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Family Harmony - A Question and Answer Conversation......

Can reading a conversation give you insight for creating the family harmony you desire...

Yes, it can. Read on and build better harmony starting with small steps.

Q: Lately, I’ve noticed when I’m at home that I feel stressed. There’s a lot going on all the time. As parents of 3 kids, my husband, Trevor and I have so much to do. We’re running around, taking the kids back and forth to activities and keeping everything going at the house, plus working. When the kids are at home, they never get along with each other. It’s just so frustrating. We’re all living in this small house and the kids are yelling and tattling on each other. They don’t seem to notice when Trevor and I speak to them calmly and ask them to stop. So, we end up yelling at them to settle them down. After that, the mood in the house is terrible. I don’t think we’re doing everything we can to make things go as smoothly as they could at home. We’ve tried different things but 1 nothing seems to work. What should we be doing to make our family life happier?

A: Raising a harmonious family in the 21st century is a challenge for practically all parents. When the kids aren’t around, you and Trevor should discuss what’s going on at home with the family. During the talk, it’s a good idea to explore the areas of the family you want to change. Then, you can agree to alter some of those elements. You and Trevor have the power to bring remarkable changes to the atmosphere at home. As parents, you can also transform how you relate to each other, which serves to set a great example for your kids and promote family harmony. Since kids pick up on and mimic parents’ behaviors, they’ll subtly learn better, more effective ways to behave and communicate simply by watching Mom and Dad.

Q: Although it’s good news to hear that, I’m so overwhelmed right now with everything. Where do we even begin?

A: Your exasperation is understandable. However, as you and Trevor gradually begin working on a couple of areas at a time, slowly but surely, your kids will adjust their own behaviors. Plus, you and Trevor can establish a few hard and fast guidelines for everyone in the family to get the ball rolling quickly so changes can be implemented right away, increasing family harmony. First off, you and Trevor can model good listening skills between the two of you. This means when one of you is talking to the other, the two of you are making eye contact. The listener should stop what he’s doing and focus on the communicator. Otherwise, you can’t expect the kids to listen to each other. This could be the most relevant tip you get today. You and Trevor can also positively impact your kids’ behaviors by exercising patience frequently. When parents aren’t so demanding and are willing to be patient, kids learn to do those same actions. So, by displaying good listening skills and patience with each other, the children will derive a clue or two about how to act appropriately, which decreases chaos.

Q: So, step one is showing the kids that we’re good listeners and patient with one another. From watching us, they’ll pick up how to do these things, right?

A: Yes, those two issues are pretty basic elements of a harmonious family. In addition to you and Trevor modeling those behaviors – listening and patience – every day, you’ll want to add them to your list of guidelines for the children. After all, if kids are unable to listen, they’re most likely all making demands of each other at the same time, with nobody listening or responding. This behavior causes lots of squabbles and general disagreements. Also, when parents require their kids to be patient with each other, the kids learn understanding and the ability to recognize that each person is different. It sends the message, “It’s okay if Sara does something in a different way than you do.”

Q: I can see how focusing the kids on becoming better listeners and being more patient would help things go better. What are some other guidelines Trevor and I should establish in our home for our family?

A: Although every family might have their own unique list of rules to follow, some basic guidelines should be included to promote family harmony:

1. Cooperate. Require that all the kids cooperate, not only with the two of you, but with each other. You might want to explain cooperation to the kids as working together to accomplish one goal. Share with the kids that, in order for 2 people to cooperate, they must be “on the same side.” They’re kind of like a team, both working to get something done. ➡ When you talk to your kids about cooperation, be ready to give examples like, “When Bella and Brianna clean off the breakfast table together, they’re cooperating with each other. One puts things into the refrigerator and the other carries the dishes to the sink and rinses them. That’s cooperation.” Possible ➡ During the day, look for times the kids are cooperating so you can reinforce their efforts. All you have to do is give verbal praise for their actions. Also, give a warm hug while saying, “I’m proud of you for that.” ➡ The goal is, when you see kids cooperating with each other, let them know you noticed it. And the best way to do that is to tell them in some way. “Wow, you guys really got that task done in a hurry. Good job on cooperating!” When kids are reinforced for getting along, the level of harmony in your home will rise.

2. Employ problem-solving. If all parents sought to problem solve as opposed to blaming or trying to figure out who did what, the world would truly be a better place. Spend less time focusing on who “messed up” and more time on, “How are we going to solve this problem.” When parents approach life in this way, the kids will learn this strategy also. ➡ The beauty of using problem-solving is it helps you avoid getting personal and pointing fingers at each other. And it leads kids to want to figure out how to make things better on their own, which promotes healthy independence.

3. Practice Kindness. Hopefully, as parents, you and Trevor are already demonstrating kindness toward each other and with the kids every day. However, the kids must be required to use kindness, care, and respect with one other. When showing respect for each other is modeled and expected by parents, children get along better. Thus, family harmony flourishes. ➡ Also, require that your kids apologize to one another if they hit or kick each other or accidentally break something that belongs to the other.

Q: These all sound great—after listening and patience, we need to work on cooperation, problem-solving, and kindness. But when I’m running the kids back and forth from school to dance or football and then to home 5 days a week, how on earth do I find the time to be calm and teach the kids about all these concepts? It gets totally hectic!

A: It sounds like transporting the kids back and forth from school to activities to home is stressing you out. That brings up the question, are the kids involved in too many activities? Are they overloaded? I ask this question because if the parents are stressed out, it’s a pretty good bet that, so too, are the children.

Q: I never thought about it quite that way before. Maybe part of the reason the kids are always on their last nerve is because they’re tired out from all the running around. Could that be?

A: Kids can definitely be involved in too many activities. Nearly all kids, regardless of their age, can benefit from having some spare time every day. After all, it’s during free time that kids learn to develop independence and take care of their own physical and emotional needs. If kids are busy after school 4 or 5 days a week, they’re probably involved in more activities than is necessary. After all, kids are absorbing instruction and sitting still in school all day, 5 days a week. They need to have some down time to choose to do what they’d like (within parental limits). Everybody benefits from “me” time.

Q: How should I go about deciding how many activities the kids can be involved in?

A: There are many factors to consider. Firstly, how much of the family’s time and money is required in order for the child to take part in after-school activities? Next, the child’s age and ability to manage an extra activity without getting too tired and cranky must be examined. Although it may sound unusual, as a parent, it’s necessary to think first of your own needs, such as the ability to pay for and meet schedule requirements of your kids’ activities. Some activities are more expensive than others while others demand more time from parents (as well as the kids). Be realistic about how much you can manage and still get projects done while keeping things running fluidly at home. Taking and picking up 3 different kids to different activities even just 3 days a week can become quite chaotic. So, think about the costs and logistics first. Try to trade off transportation with other parents you know who live close by and have kids who’re involved in the same activities as your kids. Next, depending on your kids’ ages, it’s a good idea to establish limits around extracurricular activities. For example, you could have them do 1 activity at a time until you believe they can manage adding a second activity into the mix without experiencing grades or moods dropping. Young children (up to age 8 or 9) will fare best doing just one activity at a time. Of course, you can alternate activities they enjoy. For example, if your daughter’s playing basketball over the next 3 or 4 months, lay off the dance class. Then, when basketball season’s over, she can resume dance class. Also, consider each child’s personality and moods separately. Maybe Johnny doesn’t sleep well and gets cranky when he’s involved in 2 activities during the same period of months, but Sally can handle 2 activities with no problem. As you’re weighing out which activities the children will take part in, keep in mind a point mentioned earlier about the importance of children having down time to do as they wish. Kids learn a lot about themselves and what they enjoy during their spare time. Plus, the family as a whole is more harmonious when each member has some free time.

Q: I see now that I’ve allowed my kids to be overloaded with activities, which then overloads my budget and schedule. By following your suggestion to consider my needs and the activity expenses first, the activities they end up doing will be limited in ways that are also best for the children. Plus, the family dynamics overall are less hectic and stressful. Everybody wins.

A: Yes! You’ve got the idea. Rather than being a parent who allows your children to pick and choose all the activities they want to do, it’s best to gently place limits that take into account, not only children’s choices but the entire household’s finances and logistics. This way, you’re considering the family as a whole and what it needs to function harmoniously. As parents, model listening and patience, establish basic guidelines about how kids treat one another and the two of you, and evaluate your financial and scheduling needs when determining kids’ extracurricular activities. If you do these things, you’ll experience a calmer home life, children who get along with one another, and increased family harmony.

With Love and Prayers for much success at harmony,

Kelly Savage

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