How to create an atmosphere full of grace, love and faith
When I think of the perfect family life, I think of a family happily being together in a serene atmosphere. I envision lots of smiles and smells of homemade dinner wafting through the air. I can just imagine the delighted conversation the parents are having while the kids calmly play together. Everyone is well coiffed and put together.
But, in reality, our family life is different, because life isn’t perfect. Life is messy. You can look around my family and find one child hanging out in a messy bedroom and the other stretched out on the couch watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. My husband and I are working in the home office or scurrying around doing our household chores. The dog adds in his flare of barks for dramatic effect, and dinner is a frozen pizza stuck in the oven.
What we need most in the midst of that chaos is grace. I need grace from my husband and children when I get grumpy because I’m tired and overwhelmed. My kids needs grace from me when they are out of sorts. If everything was perfect, nobody would need grace!
Through the 21 years I’ve spent as a wife and 11-1/2 years I’ve spent as a mom, I’ve learned some things along the journey about how to create a family life filled with more grace, love and faith than irritation, grumpiness and grousing.
1. Pray for grace, love and faith.
Unsurprisingly, the first step of creating a happier family life starts with prayer. I cannot live a life filled with grace, love and faith on my own. Without God’s help, I’d be too irritated and annoyed to be loving and grace-filled. While we remember to pray for so many requests, we overlook this one.
One of my daily prayers is for God to help me be the kind of wife and mom my husband and children need me to be. I don’t believe that He put my husband and me together by accident or gave us the children we have without a reason. If I am called to be a wife and mother, I want to do it how God wants me to do it. I want to be who He created me to be. I can’t do it on my own.
On the days and in the moments when the day is lasting longer than our patience, we need Someone with more strength, grace and patience than we have to help us through.
2. Speak kindly to each other.
The words we speak reflect our hearts. They are so very important. My husband and I learned early on in our marriage to talk kindly to each other. We promised to not be passive aggressive. Instead of nagging and grousing, we ask each other for help and say “please” and “thank you.” Speaking in kindness goes a long way.
We have kept the same attitude with our children. Unless our kids are in danger, we start out kindly asking them to do things. We do our best to not start out with a stern or irritated attitude toward our kids. If that happens for no reason other than our own grumpiness, we also do our best to apologize.
We avoid teasing or making someone feel bad for something they prefer. My husband and I remind our kids often that anyone’s success in our family is a success for the whole family. We have to stick together and support each other — not tear each other down.
Think about whether you’d speak the same way to a complete stranger as you are to your family. I know. That gets to me! Sometimes we are more polite to someone we don’t know than to our family members who we love most. Of course we need to be free to have disagreements with our spouses and discipline our children, but we can still do so with a measure of kindness.
3. Listen to Christian music.
Listening to Christian music might sound like an odd way to improve your family life, but hear me out. Music is powerful. It can shift our moods and thoughts. Christian music can also help us focus on God throughout the busyness of life.
Being cranky with my kids is difficult when I’m humming or singing along to a song about God’s love! So many times I have heard God speak to my heart and been able to truly worship Him best through music. Making it part of our family life just makes sense.
(In fact, I feel so strongly about the importance of the music we listen to that I’ve created a Families with Grace playlist on Spotify and continue to add to it with songs I find inspiring and uplifting.)
4. Guard your family’s time and activities.
Because I’m an introvert who needs downtime to re-energize, I learned early on that I needed to be intentional with my family’s time and activities. I am protective of my time and energy because it’s limited. My chronic health issues impact how much of me there is to go around. I won’t say yes to something that will interfere with my relationship with my kids or my husband. After God, my family is my top priority, and I want to make sure there is enough of me left for them each day. Sometimes that’s easier said than done!
I am also protective of my kids’ time. I tell them that they have their entire lives to be busy. Childhood should be when they have downtime to just play or pursue a hobby for fun. For our family, that means limiting our kids to one ongoing extracurricular activity at a time during the school year. As they get older, that will evolve, but for now it’s what works best for us.
I’m doing my best to teach my children that it’s OK to say no to some things and not do absolutely everything all the time. Because if we are too busy to recharge and we are too overwhelmed by our schedule, then grace and love fly right out the window!
5. Put down electronics.
Pretty early in my motherhood journey, I realized I was more likely to snap at my kids when I was using my phone. While both my husband and I do work-related tasks from our phones, I do my best to limit any other activity on my phone when I’m with my kiddos. I want to be present in the moment with my family instead of caught up in a digital world that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme.
I’ve also instated a policy when it comes to social media that has improved our family life. If I am on social media and come across a post that upsets me, then I log off of social media. Those feelings have a residual effect that then spills over in my attitude and how I interact with my family.
We also don’t allow electronics at the dinner table (unless we are watching a movie or show together).
6. Maintain a consistent routine or schedule.
I’m naturally predisposed to routines and schedules, because I thrive on them! I know not everyone is schedule-oriented, but having at least some non-negotiable times is a great idea. Schedules allow children (and adults!) to know what to expect when. Schedules also keep everyone sleeping and eating regularly, which helps maintain a happy family life because nobody feels like being full of grace and love when they’re tired and hungry!
My family does well with routines. The simpler a routine is, the easier it is to stick with. And sometimes you need to reassess routines to figure out if something isn’t working and needs to change. Through the years, for example, our bedtime routine has evolved and changed as our children have gotten older.
7. Have fun together!
Having fun looks different for every family based on what you like and enjoy. But its impact is the same: you make memories, have fun and aren’t grumpy. It’s not possible to have fun and be grumpy at the same time! While life isn’t all fun, find time regularly to have fun together as a family.
Figure out some small, everyday sort of things you can do for fun together. We enjoy watching movies, playing games and reading together. Of course we have bigger family fun, too, like trips to the zoo or an amusement park, but it’s the smaller activities with family fun that help our family bond most.
In creating a family life filled with grace, love and faith, you’ve got to have good communication. So many problems can be solved with communication. I know my husband can’t read my mind, so I tell him when I’m struggling. (Sometimes he knows based on how I’m acting or reacting!) I’ve learned to do the same thing with my children. If I need a moment alone to sit and read or just be, I tell them rather than assume they’ll figure it out.
My husband and I have learned we have to be intentional about communicating and connecting while raising our kiddos. We also have to be intentional about communicating individually with our kids. Since our kids were smaller, we have had one-on-one playtime. It was the best way to communicate with them. We’d set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and each take a kiddo to play with one-on-one. When the time was up, we’d switch.
While we still do playtime like that every so often, now we’ve evolved into bedtime talks. Twice a week our 8-year-old gets to stay up with us past our bedtime routine to talk with us or read with us. And three times a week, our 11-year-old gets to do the same thing. We just finished reading through a book about middle school with her and are now reading a book about boys. We have had some great discussions!
9. Praise often!
When my children do something right, I try to praise them for it just like I would discipline them if they had made a bad choice. Everybody feels good to be acknowledged for what they’re doing. So when I see my daughter helping her little brother with something, I praise her. And when I notice my son doing a chore without being asked, I praise him. As a result, I have reinforced good behavior that improves my kids’ confidence as well as our family life.
I do the same with my husband. I tell him I appreciate the things he does around home. It can be as simple as saying, “Thanks for taking out the trash.”
10. Accept your family’s imperfections.
No matter what you do, you are going to fall short because you’re human. Your family is the same way. Your kids will behave badly. Or your husband will get grumpy. You’ll snap at all of them out of frustration. Give yourself and your family some grace. Of course do the best you can, but don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. It just isn’t possible.
Instead, show your family what it looks like to learn and grow from your mistakes. Even if you’ve made the same mistake 20 times already, the next time you move forward with something different, celebrate that. Just keep showing up and trying every day. Go back to square one when you have to. Press the reset button on a day after spending a few minutes praying for grace, love and faith. You aren’t on this journey alone!
This post is part of Realigned Motherhood: Juggling the Joys of Motherhood. Be sure to also check out the other posts linked below for more encouragement and tips!
Cultivating Connection in Your Home from Inspired by Family
14 Refreshing Bible Verses For The Struggling Moms from Mindy Jones
Self-Care Tips for Moms from Clothed with Dignity
What I’ve learned from Motherhood and Marriage from Life Notes Encouragement