Since my eldest was born 17 years ago, my wife and I have realized there are many things people say children should learn, many things parents should focus on to ensure their kids turn out great, to have a happy family. We’ve tried a few of them. Some of them have worked, but many of them have been real stinkers.
We’ve done our best. We’ve had some highs, and we’ve had some lows. We don’t focus a lot on grades, we don’t sign up for a lot of extracurricular activities. We may have yelled more than we meant to, and I’m pretty sure we’ve frustrated our kids’ teachers more than once with those middle of the school year vacations.
Yet, in spite of our mistakes, I’m told quite often, “You have great kids,” or “Your family always seems to have so much fun.” I like that. I love it when someone compliments my children and says nice things about them. It means a lot to me when someone notices the smiles on our faces. As a parent, we know all the ways our kids screw up, so when someone stops and says something nice, it makes me stop. When they compliment our family, it makes me pause and wonder–maybe we’re doing something right?
Recently, I think I discovered what my wife and I are doing right. In our flawed but fun way of doing things, I think we’ve hit on the right formula for having a great family, and some pretty good kids. Here are our family’s three rules. I’m hopeful these will work for you, too.
Rule #1: Create memories. Wherever you can. Whenever you can.
Whether it’s a National Park, a trip to Disneyland, or just dressing up like pirates for free donuts–memories are a lasting gift we can give our kids that will outlast us. Do we go to Disneyland a lot? Yep. Have we worn out vehicles by driving on long road trips to National Parks across the West? You bet. You can save a lot of money, have a great plan for retirement, and have nicer things. But I’d really rather have the memories, because these will stick with me–and them–for the rest of our lives. Because of these memory-making adventures, we’ve created an incredible familial bond. The bonus? We actually like being together.
Rule #2: Serve others. Individually. Collectively.
As a pastor, my kids are stuck at church. A lot. This could either be a cause of resentment, or it could be a way to help my kids discover ways they can make a difference in the life of someone else. When we serve others, we get the focus off ourselves and start thinking about others. All three of my oldest kids serve in some capacity at our church. My oldest kids have acted in various Vacation Bible Camps, lead worship, run media, and lead small groups of elementary age kids. My youngest daughter serves every week leading 2 year olds. There’s nothing better than seeing them leading kids younger than themselves, and finding ways to use their talents for the good of someone else. And to be honest, my favorite moments in ministry have been those days when we all get to do it together.
Rule #3: Show honor. At home. At school. Everywhere.
We are all inherently selfish people, and we all naturally think of ourselves first. When we focus on honoring others first, in our words and actions, we remember that “It’s not all about me.” We use an honor chart to keep track of whether we are acting honorably or not (even the parents), and it really helps us put others first. If I can teach my kids to live and act and speak honorably to others, then I will have done something good for the world.
There you have it. Our three family rules. If you do #2 and #3 right, go out and celebrate, which leads you back to #1. Repeat as often as possible.