“Somewhere along the line we stopped believing we could do anything. And if we don’t have our dreams, we have nothing.” Billy Bob Thornton as Charlie in the movie The Astronaut Farmer
Yes, ‘a family that prays together, stays together.’ Yet I have discovered something even more profound that ‘A family that dreams together is inseparable.’
A family is a unit made up of individuals. In most cases a family is headed by the husband who is the leader, supported by the wife who is second in command and lastly there are the children. It is a team were one is born into. Upsetting the functionality of a family leads to serious physical and emotional losses to its members.
A family does not exist, apart for a reason. It is important to find your family’s purpose. This may involve individual soul searching; identifying what you want as a family (vision); what you stand for (values); what you are good at or what you have (resources). These things bring fulfilment into families.
Some of the most important issues in a family are integration, consultation and good leadership. The husband is by nature the leader and his role is to support and advance the cause of his team. He protects the members and stirs the course on behalf of the family. Being authoritative normally leads to his down fall and subsequent loss of his most needed pride. On the other hand being docile and passive, create even more problems. John Maxwell sums it all by saying that ‘everything rises and falls on leadership.’ This includes families!
A family without a vision is of course going nowhere. At the end family members will start to look for their purpose somewhere else. Develop a vision and write it down. A family vision is simply a dream of where you see the family in five, ten, twenty or thirty years. The vision can be broken down into sub-visions and goals covering specific areas. Allow each family member to participate in the implementation or roll out of the vision in order to get buy in and support. Track progress and give feedback.
One of the most inspiring movies I ever watched is ‘The Astronaut Farmer.’ I particularly like Charlie’s father-in-law’s words when he said, "I couldn't get my family to eat together. (But) You have your family dreaming together.” It was indeed a crazy dream. The idea of Charlie, an ordinary farmer, making a rocket and managing to take it to space, despite opposition from banks, the community and even the government, is really amazing. His family members were joined in this vision and were prepared to sacrifice to see it happen. This shows what a family with a single dream can achieve. Nothing can stop a family united in a dream.
Marriage or the relationship between the parents dictates the stability and foundations of a family unit, and it is to be valued as top priority. On a long term basis, trust and honesty becomes more important than physical features of the couple. Remember once trust is broken, it is not easily restored but it is not impossible either. Be a person of integrity and keep your vows. A successful family helps each member to realise his or her dream. Selfishness brings frustration to family members.
Values go from top to bottom. The parents’ values become the children’s values. A study in schools in Pretoria East’s low density suburbs really shocked many. 82% of the children admitted that they have at least once seen their parent bribing someone. Above 50% said it happened more than once. These are the so called affluent suburbs where managers and leaders live. These statistics say a lot about the current leadership and the seed that has been sown to the children.
Changing and keeping values is not an easy task and is not a one day job. Nevertheless ‘integrity starts at home. The reason why our nations are in a mess is because there is no integrity at home. We are nice angels in church and devils at home. We criticise leaders or relatives right in front of our children and expect the children to respect the same leaders and relatives. If you bad mouth your pastor or church in front of your children, how do you expect them to obey them? It is even worse when parents fight in front of their children.
Children follow parents. They do not do what you say, but what you do. So forget about giving them a lot of lectures, ‘just do it!’ Remember every child is looking for a hero. If they do not find one in the home, they will look somewhere else. Be their role model. Spend time with them. Kids do not really want toys, ‘they want you.’ Do not ignore them, otherwise they will find someone who will not ignore them and it is not going to look good if the bad guy next door gives your kids the attention they need. Kids follow people who give them attention.
Create good memories for your children. I mean you would not want the kids to remember their father as the guy who watched TV all the time or was never at home. If you do not teach your children, the TV will do it for you. Is this what you want?
On the other hand, kids need to be disciplined. Give and define for them rules to follow and boundaries to keep. It gives them a sense of identity and security.
Run the family using wise principles. Put up economic and social systems; and principles to handle your family as well as your extended family. Introduce systems to run your finances and home. Have systems to deal with friends, systems to deal with health etc. If there is anything you are going to do a number of times is putting systems in place. Agree on these systems and adjust them as you go.
Systems take you out of the constantly endless decision making processes. They save time because everyone knows how things are done. They ensure consistency and hence enforce fairness. Even if you are not around your spouse or kids will know what to do. Families with a common vision and fixed systems have fewer arguments or blame games. Normally systems are made in a sober environment long before the critical situation comes.
Systems should reflect your values, goals and environment. They must be fair and should be adjusted with time. With time systems will define your culture and identity. Clearly defined systems are a good tool for controlling the family. As a family, if everyone behaves as they please or if they are forced to behave in a certain way, failure is highly likely.
Like a business, each family needs to manage finances well. Each family has an ‘income statement’ or a budget. A budget is not just a planning tool but a system to control finances. The income statement shows all your earnings, expenses or savings for a given period, in most cases it is shown monthly. It is not wise to spend more than you earn, because you will end up having to borrow. Aim to save and invest at least 10% of your income. Put it in secure funds or investments. Ask for advice from trusted experts or even study a bit on personal finance. A $10 text book on personal finance can save you a lot of money and change the course of your family finances.
A budget normally has the following items;
1) Non-negotiable or fixed expenses: rent, taxes, insurance, food, transport, car and house payments, church or religious giving etc.
2) Retirement: Money set aside into pension fund etc.
3) Long-term savings: Money set aside for car purchases, major home renovations, or to pay up substantial debt loads.
4) Irregular expenses: major repair bills, new appliances, etc.
5) Fun money: Money set aside for entertainment or holiday purposes.
A family ‘balance sheet’ is increasingly becoming an important document. It is a statement of everything you own as well as your credits. It lists current assets such as cash in bank or investment accounts, long-term assets such as shares and real estate, current and long term liabilities (what you owe) such as loans, mortgage and other forms of debt. Securities and real estate values are listed at market value rather than at historical cost or cost basis. A Family’s Net Worth is the difference between the family’s total assets and total liabilities. This is normally used to measure how wealthy the family is.
Being wealthy does not necessarily mean having big figures on your budget, but rather the value of the assets you have accumulated over time. You can increase your wealth by ensuring that your expenses are less than your income, as well as by saving or investing the difference between your expenditure and income. Many families have huge budgets but little net worth because of over expenditure.
Have an awesome day.
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