Timely tips to build great families through faith, integrity, respect

| Jennifer Janikula | March 28, 2012 | 0 Comments


As a parent, no matter what the age of your children, you regularly question your approach. Am I too strict? Do I model honesty and integrity? Can I teach my children to love each other?

For the wildest of the bunch, you may even question if they will end up on the right side of the law.

It’s difficult to gauge your progress. It may take 20 or 30 years before you know whether or not you did a good job. But according to Jim Stenson, education consultant and international speaker, parents can lead families to greatness.

Stenson, who has spent much of his career studying “great families,” shared his findings March 24 at the annual archdiocesan Family Forum, sponsored by the Office of Marriage, Family and Life. About 70 people gathered at St. Peter’s Church in Mendota Heights to learn how to build families filled with faith, integrity and respect.

According to Stenson, parents in great families look forward.

“From the beginning, they see themselves raising adults not children. They consider what it will take to get children to adulthood — to develop self-control, faith, hope, charity and tough-mindedness,” he said.

More specifically, Stenson challenges parents to think about their children as someone’s spouse.

“You must prepare your children for a permanent and stable marriage,” he said.  He asked forum participants if their children are considerate, if they know the value of hard work, and if they pick up after themselves.

Building a ‘we’ family

Over the years, Stenson has collected a list of rules that seem to be common to many successful families. The most interesting finding — the rules begin with the word “we” not “you.” This means that all members of the family, including the parents, strive to follow the rules.

Stenson calls this the “power of we,” explaining that active family rules form the framework for children’s character.  The rules encourage families to love and honor God, to care for each other, to serve and respect others and to work together to maintain the home, he said.

Stenson said that God gave parents the right and duty to lead their families.

Parents shape the habits of their children and guide them from dependence to interdependence and thoughtfulness.

“By age 5, the children need to know that mom and dad are in charge,” Stenson said. “Parents need to help their children develop good habits.”

Simple words can help create good habits and build character, he said. The most important words are: “no,” “please,” “thank you” and “I give my word.”

Learning to say no can be difficult for parents, but Stenson said that saying no will help children develop self-control.

No is a loving word

“‘No’ is a loving word and children need to hear it from time to time. If they hear it from their parents, then they might be able to say no when their parents are not present. It might save their lives,” he said.

The words “please” and “thank you” create a habit of respect and gratitude, he said. Parents instill those habits when speaking to each other and to their children.

Saying “I give my word” encourages integrity, which Stenson defines as “oneness of intention of word and action” and is the foundation of the family.

A mother of seven children, all under the age of 9, asked Stenson how she was supposed to get beyond the day-to-day madness and focus on building character.

Stenson encouraged her to focus on the two oldest children because values and good habits trickle down. He also consoled her, saying, “Don’t try to stay on top of every detail. You will go crazy. . . . Ask God to change you and to help you lead them.”

The power of ‘we’

The following rules from “healthy families” were gathered by education consultant Jim Stenson. The rules fall under five general cat­e­gories defined by Stenson:

We respect the rights and sensibilities of others.
• We never lie to each other.
• We respect each other’s property and right to privacy.

We all contribute to making our home a clean, orderly, civilized place to live.
• We do our house chores promptly and to the best of our ability.

We give people information they need to carry out their responsibilities.
• We always inform where we are going, with whom, and when we will return.

We use electronic media only to promote family welfare.
• We use TV and video-gadgets sparingly and discerningly.

We love and honor our creator above all things.
• We thank the Lord by worshipping him together as a family.
• We serve the Lord by serving others.

See the entire list of rules at http://www.parentleadership.com.

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