If you’re reading this, I’ll bet one of your goals is to have a happy family life. You want your kids to get along, joy to fill your home and sunshine to radiate behind you, kind of like a halo. I totally get it. Have you always had that image, but just didn’t know how to make it a reality? You can. I mean, not the halo part, but the rest of it.
When my daughter started kindergarten, her school was introducing a new program based on The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey. Like all first-time, kindergarten parents, I was committed to being a 100% involved parent! So, I immediately bought the book and read every other book in The 7 Habits line.
I was seriously drinking the 7 Habits Koolaid! The original book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, was great but seemed kind of businessy but The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by the same author was a perfect fit! We decided to shape our family around these principals and it really changed our lives.
Let’s go through the habits so that you can get started!
This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and buy something, I will receive a teensy commission. Rest assured that I will not recommend something that I would not use myself. For more information, please see my disclosure page.
Being proactive is described in the book as using the moment between action and reaction to make a decision. Think of it as living your life, not watching your life happen. When your little one spills a glass of milk, DECIDE to calmly teach him how to clean it up instead of REACTING by screaming and stomping to the sink to get a sponge.
Begin With the End in Mind
Have a plan. First, figure out what is really important to your family. When Karly was about six, we were taking a road trip to Maryland and I brought my 7 Habits book along. I was going over the part about making a family mission statement and asking everyone questions about what give us a happy family life. When I looked through the book to research this post, Karly’s answers, scribbled on a hotel notepad, fell out.
I made this little graphic so that it would be readable, but transcribed her answers word for word! My mom, or Mimi, is visiting, so you can imagine her reaction when I read them aloud.
It’s still pretty much our plan today. We’ve added a few things like a meal plan, budget plan and cleaning schedule to keep us on track and they really help.
Put First Things First
Do what you know you should. Work first, play later. Prioritize. Eye on the prize. All of this!
Make sure you’re focusing on what’s most important and act accordingly. If having dinner as a family every night is important, schedule activities so that you can eat together. Is an orderly home a priority? Teach everyone to put their stuff away. If being kind is your goal, then stop yelling and criticizing.
Focus on what’s mutually beneficial. Get rid of the “it’s my way or the highway” attitude. That’s win-lose thinking. Going to the other extreme and being a martyr is lose-win. Find solutions where parents and kids both win.
I used to do all of my daughter’s laundry, complete with folding and putting away. Knowing that I needed to teach her to do it herself, I showed her how to work everything then let her know, from that moment on, she would be responsible for doing it herself. Can you guess what happened? Yep, she let dirty clothes pile up ’till it drove me crazy and then I did her laundry and yelled at her about it. Not a win-win solution.
We needed a new plan. Now, after talking about it and finding out what bugged her about doing the laundry, we do it together. We sort it together, then she washes and dries it, with a few reminders to listen for the beeps. I come in and fold it (oh, Konmari, I love you) and she puts it away. It’s a win-win!
Seek First to be Understood, Then to Understand
This is why we have two ears and only one mouth! We need to really listen to the other person, not just be thinking about what we’re going to say next. Even though this is way down at number five on the list, it might just be the most important habit. Happy relationships are fueled by good communication.
By just assuming we know how our kids feel or what they think, we’re teaching them we don’t value them. This is especially true with littles. You know that commercial with the kid pouring orange juice into the fishbowl because he wanted to share? If that dad would have accused him of wanting to kill his fish and putting him in time out, it would have been a pretty shitty commercial, right?
Together is better. You must agree if you have a family. You could have made a choice to live alone but you didn’t. In order to live happily with other humans, we have to value each other’s differences.
This is where our fantasies and expectations sometimes get in the way. You may have thought that your kid would be a jock, like you. What if he’s not? What if he’s an artist? Well, then you’ll learn to value his creativity. We have to raise the kids we have, not the kids we thought we’d have.
Don’t even get me started on the crazy ideas we have about our spouses! We marry other humans, not characters in books or movies! My husband and I can drive each other crazy, but we make a hell of a team. I dream stuff up and he makes it happen. He meets the neighbors because I act like a freak when I meet new people. I keep him from posting stupid crap on Facebook (mostly). If that’s not synergy, I don’t know what is!
Sharpen the Saw
A happy family life is all about balance. To be at our best, we need a good balance of physical, social, spiritual and mental activities. We should do a little of each, every day. Family traditions can reinforce this balance.
One of the funny things we do almost every night is watch Jeopardy together. It makes us think and we’re constantly surprised at what the others know! Our family goes to the beach to renew our spirits. Family dinners every night keep us connected. We walk around the neighborhood, or John and Karly ride bikes to be active. Not me, I haven’t really been a bike person since the big wreck of ’98 when I hit the curb and fell off, resulting in a serious wound to my ego.
Here’s your homework: read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. Buy it or check it out from the library or whatever, just read it.