We can go through our lives whining, bored, and unhappy, or we can cheerfully work through our responsibilities and strive to make life interesting and meaningful. Often the pattern is set in childhood. This family night lesson helps your family choose to live life enthusiastically.
Assign the family two brief chores to do at the start of the lesson. Tell them you’re sorry, but you forgot to have these done before the meeting, so the family night would have to be delayed a little. During the first one, set the tone by being whiny and complaining. When the second one is about to begin, stop and say, “Wow! That wasn’t that hard of a job, but I think I made it miserable for all of us by whining and dragging through it. Let’s see if I can set a better example with this chore. I’d appreciate it if you’d help me keep my attitude together.” Then sing or tell jokes with the family as you work enthusiastically. Comment on how much faster and more pleasant the job is this time.
When the lesson begins, ask the family for their opinion on the two chores they’d completed. Which chore was easier and more fun? Why?
Tell them the jobs were necessary and they weren’t going to go away just because you hadn’t wanted to do them. Nor would they be any more fun some other day. They had to be done before the meeting, and you only had two real choices. You could do them unhappily or you could do them enthusiastically. The work would be the same, but it’s always more fun and more satisfying to do the work enthusiastically and happily. There’s no point in making life miserable when it doesn’t have to be.
Examples: Homework—decorate the desk and purchase fun school supplies. Make a list of two new things you learned during that homework session and then challenge yourself to beat your record each day.
Room Cleaning: Play music, make up a story to write later, work with a sibling (and then do her chores together, too.)
If you have young children, have them make a face that is smiling if turned one way and frowning if turned the other way.
The lesson that contains this template also has a song and several poems and action rhymes on choosing to be happy. These can be added to the family night lesson.
Tell your children they can choose to be grumpy while they work, or they can choose to be happy. Choosing happiness makes life more fun.
Hand each person in the family a picture of a flame or invite them to draw one. Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, in a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do,” suggest the first step to generating enthusiasm is to light a fire. Tell your children a fire often symbolizes excitement and enthusiasm. There can be many things we can be enthusiastic about, but to have a Christ-like and successful life, we need to choose our enthusiasms well.
Invite your family to suggest things they get enthusiastic about. Add other things to the list that others might get excited about, both worthy and unworthy things. Ask them to choose which things they consider would give them the most value or provide the most value to others. Help them realize, as they discuss the values of each item on the list, that their enthusiasms should be worthy of their energy and passion.
Ask each of them to choose one very important, worthy thing to become passionate about—something that could really improve their lives or the lives of others. Examples might be education, feeding the hungry, or collecting used books for children who can’t afford them. Ask them to write that item on their flame.
Teach them the difference between the big picture and the details. If you can, have prepared a picture of something familiar. Using the computer enlarge one very small portion of it that makes it hard to tell what the larger item is. Show the detail picture first and let them guess what it is. Then show the big picture. Ask why they weren’t able to tell what it was.
When we focus only on details, we can lose sight of what the big important goal is. Tell a story like this one to illustrate the point:
Joseph’s school was having a food drive. There was going to be a contest and the class that gathered the most food got a prize. Joseph was excited to be helping people have enough to eat. He always had enough to eat at home and it made him sad that some people did not. However, as the contest progressed, he got more and more excited about the prize and forgot that the purpose of the drive was to feed those who are hungry. All he thought about was the prize.
What was the big picture? (feeding the hungry)
What was the small detail Joseph ended up focusing on? (The prize)
Why was this harmful to Joseph’s eternal life?
Ask your children to identify the big picture in their goal. Then ask them to make a list of the details—steps needed to accomplish the big picture. Remind them to keep their eye on the big picture as they work through the smaller steps.
Tell them that carrying out a big goal can be very hard, even when they really care about the goal. They need to work to keep up their enthusiasm. Ask them to identify some ways to make the goal fun, even if some of the steps are not fun.
What can they do if they start to feel discouraged? Invite each family member to place his or her name in a box or bag. Have them take turns drawing out the name of someone in the family. That person will be their support person. If Karen becomes discouraged, for instance, she can call on Megan, who will then help Karen remember the big picture and regain enthusiasm. Talk about some of the methods the support people can use to help keep spirits up, as well as methods that should be avoided.
You might want to plan a family goal as well, so you can model for your children how to carry out a serious goal or project. Choose something everyone cares about, plan smaller steps that lead to the big goal, and work cooperatively to achieve it. The children will often learn their goals require the help of others. As you work, role model the proper attitudes and methods for handling discouragement. Make a visual reminder as a family to help everyone keep an eye on the goal.