There is no one specific way to do family, but there are qualities that every strong family has. Here are 9 characteristics of a healthy family every couple should know.
Rob and Jenny are starting their family with the birth of their firstborn son. They have a great marriage, but want to make sure they have the foundation for a strong family as their children grow.
They want to know how they should ‘do family.’ Is there a right way and a wrong way.
Every family is different and unique. There is no one single way to do family, But there are things that make every family strong. Here are 9 characteristics of a healthy family every couple should consider.
What Are The Characteristics Of A Healthy Family?
Here are nine qualities of a healthy family that we’ve identified after working with hundreds of families and couples for over 40 years of ministry.
#1 They Prefer To Be Together
One of the major qualities of a strong family I look for is if they want to be together. Healthy families enjoy one another.
When I was in college, a couple (the Lawley’s) in the church I was attending offer to let me live in a trailer they owned. It was across the street from their house and was sitting empty. It was an incredible blessing to me. I’m still friends with their son, Billy.
They not only gave me a place to live while I finished my degree, they brought me into their family. I’ve been snowed in, spent weekends on the lake, and eaten meals with them. They adopted me for those years at college.
They are a generous and loving family. The thing I recall the most is how they preferred to be together than apart.
Normally (at least from my experience), as children grow older they venture out more. They cut ties with family and want to spend more time with friends than family. It’s part of the inner call to be independent.
While this is normal, a total severing of family ties is unhealthy and unnecessary.Strong families keep a strong bond and enjoy time together. Even if it looks different as we grow and mature. Time together is valued, appreciated, and planned. Click To Tweet
It’s one thing for children to want to spend time with their friends. It’s another for them to hate spending time with family.
Strong families keep a strong bond and enjoy time together. Even if it looks different as we grow and mature. Time together is valued, appreciated, and planned.
#2 They Manage Conflict Well
Conflict management is one of the key factors that determines emotional health in an individual. Likewise, strong families know how to deescalate issues and resolve conflicts before they destroy relationships.
You cannot go through life without experiencing some conflict. Since families are together in confined spaces on a regular basis, the opportunity for misunderstanding and trouble is heightened.
However, healthy families have cultivated skills to minimize conflict and manage it once it happens.
In a nutshell,they do not let conflict continue. They find ways to deal with it so it doesn’t grow and fester.
Because they have healthy communication practices, they navigate difficulties and keep difficult times from destroying their unity.
#3 They Practice Discipline
Discipline is one of the trigger words that causes people to put you in categories you don’t always deserve. Yet it is a word the Bible uses often when describing his relationship with us (His church) and family order.
Therefore, as a believer, see value in the word, not abusive power. Please understand that. After all, if we cool our emotions over the term and realize God loves us enough to send His son to die for our sins, yet He also disciplines us, we should realize the term is not a negative reflection of harshness. It is a term of love and guidance.
There are two big thoughts that should be woven together under this topic:
- Family Order
- Discipline vs Punishment
First, this means they understand family order.
While there are cases of oppression, abuse, and dysfunction when it comes to having ‘order in the family.’ Healthy families actually value order because it produces peace in the place of chaos.
Family order doesn’t mean bossy, oppressive leadership by the husband. On the contrary, leadership is never oppressive or abusive. Leadership, by definition, implies the leader is modeling how the family is to behave and function in order to achieve peace, joy, and love.
Husbands who lead by force aren’t leading at all. Leading means you are out front showing the way, not demanding others go where you have failed to go.
- If you want your family to be loving, lead with love.
- If you want your family to be have peace, be peaceable.
- If you desire unity, be the unifier.
This doesn’t put all the pressure on the husband (or wife for that matter). Couples should work together to establish order (as opposed to chaos) in the family. It is not a ‘he should do this’ or ‘she should do that’ scenario.Couples should work together to establish order (as opposed to chaos) in the family. It is not a 'he should do this' or 'she should do that' scenario. Click To Tweet
It can be describe as an ‘I should do this’ mindset. The focus is on what I should do. Not what my spouse should do.
Second, there is a difference between punishment and discipline.
I like how clinical psychologist Dr. Jared Pingleton puts it:
…the concepts of punishment and discipline are absolute opposites. Punishment is motivated by anger, focuses on the past, and results in either compliance (due to fear) or rebellion and feelings of shame, guilt and/or hostility. On the other hand, discipline is motivated by love for the child, focuses on the future, and results in obedience and feelings of security.–Jared Pingleton
#4 Autonomy Is Encouraged
In a healthy family, everyone is allowed (and encouraged) to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
The goal of raising children is for them to be prepared for success in the real world. It is not about making sure they avoid hard times and hard things. Life can be unfair and tough. So the goal is to prepare them to win in life.
This implies autonomy. Autonomy means that power and right to govern yourself. It is the opposite of being controlled by others.The goal of raising children is for them to be prepared for success in the real world. It is not about making sure they avoid hard times and hard things Click To Tweet
As parents, we must exercise control over our children when they are small. They need to be fed, clothed, cared for because they cannot do this for themselves.
But the goal is independence. Not permanent control.
When we raise our children to be autonomous, we empower them.
- Autonomy allows people to direct their own lives and make their own choices.
- Autonomy promotes self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
- Autonomy encourages creativity and self-expression.
- Autonomy fosters independence and personal responsibility.
- Autonomy helps people to develop a sense of self-worth and self-respect.
Autonomy also means that every member of the household is free to express themselves in a wholesome and healthy way.
#5 They Offer Love and Acceptance
When families freely offer love and acceptance they feel safe together. Every member of the family knows they are loved deeply (even when they disagree), and they are accepted for who they are. They feel emotionally secure with each other.
When family members feel loved and accepted, they are more likely to feel comfortable opening up and sharing their thoughts and feelings. Additionally, love and acceptance can help to foster communication and cooperation within a family.
They are more likely to feel happy and secure, which can lead to a more positive family dynamic overall.
#6 They Know How To Forgive and Move On
This goes along with a few previous points. We can’t avoid conflict or problems (though we can create an atmosphere that minimizes them), so learning how to forgive is important in a healthy relationship.
It’s important to remember that forgiveness is a decision. It’s a choice to not allow negative emotions to control our lives.
Individuals who can forgive themselves, as it relates to religion, and forgive their spouse, will increase their marital quality because the two are closely related(David, P., & Stafford, L. (2015)).
Forgiveness is a central tenant of many religions and it stands to reason that those who can forgive themselves and their spouse will have a higher quality marriage. This is because the two are closely related. Forgiving oneself is often seen as a way to cleanse the soul and be reborn into a better person.
In the same way, forgiving your spouse can be seen as a way to start anew and build a stronger, more trusting relationship.
This impacts families by creating a more positive home life. If there are fewer resentments and more forgiveness, it will lead to a more positive and supportive environment for children. In general, a more forgiving home life will lead to a more content and well-rounded family.
#7 Personal Responsibility Is Expected and Valued
One of my favorite quotes (and one I’ve come to value and appreciate more and more the longer I live) is by Jack Canfield.
If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that you experience in your life.Jack Canfield
I’ve learned to see the truth in this statement. As long as we blame someone else for where we are in life, we are doomed to stay there. We actually give them the power of change, instead of taking control ourselves.
Think about it. If someone else is responsible for my success or failure in life, I am powerless to do anything about it. But if I have responsibility, I also have the power to change my life.
Good parents (and strong families) put this principle into practice.
They value personal responsibility.
In their book, The Power of Agency, authors Paul Rapper and Anthony Roo use the term ‘agency’ to define taking control of your life. (Buy on Amazon)
Agency is the ability to act in your own best interest, reflect on your choices, and create a meaningful life. This means being aware of your own thoughts and feelings, making decisions that are in line with your values and goals, and taking action to achieve those goals. It also means being able to cope with setbacks and challenges, and learning from your mistakes.
This is a great definition of personal responsibility.When we take responsibility for our lives, we cultivate better decision making skills and we develop better self esteem. Click To Tweet
Why is this important for a healthy family?
When we take responsibility for our lives, we cultivate better decision making skills and we develop a better self esteem.
#8 Everybody Contributes To The Family
In a healthy family, not only does each member take responsibility for their own lives and happiness, they intentionally contribute to the overall happiness of the family. They see their role as a contributor in the relationship, not just a spectator or receiver.
This means each member is committed to the family. They are ‘in it’ together.
In any given relationship, it’s easy to drop our guard and let the other person carry the relationship. This is one-sided. It never produces the type of intimacy and connection we crave. It can’t. Because intimacy demands both parties be involved.
Healthy families get this. They work hard to stay connected.
Connection happens when everybody contributes.
Imagine a sport team where only one person gave their best. Everyone else just stood around expecting that one person to do it all.Connection happens when everybody contributes. Click To Tweet
That’s not teamwork. And that attitude and behavior doesn’t win games.
It takes everyone doing their job and their best to make things happen. It’s the same with family. We must work together to make family time meaningful.
#9 They Have A Spiritual Foundation
[In a strong family] members are bound in unity by their shared relationship with God, and they learn to nurture it as a result of mutual encouragement.Chuck Swindoll
You’ve heard the mantra: The family that prays together, stays together.
Although it can sound trite, there is truth to the statement.
According to Dennis Lynn PhD, professor at Oregon State University, one of the six major qualities of a strong family is a sense of spiritual wellbeing shared among members. Shared values, ethics, and a cause bigger than themselves is how he identifies spiritual wellbeing.
Another study conducted by the University of Nebraska noted:
[Religion] inspired a framework for living based on principle, which influenced the rules, roles, values, morals, and boundaries in the family.
Finally, a study from Liberty University states:
According to Nelson, Kirk, Ane, and Serres , a couple’s perception of commitment is closely related to their spiritual foundation and religious beliefs. Married couples that exhibit spiritual growth in their marriage has a Christ-like forgiveness and communicate effectively
Healthy families have a spiritual center that keeps them strong and committed.
Final Thoughts On the Characteristics of a Healthy Family
I started this article by telling you about Rob and Jenny. They want to know the secret to making their family a success. If there is a secret, it is hidden in plain site.
In this article, we discussed nine characteristics every successful family has in common.
- What Are The Characteristics Of A Healthy Family?
- #1 They Prefer To Be Together
- #2 They Manage Conflict Well
- #3 They Practice Discipline
- #4 Autonomy Is Encouraged
- #5 They Offer Love and Acceptance
- #6 They Know How To Forgive and Move On
- #7 Personal Responsibility Is Expected and Valued
- #8 Everybody Contributes To The Family
- #9 They Have A Spiritual Foundation