness. (Read more in Lessons from the Past on How to be Happy.)
These three themes can still help to build happiness in your family today. Read these blogs to discover ways of building each of the characteristics into your family.
- For ideas on filling your family with “contentment” and “peace of mind” read
- The Secret to Family Peace
- Recognizing the Benefit of Emotions in Parenting
- Beatitudes for a Happy Marriage
- To improve your “family” and “home” conenctions
- Why Family Honor
- Become the Catalyst for an Honorable Family
- Help “other people”
- The Paradox of Happy Families
- Give It Away for Family Fun
You can find many more blogs to build these characteristics into your home and family. Just explore the many blogs on this site, put them into practice, and…find family happiness.
Fall has arrived…and with it the fall frenzy of family fun activities. In case you’re stumped on ideas for fall family fun, try one of these 10 ideas.
- Have a campfire. Nothing warms a cool fall night like sitting around a bonfire. Invite another family or enjoy s’mores with just your spouse and kids. You can even limit it to your spouse and make it a romantic evening. Either way, gather round and enjoy the fire for family fun. (Read S’More Family Fun for more)
- Go for a family hike. Enjoy the crisp fresh air, the colorful fall leaves, and time with family on a hike through your local park or a regional trail. (I enjoy Frick Park or the Laurel Highlands in our area. Where are the great hiking trails in your area?)
- Enjoy a high school or college football game. Put on your favorite team colors, buy some nachos, and cheer for your favorite team. You may even invite another family who supports the opposing team and give one another a little friendly ribbing at the game.
- Carve a few pumpkins. Sit down with your family and carve some decorative pumpkins. See who can come up with the most original carving. While you’re at it, roast some of the pumpkin seeds. Delicious family fun.
- Go on a hayride. You can even enjoy some hot cider while you’re on the ride. After the ride, why not find your way through a local corn maze? Laugh and have fun as you explore and discover your way through the maze.
- Enjoy some hot drinks. You can go someplace for the drinks or make them at home. Try hot cider, gourmet hot cocoa, pumpkin spice latte, or maple cinnamon coffee. Get a different drink for each family member and share. Drink up…cheers. (Read about the extra benefits of this hot drink for your family in A Family Fun Night with Amazing Health Benefits)
- Bake a pie together. While you’re at it, bake two and take one to your neighbor or a shut-in you know. (Celebrate your family with pie for a year!!)
- Attend a band festival. It is great entertainment to watch a variety of school band put on their marching musical shows. Enjoy some hot cocoa while you’re there.
- Rake the leaves in your yard into a pile and jump into the pile.
- Host a fall harvest party. Invite other families. Make it potluck and enjoy everyone’s favorite dish. Build a bonfire and enjoy the warm fire, delicious food, and great company. (Just so you know, going on a double date builds greater intimacy and a stronger marriage for both couples! Plug in for Family Hapiness )
Fall can become a frenzy of family fun with these ideas. Or, you can modify each one to have a romantic getaway with your spouse. Either way, enjoy your fall and the opportunities it brings to build a stronger marriage and family!
Every parent knows the need to spend quality time with their children. It seems almost trite to even say it. But, in this fast paced age, how can we spend quality time with our children? In the midst of school, work, sports, dance, music lessons, and the myriad other activities of life, how do we spend quality time with our children? Well, I’d like to recommend eight daily, mundane activities that offer amazing opportunities for quality time with your children.
- Car rides. We cart our kids all over the community for activities. Take “the long way” there and use that time to connect with your children.
- Household chores. I realize this may sound obvious, but we all have chores. Why not ask your children to join you in getting them done. They can help with the laundry, cleaning the room, pulling weeds, and a myriad of other chores around the house. But, don’t send them off to do the chore alone. Do the chore together. Make it a joint effort, a partnership. While doing the chore together, talk to one another. Ask about their day. Tell some jokes. Sing a song. Spend some quality time.
- Welcome home. When your children come home from school, practice, or time with friends, welcome them home. Make your welcome home more than a mere “hello” and passing glance. Give them a hug. Ask them about their practice. Go over their plans for tomorrow. Ask about their friends. Spend some quality time with your children as you welcome them home.
- Walking the dog. If you have a dog, why not walk the dog together? I know. We teach responsibility by having our children walk the dog. It’s true. But they learn responsibility as well as how much we value them and the joy of a growing relationship when we walk the dog with them. Might as well get the greater results for the same chore. By the way, if you don’t have a dog, try Walking the Dog with a yoyo together (Learn how here). In other words, spend some time playing together, even if that means buying a yoyo so you can learn to Walk the Dog.
- Shopping. That’s right. You can spend quality time with your children while doing your grocery shopping, clothes shopping, or miscellaneous shopping. You can also learn about your children’s interests while you shop. Let them teach you about some of the items you want to buy like computers, phones, music, or video games to name a few.
- Dinner preparation. Dinner preparation offers a great time for quality time. Make the food preparation and table preparation sacred times of conversation and creating together. Make table clearing and dishwashing sacred times of working together as well, sacred times of serving one another. As you engage in each of these sacred times talk, laugh, plan, disclose…enjoy quality time.
- Baking is also a great time for quality time. Bake a pie. Bake a dozen cookies. Bake anything you like. Mix it, prepare it, cook it and enjoy eating it together. Don’t forget the quality time available in clean up—washing pots and pans, utensils and dishes. This all becomes a great opportunity for quality time as you talk and share with one another throughout the process.
- Bedtime. Bedtime routines may offer one of the best times for quality time. As part of the bedtime routine you can talk about the day. Share what each person enjoyed most or is most grateful for. Talk about any trouble spots of the day. Reconnect. Share dreams for tomorrow. Encourage one another. The last moments of the day become special moments of quality time.
These eight innocuous, mundane moments of the day become transformed into quality time when we mindfully use them to connect with one another, learn about one another, and grow closer with one another.
Have you noticed your children’s superpower? It’s the superpower of giving one-word answers.
- How was your day? “Alright.”
- What did you do today? “Nothing.”
- Where you been? “Nowhere.”
- Where you going? “I don’t know.” (I know, this one is actually three words but is still fits into his superpower of giving an answer with no real information.)
- Who are you going with? “Friends.”
I’m sure you’ve experienced this superpower. I want to offer you the kryptonite recipe that will defeat this “one-word superpower.” It consists of two ingredients. First, ask open-ended questions like:
- What made you laugh today?
- What was the nicest thing someone did for you today?
- What nice things did you do for other people today?
- What’s your favorite class? What makes it so good?
- What’s your least favorite class? What makes it your least favorite?
- What’s the difference between this year at school and last year at school? How are they different?
- What was the most interesting/funniest thing a teacher said today?
- Which of your classmates would make the best teacher? Why?
- What was the most unusual outfit in school today?
- Who did you help today? What did you do?
- How did you see God today?
You get the idea. Ask open-ended questions. Second, ask those questions wisely and judiciously. To ask questions wisely and judiciously takes a little effort. Specifically,…
- Do not bombard your children with questions. Some parents fire questions like bullets from a machine gun. Slow it down. Limit the question. Ask one question and then…
- Shut up and listen. The number one way to encourage your children to talk to you is for you to listen to them. Allow what they say to guide the conversation and influence you rather than you trying to guide the conversation to influence them. Follow the conversation where they lead it. You will learn a lot about them when you do.
- Don’t force the conversation. If your children need some down time, let them have it. Let them come to you and initiate the conversation. When they do, stop what you’re doing and listen. Give them your time and attention. Doing so communicates your desire to talk with them and your willingness to do so on their terms, not just your terms. That respect will come back to you when you initiate conversation with them.
Mix these ingredients together and you get the kryptonite for your children’s superpower of the one-word answer. Use it often. Use it wisely. Use it in love.
What can the price of a cup of joe teach us about family? Last year (2016), CUPS Coffee & Tea in Roanoke, VA, taught a great lesson that applies to families and the Family Bank of Honor. (Read about the coffee shop here). The owner “felt the need to help solve all the injustices of the world” and decided to start close to home by encouraging polite manners and connection. So, he put up a sign outside his coffee shop, a menu with prices associated with how a person orders their coffee. If someone simply ordered “one small coffee” the charges was $5. However, if they politely placed their order with a “one small coffee, please” the cost was reduced to $3. But, you could get the same cup of coffee for a mere $ 1.75 if you connected before placing a polite order: “Hello, I’d like one small coffee please.” His sign went viral in a matter of days.
I think he had a great idea. “Solving the injustices of the world” begins at home. We can contribute by encouraging polite manners and connection within the family and with those our family meets. Each time we make a connection with a family member, we invest in the Family Bank of Honor. Each time with make a polite statement, we invest in the Family Bank of Honor (Learn more about the Family Bank of Honor). The more we invest in the Family Bank on Honor, the stronger and more intimate our family bond. And the stronger our family bond, the greater the potential impact on the world (Hot Sauce Vs. the Power of Relationship).
Just like that coffee shop owner, encourage your family to practice polite manners and a little connection…and change the world!
In a previous post I mentioned that the best family advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t even family advice. It was discipleship advice. And, it was given by a man who was single and even alienated from His own family at the time He gave voice to this advice. The advice comes in two parts. Part one was to “deny yourself.” Part two is to “take up your cross.” When this advice was first spoken, the cross was a way to punish, in a very public and humiliating way, those who threatened the way the world was organized under the ruling authority of the Romans. To take up our cross as a family means to live a family life that will stand in stark contrast to the world around us, to have a revolutionary family life based on principles in opposition to the “world powers” around us. Let me explain by offering a few examples.
- The world encourages us to assert our power, stand up for our rights. A family that “takes up a cross” will submit to one another in love and service.
- The world encourages us to promote ourselves and “build our brand.” We are told to climb the ladder of success on the backs of others because it’s a “dog eat dog world.” A family that “takes up a cross” will encourage one another, promote one another’s success, and build one another up rather than focus on my own success.
- The world calls us to achieve a status in which we can BE served. A family that “takes up a cross” strives TO serve one another within the family and TO serve others as a family.
- The world encourages leadership through power brokerage techniques, such as taking charge, delegation, and telling others what to do. A family that “takes up a cross” will lead through love. Each one will want to lead in forgiveness, showing kindness, and serving one another.
The family that “takes up a cross” exhibits different values than the family that lives according to “the world system.” It may, at times, lead to some ridicule or misunderstanding from those outside the family. However, it will also lead to a stronger more intimate family. “Taking up a cross” creates a family whose strength is found in humble service, loving accountability, sincere encouragement, and kindness. It sounds odd, even wrong, but taking up your cross to build a strong and intimate family is a wise and powerful action to take!
Some of the best family advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t even family advice. It was discipleship advice. And, it was given by a man who was single, even alienated somewhat His own family at the time He gave voice to this advice. Before I tell you the advice, I have to offer a warning. It’s hard-to-swallow advice. It sounds foreign to our ears, dissonant with the prevailing cultural norms; but, it’s still great marital advice. It comes in two parts. The first part of this hard-to-swallow marital advice is “deny yourself.” I told you it’s hard to swallow. It’s not popular advice. Practiced wisely, however, it will lead to a strong marriage and family.
When you are completely honest with yourself, you probably know this advice is true. But we don’t like it. Culture teaches us to watch out for “number 1” rather than “deny ourselves.” Still, in our moments of self-reflective honesty, we recognize the inherent value of “denying ourselves” for families. Think about it. Truly effective parents deny their own wishes and desires to meet the needs of their children all the time.
- Parents deny their desire to go out whenever they want in order to stay home and put the baby to bed or feed them or care for them when they’re sick.
- Parents deny their own wishes for new shoes or some other purchase to assure their children have nice clothes for school or get that special dinner for their birthday.
- Parents deny themselves of sleep so they can comfort a crying baby or care for their sick child.
- Parents deny themselves of the opportunity to avoid those things they find disgusting or gross in order to change diapers and clean up vomit.
- Parents deny themselves of an afternoon of ease in order to run children to activities, wash clothes, or prepare snacks for their children’s visiting friends.
- Parents deny themselves when they forget their own agenda for the moment in order to listen carefully to what sounds like child “ramblings” or to engage in child’s play.
It’s not just parents who deny self to express love in action and build a stronger family. Spouses do it as well. It can be seen in simple things like:
- One spouse denying themselves by giving up control of the remote and watching what their spouse wants to watch.
- Spouses denying themselves the freedom to go out with whoever they want whenever they want in order to accommodate their spouses’ desires for a night together or because they want to ease their spouses’ concerns.
- Spouses deny themselves when they forget their own agenda in a conversation and focus on listening intently to what their spouse has to say.
Self-denial may be seen in more extravagant forms as well, like denying oneself of working extra overtime because it will take too much time away from family or being the first to offer forgiveness when a wrong is committed. The point is that healthy families practice self-denial in big and little ways every day. They “consider one another as more important than themselves” and “look not only to their own interests but to the interests of one another as well.” Joseph Campbell expressed the idea of self-denial in marriage when he said, “Marriage is not a simple love affair, it’s an ordeal and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one.” And, from Joseph Campbell once again, “When you make the sacrifice in marriage you’re sacrificing not to each other but to the unity of the relationship.” To paraphrase slightly, “When you practice self-denial in family, you’re sacrificing the ego to a community we call family, you’re building the unity of your family.”
We hear a lot about the environment these days. Just do a google search on “environmental concerns” and around 12,900,000 links come up in a mere .87 seconds. We worry about the polar bears’ habitat, the impact of wasting water and not recycling, and the consequences of global climate change on nature’s backdrop. These are all worthy causes and concerns that deserve our attention. But, in our zeal to address the natural environment, we often neglect an environment just as important and even closer to home, an environment very dear to my heart. If you are a parent or grandparent, it’s probably dear to your heart as well. I’m talking about the home environment in which our children live and grow. This environment will have a long reaching impact on our children and everything they do. In other words, it will have a long-term impact on our social, political, and environmental world as our children grow up. As a result, the environment in which our children learn and grow needs our full attention. Even better, we create this environment by our efforts and through our interactions. Let me share three things we can do to create the best environment for our children’s growth and maturity.
- Children need a safe environment in which to learn and grow. To keep an environment safe for our children means to keep it clear of anything which poses a significant threat to them at their particular developmental level. This may involve putting up safety gates and installing “baby-proofing” locks on cupboards to keep our toddlers safe. As our children become “middle schoolers,” establishing a safe environment may involve charging cell phones overnight in the kitchen rather than the bedroom. A safe environment also includes plenty of healthy food and sufficient rest. You get the idea. Think ahead and create a safe environment for your children. Creating a safe environment for children also relieves parents of stress. With less stress over their children’s safety, parents can relax and observe their children. They can learn more about their children and grow closer to them each day.
- Children need an environment that is cognitively challenging. This will include age appropriate toys and play objects with which children can interact and problem-solve. Things as simple as building blocks, dress up clothes, and balls provide appropriate stimulation. Even objects in nature like trees to climb, bugs to watch, hills to roll down, and water to play in provide opportunities to problem-solve, negotiate, and create. TV’s and video games, on the other hand, rob our children of the opportunities to problem-solve and create. So, the best environment for our children will limit screen-time and provide plenty of “passive toys” (Read Two Observations on Parenting for more.)
- Children need an emotionally nurturing environment in which to learn and grow. A key ingredient of an emotionally nurturing environment is an attentive parent. The attentive parent possesses keen observation skills. They use this skill to learn of their children’s strengths and weaknesses, to identify their children’s abilities and areas of growth. Their keen eye will identify ways to modify the environment to encourage positive behavior and stimulate growth, provide success and introduce challenges. The emotionally nurturing parent rejoices when their child rejoices and feels sorrow when their child feels sorrow. Yet, because the parents are not overwhelmed by their children’s emotions, they can help their child temper and manage those feelings in a positive way. Read The Wings on Which Your Children Soar to learn more about providing emotional nurturance for your children.
The environment our children encounter in the world can be harsh and cruel. Create a home environment filled with honor, grace, and celebration…an environment of love. Believe me—it will have a global impact. If you want proof of the potential global impact, check out this fascinating study involving hot sauce and attachment: Hot Sauce Vs. the Power of Relationship.
Just came home from the 2017 family camp weekend at Camp Christian. If you weren’t there, you missed a great weekend of fun, fellowship, and learning of God’s will for our family lives. Ken and Laurie Muller honored us with practical teaching focused on becoming part of the “Kingdom Family.” Using Psalm 128:1 as the primary verse, they described our “one job:” to walk and obey. We also learned about the importance of balance in our lives as we had the chance to walk a “tightrope” that was simply drawn on the ground. Although walking the tightrope drawn on the ground proved nearly impossible, the balance in our lives and our families can be found through the three P’s of prayer to God, provision from God, and peace by God. We then had the opportunity to ride a “bicycle built for two” (really, we got the chance to ride a tandem bike) and learn how communication helps us keep our balance as a couple. We also learned how the three R’s (respect one another, respond to one another, and react to problems with love) help our family run like a well-trained team…with an honoring voice and attitude proving an important aspect of precision teamwork. We even had a visiting knight, William, who encouraged us to be strong in our faith by wearing the full armor of God.
You can see we learned a lot…and we had a lot of fun. I love to see families smiling, laughing, sharing, and worshipping together. And I observed of all four this weekend. As the weekend came to an end, Ken and Laurie gave us “carry out orders” to go. (How often do you get to leave camp with a Chinese takeout container?) This “carry out order” is a great tool to help us “carry out the orders” of our King, making us stronger kingdom families! Like a said, if you didn’t get to be with us this weekend you missed a great weekend of fun, fellowship, and learning how to live as a “Kingdom Family.”
Jim and Terry, thanks for organizing another great weekend. Ken and Laurie, thank you for sharing God’s wisdom in such a practical and meaningful way this weekend. And, thanks to “Bald Greg and the Dirty Pirates” (the name given our worship leaders by one of “bald Greg’s” students) for leading us in wonderful times of worship. I’m already looking forward to next year.
Seems today you can find an app for anything. People even feel the need to have an app before they do anything.
- Don’t want to call certain people in a drunken stupor…”there’s an app for that.” (I think it might be better just to avoid the drunken state, but….)
- Want to track your bowel movements (related diet, stress, bowel texture) and share “all that crap” with friends…”there’s an app for that.” Perhaps hard to believe, but it’s true.
- On a slightly different note, want to keep track of every place in the world you have “taken a poop” (or would that be “left a poop,” anyway)…. Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
- Tired of playing games on your device while your cat sits idly by lounging on the floor…”there’s an app for that.” Your cat can “catch” a digital mouse or fish depending on the app you choose. Now you can play your games without the guilt of your lonely cat staring at you with those big eyes. Hmmmmmm.
- Find your teen’s behavior irritating? Show them whose boss (or whose best at irritating teen behavior) by irritating them with high frequency sounds…Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
- Ever had to go to the bathroom in the middle of a movie but you don’t want to miss anything good? Well, you guessed it, “there’s an app for that.” This app will tell you the best times to run to the bathroom during a movie and fills you in on what you’ve missed during your trip.
See what I mean? You name it, “there’s an app for that.” Sesame Street even has a song to help teach its viewers “there’s an app for that.” By the way, in case anyone out there can help create an app, I have a couple ideas for family apps to help families practice honor, grace, and celebration. I want in on the act, but I don’t know how to create an app and, I guess there’s no app for that.
In the long run, though, you don’t need an app to build a strong family. In fact, focusing on your phone and internet device to play games and monitor bowel movements can really get in the way of family life. So, I wanted to share just a few “app-free” ways to build a healthy family. The nice thing about each of these tools is you “don’t need no app for that!”
- Sit down as a family and play a board game or a card game. While you play, talk. Enjoy one another’s company. Laugh.
- Go for a walk. Get outside and walk along a creek or through a patch of woods or across the field. Walking in nature has a healing effect and it provides an opportunity to share. Take a walk to the store just to buy a drink. Talk and share as you walk.
- Prepare a meal together. Then sit down and eat together. (Check out the benefits of this activity.)
- Get your favorite book and read it out loud to one another.
- Go fly a kite. You’d be surprised at the benefits of flying a kite.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Sit on the porch and watch the birds together (I’m doing that as I write this blog).
- Have a campfire. Make some s’mores. Enjoy one another’s company and conversation. (A great family fun night.)
- Go to the zoo…or the museum. Then talk about your favorite parts over some ice cream.
- For more ideas, read this.
You get the idea. These activities are simple and there are many more. Even though they are simple, they build family togetherness. They increase family intimacy. And, you “don’t need no app for that!”