My family is a family of intense people. We are all high strung, type-A, I-must-have-my-life-planned-to-the-nano-second-or-else-I-feel-totally-out-of-control kinds of people.
There’s no doubt we are at least partially wired this way from birth. It’s like my kids came out of the womb freshly bathed in this personality type. Then we’ve wrapped them in a towel of type-A environment, and voila! We have a house of intense people.
Intensity itself isn’t necessarily bad, but when intensity manifests itself in negative ways that lead to a less peaceful home, it creates a barrier to Christian living. Negative intensity masks the opportunities for spiritual development.
I’d like to bring our family’s collective intensity down a bit, so I’ve been looking for ways to make our home more peaceful. Here are 16 things you can consider for your own home that are making a peaceful difference in ours!
1. Get up early enough that you have the time to put yourself together.
I have gotten in a bad habit of not drying my hair each day due to lack of time. It actually makes me cranky all morning because I subconsciously feel disheveled. Crankiness leads to negative intensity. Something as simple as drying your hair can actually make a difference in your ability to set the tone for a peaceful home each morning.
2. Don’t go online before you get ready for the day.
Wow. I just started doing this and I feel like I’ve found a pot of gold. I was sleeping with my iPad next to my bed and the first thing I would do each day was check email and go on Facebook. I would get overwhelmed, annoyed, or overly engrossed in what was there. By the time I got to my kids’ rooms, my head was already in multiple places.
Disheveled hair + online obsessing before 7 am = morning intensity!
3. Don’t even have electronics in your room.
I compulsively want to grab my iPad or phone if they are there, so they both had to be officially expelled from my room to prevent the temptation (in support of number 2 above). When I wake up feeling like the rest of the world – a giant hub of activity – is an arm’s length away, I already feel stressed. I need to feel like I’m in a peaceful little den removed from the world when I wake up.
4. Pray before you leave your room each morning.
I simply can’t create a more peaceful home without God’s help. Before I even attempt to step foot past my bedroom door, I’ve learned I have to pray. I have to ask God for wisdom and perspective to be personally at peace and to create a more peaceful home. This doesn’t mean I have one hand on the door knob while blurting out, “Lord, help me be peaceful!” then dashing down the hall. I either pray before I get out of bed or pray in the shower so I’m truly focused on God.
5. Do everything in your power to not be in a rush.
When I’m in a rush, everything the kids do frustrates me, and then the intensity level rises for everyone. If we are running late on the way to school and someone isn’t getting their seat belt on quickly, it becomes a big deal. If we are just driving to the park on a lazy Saturday, I simply help them do it. Same problem, different reactions, with the only variable being how late we are. I’m doing everything I can now to prioritize not being rushed because it inevitably leads to negative intensity.
6. When you ARE running late, think about the size of the universe.
I’m totally serious. This is what I’ve been doing. And it works. The other morning, we were doing great on time getting ready for school and were about to head out the door. I smelled something bad and after some investigation found that Nathan needed to be completely changed after what appeared to be an unusual potty disaster. By the time we were driving, I knew we would be late for school. Rather than stress about it, I started focusing on how insignificant being 10 minutes late to school is in the scope of the universe and how tiny we are. It puts it all in perspective. Check this out to help with your visualization! http://scaleofuniverse.com/
7. At least temporarily, suspend the rules that lead to greatest conflict.
This isn’t always possible, as some household rules are too critical to be relaxed, but try to evaluate just how important the rules are that lead to greatest conflict. As one example, I was constantly battling my kids over their need to ask to be excused from the table. A lot of times they just forget it’s a rule and get up without thinking about it. Instead of time outs, I just ask them to get back in their seats. It’s not worth fighting over.
8. At least temporarily, stop bugging your kids about things that are simply annoying but not harmful.
Kenna has started picking at her nails and toes. This drives me crazy. I was also driving HER crazy by reminding her not to do it 20 times per day. Each time she would get annoyed and I would subsequently get annoyed by her response, leading to frequent discipline. I’ve stopped bugging her about it and it’s cut out a lot of unnecessary negative interactions.
9. Help your kids “save face” when they mess up.
After discipline has occurred, there’s often an aftermath of negative feelings. Parents are still annoyed by or frustrated at their kids, and kids are still upset they were in trouble. I read in a parenting book once that it’s important to help your kids “save face” after they’ve gotten in trouble by showing that YOU have moved on. I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything more helpful in terms of making a practical difference in my parenting. After discipline I go the extra length to clear the air by doing something funny, quickly changing topics, or chasing them around. This works wonders. It immediately breaks the ice to go on with your day in peace.
10. Don’t rise to the intensity level of your kids.
I think we all know we shouldn’t rise to the intensity level of our kids when they are upset. It’s just hard to do it. So this is really only a reminder. Refer back to number 6 for a possible solution. J
11. Don’t be surprised by misbehavior.
I expect perfection by nature. When you fail against my perfect standards, that “surprise” can lead to unnecessary disappointment and/or intensity. This might sound bad, but the more I expect my kids to fail, the less intense I get when they do. It doesn’t mean I want them to fail or that I think they are failures. It simply means I am gaining a more realistic view of the human sin nature and have gained perspective accordingly.
12. Remove the intensity from the room.
When one child is intensely freaking out, it creates intensity with the other kids almost immediately. I’ve started sending my kids to their room much more than to the corner for this reason. They stay there until they are calm, then they can return to be with the family.
13. Pray more frequently with your family.
Every single time we pray together, peace truly comes over our home! When there is a lot of intensity going on, stop everything. Gather the family. Sit down and ask God to bring peace to your day! That might sound difficult. Just try it. Really. God works through it.
14. Stop multi-tasking.
Like many women, I am proud of my ability to multi-task. While Bryan is only able to focus on pouring a cup of coffee, I can proudly pour coffee, take a turn in Candyland, read my email, and issue a time out at the same time. The problem is that I get easily annoyed with the kids (or Bryan) when my mind is scattered. I’m doing my best to focus my mind and do one thing at a time so I don’t get frustrated due to my own distractions.
15. Don’t go to bed before you look at the things you need to do the next day.
If I wake up in the morning not having thought through everything I need to get done that day, I’m busy sorting those tasks out in my head all morning. Before your head hits the pillow, make sure you know exactly what you need to get done the next day.
16. Read the Bible daily.
This isn’t last because it is last in importance. It’s only last because I do it last in my day. I read one chapter per night. To really embrace God’s Word each day is to embrace the peace that comes from a maturing faith and deepening relationship with God. The Bible isn’t a mere “Chicken Soup for the Soul” – it’s life-giving, peace-giving truth that should transform your perspective daily.
How about you? What things have you found to make your home more peaceful?