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Is there such a thing as a functional family
We are surrounded with images of dysfunction that make for plays, movies and fiction based loosely on reality.
Dysfunctional relationship arrise from having the wrong priorities.
They first met in high school; it was love at first sight and they decided to get married in their heady glee; filled with ideal visions of wedded bliss with one another and a life of happily ever after. Bridezilla married her gloom in an extreme, high cost church ceremony where the officiating high priest blessed them with "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy spigot, I now pronounce you husband and knife." They had their honeymoon in Tokyo where they raised havoc. By the time the honeymoon was over, they made Alice, the wife of Jackie Gleason's "trip to the moon" look routine. So why did they call him the gloom? You'd be gloomy if you had to marry the perfectionist bridezilla. She was glum over all the tiny glitches in the wedding. Absolutely everything had to be perfect and, of course, it wasn't. This was the start of their mutual dysfunction together and was then passed off to the children and they lived dysfunctionally ever after.
This little story is meant to impart the fact that the ideal and the real seldom come together and a large amount of dysfunction comes because the two cannot be reconciled. This lack of reconciliation and understanding is what is behind problems that run in families. The real world is what we have to deal with, but most lack the tools of understanding through lack of education that results in dysfunctional families. If the parents are dysfunctional, it stands to reason that the offspring will be also dysfunctional. As a result, it appears that the functional family is a thing of fiction, rather than reality. But, believe it or not, the functional family does exist, though it is rare in the developed world.
A major part of the problem is how money has changed how people relate to one another. This is expressed succinctly by Marx in the opening paragraphs of the Communist Manifesto to whit; "The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation." This forms one of the barriers to functionality. Problems that surface in families are usually centered around money; so, if the family is to become more functional, the center of focus is going to have to be something other than money. This is now more true due to a worsening economy post sub-prime crisis where money is in short supply, whether from unemployment or loss of pensions, etc.
With all the demands of modern society, especially on those who have to work and raise a family, it is hard to imagine that in such an environment that a healthy family is even possible. Often time, both husband and wife work and the children become latch-key kids who have to fend for themselves until the parents arrive home from work exhausted. The kids have no other baby sitter than the TV and computer. The kids are exhausted too from a grueling day at school where they are subjected to a failure-success environment and under constant stress to perform beyond their natural ability in all areas, whether in math, sciences, literature, physical culture, history and other subjects. Not only that, some have to endure endless bullying and have to learn to stand up to it and go so far as fighting to gain peer respect. Of course, a lot of this brought home along with the homework and endless colds and flu. The parents are on the other hand, have to perform flawlessly for the expectation of the supervisor or boss regardless of how they feel or if they are up to top performance on a given day. Thus, there is the continued mad dash to achieve ever greater success, more wealth, more conspicuous consumption as the key to the good life. Given all of this, it's a wonder that divorce is not universal and that the families that do manage to stay together, actually hold out. Family life appears in these circumstances to be more of a combat front than peaceful co-existence.
Under conditions of economic downturn and/or collapse, this situation makes the dream unreal and unattainable. The result is misery and depression for most, especially if they also find themselves unemployed. Unemployment and economic stress is often just enough to break up dysfunctional families. With all the specialization and interdependence we have in society, the loss of one sector is followed rapidly by the weakening and loss of others. As most people have been educated and train to function in a certain way and that way is removed, they are not equipped to deal with the changing and emerging new paradigm. Also, they are not trained to work with one another outside of a specialized teamwork in a factory, mine or office. Without this knowledge, then people have to grope by trial and error. Yet, this has not always been so.
When humanity was closer to nature, it was necessary to function together as an integrated and functional whole. Even today in more, so called primitive cultures, we can find families that are totally functional because they have to be in order to survive. Children are taught by supportive and caring adults to develop the skills of survival at an early age without restraint. If we look to Mongolia at the herding culture, we can find children as young as two years of age using knives and skinning animals for food and clothes. The children function as fully integrated members of society and willingly do their part for parents, community and each other even to the point of total self sacrifice for the greater benefit. This was the case when the Europeans encountered the tribes of the First Nations in much of the Americas; but this way of life was systematically destroyed for the European ways. Children were wrenched away from families, were re-educated and adults put to slavery or death. An assemblage of working and integrated peoples were thus put to rout and replaced with another order; an order that was oriented to exploitation and consumption of everything it touched including each other. This integration and natural functionality is largely not the case in highly industrial regions were everyone seems to be at odds and are hell bent on self fulfillment and personal aggrandizement. The lifestyles of the high and mighty so eulogized for us, seems like a good goal for the rest of us and this becomes the individual and collective goal. This pits each of us in a struggle against all the rest as we are told "There can only be one winner and the rest are bums". In such an atmosphere, a functional family is the extreme exception rather than the near universal rule.
A lot of what we have learned is myth and that which could be of use, is censored and suppressed for the rationale that "God would not approve" or that somehow it does not apply in our times. We also learn about the divisions in society that are sacrosanct and that certain lines must not be crossed unless somehow, we are worthy. So a perfectionist attitude is instilled early that almost all will fail to achieve in any area of life whatsoever, let alone all of them. To be perfect in all, is to be god-like and indeed, this is a myth that is often given us about the rich and mighty. We learn from history that some pharaohs and Caesars were self pronounced gods and demanded worship. We learn by example of Caligula, who placed a statue of himself to be worshiped as a god in the Jerusalem temple that precipitated a rebellion of the Jews. But all this perception of success and failure is not the way to a functional family. Nor is it necessary to go back to a primitive lifestyle to achieve functionality. With a little research and practice, developing a functional lifestyle is possible.
Respect for one another is crucial in order to achieve a functional family. This may be difficult unless started early with the children before they become influenced by school peers and other peoples' children. This presumes that both adults raising the children are already aware and functional with each other. In order to get respect, you must above all, show respect to your children. This means the full truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth. For many people the truth can differ from family to family, but the kind of truth we are talking here is objective honesty with one another and there is nothing better than being honest and forthright as an example to others. One should not "talk down" to those who are younger as if they were inferior. No one likes to be patronized, especially adults, as goes on all too often like on the job were a kid boss talks down to a senior employee as if the employee much older than them were a toddler. This one may take some insight and practice as we are so caught up in divisions of the civilized world, a lot of this talking down is unconscious. If the children have questions and you don't have the answers, let them know and then work together to find the answer. Children should learn respect for differences and there is no better example than the wide variety we see in nature and this continues into human beings. There are stories that can be derived from sources like the Bible that can teach respect for difference and the necessity thereof. This process should be exciting and not boring. Learn to follow one another’s leads and use insights from all members of the family. Everyone must replace myth with a real paradigm.