Making Families Strong
In the study led by Dr. Stinnett, 3,000 families were interviewed. Each one, regardless of its back-ground, rated very high on marriage happiness and in their satisfaction with parent-child relationships. A considerable amount of information was collected, but, according to Dr. Stinnett, when thoroughly analyzed it boiled down to six major qualities.3
The research also showed that these qualities just didn't happen. People made them happen. They are the result of "deliberate intention and practice."
What then are these six characteristics that make a family successful and strong?
First, strong families are committed to making the family work. Such families don't expect perfection from each other. They accept each other as they are, and accept responsibilities and work together as a team.
Their commitment goes far beyond feelings. Feelings are important and are integrated, but they come and go. They are variable. Commitment is constant. It is an act of the will. In other words, if we want a strong, happy family, we need to be committed to making it happen.
Second, happy families spend time together, not only quality time but quantity time. They work, they plan, they struggle, and they play together. This is much easier said than done, but done it must be if we want strong families.
Third, successful families have effective communications. The major complaint I hear, especially from wives, on both sides of the Pacific is a variation on the theme, "My husband doesn't understand my feelings nor does he share his."
To communicate effectively, each family member needs to be encouraged to express not only his or her thoughts, ideas, and opinions, but also his or her feelings in constructive ways and have them accepted. Without this there can be no intimacy and families end up as strangers living together alone.
Fourth, strong families express appreciation to each other. Another common complaint I hear from husbands and wives is this: "I feel taken for granted and don't feel appreciated." I am sure, too, that many children feel the same.
Successful families have a
strong spiritual commitment.
It is so easy to say, "Thank you. I really appreciate your washing and ironing my shirts, cooking my meals, mowing the yard, cleaning up your room, leaving the bathroom tidy, taking out the garbage, bringing home the paycheck–but most of all I appreciate you just because you're you."
Fifth, happy families are able to solve problems in a crisis. Mature people know that crises come to every family simply because we live in an imperfect world. And while crises often drive weaker families apart, they draw stronger families together and help make them stronger. The strong may bend under a crisis but not break, and they always bounce back.
Sixth, successful families have a strong spiritual commitment. Stinnett's research "found that strong families have a high degree of religious orientation and commitment. Not all belong to organized churches, but most do. They all consider themselves to be highly committed to their spiritual lives."4
A study conducted by sociologist Steven Nock of the University of Virginia supports this conclusion. His study showed that couples who attend church regularly are forty-two percent more likely to be married for the first time, and those in the church who were strongly committed to its beliefs had a twenty-three percent better chance of having a "very happy" marriage than those who don't go to church.
People then who have happy marriages and strong families are those who are committed to making their families strong. They work hard at communicating effectively. They spend time together. They express love and appreciation. They accept crises as normal and know how to work through them, and above all they trust in God and apply their faith to everyday living.
Would you like to have a happier and stronger family? You can. A good place to start is by taking your family and/or yourself to church or chapel this week.
1. Focus on the Family, November 1985, p.3.
2. Rekers, George, Ed., Family Building: Six Qualities of a Strong Family (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1985), pp. 36. © Logos Research Institute, Inc.
3. Ibid, p.38.
4. Ibid, p. 43.
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