After one of our presentations, a mom and a grandma came up together and asked us a simple but profound question: “In this busy world, how do we remember to prioritize our family every day?”
It’s a great question because we all want to put family first, and we all know we should, but we live in a world where everything else seems to be pulling our attention away. We are so busy with work, with church, with friends — and the distractions literally surround us and get delivered right into our brains by our gadgets. All these duties and connections and agendas and apps and social media are “squeaky wheels” and they tend to get the grease — often at the expense of the time and attention we know we should be giving to our children.
The simple truth is that we prioritize what we think most about, and, frankly, knowing what should be our first priority doesn’t compete very well with all the things that force their way into our consciousness.
Parenting is hard and demanding, and it doesn’t come after us — it just sits there and waits to see what we will do. There are so many things that are easier and more pleasant, and they are aggressively thrusting themselves in onto our awareness and into our brains.
We wanted an answer for that mom and grandma that was as simple and profound as the question they had asked, and so this is what we told them:
The only real way to prioritize family is to think about it more. Busy schedules, smartphones and everyday demands take our minds off of our children and our marriages and our families. To keep our brains focused on our kids, we need some “attention help” in the form of family websites and apps or other reminders that come to us every day.
We need to communicate with or be with other parents who stimulate us and have ideas and can understand and empathize with our concerns — and help us get better and do better with our kids.
Let us suggest four kinds of websites that can hold your interest and increase the amount of mental energy you devote to your children and your family. There are some family apps out there too, but we will save them for another column. Hit “comment” and send us any family apps you like and might want to share.
1. Motivational websites for moms. Our favorite is Power of Moms at powerofmoms.com because it was developed by our daughter Saren who is now evolving it to Power of Families.
2. Academic sites that teach us about what is happening to families and how trends can affect our family. Our favorite is the Institute of Family Studies ifstudies.org where you can sign up for email bulletins.
3. Parent blogs or “mommy blogs.” There are so many good ones, and the ones by our kids keep us tuned to their lives and give us exciting ideas. Some of our favorites: 71toes.com, drippingwithpassion.blogspot.co.uk and lovetaza.com.
4. Parenting programs and ideas websites. There are lots of good ones. Our own is ValuesParenting.com that is specifically designed to keep pulling our thoughts back to what matters most. From experience, we can make you this promise: Every time you visit ValuesParenting.com, your brain will refocus on family. And there are enough ideas, enough programs and enough resources on that website to keep family life and parenting and marriage exciting and refreshed.
There are hundreds of pages of content, but it is organized and set up in a way that you can navigate right to what you are concerned about. For example, in the “other programs” menu at the top, you will find a four-part course on “The Happy Family,” an insightful section on parenting adolescents, and an Empty Nest tutelage for older parents. In another more personal part of the menu, you will find Linda’s blog, our most recent radio shows and podcasts, and links to this newspaper column. There are also clicks for free parenting books, for a family value of the month, for a sample dialogue for talking to kids about sex, and even for a “secret code” for better family communication.
Let us end with a challenge: While you are online each day (and most of us are online every day) make at least one visit to a family or parenting website — and browse a bit. Just making that visit will pull your mind back to the priority of parenting.