4 [New Year] Goals That Can Radically Impact Your Family

We let the stack of breakfast dishes sit sticky and we stayed around the table… for three hours. What started out as conversation evolved into an epic board game battle while my daughter and I knitted scarves and I’m pretty sure my son refined his noise-making skills. Oh, junior high boys, you are a mystery.

It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t entirely peaceful.

There were arguments with winners and losers and tangled yarn battles and annoyances.

So, basically, you know, family life.

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But there was laughter and love and the one word that has impacted our home more than any other the past few years. Togetherness. There was intentional purpose to make time to be together.

I think in a perfect world, we equate togetherness with peace. But if your world is anything like mine, reality is often chaos. There are tears and fears and giggles and grumbling. It’s a hodgepodge of emotions. But through it all, we choose to be together and that has strengthened us.

We visited House Church (think midweek Bible Study for families) and we ended up at a house without children. The leader offered a TV to my kids, but I asked if we might stay together, study together. My children sat still as church mice on the leather couch in a stranger’s house, quietly listening and I could only think how bored they must be. But as soon as our van door closed, they all talked at once how much they enjoyed the Bible Study and declared being together was the best part and could we please do that again? I smiled wide in the dark car on the way home because I couldn’t agree more.

The world will pull our families apart if we let it. It will divide and separate us and interrupt dinner and encourage us to live for yourselves and forget others. It will tell you to buy into the American Dream for your family and move out of that starter home and build your own little Kingdom of worldly possessions.

But our culture won’t tell your family breaking bread and breaking your life and giving it away is the way to really keep it together.

If you want to change your family, the world, do it side-by-side. It doesn’t have to cost a dime or even that much time. It’s about getting back to the basics and getting back together.

Go to church together. Ride bikes together. Play games together. Clean the kitchen together. Look for opportunities to bond as a family in your every day life and a new year is the perfect time to start.

My kids are getting older and I feel a pull to draw them back in. My one word for this new year: Together

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Start with one or two of these four goals that can radically impact your home:

  1. Eat Together at Home – This is as simple as it sounds, but it’s not always easy. And it’s definitely not a priority in many families (especially as kids get older). When I had toddlers around the table, I just got through many nights. But I did it because it set precedence and one day, your meal will last longer than 9 minutes. As children grow, the demand to move away from the table is strong with practices and rehearsals and games. Fight against it.
  2. Read Together –I don’t have to tell you that reading to your children will change their life. But so will reading with your kids. Several years ago, we moved from reading to our kids to reading books with them. You can check out some recommendations here (I’ve updated the list). Pick a book and read one-page-at-a-time until you’re done. You won’t regret this kind of togetherness. A perfect time to do so is at the dinner table (and a chalkboard table helps busy hands).
  3. Serve Together –By far, this has changed our family the most and kids are never too young or too old to give to others in some way. (I have a huge list of ideas here). After making this a priority in our lives, I’m beginning to see that my children are becoming servants. Start with one or two opportunities a year; it doesn’t have to be about quantity to give quality to your family and others.
  4. Gratitude Together – Get in the habit of sharing the highs and lows of your day together, write down your thanks. Keep a record. Thankfulness and giving our children opportunities to work hard are great ways to defeat entitlement in our home and stir up grateful reflection. I LOVE this for kids: My First Gratitude Journal: A Write-in, Draw-in Gratitude Journal for Kids.

Goals are just that –goals. We don’t eat together seven nights a week, four weeks a month, twelve months a year. But we try to. We don’t schedule things during dinner. We look for opportunities to serve; we practice gratitude. We don’t always hit the mark, but we aim for it and hit much higher than we would if we led life lead us instead of the other way around.

Together.


Comments

  1. says

    Those are great goals and ideas. Our children are grown and live about an hour away, but we make it a priority to see them every other weekend and to have at least one meal together each time.

    We still play board games together and talk about the books we are reading, etc. I have also started reading at least one book a year that my children have talked a lot about. We share prayer requests.

    This year I am making it a goal to hand write 6 letters to each of my children. http://magnifyhisname.com/2014/01/01/goals-for-2014/

    Blessings on your New Year!

  2. says

    “If you want to change your family, the world, do it side-by-side.” I love that line! There is so much truth wrapped up in just being together and making a difference. Happy New Year!

  3. Merridith says

    Hi Kristen,

    I’m so inspired by your life and blog…thank you! Quick question, and seems minor in the grand scheme, but when was the turning point in the length and quality of your family dinners? We have 5 children 7yrs and under, with another due in May. And while we are deeply grateful and humbled by the blessing of our children, our dinner is almost exactly what you described (9 min long and mom and Dad are just trying to hang on until bedtime). I guess I’m feeling a little weary in the well doing believing we will turn the corner at some point, I just can perceive when. Thanks for any thoughts you have…or any of the other more seasoned moms. Happy New Year!

    • Joy says

      Merridith,
      I have six sons ages 8 and under. I totally understand your “pain”. Having so many children so close together is not only slightly chaotic but sometimes rather stressful however with family meals we have a rule: nobody eats until mom has served everybody and Daddy has prayed. We enforce this rule with the youngest of them and it allows us to all sit down and pray together and it allows us to eat together. If we didn’t they’d gulp their food down long before we could start. We also make sure we ask each kid a question during the meal which slows them down with their eating and makes dinner take 15-20 minutes versus the 0-5 minutes it would be otherwise. Another thing we do is have kids help in the kitchen and in the clean up process so we get more family time an more time to talk. It’s amazing what even the 2 year old is able to help with. Good luck and God bless.

  4. says

    I was just listening to a preacher today and he said that sunday school that separated adults from children began in Europe when children were working in factories so they used Sunday mornings to teach them how to read and they would use the Bible. Their greatest fear was that Christian children would eventually go to sunday school and their parents would stop teaching them the bible. I find it interesting that your children enjoyed learning the bible with “grown ups.”

  5. Heather S. says

    Kristen – thank you. You put so eloquently what I was trying to explain to a young mom the other day about how we, as a family, do life and ministry. I even feel that the church is largely guilty for trying to pull families apart, every age group having their own *programs* and parents needed childcare of TV distractions to participate in Bible study. We have chosen a different path, the one you describe, and it is SUCH a blessing! We work together, we learn together, we serve together, and we play together. It is the gift of family – being together.

  6. says

    I love that your kids got to enjoy Bible study with you. I’ve always hated groups divided simply by age. It seems so arbitrary and artificial. I’m 58 years old, and I have always, since I can remember, felt comfortable with all different ages. Love your blog, I read it every day, and pray for you and your ministry daily.

  7. says

    My kids are 6, 3 and 9 months right now. Our dinners last about 6 minutes with me sitting down for about 2 of those. Between me feeding the baby and my husband trying to get the boys to eat, we usually manage one to two meaningful sentences between the 5 of us. You’re telling me it won’t be like this forever? :-)

  8. says

    I couldn’t agree with your more. The value of family, being together, is priceless. It’s how we’ve lived all along, and yet in reading your post, I could see areas in which we could improve. Thanks for the gentle reminder!

  9. says

    I love this! You inspired me to print out a page to hang on my fridge that says ‘family goals 2014′ – I put eat dinner together, read together, serve together, be grateful together and I added play together. Just a visual reminder for us to see everyday. Thanks, I always love what you have to share!!

  10. A.Marie says

    I love this blog post. As a Mom of now-grown adult children, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the older the children get, the more they really need the safety and stability of home. :)

  11. says

    I so agree with the sitting down to dinner together! This is our home 6 days a week, and the 7th occasion is Friday Pizza/Movie nights. Sometimes it is a film appropriate for everyone we all watch together. Sometimes the girls and I are watching a Disney movie, and the boys are watching a Super Hero movie. It’s the one relaxed night when we are not at the table – but we are still together. It has given us the chance for dialogue, which I hope will carry us into and through those teen years. My husband is a shift worker, so he is not always present at the dinner table – sometimes for several nights in a row, so it provides some consistency for the kids.
    Reading together is another great activity. That’s just fun. And it is a real treat that my eldest is now reading books I read as a child.

  12. says

    Amen and Amen!!!! Especially the fact that the world tries to separate you from your family in every way possible. I have four kids, age five and under and I do my best to spend as much time with them as possible. I know the day is coming though, when practices and things will try to get in the way. Praying that we can keep it together then!! Thanks for this post, definitely sharing!
    ~Jennifer
    http://www.mommylifeafterphd.com

  13. says

    I love this! As Christmas break nears it’s end I find myself not wanting the kids to go back to school. This together time has been incredible for our family. As the busyness of life returns next week, we will have to be more intentional about spending time together. Thanks for the ideas!

    • says

      Me, too!! My husband has been off the entire time the kids have been off and all I can think is “Can we have ANOTHER week like this????”

  14. Leah dion says

    Can you clarify reading a book ‘with’ your child versus reading a book ‘ to ‘ your child. I am not sure I understand. These are great ideas. I enjoyed reading!

    • Bev says

      To me, reading with a child means to go beyond reading the printed text to engaging the child: discussing the pictures, probing for understanding, relating the story to the child’s life, etc.

  15. says

    I love the idea of togetherness. My husband and I recently moved into a new home & have been w/o a dinning room table. His brother graciously gave us an old dinning room set complete w/stools for the bar. I was excited b/c now would we be able to eat dinner together. My 3 year old was surprisingly ecstatic about the dinning room table. It was something small that we received, but it ended up being a great blessing, b/c it lets all of us bond together, talk about our day & talking about ways we can grow/bond/spend quality time as a family.
    Happy New Year!!!

  16. says

    Oh, I forgot to add. I continue to get compliments on my Union 28 shirt! I even overheard a husband tell his wife, “I wish you would wear a shirt like that”. LOL! Great line & testimony to marriages…..plus my husband feels very loved when I wear it.

  17. says

    I couldn’t agree more! I am amazed by parents around me that seem to NOT want to be with their kids, not that mine are perfect angels. The world is pulling constantly between friends/electronics/school stuff/church stuff, and the only way we will stay in that “togetherness” is if we are intentional. Thank you for the encouragement!

  18. says

    Over the past few years, as our kids have grown from preschoolers to school-aged kids with sports and other extracurriculars, so many have commented (often negatively) to me about how strict I am about preserving our family dinner hour. Now, those same people lament that they are never together at the same time. We have worked so hard to do all four of those on your list, even up to an hour of reading a day (and many more on weekends and holidays). It has been a fight against the tide to keep it this way, but my husband and I are so glad we have.

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