A family can be created in a number of ways. In our case, two people came together, we added a dog (a ‘trial’ child) and then later two children, one after the other. Although these steps formed our family, they don’t in themselves make our family strong or loving.
Numerous actions – ranging from small to large, sometimes sacrificial, often undertaken repetitively and consistently – are required to develop strong family ties. And my husband and I aim to develop and maintain a strong and loving family unit.
From the ideal to reality
It is fair to say that things have been a little less than idyllic at Casa de la King lately. There has been tension, annoyance, yelling and quite a lot of resentment, as a result of a lack of willingness to contribute, to make an effort when required. To be honest, not everyone under the age of 18 has been pulling their weight. We have been running late, not completing things on time, and more importantly, getting very angry with each other.
- My husband and I have tried task lists – they work for a while but then get forgotten.
- We have talked about the need to care for each other – everyone nods and forgets about it.
- We have tried leaving the responsibility for various actions to our kids, which tends to end up in chaos (they are still fairly young, so maybe a little young for this – plus, the impacts extend to team mates and friends, which doesn’t seem fair).
So what to do?
I’ve had Brené Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto framed for a while, as a reminder of the parenting approach we would like to apply. I was looking at it again today – and the first line resonated with me.
‘Above all else, I want to you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions – the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself’.
I realised that our current cycle of frustration was not demonstrating the lessons of love I wanted to show my children, nor did it show them the respect and worth that my husband and I deserve. Two key things were missing from our approach:
- Articulating the attitudes that are important in our family, and how these translate to actions.
It’s no good saying ‘we don’t say things like that here’, or ‘we all pull our weight’, if the kids didn’t understand what this means in reality.
- Breaking down the tasks for the kids.
When I looked at them, they were a bit more like outcomes (finish breakfast, tidy your room, etc), than specific actions, and they did not include timeframes. As David Allen explains in his classic book Getting Things Done, if you want something done, you need to turn it from a goal or outcome to an action (or series of actions.
So what changes are we introducing?
Today we sat down together. We talked about what we need to do so we can work together better and actually show we love and care for each other. We’ve written this up into a document called ‘How we show we care and love each other‘ (yes, it say what it means). We have all signed it. Based on what we are struggling with currently, we narrowed it to three key elements, with actions underneath each element:
- We have agreed what we need to do when we are starting, in the middle of, or completing a task (and what we need to do support each other).
This includes staying focused and completing one task before starting the next, not distracting others, being respectful of people’s need to concentrate, and accepting the fact that we might not get everything right every time – but we get up and try again.
- We will be interested and care for each other, and each others’ possessions (and our own).
This includes not interrupting each other, genuinely showing interest in each other (celebrating the good and comforting when the hard things happen).It recognises the need for the kids to take better care of the things they own, and put things away.
It includes the need for my husband and I to ensure we spend special time with our children, individually and together on a regular basis, rather than getting too caught up in work, running the house, or other things.
- We will give each other time and space when needed (for instance, if we have had some challenges at school or have been very busy and are tired). This also includes showing the same respect to Mum and Dad, so they can spend time with each other (mostly at night time – we are struggling with kids staying in bed). Point two helps to offset this.
What we are still to do
- Finish writing up the list of routines – with timeframes – for daily activities.
That is nearly done.
- Put our words into action –
We’ve written them up and signed them. Now we have to follow through – do the actions we said we would do to show we are committed to ‘How we show we care and love each other’.
And this is the hardest part. Words are one thing, but it is through our actions that we really demonstrate our love, and our commitment to each other. So wish us luck on this next step!
Have you had any challenging times in parenting? (be honest!)
Do you have any suggestions of how to overcome them?