Balancing Balance, Part V: What are Your Family’s Gatekeeper Filters?

In the last article, we discussed three uses of personal filters – as a tool for time management, for non-time-related choices, and as gatekeepers to decide which things to allow into our lives. A gatekeeper is one who tends or guards a gate, one who controls access. This is where personal filters give their greatest service. They regulate the fullness and content of our lives.

Personal filters usher in new practices and activities we believe will enrich us, they keep out what we believe will overwhelm or damage us, they drive us to continue doing the things we believe in even when doing them is not convenient, and they get us to stop the things we have been doing when we decide they need not to be a part of our lives any longer. How does that look in real life? A mom and dad of young kids, Sue and David decide, among many, many other choices:
1. Their children will be allowed to pick an instrument and take lessons when they are old enough because they want them to know how to read music and have an appreciation for it.
2. Their family will not pursue organized team sports because they are too expensive and time-consuming; instead, they will take play outdoor games together, take walks, and possibly organize a weekly activity with friends.
3. It is important to keep training their children to go to bed and get up at consistent times because they believe everyone is happier and more productive when they have an adequate amount of sleep, and a reliable schedule is the best way to accomplish that.
4. They will stop making social commitments on Saturday evenings unless it is a very special circumstance because their children are too cranky all day Sunday if they don’t get to bed at the usual time.

Sue and David are choosing what they will begin to do, what they will not begin to do, what they will continue to do, and what they will stop doing in order to keep the fullness and content of their family’s life balanced and positive.

Other families, just as loving, just as committed, might make different choices because of their different personal filters. Ashley and Josh think like this:
1. They will encourage their children to participate in lots of organized sports activities because sports offer the benefits of improving health and stamina, building confidence and sportsmanship, and are a great way for the family members to support and cheer one another on.
2. They will not arrange for music lessons for their kids because they will be so busy with sports schedules. If any of their children want to learn an instrument, they can teach themselves or take lessons when they grow up.
3. No matter how crazy the rest of their life gets, they will continue to make time to invite other families to come over on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. The relationships they are building with others are too precious to neglect.
4. They will stop worrying so much about naptimes and bedtimes. The kids will sleep when they need sleep, and anyway, it is good for them to learn flexibility.

As the years of child-rearing roll along, the myriad of choices that will bombard each family will be sifted through these and other filters. From the biggest decisions – home/private/public school? – to the very smallest – Will our family buy trinkets from the grocery store entrance dispensers? – lives will be shaped largely by the parents’ gatekeeper filters.

Sometime I have even said or heard others say something like, “We are not a Kool-Aid family.” Or, “We are a TV-free family.” Or, “Our family only buys products made in the US.” Or, “We are a musical family.” Or, “We are a family of travelers and story-tellers.” Or, “We are a family who serves.” All of these statements reflect gatekeeper filtering where the parents have used their values and wisdom to make choices for their families.

Previous Balancing Balance posts:
Part I Embracing the Truth
Part II Personal Filters
Part III Do I Have the Right to Choose My Filters?
Part IV Personal Filters for Life Management

What are some of the gatekeeper filters you use, consciously or unconsciously, to regulate the fullness and content of your family’s life together?

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9 Comments

  1. Posted October 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting points. Especially as you mentioned at the end, consciously or unconsciously. Because each spouse may have different unconscious filters that may not be in line with the other spouse’s. For instance, reading this I realized that Tim and I are very different illustration of set bed-times naps times, and its because of different filters. Schedule vs. flexibility and so forth. Discussing what gatekeepers we want as a family and the value of different filters would be good for us.

  2. Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    You listed off things you do everyday during Ladies Forum at the camp out but I couldn’t write fast enough. Share the gospel, help another……….. would you mind repeating for this mom who is try to follow your example. 🙂

    Love the blog.

  3. Posted October 29, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    April, realizing one’s spouse has different filters is a big “aha!” moment, I think. 🙂 And, you’re right — discussion about gatekeeper filters: what they are, what each person’s individual one’s are, how to compromise, etc. is key.

  4. Posted October 29, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Hi “twins+2mom,”
    Hmm. I have to get my notes. Ok. Got em. Looked through em. Can’t find what you are referring to.

    I have a little list of things I might say are the different chunks of my life and the specific things I do that go in that chunk, but it was more of a “just getting everyone started to think of her own list” kind of thing. If that’s what you were trying to get down, here’s what I had in my notes, although I might have named more things than I have written here:
    Household: necessities: meals, (dishes) laundry, daily pick-ups, bathrooms
    Spiritual: worship/Bible study, family prayer, gospel sharing, hospitality, care for an elderly sister
    Homeschooling: math, phonics, writing, read-aloud, science dvd…
    Health: vitamins, fruits/veg, protein, sleep, walk

  5. Posted October 29, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Re chunks of life — there are more I didn’t say: marriage, friendship, community service, personal development…

  6. Posted October 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Great point about getting on the same page as the husband when it comes to gatekeepers! I have found the benefit to being flexible with some of my gatekeepers when it comes to my children. I set out to be more like the second couple in our flexibility until I had a child that was absolutely INflexible and reacted *horribly* when sleep/naps were meddled with too much. So we changed our gatekeepers for the first child while slowly and very gently working to expand the range of his flexibility. Second child is MUCH more flexible. Children definitely have different needs and sometimes we have to meet them where they are while helping them grow from that point. Hope that makes sense.

    Another simple example might be with a family that is all about sports. But when the child plays 2-3 different ones for a few years and just doesn’t care for it or becomes discouraged because of a lack of natural talent, meanwhile, displaying interest and talent for music, it would seem prudent to adjust our gatekeepers to go the direction of the child’s natural abilities and interests.

    I do think some things will always be an outright “no” for us and I could name a few, but don’t want to risk insulting someone by doing so. We are all entitled to those and as parents should set those boundaries. And I don’t want to sound like I am criticizing your post at all, just meaning to expand upon it. It’s not *just* about Mama and Daddy’s personal vision for their children. As the children grow, it would enrich the lives of everyone in the family to allow pursuits of certain interests and to be willing to be flexible in our gatekeeping.

  7. Posted October 31, 2011 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    been thinking and considering this a lot lately for our family concerning things like tv time, and what to do about schooling, and time together, for me it’s hard to balance personal filters and family ones–kind of tied into your last post as well about choosing what to neglect, like if we decide for our family that it would be best to homeschool that would mean definitely dropping/downsizing a lot of the stuff that I do along with Ed in the work here. also looking at myself, i have lots of interest but not enough time to do all of them, so have been really thinking that next year I’m just going to have one thing I focus on (besides spiritual things) that way all the other stuff isn’t getting in the way and I can give more focus and better attention to the one thing I choose. . . .Lots of prayers about what is best in our lives.

  8. Posted October 31, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Church Mouse, You make a vital point about the need to adapt gatekeeper and other filters to accomodate all family members! I expect to write a future article about the evolution of filters. 🙂 When identifying filters, we use the combination of our values + all the wisdom we possess right NOW, but as we progress through our lives our values may change, but certainly our wisdom grows and part of how it grows is knowing better how to serve the people in our sphere. Good thinking, girl!

  9. Posted October 31, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Melaine, One thing you might consider re homeschooling and the time commitment: homeschooling certainly DOES take time, but it doesn’t take any more time than what you are doing right now parenting your little ones. You are working with your husband now and managing (although you may say “JUST” LOL), and if you decide to homeschool you will just keep doing what you are already doing — having your children home with you, spending time teaching them things, and also working with your husband with them in tow in one way or another.

    I know many homeschooling moms who say they don’t know how they would find the time for their kids to GO to school. They usually mean the school’s schedule would impinge too much on their own family’s routine and commitments. I fall into that camp. Just now, with the brick project we’ve been doing: #2 Adolescent Male makes a batch of mortar first thing in the morning, comes in to do schoolwork, comes out to make another batch when I call him, comes back in for more school, etc. We couldn’t really do this project if he wasn’t here, but it hasn’t stopped us “doing school.”

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