Forefront families by Sally Burgess;An Equal Opportunity Family;

Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

We believe that a successful home is God-centered, parent-directed, family-orientated, and outward-focused.  We do not believe in a child-centered home for  good reason.  Before a couple has children they only have themselves and their own stuff to think about.  Remember how long it took to accommodate that one other person in your space let alone another?

When a baby comes along, your whole world changes as it revolves around what that baby needs – as is to be expected.  The baby can’t tell you what it wants so it cries until you work it out by process of elimination.  We watched an Oprah Winfrey show where an Australian woman described how easy it is to know what a newborn baby needs by listening to the type of cry it makes.  If I had only known this vital information when my kids were newborns, we would have all had a lot more sleep!

Toddlers are harder to keep up with once they start exploring and parents may, by this time, have another child on the way.  In fact, it seems that for the next 18 years a parents’ life is jammed with seeing to their kids’ wants and needs from clothing, to feeding, training, entertaining, educating, supporting and most of all, to loving them through their various phases. As parents, we have to take sole responsibility for our kids, and nobody is arguing with the fact that it is a very tough and often thankless job sometimes.

When we say we believe a home should be family oriented, we mean that parents need to be part of the family and not just the ‘gofers’.  When we, as parents concentrate solely on our kids’ needs, the dynamic becomes completely lopsided.  Without realizing what is happening, we find ourselves constantly fitting around what our kids want and do not make a deliberate shift to ensure that we all work and share as a team.  Instead, the kids make the demands and parents jump.  In other words, the kids are in control of the family’s direction and their needs continue to come first, no matter what the situation.  Insidiously, kids then develop the notion that the universe revolves around them and they often see their parents as merely cooks, house cleaners, money handlers and wheels to get them where and whenever they want to go out.  Unfortunately, this attitude does not prepare them for the real world.  It doesn’t encourage them to consider others’ needs, to fit into others’ plans, or to value their parents and other siblings.

So, how can we create an ‘equal opportunity family’?  The first thing is to sit down as a family and create a plan for the year or semester.  Each family member takes a turn to say what they would like to do in relation to a hobby, sport, study etc.  Once everyone has expressed their wishes then the various aspects of these requests need to be talked through with each person.  How long is the class?  How many practices will there be per week?  Who is going to provide the transport?  How much will the activity cost?  How will the family dynamics be impacted?  Does it mean one family member will get more time and attention than others?  Is everybody still taking responsibility for their household chores?  Are mom and dad having their wishes considered?  There will need to be compromise to accommodate each person, but that is life.  We all need to be on a constant learning curve, to have goals and see those realized.

I remember when my children were pre-schoolers and I wanted to start university study as an external student.  I didn’t just go ahead and buy the books and start.  I discussed it with my husband.  We talked about how much time it would take per week, whether we could afford the fees, and what I would do with the kids when I was trying to study.  There was also the problem of what to do with the children when I had to travel several hundred miles to attend a week long in–house course at the university.  I was very grateful that my husband saw what doing this study would mean to me and he did everything he could to help.  One of the great highlights of my life was to graduate with a Bachelors degree in Health Sciences.

Start the New Year by being proactive.  You are the parents and you set the tone of your family by being deliberate and creating a plan.  Being an equal opportunity family will bring joy, peace and even excitement to your home.  If you have any comments or stories on this subject, please contact us at