A building contractor would never think of trying to build a house or other structure without first having a carefully laid-out plan to follow. He would view architectural illustrations of the finished project and study intricate plans before he even begins. To see the vision of what he wants makes the finished product possible.

Parents need to do the same. There is no way you will have a happy, successful family if you have no vision of what you want your family to be and a plan for achieving it. Couples need to talk about what they envision for their family. Here are three ideas to consider.

Vision One

If you see you and your children down the road in years to come, laughing and having fun together then you might want to start making that dream happen by:

Sharing fun times together right now. Plan family outings and allow the kids to participate in the planning. They will be much more eager to participate if they are in on it from the beginning. As you do this, they will not only enjoy being together as a family, but they will learn how to make it happen in their own future family, which will come back to you in the form of happy grandchildren.

Keeping things light. For instance, if a failing grade pops up on a report card, you won't fall apart. Of course, you won't be laughing about it, but you can keep it in perspective and help your child feel that it's not the end of the world. A calm conversation with an air of hope can help your child find better study habits or perhaps a tutor. She just needs to know that a bad grade is not a catastrophe, but rather a little detour on her educational journey.

Vision Two

If your vision of your family is one of caring about each other then you might begin by:

Including them in on difficult or sad happenings in the family. If one of your children, or one of you, has a serious illness, talk with your children about it. They don't have to know the gory details, but they can certainly be brought in on what's happening. Keeping serious issues from children can alienate them. You can ask them what they think they can do to help the ailing one. It's surprising what kids will do to help a loved one when they are given the opportunity. As they serve one another they learn compassion and the value of helping someone else feel better. Even if it's just reading a story or playing a game with them, they can feel the joy of serving each other.

Validating their feelings when they are not feeling well. A mother told how her 4-year-old came to her when she was ill and lying on the couch. This little child said, "I'm so sorry you're feeling sick, Mama. That's no fun at all." Then she gave her mother a tender hug and kiss on the cheek. The mother recalled having done this very thing to her little girl a few weeks before. Children do what they experience others doing to them.

Vision Three

If your vision includes seeing your children as hard working adults someday then you'll need to:

Give them daily chores, appropriate for their age, to teach them the value of work. Praise them for jobs well done. If they complain and whine while doing the job, just ignore that part and thank them when they're done. A father reported that whining and complaining were permissible, as long as they did the job. When a parent says, "Now wouldn't that have been so much better if you hadn't complained?" the joy of work is negated. It ends the chore with a bad feeling while a word of praise and thanks sends the child off to play with a smile and a feeling of pride for doing the chore.

Let them know what you do when you're at work. A mother recently reported that her husband took their teenage daughter with him on a painting job. He even found ways for her to help. When they came home the daughter said to her mother, "Mom, do you know how hard Dad works so we can have this house and food? He's a hard-working Dad, and I'm really proud of him." The mother was thrilled to see this realization happening in her daughter.

These are but a few ideas of what you may envision for your family. The point is, have a vision then do what it takes to make it happen. Jeffrey R. Holland summed it up when he said, "No one is going to be abundantly blessed with minimal effort." Having a happy, successful family takes a vision and a working plan. It will be worth all the effort it takes.

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