Children’s lives center on their families. That’s where they learn how to be individuals and how to fit into society.
To succeed, kids need a positive family environment.
How is it possible to build that environment in the rush of modern life? Parents have careers, kids have school, and the technology we depend on changes at the speed of light.
Family life isn’t built in a day. But applied over time, these 5 practical steps can help you to create a positive family environment.
Your kids need to know they can talk to you about anything. Nothing should be taboo. They need to think of you as a safe place to come for information and advice.
Kids need to feel secure and comfortable. Listen and give them your full attention, so they feel heard and valued. Try not to interrupt them. It’s better to listen first, talk later.
When you have to say, “No,” explain why. Give a reason for your decision and be ready to discuss it. “Because I said so” is tempting, but it doesn’t help create a positive family environment.
Trying to hide your emotions from your kids will confuse them. They don’t need the details of adult problems. But you can let them know when you’re sad, angry, or feeling overwhelmed. Talking about your feelings shows your children that everybody has feelings and models how to cope with them.
And don’t tell your kids how they feel. Hushing them, saying things like, “You’re not hurt,” or “You’re fine,” teaches them to suppress and stuff their feelings.
Model good communication for your children. They’ll learn more from observing you than from what you say. Keep these points in mind:
Everybody needs to love and be loved. Show your love for everybody in the family in big and small ways every day. Say “I love you,” often.
Use touch to show love. Share affection with your partner and children with hugs and kisses.
Remember to give praise where it’s due. Reinforce what your kids are doing well with positive feedback. Congratulate them on achievements, big and little. And show your kids how to receive compliments by receiving them gracefully yourself.
Show that you appreciate your family. Appreciation enhances self-esteem and motivates positive behavior.
Treat your family like they’re your best friends. Remember birthdays and special occasions. Make time to have fun together.
Everybody deserves respect in a positive family environment. Expect it from your children and demonstrate it in the way you treat them.
Children should learn to speak and behave towards others with respect—no insults, no shouting, no violence. Stomping out of the room doesn’t do much to solve a problem.
But respect goes both ways.
You are the adult, and you want to protect your child. You think you know better, and mostly, you do. But that doesn’t mean you get to insult them or patronize them. Or yell at them. Do your best to keep your cool. Respecting your children builds their self-confidence.
Each child is an individual. One kid may be athletic. Another is a bookworm. This one loves to dance. That one would rather go fishing than anything. Everybody should feel valued for what makes them unique. No comparisons.
Teaching your kids your boundaries and showing them how to set their own gives them a safe place from which to learn about the world.
Set reasonable rules, like clean up after yourself, be polite, or bedtime at 9:00 p.m. State the rules clearly and apply them fairly, with appropriate flexibility when new situations arise or as kids grow.
Limits let kids feel secure. Fast and consistent application of consequences helps them understand how life works.
Families function more smoothly when everybody chips in. Working together develops closeness and loyalty.
Kids have the right to play and be kids, but they have obligations, too. School and chores, to begin with, and more responsibility as they grow. Even a toddler can help pick up his toys before going to bed.
Make your expectations reasonable and realistic. If you can, get your child’s buy-in. But sometimes the parental edict works best. Many of us wish our parents had made us practice the piano more.
Working and playing with your kids tells them that you believe in them and their abilities. Modeling how to work hard and play hard motivates them to try harder.
Parents and kids should schedule time every day to be with family. Dinner is an excellent time to share and catch up on everybody’s activities. Studies show that kids who have dinner with their families are better behaved and do better in school.
Short periods together, even if they are spectacular, are no substitute for ongoing, daily connection. Family time helps the whole family to develop unity and identity. It helps avoid loneliness and prevents alienation.
Of course, building good memories takes time and repetition. But happy time spent together is never wasted.
As best as possible, weave these five practical steps into your daily family life. Communication, demonstrating affection and appreciation, mutual respect, cooperation and working together, and spending time together will help you build a positive family environment.