I’m a big fan of Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation. I received an email from them today with “10 steps to a successful family life” and thought I’d share it with you. Although this blog primarily deals with business issues, we often remark that achieving work-life integration is critical for any business success. People with happy family lives bring this energy and positiveness with them to the workplace. Here are ten steps that may help create a happy work environment too… (read between the lines there are some strong messages applicable to business relationships too). We also do some presentations on these issues, including a presentation based on Graeme Codrington’s latest book, “Future-Proof Your Child“.
1. Promote the health of your marriage
You need to make the health of your marriage or relationship with your significant other your next priority after yourself. You and your partner in parenting cannot be an effective team developing healthy esteeming structures for your children unless your relationship is healthy first. Children will leave the nest after they reach adulthood and that will leave you and your partner alone. If you two have not spent the time to nurture you own relationship you will have a struggle to redefine your relationship once your children have left. By placing the children before the relationship, you are also setting up the possibility of your spouse or partner being jealous of the children. This can result in the partner competing with the children for your attention. Healthy parents keep their priorities clear and role model healthy relationships for their children. Relationships that are nurtured wisely and in a timely fashion by parents teach children the value of intimacy, privacy, sharing and mutual problem solving. This creates a healthy esteeming environment for people in relationships.
2. Balance career and family life
You must balance the need to work and have a career to insure that your children and family life are the third priority after yourself and your relationship. You can do this by maintaining a balance of obligations of work with home life. Healthy parents put their children in a balanced priority of importance in their lives. Personal, marital and family wellbeing are placed in importance before that of work, recreation and community or volunteer activity. This does not mean that a parent must not attend to the responsibilities of the job or career. Parents need to provide the essentials for survival and security of the family. However, once the survival and security needs are met, healthy parents make it a point of letting go of the workaholic and overly responsible attitude that keeps them invisible from their families. Parents who balance the need to provide for family welfare with the need to interact in healthy ways with the children, role model a balanced attitude about work which will encourage the children to place job and career in a healthy perspective. It also helps the children and the spouse to appreciate the work of the Healthy parent rather than to resent it. Children and spouses often feel like they are competing for the attention of individuals who are too dependent on a job or career for their self-esteem, self-worth and identity in life.
3. Avoid triangulation
You need to avoid getting into triangle communication between children, spouse and yourself. Triangulation occurs when one person communicates to a second person indirectly by going through a third person. This is often done to avoid a conflict with the second person. Parents need to pull themselves out of the third person role. They also need to deal directly with their children without going through a third person. This encourages children to speak directly and assertively with the individuals with whom they have a disagreement or conflict. It eliminates faulty communications or “second person accounts.” It strengthens the relationship between the disagreeing parties and frees the third person from the peacemaker or middle man role. Parents need to avoid putting their children in a third person role when the parents are in conflict. This confuses the children and creates a great deal of discomfort in the family. The healthy parenting team needs to present a united front to the children to prevent a “divide and conquer” mentality which can break down the consistency of parental follow through.
4. Seek win-win solutions
When solving problems, resolving disagreements or settling conflicts, you need to use the win-win solution model. This involves compromising between the two parties so that the solution is satisfactory to both. This results in a win-win where both parties are winners. It avoids the win-lose solution where only one person is the winner. The win-lose solution often results in resentment, hard feelings and fear of future conflict in the loser. The winner learns to use intimidation, coercion, and threatening to beat down the other party. The win-win also avoids the lose-lose solution where neither party wins. This lose-lose solution is deadly to relationships resulting in resentment, greater distance, and a break down in communications between the two parties. Children should not always be on the losing side of an argument and need to learn how to reach compromises in life. This happens in win-win solutions between parents and children.
5. Be the leader of the family
You need to avoid rationalizing to the children why you, as the leader of the family, have decided on specific parental directives, requests or recommendations for them. Healthy parents avoid talking too much about the reasons why they have made these decisions. They recognize that the more they try to explain the wisdom, soundness and validity of their judgments to their children; the more they are undermining their leadership role, authority, and credibility with them. Healthy parents recognize that parents are the leaders of the family and that they do not have to always explain their reasons for their parental directives. They recognize that children might use the question “why” to manipulate situations so as to talk the parents out of their original intentions and by this take control away from the parents. Healthy parents are clear that they are in charge of the family. They are aware that it is unhealthy for children to be placed into an “in charge” position through manipulating their parents by guilt, questioning, and refusal to comply. They make every effort to avoid placing their children in charge of their lives. This helps children learn a valuable lesson in how to deal with authority and leadership in real life situations outside the home.
6. Establish healthy boundaries
You need to establish healthy emotional and physical boundaries with your children. Healthy parents are able to distinguish where their emotional and physical selves begin and end. They are capable of protecting themselves from being invaded by their children. They likewise do not invade the emotional or physical boundaries of their children. Healthy respect for each other’s boundaries is encouraged in this atmosphere. Healthy parents are alert not to allow themselves to become either too enmeshed or too detached with their children. There is an effort made to prevent the children from feeling too smothered by their parents. Also there is an equal effort to provide the children involvement, guidance and nurturing so that they do not feel neglected or too detached from their parents. Physical affection through touch, hugging and kissing is appropriately provided so that the children are not left with any sense of shame or guilt for such interaction with their parents.
7. Encourage respect for others
You need to work at instilling in your children a respect for others. Healthy parents help their children to understand and accept the difference among and between people of different races, creeds, cultures, color, sex, sexual orientation and age. They make it a point to expose their children to settings in which these differences are visible. Other differences in people including: body size, handicapping conditions, developmental disabilities, weight, bodily features and places of residence are also pointed out with respect and acceptance by parents. Children are taught that discrimination of any kind is unhealthy because it exaggerates barriers between people. Healthy parents encourage children to have an open mind about everybody and to hold off from being too critical or judgmental only because of surface characteristics. These parents encourage their children to be generous to others in need by volunteering time, money or talents to activities and programs that build bridges to overcome the differences in people. Respect for others begins at home where the children are encouraged to respect the feelings, interests and needs of others. Healthy parents function in ways around their family members so that their children are able to show them respect and acceptance. They give their children an experience of respect for differences by allowing and accepting the differences in their children unconditionally.
8. Eliminate family secrets
You need to eliminate the keeping of family secrets. Healthy parents encourage their children to maintain a sense of reality as it is rather than reality as it should look. These parents do not require their children to maintain a certain image out in the community to make their family look good. If the family has experienced the pain of alcoholism, drug abuse or other compulsive behaviors for which target family members are now in recovery, there is no need for the children to deny the existence of these past problems as they deal with their everyday life. If the family life has been full of negative fighting, arguing and turmoil, there is no need to deny this to others for fear of making the family look “less than good.” Parents who expect their children to maintain the “looking good” family image are hampering their development of a healthy sense of reality, justice and fairness. Encouraging the keeping of family secrets sets the children up, creating a delusion that their family somehow fits into a fantasy or idyllic image of perfection. Children who are raised in a delusional family environment have a difficult time sorting out reality, rationality and truth as it is. Children are encouraged to freely observe the reality of the humanness of their home life so that they can make better judgments for themselves as to what is healthy or not in the ways their family interacts. By not holding their children to keeping secrets, Healthy parents give their children permission to call them on it, if they are reverting to old unhealthy behaviors that could be injurious to the parents or the family.
9. Seek out professional help
You need to admit when you or your family are experiencing problems that you cannot solve on your own and then seek out professional help. Healthy parents recognize their own limitations and are willing to seek out assistance from professional helpers to address problems that are amenable to such intervention. They seek out competent, licensed, certified and credible professionals in medicine, mental health, education, religion and law to help them and their families to deal with their problems. Healthy parents avoid the sense of pride that insists that they should be able to solve their problems on their own. Healthy parents recognize that they are experts on their children and families because they know them best, by living with them 24 hours a day. Healthy parents do not blindly submit to the advice and direction of professionals, but work as a team with them to come to a workable resolution of the problems. Healthy parents recognize that they may be blind or non-objective in dealing with specific problems that are directly related to them. They try to remain willing and open to the objective observations of professionals on how to address and correct the problems. Healthy parents do not try to fix problems outside of their realm of competency and seek professional assistance to address them.
10. Advocate for children
You need to advocate for your children with the schools, churches, sports teams, clubs and other community systems that serve them. Healthy parents advocate so that these organizations will implement appropriate developmental models to continue the self-esteem enhancement efforts begun at home. They negotiate with the various groups, systems and agencies involved in their children’s lives to insure that they are offering an optimal environment which will build up rather than tear down self-esteem. Healthy parents are willing to speak out if there is an injustice or impropriety aimed at their children. They do not sit back and let their efforts at home to assist their children be sabotaged outside the home. Healthy parents become fully informed about the school system in which their children are enrolled. They make their presence known at school and openly invite all teachers and administrators to involve them on their children’s educational team. Healthy parents monitor the other sports, club and community functions their children are involved in to insure that their functioning is consistent with the principles encouraged at home.