By Lavern Nissley
OK, so what exactly does pruning your family tree have to do with healthier relationships? I can't just exclude family members from my life, can I? Yes and no, and here's how.
Our family trees have a great deal of influence upon who we are and how we act. Usually Ronda and I attend at least one or two family reunions each summer, and we're always intrigued at the positive and negative legacies left in large extended families. Generational trends like entrepreneurship, generosity and service are positive while patterns of stubbornness, anger and deception aren't.
In my own family tree I have seen both positives and negatives. I love the legacy of selfless generosity in one part of the tree. But I am saddened by the pattern in another part of the tree of young men running away from home because of tyrannical, authoritarian fathers.
As you reflect on your own family, ask yourself these two questions: "What trends do I want to continue?" and "What choices and behaviors do I NOT want to pass along to those coming after me?" Most of us find that pretty easy to figure out. More challenging, however, is replacing the negative pruned patterns with positives.
In my own experience I couldn't just say, "I'm not going to be an authoritarian dad." It had to go further to, "I choose to balance my interactions with my kids with love and truth." Or with Love and Logic, as a popular parenting program is named.
So, get out your family tree pruning saw and write down a few things to discontinue as well as to retain. (Download and complete the Family Tree exercise below.) Then replace the negatives with positives. Your descendants will thank you!
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.