With any family there exists a myriad of personalities and traits that make living in harmony difficult. Many factors influence individual decisions, which, in turn, affect the family dynamic. Your job as a leader in your family is to decipher how it all fits, and how you translate this unique set of circumstances into a peaceful and loving household. Strong leadership is the key to making any situation work, and much will be asked of you in your journey towards building a successful family structure.
Growing up I didn’t have much in terms of material possession or concrete family structure. We lived right around the poverty line and my step father spent most of his time in the bar or with his bookie. My mother did the best she could with what she had and it was undoubtedly an uphill battle for her each and every day. She’d get up early, make sure her boys were fed and ready for school and then leave for work. After her shift, she would come home, get us ready for whatever sport/activity we were in at the time and spend her free time at said activities until it was time to go home. Dinner would be prepared and the rest of her night was spent cleaning the house.
As my mother sacrificed her best years to make sure we had what we needed, she often went without. I made up my mind early on that I wasn’t going to end up like her, stuck in a desolate situation with no option other than to sacrifice everything to take care of the kids. Although I appreciate everything she did for me, and credit her for helping make me what I am today, the fact remains that she lived a miserable existence under challenging circumstances and I simply could not allow myself to fall into that life. I knew that there had to be a better way, and I was determined to find it.
Luckily, my wife was very family oriented before I ever met her, showcasing her maternal instincts by caring for her younger siblings and cousins at every opportunity. After the birth of our daughter we approached the parenting game with the same mindset: our children would never go without, even if it meant that we might. Late nights out, flashy purchases and restaurants would have to wait, as the primary focus of our lives was now our baby girl.
There’s a strange satisfaction in this mode of thinking that allows one to truly frame their world view around frugality and delayed gratification. The more resources I re-allocated to my children the better I felt about things. Gone were the vapid and flashy purchases that ultimately left me feeling hollow and unfulfilled, and these emotions were replaced by feelings of joy and pride in being able to provide my offspring with what they needed and what they earned. Sometimes sacrifice doesn’t need to be severe and soul crushing, but rather can be an enlightening moment that changes you for the better.
The Cult of Personalities
Without a doubt, the most challenging aspect of being a household leader will be managing the unique personalities within your home. Children will continually test their bounds and your resolve with it. If you have more than one child, you will inevitably experience your children testing each other and you will find yourself as a referee when they decide to square off.
In my home we have seven distinct personalities, and although we generally get along just fine, there are moments where things get a little tricky. Having four boys means we have a lot of testosterone, and they are not afraid to jockey for position in the family hierarchy. All of the children enjoy playing rough, but sometimes the boys take it to extremes, which then spills over into outright fighting.
My oldest sons, aged nine and seven, are usually the main combatants, with the nine-year-old having a formidable advantage in size and strength, as well as a background in wrestling. My seven-year-old is fast and agile and is enrolled in karate classes. Given their statures and athletic backgrounds, things can get messy quickly. We’ve been able to quell most of the dust-ups between them by managing to their personalities.
Different approaches are required for different personalities. My oldest son is generally easy-going and can be reasoned with to understand why he shouldn’t fight his brother, thus making him the easier one to help understand. He can clearly articulate his argument and will step through the situation logically and deductively to come to a rational conclusion. The seven-year-old is impulsive and emotional (given his age it’s not surprising) and making things sensible for him is a challenge, although he has progressed in recent years.
Taking the right approach when dealing with family members is more important than maintaining the same approach. Everyone is different, and you’ll need to read their personality cues in order to effectively and efficiently assist them in times of need. The approach you take with children, in particular, will need to be molded to what fits their personality and current emotional state.
It’s up to you as a leader in your home to keep the peace and maintain harmony. By showing consistency, grace and sound judgment, your family will look to you for guidance and wisdom at every opportunity. This is where you will make your indelible mark on their lives by influencing who they are and what they strive to be. Don’t let things up to chance, but instead be the strong leader and role model they deserve.
Sometimes this means diffusing situations before they get out of hand. Other times it may mean that you need to make sacrifices of yourself to better the situation for everybody. When you execute a well calculated strategy with your family’s best interests in mind, everybody benefits, especially you.