The ONE practice your family needs in the schedule. Daily. (Part 1)

(Read in less than 3 minutes.)

We had a backyard basketball court growing up. (Less than a half court, really.) But when it was summer break, I was encouraged to be back there shooting free throws every morning. 50-100 to be exact. My dad would tell me to keep a chart and when he came home, he’d ask me how it went. He did not force me to do this and I did not get in trouble if I didn’t, but I knew his speech: “Basketball players are made in the off-season.” “You can’t expect to get better by practicing only a few hours one night a week.” “Free throws can win ball games.” So, I was told what it would take and the ball was in my court. No pun intended.

Now that I am a parent, I have these same kinds of talks with my own children all the time. I want them to know that any athlete does not get better when they only touch the ball one night a week at their team practice. They also know that people get better -at school, dance, work, art, anything - in the “off season”. We provide the advice and encouragement, but what they do with our words is up to them.

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Isn’t it the same with us, as adults? Just because we grow up doesn’t mean that we have to forget to practice. If you want to run a marathon, you better get up and train. If you want to be healthier, you better execute consistency. If you want to be have a stronger faith, then get to church regularly. Whatever it is, we only see results when we commit to making a difference, practicing, and doing more than just “getting by”, or worse yet, not caring at all.  

I was at the grocery store the other day and walked through an aisle where a teenage boy was standing with his mom. He had the cart and it was blocking the end of the aisle. His mom just looked at him and yelled, “move the cart, dumb a**.” My eyes got huge, my jaw dropped and I had so many things I wanted to yell back at that woman. I bit my tongue and moved to the checkout line. 

However, that one sentence and her body language in a public place like a grocery store was enough for me to know what communication is probably like in the privacy of their home. It also told me how that poor boy has most likely been given a very shaky foundation of how to communicate with everyone else in his life - friends, adults, teachers, strangers. Then, if he ever wants to change that, he is going to have to fight to learn new ways and undo what skills have been modeled to him.

Just as we want to teach our children to practice those things at which they hope to be successful, it is imperative that we look at our home as a place to practice, teach, and model good communication skills for our family and for anyone that comes into our home. Are we all going to mess up at some point? Of course. Are we going to go days without really connecting because we are so busy? You bet. 

But the key is…

making a commitment to the ways in which communication happens in your home, 

setting the expectations you have for conversation skills, 

and establishing consistency to make it all happen. 

We have always believed that meaningful communication is the number one way to build and keep a strong family. There are so many distractions that bombard us through the years and that threaten our strength. We know that we have to set up an environment for face-to-face communication to happen naturally and to make people want to engage in it. It is a daily challenge to try and try again, but making those meaningful connections is how we will keep a solid foundation. And a solid foundation is what will keep us from crumbling when the storms come.

Part 1 of 2. 

Jennifer Zumbiel