Good Families Don’t Just Happen is the name of a book I picked up from the Goodwill store a few years ago. I loved the title, and it drew me in because growing up I was able to observe healthy and unhealthy families and I wanted to learn how to be intentional about building a good one.
In this book Cathy and Joe Prat shared their parenting/family tips learned from raising their ten sons! This book was full of great advice and here are five things I learned from them:
1. Successful Parents Do What Unsuccessful Parents Are Unwilling to Do. In order to have a strong family, the Prats say you have to make your marriage relationship first and foremost. It’s really easy to get distracted with life, kids, career and as a result put your marriage relationship on the back-burner.
“Strengthening and maintaining a marital relationship is an active process. Passivity and complacency will not allow a marriage to nurture and grow. It takes continuous effort, but we reap what we sow.” A strong marriage gives the children a strong sense of security and can lay a healthy emotional foundation.
2. Shared Parenting and Family Management is a Must! There are many women who feel like their husbands do not actively participate in the daily raising of the children. This mentality is the fastest way for burnout and can plant a lot of resentment in the relationship.
I totally agree with Joe when he stated “I feel strongly that family must be a shared responsibility. I’m often amazed at husbands who expect their wives to do it all, and then wonder why their wives are frustrated, tired, angry, and unaffectionate.” Joe--it amazes me too!
I am really blessed to have a husband that is extremely helpful around the house and with the kids. So Cathy’s perspective was surprising and refreshingly challenging to me when she wrote, “If your Dad’s willing to fold clothes or fix dinner, then I should be willing to mow the lawn or wash a car.”
I honestly had never thought about doing some of my husband's "chores." However, this past winter when we ordered wood for the fireplace---we were all out there stacking and loading together as a family! It felt really good working together as a team. Even if you are a single parent---make sure you gather a good support network--don’t try to do everything by yourself--build your network and involve your friends in “village parenting.”
3. Treat Each Person in Your Family as an Unique Individual without pressuring them to be like someone else. There are no favorites in a good family. As a parent you might be tempted to favor one child over the next because they have similar interests or personality.
“We do not pressure them to be a doctor, play a certain sport, or march to a certain drummer. They each have God-given talents and must find their own path to follow.” I think this is one of the best ways to ensure jealousy, comparison, and insecurity don’t sneak their way into your family culture. When each child is valued--each one will be a supportive team member.
4. Discipline Should be a Positive Learning Experience. Some parents do not discipline their children and let them get away with any type of behavior. The Prats discourage this kind of parenting strategy and wrote, “One of our responsibilities as parents is to assist our children in all areas of their development. When one of the boys acts or speaks in appropriately, we don’t say, ‘It’s just a phase,” or ‘That's’ the way boys are,’ or blame someone else. We deal with the situation up front and right away. If the boys have been unkind or acted out of line, we let them know how disappointed we are and what we think needs to be done.”
The authors went on to explain that all discipline should be done in a manner that will never give your kids the impression that they are unloved.
Recently, my boy’s were running through a museum (yes my kids act up!) and the security guard came and let me know that he spoke with them, but they ignored him. I brought the boys to the security guard and had them apologize and then handed out consequences once we got in the car. Before we left the museum, the security guard pulled me aside and thanked me. He said, sometimes he’ll tell parents their kids are acting up and the parents don’t do anything. He reassured me that although my boys were running through the museum (so embarrassing) I was doing a good job by dealing with the behavior.
Well, I definitely thought my boys needed some more home training, but it was really good to hear that the simple act of redirecting them and having them apologize was a good thing. Sometimes it's really easy just to ignore my kids when they are misbehaving. Sometimes, it takes so much effort to get them in line, so it was really encouraging to have that man let me know I was on the right track.
Now one of the last things I learned from the Prat family was to:
5. Teach by Example. In other words, be real. Don’t be fake--live out the life and character you want your kids to have. If you are materialistic, dishonest, hard to please, selfish but you put on the opposite face in public, don’t be surprised when your children mimic the same behavior.
In practicing the art of parenthood an ounce of example is worth a ton of preachment.”
The Prats emphasized that “Your children will do as you do! If you want our children to be respectful, we must treat them and our spouse with respect. If we want our children to be responsible, we must accept and fulfill our responsibilities. If we want our children to be kind and compassionate, we must be sensitive and caring in our words and actions. If we want our children to be happy, optimistic, and hopeful, we must show them the way.”
I was reminded of how true this is when one day, my eldest was going around shouting commands at everyone with a terrible tone of voice. It was then that I realized she was totally mirroring my own bad attitude--and let me tell you it was ugly! My kids see me mess up all the time. I’m not perfect and I don’t claim to be because I want my kids to see that we all have weaknesses but can grow and improve each day.
I agree with Joe when he said “To be a good parent means constantly trying to become a better individual.”
Parenting is hard work and building a healthy family is even harder. I hope some of these insights encourage you to keep making your family a priority. Remember good families don't just happen!
If you want to learn more from Cathy and Joe, you can visit: http://www.garcia-prats.com/garcia-prats.com/Joe_and_Cathy.html
I've been married to my best friend Bryan Murray since the year 2000. Now we have four incredible children and a super full life with extended family and friends.