The other day I had a friend ask me what “secrets” did we have that enabled us to raise 2 amazing kids. Secrets….I don’t know if there are any secrets to raising good kids, but I know that love, patience and A LOT of communication really made raising our children a privilege. In an effort to answer her question about tips and strategies for creating a better home life, I thought I’d share some of our tips that worked for us!
Here are 10 Tips For a Happier Home:
1. Treat the people you live with like company.
Have you ever noticed that when company comes, you make an effort to insure that they feel welcome and comfortable. But when it’s “just family” you go get a snack or a drink and don’t bother checking in with anyone else to see if they might want something too? Why is it that the people who are closest to us, see our ugly side all to often?
What would happen if everyone in your home began treating each other as if they were a guest. Try it. Set aside a Saturday morning, just a couple of hours, and do an experiment. Set a timer if you must :), and for that pre-determined amount of time everyone has to treat each other as if they were a guest. Make it a game and have fun! Would you just change the channel on the remote when a guest was watching something? Wouldn’t you offer them the comfy chair or the best piece of cake? And surely you wouldn’t walk out with a tall glass of liquid goodness without offering them some, right?
The funny thing is that after this “experiment” you will realize how great of a mood everyone is in. Helping the people you love, treating them like a guest AND having them reciprocate, fosters smiles and happiness that last far longer than the time you invested. Now imagine if you could incorporate that into your everyday lives. I’m not talking “sappy”, I’m not talking “kissing booty” I’m talking about treating each other better than you treat the people who aren’t most important in your life. Imagine how quickly the entire atmosphere would shift in your home!
2. Allow your spouse/children to have a voice.
If you are anything like me, you like to be the one who is in charge :), and sometimes that means that you dismiss suggestions from the other people in your household. But trust me, not allowing your children or your spouse to share in the decisions and the responsibilities of your home only leads to frustration and hurt feelings for everyone involved! You all share the space you are living in, and each of you deserves to feel safe, welcome and heard! Not to mention that if you aren’t controlling everything and you don’t have to be “keeper of the box” then it leave you more time to enjoy the things you love! [Tweet “#Parenting Tip: Let your #kids have a voice & establish open lines of communication #advice”]
3. Spend 10 minutes before you go to sleep at night picking up clutter.
Waking up to chaos is the quickest way to insure that you start your day off wrong. The best thing that we ever did in our home was the implementation of the “10 minute tidy”. A quick part of our nightly routine (and often right before we headed out the door), made mornings and coming home a pleasure. Waking up to a clean house or walking in to a clutter free environment (yes I learned to spit spot my kitchen in 10 minutes after a bit of practice while my kids and hubby did the rest of the house) made for so many peaceful days.
4. Eat one meal a day together.
In our crazy busy lives, this may be the hardest thing to do. But trust me, taking the time to share a meal together, sitting down at the table accomplishes so many things. It allows you to touch base and talk with one another about what is happening on a daily basis, it forces you to slow down for a little bit and connect with the important things in life, AND it ensures that everyone gets to interact with one another in a meaningful way. Don’t get me wrong, “dinner” at the Davis’ wasn’t always pretty, and more than once (ok maybe LOTS of times) one of us didn’t want to be there. But even when we could barely stand to look at each other, and you could cut the tension with a knife, sitting down together often was just what turned things around. Sometimes it was dinner, sometimes “family breakfasts” (which my adult children now ask for when they come home) and other times a snack was all we could “get together” for. But by taking the time to sit down every day brought us closer together and made us deal with stuff that would have been pushed under the rug had we not done so.
5. Have a mandatory monthly “family night”
My parents started this years ago, and I can still remember my friends making fun of us whenever we had to say “no, I can’t go out because we have family night tonight”. However many of my favorite memories of growing up were hanging out watching a movie together, or playing pictionary with my brothers, sisters and parents instead of the typical friday night with friends. Likewise my kids roll there eyes and say how “messed up” it was when family night rolled around, but it is one of the first “things” that they share in the dorm when they are missing home. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal, but it has to be a priority for EVERYONE. No matter what else may pop up, attendance isn’t optional, and like dinners the teen years can be challenging. However, lasting memories, closer bonds and the knowledge that your family is a priority to each of you is priceless!
6. Talk, Listen, Communicate, and then Listen some more!
Now both of my kids will tell you that my inability to let something go can be annoying. However, I really believe that not allowing my children (or hubby for that matter) to shut me out when things were tough was a huge factor in helping us all learn how to work through the challenges that life presents.
I remember when there was a particularly rough patch in my daughter’s life and she didn’t want to talk about it. Frankly, all she really wanted to do was lock herself away in her room and listen to depressing music, but I was having none of it. She was mad, she yelled, she said it wasn’t any of my business…and I just sat there and listened. I told her as her mom, her life WAS my business whether she liked it or not. And after over an hour of me just sitting there, and being open when she was protesting, she broke down and we were able to actually talk about it, work through and process the hard choice that she had made to end a longterm relationship with someone she had cared about.
Long story short, your family needs you to listen, even when they don’t know that they do, and while it may be easier to let them be, keep going back and opening up doors and inviting them to trust and confide in you. You know them best, and can help them in ways that no one else can. But remember when they come to you, especially in those teen years, judging is not allowed. In most circumstances the situation is already past, and what they need from you is guidance, boundaries and understanding. The time for a lecture ISN”T when they are opening up to you!
7. Take a “technology timeout” once a month
Technology while it makes things convenient it also stops us from interacting and being together. I looked around the other day when my son was home on spring break and while we were all in the same vicinity of our house, we weren’t together. My husband was on the computer, researching information on his current project, my son was on his laptop with headphones in watching something while texting friends on his smart phone, and I was tuned into the latest marathon of Cupcake Wars (no judging!) and texting various people. I think over a 2 hour period of time the three of us didn’t say anything to each other, we didn’t have interest in what the other 2 were doing, why? Because we had technology to interact with.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of being together but not “being” together when technology is involved. Don’t want to watch the same show? Just go to a different room. Not able to go over to a friends, Skype or Facebook with them and it’s like you are together anyway.
I suggest that once a month (separately than “family game night” 🙂 that you make all technology taboo. Collect the phones, ipads and laptops, turn off the TV’s, unplug the video games and do something that doesn’t plug in! Better yet do something together, but if that’s not possible, just go a whole day without using technology, you just might find out that there is a new hobby or activity that you all enjoy![Tweet “Happy Home #Tip: Once a week, take a break from #Technology and spend time together. #VZWBuzz”]
8. Schedule “Dates” with each family member AT LEAST once a month.
Again our busy lives are the reason that we don’t have time for one another, but if you can plan on a one on one activity with each member of your family on a regular basis your “happiness” ratio will increase exponentially. Mom take one of the kids along with you and go for an ice cream or a hot chocolate, pick them up from practice with no distractions and take the long way home. Dad a game of catch or walking the dog with your son may be just the thing to start that conversation you’ve been wanting to have. And by all means you need regular date nights to keep the spark alive in your marriage! One on one time really opens up lines of communication and helps you get in touch with each other and know when things are a bit rocky or just be able to tell each other how proud you are of them at a time when they know you are listening and paying attention to them!
9. Write each other “notes”
How great does it feel to get a card in the mail or a little note in your lunchbox? Isn’t it amazing how warm and fuzzy we feel when someone does something unexpected for us for no reason! Take the time to let your family know you appreciate them, are proud of them and that you love them and be creative about it! Smiley pancakes, a shaving cream note on the mirror, a sticky note on the steering wheel or a card tucked into a backpack or suitcase all have that positive affect that will have your loved ones smiling for hours! Do it often and as a surprise and see how quickly you will become closer!
10. Twice a month anonymously do something nice for each person in your home
Similar to #9 the “surprise” factor really goes along way! Maybe it’s making their bed while they are getting ready in the morning, or setting the table when it’s their turn. Even doing one of their chores when you know they are really busy. By anonymously doing something nice for each person in your home, not only do you make their life just a little better, but you walk away with a “secret” that makes you feel amazing!
With a few simple tips, you can create magic in your home!
I’d love to hear what worked for you!!
— Military spouse and advocate Judy Davis-the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author, and lifestyle blogger as well as the co-founder of LivingThruCrisis.com. Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Risk along with her websites are go to resources filled with tips, strategies & inspiration. Connect with her at TheDirectionDiva.com