Parenting

Printer Friendly Version of this Article

The Five Factors for a Phenomenal Family



Starting right now, you can begin to make choices and take day-to-day actions that will create nothing short of a phenomenal family. You can choose to have one if you just resolve to do it and know where to put your focus. That's where the Five Factors for a Phenomenal Family come in. These factors aren't inherited, but they're not particularly difficult to implement. Creating these factors in your family begins with you. You must start by believing in yourself and your family's right to be phenomenal.

Dr. Phil devotes an entire chapter of Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family to his Five Factors for creating a family where every member is a star in their own right. This involves having a new mindset, a new philosophy and personal truth as well as a plan of action. So start now with the attitude that you are going to re-parent your family. Resolve to get your mind right and your behavior on track. Here's a brief look at the Five Factors:

Factor 1: Create a Nurturing and Accepting Family System.

The number one need in all people is the need for acceptance, the need to experience a sense of belonging to something and someone. The need for acceptance is more powerful in your family than anywhere else. The following to-do list can help you bring the spirit of acceptance into affirmative, interactive action in your family:

  • Put your family on Project Status.
    This means you must consciously decide to actively and purposely work on improving your family situation every day. You may need to do such things as:

    - Reschedule business activities to make time for your kids.
    - Help your children set and achieve goals.
    - Set aside an hour a day for the family, every day.

  • Bring out the authenticity of every family member.
    Each child in your family came into this world with a core set of unique skills, abilities, interests and talents — all of which make up their genuine identity, their "authentic self." Authentic children have a sense of hope, a feeling that today is as fun and exciting as yesterday and that tomorrow will be as fun and exciting as today. The following suggestions will help you get started on ways to discover and bring to the surface the authenticity and hidden talents and interests of each of your children.

    - Respect and encourage your child's uniqueness.
    - Catch your children doing something right.
    - Look for the best intentions in your children.

  • Create a sense of security and peace in your home.
    Your children look to you and your spouse as a solid and safe base of operations. Yet when they're subjected to a conflict-ridden home, their base is shaken to the core. Here are some actions that will ensure that your family becomes and remains a secure stable base for your children and not a war zone.

    - Take arguments private and keep them private.
    - Stop being a "right-fighter."
    - Eliminate patterns of verbal abuse.
    - Deal forthrightly with destructive behavior.

Factor 2: Promote Rhythm in Your Family Life.

Children need rhythm in their lives, and it is unsettling to them when they don't have it. This factor is critical to the well being of your family, and here are some steps to help promote that rhythm.

  • Create a predictable pace of family life.
    It can be difficult to schedule the events of the day or the week, but your family does need a pace — a rate of progress throughout the day built around key activities, such as:

    - Specific times when meals are served.
    - Regular bedtimes.
    - A specific list of chores.

  • Be accountable for your choices.
    The choices you make are 100 percent your responsibility, and they affect your interactions with everyone else in your family. Acknowledging your accountability means that you should be willing to ask yourself questions like the following:

    1. Are there certain behaviors or bad habits I need to stop? if so, what are they?

    2. Do I spend more money than I can afford, possibly jeopardizing the financial condition of my family?

    3. Do I choose to live recklessly and without regard for my personal safety?

    4. Am I having trouble at work, brought on by my own attitudes or behavior or by compromising my principles?

    5. Do I consider the consequences, positive or negative, of a career change on my family?

    6. Have I taken unnecessary risks?

    7. Have I, in any way, treated my children unfairly?

    8. Am I failing to take care of my health by simply not requiring enough of myself?

    9. Have I failed to take my marriage vows seriously, being emotionally unavailable or even unfaithful? Have I considered how this behavior may affect my family?

    10. Do I choose to put work over the priority of my family?

    Answer these questions, and any others that may come to mind, to see how your choices have the power to impact your family. Let your answers identify for you what must become priorities for repair.

 

Factor 3: Establish Meaningful Rituals and Traditions.

Your family may celebrate rite-of-passage rituals such as baptism or bar mitzvahs, or bedtime rituals of a bath followed by story time. Here are some ways to establish rituals and traditions in your own family:

  • Plan purposeful celebrations.
    Birthdays, Father's Day, Mother's Day, and other events are all opportunities to create a tradition or even a ritual.

    - During the holidays, create traditions such as baking certain foods.
    - Play the same music at birthday parties.
    - Make sure your children either buy or make their own gifts.

  • Hold naming rituals.
    Naming a baby blesses that child and welcomes him or her into a family and community. Renaming rituals allow the individual to connect with and express what is at the heart of who he or she is.

  • Tell family stories.
    Build into family get-togethers special times for retelling these stories, complete with slides pictures and mementos. Bring out picture albums or old films to enhance the storytelling experience.

  • Worship together.
    For many families, attending a worship service is a major family ritual. Family participation in worship is an excellent way to enact a family's faith through rituals and lay a spiritual foundation for children.

Factor 4: Be Active in Your Communication.

The greatest things you can give your children are your ears and your voice. Meaningful dialogue takes into account each family member's need for acceptance, self-respect, encouragement and security.

  • Change the backdrop in which communication occurs.
    You'll find that your children are much more comfortable, more receptive and tend to open up in "safe" environments, rather than if you "sit them down" in a chair or at the table to talk. Here are several strategies for encouraging active communication:

    - Make time to talk in the car.
    - Have discussions during game time.
    - Listen to CDs with your children and share your thoughts.

  • Discuss sensitive subjects such as politics or religion.
    These discussions are for the sole purpose of teaching children how to express their opinions and learn how to communicate. Providing a forum for your child's self-expression is one of the ways you can bolster their self-confidence and enhance their communication skills.

  • Do some "quilting."
    This is a term used to describe family interactions involving a common activity. The object of "quilting" is to begin a group project together, such as:
    - Painting a room.
    - Cleaning the house.
    - Washing the car.
    - Building a playhouse or treehouse.
    - Tending a garden.  

Factor 5: Learn How to Manage Crisis.

When it comes to family life, it's not a question of whether or not a crisis will hit — it's a matter of when. No matter how smoothly your life goes, no matter how well you parent with a purpose, you'll encounter some crisis, and it will impact your life together as a family. Maybe you discover that your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Or your family must adjust to life with a chronically ill child or parent. Your best chance to navigate the rough waters of a crisis is to have a consciously designed crisis management plan in place for overcoming the tough stuff — before it hits. Your plan might include any of the following.

  • Be prepared before a crisis strikes.
    The crucial thing about crisis is preparation. Keep in mind certain Hot Warning Signs that can serve as clues that a crisis is brewing.

  • Remove danger.
    This may mean calling the police yourself, confiscating dangerous items, keeping your child from having contact with certain people or removing him or her from a dangerous place — physically or emotionally.

  • Work the problem, not the person.
    Never attack or blame the family member in crisis When you're upset with a child, it can be terribly tempting to blame and criticize them. But when you do this, that child learns to "cover his tracks" the next time he or she gets in trouble. Aim your energies at solving the problem instead.

  • Close ranks.
    When a crisis hits, family members tend to turn on one another, blaming or ripping into someone with personal attacks. You must resolve that your relationships will exist on a level above blame and personal attacks. If family members are unable to turn to one another, a crisis will shatter family unity.

  • Find meaning in your suffering.
    Don't allow yourself to be devastated for no reason, no meaning and no purpose. You've got to create some value to the pain that you experience in life. Should some injury or tragedy befall one of your children, you may learn from the event, and thereby protect him or her and your other children more effectively in the future. You may choose to take some social action to create meaning out of suffering.  


This is just a glimpse of Dr. Phil's Five Factors. For a more complete understanding of how to create the change you want in your family, see Chapter 3 in Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family.