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Sunday 7 January 2018

Book Review: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families

Title: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
Author: Stephen R Covey
Publisher: Allen Unwin
Recommended for: Parents

This is a fairly old book published in 1998 and it's one of the first parenting books that I've read when I had my children. It resonated with me because the values were in aligned with Islam, even though the author is a Christian and made some references to Christianity in the book. Really, Christianity and Islam have similar values but it's our beliefs that our different. For the most part, I just ignore the references.

I will go through the 7 habits and what I got from them, from an Islamic perspective, of course.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

I believe Stephen Covey invented the pause button - to stop ourselves from reacting to the emotions of the moment and instead to think and choose our actions according to our principles. In the moment of something happening to us, we need to press our pause button before we react. 

This is really hard to do. This is why our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The strong are not the best wrestlers. Verily, the strong are only those who control themselves when they are angry.” (Narrated by Abu Huraira in Al Bukhari and Muslim)

When our children make us angry, are we strong enough to control ourselves from reacting by pressing our pause button? This is the basis of being proactive. The author then goes into ways we can choose to act: we can be helpful, apologising, forgiving and understanding, among others.

Habit 2: Begin with The End in Mind
Like every business with a long term goal, so too does our family unit need one. Why do Muslims have a family? It's to fulfill our Islamic duty and to raise righteous believers. Allah says in the Quran, translated as:
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.
(Adh-dhariyat 51:5)

I think a lot of us forget this or we don't even think of it. And so we marry and have children and aimlessly live our life for its enjoyment. 

The thing with goals is that it needs to be shared with everyone. Everyone in the family needs to have the same vision and understanding otherwise instead of a single goal to guide everyone, the different goals that each person has will pull the family in different directions. To overcome this, the goals of the family is a process that everyone needs to have a discussion about and agree on.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
This habit is about putting the relationship in the family first. There are two main ways to do this on a weekly basis. The first is to have family time as a group for planning, for teaching skills, to problem solve (family meeting) and for having fun together (get my free 'Family Fun Activities Guide' ).

The second way is to have one on one bonding time with each member. Yes, this includes, mother and father bonding times as well as each parent with each child. This is why family time for planning is important to schedule all these times in.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win
We need to change our mindset from a me to a we. It requires service and sacrifice so that everyone's best interest is involved. 

Islam is about community. It's never about the individual. An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The Muslims are like a single man. If the eye is afflicted, then the whole body is afflicted. If the head is afflicted, then the whole body is afflicted.” (Muslim)

This means that there cannot be a lose-win situation because if one person loses then the other members are affected by it. This is how it is within families as well. The outcome of any encounter or decision must be a win-win for everyone.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand Then Be Understood
This is about how we listen and communicate with our family members. The first part is about our perception of others and their perspectives. To do this well we need to have empathy - to feel and understand what the other is feeling, which then leads to listening with empathy.

The second part is how we communicate our needs and respond to others. It's how we say things to our children when requesting them to do something or how we give them feedback on what they're doing. It's about acknowledging and showing our appreciation, reflecting back and using I messages. (I've written a book on 'Positively Communicate: Build a Strong Relationship With Your Child'. Click on the book icon to read more about it.)

Habit 6: Synergise
Synergy is a product of valuing each person's uniqueness so that when taken together as a family unit the result is a creative force. It uses each person's strengths and covers each person's weaknesses. 

Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A servant does not cover the faults of another servant in the world but that Allah will cover his faults on the Day of Resurrection.” (Muslim) To cover another's fault or weakness is to not point it out and ridicule, put the person down or belittle them because of it. We can help them or remind them to improve on it. We can also use our strengths to lift everyone up. 

Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw
To strengthen the family bonds we must also create family traditions such as having family dinners together, going on family vacations together, celebrating holidays together such a Eid and iftar, learning together, worshipping together, working together and serving others together. How many of these do you do together as a family?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families is a thick book. What I like about it are the stories that the author used to illustrate each scenario and how to use the habits. These 7 habits are highly desirable to have but they'll take time to implement. Start first by picking one habit that you can do right now for your family. Work on that until you've got pretty good at it then start on the next.

If you'd like to get this book, click image below. It contains my affiliate link:

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