Avoiding The Ultimate Family Marathon

Torrey Roberts and Dr. Bob Barnes, of Sheridan House Family Ministries

Have you ever felt like you are on a family reality show? That there are just too many family and parenting responsibilities, and it is impossible to get them all done? There must be a hidden camera somewhere in the house just waiting to film you as you crack under the pressure. In fact, by the way you hear your children talk to each other, it sounds as if they are about to vote each other off the island.

“I can’t get my children to talk nicely to each other let alone take care of each other,” one mother confessed. “This whole dream of being a loving family seems so futile.”


Why is family cohesiveness important?

Creating a loving family environment doesn’t just happen. It’s something you do. The first question a parent or parents need to ask themselves is, “Why bother? Why is it so important to teach family cohesiveness?”

Family is the environment that God has chosen to raise the next generation in. It’s not meant to be an elite boarding house where children and young people are fed and then transported to activities. Family is the first society a child interacts with. It is the place he or she will learn how to minister to people and their needs, and how to care about people other than self.

When you look at the schedule of many families today you would think the primary goal is the accomplishment of as many activities as possible. It is as if we are all in a reality television show called “The Ultimate Family Marathon.” The goal being, how many activities can a family cram into one week and remain sane?

Dropping children off at school, church, sports and music lessons does not build family, it builds individuality. Not that there is anything wrong with any of these activities, but there is something wrong with all of these activities. Life is not about performing. In fact, life is much more about relationship, and relationship building begins at home.


familyPracticing relationship

Children and teens need a place to practice relationship. They also need a safe environment to return to each day for unconditional love. Family needs to be a place where they can ask questions without being made to feel stupid. An environment where other family members will cheer their efforts, so that they are willing and motivated to continue risking the effort to become the person God created them to be.

Children need to know that family is the place where they will not be judged, nor will they hear harsh or sarcastic words directed at them. The family motto needs to be, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).

I can hear the mom asking, “Yes! I agree! But how do I get my children to do that?”


familyCreate a team environment

Children do not automatically encourage the people around them, and that goes double for siblings. There is jealousy and competition often within a family environment, so parents need to create a team atmosphere. Parents need to help children become excited about working together.

What do you do as a family unit? To guide a family into becoming a team parents need to lead the way into activities that the family accomplishes together. Most activities today have divided families into two categories, participators, performers and spectators. What does your family do to get everyone in the family involved?

Plan to play games together, go on family vacations where you spend time together, or do a family project around the home or in the community. These are family activities that begin to define who you are as a team. These are also projects that help children hear the parents compliment each other as everyone is working together.

Our family relationships often boil down to little more than badgering that child who dawdles to get in the car or he’ll cause us to be late… again. That is the only “encouragement” they hear from us.

Find things to do as a family unit. Activities that force your family to work or play together. Then use that time to verbally encourage all the participants. It is not the specific activity that you are trying to conquer. It’s the loving family environment that you are working on creating.


As we start this new year, make this a parenting goal. Get off the “merry go round” of activities and create the atmosphere of family team. Make intentional time for fun and unity.


Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.

For more articles by Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-bob-barnes-and-torrey-roberts/


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