Scripting a Harmonious Home
By Kelly Ackerman, LCPC
Imagine, just for a moment, coming home to someone’s smiling face warmly telling you they are glad to see you home and offering you a hug. As you begin to tend to the mail and dinner, another family member comments, “When you return home after a long day at work and continue on to do laundry and get the bills paid, it shows me how committed you are to us and to our happiness. Your meals are thoughtful, and even though you are tired, I notice the energy you continue to give to us.” The smiles of this family are contagious. The youngest one is attempting to set the table, reaching high to get a glass from the counter, only to find it falling and breaking on the ground. “Oh, dang, those glasses are slippery,” someone comments with a smile and little laugh. “Here, just hold the dustpan while I sweep. It will be cleaned up in no time,” Dad says while engaging the child in a rendition of Snow White’s Whistle While You Work. Yes, this home is like a 30-minute sitcom on TV in which there is harmony, and pleasantry is the norm with each family member feeling valued even when there are hard lessons to learn. This is fiction, a fantasy home of course…or is it really?
Although not all of life’s problems can be fixed in 30 minutes, and although we are complex humans with a full range of real emotions, home life can indeed embody love, acceptance, and accord while promoting the worth and value of each member of the clan. The catch is this: changing the atmosphere of the home begins with the adults in it. This transition takes intention and intensity, but in adapting a positive mindset you can begin to direct a home script resembling a TV script that pays off in your peace of mind and children who know their self-worth.
Achieving harmony is not done overnight. The intention that is required is a dedication to begin seeing with a set of lenses that magnify what the kids (and their friends) are doing right. In our society, we are programmed to look for the flaws in need of correction. Those little flaws become magnified to parents, and it is through lecture and correction that we try our darndest to mold and shape kids who just want to be unconditionally accepted and loved…perhaps in the same way we want to be unconditionally accepted and loved. The change comes with intention of communicating the good behaviors, contributions, efforts and character traits that likely far outweigh the negative aspects. Using specific language to “notice” and “name the characteristics” may sound a bit forced at first, but in time, it begins to pay off. I work with families on a daily basis to find the positive aspects and intentionally recognize at least 10 great moments each day out loud sounding something like, “When you get up and brush your teeth without needing reminders, you show me that you have self-respect and are responsible.” It may also be simply noticing, “When I got home this evening, I noticed that your backpack and shoes were not on the couch, but put away.” There is no “good job,” or “thanks” in these statements, they are specific and give direct positive affirmation to the inner voice of whomever receives the message leaving you both feeling great.
Additionally, promoting a positive home atmosphere requires intensity. Typically we spend a great deal of energy responding to negative behaviors through lecturing, scolding, punishing and reprimanding. We may spend 15 minutes or more lecturing on why the garbage is everyone’s job and leaving it is a sign of laziness. Yet, when is the last time you gave the same positive intensity when the garbage was taken out? It is far less draining to give excitement and momentum to that which is going right. The facial affect of someone who is angry is full of power and clearly communicates hostility without words. The facial affect of someone who is delighted can have the same power if we focus on “lighting up” like a firework on the Fourth of July.
For just a moment, consider going to work. When you arrive, how do you want to be greeted? How do you want your boss to recognize you: for your mistakes or your contributions? How do you feel around people who notice your flaws versus those who notice your positive qualities? It is the intentional recognition with great intensity that changes the atmosphere of a home. The books may be dusty, the crumbs are still on the floor, and the grass is growing long. There is not a team of set managers making your home look picture perfect. However, when you step into the frame of mind of being a director of your home, you can choose to set a positive, playful, and accepting ambiance that over time will look to outsiders like a well-cast TV series.