In today’s society everyone is always looking for quick fixes and shortcuts. We want to find the things that are going to give us the biggest bang for the buck. Although there is no “drive through” method for raising great kids and building amazing family relationships, there are some simple daily acts that certainly create greater impact than others. They can help us to get the most influence for the effort.
There is a rule that is often referenced by successful professionals called the 80/20 rule. The rule is simply this, “20% of your actions are giving 80% of the return.” The concept is that if you can identify the 20% that are giving you 80% of your success, you can shift your focus to the 20% and become more effective, efficient and ultimately more successful. The same could generally be said of raising kids. I’ve found there are a few things that, when practiced regularly, multiply our influence and our efforts in other areas as well.
The following 7activities are some of those “20% activities,” that exponentially improve our positive influence and make interactions with our children more enjoyable and synergistic:
1. Read with them: Read a variety of books, fiction and non-fiction. Story time is a favorite experience at our house. Our kids beg for more books like many kids beg for TV and video game time. It provides unthreatening and enjoyable learning time, as well as opportunities to cuddle up close to each other and feel one another’s love and acceptance. It encourages creativity and expands understanding of other people, times and places. Sharing books together with your kids is a time of mutual engagement, enjoyment and learning!
2. Talk to them: Listen to them first. Let them tell you about their bumps and bruises, their victories and defeats. Listen with the intent to understand rather than respond, criticize or correct. If you listen now to the little things, you will find that they will trust you with the big stuff later on. Also, share your life with them. Tell stories about your life. Share stories of how you met their Mom or Dad, about work, about play, about friends, fun times and even about struggles and hard times. A recent article in the Atlantic shares research that suggests that story telling in this way is not just an opportunity to connect but also builds emotional intelligence and empathy in children. My wife and I use bedtime as the perfect time to share these kinds of stories. The kids love it.
3. Play with them: It doesn’t have to be long and most of the time, it doesn’t even matter what it is you do to play with them. Rough house, build something, play make-believe, or just run and jump around being silly. Play is our children’s primary language and their most profound way to both learn and express emotions. It is good for the soul, theirs and yours!
4. Pray with them: I have found the practice of prayer to be very powerful in my life, the life of my children and our family as a whole. My children express wants, needs, desires and share what is most important to them more freely in their prayers then they would be comfortable to do otherwise. They get to hear each member of the family petition God for help, guidance and protection in their behalf, as well as practice and hear the practice of gratitude regularly. Prayer softens our hearts and brings us closer to the creator we know to be our Heavenly Father. That is important and powerful to me.
5. Show physical and verbal affection: Say “I love you.” Make it a habit to offer those words in greetings and farewells and make special efforts to offer it at other times as well. One of human- kind’s most profound needs is the need to be accepted and loved. We all want and need it and as parents, we can take the guess work out of it for our kids. They don’t need to wonder if they are loved and cared for. I know you show it, but also tell them! Show affection through touch as well. Share hugs and kisses often. Create special traditions of affection that are unique and special to you and them. Maybe its butterfly kisses, holding hands, or letting your little ones dance on your feet. Whatever it is, different people experience expressions of love differently and so it is important to show and tell.
6. Eat with them: Family meals are becoming a lost art. There is more research evidence than ever before suggesting that family meal times are one of the best and most effective times to connect, teach and socialize as a family. It has even been shown that families who practice family meals together tend to have children with less delinquent and risky behavior in their teenage years and later life. Sit together. Use that time to talk. I know that meal times can be hard with young kids. Getting everyone’s plate dished up and the herd of elephant noise level conversation can seem unrealistic, but if we plan ahead and are dedicated to protect that time together, the impact of family meal time is invaluable.
7. Tuck them in bed: Bedtime is often a time of struggle for a lot of parents but it can be a time that everyone looks forward to. Block out time to connect at bedtime and not be rushed with your kids. A lot of the other things on this list can be thrown into the bedtime routine and make bedtimes some of the best experiences we have with our children.
Do you want to make your daily efforts really count with your kids? These 7 actions can be a great starting point. What daily practices have you found to be invaluable with your children? How have those things made a difference in building foundational cycles of growth and happiness in your family?
One additional act that can have a powerful impact with our kids is to simply keep our cool when things don’t quite go right. This can be difficult at times. We all know that it’s important to be calm with our kids when things get tough but wonder HOW to make it happen. The Quick Calm Tool Kit can teach you skills that will help in in just 2 minutes to better calm yourself and manage your emotions. Enter your email below to get the Quick Calm Toolkit for FREE.