Bonding with family members has become a challenge in our society today, especially as children grow into their adolescent years.
“I need my space!” is a common cry in many Western families, and it comes not only from teenagers. Spouses will often say it to each other. Even if they don’t express it directly, will either think it with bitter resentment, or act on their desire to have “more space” by going out with co-workers after work instead of coming home or spending Saturdays on the golf course or at the mall.
I believe the root of this modern-day behavior is fear.
- Fear of relationships.
- Fear of getting hurt.
- Fear of not having “my way.”
- Fear of conflict.
However, families were meant to bond together. If you research so-called “primitive” peoples, bonding with family members–including extended family members crossing several generations–is a prized cultural practice. And in those societies, the elderly are looked up with great respect and taken well care of by the younger generation. There is more security and trust among family members, and resources are shared openly and generously.
How can you teach your children the importance of family ties?
The ways are many; following is a list of just a few techniques you might begin to apply.
1. Practice attachment parenting.
This is best begun when your children are infants, by spending a lot of time holding them, sleeping with them or in the same room with them, and breastfeeding. But if you got off on the wrong foot when your children were small, you can bond with older children in several ways.
- Choose gentle and respectful methods of discipline over punitive methods (the e-book Positive Parenting Using the G.O.L.D. Standard will be especially helpful as you transition into more nurturing discipline techniques).
- Make time every day to talk with each of your children one-on-one.
- Listen fully to your children when they talk to you. Mute the T.V., get down on their level, and look them in the eyes.
- Give thoughtful consideration to reasonable requests. You expect your children to respect you; do the same, and don’t automatically say no to everything that might spell inconvenience for you.
2. Insist on having dinner together as a family.
Restrict extra-curricular activities (including yours!) accordingly.
3. Plan vacations together.
If your child is as young as three and given two or three choices, she can give input as to specific activities she’d like to do in a given location. Older children may write out the pros and cons of going to the beach versus going to the Grand Canyon. When you involve your kids in deciding how you are going to spend an entire week or two together, they will feel some ownership in the trip itself and be more likely to enjoy it much more than when they are arbitrarily commanded what to do.
4. Make after supper clean-up fun.
Nothing like housecleaning for some bonding with the family! Assign every member of the household–and I mean each and every person over the age of two–a different chore every evening. These might include collecting the silverware, putting the plates in the dishwasher, scrubbing pans and wiping down counters.
Put on a CD with upbeat kid-friendly music, and play little games while everyone gets busy. For example, you might randomly shout commands such as, “Everybody tiptoe now!” Or, with older children you might play silly word games, like coming up with rhymes or “I Spy.”
Give an incentive for the entire family completing kitchen clean-up without any complaining or bickering, such as a small dessert or a funny 30-minute DVD.
Use these ideas to spark your own anti-”I need my space!” attitudes, and watch your family become happier and more loving than you ever thought possible.
Resources you may enjoy: