Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Family Habits

Just as I can settle into habits that don’t lead me to my happy place, our family can sometimes do the same. As my kids grew up, there were times it seemed we were in a rut of criticizing and complaining. Here are a few things I tried from time to time to break the cycle.

One daughter got in the habit of coming home from school and immediately launching into a list of things that went wrong during her day. I tried patiently listening, then tuning her out, but it was a downer. She was unaware of her own habit. It was her way of coming home and engaging, but she didn’t understand the energy drain of focusing on the negative.

So I tried something different. Before she got started with her first complaint, I would ask her to tell me about something good that happened at school. Sometimes she had a hard time shifting her focus to the positive, but once she could identify one thing, I would ask questions to expand the conversation about that event. That often led to remembering other good things that happened. The recount of good tidings helped make the transition from school to home more pleasant for all. And it helped to identify the occasional distressing event that warranted debriefing.

As a family, we sometimes fell into a pattern of criticism and hurt feelings and misunderstandings. We started a practice of appreciation dinners. Periodically, we began dinner by each person in turn identifying something to appreciate about every other person at the table. It might be a quality of that person, or something that person did or said. Sometimes this got pretty funny, especially when it came to James and Dan’s turns. Their autism gives them a unique perspective, so what they identified to appreciate was sometimes quite unexpected!

Does your family have practices or techniques to break out of negative ruts? I would love to hear about them. You can comment on this post, or you can email me privately. I will be glad to compile a list of suggestions in a future post.


  1. Sometimes when Michael and I find ourselves using harsh tones or words with each other in front of our daughter Asa, we will stop, sweep her in to our arms and do a big family hug. It stops the conversation that likely didn't need to happen in the first place, and replaces it with a focus on our family unit and reminds us of the tie of love that binds the 3 of us together.

  2. We try listening, and think about how our talk with each other is a lesson and a room tone for Zoe--so if people need to complain (we have a preteen on our hands), we listen, ask her what she could do to make things happier, and compliment her coping habits. I also tell her, distraction can be a good antidote: if you feel bad, maybe a little jump roping or dancing would help.

  3. I love this post!
    Shared it with my hubby and daughter tonight.
    We needed to hear it!


Your comment is valuable and valued. Comment moderation is enabled to block spam, so please excuse the brief delay until your comment appears on the blog.