First Things First – How to Put Family First Amidst The “Busy-ness” of Life
Habit #3 For Highly Effective Families: Put First Things First ~ Stephen Covey
First Step = Awareness of the Importance of Family
In Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, he reminds us that if we lose our job, we can find another one, if we lose our house, we can find another home, but family is irreplaceable. To be able to put family first, we have to see our family members as our most precious investment. One’s professional role is temporary, but one’s role in the family will never end.
“Family is one of the few permanent roles in life, perhaps the only permanent role” ~ Stephen Covey, p. 116
We all have professional interests, hobbies, social interests etc. but prioritizing family means recognizing that these interests need to be secondary to raising a family.
The place to start is not with the assumption that work is non-negotiable; it’s with the assumption that family is non-negotiable. That one shift of mind-set opens the door to all kinds of creative possibilities.
~ Stephen Covey, p. 118 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
Second Step = Conscience: Consciously Committing to One’s Family Mission Statement
Why Can Working Outside the Home be so Addictive?
A job outside of the home often comes with enormous external validation such as recognition, compensation, and promotion, which all build on one’s self-worth. Many homes have become frantic with the “busy-ness” of children’s schedules, housework, homework, and arguments. On the other hand a workplace, is an environment where one can take breaks, socialize with other adults, feel competent, and experience a sense of orderliness. However, the rewards of a home and family are mostly intrinsic. One is not paid, nor receives a bonus, nor a promotion. The ultimate benefit is fulfilling a role that no else can fill, but this involves Habit #1: Be Proactive. If we don’t take charge of spending time as a family and having family be the moral compass, then wayward influences in our society will be the stronger force.
Third Step = Imagination: Planning How to Spend Time Together as a Family and 1:1 Bonding Time
Adlerian Parenting Theory emphasizes the importance of weekly family meetings (see my article on family meetings for the step-by-step process) and Stephen Covey reiterates their importance – he calls it weekly family time.
The forces pulling on families are just too strong in the modern world. Ultimately, we must decide either to steer or to go where the river takes us. The key to successful steering is to be intentional about our family rituals. ~ William Doherty , Marriage and Family Therapist
To “steer the family” takes planning, while having fun, and that is what a family meeting is all about. According to Covey, family time includes planning, teaching, problem-solving, and having fun which meets our four core needs: physical, social, mental and spiritual. The main goal is to have one time during the week that is focused on being a family. Use your family meeting time to discuss schedules, discuss problems, plan a family activity and have fun! One family incorporated Table Topic Cards (see my previous article: Connecting Over Table Topic Cards) as a way to have a fun discussion at the end of their family meeting.
As well as planning family time, planning 1:1 quality time is also very important. With all the different 1:1 combinations, aiming to have “date-time” with each family member may be more realistic once/month – the main point is that 1:1 time, with each family member, is also prioritized.
How Important is 1:1 Time with My Spouse?
Have you heard of this well-known quote: “The greatest thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse”. Well, it’s true.
“The strength of this bonding in the marriage creates a sense of security in the entire family. That is because the most significant relationship in the entire family by far is that of the two parents. The quality of that relationship truly governs the quality of family life. Children get much of their sense of security from the way they parents treat each other. So building the spousal relationship will have a powerful effect on the entire family culture.” p. 154, Stephen Covey
One-on-ones with children build that sense of unconditional love and positive regard. These special bonding times are opportunities to listen and share without giving advice, unless it’s asked for. These special times together fill the emotional bank account (see my previous article on filling your spouse/child’s emotional bank account), in order that when troubles come along, the relationship feels strong and secure enough to handle whatever challenges may be presented.
I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care – Stephen Covey
Fourth Step = Will: The Commitment to Make Planned Events and Ideas Happen
The calendar is the best way to fulfill this fourth and final step. Take out a pen and paper calendar and book your family time, as well as 1:1 bonding “date-times”. You could highlight in different colours, to represent different family members. Hang the calendar in a place where everyone can see. Just knowing that an upcoming “date” with a parent is coming up, can build reassurance and give a child predictability, as well as something to look forward to. As we enter summer holidays, this is a great time to come together as a family and brainstorm a list of all the activities that everyone would like to do. Figure out which ones are feasible, and put them on the calendar.
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