Being part of a family means that you have lots and lots of wonderful opportunities to mess up and fail. Here are five adventure killing mistakes that our family makes regularly and has to guard against.
1. Impatience. It patience is a virtue then impatience is a corrosive that gradually eats away at family joy. Being able to wait, to go slower, to explain better, and to listen more is the difference between a family that gets along and likes each other and a family that quickly breaks into hostile camps. Being married means living with someone who thinks and does things differently than you. Raising children means that you will spend at least eighteen years per child teaching them how to learn things that you can already do. The key ingredient to being able to work with your spouse and train your children is developing the skill to go slowly and avoid anger.
2. Having an Expectation of Perfection. If you belong to a family you belong to a group that has the ability to constantly surprise you with the creative and varied ways that they will be able to make mistakes and mess things up. Children often learn best through failure, and have a wonderful capability to fail spectacularly at times. Dishes get broken, belongings are lost or destroyed, rules are ignored, and an endless variety of things can go wrong. Expecting anything else is a guaranteed way to permanently raise your stress level. Nobody can get it right all the time, or even most of the time, including you. Children (and adults) often learn best through failure. Reject perfection and embrace failure and not only will you be happier, but over time you will get a lot less mistakes and a lot more success.
3. Anger. If impatience is a corrosive then uncontrolled anger is nothing less than pure poison to family relationships and adventure. Let’s start with reality: You will be angry with people in your family. In fact, you should be angry from time to time. Righteous anger can be a powerful and useful tool that can help you guide your kids from wrong to right. What is destructive is the uncontrolled, lose your temper, lash out anger that injures and ultimately kills relationships. The more you succumb to that kind of anger the less effective and powerful your righteous, guiding anger will be. I have found that responsive anger is almost always the deadly kind. Unless someone is in physical danger an instant angry response to bad behavior and actions is almost never needed. You’re the parent and the one in charge, you have the power to stop the problem and then decide on an appropriate response at the right time, after your anger has cooled down.
4. Failure to Plan. Spur of the moment adventures are fun, but not as a steady diet. As we have noted before time slows for nothing. Time will go by faster than you expect. Your kids will be grown and gone before you know it. The mythical tomorrow when you will have all your cool adventures may never come. If you want to do the things you want to do you have to plan to do them. Nothing more is needed, but nothing less will work.
5. Selfishness. Every great adventure has a hero. The heroes in the best stories are those that sacrifice themselves for others. There is no such thing as a selfish hero. If you are leading your family into great adventure then you are the hero, and heroes put others before themselves. If you place yourself and your needs at the center of your family eventually all that will have left of your family will be…yourself. If you place your spouse and your children and their needs before your own you will gain a life that is full of other people who will all love and care for you. In giving of yourself you will gain everything.
When you are impatient, expect perfection, are unreasonably angry, fail to plan, and act selfishly make sure you acknowledge it as a mistake. Name it and identify it for what it is: a mess up. Be humble enough and hero enough to ask forgiveness. Every family deals with these mistakes, but great families name them for what they are, forgive when they happen, and work together to make them happen less in the future.