This post is personal, because I’ve been asked by people to share my view of the ideal family and how I reached that point in life when parenting was such bliss for me.
I have to say that I don’t think we are the ideal family. We have ups and down and challenges with our children. We just sort them out quickly and in a very efficient way.
Why do I say that? Because even if you are doing all the right things – give good instructions and coordinate things with your partner – you’ll face traffic jams. For more about this, read the Family Goals series from the start.
Why? Because that’s life. You take a deep breath, overtake the traffic jam and sometimes just need to meditate until the road is clear from glass scattered on the road from someone else’s accident but there is no life without it. I clarify this because some of my clients just collapse when they think they do everything well and still, there are parenting accidents.
So, here I’m sharing some of my goals (I’ve had thousands over the years). I hope it’ll give you some ideas of what you can aim for. Take only the goals that matches your philosophy in life. Remember, most of our decision making is done by the subconscious mind, if a goal that I chose to peruse is against something you have in your subconscious, you’ll go through lots of self-sabotage and experience lots of frustration.
Every goal you have, put it in your calendar for the next 3-6 months and go over it every day. Tick if you did it or not. If not, that’s OK, try again tomorrow, remember, progress is the name of the game.
Progress, not perfection
Nothing in life really happens 100% of the time, so aim for progress, not perfection.
Always measure progress. Always compare the situation before and after you set the goal. For example, if using smartphones at dinnertime is your issue, take one week to observe how many times your children use their smartphones during dinner (check yourself as well) and this is your baseline for comparison.
A goal I think every family should have is to give a compliment to each member of the household once a day. Once you’ve achieved this, make a goal to give compliments twice, 3 times, up to 5 times a day.
If you want to understand the power of compliments, read The Power of Complimenting: Don’t Be Stingy.
Make sure hugs and physical touch are part of your daily routine. Holding onto a hug for 20 seconds releases Oxycontin in the body and makes us feel happy and loved.
There is a lot of research on the power of touch, so make that part of your family life.
No matter how old your kids are, spend with them the last 15 minutes before bedtime. I remember making this rule after seeing Gal’s mom leaving everything, and I mean everything, she was doing to put her girls to bed.
She never blinked. She never said, “I’m watching TV now”, which what everyone else was doing). So, I made the decision that this was my goal and I wanted to adopt it.
Make a goal to speak in a positive language at home. Tell your kids what you want, instead of what you don’t want. Instead of saying “no”, “don’t” or “stop”, say “I prefer we talk kindly to each other” or ” please share your toys with your brother”.
Pick something fun to do as a family every week! If you don’t have ideas, sit down with your kids and ask them to come up with 100 fun things you can do together. You can also choose together which one of them you do every week.
In our family, it is singing together, watching movies, travelling, cooking, eating outside and reading. Some years, Gal and the kids read Harry Potter and Eragon together before bed. In fact, Eden, my eldest, read them to everyone and they had some great bonding time.
Getting involved with education
Make a goal to be involved in your children’s education. It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how tight your schedule is, find a way to give your time at school at least twice a year.
Kids benefit so much from their parents’ involvement at school it is worth taking a day off for it. If you ask me, schools should make it mandatory for parents to contribute 2 days every year to the school.
You can join a reading club, go on excursions, help at the school fair, talk to the kids about your profession, help build things or run a special project at school. Just like you can take time off to go to the doctor or dentist, you can take 2 hours off to go to your child’s school twice a year and get involved.
Make sure your children experience cooking once a week.
Our kids helped in the kitchen since they were 3 years old. When your kids are young, bring a chair or a step and let them mix, scoop and, of course, taste. Older kids can read recipes, chop, fry and cook themselves and you can be their helper.
If your kids are picky with food, choose a day of the week for each one to decide what the family eats for dinner.
Your kids will have to eat for the rest of their life. If you make it enjoyable (and yes, more time-consuming and messier), they will carry the experience into their adulthood. A healthy attitude to food in adult life is priceless.
Saying “I love you”
At least once a day, tell your kids “I love you” in any way you like. You can say “I’m so happy you are my son”, “I am proud of you”, “I couldn’t have asked for a better child”, “You are my pride and joy”, “You are my sunshine”, etc. Find your versions of love and use a variety of them.
I used a phrase with my children that says, “I love you to the sky and back, like all the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the beach”. We have extended this several times over the years.
Another one was, “My mom loves me a million million”. If you wake my kids up in the middle of the night and say, “My mom”, they will continue, “Loves me a million million”. We now use a shorter version when we write notes for each. We sign “a million million” and everyone knows what it means.
Come up with a sleep standard and stick to it. If you think it is OK for kids to sleep 9 hours, make sure they get 9 hours of sleep.
No negotiations, no discounts, no bribing and no long explanations. Explain once, twice, three times, and then, make sure they understand this is not negotiable.
Write a list of goals that will help your kids get enough sleep. If you need to spend more time with them before bed, play music in their room, turn off screens 2 hours before bedtime, make sure they do their homework early or take the computer out of their room, write a goal and then do it!
The goal is to make sure the kids sleep 9 hours. If the child is not healthy, comes up grumpy, 9 hours is not enough. Tell your children that their behavior, their success, their health depends on how many hours they sleep. If one of them is not working properly, they need more sleep. The can negotiate this only if everything is working properly.
Make a goal to expose your kids to a variety of food and get them to try everything new, if only to taste. This means you must bring new food to the table every week and make everyone try it, including the adults…
When I examined my own childhood, I realized that I was not flexible with food and decided to change this with my own children. My kids are now the most wonderful, flexible eaters. Even in a remote place in Indonesia, they found things to eat and did not complain.
Make salads part of every dinner. If you do this, and prepare a variety of salads, your kids will eventually eat vegetables as a matter of course.
Gal and I always had salad with our meals, so our kids always accepted this as part of life and we never had the common “I don’t want vegetables” issue. Regardless of whether you are vegan or meat eater, gluten intolerant or dairy intolerant, vegetables never cause health problems. In fact, they are often the solution to them.
This is something I took from my parents’ home and chose to adopt. My kids have hardly had any health issues and have rarely needed to see a doctor. It is a goal I would not give up!
Change all your drinks at home to water. Get your kids to drink water. It is always better to start the as soon as they are born, but never too late.
I had to start it when my daughter was 3 years old. I grew up in a place where everybody drank cordial and soft drinks every day and Gal and I made the decision to change it.
Was it easy? No! It is never easy. The easiest thing was, obviously, never to switch and to keep drinking the sweet stuff. But it was worth it, and the older your kids are, the harder it is.
Does this mean we never drink any soft drinks? No, it doesn’t! When we eat out, the kids order whatever they want, which is typically some fruit juice, tea, Mango Lassi or a fruit shake. If they do order coke, we say nothing and just let them.
Remember, we want progress, not perfection. To help my children eat healthy food, which can be boring, we sometimes go out for junk food or bring junk food home and enjoy it together. Get it out of the system. Being fussy about food, regardless of how healthy it is, creates eating disorder, not the food itself, so as parents, we should not model being fussy.
Read books (with and without your kids). During work experience in special education, a psychologist taught me that reading kids have a huge advantage in life. Naturally, I wanted my children to have an advantage.
My parents didn’t read in front of us. My mom couldn’t read, and I know my dad could read, because he read newspapers regularly, but I never saw him read a book. There was a library in our house, and all the books in it were his. When we mentioned any of those books, he knew what was written in them, so I know he’s read them, but never in front of me.
I wrote myself a goal to make sure my kids would reader books and love it. This goal meant I had many mini-goals, like reading time before bed, trips to the library, having a library at home, reading some of their books and discussing them, sharing with them information from books I’ve read, buying books as gifts and reading books when the kids could see.
For a long time, I wrote in my calendar once a week to take my kids to the library. Luckily for us, we could borrow 20 books per person, keep them for 3 weeks and extend them twice. We would take 60 to 80 books from the library each time. Yes, 60 to 80 books!
We had a huge box for the books at home and rules to never mix the library books with our own. The pile was very big. By our front door, we have the returns box, and everyone was anxious to return the books they’d read and take new ones.
Noff’s love for art was promoted through books from the library. It worked!
My kids read so much and so quickly, it was amazing. At some point, we started going to the library only once a month when everybody grew up and became busier.
If you have avid readers in your ideal family vision, make goals associated with reading and an action plan to get there. If you don’t give your taxi driver good instructions, you’ll never get there.
“Please” and “thank you” are magic words. My parents didn’t say “please” and “thank you” and I didn’t like it. I wanted my kids to have good manners, because I consider them social rules that make people seem kind and caring.
I do think that “please” and “thank you” are magic words only of you mean them. I have made a rule to use these words a lot.
One time, there was tension in our family and people used unkind words. I wrote on the big whiteboard “Please” and “Thank you!” to remind myself that I needed to use these words more. As a parent, I knew I set an example, and if I did something long enough, it would sink, and it did! The goal was not for my children to say “please” and “thank you”, but for me, yet it changed everybody.
Teach your kids money management with pocket money.
My parents didn’t give us pocket money or teach us anything about money when we were young. My dad is amazingly good with money, but he only started teaching me about it when I was an adult.
I didn’t like it. I wanted my kids to be money-wise from an early age. I want them to breathe money management. Please note that money management is not making money and saving it, but using and investing it wisely and, maybe more than anything else, enjoying it!
I gave my children pocket money as soon as they could count to 10, which was about 3 years old. Eden and Tsoof enjoyed life and had $100,000 savings from their own work at the age of 25 and 22, respectively. This is not something your taxi driver takes you to by accident. It is something you write goals and write an action plan to get to.
Did they buy stupid things with it? Sure! Everybody does that sometimes.
Did they waste some of it? Sure! Everybody does that sometimes.
Will they be OK financially in their life? Sure! They have what it takes to care for themselves and their attitude to money is healthy.
Do not be tempted to say that you need extra in order to give your kids pocket money. You don’t! Kids learn a lot even from getting $5 a week, and that learning is worth more than the amount you give them.
In my ideal family, everyone is grateful. Teach children gratitude. Spend a few minutes of every dinner talking about what you are grateful for and ask the children to join in. if they can’t, just share, and they eventually will.
Grateful children are easy to parent. Write goal of how to express your gratitude, so they will mirror you. Again, you have to aim for it if you want to get there. Your kids will not develop gratitude without a role model or without practice.
As you can imagine, I have hundreds of goals that I actively worked on to bring my children to where they are now and make my parenting a joy. I still do this. I can tell you that even now, when one of them has a child of her own, it never stops.
When my daughter was pregnant, I wrote a list of goals for my relationship with her and my new grandchild. The journey never ends, even when your children turn 50 years old.
if you don’t want to find yourself stuck in a dark alley, with a broken car, no fuel, no lights and no driver, set goals, give good instructions and care for your family to ensure a happy, healthy, successful ride.