How well do you really know your children?

How often do you talk to your child?  And I don’t mean the everyday mundane conversations.  How often do you really communicate?

Amidst the everyday hustle I find it is easy to overlook the opportunities and/or just be too consumed with the current tasks to really talk to my kids, and more importantly to listen.

Recently I found this quote based on a long term study of parents and children,

“While most parents wanting to transmit their faith understand that their own examples and actions as parents are important in achieving success, some may not be aware that it is the nature and quality of the relationship they have with their child that is crucial-perhaps as much or more that what parents do or teach religiously” (Bengston, Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations).

This is a great reminder that no matter what we try to teach our children through lessons, words, even modeling of our own actions, that ultimately, the most important aspect in portraying the values we wish our children to have is the quality of our relationship.

And just like any other relationship, to strengthen our relationship with our children we must talk and listen.  Talk in a way that is meaningful, ask questions, and most important of all – listen.

If you need a little motivation, or just some fresh ideas, try something like this conversation starter you can download to your iPhone.  Try it out this week, maybe as you are driving from one activity after another.

Ask questions and listen.

Our Family’s Family Night Top 10

In discussing creating a family culture I have mentioned our family’s “Friday Family Night”.  Usually we stick to board games or a movie night, but sometimes we get a little creative.  Have you planned your next family night?

This is our Top 10:

1. Make pizza together.  If you like to get really messy you could make your own pizza dough.  I really like this recipe.  We often buy pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods along with all of the toppings of choice.

2. A picnic and bike ride in the park

3. Make fancy desserts together.  I’m not really sure if this dessert qualifies as “fancy,” but it definitely was time consuming and not a cake for any ordinary day.

Rainbow Layer Cake

4. Board games  Our favorites are Qwirkle, Blokus and Animal Upon Animal.

5. Movie Night.

6.  Dinner at a favorite restaurant.  Or maybe try something new like an ethnic restaurant.

7.  Make something together.  We made birdfeeders once.  It was a mess, but loads of fun.

8.  Work on a puzzle.

9. Get take out and picnic at a local playground.

10. Hold a family meeting, maybe to plan something exciting like a summer vacation.

Family Night, a means for developing your family culture

Each family has its own Family Culture.  As a parent it is up to us to help develop this culture, because whether it is intentional or not, our choices and actions associated with our family will create the culture that ultimately molds our lives.

In our family, the Commander and I are very intentional (although we do have our unintentional moments) to create a family culture which will nourish and strengthen our children in ways we believe important.  One way we do this is through Family Night.

For us, Family Night is decided on a rotation.  Each week one of the five kids will be the one in charge.  We aim for Fridays because it is an evening that most often works for us.  Whoever’s turn it is for the week has the opportunity to decide on the dinner and an activity.  For the most part the options are limitless.  Meals are usually predictable kid favorites and afterward we  do something together which always varies.

Ironically though, family nights are not always as smooth and happy as they seem.  Honestly, there was a time I even wondered, “why bother?”.  Often there is someone who hates the dinner choice, doesn’t like the movie or stomps off because he didn’t win the game.

About this same time I was attending a parenting seminar.  It was a video course where teens were interviewed regarding their family experiences.  Overall, of the teens who regularly spent time of some sort with their families, they expressed that even though not each event went smoothly, or was their favorite, the time spent together was absolutely worth it and because of the consistency of this time together they felt much closer and more loved by their parents.

With this in mind I now see that even though not every family night is a complete success, it is still worthwhile.  Some Fridays we may laugh and play games until midnight, and other Fridays we may have tears and someone that chooses to go to bed early.  But this is normal.  It is life.  Not everything is going to go your way and you have to choose how to deal with it.  Who better to learn this lesson with than your own family?

 

And the winner is…

Last week the winners were announced…  My favorite book  wasn’t the winner, but it was an Honor Book!

Check out this list for the great children’s books of 2014.

“Locomotive,” illustrated by Brian Floca, is the 2014 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker and published by Candlewick Press; “Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle and published by Chronicle Books LLC; and “Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.