The family unit in America has eroded over the last 20 years. Today, families eat alone, rush to and from children's schedules, think about work during family dinners, disregard formal manners, sleep irregular hours, yell, berate each other and above all else, DO NOT communicate.
It's time to get the family unit in the Zone. This is a place of harmony, love, peace, purpose, and learning. Family is where values are taught and principles of successful living are set. It is the one forum that can help children become their authentic, genuine best selves.
Meet with your significant other or if you're a single parent, decide on deploying this list of family bonding tools. Please add or subtract as you see fit. Here are nine tips and tools for creating a more cohesive and productive family. It's time our nation works on this, don't you think?
1. I BELIEVE IN YOU
Your children are only as good as what they think when you're not there. How they interact at school and after school with friends and other adults will dictate how well they perform in life as responsible citizens. Optimism or the lack of optimism can influence many decisions your children will need to make before they leave the nest for college or the workforce. Here's a tried and proven recipe for increasing the optimism and overall confidence of your child.
Just as your son or daughter starts to drift off into sleep, gently touch their hand, arm, brow or top of their head and whisper in a low tone the following: "I....believe....in you. Add silence between the words. Retention will be greater stating "I believe in you" like this. Keep it simple and walk out of their room.
Sprinkle this positive message to your child 3-4 times per week. Science has proven that what is said, heard or thought within the last 30-minutes before sleep will be replayed during sleep 15-20 times. Over a short period of time, your child's confidence and self-esteem will increase. Pretty cool, huh?
2. VISION NIGHT (monthly)
Before each month the family gathers for their regular Vision Night dinner. After dinner (candlelight optional) the family holds hands while each person (including adults) at the table tells what they want and will accomplish for the upcoming month. Nothing is off limits. If you can express yourself, you are to be an active participant.
At a recent Vision Night that I helped organize for a client, the married father of two became aware that his daughter wanted to be an actress and his son wanted to quit baseball and become a photographer. Both of his children expressed what they would accomplish within the next 30-days. He was extremely surprised. He also learned that his spouse of 25 years was seriously planning a complete physical transformation. As his turn came around, he improvised away from his work vision to becoming a better listener and a more active participant in his family's life.
Vision Night does have one rule. It is "There are no rules." It's very simple. Each person answers, "When next month is over what big item(s) will I have accomplished?" This could be:
• Breaking or adding a habit
• Making all A's on my tests
• Earning X amount of money
• Winning a tennis tournament
• Being nice to my brother
• Going to bed at 10PM on school nights (with no complaints)
This list is endless. The bottom line is Vision Night is a chance for the family to rally around what each family member desires to accomplish. Family is the best support system.
After each person expresses their personal, monthly vision, then the family sets a vision for what they would do as a family. All suggestions are welcome. This could be volunteering for a weekend together at a food pantry, cleaning the garage, buying a dog, visiting Grandma, etc.
Set a time limit on the night. Everyone helps clean up after dinner.
3. OLD-FASHION DINNER
"This Thursday we're having an old fashion dinner," you announce to your clueless children. What's an old-fashion dinner? We seldom eat together as a family. You know this. When we do sit down today to a collective meal, family members typically remain attached to their cell phone, I-Pad or other electronic device. If this seems impossible to eat together without electronic distractions on a consistent basis, then schedule Old-Fashion Night. However, I vote for a total electronics ban at ALL dinners.
Having the menu prepared in advance is not mandatory, but it can work as a draw, especially for teenagers. No cell phones. None. Formal manners are required. Dressing up is optional. This is simple. Us adults have caved-in over the last two decades. Make this night mandatory for all family members. And everyone helps clean up. Who knows? This might even catch on.
4. CIRCLE OF LOVE (monthly)
Gather the family around the dinner table and form an invisible circle of love. Each month a different family member is the leader. This person calls the meeting to order and keeps the meeting moving along. He or she is also the timekeeper.
This positive energy of love for each other's opinions protects all members of the family from repercussions from speaking their mind. This is as long as the truth is spoken and it's acknowledged that it is only their impression. Explain the difference between the truth and an impression. The truth is the absolute final word. It is derived after one walks around an issue and sees it and feels it from every viewpoint and angle. An impression is only the viewpoint from one person and usually from one angle.
Next, everyone states what affected him or her in the family arena and any other arena during the past week. In addition, family members state what they see for the upcoming week for themselves. If they have a beef with anyone, now is the time to let it out. It is the time to discuss any injustices, assumptions, disagreements or family violations of conduct. Everyone is on equal footing. Egos of children and adults are to be set aside. Remember: Negative feelings left unexpressed will turn into negative actions.
The leader closes with a group hug.
5. GO TO BED HAPPY. GET UP HAPPY.
This is a challenge! Believe me, I know. However, it's worth the effort. Having set routines for going to sleep and waking up has tremendous benefits. Most families are sleep deprived.
Draw a line in sand: No fighting, bickering or being whiney, grumpy or mean before bedtime and after family members wake up. Frame the day. Positive attitudes rule! Period.
6. BE DECISIVE
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Remember that your child is still in life training. How you deal with him or her will set a precedent for future discussions and your decisiveness or lack thereof could and probably will be passed on to your future grandchildren. "You're grounded! No cell phone for two weeks. Three days later (after your child has acted like Mother Theresa) you cave and give in. "Okay...you've been so good, we're going to give your phone back." AVOID DOING THIS. Stick to what you said or don't say it. Be decisive!
7. NO TEXTING
Do NOT accept texts from your children. Use this tool ONLY if speaking on the phone is impossible or extremely difficult. By talking on the phone you can hear voice inflection and tonality. Stay connected verbally. It's time to fully communicate before it's too late.
8. RISK & REWARD
Teach this principle at the earliest possible age. Walk through the hypothetical scenario of your child witnessing drugs being used. What are the rewards? You may be looked at as cool and it may feel good for 30-minutes. What are the risks? Death. Addiction. Arrest. Injury. Poor judgment with other things. And you will receive worse than grounding. Is the reward worth the risk?
Discuss risk & reward regarding money. There are a zillion other examples. Find them and sprinkle this term throughout your child's life.
9. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Your family is watching. Do you swear? If yes, then your children will probably swear. Do you always yell and tell as in "I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT!!!" If this is you, then you are training the next generation of YELLERS. Are you messy? If yes, then you know they'll probably grow up messy. Are you always late? You know what's going to happen.
Training your children is never-ending. Let your hair down in private or when you're an empty nester.
Get your family in the Zone!