How close is your family?
One of the biggest challenges, if not the biggest challenge, facing the U.S. today is the breakdown of the traditional family unit. AllProDad.com states that:
“Today nearly 4 out of 10 first marriages end in divorce, 60% of divorcing couples have children, and over one million children each year experience the divorce of their parents.”
I’m no relationship expert, but my belief is that if more couples agreed on and lived by a set of meaningful family values, and those values were alive in their homes, the above divorce statistic would go down and families would be closer.
As a man who takes my role as a father and leader of my family seriously, it is my responsibility to create a culture that inspires respect, love, trust, togetherness, and fun. If you want your family to be close, you must make it your responsibility as well. Here are 10 ways to make your family closer:
1. Be the leader of your family!
If you have a family, whether you recognize it or not, you are a leader. It doesn’t matter if you are a woman or man, mother or father, you are a leader. If you have a partner, you are co-leading, and if you are a single parent, you are the sole leader. When I was a business coach, we would frequently remind our clients that leaders have three things: Vision, Action, and Spirit. In other words: you know where you’re going and why you are going there; you are committed to taking the appropriate action to get there; and you are doing it with a spirit that inspires others to be and do their best.
Your first step in leading your family might be to take a good look at yourself in the mirror and honestly acknowledge what kind of leader your family deserves. What kind of partner does your significant other deserve? What kind of parent do your children deserve? What type of life do you deserve? As the leader of your family, you cannot leave the future up to chance. You must lead. The people around you are depending on you to do so.
2. Establish family values
As stated above, I think one of the biggest challenges facing our culture today is the lack of individuals understanding personal values, which results in a lack of family values. Part of the “good look at yourself in the mirror” that I talked about above is admitting to yourself what is truly important and meaningful to you. What type of person do you want to be and what type of person do you need to be to have the life you deserve to have? As an example, here are my personal values that I try to live by every single day:
- Live with meaning, by knowing what is important and letting that direct my life
- Provide value to the people around me
- Live with integrity by walking my talk
- Good health is the foundation of everything—mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually
In relation to your own family: what is truly important to you all? What type of family do you want to be? What type of family do you need to be to live the lives everyone in your family deserves to live? As an example, here are the values or “rules” of my family, in order of priority:
- Respect: self-respect and respect for others
- Family first
- For myself, my career; for my children, school
- Other commitments
- Being social and fun
My personal values are the rules that I live by, and my family values are the rules my family lives by. In a demanding, distracting, and over-stimulating world, our personal and family values help us keep focused on things that are truly important and meaningful to us. The more you are able to focus on things that are truly important to you, the more meaningful and fulfilling your lives will be. As the leader, you have power to make this happen.
3. Create the culture of your home
As the leader of your family, when you establish your family values you have just taken the first step in creating the culture of your home. Your home culture is the spirit that lives in your home and it is felt by everyone who walks through your door. Most importantly, it is the spirit that lives within your family.
For me, above everything else, the spirit I try to be most intentional about in my home is the spirit of respect, love, and togetherness. It’s critical that we respect each other, are loving toward one another, and make a conscious effort to spend time together. As the leader of your family, you can make that happen. How awesome is that?
4. Be present
Your role as the leader of your home is an active role, not a passive role. The only way to create and sustain a home culture based in meaningful family values is for you, as the leader, to make sure they are living. The only way to ensure they are living is for you to be present and active: mentally, emotionally, and physically. If you, as the leader of your home, don’t act like your values and culture are important, why will anyone else? As the leader of your home, it all starts with you.
5. Live by example
In the spirit of “it all starts with you,” you must not only be present, but you must set the example. For crying out loud, you are leading the most important group of people in the world to you to greatness! If respect is important to my family, I had better have self-respect and show respect to those around me. If love is important to my family, I had better be loving to those around me. If togetherness is important to my family, I had better be making an effort to not only spend time with my family, but also encourage them to spend time with each other. As the leader of your family, you must be the example!
6. Control your schedule
As the leader of your family, you must control your schedule or it will control you. A lot of people seem to be really, really busy. When they are too busy and stressed, it’s like a badge they want to present to the world that makes people know they are really busy.
The concept of being really busy seems to be a crutch for a lot of people. They don’t focus on their health, plan their finances, give time to people they say are important to them, or do the things they really want to do, because they are too darn busy. Well, that is flawed thinking and a bunch of baloney!
People are too busy because they don’t control their schedule and they allow less important people and things distract them from what is really important. If you want your family to be close, you must plan for them to be close. You must be intentional with your schedule and make time for the important things. You need to communicate to your partner and children so they can control their schedule as well.
7. Plan with purpose
A few years ago, a mentor of mine said to me, “You can tell a lot about what is important to a person by looking at their checkbook and calendar.”
If you know what your personal and family values are, it is easy to plan with purpose because you know what is purposeful. Are you intentional about where you are spending your energy, time, and money? Plan with purpose so you can do the things you want to do as a family and spend your resources on things that will give the greatest meaningful return. You are in control, my friend! As the leader of your family, you must plan with purpose.
8. Hold accountable
What I don’t want to get lost in this is that life gets busy. I have a full-time career, own an events business, commit an hour and a half per week to mentoring young men, and above everything else, have a family that is important to me. I am constantly checking myself to make sure my decisions are aligning with the right things.
As the leader of your family, you must first hold yourself accountable that you are focused on the right things. Next, if other members of your family are allowing the rest of the world to push and pull them in other directions, you need to lovingly hold them accountable. If you are a parent, sometimes you flat out have to make the decision for your children.
If I see my daughter being spread too thin and not focusing on the right things, I will step in and say, “No, you are not doing that, because of this, this, and that.” Because our family values are alive in our home, she gets it. She doesn’t always like it, but she gets it. Holding others accountable is not always asked for or popular at times, but there is a difference between what is popular and what is right. As the leader of the family, you must do what is right!
9. Remind often
If the spirit of your home embodies your family values, reminders will happen automatically. Now, reminders might feel a little like accountability, but they are two different things. Accountability is more of a reaction to a situation and reminding often is simply being proactive. I often talk to my children about how important it is that we spend time together and how lucky we are to have each other. When giving reminders you don’t have to “lay it on thick,” but little reminders of your family values and the spirit you want your house to embody will keep everyone connected and be top of mind as they are making decisions. As the leader of your family, if you are living with Vision, Action, and Spirit, the example you set may be all the reminder your family needs.
10. Have fun
Imagine a world where everything you do is meaningful and fulfilling. As the leader of your family, can you think of anything more fulfilling than your family being closer, both emotionally and physically? I don’t know about you, but I want to have as much fun with my family as possible. When we aren’t together, I want to be able to feel proud that I am doing everything I can to ensure my family is having fun and is happy and healthy. When we are together, our fun and enjoyment will be maximized because respect, love, and togetherness are important to everyone and are the foundation of our home.
Your family being close is a decision that you, the leader, has to make. It doesn’t just happen. The world will eat you up and spit you out if you let it—and a lot of people let it happen. Be different and make the decision for your family to be close and take action to make that happen. If it is important to you, I promise it will be the most important, meaningful, and fulfilling decision you ever make. Be the leader your family needs and deserves!