By Frank Brogni, CPC
It goes without saying that parenting has changed a great deal since I was a kid living in an ethnic neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. That was a time when you could leave your house in the morning, be gone all day and your mother wouldn’t worry about you because everybody in the neighborhood either fed you or watched out for you.
When my brother and I took on the job of “Paperboy” my folks warned us that it would not be easy. It was an everyday task and the cold, blustering days of winter required us to deliver our route on foot much of the time.
For the next several years the Brogni boys made sure their customers got their news daily without fail, but not without much planning and hard work.
Whenever there was a temptation to quit or not finish, our parents reminded us that we had given our word to be responsible workers and that people were counting on us. They wouldn’t allow us to quit! The magic that took place as a result of this type of stand manifested a more self-reliant individual.
The mythical parents of the past focused their attention more closely on their families than they do today. They held their children to a different standard both at home and away.
While attending a recent conference, the speaker was lamenting about the lack of real leadership today and how the world was crying out for insightful leaders to step up in government, community, and industry. While listening to him, the thought occurred to me, as a family coach, the greatest need for leadership is in our homes.
In a recent article, Time Magazine declared that the typical parent spent only about five percent of their time engaged in some activity involving their children, yet, the average child spends approximately four hours each day focused on some form of media entertainment while being isolated in their room.
I am often asked for some methods parents can adopt to change this trend in their homes, bring more unity to the family dynamic, while creating a richer and more rewarding experience for themselves and their children. Let’s look at a few:
1. Share at least one meal a day as a family.
2. Take the time to have a family meeting at least once a week, preferably on the same day and time.
3. Plan a fun family activity at least twice a month.
4. Create ritual and traditional activities just for your family.
During meals each person can talk about a number of topics introduced by the parents; for example, what was your learning for that day, what was the greatest thing that happened to you that day, or one of my favorites, what was your most interesting observation about anything that day. This activity stimulates dialogue which leads to better communication and also gives the parents an opportunity to see how their children’s thought process works.
Taking the time for a family meeting creates a sense of importance for each family member. This is the time to coordinate everyone’s schedules from PTA meetings to social engagements. This is also the perfect time for acknowledgements about behavior or other courtesies extended between family members.
Setting aside special time for a family fun day or night will create a strong sense of family unity and togetherness. This says, “We are a unit and we stick together.” It also creates a sense of working together as a team and that each person’s contribution is needed for achievement.
Lifetime memories are derived from ritual and traditional activities. Whether it is attending the first athletic event at your school, or viewing neighborhood Christmas lights during the holiday season, or the annual hike to the Grand Canyon, or the Memorial Day,4th of July, Labor day picnics, it seems children never forget these special days.
Parents are the true leaders our society is crying out for. They are the ones who are empowered to lead their families and can truly see first hand the result of their handiwork.