Introduction to the Seven Principles of Emotionally Healthy Families

Introduction to the Seven Principles of Emotionally Healthy Families

Several years ago, we noticed that there were underlying principles at work in our families. Steven Covey defines principles as rules or laws that are permanent, unchanging and universal in nature. These principles were being enacted in each family system, regardless of the family composition or historic trauma. They were unrecognized and functioning without parental intention. When we brought them to the family’s attention, we, often, received blank stares or outright opposition. However, eventually, recognition of these principles empowered the families to make the needed changes.

The Seven Principles:

  1. Brains prioritize fear over everything else
  2. Limbic brains harmonize
  3. Parents must manage their affect
  4. Parents must project positive outcomes
  5. Parents define the child’s self and the world
  6. Children learn what works
  7. Children need to be enjoyed

As you read though the list, notice the first two are broad spectrum, applying to all humanity. All brains are hardwired to keep an individual safe. Other words, the limbic brain will pay more attention to fear triggers than other triggers and respond accordingly. This principle becomes especially important to notice when the family environment has increased amounts of fear present. The second principle notes that when humans are together they will share emotions. At work, home, or even in a crowd, humans have limbic resonance, one brain will harmonize with the other. Emotions are catchy! Emotions in one family member will eventually impact the others.

The following three principles are directly attributed to parents. In principle three, the parents are more mature and have an increased ability to emotionally regulate. One of the functions of childhood is to learn emotional regulation skills. Sadly, we have heard parents excuse their own emotional outbursts by citing the children’s behaviors as the cause. One of the reasons emotional regulation is so important is that parents must be able to project positive outcomes. A dysregulated parent is at the whim of any emotion associated with external circumstances and will not be able to find the positives in life. By definition, children lack sufficient knowledge of how the world works to consistently imagine future successes. Traumatized children are at even more of a deficit because they are busy projecting negative outcomes. it is the parent’s task to imagine success, define the steps, and communicate the vision to the children. Each of these principles leads to the fifth principle. Parents define their children. We do this in many ways; verbally and non-verbally. Children are powerfully impacted by the words we say to and about them. They are hardwired to feel about themselves what we feel about them.

The final two are about our children. Children learns what works refers to the adaptability of our human nature. Children will mimic others when they see that the behaviors work. They learn experientially and will follow other’s models. For example, a parent who have inconsistent boundaries will likely teach a child to push boundaries. Lastly, principle seven states children need to be enjoyed. Children are designed to respond to the experience of being enjoyed. From the moment a new born is placed on mother’s chest to the last breath we take, our desire is to be enjoyed by others. Our families need to places where children have this experience. In today’s world with our fear saturated media and our hectic schedules, this principle is far too often ignored. It is the parent’s responsibility to create opportunities for enjoyment of each other into the family setting.

Future video and blogs will explain each principle in depth. If these principles leave you with further questions, continue exploring our website.

© 2021, Jeff Merkert. All rights reserved.

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