When all is "said and done," what REALLY matters most in all that we say, do or have? No one has ever said, at the end of their life, that they wish they had spent more time at the office … invariably they wish they had spent more time with their family and friends—those they loved! Material wealth and possessions "pale" in significance in comparison to the relationships we develop in this life. So … what can we do to "make a difference" in what’s most important – our own family? I would suggest seven cornerstones upon which a strong family is founded: (1) put God first, (2) proper dating, (3) total commitment (100-100 marriage), (4) an understanding of husband/wife roles, (5) family goals/rules, (6) communication (formal and informal), (7) doing things together (family traditions). Let’s discuss each of these!

To truly be successful, a married couple must realize that theirs is a three-way partnership, one including God. For "with God all things are possible" (Matt 19:26) With His support, they will not just "likely" succeed … their success is "inevitable!" No one ever put their trust in God and failed. (That’s not to say we won’t have trials/difficulties … they are a part of our "learning experience." We are just promised His support/strength in meeting them!) So, how do we put God first? Through prayer, scripture study and keeping the commandments! Prayer enables us to "tap" into the source of all knowledge and power. Prayers are, indeed, answered. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings. Through studying the word of God we gain the understanding/knowledge necessary to exercise faith (the principle of action). We are here to become more like our Father in Heaven, and this can only be accomplished by the things that we DO…the RIGHT things that we do … and where do we learn what is possible and right but in the scriptures! Through them He has given us the "roadmap" to our "destination" – eternal life. And obviously, what this all entails is keeping the commandments."

To start a relationship on the "right foot" requires us to know we are marrying the "right" person before we get married. This means proper dating! Generally speaking, one should not even start dating till he/she is 16 (some later than that), and then only double date or date in groups. Single dating too early exposes young people to temptations they may easily succumb to. A physical relationship hinders the proper development of true friendship, the foundation of a wholesome marriage. When one is mature enough to "narrow the field" down and date just one person, the two should take ample time to explore each others likes, dislikes, beliefs, desires and goals. They should get acquainted with each others’ thinking and be able to enjoy each other’s company … without physical involvement! Sex is to be enjoyed only AFTER marriage, and then in proper moderation and consideration of one’s partner (i.e. love vs. lust).

A good marriage requires total (100-100) commitment on both the husband’s and wife’s part. It’s like diving off a cliff into a pool of water … either you dive and enter the water, or you don’t dive at all; there is no "half-way!" Or, as Yoda put it (in the movie "Starwars") – "Do, or do not, there is no try." In a marriage, one partner may be having a difficult time and not be able to fulfill their 100 percent commitment. Fortunately in a 100-100 marriage, the other is more than willing to "take up the slack." As they put God first, they will eventually overcome the inevitable trials/setbacks and prosper…and their relationship will be the stronger for it!

It is also important for a couple to realize that men and women were made different by an all-wise, all-knowing God. We all know the physical differences between men and women and most of us realize there are other less discernible differences in emotions and thinking. These differences can either weaken or strengthen a marriage, depending on the insight of each partner. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey mentions a "Maturity Continuum." We start out in life being very dependent upon our parents and others. As we grow and learn, we become more and more independent … but it doesn’t/shouldn’t stop there. As we develop relationships with others and, in particular, with our marriage partner, we enter into what is called interdependence, the highest form of maturity, where we realize that we are each different from each other and that these differences can strengthen our relationship! We can "take advantage of" and utilize each other’s strengths to enrich our marriage. Generally speaking, our Father in Heaven ordained the man to be the head of the family and "breadwinner" and the wife to take care of the home and nurture the children. At times it is appropriate for one to assist the other in varying degrees. The wife should follow (and if there is love between them is pleased to do so) the righteous leadership of her husband (see Ephesians 5:22-25). Unfortunately circumstances arise when you have a one-parent family, and they have the challenge of being both father and mother. One should turn even more to the support we have available from God and from family/friends. He will not forsake us if we put our trust/confidence in Him.

Family goals & rules give us direction and focus, without which we lack the organization necessary to develop all the potential innate in each of us (to be all that we can be). Obstacles are all we see when we take our eyes off our goals (or don’t have any to begin with)! There is a picture of a basketball player shooting at a goal, with the caption, "If you have no goal, there’s nothing to shoot for!" Norman Vincent Peale tells the story of a group of people who wrote down and sealed their expectations for that year in envelopes. At the end of the year the envelopes were opened; the expectations of each had been fulfilled. Those who had high expectations achieved them. Those with low expectations made them (and nothing more). One based his expectations on his astrological sign and did not expect a good year and it came true. Ironically, another person born under the same sign had a very satisfying year, as she expected. Goals help us make good decisions. In the book, Alice in Wonderland, Alice asked the Cheshire Cat which fork to take in the road. He asked her where she was going and she said she didn’t know. He said, "In that case, it doesn’t really matter!" We should set goals in all areas of life, including physical, mental, spiritual, social, financial, career, etc. Family rules ensure a sense of civility among family members and assist in maintaining necessary order (ex: If a door is closed, knock before entering … Wash dishes immediately after meals … If you get it out -- you put it up).

Effective communication is crucial, both formal and informal. Informal communication centers much around conveying unconditional love. In his book, How to Really Love Your Child, Dr. Ross Campbell states that each child has an emotional tank that is filled by the love we communicate. He suggests 4 ways—eye contact, physical contact, focused attention and discipline. We tend to like people who are able to maintain pleasant eye contact with us. Physical contact is more than just hugging, kissing, and the like; it also includes a touch on the shoulder, a gentle poke in the ribs, or tousling hair. Infants need to be held, cuddled, hugged and kissed. Focused attention is giving a child our full, undivided attention in such a way that he feels without a doubt he is completely loved. The most effective way is taking one-on-one time with him/her. Discipline is synonymous with training… guidance by example, modeling, verbal/written instruction, verbal/written requests, teaching, providing leaning and fun experiences. Yes, punishment is on the list, but it is a last resort and usually not necessary when a child’s emotional tank is kept full via more loving means, as stated above. Communication also includes family councils (usually weekly) and informal father’s interviews (usually monthly, with each family member). During these times progress towards goals can be evaluated, activities can be placed on the calendar (school, church, family, personal), problems resolved, love and appreciation expressed.

Finally, doing things together provides the joy of interacting with those you love and is the basis of family traditions and fond memories. Typical family activities can include hiking, camping, picnicking, swimming, singing, visiting friends/relatives, work around the house, service projects, eating meals together, prayer, scripture study. One suggestion is to set aside one evening each week as "Family Home Evening" where each family member takes part, such as preparing a lesson/discussion, sharing a talent, selecting/leading a song, having a fun game/activity, preparing refreshments, etc. One family member conducts and reminds everyone else of their "assignment" for that week. Parents or older children can help younger children do their part!

Author's Bio: 

I was born at a very young age on 8/22/1948 in San Francisco, CA. My brother and I were raised by a wonderful person we called "Mom." Two areas she had a keen interest in, which I acquired over the years myself, were music and personal development. Over the years we lived in various locations, including California, Alaska, New York, Florida and Tennessee. I graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and immediately started work with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Over the years as I grew up, I read whatever I could get my hands on in the area of self-improvement. In 1975 I married Donna Payne, from Chattanooga, TN, and together we raised 8 exceptional children (4 boys and 4 girls). To date (July 2008) we have 14 grandchildren with one on-the-way! Eventually, in 2001 I acquired a website and decided to place the best material I had collected and written on this website (www.PSLinstitute.com) … thus starting my online training business – Personal Success & Leadership Institute. One of the key offerings on this website is a wonderful (free) workshop (Personal Success & Leadership Workshop) especially designed for teenagers to help them (1) determine a direction for their life and (2) effectively focus in that direction. This workshop is also great for adults and one will find the link to it from our home page (above). Our desire is to get this workshop in the hands of every teenager and teacher in the USA [and eventually the world]by 2010. We just recently (July 2008) added a new website on self-improvement ebooks (www.PSLebooks.com).new website on self-improvement ebooks (www.PSLebooks.com).