The saying, "What you do speaks louder than what you say," is very true. Kids are constantly watching how you conduct yourself and how the family is run. There are several choices families make that, over time, can add up to negative consequences that are tough to turn around. Take a good look at your habits in light of what you really want to teach your kids and make adjustments as needed. A little personal correction when kids are younger is better than an entire childhood spent learning bad habits.
Disorganization - Busy households can quickly become disorganized. Being proactive here will not only help keep your family running smooth on a day to day basis but it has far-reaching benefits. Growing up I was not a naturally organized child. In fact until my third child was born I basically winged it. Adding a baby to an active family of sports enthusiasts meant I had to learn organization skills in order to function.
A wall calendar with a different color marker for each individuals activities, hooks on the wall for book bags along with schedules and routines transformed my family. We are not perfect, but making a point to model organization is important to me.
Leaning on junk food - After back to back going away and graduation parties plus multiple smaller get-togethers, junk food seems to have taken residence in my home. This is not the norm though. Making a point to avoid drive-thru windows, chips and candy is worth the hassle of packing snacks or simply saying no. The junk food habit is hard to break so should be reserved for special occasions.
Frequent fighting - Tension reigns supreme in some homes. Do not allow argumentative conversations to continue all day long. When my kids were little I would stop their bickering by making them sit on the bottom step while holding hands. It does not sound like much, but after a few minutes the ridiculousness of sitting there, holding hands sunk in and they would usually start giggling. Another strategy that served us well was to not allow friends over because, "If you cannot get along with your siblings, you do not have any friends." Parents can also jump on this bandwagon and find themselves spewing sarcastic comments to one another. Stop this habit by resolving to only speak with respect. Remember, you are not on a sitcom.
Bad money management - If there is any area kids learn by observing, this is a big one. You do not have to say a word about how much things cost for kids to see wasteful spending. Counter this habit by consciously tracking your spending and preparing ahead of time by packing snacks and staying organized in order to avoid unnecessary costs. Taking care of belongings is another way to prevent extra expenses.
Too busy - Get off the hamster wheel. Over-scheduled, over-committed families are often full of stress. Choose what you are involved in carefully and do the same for your children. Even if they want to play two sports and join several extra-curricular clubs, take control over your schedule and say no when necessary. Everything chosen may be wonderful, alone, but when thrown all together and then mixed with parents' and siblings' activities, the pressure is too much.
Screen addictions - Families who have a television on all day are missing out on all life has to offer. This may be the opposite of the family that is too busy, or it could be the only way stressed individuals know how to relax. Either way, it is important to cut the screen time. This includes monitoring video games and computer time.
Dinner on the run - My sister-in-law often boasted of her family's wise use of the crockpot. She would set dinner in the crockpot in the morning and then her family could eat whenever they arrived home. This often meant her daughters running in at various times after school and eating alone, her husband grabbing a quick bite before an evening meeting, and then she could eat the leftovers after arriving home from work. Sure it is a good idea, but eating together at least a few times a week is an important factor that is missing in many of today's families.
Constant competing and comparing - After telling your children not to worry about what so and so thinks, you turn around and try to impress "the Joneses" with your latest and greatest acquisition. Do you talk behind everyone's back? Make fun of the neighbor? Laugh about the junky car your boss is driving? Kids learn their value system from you, be sure you are intentionally sending the right message.
Building a strong family takes hard work and perseverance, but the time spent in the early years will pay off in the long run.
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