Mother Theresa said, “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do. . . but how much love we put into that action.” With busy schedules and hectic days, it can be difficult to find the time to show genuine love to those within our immediate family. Oftentimes, those people whom we love the most are those who feel our love and kindness the least. They are often the recipients of our harsh words and critical judgments because they tend to see us at our worst.
So how do we change things? If arguing and contention is at the heart of our home, how do we train ourselves and our family to focus on love, making love the heart of the family, instead?
Change may not be easy and the results may not be quick, but by implementing these 5 habits into your family’s activities, you will find that focusing your family on love might just be easier than you thought. You’ll also be making memories as you do it.
Compliment. Teach your children to compliment one another and make sure you are giving compliments to your children. Buy each child a package of post-it-notes and challenge them to once a day write a compliment and stick it somewhere for a family member to find. For younger children, they could draw a picture or you could help them write their note. Leave your own notes for your children to find. If this doesn’t work for you, each night at the dinner table go around the table and have each person say something kind about everyone else. If you catch someone doing something good, tell them and teach your children to do the same. If you are constantly making it a point to look for the good in one another, there will be less focus on the bad. There will be more love and less arguing.
Serve: It is difficult for a person to serve without feeling an increase of love for the person they are serving. If you want an increase of love in your family, focus your family on service. Service inside the home can include siblings helping one another with chores, helping with homework, working together on a project, children serving parents by helping with dinner, setting the table, making one another’s bed or weeding the yard together. There are many opportunities for service within the family. Find those opportunities and use them. Opportunities to serve outside the home are also important. As a family, weed a neighbor’s yard, help at a nursing home, donate time at a soup kitchen, make blankets for the homeless, gather food for the food bank. The opportunities are endless. Make it a goal to do one act of service in the home daily and one big service project as a family at least once a month.
Read: Read together as a family. Read from good books. Read stories of good people who are doing great things to help make a difference in the world. Find stories that are good examples of love then discuss them together afterwards. When you give examples of good people doing loving things, it not only models for your family what love is and what a loving person does, but it gives them a source of inspiration. As we learn from others’ examples, we are inspired to be greater than we are and we learn to love as they do.
Support: Teach your children to support one another and be supportive of your family. Attend events together in support of a family member. Be a cheerleader for your family members. Be someone they can rely on. Be ready to listen when they need someone to talk to and be a good friend. Stand together in times of trouble and don’t ever let a family member stand alone. Even if you don’t agree with choices that a family member has made, don’t ever let it put space between you. You can love someone without loving the choices they make.
Outings: Make sure to plan family outings. They don’t have to be lavish vacations; a picnic at the park with an afternoon of kite flying is just as effective. Make sure to take time to be together. It is difficult to love someone you don’t know. Make sure you take the time to get to know your family and enjoy spending time with them. The more you do things together, the tighter the bond will be.
As we focus our family on love, we can truly find joy and happiness in family life. If it seems overwhelming, start with one step at a time. A lifetime family advocate, Thomas Monson, said, “As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.” Just by choosing to begin with this, we can fill our hearts and homes with love.
Tiffany Fletcher, author of "Mother Had a Secret: Learning to Love my Mother and her Multiple Personalities" http://motherhadasecret.blogspot.com/