A number of years ago, my four-year-old daughter
was starting to say our grace before dinner.
Daddy, fold your hands like this! she
shrieked. Everyone at the table was startled by the
intensity of her outburst.
But if we consider the world from the standpoint
of a four-year-old girl, it may make perfect sense.
She wakes up in the morning and isnt always
sure if shes going to school or not.
Shes not quite sure of which clothes she
should wear, and shes not always sure who
shell be spending time with each day.
Shes not all that comfortable with the
language yet, so its not always easy to get
her point across.
In other words, she lives with a lot of
uncertainty in her life. Having rituals in your
family creates certainty for your kids. Its
an opportunity for your kids to feel secure and to
feel equal in the family. Its a time in which
nobody will tell them what to do and everyone knows
their role. It represents certainty for kids who
live in a sea of uncertainty.
Contemporary American families are entropic,
meaning they drift toward falling apart," says
William Doherty, head of the Marriage and Family
Therapy program at the University of Minnesota.
"Rituals combat that entropy and help hold families
together. Whenever you do a ritual, you are saying
No to other activities or people, and
becoming what I call an intentional family. Most of
us just drift into habits, doing what is most
convenient. But ritualizing means to take a hold of
activities and ask: does this meet the needs of our
family? If it's something like sitting in front of
a TV night after night for dinner, then the answer
So whether your kids are toddlers or teens, make
sure youre holding and creating rituals which
have meaning for your family. Family dinners,
weekend trips, or family laundry day on Sunday can
all have an important impact on your family.
Here are some ideas:
- Create a time each week to do a family chore
together and then order pizza.
- Plan a recreation time for your
family at the same time every week, and rotate
who chooses the activity.
- Create your own special activities on
established holidayson Thanksgiving Day,
bring food or clothing packages to families who
may need them.
- Have a regularly scheduled family meeting in
which you talk about problems, negotiate
solutions, plan fun activities, and acknowledge
each other. Make it sacred. Turn off the phone
and make it happen.
- Make sure that you include your kids in
planning the rituals. The more invested they are
in creating it, the more meaningful it will be.
Theres a tendency for parents today to
throw up their hands when together time
with the family is mentioned. With dance lessons,
baseball practice, piano lessons, and homework
getting in the way, there may seem to be little
time left for the family. Parents in the middle of
an avalanche of activities seem to have lost the
choice along the way.
And while its inevitable that family life
will be busy these days, parents can never afford
to lose the choices available to them. Because the
very soul of your family is expressed
in meaningful rituals that parents choose to
Its difficult to decide against the extra
piano lessons that your son or daughter could be
taking, or to have your child participate in only
one sport instead of two. But by doing so,
youll teach them a lesson thats far
more important than the ones theyll learn
from these other activities: Youll teach them
that their family comes first.
And as their parent, youre the only one
who can make that happen.
© 2007 Mark
Other Father Issues,
* * *
To this day I can remember my father's
voice, singing over me in the stillness of the
night. - Carl G. Jung
a Masters degree in counseling psychology and has
been a counselor, business consultant, sports
counselor, and a certified life and business coach.
He has worked with individuals, teams, and
businesses to improve their performance for over 20
years. Prior to life and business coaching Mark was
a world-ranked professional tennis player and has
coached other world-ranked athletes. He has helped
hundreds of individuals to implement his coaching
techniques. Mark specializes in coaching men to
balance their lives and to improve the important
relationships in their lives. He is the author of
the popular e-books, 25
Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent
Your Wife in 30 Days or Less (And Improve Yourself
at the Same Time
Mark is also the publisher of the Dads
Dont Fix your Kids ezine for fathers.
To sign up, go to www.markbrandenburg.com
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