Saturday, April 30, 2011

pondering parenting: one change at a time

Parenting our kids, we've found it's overwhelming to think about all the goals we have for them - all the character flaws we see that need direction - to consider all that at once is too much. So we sit outside on the front porch and drink wine together (my husband and I, not the kids ;) ) and talk about what matters most. What do we want to hone in on. Then, the next day we talk to him or her about it. And we work on it, all of us, together.

But you know what's infinitely more impactful on our family life?

When we do this with our selves. The parents.

Parenting better means parenting myself better. It means sitting with God, identifying what (in my life) is most in need of work, and committing to work on it - Together. It's intentional. It's exhausting. It's Holy-Spirit-Glory-Strength kind of work. But the payoff for correcting one bad parent-behavior is equal to a hundred bad child-behaviors.

For example? Well, I remember the day I decided not to Y-E-L-L at my children across a crowd anymore. I don't know if I read something or if an older wiser mother pointed it out or if God just revealed to me, "Hey love, this habit is ugly. Put it off and put on a new one." However it was brought to my attention, I distinctly remember becoming aware that every time I corrected my (then) wee ones by Y-E-L-L-I-N-G across a crowd, I was drawing attention to them as the "bad kids". I was painting a bulls-eye on them in the eyes of everyone else. Not only that, but when I addressed them that way ... they didn't listen. The yelling at them to listen would turn into chasing after them. It was ugly all around. Disrespectful. Ineffective. Tiring. Depressing.

So I changed. I started calmly calling them to me. I started asking them to take my hands in theirs and look me in the eye. And I started talking with them. Privately. Quietly. For this to work I first had to train them to come to me when I called their name. We played games where they'd hide and I'd call a name. The child I called would reply, "Coming mom!" and run to me as fast as they could. It was fun. Then I expected that whenever we were out. It took training but it stuck. When we're consistent, it's awesome. When we're not, I'm reminded to be more intentional.

We added a new twist. When I need all of them at once I call "Huddle!" and we
pull in close like a sports' team to talk. I love this because I can still see us calling family huddles no matter how old we all get.

And can I just say? Wow. Night and day. Effective. Respectful. Impactful. And it feels good, too. Read: not depressing.

Now, this may seem like common sense. And it is. It's not profound to suggest that it's better pull someone aside than to yell at them in front of God and everybody. But to put it into practice? Regular rhythm-of-life practice? To put off an old habit and put on a new one? Well, that takes a lot more than common sense. It takes conviction. Consistency. Discipline.

Kind of like training a two year old.

But I'll say it again.

In our families, the payoff for correcting one bad parent-behavior is equal to a hundred bad child-behaviors.

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