The year was 1994. I was rocking a spiral perm, Nancy Kerrigan was crossing Tonya Harding’s name off her list of besties, we were watching the police chase O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco, and the phrase “life is like a box of chocolates” was first spoken. That’s not the only phrase that became popular for me that year. I was taking a leadership class in Bible school and was reading Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” when I first came across the words “begin with the end in mind”.
Fast-forward 22 years. I’m a married mom of two, listening to Fran Duerksen speak at Selah. She uses the phrase “begin with the end in mind” and gives them a whole new meaning. She said, “If you want your kids to come home after they graduate, you need to have fun with them”.
That really hit me, because it’s so true.
We need to be intentional as parents in cultivating these special bonds between parent and child as well as between siblings.
If we want our kids to keep coming home, if we want Christmas to be enjoyable or to go on holidays together when they are out of the house, we will need to begin with the end in mind.
So the question then becomes, how?
How to build strong family relationships
1. Plan A Regular Family Night
If you want to foster good relationships, you need to spend time together. Relationships in families don’t just happen, they are built over time. So a few suggestions for family night:
2. Make It Too Fun To Miss
When I was in university my parents started bringing home the best (and only) take-out pizza in Niverville on certain Friday nights. It became pizza and movie night and my sisters, and I would make it a priority to be home on those nights.
In our home now, family night can look like a games night, movie night or watching one of our favorite shows together. We love American Ninja Warrior and so when that is on we will make sure there are good snacks on hand as we watch and holler together as a family while other people exercise in front of our eyes.
Another thing we’ve done for the last few years is a family NHL hockey pool. Whoever wins the pool for the month gets to pick what we do for family night that month. Yeah, I never really win but my boys are all over it and have some really great ideas of what we should do together.
I’d love to hear some of your ideas for family night.
3. Guard That Day
To make family night happen, pick a day and mark it on your calendar. Whether you decide to have family day once a week or once a month, if you don’t write it down on the calendar it won’t happen. And let’s not be legalistic about this. A few weeks ago one of my sons was invited to a party on our family night so rather than doing it on the Friday we just moved it up and had our fun on Tuesday instead.
But you need to protect that time because it sends a message to your kids that they are important to you and you want to be with them. You are demonstrating that you are willing to cancel things and protect this time because your relationship with them is worth fighting for.
4. Start Early
If possible, begin the tradition of family night when they are still small. Maybe not too small! I remember some of our first attempts at family night when our boys were not yet school age. It was a gong show! And even now we still have game nights that dissolve into yelling and stomping off, but we keep trying!
The point is that if you start when they are young, then when you get to the teen years it’ll already be an established tradition that your kids know is important.
However, it’s never too late to start. Les and Leslie Parrott wrote the book The Hour that Matters Most-The Surprising Power of the Family Meal. In that book there are a couple of things I think parents of teens need to hear to give you the courage to try breaking into your teenager’s schedule and carving out family time. Listen to this:
“What makes someone between the ages of 13 and 24 happy is not what you might think, according to an extensive survey conducted by Associated Press and MTV. The results showed that spending time with family (73 percent) makes young people happiest. After family, “relationships with friends” was most likely to make children happy.”
“The majority of teens in America – 67percent – want to spend more time with their parents.”
So plan regular family nights. They are worth fighting for! A final thing to remember…
5. Family Nights Are For Family
Just family. Not family and a few friends. That is not family night. And actually that is teaching your kids something when you do that. You are telling them that actually your brothers and sisters aren’t your friends. You invite other people over who are your friends. If you want your kids to come home, you need to help them see that their siblings are their friends. If you want them to come home when they are older, one of the reasons they will come home is because they like to hang out together as friends.
This takes intentional effort. Foster that friendship by finding common ground between the siblings. Plan family nights around what each other likes to do. Take turns doing things the other sibling likes to do. And when fights come up and hurts happen between your kids, take the time to deal with those hurts and remind them that friends come and go, but your siblings will be there for life if you work at building that relationship.
So pick up your calendar, buy some of your favorite snacks, get a new board game and start showing your kids how much fun family can be! And when we fast-forward 22 years from now you will be glad, as I am, to have begun with the end in mind.
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Bonnie is “just” a stay-at–home mom for two energetic boys and the wife of a sports and music-loving husband. She loves Jesus and is trying to live a life that reflects that. Her desire is to see others come into a deep relationship with Jesus and experience the love and life change that our heavenly Father brings. And so in her “spare” time she helps write material and teach at Southland’s Selah mom’s program. Oh, and if having coffee with friends can be considered a hobby then she is all over that!