By Richard and Linda Eyre, authors of "THE TURNING: Why the State of the Family Matters and What the World Can Do About It".
As authors and speakers, we spend most of our time traveling and speaking to parents around the world, and we are increasingly alarmed by how hard parenting is becoming in a world where the anti-values of so many other cultures—the Internet culture, the peer culture, and the media and materialism culture—all pull so hard on our kids.
The challenge for today's parents is to create a family culture that is stronger and has more influence on their children than any of these other cultures. And that is no easy task! It takes a proactive form of parenting where we have a strategy and where we pursue specific objectives.
Why are some families thriving and other families failing? As we meet with parents, we try to keep track of the things that work and the things that don't. Generally, we find that the families that are succeeding—that are raising truly responsible and values-driven kids—are doing seven very specific things:
1. Prioritize Family
Making a conscious, personal recommitment to the priority of marriage and family and recognizing family relationships as the most important thing (to be supported by their achievements and careers rather than the other way around). Many successful parents renew their marriage vows and do all they can to insure their spouse and their children of their total commitment. This is what makes children feel secure and confident and it is this recommitment that constitutes the "turning of the hearts of parents to their children" which scripture tells us must happen "lest the whole earth be cursed" (From which we took the title of our new book).
Teaching and living by solid principles and helping kids to see through the lies and nonsense they see in media and on line—reassuring them that most people still try to do what's right—that most couples actually don't jump into bed on the first date and that the F word is actually not the most commonly used word in the English language. Clarity about what is right and what is wrong gives children the power of discernment and of making good choices.
3. Time Management
Reinventing time management and balance with the priority and emphasis on spouse and children. As they plan their day or their week, successful parents set aside and reserve time for family meetings and activities and for one-on-one time with children. Many actually set relationship goals and help children understand that relationships are ultimately more important than achievements.
Teaching understanding and selective use of larger institutions, and teaching their children to recognize the good and the bad in media, Internet, government, and business, and to use the one while avoiding the other.
5. Family Identity
Creating identity, security and motivation for children through family narratives and ancestor stories, through family meetings, family traditions, family rules, and a "family economy" that shares household responsibilities and allows kids to earn their spending money rather than having an entitlement attitude.
Making communication the constant goal—working on it all the time—between spouses and between parent and child.
7. Values Therapy
Using some form of values therapy where the focus shifts away from what is wrong and toward the rewards and fulfillment of what is right. Many parents have found that by focusing on one basic value (like honesty, or respect, or self-discipline) each month, they can build a family culture that is truly values-centered and build an immunity in their kids against the negative values of the world.
It is still possible, even in today's difficult environment, to create strong, loving, identity-providing families and to raise responsible kids into real leaders—but it takes a committed, proactive approach and a true turning of our hearts toward our children. It is hard, but it is worth it because family is ultimately the source of the greatest joy, and the only way to save this crazy world of ours is one family at a time!
Note: Much of the Eyre's new book is devoted to specific ideas and methods for implementing the seven parenting approaches in this article. For more information, please visit: The-Turning.com or Amazon.com.