Dreaming Big Living Small

Building a stronger family to face the trials of today

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The world of today is constantly on the verge of collapse. There are so many forces attacking our families. Add to that fear and the constantly rising costs of living. There is a lot of pressure on everyone. Throw in TV and electronics and the world becomes fuzzy where the family is concerned.

And it’s not just the adults that are feeling it. Believe it or not, our children are feeling the pressures too! Even the things we don’t tell them, they are aware that something is bothering us.

Back in 2020, the constant isolation started to cause tension in many. It was no different for us with our family and children. They could feel the stress that isolation caused. As we struggled with the isolation, we made some changes. It brought us closer together and helped us see what our real priorities were.

Some of these changes have worked well. Others are still a work in progress. This article covers some of the things that we have tried. Sometimes a simpler life helps to bring a family together.

Do you need social media and TV?

We have never been keen on letting our children go hog wild on their devices. Each child has a tablet, but it’s not something we allow them to have at home usually. They get to use them while we attend markets and events or are traveling long distances.

Spending less screen time
Spending less screen time

Over time we have cut back on the extra services we pay for in terms of TV. The problem came down to what was available that we felt was quality and clean enough for our family to watch. Many of the shows found on streaming services either supported or suggested things that we did not want in our house. This led to us purchasing only the movies we like. Instead of paying $10+ a month, we shifted that money into a clean movie or show. Not every month, but from time to time we add to the collection.

Even with our collection of movies, the kids get very little TV time. Instead of spending every day plugged into movies, TV is a treat. And instead of becoming TV or game zombies, they play real board games, read, build with Legos, or draw.

In my opinion, less device time has encouraged our children to use their imagination more.

But it’s not just our children who need or get less device time. Over the last year and some, both Ashley and I have worked to limit how much wasted time is spent browsing around social media or the web aimlessly. It’s not easy, especially with our businesses being very much online connected, but we try.

Instead of picking up a device to browse randomly, we engaged in other activities. Ashley has done more sewing and things she enjoys, and I have spent more time reading. We also jump into the kid’s games or play with them at times.

Social media is not a scroll and scroll to occupy the mind, but rather a means to stay connected to friends, learn, and grow by connecting with others. We each play a few games on our devices and the time is limited that we do spend.

Spending time together

With everything in life, there is always a work in progress. This is probably one of our biggest works in progress. We the addition of Hunter, 6 bodies in a small space can be overwhelming at times.

Spending time with each child
Spending time with each child

But while we might not all do something at once, we have tried to set aside time so that each child can get some attention from each of us. This is not always easy. With two businesses running at the same time, it’s often hard to find free minutes. Plus, with Ashley and I being the opposite of our kids in terms of introverted vs extroverted, they can easily overwhelm us.

However, we do find that when we add more time, either as a family playing games, going for walks, or spending one on one time with the kids, things do tend to run a little smoother. Our oldest seems to be the hardest. He enjoys the one-on-one attention, but at the same time wants nothing to do with us. Nothing abnormal there as most children pass through that stage, the same as we did when we were younger.

Time can be as simple as family scripture study, or individual schoolwork. Despite both of us working on our businesses, we each tag team on helping the kids complete some learning activities that count towards their schoolwork. We also spend time each day reading a section of scriptures and having a short discussion with varying success.

Deciding what belongs in your house

Our homes should be a place of peace. But it can be tough to obtain that peace amid the clutter. Since we currently live in around 350 sq ft, clutter becomes an instant problem.

Lukas working on dinner dishes
Lukas working on dinner dishes

During the lead-up to Hunter being born, many things were added to the home. It takes a lot to have a few children as you probably already know. This took some special thought as to how to reorganize the home, and make sure that each person still had a space of their own.

And it’s not just clutter. Keeping our home clean by assigning each person chores to complete was another change we made. No matter how large or small your home is, everyone should pitch in to help clean it. Even our 5-year-old has chores to do. They are not much, but he still must help contribute to keeping the home clean. Assigning chores took some of the load off us and helps the kids to learn valuable skills for the future. This can add a sense of pride in the things they own and the place they live.

If you are wondering where to start with this one, start with simple things like laundry and making beds.

We also cleaned some things that we felt no longer fit our lifestyle or were not helping us grow as a family. Things that would detract from the spirit of our home have been removed. No, we are not perfect in any way, but we are making the changes to move us in the right direction.

A cleaner home is more relaxing and easier for everyone to live in.

Life conveniences

Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to give up. It can be so convenient to run over to the store and grab an easy dinner. Or to go shopping for whatever enters your fancy. But the lockdowns and restrictions stopped our family from doing much of that.

Skyler helps with cooking
Skyler helps with cooking

In turn, this forced us to think outside the box. On the flip side, it allowed us to be to make changes to our diet so we would eat healthier. Simple tasks like making our bread have helped us to cut some of the junk foods out of our diet. The kids will often help us prepare meals, which adds more together time.

It’s not just food that we reconsidered. We looked at with memberships and subscriptions we had. Each item was evaluated, and we decided if it moved us closer to our goals, or if it was just in the way. Having more activities for the sake of having them is never a good plan. Those that did not align with our vision were dropped in favor of those that do.

This meant that we lost some convenient services, but in turn, we grew closer together. Instead of trips to the zoo or expensive family outings, we simply went for a family walk. Going out to eat became packed lunches.

It does not mean we can never do these things. But we pick and choose based on what is going to be better for the family as a whole and which activities will get us closer to our goals of a future homestead and fewer work hours.

Needs wants and desires

No matter how great a family is functioning, each person will still have their own needs, wants, and desires. It’s important to look at what each person wants. Yes, you will always be a family, but not everyone has to do the same thing at the same time or will like the same things.

Family goal of going to the Temple more
The family’s goal of going to the Temple more

We try to find things that everyone will enjoy, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the kids must put up with a trip in the truck because we need to go somewhere and other times, we set aside time to do things they want to do.

When we look at family goals, some of the goals are set as an entire family. The kids get just as much say in the things we plan. Not all the time, but they still get input. This enables them to feel heard and part of the family, not just as kids but as participating members of it.

Each person also has time to do the things they want. It’s not always much, but they get some time to do what they want. Kaylee loves reading, so she gets time to be a bookworm as we affectionately call her. Lukas loves to draw, and Skyler will build all day if you let him. They each get time to do what they love to do.

Our kids each get to run a micro business which creates a little spending money for them. And they can spend that money on things they want or will enjoy. A family trip to Powell’s or Joann’s gives the kids an opportunity to pick up something they want to have.

Rewards vs punishment

When it comes down to it, many families go for punishment instead of rewards. For example, many believe it’s easier to take away a toy in hopes that you can change the bad behavior. We have thought this way as well.

Using pennies to promote good habits
Using pennies to promote good habits

But a book that I read recently about habits (Atomic Habits) suggested praising the good and ignoring the bad. While you can’t always ignore the bad things that children do, you can reward the good things they do.

We started paying for good attitudes. Not a whole lot, but even a simple penny to Skyler is a million dollars. If they have a good attitude during school time or chores. And this has begun to turn attitudes toward some of the simple things our children do.

Skyler is happier about folding his laundry. Kaylee whines less about her chores. Sure, we still have to step in and correct bad behaviors. But they are so much more excited to get a little thing from us (and it does not have to be money, it could be more play time or anything else) that the behavior gets better by itself.

Final thoughts

It’s up to you to decide what is important to your family. Start with your spouse and decide how you want your family to look in the future. Then get with the children and work out a plan together. When important decisions come along, take the same approach. Keep everyone involved and moving in the same direction, and the family will easily come together.

The closer you are today, the easier it will be for your family, and your kids in the future to face whatever may come their way.

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Picture of Alex
Husband to Ashley & father to our four children. I love hiking, camping, and working on small hobby projects. I also spend my days running our web design business.

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