A guide to good family habits

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Follow these guidelines that will lead you and your family to a happy, proactive and creative household, in an environment where everyone can be the best that they can be. Build a strong, close family with these good family habits.

 

Stephen Covey husband, father, grandfather and author of the number-one best-seller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, shares secrets to building a strong, close family.

Habits of a happy family     

HABIT 1: BE PROACTIVE   

It is so easy to be reactive! You get caught Lip in the moment. You say things you don't mean. You do things you later regret. And you think, "If only I had stopped to think about it, I never would have reacted that way!"   

Family life would be a whole lot better if people acted according to their values instead of reacting to the emotion or circumstance of the moment.

It's possible to develop a habit of learning to pause and give wiser responses. Proactively is the ability to act rather than react.  

I have been fortunate enough to coach a variety of sports teams, rugby, football, hockey, cricket, you name it. Whether it is a junior team of U9s or a senior national squad, this powerful proactive tool comes into play. Sport can and certainly is an emotional and passionate affair. It is so easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Possibly perceiving a call from the referee as poor or just that your team is not playing to their best ability can be very frustrating.

I take 3 deep breaths and write a few points down always before I talk to my team at halftime, because if you are angry in a moment of passion you will say something you do not mean, and you could well regret your words or even worse, your actions later.

One of the great benefits of being proactive is that you can choose to make deposits instead of withdrawals. No matter what the situation, there are always things you can choose to do that will make relationships better.   

Little kindnesses go a long way toward building relationships of trust and unconditional love. just think about the impact in your own family of saying "thank you," "please" or "you go first." Or performing unexpected acts of service such as phoning to see if there's anything you can pick up at the store on your way home. Twelve hugs a day-that's what people need. Hugs can be physical, verbal, visual or environmental. And each one is a deposit in the emotional bank account.

HABIT 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND   

With Habit 2, you create a clear, compelling vision of what your family is-and where you want to go together. The most profound, significant and far-reaching application of Habit 2 is the family mission statement. This is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what it is your family really wants to do and be-and the principles you choose to govern your family life.   

When children are young, they generally love to be included in the process of creating a mission statement. They love helping to create something that gives them this sense of family identity.    

Here's how to create a mission statement in your family.        

Step One: Explore what your family is all about. Call a family meeting to introduce the idea and start the process. Keep it short: Ten fun minutes a week over a period of several weeks will be much more effective than one or two long, philosophical discussions.    Be explicit with the idea that you want the mission statement to serve as a unifying and motivating influence for everyone in the family. Ask questions such as: What things are truly important to us as a family? What are our family's highest priority goals? What kind of relationships do we want to have with each other? What are our responsibilities as family members?        

Step Two: Write your family mission statement. The process of writing crystallizes your thoughts and distills learning and insights into words. It also reinforces learning and makes the expression visible and available to everyone in the family.    Whatever you come up with at first will be a rough draft. Family members will need to work with it until everyone comes to an agreement: "This is our mission. We believe it. We buy into it. We are ready to commit to live it."    It doesn't have to be some magnificent verbal expression. It may be a word, a page, a document, even a song or a drawing. The only real criterion is that it represents everyone in the family and inspires you and brings you together.        

Step Three: Stay on track. A mission statement is meant to be the constitution of your family life, the foundational document that will unify and hold your family together for decades-even generations-to come.       

HABIT 3: PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST   

There's no way we can be successful in our families if we don't prioritize them in our lives. And this is what Habit 3 is about.   

There is probably no single structure that will help you to prioritize more than a weekly family night. On a typical night in our own family over the years, we would review our calendar of upcoming events, hold a council to discuss issues and problems, have a talent recital so the kids could show us how they were coming along with their music or dance lessons, do a short lesson and a family activity and serve refreshments. In this way, we'd accomplish what we've come to feel are the four main ingredients of a successful family night: planning, problem-solving, teaching and fun.   

The second absolutely foundational family structure is the one-on-one bonding time. These one-on-ones are where most of the real work of the family is done. This is where the most significant sharing, the most profound teaching, the deepest bonding takes place.       

A mother of five sons said:    The other day, I took My 22-year-old son out to lunch. As we ate together, we talked about his life, including his classes at school, his plans for the future, and so on.    We had a wonderful time just being together. As I thought about it later, 1 realized this is something that didn't just happen. I started this one on-one tradition when the boys were in elementary school, and it's really made a difference. I don't think I could have this kind of time with my son now if we hadn’t started doing it when he was younger.        

HABIT 4 THINK "WIN-WIN"   

As we move toward our destination as a family, we're sometimes thrown off track by external forces. But the force that does the greatest damage is the climate created within the family by negative emotions-competition, criticism, blaming, anger.   

The key to handling these challenges is to cultivate a family culture of mutual respect, understanding and creative cooperation. This is the essence of Habits 4, 5 and 6.        

Thinking win-win means you have this spirit of win-win in all family interactions. You always want what's best for everyone involved.   

Of course, there will be times when you'll have to say no to children. This doesn’t feel like a win to them. But if you cultivate the spirit of win-win whenever you can, children will better understand and accept those decisions that sometimes seem to them to be win-lose. There are several ways to achieve this.     

HABIT 5: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND ... THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD   

There's simply no way to have rich, rewarding family relationships without real understanding. Most mistakes with our family members are not the result of bad intent. It's just that we don't understand. We don't see clearly into each other's hearts.   

Really listening to get inside another person's mind and heart is called "empathic" listening. It enables you to see as someone else sees-and it also helps family members feel safe in sharing, gets to the real issues and helps people connect with their own unique gifts.   

Remember, the key is in the sequence: First you seek to understand another person's point of view; then you share your own. It's not just what to do. It's also why and when.  

Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear, whereas listening requires more than that. The good habit of listening can really get you noticed in your career path and is a healthy habit for all your relationships. Remove all distractions and focus on what is been said.        

HABIT 6: SYNERGIZE   

Synergy is the magic that happens when one plus one equals three-or more. It comes out of the spirit of mutual respect and understanding you've created and produces a brand-new way to solve a problem.    

Synergy also helps you to create a culture in which you can successfully deal with any challenge you might face. The culture created by Habits 4, 5 and 6 is like an immune system. It protects your family so that when mistakes are made, or when you get blindsided by some physical, financial or social challenge, you don't get knocked out. You can deal with whatever life throws at you and use it to make the family stronger.        

HABIT 7: SHARPEN THE SAW

If done properly, consistently and in a balanced way, Habit 7 will cultivate all of the other six habits and keep them strong and vibrant. How? Simply by using them in renewing activities-especially, family traditions. That's what we mean by "sharpening the saw."    Traditions give family members a sense of belonging, of being understood, of being supported, of being committed to something that's greater than self. And the family renews the emotional energy of a tradition every time they revisit it.   

Think of all the opportunities for fulfilling traditions:

Family dinners. You may have only one good meal together each week, but if it is meaningful and fun, the family table can become more of an altar than an eating counter. 

Family vacations. Planning for a vacation, anticipating it and thinking about it-as well as laughing about the fun times and the dumb times we had on past vacations-are enormously rewarding to our family.

Extended and inter generational family activities. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and other extended family members can have a tremendous positive influence. Broaden almost any activity, such as Sunday dinner, to include them.

We have met as a family for as long as I can remember. More often for Christmas, but this meeting and sharpening of the saw with family traditions has placed us into the world ready for any challenge.

As your family works together on Habit 7 and all the other habits, remember: Like a new pair of glasses or a new, more accurate map-the 7 Habits framework can help you to see and communicate more clearly, and will help you to arrive where you, as a family, want to go.

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