Building Strong Family Relationships

Building strong family relationships is difficult at best during a time when the family structure seems to be deteriorating.

I believe that most of us really want to get back to the traditions of strong family relationships. We long for simpler and closer times. You can revive those traditions and build stronger relationships with your children at the same time. If you take the time to do this, you give your children a chance to understand and carry on what family really means to you.

In a society where many neighbors don't even know each other's names anymore, a strong family infrastructure will increasingly become more and more important. Creating or reviving family traditions provides a good foundation for building strong family relationships and bringing the family closer together.

Frugal Lessons

Raising Happy Children

Written by Cheryl Johnson

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. - Buddha

The kids are back in school. While there is an eerie peace about the house, I will truly enjoy the quiet days ahead. While the kids are off to learn their abc's and 123's at school, don't forget the lessons they learn at home are often the most important.

For many years I was a single parent. Finances were always a difficult challenge. I lost count of how many times my kids expressed the desire to have something that one of their friends had and in fact "everyone but them" had. I eventually realized that the best way to deal with these feelings was to give them the gift of perspective.

Since being happy is mostly a mindset determined by our perspective of what happiness is, the best thing I could do for my kids was to give them the proper perspective to always be happy with what they had, rather than unhappy about what they didn't have. Teaching them that so many others did not even have the very basics of life's necessities, as they did, would help them appreciate what many of us take for granted.

If I do nothing else right in my life let it be to raise my children to be compassionate, moral, "happy" individuals. - Cheryl Johnson

Even when I think of it now, I really sounded so corny; my insistence that we should be happy with what we have because so many others did not even have the basic necessities of food, shelter, and love. But, I truly believed it.

I was thankful to have what I had and desired nothing more than what I needed to sustain myself and my children with the basic needs. I entered a life of frugality out of necessity, but grew to understand the many benefits of such a life, and more and more began to want nothing more.

Being frugal by choice gives a certain peace of mind, and happiness, that is hard to explain. I guess one of the reasons my lifestyle brings peace to me is because the feelings of inadequacy we sometimes have, because of our wanting more (or wanting what "everyone else" has )are non-existent.

I actually feel my life is adequately fulfilled by the simple basic needs. I have eliminated the longing for more. The feeling that my life is not as good as it should or could be, or as good as "everyone else's," is just not there. If I choose to indulge in a luxury item or something I merely want, it is because "I want it", not because "everyone else has it." It is amazing how true happiness can come with nothing more than a change in perspective.

When we understand that our purpose in life is to bring something of value to society, rather than owning everything considered valuable to society, happiness is a natural consequence. If I could teach my children the same I would not only do them a great justice but, the rest of the world as well. When you bring something of value to society, you see value in yourself.

Seeing value in yourself brings happiness. I feel that raising happy children, who find happiness in bringing something of value to society, is one of the most valuable things a parent can offer the world.

Raising happy and content children in today's world is yet another difficult challenge for parents. Offering your children a different perspective could prove to be the answer to raising "happy" children. Our society is more and more status driven.

Your children's perspective of their status could play an important role in determining if they can be happy with their lives. Status is measured a great deal by the material owning of things. A measure of one's status is many times a consequence of what one owns.

Teach your children that looks can be deceiving. Not everyone who acts like they have wealth, actually have wealth. I like to remind my children of our own situation. How we have to struggle to get back to living within our means because of trying to keep up appearances.

Many people are spending money they just don't have in an attempt to keep up with the joneses and "appear" to be wealthy. I remind them that, like ourselves, one day they too will probably have to pay a price for their pretending. That is not to say that there are not families who have no financial worries and actually are blessed with abundance.

It is important, if not essential, to your child's success in life to teach them to look beyond appearances. Things are not always as they seem. Teaching them little lessons like this will engage them in analyzing all things they encounter in life and getting to the reality and truth of situations they are confronted with.

For example, when confronted with choices your children will be equipped to look to the essence of anything. They will do better in life to see the true advantages, or disadvantages, of all things, when not influenced by mere appearances. Giving them this perspective will give them a great advantage in pursuing their goals in life.

Let me reflect on a personal story that touched me so that I will never forget it. Remember, I constantly reminded my children from a very young age that we had more than many others, and should be thankful for having what we do have, not sorrowed by what we didn't have.

One energetic day I decided to rearrange the furniture. Now let me interject that we lived in very confined quarters, myself and four small children. Even the doorways were more narrow than that of the average home since our home's foundation was built around a narrow older mobile home. This rearranging was a very ambitious task to say the least. But, I was determined to incorporate some change into our lives on that day!

So, I began a long day of frustration. Since our home was so small, there were not a great many options for arranging the furniture. Well, the grandest moment of truth came to me on that day. I learned for a fact that my children were in fact listening. That my constant reminders were not in vain. I was trying to move a bed from one room to another. And, having an extremely difficult maneuver through a narrow doorway, I cried out in frustration; "I'm so sick and tired of these doorways. I just want normal size doorways like everyone else."

Well, I didn't even have time to reflect on my own statement when, my son (who was only 8 years old at the time) said to me, "Remember Mommy, we have to be thankful for what we have, some people don't even have a place to live."

I was speechless of course, and very near a flood of tears. While I stood astounded at the comment, coming from the mouths of babes, I pushed back the urge to cry at the revelation that my son did understand what I had been trying to teach him. The realization, and consolation, came to me then, that he would always be successful in life no matter what hardships may face him.

The lessons we teach at home could prove to be the most important lessons in life. Happiness is a natural consequence of contentment. Teach the lessons at home that will give your children the perspective to be content and happy!

Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of plan living and high thinking the moment he wants to multiply his daily wants. Man's happiness really lies in contentment. - Mohandas Gandhi

7 Family Traditions to Bring Your Family Closer

By Dee Davis

The responsibility of being a parent is the most challenging job any human can undergo. Webster’s dictionary defines a parent as “one that begets or brings forth offspring, a person who brings up and cares for another,” but it is so much more. Parents from all over the world will tell you that no matter what your socioeconomic position or color, creed or culture, at some point and time in your life you will be angry, hurt, frustrated, happy, proud, confused and in need guidance.

Historically parents learned to be parents from their parents. Families lived in the same house or duplex, on the same block or street within minutes of a grandmother and father, aunt, uncle, cousin, in fact for many the community was your family. It was easy to derive support and advice from those who had raised and reared the neighborhood butcher, baker, barber or grocer. Unfortunately, today parents, aunts, and family members with the knowledge to lend a helping hand are separated by miles and in some cases oceans and the passing on of words of wisdom have been reduced to emails and family websites.

Families have become smaller and the number of single parents may now out number married parents. This does not mean that we stop talking about or getting advice on how to raise our children and handle issues that can sometime be down right overwhelming. Some parents really need to know how to raise their children in a manner that is different from the manner in which they were raised. Parents born in another country are quickly discovering that the ways of the “old country” do not adapt to the new American way of living. What is a parent to do?

It is certain that our children are living in a world that is vastly different from the one in which we were raised and the world they will live in as an adult will be different than the one we live in now. Can we prepare our children for the future and how will they raise their children. What will they value? Who will they look up to for guidance and support, a family member, a political icon, a mega minister or someone else?

There are a few things parents can begin to do to make sure that the traditions of the family are maintained. And I know there are parents reading this saying. “I don’t have time to do anything else.” I beg to differ and reply by saying you really don’t have a choice, because your children are a direct reflection of the type of home they come from…so give it your best shot and keep them on a path that will make the family proud.

Parents can continue existing traditions or be open to new ones by:

1. Keeping a journal on family catastrophes - Seriously, children need to know that you struggled, went bankrupt, lost your job, had a gambling problem. It shows you are human and that you still persevered. Remember “Life is a challenge…for everyone.”

2. Leave notes under your child’s pillow, even when they are teens – Everybody wants to know that somebody cares…never stop caring, even when you don’t want to.

3. Create a story-telling time with your children –You and your children must use your imagination and make up stories. This is a wonderful way to communicate and teach children to “think on their feet.” You can start them off by saying, “It was June 12th a hot sticky day and……let them take it from there for about 2-3 minutes then on to the next child. Practice this every week, or once a month and you will be surprised how articulate and creative your children will become. Just try it.

4. Have each child in your family plan a family day; include a modest budget, time, food, the entire event. (Maybe it’s a pizza night or a bowling night or game night) If the children are very young sit down and help them. Do not allow them to plan what they want, but what the entire family would like. You want to teach your children not to be selfish and self-absorbed. You may want to do this once a month, so if you have three children they will be the family event planner four times throughout the year.

5. Start a “fun” family business. Sit down with your children and talk about something the family might want to do earn extra cash or save for a special vacation. Let it become a tradition, i.e. six months before schools out start selling cookies at the Farmers’ Market. Your family might want to make preserves, start a lawn service in the neighborhood, collect books from neighbors and sell them on Amazon.com or have a monthly garage sell. Make a plan and see if the children can see it through each year to completion. Nothing is more satisfying than being successful.

Family members should always end the day by saying something good about all the other members in your home (this can be done at the dinner table or before going to bed) and never going to bed angry a rule everyone in the family should follow.

There is no doubt some of these suggestions may seem simple and old fashion, perhaps even a little nonsensical, but remember it’s the little things in life that really mean the most. Dandelions really are flowers if you believe they are!

D.D. Davis is a writer with over 20 years of experience, and has produced a series of e-Books that support parents in creating a good life for their family. Dee may be reached at detra_davis@supportingourchildren.com, or by mail at J. Davis & Associates Publishing, P.O. Box 44782, Detroit, MI 48244-0782, Attention: D.D. Davis. To learn more visit: http://www.supportingourchildren.com.

Changing Your Husband

Kristy writes: Hi Tawra and Jill! I need your help! I've learned lots and I feel like I've come along way on my road to becoming a tightwad!

The problem is my husband. He's not a complete spendthrift, however, we have a lot to work on. Like if he goes to the grocery store with me. I go with a precise list of what we need and coupons to use. If he goes I end up buying much more than I had planned. He also gets so impatient that I'm not able to compare my coupons to the prices.

I know the easy solution is to just not take him with me, but I don't really like that solution. I want him to understand why it's important to stick to the list, and why it's important for me to take a little extra time to compare the coupons I have with the prices.

Whenever I show him the grocery receipt (when I've gone by myself) he's always impressed. I guess what I'm asking is "What can I do to turn my husband into a tightwad?".

So tell me, what did you actually do the facilitate Mike’s change? Did you simply put your foot down and say, "No, we're not spending money on that."? I don't really want to do that since he's the one making the money.

I would just like to show him how great it is when we are able to spend less. Any suggestions?

- Kristy

Kristy,

First of all, congratulations on how far you've come in learning to spend your money more wisely. I can appreciate your frustration. My husband was a liberal spender when we married. It took several years for him to change his way of thinking.

The thing that worked for us was that I led by example. When he saw me saving he was encouraged to do so too. If he spent extra at the grocery store then I just went shopping without him. I had dinners and lunches fixed so he wouldn’t be tempted to eat out.

He put all our debt on a chart on the wall. He tried to predict how long it would take us to pay off the debt and drew a line indicating the debt paydown. It encouraged him to see the debt going down, so he wanted to save more. Pretty soon, the paydown in real life was better than the chart predicted. Men are visual and this "visual scorecard" really helped him buy in.

Another thing that helped was that he started calculating how many hours he had to work to pay for something. When he realized that it would take all of the money he earned in 1 ½ years’ work for a new car or 3 months for a used one, we bought the used car.

You said that he gets impatient waiting at the grocery store but you want him to learn to stick to a list and compare prices. Why do you insist that your husband shops with you? It seems like the best of all worlds is for you to shop without him.

Why is it important for him to understand sticking to the list, and taking extra time to compare the coupons with the prices? Most men don't like shopping. If you spend more when he goes, leave him home.

Sometimes you just have to let it go. There were times when Mike would buy something that we really didn’t "need". Think about "net gain". Whether or not he understands how you shop, if the outcome of your shopping is a financial gain for your family, you have a joint victory because you're on the same team.

Here's another angle on partnership. When you said you didn’t want to put your foot down because "he's the one making the money," you imply that your role in the marriage is not as important as his. You are "earning" just as much taking care of things at home, so don't feel bad about sharing in the decision about how to spend the family's money.

Because our financial situation was critical at the beginning, I did put my foot down sometimes. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money. Mike didn't like it and we had a lot of fights over those things, but he did understand that we were going to be in huge financial trouble if he didn't stop spending.

Try this: Instead of getting upset about the air conditioner being turned on when it’s not needed, say "Can we try using the fans first and see if that will cool us down enough?" or "Let's turn on the air conditioner for an hour or so and then turn it off". There are many ways of compromising when it comes to finances.

Your husband won't change his view of money overnight, but if you can have a positive impact on your family financial situation and communicate how happy you are about the frugal "victories", his thinking will change little by little.

If, as you said, he is always impressed when you show him how much you saved, he is already starting to see the benefit! Hang in there and let us know how it goes!

- Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of www.LivingOnADime.com As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income.