Habit 1: The Critical Practice of Care

Why Caring Makes Everything Easier for Families

What is the one habit that is so foundational to your family’s success that all other habits will suffer without it? My series on the 7 habits of a family that wins kicks off with a focus on what I believe to be the most critical habit – care.

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I believe it was John C. Maxwell who said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Other business leaders and even family members have offered similar advice.

For a family, I view care as the starting point for all of the other six habits, because when a family develops a habit of caring, it makes all the other habits possible.

Without it, the other habits will fall short of their potential good, even if they help in many ways.

But if you, your spouse, and your kids really care, everything else gets easier.

What Do I Mean by Care?

First and foremost, families who care genuinely want the best for each other.   They want every member of the family to do well. In fact, they love it when every member of the family is doing and being his or her very best.

This habit became even more real to me recently in a recent experience with one of my three sons.

Like a lot of parents, I was trying to get my son to be more respectful.  And so, I was doing what most parents do—criticizing him for his lack of respect.

At one point, as I was hammering him about it, he looked at me and he said, “Dad, why don’t you love me?”

I was stunned. I do love you, I thought. That’s why I’m correcting you!  But then a switch went on in my head, and I realized that when I was criticizing him—because I care about him—all he heard was, Dad doesn’t love me.  Dad doesn’t care about me.  He clearly wasn’t receiving the message of care that I was trying to send.

I decided to try an experiment. I chose to go all in with him and just lavish care on him.

I focused on caring about his life, his activities, his passions. I tried to love him according to his love language and not my own.

In less than a week, he came to me and asked, “Dad, would you please hold me accountable for being more respectful?”

I nearly fell out of my chair when he said it!

I was so blown away that I actually had him write it down on a sheet of paper so that when I was holding him accountable, I could remind him that he had asked for me to do it.

But here’s the interesting thing: I haven’t needed that sheet of paper.  Because when he knew that I cared, he began caring about what I knew.  And everything changed.

It All Starts with Care

It’s the same with him as it is with the entire family.

If you want to be a family that thrives, a family that thinks of itself as a healthy business or as a dynamic organization full of life and committed to fulfilling its purpose, you’ve got be a family that cares for one another.

And fathers, if you’re not setting the example here, it’s probably not going to happen.

If you’re trying to step up and find greater clarity and confidence as a parent, one of the most important things you can do is to make sure your family knows that you care.

If you’re married, that starts with making sure your spouse knows that you care.

My wife Ann’s love language is physical touch. It’s not mine. I don’t really care if someone touches my shoulder or hugs me. But that’s not the case for my wife.

As a family, we went through the whole journey of learning each other’s love languages so we could identify golden opportunities to show we care. I’ve tried to be intentional about doing this in a visible way in front of my children, so they can see my example of caring for my wife in the way she best understands care.

My wife is also a blogger at Keeper of the Home. She’s really doing a fantastic job, and I’m very proud of her.

But as the blog has been growing, she’s gotten busier and busier. Some of the things that she normally did and was able to get to, she just isn’t able to do.

I could easily have come home and criticized her for what she didn’t get done, but I chose instead to compliment her and show her that I care about what she did get done.  And even more than that, I offered to help.

Now, I am not a big fan of cleaning. It’s not my thing at all, and I’ve never really been that good at it.

But the other day, because I knew that she was really feeling some stress about the state of cleaning in our home, I actually grabbed a broom and offered to help.

At first she laughed at the site of me with a broom. But I persisted, “You just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.”  She ended up diving in with me, and the two of us cleaned two rooms in our house.

She felt so much better knowing the work was done. Most importantly, she knew I cared—about our home and about her.

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Do You Care about Being a Family?

There’s one final thing every successful family should care about—being a family.

Let’s face it: it is a rare thing these days for a family to care about and take pride in actually being a family.

Too many families today function like a college dorm room where people merely sleep, study, and eat under the same roof.

A lot of families take on the role of providing the basics of food, shelter, education, clothing — and that’s it.  But families that win care whether or not the family is thriving.  They care if their family is doing the best.  And they care about helping each other in the process.

So what does it really look like to care as a family? At the very least it means:

  • You support and encourage each other.
  • You take the time to listen when someone is sharing about a win or even a failure.
  • You trust each other and rely on each other.
  • You accept the differences each family member has and respect their uniqueness.
  • You are able to negotiate differences of opinion amongst each other.
  • You are respectful of one another—period.

Imagine the possibilities if your entire family developed the habit of care—for each other, for your family, for others!

I say, let’s find out—together.

Question:What would this habit of care make possible for your family dynamics, your family relationships, and the potential of your family’s impact? What other characteristics of a caring family would you add to the list above? You can share your thoughts by clicking here.

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