Re-valu-ing the Family, Part Sixteen: The Cure!
by Richard and Linda Eyre
Note: In this twenty-six part column, Richard and Linda Eyre explore the recent revolution of the family from the honored centerpiece of society to a disrespected and seemingly redundant appendage to the larger corporate and cultural institutions of our new world. Re-valu-ing the family, the Eyres believe, is the only alternative to America’s demise. The sequence of the column is: A. Re-valu-ing the family (part I); B. The “crux” (parts 2 and 3 — why family is the foundation for everything, including happiness); C. The “curse” (parts 4 and 5 — the social problems that plague our society today); D. The “crisis” (parts 6 and 7 — the breakdown and breakup of families that allows and leads to the social problems); E. The “cause” (parts 8, 9, 10, 11 — the reasons our families are failing); F. The “culprits” (parts 12, 13, 14, and 15– how our new, large institutions are destroying the small, most basic institution of family); G. The “cure” (parts 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 — what you as a parent can do about it); H. The “case” (parts 23, 24, and 25 — a case for government and big corporations to pay more positive attention), and I. Finding or forming a family support group (part 26).
In this week’s column, having now finished our discussion of the “curse,” the “cause,” and the “culprits,” we now move to the more positive territory of the “cure.”
Cure (ky oor) n. 1. Something that corrects or relieves a harmful or disturbing situation; 2. Restoration of health.
It’s fine (and somewhat therapeutic) to fix blame, find culprits and understand why families are in trouble. It always helps to know the enemy, but when we come to fixing the problem, families must do it for themselves.
Creating Preemptive Family Institutions
As individual concerned parents who have become aware of the dangers of larger institutions and false paradigms, we have three options open to us: 1. Give up and give in to entities and influences that are so much bigger than we are; 2. Try to organize and fight against the “enemies” (anything from boycotts to letters to our congressmen); 3. Create a family institution strong enough to resist the dangers posed by the larger institutions and false paradigms.
This chapter is for parents who choose the third option. Not that there is anything wrong with option two — in fact, some ideas along its lines make up the next (final) chapter. But most of us, as parents, know that the thing we have the best chance of influencing, in the short term, is our own families. And we know, deep down, that if we put forth the effort, seek the right help, and stick with it, we can be the predominant influence in our own families and with our own children, countering, preempting, and superseding the negative influences of larger institutions and false paradigms.
I remember one of my first personal experiences with the alternating helplessness and hopefulness that all parents feel. Our oldest was nine and completely caught up with her peer group. She seemed to have total interest in her friends and zero interest in her family. And I knew at least a couple of her friends were not providing the kind of influence we’d have wished for. Any time she had apart from her friends she wanted to spend in front of the TV or listening to music both of which were blasting her with the wrong values and attitudes. “Where’s my influence,” I thought. “How can I have any effect on who she’s becoming?”
Then at a parent-teacher conference I saw an essay she’d written. The assignment (and the title) was, “My Hero,” and she had written about me. I realized that the opportunity for influence and for the relationship I wanted with her were there — would always be there — but I had to make it happen.
The bottom line is that we must turn our hearts to our children and our families. We must come to understand that the larger institutions that were created to serve us are now demanding too much service from us — and too much time and too much allegiance. We must, as parents, make a conscious decision to give them less of our time, and to give them none of our hearts. Our personal tradeoffs must favor the family. As we turn our hearts, we will also turn our minds, our priorities, and our time.
Overview of an Internal Solution
(seven principal focuses for strengthening the family)
In earlier times, families survived out of necessity. They were the only institutions — their members had no other options.
Today, larger institutions present many alternatives, and families survive only by their own will and their own choice. Strong families are still attainable, but only by parents who passionately pledge themselves to doing what it takes to build and bolster, to protect and prioritize their families.
We believe there are seven highly effective approaches to strengthening, protecting, and preserving our families. These approaches have always been important, but now, in the face of all that is happening to the family, they are more crucial and more valuable than ever before. We lay them out here as seven principles . . . and as seven steps that every parents can take:
1. Make a conscious, personal RECOMMITMENT to the priority of marriage and family and to the four unique family functions (procreation, nurturing, teaching values, and providing permanence). Truly turn your heart (your priority, your focus, and your passion) to your children.
2. Teach (and live by) CORRECT PRINCIPLES which oppose, overcome and supersede false paradigms. Parents who can recognize the error and danger in many of society’s attitudes and “norms” can also see the wisdom in true and eternal principles and can teach them to their children.
3. Reinvent TIME MANAGEMENT with the emphasis and priority on spouse and children and with certain time periods set aside and reserved for family.
4. Teach understanding and SELECTIVE USE of larger institutions. Teach children to recognize the good and the bad in larger institutions and to use the one while avoiding the other.
5. Make COMMUNICATION the constant goal. Implement it, improve it, insist on it — between spouses and between parent and child.
6. Create IDENTITY, SECURITY, AND MOTIVATION for children through family genealogy and history, through family traditions, family rules, and a family economy that shares household responsibilities.
7. Use “VALUES THERAPY” where the focus shifts away from what is wrong and toward the rewards and fulfillment of what is right. Parents can focus on one of twelve basic, universal values each month and build a family culture that is value-centered.
Next week we will go deeper into the cure by examining the power of recommitment.
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.