We know from the Word of God that family is the first institution God gave to humankind. This means that it is important for us to understand how we should lead in this institution. In other words, how did God intend for us as a family to communicate and to connect? My studies of Scripture have lead me to five characteristics that describe a healthy family.
A lot of this comes from my personal experience in raising a family—our two children and four grandchildren. But, families come in all sizes and forms, whether a single adult with no children, a couple with several children, a single parent, a blended family, and any other family type. No matter the format, these five characteristics apply to all family types. And it’s up to the leader of the family to implement them.
5 Characteristics of a Healthy Family
#1: Unconditional Love and Communication
The first characteristic of a healthy family is showing unconditional love. First John 4:10 (AMP) says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation [or sacrifice]…for our sins.” Let’s establish something quickly—unconditional love does not primarily come through the words we speak. Sometimes, we think we are off the hook just because we said, “I love you.” But the truth of the matter is that the words we speak are only 7 percent of the total communication package. Your tone of voice makes up another 38 percent of communication, while your body language constitutes a whopping 55 percent!
Unconditional love to me means learning about my family. What do they like to do? How can I be a blessing to them as a father, husband, and leader?
#2: Family Traditions
Family traditions bring order and stability in your family. These traditions can include vacations, holidays, birthdays—even going out to eat. It’s any time you can create a consistent expectation that something is going to happen. You are going to show up as a family and do something together. Think about Christmas. One year, Becky and I asked our young-adult children, “What are some of the things you really remember about Christmas from your childhood?” 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. Traditions like this bring warmth and fond memories to your children and your whole family.
#3: Commitment of Time
It’s important to find things your family members enjoy doing. Enter their world a little bit. My son really likes to golf. Several years ago, I hated to golf. After a while, I got tired of chasing the ball. But Brant enjoys it and so we play to spend quality time. I get to enter his world; and once I’m there, I find I enjoy doing things he enjoys with him.
You’ve got to make the commitment of time. It’s not just about what you like to do. When we understand these things, we can really build the kind of family God wants us to have.
#4: Every Family Member Is Valued
Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” In other words, we have value before God because we are God’s workmanship.
You need to affirm the value of each of your family members so that they can be secure in the value placed in them by God. When they feel valued, they will value others. When every member of the family affirms the value of every other member, it creates a beautiful dance. This is one of the best foundations for building a healthy family.
Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t really take the time to connect and bond. I like to say it this way: A healthy family has healthy bonds and healthy boundaries.
#5: An Emotionally Safe Home
Another important factor of a healthy home, is that it is an emotionally stable environment. The home is a laboratory for how we are to communicate with other people in society. How we treat each other at home will leak into every situation outside the home. It’s a known fact that many violent teenagers come from violent homes. So much of this anger and violence could be prevented if adult men and women worked to be emotionally consistent in their lives, especially at home.
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, always deal with the issue. Do not demean the value of the child in the process.
Leadership begins in the family unit. I believe God is always preparing us in all circumstances for our future endeavors. I encourage you to examine how you’ve been exemplifying leadership in your family and how you can work towards creating a healthy family environment.
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