Rivalry and Unity
Building Family Unity
What can we do to build positive relationships in our family? How can we create a home life which encourages a sense of unity and teamwork, rather than constant competition and rivalry?
Discourage problem behaviors. We don’t allow bullying or pestering (we talked about this in the last post). We have a rule that “Your Home Should Be a Haven.” You should never have to be on guard against your brothers and sisters. For example, we don’t allow name calling, ever. And nicknames have to be acceptable to the one who gets labeled.
Beware of sarcasm and mockery. The culture revels in the sharp put-down and verbal one-upmanship. That shouldn’t be the tone of our home life. We know families where the husband and wife are constantly sparring – not out of bitterness or hatred, but a misguided idea of fun and teasing. Be careful; not only do the children pick up on this and gain an outside reputation as sarcastic, disrespectful kids, we sometimes find that one spouse thinks it’s all in good fun, and the other is struggling to play along but harbors a secret hurt.
Instead, embrace and teach your family’s special heritage. What makes your extended family special? In our family tree, for example, there are numerous pastors, there are many who answered the call for military duty, and a reputation for honesty. So, when we talk with our kids about the need for integrity in all things and service to God and country, we often point out, “It’s what our family does.”
It can also be a call to be on guard. Does your family have particular temptations or trials – a weakness for drink, a bad temper, a tendency toward depression? Then rally your troops and remind them, “Look, these are dangerous things in our family – let’s help each other avoid them!”
Promote team spirit. How does a team identify itself? How about team shirts or hats – not every day, but from time to time? When we made a major trip several years ago, we bought two sets of inexpensive polo shirts so the whole family would dress in blue one day, green another. It made it easier to navigate through crowds and airports, but it encouraged us – and others, too – to think of ourselves as a special group. When Hal had cancer, the boys bought him a really cool fedora to wear in case the chemotherapy made him bald – and the hat was so cool, they all bought fedoras to match! We actually had a TSA agent call us at an airport, “Hey – Indiana Jones family! This line!”
Spend significant time as a family. It’s great to encourage each family member to develop his or her own gifts and interests, but keep an eye on how much time and attention they draw. It’s better if you find activities that several family members can share, and balance those which are more individualistic. For example, we have several boys who have played football, so Saturdays in the fall are just a long picnic for all of us.
If one has a particular individual interest, be sure that time is balanced with family time, too. Maybe when the children are little, it’s a time to step back a bit from our own time-consuming hobbies – you may have an opportunity to resume when your child is old enough to participate, or save it for retirement. Our family may divide between football players and football watchers in the fall, but that’s the only team sport we do – outside football season, there’s more focus on family-wide activity.
Embrace traditions you have, and create your own. The memories we share at holidays, vacations, and other activities help bind our hearts together as a family. It’s important to have some traditions which are just your immediate family’s. If you always go to Grandma’s house for Christmas, maybe you should create another tradition at home, too – caroling at the neighbors’ houses, or preparing “shoe box” packages for children on the mission field, or baking a special family recipe just once a year. Adopt a mix from both parents’ childhoods, and explain them to your children.
It’s amazing how even accidental traditions settle in our family’s mind. For several years, every Sunday, Hal would fix sausage-and-egg taquitos for the family while listening to “Great Sacred Music” on the local classical music station before church. To this day, the older boys tell us that whenever they hear Anglican church music or Gregorian chants, they think of taquitos on Sunday morning! Keep your eyes open, and you may find things you already do which are unplanned traditions for your family – like beeping the horn when you cross a state line, or cooking banana and chocolate chip pancakes on vacation, or bursting into song on random cues (we do all these, too!)
A sense of unity and belonging is a great thing in a family — but it’s not an accident. If you’d like that sort of relationship in your home, why not make it goal and work toward it — together?
We talked about promoting family unity in episode 92 of our podcast –
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!
We have a whole workshop on this topic called “A House NOT Divided” – it’s available for
Photo Credit: sebadelval – Pixabay