Our family is FAR from perfect!!
Let me say it again--WE ARE NOT PERFECT...not even close.
But over the years I have found some things that help in creating a home that is positive--where everyone is loved and accepted unconditionally and where GOOD happens.
Here are 4 things I've insisted on in our home:
1) MANNERS--Manners and politeness are just an embodiment of the Golden Rule.
Manners are the means society uses to get along; it is no different in a family. Manners show that I respect you enough to treat you civilly. And respect is a great starting place in creating loving relationships and a positive home environment. Good table manners, good listening skills, and sharing and taking turns are skills that translate into life outside the home. And saying please and thank you are basic courtesies that show I value you as a person.
2) FORGIVENESS--Unforgiveness breeds bitterness, and nothing will destroy a home and family more than bitterness!
This one's hard but SO important. Offenses left unmended ruin relationships. If we hurt or wrong someone--even unintentionally--it is important to apologize. And not just "I'm sorry you got your feelings hurt"--that pushes the responsibility onto the offended party; it doesn't help mend the relationship. Instead, "I'm sorry I hurt you. I wasn't trying to. Will you please forgive me?" Actually saying the words WILL YOU FORGIVE ME opens up the opportunity for restoration.
And of course forgiveness needs to be given! Not just "It's okay," or "Don't worry about it," or "It's not a big deal." That doesn't offer the kind of freedom from guilt the other person needs. Instead, "I forgive you."
Granted, there may need to be more conversation about what caused the hurt in the first place and how it can be avoided in the future. But a sincere "I'm sorry, will you forgive me." and "I forgive you" will go a long way in maintaining loving relationships. What if your child ISN'T sincere in their apology or DOESN'T want to forgive? That's when I emphasize things like God's grace and forgiveness to us. And how forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Feelings will follow right actions! (Maybe not right away--and that's alright--but eventually walking in this pattern of CHOOSING FORGIVENESS will result in right feelings as well.)
3) LOVE--Love is a choice!! Our culture often views love as merely a feeling, but love can be an action--something we can CHOOSE to do.
Just like we can choose to forgive someone, even if they don't deserve it, so too we can choose to love. As parents we do this all the time. We love our kids even when they make messes or disobey or any number of other things that are less than endearing. Sure, we may get frustrated or even angry at them from time to time, but we don't stop loving them. It is a tiny portion of how God loves us. Our kids can learn to love like this too.
I cannot tell you how many conversations I've had with kids who don't feel like loving a sibling. I remind them of God's unconditional love and my attempt at unconditional love for them. I point out all the times they themselves have been undeserving of love. Then I tell them that love is a choice; it's something we do in our family--we CHOOSE to love each other despite our flaws. I remind them it's what family does.
4) GRACE--Grace is really agape love...God love...EMBODIED.
This is where everything mentioned above comes together. It is the means by which we say to others, "You're not perfect but I choose to accept you just the way you are...no strings attached." Grace gives others the freedom to fail because they know they will still be forgiven and loved.
Sometimes grace means overlooking someone's flaws or shortcomings. We all have bad days. If someone in the home is feeling particularly grouchy, maybe we give them a little more space or a little more leeway for that day. We don't push buttons; we don't snap back; we don't make a big deal out of things; we take their failures in stride.
But sometimes grace means calling someone on their shortcomings--especially if they become a pattern. But it is done in love with gentleness and respect. The aim is always restoration and right living.
Creating a positive culture in the home is both simple--the pattern above isn't complicated--and difficult--it takes a lot of time and heart work to foster these kinds of interactions. But over time they become more and more a part of the fiber of your family.
"How good and how pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) live together in harmony!" Psalm 133:1