Healthy Family Dynamics
We hope you enjoy this last post in our blog series Foundations in Parenting!
“Family dynamics” refers to the interacting forces or values within the family. Our task of parenting will be helped or hindered by way we relate to each other within the family. As parents, we establish the dynamics and values of our home, whether consciously or unconsciously.
- What is most important to us?
- What will we cultivate and encourage?
- Where will we invest our time, energy, and focus?
- What do we want our home to look like?
- What do we want our kids to believe?
The values we hold determine the health of our family and the success of our parenting. It is up to us to set the right atmosphere for our children, to protect them from negative influences, and to create an environment in which they can flourish. If our home is a place of righteousness, peace, and joy, our children will want to serve God. It will be easy for them to make right choices. They will love and honor us, and their lives will bring us joy and pride instead of grief and shame.
All of the values we want to instill in our children must first be found in us. Our example will always carry more weight than our words, so it is vital that we always allow Jesus to renew our minds and reshape our character.
While each family will have certain unique characteristics and strengths, here are several commitments your family can consider.
We Are A Team
Family is about doing life together; it is about meeting each others’ needs, serving and blessing and edifying other members of the family. Though each member of the family is unique and valuable, God put us together for a reason: we are stronger together than we are apart.
A team values the strengths and contributions of each individual. Every member is important. While our culture tends to
reward beauty, academic ability, and athletic prowess, our children may be successful in other ways. Be aware of celebrating their unique achievements and affirm their value as people.
Avoid unhealthy comparisons and competition. Our children are valuable and pleasing to God just as they are. We will crush their spirit and self-esteem if we try to force them into a mold of our own making. Develop the concept that as a team, we do things
together. That doesn’t mean we are never apart, but we are willing to sacrifice personal agendas and preferences for the sake of spending time together or accomplishing common goals. This includes things like hobbies or sports, family movie or game nights, vacations, church attendance, and ministry.
- What are things your family likes to do together?
- Remind your family today that “we are better together”.
We Speak Words That Bless
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)
Words set the atmosphere of our home. What we say should create an environment of peace, security, and uplifting. The Bible has a lot to say to both parents and children about forms of conversation to avoid:
- Lying and deceit (Psalm 34:13; Matthew 5:37)
- Yelling and screaming in anger (Ephesians 4:26, 31)
- Fighting and arguing (Proverbs 20:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10)
- Criticizing (Proverbs 11:12; James 4:11)
- Gossiping (Proverbs 16:28; 17:9)
- Complaining (1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14)
- Flattery and manipulation (Proverbs 26:28)
- Swearing and obscene talk (Ephesians 5:3-4)
- Making fun of others (Proverbs 9:12; 22:10)
- Disrespect and rudeness (Leviticus 19:32; Romans 12:10)
- Bragging (Proverbs 27:2)
Plan to be proactive about filling our homes with positive speech. Look for excuses to compliment and praise our kids. Speak positively over their daily life and how bright their future will be by declaring blessings and the promises of God. Verbally express your love and appreciation for them constantly.
Instability and fear in our children can be created because of arguing or fighting. Children are very sensitive and will often perceive even minor disagreements as “fighting,” so it is usually better to discuss a potential source of conflict out of their hearing.
- What do you do more often: correct your children or compliment them?
- What creative ways of saying “Good job” and “I love you” can you think of?
It is wise to teach our children to speak appropriately to one another. Help them learn while they are young how to handle misunderstandings, offenses, and differences of opinion. It is never appropriate to allow name-calling, screaming, or saying things like “I hate you,” ignoring each other, interrupting, bickering, and other negative communication.
We Guard Our Minds and Attitudes
“…I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” (Psalm 101:2-3 NIV)
“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)
Right thinking and good attitudes are the most important things we take into every situation. What we think and believe will influence what we say, what we do, and who we become. As parents we are responsible to guard the hearts and minds of our family. That means creating a home environment where God’s thoughts and principles are reinforced and where negative
influences are limited.
We have the privilege to teach our children to let God renew their minds and define their opinions through His Word. Respond to
negative beliefs and attitudes with what God says about each situation.
Our kids are affected by the friends they spend time with, the heroes they look up to, the teachers and curriculum they are under,
the television and internet they experience, the music they listen to, the things they read, and the places they go. We should remove the negative influences when we can; when that is not possible, we should help our children develop discernment and
right thinking. That doesn’t mean being unnecessarily defensive or strict, but it does mean establishing clear limits and explaining to our children why we have those guidelines.
- What standards do you expect your children to follow for television, music, reading material, internet, and curfew?
- Can you explain to your children why those standards are right for your family, even if the Bible doesn’t specifically deal with those areas?
We honor God with our bodies
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not
your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians
God created our body and it matters to Him. He not only wants to heal us when we are sick, He wants us to live in health every day. That takes more than faith alone: it takes wisdom and discipline. Understand how to care for our bodies and teach our kids to do the same.
While good parents are quick to provide clothing, shelter, and food for their children, the physical needs of the family often
receive less attention than they deserve. Children can get by with irregular sleep and poor nutrition, but they will flourish only when their physical needs are fully met.
Because of the close connection between body, mind, will, and emotions, a deficiency in one area will affect the others. We will find parenting much easier if our kids are healthy, well rested, and eating properly.
Diet: Children respond differently to different foods. Medical knowledge is readily available for many dietary topics, and as parents we know our kids better than anyone. We need to be alert to the effect of things like sugar, caffeine, and chemical additives, as well as to potential food allergies or sensitivities.
General keys for a healthy diet include:
- Drink plenty of purified water
- Eat a balanced diet, including plenty of protein
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Eat organic as much as possible
- Limit consumption of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, caffeine, and saturated fats and trans fats.
Sleep: The amount of sleep children need is usually more than they get—and always more than they think they need. Sleep is very important for children because it directly impacts mental and physical development. The National Sleep Foundation website states that children will spend 40 percent of their childhood asleep. The exact number of hours of sleep varies with different children and at different ages, as does bedtime schedules and the need for naps. The NSF recommends 12-14 hours of sleep per day for toddlers, 11-13 for preschoolers, and 10-11 for school-age children.
As parents, we can tell when our kids are not getting enough sleep, and we need to do what it takes to adjust their lifestyle. A good step is to establish a routine so they get used to going to sleep and waking up at the same time. Our children should go to sleep when they are tired, not after they “lose it,” which usually signifies being overtired.
Exercise: Children need active play. They have boundless energy and thrive on activity. Depending on their age, team sports can be very helpful, as well as periods of unstructured playtime. Television and computer use should be limited but not necessarily eliminated.
Health: Children don’t know how to care for themselves when they are sick, and it is up to us to determine what they need. Choose to maintain a balance of faith and wisdom when our children seem ill. The first response is always to pray, but depending on the situation, we should not be afraid to take them to the doctor or to give them needed medication.
Puberty: One of the biggest changes our children will experience in their lives is puberty. During puberty, they will face issues of self-esteem, comparison, peer pressure, and emotional upheaval that they have never encountered before. We don’t need to be afraid of this stage or ignorant about our parental role in it. We must be patient when their hormones are raging, but at the same time help them develop self-control and a godly self-image.
It is critical to maintain open communication about sexuality, purity, and self-esteem. Our kids should learn about sex from us before they hear about it from their peers. Our explanations should be age-appropriate and frank but not vulgar. Sex should be presented as God-given, beautiful, and reserved for marriage.
- Did you learn wise habits and attitudes toward your body as a child?
- Do you need to make any lifestyle changes to help your kids develop right physical habits?
We Respect and Honor Others
We teach our children to honor primarily by our example. If we honor authority, so will our children. If we treat other races and cultures without prejudice, our children will too. If the husband treats his wife with respect, his sons will treat their mother, and eventually their spouse, the same way.
Teaching our children to respect others includes such things as being polite, having good manners, addressing others with respect, and not making fun of people. Our kids should show respect for:
- People of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds
- People with special needs or circumstances
- People with different opinions than ours
- Others’ property
- God’s creation
- Are respect and honor attitudes of the heart or forms of behavior, or both?
- Are there people in your life you have trouble respecting?
- If so, how has this affected your children?
Thank you for considering your own family values and how they create Healthy Dynamics.
– Pastor Gini