Parenting Transformation Journey – page 3
(Click here for page 1)
Last night we gathered the children and got very honest and candid with them. All 8 of us sat on our bed together – we intentionally chose that setting because it was an intimate way to bring the family together for an important (and hopefully memorable) discussion.
My husband and I took turns acknowledging the mistakes in parenting that we recognize we’ve been making. My husband talked about the times he has been flippant or sarcastic with the kids, or when he has rolled his eyes at the things they’ve done (something we detest when they do it to us), and I talked about my impatience and frustrations and how I have often issued a consequence for their behaviors, not so much because their behavior was inherently bad, but because I saw the issue as an inconvenience to me.
One thing I learned from Nicholeen that had a profound impact on me was when she said, “I would never correct a child for selfish reasons, but because it was morally right.”
From that one comment, I realized how much of my life I have instructed and corrected the kids with the intent to make MY life easier, instead of instructing and correcting them with the ultimate goal in mind. In Nicholeen’s words, “We are making joyful adults, who know what their mission in life is, and can’t wait to fight for it, and have solid relationships with God and family.”
After preparing the children with our acknowledgements (and yes, this did get their attention), I explained that this transition we expect to make will take time. Nicholeen had said that for her, it took a full year to feel like she was finally doing well at what she set out to do.
I told them that to begin with, we’re simply going to work on being calm in our face, voice, and body when we communicate with each other. We went through some hypothetical situations and showed examples of what it looks like to be calm, and what it looks like not to be calm – especially pointing out the fact that subtle sarcasm or a huffy (but quiet) attitude does not qualify as “calm”. I also pre-taught them that if, as we practice calm this week, I notice them not being calm, I will calmly inform them that they have earned an extra chore, to help them learn to remember this principle. It wasn’t my intent to cover more topics than this first one of being calm, but their questions required a little more instruction.
So in the end, we had actually covered four topics:
- Getting an extra chore when they don’t show calmness
- Learning to say “okay” to an instruction, and
- How to disagree appropriately
Each of these topics are explained in depth in her book, “Parenting: A House United” available at her bookstore.
What we did after the discussion
Now, most of my kids had already watched it, but I told them that next we were going to see her BBC episode again, this time watching for what they do in the video that relates to our discussion. I wanted them to notice the Peck family and how they stayed calm even when the delinquent teenagers from England tried to push everyone’s buttons.
It’s a little hard to watch – there’s swearing and some crudeness, but I felt that every one of my children should see it, because the contrast is so powerful. (The bad behavior is presented in such a way that there could be no mistaking the impropriety of it. I felt that it’s different than showing children a movie that has vulgar elements presented in a glorious, accepted, or popular light instead.)
By the end of the show, there were so many tears and so much love – and the transformation in the show from the ugly, disrespect – to the youth begging to stay – only took 8-10 days. Imagine what we could accomplish in our family, where the negative behaviors are already so much less than what the Pecks had to deal with.
After the show, I asked the kids what they saw, related to our previous discussion. What they noticed the most was the calm. They’ve SEEN it in action now, and they’ve seen how powerful it can be.
It’s interesting how the answer to a better family life (CALMNESS) is the same answer to financial peace of mind. All of my studies in the latter topic have brought me to the understanding that financial resources (and other kinds) flow into our life more freely when we refuse to worry. It’s a mental exercise like no other, but it IS the key to success in – apparently – all areas of life.
This made me think of a chapter from James Allen’s book, As a Man Thinketh, which captures the principle in a profound way. I’ll share it here:
Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought.
A man becomes calm in the measure that he understands himself as a thought-evolved being, for such knowledge necessitates the understanding of others as the result of thought. As he develops a right understanding, and sees more and more clearly the internal relations of things by the action of cause and effect, he ceases to fuss and fume and worry and grieve, and remains poised, steadfast, serene.
The calm man, having learned how to govern himself, knows how to adapt himself to others; and they, in turn, reverence his spiritual strength, and feel that they can learn of him and rely upon him. The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Even the ordinary trader will find his business prosperity increase as he develops a greater self-control and equanimity, for people will always prefer to deal with a man whose demeanor is strongly equable.
The strong calm man is always loved and revered. He is like a shade-giving tree in a thirsty land, or a sheltering rock in a storm. Who does not love a tranquil heart, a sweet-tempered, balanced life? It does not matter whether it rains or shines, or what changes come to those possessing these blessings, for they are always sweet, serene, and calm. That exquisite poise of character which we call serenity is the last lesson culture; it is the flowering of life, the fruitage of the soul. It is precious as wisdom, more to be desired than gold – yea, than even fine gold. How insignificant mere money-seeking looks in comparison with a serene life – a life that dwells in the ocean of Truth, beneath the waves, beyond the reach of tempests, in the Eternal Calm!
“How many people we know who sour their lives, who ruin all that is sweet and beautiful by explosive tempers, who destroy their poise of character, and make bad blood! It is a question whether the great majority of people do not ruin their lives and mar their happiness by lack of self-control. How few people we meet in life who are well-balanced, who have that exquisite poise which is characteristic of the finished character!”
Yes, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt. Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him.
Tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this – in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep; wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power.
Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”
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