How many families do you know that live in a permanent state of conflict? Sadly, it can often feel too many to name.
But why is this? In most cases, it comes back to the parents. Children don’t start out in life deliberately trying to cause trouble. But they will if they are brought up in a negative social environment.
Of course, none of us set out deliberately trying to create a negative environment for our families, but the stress of everyday life, little free time and so on can often cause us to snap and take our own stress out on the children – which causes us to slip into a devastating downward spiral.
Fortunately, no matter how bad family life gets, you can always turn the situation around. If you need to take a step back and reset your family life, here are some practical tips on how to live more harmoniously.
Appreciate That Each Family Member Is Different
Parents often expect their children to be carbon copies of who they are. They want them to have the same preferences, jobs, and outlook on life.
Of course, that’s unrealistic and not how biology works. In fact, diversity is the order of the day. No two siblings are ever alike because nature is carrying out experiments on each of them. Everyone has a slightly different temperament because that’s what human communities need to thrive. If everyone was the same, nothing would happen.
The trick here is to go into a family situation knowing that each child will be different. Some will be sociable, others will be shy. Some will be good at sports, others will be more academically inclined. It all comes down to the individual. Learn to recognise and appreciate where each of your children is different from each other, and from you.
Develop A Positive Attitude Towards Life
Developing a positive attitude towards life doesn’t mean that you see rainbows and butterflies everywhere. It just means that you accept that you cannot control everything. While you’d love your kids to be one way, the chances are that they’ll turn out to be quite another. And that’s okay. It’s just another part of life.
The best attitude is to take reality as it comes to you. Embrace what happens and let go of your expectations. They will destroy your happiness.
Go Outside In Nature
Spending time together in nature is great for the whole family. It gets you out of the house (which can feel like a pressure cooker sometimes) and helps you relax. Walking through a forest or hiking in the mountains is a pleasurable experience, totally different from the status quo.
Find Ways To Manage Your Personal Stress
Psychologists like to say that stress is optional. But even they sometimes fail to put this into practice. When things don’t go your way, it’s all too easy to get into a flustered state about it.
The trick here is to find ways to manage your stress. The best thing you can do is remind yourself that it’s something you generate yourself. If you feel bothered about something, then it is your responsibility to sort it out.
Stress isn’t necessarily something you have to “manage.” That’s because, like so many other things in life, it’s a choice. Instead, it is something that you can eliminate, once you have the right perspective on things. Once stress reduces, peace and harmony emerge spontaneously.
Put Respect At The Center Of Your Relationship
Ideally, you want to treat each other equally and with respect. Both children and adults should feel loved and as though they can be themselves. If there is something different about a particular family member, that’s okay. You don’t all need to be the same to be a part of a clan.
Treating each other with respect is something that you can do proactively, not just passively. The more active kindness you show to family members, and the more you accommodate their wishes, the better.
Make Mealtimes A Routine
Meal times should be a routine for all the family. Everyone should expect to sit down and enjoy food together at the same time.
This applies just as much to a 4 month old baby’s feeding schedule as it does to a teenager’s.
Bringing all the family together for a meal is one of the most powerful ways to forge bonds and bring people closer. It also makes the family the centre of the day, instead of something peripheral. Everyone has a chance to discuss the day’s events, what happened, and whatever is on their mind.
Teach Everyone Proper Communication
Good communication isn’t something that just happens: it’s something that kids learn from their parents. If mom and dad are great communicators, they will be, too.
Parents should set an example of how to resolve conflict, focusing on themselves to start. Children will then slowly model their own behavior on the parental example.
If there are embedded communication issues, then you might want to go to family therapy. Sessions can walk you through the problems that you face and address the root causes.
Make Your Family The Top Priority
For many people, work, interests, or passions are their top priority. Because of this, the family often takes a backseat. For some parents, it’s an afterthought.
Unfortunately, putting the family on the back burner is a bad idea. It means that there is always some priority that is more important than looking after one’s own.
For some family members, the secondary importance of family is unconscious. In many cases, they do not believe that they have that belief. These people need to become more conscious and recognize how their behavior is impacting their next of kin.
Make Sure That Family Life Has A Spiritual Element
Family life should have some sort of spiritual element to keep everyone knitted together. Members need to look beyond the physical world and focus more on the real spiritual truths. If there is a dispute, they can submit themselves to a higher power.
Spiritual beliefs help to keep a lid on the worst elements of the human psyche. Close-knit families are much less likely to experience serious disharmony. When everyone is developing spiritually, it becomes significantly easier to maintain peace.
Ask Each Other Whether They Are Okay
Families need to check in with each other regularly to make sure that they are okay. Without constant communication, it can be easy to ignore the needs of family members.
Keep in mind that the needs of various family members can be significantly different from each other. The more ownership that children feel that they have over family life, the more engaged they will be with it.
Of course, if your children are young, then they might not be able to contribute to decisions in a helpful manner. However, they should still feel like they can contribute when the time to make decisions comes.
Try To Avoid Competition
Siblings can often feel like they need to compete with each other to be the smartest or most beautiful. Parents often send out hints, telling their children how they would like them to be.
Unfortunately, this can lead to competition and comparison between brothers and sisters which can damage their mental health. Children grow up believing that they need to be a certain way for parents to love them.
To avoid competition, don’t state the type of children that you want. And, if possible, avoid too much praise. If you feel the urge to tell your child how great they are after they do something you like, ask them whether they feel proud of their efforts instead.
Make Conversations Positive
It’s easy for families to fall into the negativity trap. Saying bad things about friends and neighbors isn’t good form. Plus, it sets a bad precedent. Children develop the belief that condemning or criticizing other people is okay.
The trick here is to turn the conversation around and make things positive. The more you can engage in uplifting topics, the more your kids will follow in your footsteps.
Create Family Rituals
All families need rituals to help bind them together. These should be things that everyone enjoys and wants to take part in. Ceremonies like this remind family members that they are all part of the same team and have shared experiences. They can be extremely powerful.
The rituals you choose don’t matter so much in themselves. However, they should be things that you can do at least once per week. You need regular interactions to keep relationships strong and foster mutual respect.
Return To Traditional Values
Modern values haven’t reduced family conflict, they’ve increased it. Relativism, lack of spirituality, and nihilism have all taken their toll.
The trick here is to go back to the past and avoid as much of the modern cultural degradation as possible. Even if society’s ethics and consciousness are deteriorating, it doesn’t mean that the same has to happen in your family.
The traditional values you choose don’t have to be particularly old, and of course there are some ‘traditional values’ that might be better left in the past. But consider how your grandparents or great-grandparents managed their family life. Are there certain aspects that you would like to maintain today? Choose values that support family life, not those that work against it.
Be Kind To Each Child
Lastly, show equal kindness to every child in the family. Don’t single out one in particular for derision.
When you set the lead, your children will follow. Make sure that you appear happy to speak to your child whenever they engage you. Be polite and gentle. And if you make a mistake, apologize. Watch your tone of voice at all times.
Title image: Unsplash – CC0 License