Often parents ask me how they can build more love and less anger into their family life. Certainly every mom wants to see her family get along in a cheerful and loving way, but we’re all human, and more often than not, arguing and anger are the norm. So what can we do as moms to increase the love and reduce the tension? Here are a few encouraging ideas:
Encourage Conversation: Understanding and kindness tend to be the by-products of listening and sharing our thoughts with one another. Sadly, in today’s culture we have myriad distractions which keep us from experiencing rich conversations with family members. As moms, we must be deliberate in finding focused face to face time with our families. Studies now show the benefits of conversation around the family dinner table, from everything to improved test scores to adherence to family values. Between soccer practice and piano lessons, we must take on the responsibility to carve out some family conversation time at the dinner table (or breakfast table).
Encourage Eye Contact: When you love someone, you look in their eyes and really see them. Our kids must grow to understand the importance of truly seeing the people in their family. It begins in the home, as we look into the eyes of our own kids when we talk with them, and as we require them to look back at us. Teach your kids that eye contact is a sign of respect and encourage eye contact at the dinner table. Compliment your kids when you notice that they are maintaining good eye contact and also teach your kids the importance of putting down their phones in order to pay attention to people. Eye Spy is a great game to play after dinner or on a road trip. Perhaps you remember how to play – one person says, “I spy something red.” Then the others must ask questions to figure out what it is. A simple game that encourages engagement and attentiveness.
Encourage Loving Words: Our words have a powerful effect on others. Words can be cutting and painful, but they can also be respectful and life-giving. We must teach our kids to use their words in a positive way, building up others rather than tearing them down. The words “I love you,” are often neglected because we assume everyone in the family knows that we love them. As moms, let’s determine that we are going to speak these three words more often, and then let’s encourage our family members to do the same. We build love in our homes by speaking love. Other loving words are:
May I help you?
How do you feel?
I admire you for…
Ask your kids to help you add to this loving word list. You may want to make a poster of your family’s list and keep it in a prominent place as a reminder to speak love into others.
Encourage Forgiveness: Possibly the most important words besides “I Love you,” are “Will you forgive me?” A loving home is a forgiving home. Let’s admit it, as moms there are times when we need to say, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” We need to be askers of forgiveness as well as givers of forgiveness. We must teach our kids to let go of grudges or they will become bitter and angry as they grow. Forgiveness is best taught in the classroom of the home. When we forgive others, we are not saying it is okay for you to hurt me, rather we are releasing the right to hold something over another person. Sometimes we must set wise boundaries as we forgive others.
It goes without saying that the lessons of love and forgiveness begin with our own example. Our kids need to see love in action as they observe it in our lives both with family members and people outside the home. Never underestimate the power of your own example in teaching life lessons in the home. The love and forgiveness you demonstrate in your home and to your family will be passed down for generations to come. I want to leave a loving legacy—how about you?