It takes a lot of effort to create a healthy family

Published 12:26 pm Sunday, September 2, 2012

Being a country of many faiths and philosophies, America needs to remember the nature of the families that founded America.

Jesus quoted from the book of Genesis in the Old Testament when he pointed out, “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh so they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate Matthew 19:4-6 (New International Version)

These words laid the foundation for family life in the Western world from the day they were spoken. According to the Scriptures and the Judeo-Christian tradition, a model marriage calls for full commitment and is intended to last a lifetime.

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The healthiest families I have known look a lot like the old fashioned family. In the days of the founding of our country, until families left the farm and moved into town, family members were taught to respect their father, to honor their mother, to live moral lives, and, when they moved out into the world they were expected to do well and earn dad’s blessing. Each person was expected to establish his own home and build his own family.

However, there is one clear difference between the father-controlled family of yesteryear and the healthy family of today. Dad no longer stands alone in leading his family; today his wife stands beside him with equal authority. It takes a husband and wife, as a team, to create a healthy family. They do it by practicing the principles of clear communication and thoughtful negotiation.

It takes a great deal of effort to create a healthy family but it causes a great deal of heartache when we fail to do so. The principles are clear, simple to learn and not too hard to carry out. As you review them you will no doubt recognize them and probably know how to use them. I simply remind you and offer a word about how they work.

The first and most important principle is to respect the members of your family by listening to your spouse and children whenever they seek your attention. There is no better way to build relationships then to pay attention.

Speak up when you need to express your feelings. Don’t wait until you lash out, act out, or express yourself in strong language . Be sure to begin your statement with in the first person singular “I” and not the second person “you”. “I think” or “I feel” is much less threatening than “You did so and so”. In fact, this might be the right moment to ask “Will you help me with this?”

Adopt a mature adult attitude by speaking calmly about an issue. Raising your voice increases tension, lowering your voice reduces it. It’s just that simple. Keep the differences between you and a family member private- just between the two of you. This goes double when the issue is between you and your wife. Bringing in a third party clouds the issue and effects the outcome.

Never resort to the “silent treatment”. It disrespects and rejects the other person, offers no solutions, and has the power to seriously damage a relationship.

It’s time to call a truce when two people have reached an impasse. Perhaps they need to seek more information or to simply cool off and review the matter before resuming talks.

Stick to the problem at hand; never bring up a second or third issue until you have resolved the first one.

Focus on the problem itself and not the person you are dealing with. It’s easier and kinder to solve the problem than try to change the person.

Avoid sensitive areas that could hurt feelings, divert attention away from the issue and interfere with reaching a solution.

Pick the right place to discuss a problem. The bedroom or the table at mealtime should be off limits for obvious reasons.

Choose the right time to deal with an matter. Simply put, everyone should be rested and well fed before a controversial issue is raised.

This is not written as an essay on creating a perfect family, only how to improve a family. The reason most family systems fail is because they are set up as games in which members play roles.

In the traditional family Dad plays the part of judge, jury, and jailer. In the individualistic family each person serves only self, fails to take responsibilities seriously, and, instead of a family system we find a group of individuals living parallel lives.

In the enmeshed family members are simply never allowed to be themselves in open relations with the rest of the family. A family system can be healthy only as long as it is open and friendly and the members are free to be themselves.

We need to remind ourselves that marriage, at its core, is a spiritual relationship and appreciate the remarkable family members that God has placed in each of our lives. Each one is created in his image, each is equal in his sight, and each has a wonderful purpose in life.

The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has directed. Psalm 37:23