One of the greatest blessings we can give our children is the cultivation of a happy home. I say “cultivation” because it doesn’t happen automatically; it requires conscious, determined, deliberate effort. From my own experience and from observing others, here are ten ways to cultivate a happy home.
1. Joyous worship
As God is the ultimate source of all true happiness, we need to be in constant contact with him. Communing with him in private and family worship brings His joy into our lives and families. We have to make time for worshiping together as families – not as a “must do” but as a “get to do.”
Fathers especially have a responsibility to organize their schedules and homes so that they regularly gather their families in God’s presence and enthusiastically drink from His refreshing rivers of joyful grace in Christ.
2. Generous praise
Psychologists and sociologists have found that for every negative or critical comment we make to someone, we have to make three positive comments just to get back to even. That means if we want to grow and deepen our relationships we have to speak four or five times more positive comments to someone for every negative.
And let’s be lavish in our praise of people outside our home too. Instead of rejoicing in others’ falls and failures, let’s rejoice in their successes. When someone criticizes someone, let’s find something to praise about them too.
3. Family Meals
In our hectic world, it’s almost impossible to get family members to just sit down for five minutes and talk. There are always more important and urgent things to do. Family meal times fix that. Even with conflicting schedules, shift work, etc., we have to try as hard as possible to maximize the number of times in a week that the whole family (or as many as possible) are “forced” to sit down and talk together. You’ll be surprised at how enjoyable it is.
4. Habitual Gratitude
When I notice that our family conversation has been turning a bit negative over a period of time, I usually initiate the “three blessings” practice for a few days or weeks. We go round the table and ask each family member to list three things they’re grateful for. That practice seems to kickstart a more general gratitude in life as well, enhancing relationships and deepening joy.
5. Funny Stories
I’m always on the look out for funny stories and good jokes to share. They may be stories from my own life and work, or stories I’ve heard from others; and I’m always on the lookout for humorous incidents on the Internet.
Or it may be a bit of gentle teasing of my wife or kids, laughing with them at something silly they (or I) said or did that day. All of this is so much better than majoring on the latest disasters and horror stories from all round the world.
6. Quirky videos
As I read blogs and websites, I often come across short funny videos that I bookmark, and every few days I’ll sit down with some of my kids and we’ll have a good laugh reviewing these. Another great source of short, informative, amusing and family-friendly videos is Wimp.com. Many’s an hour on a Saturday morning after our Waffles and syrup we spend lounging on the sofa with the iPad enjoying the weird and wonderful people and pets in our world.
7. Less doing
I thought British kids were over-scheduled, but American kids have even more packed into their days and lives. It’s all good things like sports, clubs, youth fellowships, etc., but they hardly ever get time to do nothing. Same with parents – we’re all so strung and stressed out and just making ourselves miserable with all that we are trying to accomplish. Sometimes I’ve stopped my kids doing really exciting things because they just needed to stop, sit still, rest, and even just sleep. No, the decision didn’t exactly produce instant happiness – but a surprising happiness was the long-term result.
8. Willing service
Most kids seem to think that they will be happiest when everyone is serving them. Many parents have fallen into this trap too, virtually becoming their kids’ slaves. Although it’s counter-intuitive and counter-cultural, we can greatly increase our children’s happiness by helping them find joy in serving others – that begins at home, but should also extend to school, church, and the community. They will gradually experience the strangest yet most wonderful happiness in such selfless service.
9. Joint projects
Try to find projects that the family can do together – yard work, or painting and furnishing a room. The last couple of weeks our family banded together to help me build a deck in our yard. It’s fun to work together, and even better to look at the finished product together with a sense of mutual delight and satisfaction – “We did it!”
10. Unbreakable relationships
Kids thrive on a sense of security and stability. I’ve noticed that some kids get quite troubled and worried whenever they hear of another divorce or relationship breakdown. I can almost read their minds, “If that happened to them, could it ever happen to us?”
We need to communicate to our kids that our marriages are unbreakable, that they can count on us to stick with one another through thick and thin, that we love one another forever, and are totally committed to one another. Same goes for our relationships with them – we show them that even when we are angry with them and have to discipline them, we will never cast them off or out – physically or emotionally.
What would you add to the list? What have you found that helped build a happy home?