Let’s face it. As a society, we’re pretty highly strung. Our work lives are full-on. Our family lives are far too frantic. And the feeling that everything is under control is infrequently felt.
Truth be told, many of us are highly reactive. We recognise the value of planning, but generally we fly by the seat of our pants, responding to incidents, putting out fires, scratching every itch, and trying to be everywhere for everyone at once.
The result of reactivity is that the important things are easily overlooked. Priorities crowd for attention and too often we give our best selves to our work, our tasks, and our devices, only leaving the scraps for what was supposed to be ‘quality’ family time.
7 Habits of Pro-Active Parents
But strong families don’t happen by accident. They’re the product of consistent, proactive efforts on the part of parents who make family a priority. Here are 7 habits for pro-active parenting that promotes strong families:
Habit 1: Family Focus
Do you know what your family is really about? It sounds very corporate, but do you have clear objectives or goals for your family? We need to know where we are going!
The widely quoted interaction between Alice and the Cheshire cat (Alice in Wonderland) is instructive in this regard:
Alice: ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
Cat: ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.’
Alice: ‘I don’t much care where–‘
Cat: ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.’
Mission statement, manifesto, or guiding principles – regardless of the name, proactive parents know what their family is about and they work towards it.
Habit 2: Parent’s Retreat
Proactive parents take regular retreats for two reasons:
First, it rejuvenates their relationship and re-establishes strong connections within the couple relationship. (And it allows for intimacy without the constant threat of a child disturbing you at a sensitive moment.)
Second, it provides a chance to re-focus priorities and plan for family needs.
I recently spoke with a father who described how he and his wife would disappear for two or three days, once or twice a year, as their children grew. They spent time together as a couple, and worked through a serious agenda of planning around their family (and other aspects of their lives). They discussed each child and what they could do to guide and help them during the coming months. They considered their needs, their progress, what was going well, and where they could make changes to help their children do better.
Habit 3: Regular family holidays
While many of us see school holidays as a logistical challenge (and they can be), this time is a perfect opportunity to get away from everything for a week, take some leave, and concentrate on the kids with no agenda. Do it four times a year and watch how it changes your family.
Habit 4: Family dinner
Regular family dinners lead to family satisfaction and stability and positive outcomes for our children. Families do best when there is a time set aside daily (or at least several times a week) where everyone is together and connecting.
Habit 5: Devices away
Proactive parents have boundaries around where and when Internet and electronic devices are used, and they stick to them. They know that time with family means time spent talking, being attentive, looking at someone, making eye contact, and being present with them.
Habit 6: Weekend time
Taking time to recharge our own batteries, and spend quality outdoors/nature time with our kids builds relationships. Proactive parents make time to explore the world on weekends, even if it’s only a trip to a nearby park, beach, or mountain with the family.
Habit 7: Interviews
You may or may not like this idea, but I think it’s powerful. Some of the more proactive parents I’ve spoken with arrange for time once a month to be one-on-one with their kids for an interview. They talk about challenges. They teach principles. They get into the detail of their kids’ lives. They stay close to their kids.
Strong families require discipline, consistency, and a commitment to put family first, particularly when life is intense, challenging, or even out of control.
One of the greatest predictors of our children’s success and wellbeing is the quality of their relationship with their parents. These strategies – all based around time together – are proactive ideas that can help make families stronger and happier.