The importance of communication is frequently talked about with regards to successful relationships, sadly however, failure to communicate is very common in families today. The problem lies in the fact that there is so much pressure placed on families by society. We are told how we should act and what we should do. Everybody is trying to stuff so much into their lives that communication gets put on the back burner. As one fails to communicate, the tension builds and it becomes a downward spiral, until the unfortunate point is reached where the family begins to deteriorate. You can see it in families all around you. Unfortunately, many homes have turned into “war zones.”
There is a better way! In fact, if you haven’t realized it, you should have peace and happiness in your family. Your family should enrich your life, not make you stressed out. We, as a society, have gotten away from this simple fact. We should all spend time praying for a society that gets back to the point where we, once again, honor and respect the family structure. Hopefully, that will happen one day. The good news is that YOU don’t have to wait on society. You can begin, right now, improving your family life and making it something that everyone can enjoy.
We need to be clear about what communication is and what it is not. Communication is expressing your needs, expectations, emotions, etc. clearly and directly. Don’t expect your spouse, children or other family members to be able to read your mind or your body language.
So how do you build a successful family? My experience has been to do all of the following things and to do them all of the time. Obviously, there will be times when you make mistakes, but keep trying to improve. Remember, when it comes to your current family, there are no do-overs. In twenty years, you won’t be able to go back and decide that you want to build your family up and make it strong. Do these things today! What you do today will have a direct impact on your family today and for generations to come.
Spend Time Together. Spend as much time as possible with your family. It shouldn’t hurt or be stressful. It should be enjoyable, fun and fulfilling. You should want and seek to spend as much time as possible with them. I know that for the majority of people I meet, my family seems like aliens because we spend so much time together. I know that we make people “sick” with our hellos and good-byes, when we do have to part company for school, business meetings, exercise, etc. We don’t care! This is what God had intended for families. Remember, that up until the early part of the 20th Century, families were together most of the day. They were working on the farm or doing other chores. It wasn’t until the industrialization and commercialism of the last century began, that so many families started to weaken and fall apart. The good news is that yours doesn’t have to.
Many people don’t even realize what they are doing; it has just become automatic. My family and I had attended a function at our son’s school, put on by the school’s Father’s Club. It was a movie night, where they were playing a kid’s movie, meant to be enjoyed by the entire family. I had to chuckle a little bit, as we walked by the gymnasium and saw a large number of the fathers playing basketball with each other, instead of sitting with their families watching the movie.
Eat Together. One of the easiest ways to spend time together is to eat together. Spend at least one meal per day (I prefer two or three) together. Talk about everyone’s day and after the meal is over, clean up together. After the cleaning is done; sit down and read together. You get the point; spend time together.
I’ve heard so many excuses for not doing this simple thing, such as: “We are just too busy to eat together,” or “We have different schedules.” This is complete nonsense. You can make it work if you’re committed.
Forget the excuses and find the time. Here are some suggestions that may help:
- Monthly/Weekly cooking: Do all of your cooking one day a week or month and freeze the meals until you are ready to use them.
- Find healthy prepared dinners: Buy a week or months’ worth of prepared dinners from a restaurant or caterer
and freeze them until you are ready to eat.
- Create a “dinner exchange”: Find several other families with similar likes and have each one cook several days worth of meals for all of the families. Meet once a week or month to exchange the meals. Freeze until needed.
Now there are no excuses for not eating together. If you really want to, you will find a way!
Practice Acceptance. Another way to strengthen your family is to make sure there is acceptance in your relationships. This acceptance needs to be complete. In no way should acceptance be conditional or based on anything, other than the fact that the other person is your husband, wife, son or daughter. It should not matter what anyone’s likes or dislikes are. Remember that you are working together, as a team, to build strong bonds that will overcome the negative pull of popular culture and society. There are many ways to do this, but what works for my family is finding out as much information as possible about each other. Do you know your son’s favorite food? Do you know your daughter’s favorite color? Do you know your wife’s favorite TV show? Do you know your husband’s favorite activity? Well, you should! If you don’t know, then take the time to find out what those things are.
I like to do two things that, I think, help to improve acceptance within my family. The first one is to find out what everyone’s favorite activity is…and do it! Do it at least once a week. The next thing is to find an activity you all enjoy; something that you all have in common and do it. My family has several; we all enjoy martial arts and hiking. We do these activities together, many times during the week. They keep us all in good shape and they create many great memories. We also enjoy eating popcorn, ice cream and watching a good movie.
The point is that the acceptance in your family should not be based on how smart, beautiful or talented someone is. It should be based simply on who they are in relation to you.
Respect Each Other. Respect is very important in families. Without respect, people tend to put their own needs and wants before others. There is no sacrifice for others and self-ambition begins to blind everyone involved. Many times, this leads to unchecked resentment and cynicism. A family that values respect is a happy family. Kids should know that, without a doubt, they are important. Spouses should know that even though they don’t always agree on every topic, there is still love, respect and acceptance. There should be respect for each other’s beliefs, thoughts and property. In my home, for example, we don’t always agree on the best way to discipline our children, but we do agree to discuss each other’s point of view and from there, decide on the best course of action. We know that we both have differing experiences, but there is respect for those differences. Our children don’t always play as nicely together as we would like but they both know that it is important to treat each other’s toys appropriately. This respect for each other is so important to allowing us to grow closer together that we value it and constantly work on it.
Be A Place of Safety and Security. A family should be a place of safety and security. Let’s face it, the world is a tough place. We spend a great deal of time out in the world. When we get home, we should come to a place where we can let our guard down and relax. As we head for home, after a long day, we should begin to feel more relaxed as
we get closer, not more stressed out. I remember talking to a guy who told me, that as he got close to home after a long day at work, he would find a parking lot to sit in, so that he could relax and get ready for the turmoil he was about to enter as he got home. In other words, he dreaded going home. This is a horrible place to be. If that is your experience, then it needs to change. You need to experience feelings of safety and security as you approach.
You also need to provide safety and security to those you love. They need to know that they can depend on you and that you will protect them, no matter what the circumstances. You will stick up for them and stick by them, even if they are wrong! Yes, they should learn right from wrong, but when a crisis arises and they need you, it is not the time to be teaching lessons. There will be turbulence and trials in this world. Will you be there for those you love the most? Will they be there for you? The answer to both of these questions should be an absolute yes, without any hesitation or doubt.
Listen To Each Other. When it comes to communication, many people, as we discussed earlier, fail to grasp the importance of listening. Listening is a practice that is very difficult for most. By listening completely and seeking to understand the person who is speaking, you will be showing the speaker that you really care about what they have to say. The fact that you are really listening to them will be evident in your body language and in your facial expressions and they will most likely give you the same courtesy when it’s your turn to speak. If you are more concerned with your next comment or with your agenda in the conversation, it will be evident and may not give you a desired result or outcome in the conversation. Always seek to listen!
I have had many experiences with my children when I was beginning to get angry, but when they explained a particular action, it was clear that there was no reason for discipline. In these circumstances, the outcomes would be much different if I did not take the time to listen.
Many disagreements have been diverted or resolved, simply because someone took the time to listen. I have also discovered that many times two people are saying the same thing, but are using different words. Without taking the time to listen to each other, these situations could easily erupt into something more than a simple conversation.
Everyone in your home, no matter age or any other circumstances, should always know that their voice will be heard and that they will be able to communicate their desires, needs, beliefs and wishes. This should be done in an atmosphere of peace, without having to yell. I grew up in a family where the only verbal communication that existed was yelling at each other. If you disagreed, the way to resolve it would be to start calling the other person names or to mount some other type of verbal assault. As could be expected, there wasn’t much peace in my home as a child.
Each Relationship Is Different. You should treat each relationship differently. It’s obvious, that my relationship with my son will be much different than my relationship with my daughter. Even among children, there should be different relationships. I do not do the same things with my daughter as with my son. First, my son is older so he has more life experience. He is better able to reason. Their personalities are also very different. I am learning that the way I discipline them needs to be much different. With my son, when I am getting him to clean up his toys, the suggestion that I will take something away if he doesn’t follow through works well. This method, however, doesn’t work so well with my daughter. For her, I need to sit down with her and actually tell her what to do. This is something that needs to be remembered, because it will have an enormous impact on the effectiveness of your communication.
Following these simple steps in communication, will open your family up to each other and will create an atmosphere of mutual respect for all. You will have a successful family life.
Michael at R2W