In a Must Have Family, a high level of trust is an absolute necessity. Even though there are less parenting hours to go around because of a job that requires long hours, mega travel, deployment or living apart, each family member has to know that their needs will be met and their opinion matters.

So go tell them that.  No, really, go tell each of them that their needs will be met and their opinions matter.  I’ll wait right here until you get back.

How did that go?  Probably, it did not make much difference at all.  Because it isn’t our words that convince kids they can trust us, it is our actions, our behaviors and most of all our routines.

How to Play Knockouts and Make Better Decisions:

One routine we use all the time is a game we call Knockouts.  We use this most when we are trying to decide between options—how we spend the afternoon, what’s for dinner, where we should go out for lunch.  This helps us dodge the fight we call “You always let him decide!!!”

This is how it works. Say that you want to go out to dinner as a family (which is, let’s admit, an incredible feat of optimism over experience).

1. Make a list. If you do not have a consensus about where to go, have one person in the family come up with a list of restaurants that are acceptable to them.  They have to come up with one more choice than there are people in the group.  When you do this the first time, have a parent come up with the list, but as you move forward, let every member of the family have a turn.  It keeps things interesting.

2. Knock one out.  After the list of alternatives is made, the next person gets to knock off the one they want to go to the least.  You can choose the “next” person randomly, who is standing in the room, who has the next birthday, who is next in alphabetical order or age order, etc.

3.  Knock another one out.  The next person knocks out the one they like least.  Often people do not know what they want, but they are sure about what they do want.

4.  Keep going through the whole group until you have a winner.

5.  Repeat.  The first time you do this, you will probably have at least one family member who is not that happy with the winner.  That is OK.  Really, it is.

Part of how you make a Must Have family that works in the long run is knowing that throughout our lives together we are not going to agree on everything and we need ways to make sure everyone’s needs are met.  That is why this works.

As you keep doing this game routinely, everyone gets the message that they will get a chance to come up with the list and get their choice, too.  My devilish child once stacked his list with places no one else wanted to go so that that he would get his top choice for sure.  We gave in to that because he made us laugh.  Which is another good life skill.

Family routines have been shown to be one of the major factors of family resilience because they build trust in a way words cannot.  Share one of your #familyroutines with us here.  If we write about it, we will send you a special gift.