8 Ways to Bring
Out the Best
in Your Family
The booklet you hold in your hands is
one in a series designed to help you with
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Copyright © 2011
PROJECT: Steps to Christ, Inc.
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Printed in the USA
Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,Inc. Used by permission.
All rights reserved.
y Victor Parachin
Jane Riggs of Phoenix, Arizona is a single parent
who is fiercely proud of her five children,
the four girls (two are twins) and a boy. “I
have kept them involved in all kinds of activities—
choir, band, sports, chores at home,” she explains.
“They attend church with my father every Sunday.
Their grades are good and they have aspirations
of attending universities. That will be tough for
a single parent like me to afford, but we’ll manage,”
she adds. Recently, her 75-year-old father
had two femoral bypass surgeries. One became severely
infected, resulting in a longer than expected
When he was released, doctors recommended
placing him in a nursing home. His leg had to be
flushed every four hours and his IV changed every
eight hours. It meant around-the-clock nursing. “I
work 10 to 14 hours a day, but I just couldn’t put Dad
in a home; and my kids wouldn’t hear of it either,”
Riggs says. Here is how her family worked together.
Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth packed up and
moved into her grandfather’s house. The nursing
service taught her how to take care of him.
Kit, Kate and Ashley rode their bikes over daily to
wash, cook, clean, shop, or do anything else which
was necessary. Michael, the 11-year-old, mowed
the lawn. All of the younger children took turns
watching TV or visiting with their grandfather so
their big sister could get some rest. “Their entire
summer was devoted to taking care of the only
man in their life. They skipped going to the movies,
swimming with their friends, visiting the mall,
attending slumber parties, and birthday parties,
and everything else kids do in the summer. I was
so proud of my children,” Riggs adds.
That single mother has every reason to be
proud of her children. Strong and healthy families
know how to work together for the common
good. Often, the test of a family comes when there
is a crisis. Then, some families pull together while
others pull apart.
Here are eight ways to bring out
the best in your family.
Be a Positive-Thinking Parent
Set a tone in your home which gets everyone,
including yourself, thinking, speaking
and acting positively about each other. “Whatever
things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever
things are just, whatever things are pure,
whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of
good report, if there is any virtue and if there is
anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things”
Avoid belittling a child by saying, “You’re a
bad girl.” The problem with that kind of negative
language is this: tell a child she or he is bad and
they may, indeed, grow up to be bad. However,
call your children good, talented, creative, and
they will, in all likelihood, grow up to be good,
talented, creative individuals. As a parent, always
accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.
Do this even when issues and problems emerge in
Mary G. Durkin, author of Making Your
Family Work, offers this sound advice:
“Even if you must discuss problems in the
family, you’ll have much greater success if you accentuate
the positive. Instead of beginning a discussion
on a critical note, begin by complimenting
those involved. Because you’ve made lists of each
person’s good traits, your compliments will be sincere
and hard to resist. They’ll also set the stage for
openness to your other comments, which might
be more critical.”
There is much truth in this popular proverb:
“The family that prays together, stays together.”
Let regular worship be an integral part of
your family lifestyle. Take your children to church;
enroll them in activities for their age; get them involved
in youth groups; have them sing in the choir,
etc. In the context of church and worship, you and
your children will learn new spiritual truths, receive
hope and inspiration, establish friendships with
other Christians, and continue to grow spiritually,
intellectually and emotionally.
In her book, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts
on Faith, author Anne Lamott has a fascinating
chapter titled, “Why I Make Sam Go To Church.”
Anne Lamott admits her son, “Sam is the only
kid he knows who goes to church.” Nevertheless,
his mother insists that he attend church with her.
She eloquently describes why this is so important
to her, and ultimately, to Sam: “The main reason
I want him in church is to give him what I have
found in the world: a path and a little light to see
by. Most of the people I know who have what I
want—which is to say; purpose, heart, balance,
gratitude and joy—are people with a deep sense
of spirituality. They are people in a community
who pray or practice their faith… people banding
together to work on themselves and for human
rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer
of their own candle; they are part of something
“Our funky little church is filled with people
who are working for peace and freedom, who are
out there on the streets and inside praying; and
they are home writing letters, and they are at shelters
with giant platters of food.”
Always Keep the Lines of
For her book, Traits of a Healthy Family,
author Delores Curran surveyed 551 families.
Responding to an extensive questionnaire, those
individuals shared with her their insights on what
makes for a healthy family. “Communicating and
listening were chosen as the number one traits
found in healthy families by my 551 survey respondents,”
she notes. They indicated that without
communication family members don’t know
each other. If they don’t know each other, then
the level of caring for each other diminishes considerably.
“Communication is at the top of the
family list because it is basic to loving relationships,”
Curran says. “It’s the energy that fuels the
caring, giving, sharing, and affirming. Without
genuine listening and sharing of ourselves, we
can’t know one another. We become a household
of roommates who react rather than respond to
one another’s needs.”
So, always keep lines of communication open
with children. And, when they speak, be an active
listener—that is, one who puts things together, understanding
the feelings behind the words. When
your children are truly heard, problems shrink
considerably and parental influence soars.
Involved with Your Children
Every child needs a strong attachment with
their parents. Playtime, physical contact
and conversation produce an emotional investment
which yields positive results. Never allow
work demands, the shortage of time, or the general
stresses and strains of life to keep you from being
closely involved with your children. Strong and
vibrant families only emerge when parents take
an active interest in their children and their concerns.
A good example of this kind of involvement
comes through the life of actor Michael Clarke
Duncan. Although he is enjoying immense success
from his roles in The Green Mile and Planet
of the Apes, Duncan grew up on the rough South
Side of Chicago in the 60s and 70s. After his father
left home, Duncan and his sister Judy were raised
singlehandedly by their mother, Jean. Although
she was a single parent whose discretionary time
was limited, Jean took an active role in the lives of
“My mother taught me how to play baseball,
how to ride a bike,” Michael says. “She would come
out and bat with us. I used to be embarrassed.
I was like, ‘Mama, nobody else’s mother will do
that.’ I didn’t realize that nobody else’s mother
could do that,” he adds. Jean Duncan also taught
her son the importance of legible handwriting,
pressed clothes, holding doors for women. She
warned him about drugs and alcohol, pointing out
neighborhood losers addicted to both. “I’ve never
tasted a beer, smoked or gotten high. Cranberry
juice is as crazy as it gets for me,” he says.
Apply Discipline with Wisdom
The Bible reminds parents: “Do not provoke
your children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4). When discipline
must be applied, healthy and strong families
apply discipline with wisdom, maturity and
compassion. The discipline applied is constructive
rather than destructive. They know the objective
is to correct improper behavior rather than to humiliate
a child. Thus the end result of discipline
leaves the family strengthened, not weakened. In
his book, Single Parenting From A Father’s Heart,
Steve Horner shares an incident which took place
when his son, J.J. (Joseph James) was nine years
old. Horner, a Minnesota resident, remembers it
was New Year’s Day and a fresh snowfall made for
ideal snowmobiling conditions. “My 1970 Polaris
Charger is a rare model that Sears sold for only
one year before dropping out of the snowmobile
business. I had kept it in immaculate condition
and was proud of it,” he explains.
During the course of the day, Horner gave
children rides and let adults drive it on their own.
Late in the afternoon he asked where his son, J.J.,
was. He learned that J.J. was giving a friend a ride
on the snowmobile. “I was frantic,” he recalls. “J.J.
isn’t supposed to drive the snowmobile by himself,
much less give someone else a ride.” After a quick
search, Horner spotted his son and friend with
the snowmobile across a cornfield at the edge of
a row of trees. “As I ran through the snow, I was
concerned that the kids might be hurt. My second
concern was J.J. disobeying a standing order not
to drive the machine alone. My third concern was
that my beautiful, cherished snowmobile might
be smashed,” he says. As he approached the boys,
it became evident that the boys were not hurt.
However, J.J., in an attempt not to get bogged
down in deep snow, accelerated the snowmobile.
Quickly losing control, he smashed head on into
a tree. “The chrome bumper was mangled, as well
as the fiberglass hood covering the engine. It was a
mess,” Horner laments.
On the way home, Horner told J.J. how he felt
and listed the many reasons why his son should
not have been driving the machine. When they got
home, J.J. was sent to his room. “The next morning
I drew up a plan to make this lesson memorable.
We were going to fix the snowmobile together.”
Over the next few weeks, J.J. and his father faithfully
worked at straightening out the bumper,
rechroming it, and repairing the hood with new
fiberglass. “J.J. spent many hours sanding the fiberglass
until it was smooth and ready for paint.
He didn’t complain once. I think he realized he
was getting off relatively easy, and, besides that, he
was enjoying the fruits of his labor. I was proud of
the way he stuck with the job until it was finished.
He had learned a valuable lesson in perseverance,”
his father says.
Allow Children to Suffer and
Learn from Their Mistakes
“Parents in competent families tend to allow
their children and themselves to experience
the cost of irresponsibility more easily then parents
in other families,” notes Dolores Curran. She
stresses that “competent” parents allow children
to suffer the consequences of their actions. “If a
library book is lost through carelessness, they insist
their children make restitution out of their
own allowances. If children offend others because
of their behavior, they, not the parents, do
the apologizing. If a major homework paper isn’t
turned in on time or there is a tardy at school,
the students face the consequences in the form of
a lower grade or after-school penalty; they don’t
expect their parents to come up with an excuse to
soften the teacher’s reaction.”
Practice the Fine Art of Seeking
and Extending Forgiveness
Parents and children are bound to disappoint
and hurt one another from time to time.
These small hurts can fester and grow into large
resentments, which can destroy mutual trust and
respect if not dealt with. Be a family that practices
the art of seeking and extending forgiveness.
Saturate your mind with these various biblical
commands to forgive:
Matthew 6:14—“For if you forgive men their
trespasses, your heavenly Father will also
Mark 11:25—“And whenever you stand praying,
if you have anything against anyone, forgive
him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive
you your trespasses.”
Luke 17:4—“And if he sins against you seven
times in a day, and seven times in a day
returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall
Ephesians 4:32—“And be kind to one another,
tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as
God in Christ forgave you.”
Colossians 3:13—“Bearing with one another, and
forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint
against another; even as Christ forgave
you, so you also must do.”
Psychologist James Dobson provides a personal
example of this in his book, Solid Answers.
“A number of years ago I was burdened with pressing
responsibilities that fatigued me and made me
irritable. One particular evening I was especially
grouchy and short-tempered with my ten-year-old
daughter,” he says.
“Through the course of the evening, I blamed
Danae for things that were not her fault and upset
her needlessly several times. After going to bed,
I felt bad about the way I had behaved and I decided
to apologize the next morning.... I approached
my daughter before she left for school and said,
‘Danae, I’m sure you know that daddies are not
perfect human beings. We get tired and irritable
just like other people, and there are times when we
are not proud of the way we behave. I know I wasn’t
fair with you last night. I was terribly grouchy, and
I want you to forgive me.’” Immediately his daughter
placed her arms around him saying: “I knew
you were going to have to apologize, Daddy, and
it’s OK; I forgive you.”
Pray Diligently for Your Children
Regularly and fervently, lift your children up
to God in prayer. Today’s children are surrounded
by violence, drugs, alcohol, and sex. This
means the peer pressure on them is tremendous.
Tap into spiritual resources, asking God to guide
them, give them wisdom in their choices, and, ultimately,
to protect them from various vices they will
face. When you pray, pray with confidence, knowing
that the God who created your children loves them
even more than you do and that God will hear and
respond to your petitions. “He shall call upon Me,
and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him” (Psalm 91:15);
“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you
shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’”(Isaiah 58:9).
* * *
By cultivating these kinds of bonding traits,
the individual members of a family become a
team, which provides love, security, safety, friendship,
and comfort. Then, when other relationships
weaken and when life becomes a battle, it is the
family which can become an oasis of hope amidst
life’s dilemmas and difficulties.
Other titles available in
the Peacefinder book series:
You Can Stop Smoking
Ten Ways to Improve Your Marriage
A Dozen Ways to Defeat Loneliness
Hope in Times of Trouble
Survival Tips for Single Parenting
Living with Loss
The Healing of Sorrow
Life After Death
Gentle Ways to Ease Depression
To order additional titles, visit our online
bookstore at www.peacefinders.org
or call 1-800-728-6872.
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