Set Priorities to Be Happy as a Family

Set Priorities to Be Happy as a Family

Some families have priorities—things they feel are most important, things that make them happy and essential to family life that give the family a clear sense of direction and purpose. Other families don’t – they’re like weeds, blowing this way and that and getting nowhere in particular.
Take the Johnson family, for example. Their house is full of books and magazines. Every evening, parents ask their children if they have homework. At the dinner table, they talk about what’s going on in the world, and even discuss serious topics, such as abortion, whether children should have teenage sex, drug use, and whether it’s okay for people to live together before marriage.
They watch TV as a family, and on Saturdays they all go to the local library and check out books. When the children were young, parents enrolled them in summer reading groups and took them to museums. Parents are among the few who go to Parents’ Night at their children’s school. In the Johnson family, education is a priority.
For the Elliott family, it’s all about game night. Their three children are involved in sports – Holly is on the school football team, Brad plays junior football, and Mark is on Minor League Baseball. Parents attend all of their games, sometimes even splitting games between them when they happen at the same times.
The family cheers on their favorite college team on the weekends as they watch games together in the family den. The father is a member of a gym and the mother organizes refreshments for Mark’s Little League matches. Sports is the first priority for this family.
And then there’s the Gutierrez family, whose priority is socialization. They make their home accessible to all of their children’s friends. There are big birthday parties for the parents as well as the kids. Last Thanksgiving, 25 friends and relatives were at dinner, and at Christmas, the house was full of people. Parents like to spend holidays with other couples and families rather than just the five.
All these families are happy – they are only happy with different things.
Priorities for families:

>>A sense of immediacy: What the family needs or wants to do first and foremost
>> A sense of purpose: How this family wants to define itself
>> A sense of importance: What the family believes is important
>> A set of shared values: Values that all the family members share in common
>> A sense of the future: Where the family’s heading in the days, weeks, months, and years to come

> A sense of stability: An agenda that doesn’t change from one day to the next

Try this exercise to help your family set their own priorities:
1. Set a time when the whole family can sit together for at least an hour.
2. Hand out sheets of paper and ask each family member to write down three priorities that they think the family has or should have.
List things like honesty, supporting each other, and health. Emphasize that it’s not about your individual priorities – it’s about what you think the family should do as a group.
3. Then, one by one, ask each member to “show and tell,” sharing their list and explaining why they chose the things they did.
4. Don’t comment right away – wait for everyone to share their list and then open the door for discussion.
Are there any points of agreement – things listed by more than one family member? Are there any glaring omissions? Does anyone in the family seem unwilling to share in these priorities?
If so, don’t criticize them; Instead, say, “It’s okay if you don’t want to share your priorities with us right now, but we really want to know what you think this family should be doing more.” Leave the door open for them to join in later.
The goal is to end the watch with a firm sense of what you value as a family.