Creaing and sustaining a loving family

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Clearly, one way to create a loving family is to be a loving parent yourself. This article offers other ways to create and sustain a loving family

Accentuate the Positive and Modify the Negative

It is an inescapable fact that loving families affirm each other at every opportunity.

Do a reality check on the kinds of sentences uttered in your home.

Is nearly everything spoken a criticism of some kind, or a call to duty, to responsibility, or to action? Is the flow of conversation negative in tone, always demanding and insisting on something?

If so, work to modify the negative and accentuate the positive.

In their book 10 Best Gifts for Your Teen: Raising Teens With Love and Understanding, authors Steve and Patt Saso report that they once asked a group of high school students to write down comments their parents had made in the past month. Sadly, "the negative comments outnumbered the positive comments more than two to one," they say. However, here are some of the comments that made students feel good about themselves:

* Good job!
* You are a great person and a great athlete.
* You will be great one day.
* I believe in you.
* I love you.
* You're a great daughter.
* I really like the way you handled that.
* You're a good example to your brother and sister.
* You have unlimited potential.
* We trust you.
* Congratulations.
* You are fun to be around.
* We are really proud of you.
* You're improving.
* Don't worry about it. Just do the best you can.
* We can see you are trying hard in school.
* I love you for who you are.

Try to incorporate these types of comments into your daily family communication. Also, develop your own unique supportive and affirming statements to share with your children. Constantly and consistently express appreciation and affection.

Make Your Family a Priority

Let your children know that they are your priority, that you are dedicated to them, and that it's your desire to promote their welfare and happiness. Look at your life and activities to be certain that your family are doing enough things together to form an intimate bond and remain emotionally connected to one another.

Stop, Look, and Listen

It is true that when parents initiate conversation, children--especially teenagers--are reluctant to talk. However, when a child initiates a conversation, be sure that you as a parent drop everything and pay attention.

"The guidelines for being an attentive listener are simple," write the Sasos. "They are the same principles that every child learns when crossing the street: stop, look, and listen. To be receptive to what your teen is saying, stop what you are doing, face your child to make eye contact, and listen with your full attention.... Being a good listener lets your adolescent know that you care about him and his world. It is one of the most powerful ways that you can show respect for your teenager."

Discipline Creatively

Even the strongest and most loving families will have their moments when someone speaks or acts rashly and inappropriately. While such times require some consequence for the behavior, try to discipline in a way that is firm, fair, loving, and creative.

Consider this example: In a moment of frustration and anger, a student in high school kicked his classroom door, causing some damage. The teacher, instead of disciplining the traditional way, told the student he wanted him to study the door. What kind of tree was used to make the door? What part of the country does that tree grow in? Could he count the rings in the wood? How old was the tree? What types of workers are involved, from cutting down the tree, to changing it into a door, to installing it at the school? Researching and writing up that information was the consequence of that student's actions.

Communicate

"Children and adults who don't communicate can pay a very high price," observes Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, author of the book Raising Confident Boys: 100 Tips for Parents and Teachers. "Communication skills lie at the heart of social and emotional health and success, and a boy will not be as comfortable talking if adults, especially parents, don't talk to him. No conversation implies no interest, which he is likely to interpret as neglect. So family silence can have a devastating impact on his self-esteem and his trust in future relationships."

Placing Parenting Ahead of Professional Goals

Wise and loving parents look carefully at opportunities for professional success, determining whether there is a danger that family life may be sacrificed in the process. As head football coach at Union High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bill Blankenship is regarded as one of the finest such coaches in the nation. At one point he was offered a coaching position at Illinois State University--a position that would have brought him considerably more income and prestige. However, it also would have impacted his family life, particularly his ability to spend time with his wife and three sons on the weekends.

Blankenship wanted his weekends free, so he turned down the job at Illinois State. "This time in our life goes way too fast," Blankenship said. "My position at Union High School allows me to dictate my own schedule. That's something I haven't taken for granted." Blankenship further said he realized that "all the reasons to go and take this job were for me. I saw nobody else in my family being the direct beneficiary for that decision."

Forgiveness

Healthy and vibrant families know how to reach out to each other with love and forgiveness.

"Parents don't need to be perfect: they need to be honest and humble," writes Jay Kesler, father of three and author of Ten Mistakes Parents Make with Teenagers (And How to Avoid Them). "The three most difficult sentences for parents to say need to be said: ‘I'm sorry’ ; ‘I was wrong’ ; and ‘Please forgive me.’ Generally speaking, teenagers who have not heard a parent say these sentences will never learn how to speak them. Young people who have learned by example to back off, admit mistakes, and start over again live happier lives."

Of course, there will be ample family opportunities for parents to be the ones doing the forgiving. However, "they should not always be the ones taking the benevolent position of forgiver," cautions Kesler. When a parent is humble and wise enough to use the three sentences, their teenager learns two important life lessons. "He or she can see that it's OK to admit imperfection, and can also experience what it's like to forgive."

What higher gift can we give to our children and spouse than helping to create and sustain a loving family?

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