Friday evening at the Savage household. Anne,
17, is in her bedroom reading. Evan, 15, is
on the computer. Erica, 11, is doing a craft
project. Austin, 6, is watching a video. And
Mom and Dad are making preparations for our
family night. Our goal is to pull everyone from
their corners and facilitate some time in an
activity that builds relationship. It's an effort
that is not always met with a "hip-hip-hurray"
response, but by the end of the evening the
feedback rings in with a very positive tone.
Mark and I began evaluating our parenting role
several years ago, we determined that we wanted
to "parent on purpose". We wanted
to have a plan for raising our children. We
wanted to make sure certain ingredients were
present in our family's habits. Our desire was
to look forward and plan our approach now, rather
than look back in 18 years and regret a lack
of direction and purpose.
order to take this proactive approach, we have
worked hard to mesh our two lives and two different
upbringings into a parenting philosophy that
we can both agree upon. It's not been an easy
road, but one I'm glad we took. The most effective
tool for us was our own desire to learn. We
read books, asked questions, attended conferences,
talked about our own upbringing, and took several
parenting classes. And we continue to do so
as we enter into even more uncharted waters
of raising children.
the way, we were introduced to the concept of
family night. It was a concept that was new
to both of us, but one we were drawn to.
begin our evenings by preparing everyone in
advance. They know days in advance, if possible.
If it's more of a spontaneous evening, we still
give everyone a warning to give them time to
wrap up their activities. Family nights never
look exactly the same, but the results are consistent.
We are closer, communicating better, and have
the sense of being teammates on the same team.
talking with other families who value family
nights, here are some ideas in creating time
together as a family: If possible set aside
one night of the week that becomes sacred to
your family. No one accepts an invitation that
evening, no meetings, no social engagements
- it's reserved for family night. Sunday night
works well for many families.
setting aside one night a week is not feasible
with your family's schedule, sit down with the
calendar and plan for some evenings together.
Communicate to everyone these dates and keep
them free from activities.
the kids in planning the activities. When they
feel they have been valued in the planning process,
their desire to participate increases.
be discouraged if the process of gathering everyone
is met with frustration, especially early on.
We all have a self-centered nature and have
to be coached into understanding the importance
of team. Be creative with your evenings: game
night (Scrabble, Monopoly, Pictionary), watching
home movies, going through old photo albums,
watching a movie together, baking cookies. Bowling,
miniature golf, ice skating and even roller
skating make for enjoyable family time, too.
discount the feasibility of having family nights
even if your children have a wide age range.
Last summer we took the kids golfing (this was
a "family morning") at the Par 3 course.
Our older children were able to golf, while
our two year old enjoyed the ride in the wagon
we brought with us.
parents, we have only one shot at raising our
kids. It's not a job we can do over again. That's
why activities that build into the family relationship
are so very important.
Ezzo, author of Growing Kids God's Way, states,
"Peer pressure is only as strong as family
identity is weak." It's a statement that
has stuck with us. Our family nights are one
way we know we can develop family identity.
It's an investment worth making.
Savage is an author and speaker who is passionate
about encouraging families. She is the founder
of Hearts at Home, www.hearts-at-home.org,
an organization that encourages women in the
profession of motherhood. Jill, and her husband
Mark, live with their four children in Normal,