Families are like orchestras but sometimes, everybody is playing a different tune. Maybe yours sounds like a mixture between rap and punk with a smidgen of Mozart trying to get a look in?
If you're a parent who's willing to throw away the earmuffs, then listen up. Let me introduce 4 Parenting Tips I affectionately call the Four Rs -- Roles, Rules, Respect and Repetition. These four can transform your chaotic orchestra into some good vibrations.
Now, before you anticipate Handel's Messiah, let me first explain how these Four R's work. They won't turn your home into a symphony over-night, but when used correctly and consistently, you'll notice the difference in a major way. Let's begin with the basics.
I'd like for you to believe for a moment that your family really is an orchestra and that the roles within your family represent different instruments... trumpet, violin, drums and so on. Can you imagine what the orchestral family would sound like if no one knew what instrument (role) they were supposed to be playing? It would be a mess. People would be constantly swapping instruments or fighting over who gets to bang the drums and instead of music, there would be noise.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW YOUR ROLE?
With that said, let me ask you a question, "What is your role at home?" I'm amazed at how many parents really don't know the answer to this question. Often I get a blank look but when I ask them what their role at work is, they've got that one all figured out. Why do you think that is? The sad truth is, if you don't know your role, then there's little chance of your children or your spouse knowing theirs.
Every great orchestra needs a Maestro, someone in charge of the baton. Without someone to orchestrate and lead the performance, everybody might be playing their part but likely not together. If the musicians do their own thing without any unity or agreement, there's no hope for harmony and the same holds true for families.
So someone has got to wear the pants (hint: it can't be one of the kids). Though everyone may certainly have a vote, not every vote holds the same power or authority. Ultimately, parents have the last say -- they have veto power.
Now, before you walk up to the podium, grab the baton and take charge, there
are a couple more things you need to know before you get yourself in treble (pun intended).
WHERE THE MAESTRO FITS IN
Now, I hate to burst your bubble here but just because you are the Maestro, doesn't mean you can make music on your own. You have to remember that you are just an itty bitty part of the orchestra, not the whole shebang. You can maestro all you like but without your musicians, you are just waving your hands in the air.
The Maestro's job is to assign the different roles within the orchestra (and the family) and set the tempo. Notice I used the word, "assign" which implies that someone with authority has transferred some level of responsibility to someone else. When it comes to families, roles are essential to setting boundaries and defining responsibilities.
Boundaries are crucial. If you don't teach your children boundaries by showing them that they exist, they won't know how to set their own boundaries when they grow up. Children live what they learn at home. A successful orchestra plays within the boundaries but with enough room to express creativity. The boundaries are the rules -- read on.
WHAT'S RULES GOT TO DO WITH IT?
It might sound like a bad Tina Turner song, but rules really do have everything to do with it. Rules are essential to happy and healthy families. Here's why.
If the family is the orchestra and roles are the instruments, then rules are the sheet music. The sheet music provides the guidance and instructions for each member of the orchestra or family to follow. It's the template to hang everything on. With no rules or "sheet music", there would only be chaos, confusion and contention.
Rules in the home are the specific standards established by you, the parents.
All members of the family need to follow them to create order, clarity, security and unity -- in other words, beautiful music. You have to make sure that everybody knows the rules, understands the rules, recognizes why the rules are important and last but certainly not least, appreciates what the consequences will be if they violate said rules. This not only lets your child know what's expected of them, but, maybe more importantly, it also lets them know what's expected from you as the parent.
Rules should be practical, simple, mostly positive, limited in number, easy to understand and easy to remember. If you can't remember the rules on demand, how can you expect your children to?
R.E.S.P.E.C.T... FIND OUT WHAT IT MEANS
If the family is the orchestra, roles are the instruments and rules are the notes, then respect would represent the ability of the orchestra (family) to work and play together in harmony. This is often the automatic result of wise and educated parents correctly applying the rules and roles mentioned above.
For harmony to ever exist, it's important that all family members respect the views, opinions and perspectives of every other member. It doesn't mean you have to agree with everything someone says however, it simply means you need to validate every family member's unique perspective. As long as that perspective is courteously expressed, it's allowed. This is much like how a violinist would be counted on to view a percussionist or a trumpeter. Each instrument has an important role to play within the orchestra, yet no role is more important than any other.
Take Note: Respect is an outward display of trust and confidence. If you are finding it hard to gain the respect of your family, try gaining their trust first. Defining your role in the home whilst being firm and consistent with the rules will go a long way to developing more trust within your family unit.
Repetition, aka practice, is really important. No orchestra gets to be good and
certainly not great without a great deal of practice. They go over the same piece again and again and again. This is how it is with children, get used to it. You can't lay down the rules once and expect everyone to be in tune -- it ain't gonna happen.
So let's wrap it all up in a tidy little nutshell and leave on a high note. There has to be a Maestro, whose job is to assign the Roles, make the Rules, model appropriate behavior and command Respect using plenty of Repetition, without harping all the time, of course.
Remember, no one expects you to be perfect. You can do it! Now go out there and create your opus.
Brook Price is president and co-founder of Forte Strong, a failure-to-launch program that gives young men the skills and character traits they need to tackle the challenges of life. Brook has more than 16 years of experience working for some of the most prestigious leadership programs in the nation, most notably Outward Bound and the U.S. Marine Corps.