Family systems theory views the family as an emotional unit where its members are intensely connected emotionally. Consequently, family members are interdependent due to the interconnectedness of their reactivity. In other words:
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – Aristotle
While this truth is proved over and over again through familial interactions, it is lost in the overall functionality of the family from time to time. As parents we can have a tendency to cater to the individual “needs” of our children, rather than the needs of the family.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- A Dad working two jobs to pay for their children’s club sporting events
- The defiant teen that sucks up all of the parent’s time and emotionally energy
- Driven parents that require tutoring, an eagle scout project, sports participation and membership on the debate team so that their child has a good resume for colleges
- A family that goes more into debt to provide their sweet-16 a new car for their birthday
So often we allow the success or failures of one (or multiple) of our children to determine our family’s emotional stability. However, in an ever increasing narcissistic world, this can leave a teen with an inflated view of self importance. In other words, this gives our children an unrealistic view of self and too much control within our home.
So what do we do?
Our children need to understand that in both good and bad circumstances (whether he created the scenarios or not) that God is number one and the family is number two. We pray and seek God, praising him in bad and in good, and then we seek to meet the needs of the family. When God has been sought and praised, and the needs of the family have been met – then and only then can the child focus her attention on herself.
What does this look like?
- Teach your children empathy for the other family members. Begin early in your child’s life asking him how he can meet the needs of his littler sister or big brother.
- Teach your defiant teen that your family is loving and will care for its members, and if she refuses to fall in line then you will find her another place to live.
- Cultivate a marriage-first mentality within the martial dyad. In other words, as spouses you must seek the good of the marriage rather than meeting your own needs.
- Make family time a required priority.
Your children need to understand that the order of priority within your family is: God, family, individual. Gone are the days of selfishness. We seek God and then we team up with our family to engineer a family system that produces the fruit of the spirit.
This system mentality will be vital for your children’s spiritual and emotional well-being in adulthood. This idea might seem a little lofty and unrealistic. But it’s interesting that successful secular businesses and sports teams so often take this “team first” approach. Why can’t Christ followers implement this type of mentality within the family?
God first, family second, individual third. A not-so radical way of doing family.