top of page
  • Writer's pictureLloyd Ripley-Evans

Healthy Habits for Happy Families

Updated: May 19, 2020

Habits and the Family

A habit is a routine of behaviour that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.

As individuals we create, develop and reinforce habits throughout our lives, and the same happens within the family space.

Simple things such as who cooks dinner, cleans the pool, tidies the dogs mess, or makes the coffee in the morning may begin as new behaviours, but over time and with reinforcement, they become the habits that can continue for years, and often lead to expectations being established.

Family conflict, frustrations and tension often result from unmet expectations (this applies to most relationships). We are creatures of habit, and we generally tend to look for routines, patterns and roles that are predictable and comfortable for us. This allows us to feel safe and secure in our comfort zones. But over time, things around us change and the effects can be seen throughout our lives, as our comfort zones and routines are forced to change.

Change is normal and natural, and we should expect it, but the funny thing is, so many of us are surprised when change comes along. A baby becoming a toddler or a teenager for example can come as quite a surprise to some. We need to remember that change brings change. It can have a snowball effect, and it can disrupt the equilibrium that we have been able to create. Having a child for example creates significant change in all aspects of our lives.

Sometimes we can hang on to our ideas of how we want things to be, or how we imagine things should be, which can cause havoc in our relationships as these expectations may be assumed and not understood or communicated clearly. When change comes along, chaos ensues. If we are not able to adjust our expectations and roll with the punches life throws, we are going to be faced with some very challenging situations. We logically know that life is complicated, and reality is not straightforward, yet often we forget this. Reality is messy, chaotic and unpredictable, it requires constant adjustment and adaptation.

This is one of the most important lessons we need to teach our children. We need to teach them that we can either engage with life and get frustrated when things don't go our way, or we can teach them that life happens, and we need to anticipate, roll with the punches and embrace the opportunities presented to us. Leading by example and teaching your children some essential habits that will help guide them through life should remain a primary goal of being a parent.

Highly Effective Families

The original 7 Habits book written by Stephen Covey has been edited and adapted for numerous audiences including children, teens, and marriage in addition to families as a whole. The 7 habits contained in each book remains consistent with only the explanation and understanding adapted to suit the different readers. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families is not written to be a quick fix or to offer tricks to be an effective family, but rather offers insight into the patterns of thinking and doing things that all successful families have in common.

The Family Flight Plan

Just like aeroplanes, families are not on course 100% of the time, which is normal, however it has become even more difficult to keep a family on course due to many societal changes we all experience. Considering this we need to do what we can to remain on course as a family and the following are essential for the “journey” ahead:

“Flight Plan” - clear understanding of family values, parental dynamic and general direction one would like their family to move in. “Destination” - Clear vision of where or what a family is moving towards. “Compass” - To assist in staying on course. This could be support structures in and around the family that are able to provide the insight and direction when needed.

Personal Bank Accounts

The starting point according to Covey is with ourselves. The way we feel and treat ourselves as well as those around us will greatly determine the course of our journey. Covey refers to the Personal Bank Account (PBA) which functions similarly to a regular bank account in that we should aim to make more deposits than withdrawals so that we can be in a healthy, positive space. We make “deposits” through positive thoughts and behaviours such as achieving goals or even complementing others. Withdrawals on the other hand are the negative thoughts and behaviours we have such as blaming someone for a problem or being negatively critical of others. We should assess the state of our PBA and strive towards building up a healthy, positive balance.