Editor's note: Second in a series.
Last week we explored three of the seven "parent traps" we see as we travel and speak with parents throughout the world.
Here are some comments about the other four:
Trap 4: Power struggles
(It's laws we want our children to obey, not us, and they need the chance to resolve their own issues rather than always having us do it for them.)
We went about organizing family laws in entirely the wrong way. We started when our oldest children were 2 and 3 and thought it would be a good idea to have them just make "nominations" for family laws in a family meeting and then we just kept track of all the good ideas on a piece of paper.
About five years passed when our oldest, by then 8 years old, came to us one day and said in essence, "Hey you guys, we now have 32 family laws. Even in the Bible there's only 10 commandments! Can't we simplify this a little?"
She was absolutely right, and we resolutely decided on five simple family laws that encompassed most of the others.
Our five words were: PEACE, RESPECT, ASKING, ORDER AND OBEDIENCE.
You will create your own simple, each-with-a-punishment laws, but just as an example, the law of asking just required that a child never went anywhere without asking or without checking with a parent so that parents knew where each child was at all times.
The consequence for breaking that law was that the next time they wanted to go somewhere, the answer would be NO!
Every family will come up with different laws, but having family laws and keeping them simple and concise is crucial to the well-being and security of children in a family.
Trap 5: Bad communication habits
(Our interaction with our kids needs to be more like the communication of humpback whales and less like that of crabs!)
Parents lecture, yell, criticize and put down. Kids argue, talk back, say "why" endlessly and speak disrespectfully.
The patterns become habits, and they rob a home of its serenity and peace and make it less of a sanctuary than an asylum!
There are a couple of ways to combat this.
One is to really use time outs. Send a child who is upsetting the peace to an isolated place where he stays until he is calmed down.
Have a bench or a step on the stairs be the "double time out place" where two kids go who are arguing or fighting, and explain or demonstrate in a family meeting that the only way to get off the bench is to tell you (the parent) what they did wrong (not what the other kid did, but what they did to contribute to the fight or argument).
Then if they say they are sorry to the other child, they can go.
One of the best ways of all is to start a "secret family code of communication."
Go to valuesparenting.com/nurturing/ and work on the nine animal symbols that can dramatically improve both the atmosphere and the communication in your home (not to mention providing a lot of fun and a lot of humor.)
Trap 6: Unbalance and wrong priorities
(Career should support family rather than the other way around, and we must think of our families not as transitory or temporary but as the only permanent institution we will ever have.)
We see so much of it … families uprooting themselves to make a "career move" or professional parents working hours that simply do not allow for family time or parenting time.
This is not to say that we cannot succeed in the world and in the family simultaneously, but it takes a tremendous effort to balance and to prioritize.
And it takes a commitment to make family the most lasting and important institution of all. Family traditions (formalize them by having a "tradition book" showing the traditions for each month), family laws, family places where you go together, family songs, family mottos and mission statements … come up with the things that give your family an identity, and that give your kids an identity larger than their own selves.
Trap 7: Kids ahead of spouse
(Use your oxygen on your marriage first; then your kids have a better chance to survive)
You know in the flight attendant's instructions where they say, "If you have a child with you, apply the oxygen mask to your own face first, and then place the mask on the child"?
It is the same in life. If we do not take care of our marriages and of our spouse, the child will have little chance to maximize the value and security he can get from family.
The old cliché is true: "The best thing you can do for your kids is to love their mother (father)".
Children take more joy and more security from seeing that their parents love and care for each other than from any other thing.
And they take more fear and worry from the signs they see of conflict or a deteriorating marriage relationship.
New York Times No. 1 bestselling authors Linda and Richard Eyre are the parents of nine children and, by coincidence, the authors of nine internationally distributed parenting and life-balance books. They lecture throughout the world on family related topics. Visit them at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com.