Creating Warmth (part 3 of 5)

This is part 3 of a 5-part series

For your family to have a sense of AWE, create a home environment of warmth and affection. You may be saying, “But you don’t understand what my spouse is like” or “My adolescent isn’t exactly the perfect example of love, affection and devotion.” I’m sure you’re right; so start by taking “baby steps” (as Bill Murray’s character in the hilarious movie What About Bob? would say).

Taking baby steps means that if you have 20 things to go over with your teenager when he or she gets home from school and most of the agenda deals with things your teenager should have done but didn’t—wait. Instead, join your teen in one of youth’s favorite pastimes—hanging out. Take your child out for his or her favorite junk food. Don’t bring up anything on your agenda; instead, spend your time listening to whatever your child wants to talk about. Ask no probing questions; make no accusations. Talk with your child the way his or her friends, youth pastor or favorite relative would talk with him or her. Your child will be waiting for the other shoe to drop, but bite your tongue and don’t drop the shoe! Keep the conversation warm and friendly. When you are finished, give your child a hug and tell him or her how much you enjoyed being together. You still have those 20 things on your agenda, don’t you? So now, after some hang-out time, ask your child when would be a good time to go over some responsibilities. You’ll usually get a better reception.

Terri was one of those type-A moms who accomplished more in one day than I could in one week. She was so driven that her children and husband were beginning to find ways to avoid her. Her daughter complained to me that although her mom meant well, almost every night, when the daughter was tired and getting ready for bed, her mom would start with 20 questions, school problems and whatever else was on her list. Usually the conversation would turn into a fight, with doors slamming and words spoken that they both later regretted.

The young girl told me, “My mom greets me at the door after school with a to-do list and doesn’t give me a break until I go to sleep. Sometimes I fake like I’m sleeping because I don’t want Mom to ask me another question or challenge me with one more problem.”

I knew Terri and knew that she wasn’t the wicked witch of the west, but I concluded that she probably was developing an unhealthy parenting habit. I suggested to Terri that she not greet her daughter with a to-do list and definitely not follow her around as she was getting ready for bed. They both would be much better off if Terri greeted her daughter with warmth and affection and then made sure that the last event of the day also centered on warmth and affection. The daughter would need to have a specific time each day for Terri to check her homework and make sure “the list” was taken care of. With this routine, Mom’s agenda would be handled and the daughter would feel the warmth and affection of a beautiful relationship.

If I were sitting with your child and spouse, how would they rate the warmth of your home? No one is looking for a fake sense of peace; but happy, healthy families work on creating a positive, warm environment even in the midst of disciplining and living out daily life.

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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