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The Game Plan of Family Living: How to Improve Communication and Solve Problems


The Game Plan of Family Living: How to Improve Communication and Solve Problems

Every family has its share of challenges and communication problems. An effective formula for problem-solving communication involves a game plan, building skills, and lots of practice. Your family can develop a game plan for improving communication and solving problems.

The Game Plan of Family Living

In counseling families–parents, and offspring–I often ask them to write out the rules and fouls for family talk and actions in their house. The family should discuss rules and fouls, share suggestions, and agree upon the rules and fouls. Just like any game, everybody has to play by the rules or be penalized if they foul. To win at the game of family communication and relationships, and succeed as a family, everybody needs to know and buy into the rules. Some families post the rules and fouls in several rooms of their home until they become a way of life.

Here is a sample Game Plan to help you begin your own family plan.

RULES for the Game of Family Living

  1. Everyone lower their voices when they are feeling upset, to begin to get self-control.
  2. Take responsibility for what you feel and be honest to explain it.
  3. Use “I” statements in place of “You” statements. Example, “I feel put down,” not “You always put me down.”
  4. Communicate with a mindset to solve problems, not to attack or humiliate.
  5. Stick to one problem and solution, rather than hopping to a list of complaints.
  6. Listen… Listen… Listen… If this is difficult for some, make the 3- to 5-minute rule where one person asks for this ruling and may speak his or her mind for 3 to 5 minutes without interruption. Time it.
  7. Try to get in the other person’s shoes as much as possible; listen to their feelings.

Other rules may be added as needed.

FOULS of the Game of Family Living

  1. No name-calling. Penalty: Write, “I will remember to respect people by not name-calling.” The number of times written can be according to the family member’s age and ability.
  2. No slamming doors or damaging property. Penalty: Restore or repair property and/or write, “I need to remember that slamming doors does not solve problems, communication does.”
  3. No touching of any kind, not even a brush of the shoulder, when we are angry. Penalty: Write, “It is not wise to touch people when we are angered. It only inflames the anger.”
  4. No “shut ups.” You may ask someone to be quiet or to leave you alone. Penalty: Write, “I need to listen to people and set my boundaries by asking them to be quiet or by moving away from them.”

Add other rules and exchange penalties as needed and agreed upon, such as doing extra chores, having a time out or being grounded if the writing continually does not work.

Remember that parents need to model, teach, and encourage the Family Rules and Fouls. Our homes are training grounds for other relationships in life; at school, at work, in the community, and eventually in your children’s homes. Give priority to building positive, biblical relationships within your home. Grow a healthy family.

Adapted from the chapter “Family Talk: Managing Anger in the Family,” in Building Family Values Using the Tools of Bonding and Boundaries by Drs. Rodney and Nancy Dean, Copypright 1994 by Church Growth Institute/


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