The first five minutes of a movie. Is it weird? Startling? Intriguing? Will I finish it?
The first five minutes of that recommended book. Dry? Lame? Confusing? (Perhaps making it the last five minutes as well.)
The first five minutes of a party. Awkward? Welcoming? Wish you hadn’t come?
The first five minutes of a meeting. Boring? Strained? Hilarious?
The first five minutes after getting home. Stressful? Embracing? Icy?
The first five minutes of the message at church. Inviting? Provocative? Offensive?
The first five minutes really count, because it’s in those opening moments that expectations are set, attitudes are decided, minds and hearts are open (or closed). Important decisions, conscious or not, occur within the first five minutes.
This principle applies in so many ways, and I encourage you to think that through and make adjustments so the first five minutes of your next presentation/meeting/conversation goes stellar.
But, for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on the first five minutes in family life.
Think about the first five minutes:
1. After your son stumbles out of bed in the morning
2. When you come home after work
3. When your daughter is dropped off after a date with friends
4. After time away from your children
How you act during those moments is significant.
Do you take a few minutes to catch up? Listen to stories? Hug? Play?
Or do you ignore, complain, nag, or simply begin talking about stuff that needs to get done, didn’t get done, should get done (pack your lunch, take out the garbage, comb your hair, go to the store).
Instead of jumping right into the “to-do’s” and “didn’t-get-dones”, we need to focus on who we love. When we put relationship first, the other stuff gets sorted out within the context of strong relationship. And everyone feels differently about it.
So, how do we make the first five minutes count?
1. Focus on your relationship. Which means: don’t immediately talk about what was missed, forgotten, or bothering you. If that becomes the focus within the first five minutes, then a rift will form and you won’t connect on a heart level. First, the relationship must be reaffirmed. The person must know they are loved, and that is shown as well as told.
This is why Gordon Neufeld urges us to “collect” our kids with our eyes, first thing in the morning and periodically throughout the day. Collecting strengthens our attachment with our kids and it is crucial to a healthy relationship with them. Focusing on “who” instead of “what” is extremely important, especially when we feel we are constantly correcting a child, such as during a trying toddler season. Look for opportunities to connect with your child in a way that is not disciplinary or corrective. Relationship is first.
2. Listen with interest. What was it like to be home all day with sick kids? How are you feeling about your friend’s boyfriend? What are you looking forward to today? Let them tell their stories, share their excitement or frustrations.
3. Get in close. Hug, cuddle, stand close by. Don’t remain at a distance or shout from the other room. Take the first five minutes and make that person your world.
4. Affirm their importance to you. Tell your kid you love them, that you’ve heard them. Let your spouse know you’ve listened, and how much you appreciate them. While listening you may have been tempted to correct, remind, insist, add something to the “to-do” list, but don’t. Not in the first five minutes. Let those moments be all about “who” is important and not “what” needs to get done.
5. Ask “what can I do to help?” And when these first moments are finishing, and it is time to get on with morning prep or making supper or the next thing on the list, ask “what can I do to help?” For a frazzled stay-at-home mom or a frustrated teen-age son, this question is gold. It shows love and willingness to get alongside and do something that makes a practical difference for them.
The first five minutes influence everything. How they influence is up to us.
Can you think of a time when the first five minutes of something really influenced your attitude?
Of the five practices I mentioned, which one is the most helpful to you?