So here we are, about a month into the new year. Many of us made resolutions or fresh starts.
Often they concern weight, health, home organization, or professional goals we’d like to
achieve. I hope they are going well for you. If they aren’t, I hope you can step back, reevaluate
what you may need to make progress, and give yourself the grace to try again.
Let me ask you this, were any of those fresh starts about making positive changes in your
family life? Maybe they were or maybe you want to, but may not know how to begin since it
involves other people. But making those changes can be easier than you think if you know
some doable steps.
First, name the big change you want to make. This can come from a divinely inspired aspiration.
But it can also come from an ache in your heart for something better for your family than what
you are currently experiencing or from being fed up with what is going on in your family
relationships. No matter how the nudge toward something better for your family happens, listen
to it, acknowledge it, name it.
What you name will be unique to the circumstances of your family. Perhaps you want greater
closeness, better cooperation, more respect, increased kindness, or anything else that would
benefit your family. Don’t be afraid it’s too big or too unrealistic for your family situation. Just
name the desire you have to make your family better.
Second, now that you’ve named the
goal, daydream about what that would look like in your day-to-day life as a family and write it
down. Some examples could be:
Closeness: We spend time talking, sharing, and connecting around things we enjoy.
Better cooperation: Our family works together to keep our home
Respect: Our family supports each other’s interests and speaks to each other as we would an
( These are just examples. Just name one thing, daydream about what that would look like, and
write it down.)
State any goal you wish to achieve in a positive way that helps you envision how your family will
behave and relate differently when it’s successfully practiced.
Now step back and identify the first tiny step you will put in place. Any lasting change has to be
practiced little by little. Pick one small change that will start you in the right direction, and do it
every day until it becomes second nature. Once it is, you can add a next small step while you
continue to practice the steps that have become routine for your family.
Let’s look at some possible ways this could work with the examples.
Closeness: What is one small way you can add a little closeness to your day? Perhaps you
make sure you pause to hug each of your family members as you greet that person first thing in
the morning. If this hasn’t been something you normally do in the rush of a typical morning,
taking a minute or two to hug each of your family members can really change the entire tone of
your family’s day.
Once that becomes a normal part of your morning, you could add another small step, such as
spending a few minutes with each child as you “tuck them in” at night (yes, this includes teens)
to talk about their day and tell them how much you love them.
Once you are doing both these things consistently, you can add the next small thing while
keeping up the consistency of the step before, which should now be part of the normal flow of
your day. Each little step will build on the other and help you achieve greater closeness.
In the next example, you may want the family to cooperate to keep the home running well.
Again, identify a baby step, such as before bed; each person will pick up any clothes left on the
floor, either storing them properly or putting them in the hamper. This is easily checked on as
you say good night to each child. If they missed something, simply have them put it in the right
place while you are there, then give them a kiss goodnight. As this becomes a habit, you no
longer have to remind them of most of the time; choose another small task to practice together,
such as cleaning up the kitchen together after dinner, or picking up the family room together
before anyone begins getting ready for bed. Practice this in a loving, encouraging way until it
becomes a normal, predictable behavior for the family.
Moving onto the next example, if you want your family to treat each other with respect, start
small such as everyone will say please for any request. State the new practice, and gently
remind anyone to restate their request using please if they’ve forgotten. You can even say,
“Please say please,” with a smile on your face. Remember, this is about being a respectful
family. So be gentle and respectful in your reminders. Once everyone is saying please
consistently, add using thank you. Build up bit by bit from there.
You can make the changes you want for your family by breaking the behavior into tiny,
practicable steps. Just as you taught (or will teach) your baby to start eating solid food by
breaking the food into one tiny piece and letting your baby try and adjust to it before adding
another piece, relationship behaviors can be broken down and learned in the same way.
You can save yourself a lot of aggravation and nagging by naming the big change you want to
make, daydreaming about what that would look like in your family, and then breaking it down
into tiny steps that you practice and build on together one at a time.