Today, in the Christmas season, I want to talk about the importance of a healthy family. You can catch up on the first characteristic, unconditional love, here. Today we want to pick up with characteristic #2, which is a healthy family establishes family traditions! That has Christmas written all over it.
Number Two: Establishes Family Traditions
Family traditions bring order and stability in your family. These traditions can include vacations, holidays, birthdays—even going out to eat. Think about Christmas. Last year, Becky and I asked our children, “What are some of the things you really remember about Christmas from your childhood?” And one of the things they both brought up was how we would always make tea cakes together. Tea cakes are a type of dessert, and the tradition came from my wife’s 96-year-old grandmother. She was born in 1892 and every Christmas she made two things: homespun and tea cakes. We picked up the tea cake tradition. These traditions bring warmth and fond memories to your children and your whole family.
We would do the same thing for vacations. Every year, we would take a vacation. We did everything from going to the lake to water ski, to taking more exotic European vacations. We took them to New York several times. This annual rhythm established tradition and fun.
I once had a father ask me, “What do you do when you have a 14-year-old son who doesn’t want to spend any time with you?” I told him, “You find out what they like to do and you go do that with them.” So he went out and bought his son one of the best skateboards you could buy. Now it’s not about money and things. But by doing that, he was showing his son how important he was as a son to him as a father. The father started taking his son to different, cool places to go skateboarding. Today, because of that, this man and his adult children have a great relationship.
Maybe you’re tuning into this vlog and there are things you haven’t yet established. Maybe you’re a young couple or there are things you’d like to do. Well, do something that establishes family time together that can then become a family tradition, whether that’s sitting around the table playing games or going on a yearly vacation. Make sure it’s something that every member in the family enjoys doing.
Children don’t know how to communicate this, but they really want to know they have parents they can depend on. Now a 5-year-old isn’t going to wake up and use the word depend. But in their hearts, they need dependability and stability from their parents. Family tradition helps establish that.
I didn’t get to finish everything I wanted to fit in last week, so let me finish here. When it comes to understanding the importance of that stability and security, always make sure you are maintaining an emotional bond with your children. That gets tough when they start getting to be about 12, 13, 14! Here’s something I did that worked.
I would walk into my children’s bedrooms every night, all the way through high school, kiss them on the forehead, ask them how their day was, and tell them I love them. When they were younger, I would pray with them, but as they got older, we started to do that in the morning.
Then other times, if I felt like there was a distance growing between us, here’s what I would do. Kids like to go out to eat—especially if you go where they want to go. I would take them out one at a time, so I would have a date with my daughter and a date with my son. I would make sure I looked at them and listened to them. I didn’t talk about the things I wanted to talk about. I would talk about the things they wanted to talk about.
Some people say, “How do you do that?” Well, you learn to ask questions. You start with, “How was your day?” and they’ll start talking. I know sometimes the emotional bond is lost. Then when you ask a sixteen year old how their day was, they roll their eyes. But if you maintain that emotional bond as they’re growing up, you can always have that connection regardless of what’s going on.
Another important thing is the relationship in the marriage. When the husband and wife maintain an emotional bond between themselves, the children see the genuine love, not the fake stuff. You can’t kid your kids that live in your own house with you. All your idiosyncrasies and other stuff will come out. But when they see real love, real concern, and real connection modeled before them, I promise you they won’t be able to wash it off. It’ll get into their DNA.
It’s also important to always emotionally separate your anger from your love from them. Don’t ever discipline out of anger. Now I know parents do that, and I’ve made that mistake myself. But to the best you can, don’t discipline out of anger.
Always remain objective with your children when negative circumstances and challenges come up. In other words, see them as who they are and the value that God has put in them. And if there’s been negative circumstances or issues, deal with the issue, but do not criticize them in a way that you devalue their self worth. Make sure that you’re talking to them about who they are and how valuable they are. If there’s a behavioral issue, you always deal with the issue. Do not demean the value of the child in the process.
Don’t live vicariously through your children. That’s hard to deal with and that was hard for me. When my son and daughter were out on the field, I was wanting them to win and was yelling as if I was on the field myself. I know it’s hard! But don’t make your kid a trophy. Celebrate the victories, but also be there in the defeats. I remember when my daughter was running for class officer and lost the election, I let her know that she was no less valuable to me whether she won or lost.
Our job as parents is not to raise good children. Our job as parents is to raise healthy adults. I want children that can grow into adulthood and be healthy, whole and sound so that they can have an impact in the earth and in the world.
I’ll see you on Friday to talk about the third characteristic! Thanks for watching.
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