In modern Western culture, it is widely acknowledged that the family is in serious trouble. By now, you've heard the term "dysfunctional family" hundreds, even thousands of times. You know how such families behave. And, sadly, you have come to fear that the word "dysfunctional" describes -- or one day will describe -- your relationship with the people you love most.
Despite the odds, you desire to have family relationships that are fully loving and functional. But in a society in which the family has largely lost its way...are such hopes realistic, or simply an impossible dream?
Strong, loving families do exist today. But if you want to establish healthy patterns in your own family, you'll need to learn how to recognize and apply the qualities they share. Discover the characteristics common to all healthy families, and learn how you can instill them in your own home in Five Signs of a Loving Family (formerly titled Five Signs of a Functional Family).
Here is a summary of the five signs:
1. An attitude of service
Slavery is at the heart of dysfunctional families. When people serve others because they are forced to do so, freedom to truly serve is lost. Slavery hardens the heart. Slavery creates anger, bitterness, and resentment. An attitude of service renders service that is freely given, not out of fear but out of choice. It comes out of the personal discover that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." For children, developing and attitude of service is a process. In the early stages of development, acts of service must be required. But the goal is that the child will quickly find personal satisfaction in serving others.
2. Intimacy between a husband and wife
Assuming there is no wall between us, building intimacy is a process, not an event. We don't "obtain intimacy" and keep it as a treasure for the rest of our lives. Intimacy is fluid, not static. The process whereby we maintain intimacy is communication. Communication involves two simple elements: self-revelation, in which one is telling the other something of his or her thoughts, feelings, and experiences while the other is receiving this self-revelation as information and seeking to understand what the first person is thinking and feeling. The second in turn reveals his or her own thoughts, feelings, and experiences while the other listens and seeks to understand. The simple process of talking and listening maintains intimacy.
3. Parents who teach and train
The third sign of a loving family is that the parents will be actively involved in giving guidance to their children. In the ancient Greek world, two words described the function of parents: teaching and training. It seems to me that in the modern Western world, parents have tended to focus on one of these, often neglecting the other. Some parents are strong on teaching -- admonition by words. The main theme of their parenting style is "Let's talk about this." For some, "talking" means a monologue in which they give the child another lecture, whereas others emphasize the importance of dialogue, making sure they hear the child's thoughts as well as expressing their own. But for both, the emphasis is on teaching by word. They are big on reason; they want to answer the "why" questions for children. They operate on the philosophy that if children understand why, they are far more likely to respond positively to the parent's rule or request.
4. Children who obey and honor parents
Obedient behavior brings positive consequences; disobedient behavior brings negative consequences. It is this consistent reality that teaches the child the value of obedience. Thus, in a loving family, the parents will focus on these two realities: loving the child and making every effort to know that the child feels loved, and making sure that the child experiences the consequences of his or her behavior. This process involves three things: setting rules, setting consequences (good as well as bad), and administering discipline.
5. Husbands who are loving leaders
The fifth sign of a loving family is that the husband will be a loving leader. Both words are important. Leadership without love can become despotic. Love without leadership can become weakness. Male leadership expresses itself in two relationships in the family: husband and father.
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