Have you ever wished your home could be a sanctuary? A haven of refuge to go to after a long, hard day? Wouldn’t it be grand if your home could be exactly that for you and your family?
Well, it can! I had the privilege recently of sitting down and talking with Joanne Miller, author of Creating a Haven of Peace, which was just released on July 5th. In her book, Joanne gives very specific details on how to effectively create that haven environment families crave so much.
Joanne’s book covers so many aspects of family life, from marriage to parenting to managing personalities, businesses, and finances – all packed with the steady, wise, and sometimes humorous council from a woman who has had homemaking as her main career for nearly half a century.
Since my blog is aimed toward parents of teens, I spoke with her primarily about how parenting styles and habits can play into creating that peaceful home environment.
Joanne’s warmth and nurturing spirit flow from her like tea from a kettle. I loved speaking with her in her own Haven of Peace about the things and the people she loves most in this world.
So find a comfy spot, sit back for a few minutes, and enjoy reading my interview with Joanne Miller.
Anna: Joanne, thanks so much for spending time with me today. I was captivated by your book, and I want to get right into our discussion. You deal with marriage and how the relationship between a husband and a wife sets the tone for the household climate.
Let’s discuss the importance of a couple working together to create a united parenting front to their kids. How has this parenting strategy been beneficial for you in the past, and what advice can you give parents who may not always follow this strategy in a two parent household?
Joanne: Well, often it’s something that comes up on the spur of the moment, and the parents haven’t had time to talk about it. You may have to tell the child, “I’m not sure this is a very good idea. I want to talk about it with Dad (or Mom) first.”
When our kids were growing up, they knew which one of us was the easiest to work. By the time kids are teenagers, they are quite good at it.
If there’s a chance to discuss a big issue with both parents, and if the child is a teen, it’s good to include that child in the discussion of the answer, because it teaches the child how to resolve problems, and helps them see different sides they may not see at first.
I’ve seen instances where parents have contradicted each other in front of the children. If a parent says, “No, I don’t think you should do this,” and the other parent immediately says, “Oh, yes you can,” it makes playing the parents more ingrained in the teen, and it’s obvious the parents aren’t in agreement. That creates more serious issues, more conflict in the family structure, and lends instability to the household.
Creating that united front helps to reinforce the security a child needs. Even if the child disagrees with the decision, he will see that Mom and Dad are on the same page, and that unity speaks loudly.
Anna: In chapter 2 you discuss how a home that is child-centered rather than marriage or adult centered is a recipe for disaster. First of all, explain what you mean by a child-centered home, and then elaborate on the pitfalls you see associated with operating a household in that way.
Joanne: A child centered home is one in which the kids have such a major influence on all the decisions that are made, that the parents feel helpless. They feel like they are being controlled by the children, instead of the other way around, with the parents having ultimate control.
We used to have a saying in our home –“We don’t have a democracy; we have a benevolent dictatorship.” We always want to act in love and be friends with our children, but parents must always remember they are parents first. If they don’t, they are setting themselves up for disaster. Someone has to be in control, and that responsibility should fall to the parents.
We used to have a saying in our home –“We don’t have a democracy; we have a benevolent dictatorship.”
In order to maintain that control, parents must first put their own relationship as the priority, presenting that united front as we discussed earlier. Then the parent/child relationship comes second.
Without that structure, the family is out of control. Kids act up in public because the parents don’t have control. My kids knew where the bathroom was in all the stores, not because they had to potty, but because we sometimes had to have an attitude adjustment!
If the parent really is in charge, the child learns to respect the parent instead of taking advantage. It starts at an early age and carries over into the teen years. Respect doesn’t start when they are teens – it starts from the womb.
Anna: We’ve been talking about marriage and two parent households. What advice can you give to single parents? I know neither of us has been a single parent, but I still want to address concerns that single parents might have on this issue when raising a young child or a teen on their own.
Joanne: Again, as I mentioned, respect starts from the very beginning. I was raised in a single parent home. I never knew what it was like to have a father, but I really learned to respect my mother. She was in charge, and I knew it. Being a single parent doesn’t negate the responsibility of giving respect back to your child. If you remember that, your child will be much more willing to pick up his or her part to do what’s necessary in the home to make it a happy, secure environment.
There are many single parent families these days. It certainly can be done successfully if you have respect for one another instead of the parent just being a disciplinarian or law-enforcement officer. It’s good to discuss things together. That’s all the more necessary in a single parent home, to make sure you agree on what your family mission is and what you want your family to stand for.
We sometimes don’t give teenagers enough credit for being able to see what they can do to help, and the more involvement they have in helping out, the more secure they feel. It also gives them a sense of purpose, and helps them to feel more appreciated.
Anna: Many parts of your book go along with my ebook 12 Keys to Raising Happy, Well-Adjusted Teenagers Without Pulling Your Hair Out, including the importance of manners. How have you successfully taught your children and grandchildren to use good manners, and at what age do you think parents should begin this process?
Joanne: Parents should certainly enjoy their children’s infancy because that time is so fleeting; but when they get to be just a few years old, even toddlers, it’s not too early to start teaching them manners.
A good place to start is with the bad habit of interrupting. We just had an example of good manners here a few minutes ago. Juliet, who is three years old, wanted her mother’s attention. Ashley, her mom, was in mid-sentence, so Juliet put her hand on her mom’s arm, as she had been taught to do, which was an indication she had something she wanted to say. Ashley knew Juliet was waiting, and when she finished, she gave Juliet her attention. It’s amazing, and it works! It’s a great way to teach them manners at an early age.
As I mention in the book, one of our goals was to raise our children so when people saw us coming as a family, they didn’t say, “Oh no, here they come…” rolling their eyes in dread. We wanted our children to be welcomed in other people’s homes, and enjoyed by those people, so we were really adamant about having them say “please” and “thank you,” and even open doors for people.
One of our goals was to raise our children so when people saw us coming as a family, they didn’t say, “Oh no, here they come…”
When I’m out in public and a young kid opens the door for me, I know those parents are teaching that child to do what’s right.
Anna: That happened to me just the other day. A teen girl held the door open for me and I thanked her. I wanted her to know I really appreciated it so she would be more likely do it again for the next person. I want people to know how great teens can be.
Joanne: Yes, they are little adults in so many respects, adults in training. They are in training in a good way or in a bad way. We make that choice.
Anna: You made an intriguing point on page 24 about discipline. Why do you think some parents might sometimes shy away from disciplining their children?
Joanne: I heard Dr. James Dobson say one of the biggest reasons parents don’t discipline their children is their lack of self-confidence. The parents are afraid if they discipline their child, the child isn’t going to love them.
I suspect the vast majority of parents have had a child say at one time, “I hate you!” But trust me, they don’t. Unless you’re really an evil parent, which I suspect is not the case, they don’t. They may hate you in the moment, or they may hate the decision you’ve made, but they don’t hate you. They love you. They just get frustrated. We all get frustrated at times, and it’s okay to allow the child to express her emotions. But if a parent is continually allowing a child to be unruly and undisciplined, that parent may very well have self-confidence issues when it comes to discipline.
This was a revolutionary idea to me when I first heard it as a young parent.
But here’s another viewpoint. My own mother could get violent sometimes. I had a single parent home, and my mother was very dictatorial. She often acted out of rage and frustration, and she got abusive many times, especially by today’s standards.
I think sometimes parents feel they don’t want to duplicate what they grew up with. I could have easily said, “Well I was abused and treated unfairly as a child, so I’m going to allow my kids more leeway,” to the extent my kids might have taken advantage of me. That’s not a good decision either. I didn’t want to be like my mother, but I also had to set ground rules for my kids to abide by. You can do that without anger and rage. So I think parents often don’t discipline out of fear they are going to be duplicating what they grew up with. That and the self-confidence issue go hand in hand.
Anna: What advice can you give parents who might be struggling with teens who are rebellious or have “bad attitudes” to help them overcome their difficult situations?
Joanne: If you have a relationship that allows you to sit down and calmly discuss things through, that’s the best way to diffuse anger; however, sometimes you don’t have that kind of relationship, and it may be a situation where you just don’t know how to reach that child.
I can use my own experience with Jared, our middle child. He spent a lot of years with severe drug and alcohol dependency. It started when he was in his early teens, and extended into his twenties. It was severe enough that he almost died more than once, and we had him home three times for suicide watch.
There were times when I didn’t know how to reach this young person. There was no conflict in our home, and Jared was never disrespectful or angry with us about it. He had a time of needing to find himself, and I think some children struggle with that more than others. They have so much pressure and stress, so much going on in their lives, plus hormones and growth. It can be overwhelming for some children, and not so much for others. Some teenagers breeze right through and do fine. Others don’t.
The two best things we did for Jared were 1) to acknowledge and understand he had feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem and 2) to get him a good counselor who was not a family member or friend, someone who wasn’t close to the issue. He felt free to go and express himself in ways he couldn’t within the family, particularly because he was sandwiched between two high achievers in the birth order.
We had some real struggles for many years, but getting outside help was key. We often think we can handle everything ourselves, but sometimes we need a mediator to reach an agreement or to solve problems. The counselor knows the right questions to ask and is not close to the issue, which gives him or her a clearer perspective on the situation.
A coach or a mentor is another good approach. That’s how Dan and I learned a lot of things – through mentors. Our kids do, too. They pick up things from people they admire, so put them with people who will have that positive effect on their lives.
Anna: In chapter 3, you discuss formulating a mission statement. How should a family go about creating a mission statement that is agreeable to all of the family members?
Joanne: That’s one of the best things we ever did – create a family mission statement. It led us to begin having family nights. I highly recommend your family have one night a week or a couple nights a month, whatever works into your schedule. Have a nice dinner together. Discuss what’s going on with the family members. Include things that are happening at school or work or with their friends.
We developed our family mission statement back when it became very popular for entities to create mission statements. Businesses, churches, organizations, all were writing mission statements. We figured why not have a family mission statement.
Ours would include what we wanted our family to stand for, what we wanted to integrate into our lives. It was what we wanted other people to see about us from the outside. It was how we wanted to be viewed by the world.
Our (mission statement) would include what we wanted our family to stand for, what we wanted to integrate into our lives. It was what we wanted other people to see about us from the outside. It was how we wanted to be viewed by the world.
So we talked about it. I shared with them an article I had read in a Reader’s Digest magazine. A lady lived in a neighborhood with a lot of single parent and low income children, and she had a little safe place they could come to. She would talk to them, play with them and supervise them. She had on her wall a little motto about what she wanted her safe place to be. I read what she had written and realized that was exactly what I wanted.
The next time we had family time, I read the statement to them. Dan and the kids, who were pre-teen and early teen at the time, all said “Oh, yes, that’s perfect!” so we adopted it.
The result was it took Dan and me out of the roles of law-enforcement officers. For instance, if we were upset about something Jared had done, I would say “Jared, does that line up with our family mission statement?” I didn’t have to say “Jared, you did something wrong.” I would just ask him that question. No, it didn’t line up. So what are we going to do to change that? How are we going to repair the damage that was done?
Anna: Did it help? Did it make a difference?
Joanne: Oh, amazing difference! Because the kids could easily see they weren’t in trouble because we were telling them so; they were in trouble because they had violated what they had agreed to stand for. It worked really well.
Our mission statement came out of a magazine, but you can do it however you want to. It can be a poem or even a song. You can add to it and change it as you go. Nothing is written in concrete. It can be anything you want to have as your family mission statement.
Anna: Did you post it in your home?
Joanne: We posted it in every bathroom, right beside the toilet. All the kids could memorize it easily. You can put it on the refrigerator or anywhere people will see it often, but putting it in the bathroom is very effective.
When I spoke with other parents, I realized the mission statement was something unique that set our family apart. I wasn’t even aware at the time how much a part of shaping our home it really was, but I can look back on it now and see the impact it had.
Anna: Do you think it is ever too late to begin pursuing the goal of turning one’s home into a peaceful sanctuary? What advice would you give to someone who might feel this way?
Joanne: It’s never too late. If you do nothing but just take small steps, like having a family night, a date night, or lighting candles to create a relaxing atmosphere, just make that small effort to start.
There is so much stress, so much out there in the world that places demands on your family. Ask yourself what you can do to alleviate that stress. Examine what you can do inside your home where you do have control, because you can’t control the environment outside your home.
One of my favorite quotes from Barbara Bush is, “Your success as a family – our success as a society – depends not on what happens in the White House, but what happens in your house.” (reported in The Washington Post, June 2, 1990)
Your success as a family – our success as a society – depends not on what happens in the White House, but what happens in your house.
My home has been my first career. What I do in my home filters out through my children, their spouses, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren, and their great grandchildren. It just keeps rippling. That’s how we create peace. Someone in the home has to take on that career, be it the husband or the wife. But someone has to take on the responsibility of making those kids responsible adults, citizens, and family members. That is a career in itself.
If you want to create a Haven of Peace, it’s never too late. There is always time to have a new beginning. I have learned more about myself and how to change myself in the last 17 years, after I turned 50, than in all the years prior to that. I am not too old to learn even at this stage of my life. I hope I am always learning and evolving, and I hope you are, too.
Married almost five decades to best-selling author, Dan Miller (48 Days to the Work You Love), Joanne Miller is a writer, speaker, artist, and proud grandmother of fourteen grandchildren.
What a blessing it was to speak with Joanne! I learned so much myself from this seasoned wife, mother, and grandmother, and I plan to implement many of her tips and pieces of advice for continuing to create my own Haven of Peace for my family.
Joanne’s book was of particular interest to me because it has always been a goal of mine to create a peaceful, haven-like atmosphere in my home for my husband and my kids. It is sweet music to my ears when one of them walks through the door, heaves a huge sigh and exclaims, “It’s soooooo good to be home!”
You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy (or two) of Creating a Haven of Peace by Joanne Miller. It’s available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or on Joanne’s website at joannefmiller.com. If you visit her website and click on the Create a Sense of Peace banner on the home page, you can download a free beautiful color poster about using the five senses in the home to create a loving environment.
Thanks, and as always,