One recent Friday evening after dinner my family was preparing to welcome several guests for a meeting in our home. I suddenly realized that the tension level was rising. I also remembered that I had snapped at several of the children more than once. My wife began to get frustrated and asked me why I was angry. I quickly tried to assess exactly what I was feeling. As I processed my emotions, I recognized that I was expecting my family to know exactly what I wanted. And I was expecting them to know without any communication from me! Just in case the message is not clear: my lack of communication was NOT a good plan!
The one tiny little detail that I failed to include in my story above is that I was not engaged in what was going on around me. My lack of communication was because I had buried my head in my iPhone. I was reading news or tweets…or something. I can’t even remember now! By refusing to take part in the preparations with my family, I was beginning to set the stage for disaster.
My wife swiftly challenged me that I was not stepping up to help. Her challenge was for me to assist with getting done the tasks that would make our house ready for our guests. I was not leading the charge to get it done in a way that I would find acceptable. At that moment I had a choice make. Thankfully, I made a wise decision! I immediately set to work leading the household in moving the preparations to completion.
As a husband and father, I have learned that I have a responsibility to set the tone at home. If I am passive in how I respond to my wife, I will damage our relationship. When I don’t engage with my children, I leave them lacking in areas where they need my input. Here are four ways I have learned to resist passivity and engage with my family:
- Determine the long-term goal – it is critical to define who I want to be in the future. Having a goal will illuminate what the perceived destination looks like. This will provide a foundation from which to make decisions leading to the desired future. For example, my goal is to sow good seeds in hopes that I will harvest a great relationship with my wife and children for many years to come. Therefore, my choices can run through that rubric to help me make decisions about what to do or not to do.
- Be intentional – building strong relationships rarely, if ever, happens by chance. It takes committed time and effort to establish bonds that will remain unbroken through the tests of life. As a father, I find this one difficult after a long day of work that has taxed me physically and emotionally. In a weakened moment, it is easy to allow opportunities for building strong relationships to slip by. I must be on guard not to allow too many of these chances to pass. If I do miss too many, I risk leaving my relationships weakened by a lack of genuine connection.
- Put down the smart phone – I hate to even include this point. Too often I will immerse myself in something on my iPhone that has no significance to relating to my wife and family. Putting down my smart phone and actively participating in the conversation will help to tie my heart to my wife and children. Unplugging from immersive smart technology is probably one of the most important ways to form genuine connection with others.
- Engage a mentor/friend – having someone close to me who can observe my interactions with my family is invaluable. Obviously, this is going to be most helpful if the mentor/friend is someone who has been where I am and can share insights from experience. Gleaning from the wisdom of others is an easy way to avoid pitfalls I may not see. Since I am so close to my own situation each day, I may not see what someone from the outside can see clearly. A mentor/friend who will share truth, however difficult it may be to hear, about my relationships with my wife and family can be extremely helpful.
Building and maintaining strong and healthy relationships with family takes effort, time, and commitment. Passivity and refusing to engage will undermine the foundation of these relationships. I encourage you to make decisions that lead you to strong and healthy connections. In the long run, you will be glad you did.
Question: What tips do you have to engage your family? Do you struggle with being passive towards building relationships? How do you combat weariness in this pursuit? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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