Teaching Our Children to Love and Serve Each Other (Part 2) By H. Wallace Goddard
In the previous article http://meridianmagazine.com/myth/100617teaching.html we described a common sibling squabble and two of the most popular methods parents use to stop the battling: parental intrusion and lecturing. Both methods have a serious problem, they fail to teach children how to navigate their disagreements. I suggested five steps to help us engage our children and teach them to love and serve one another. In this article I discuss those five steps in more detail.
1. Engage your son in a gentle way. Harsh approaches arouse anxiety and block learning. The child becomes focused on our anger, entering a survival mode of thinking, and completely misses the message we are trying to communicate. Further, when we are upset, we are not able to parent effectively. In order to truly engage our children gently, we may need to take time out to get peaceful. If a situation requires immediate action, we might invite our children to also take a timeout in their rooms to prepare for a productive dialogue. But, even without their cooperation, the point is for us to get peaceful. It may take locking ourselves in our bedroom in order to pray and ask for guidance. When we’re finished, our spirits will be more at peace and ready to teach. God counsels us to use persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and genuine love. It is important to get his attention without arousing fear: “Son, we need to talk. Your sister is very upset by the way you treated her.”
2.: "I'm sure you didn't intend to hurt your sister’s feelings." We are often tempted to magnify the misdeeds in order to get our children to take our messages seriously. Yet when we “exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved” (D&C 121:37). In contrast, when we see our children through the lens of charity, we set the stage for love and learning. Just as we want to know our Heavenly Father still loves and sees the good in us when we mess up, our children need to know the same about their earthly parents as well. When we appreciate our children’s good intentions and sincere striving, we are more likely to find common ground.
3. Show that you understand your son’s point of view: "You just wanted to build without being distracted or interrupted." Compassion is the key to connecting. When accusation rather than compassion is in our hearts, we alienate. When, in contrast, I see from the child’s point of view, I am able to guide effectively. It may help us to remember how we felt when we were children and felt attacked or thwarted. Compassion is the heart of the healer’s art. Once the child is comforted, he is ready to learn.
4. Draw the child's attention to the distress of the victim: "When you ordered your sister to leave you alone, she felt sad. She felt that you don’t like to have her around. Maybe she even felt that you don’t like her.” There are really two parts to this step. Just as the Lord teaches us in our minds and in our hearts (See D&C 8:2), so we must inform our children’s minds and hearts. Both are essential for right behavior. We teach the mind about the law of the harvest—that timeless truth that we cannot sow weed seed and harvest a bounteous crop of grain. When we are unkind, we damage relationships. It is better to invite the child to learn his sister’s point of view: “I think your sister just wanted to be with you.” We also train our children’s hearts. This is delicate work! Heart surgery cannot be done with sledge hammers. Rather we gently invite our children to feel love and compassion for their siblings. “You might not know that your sister looks up to you. She wants to be like you. I hope you can find a way for her to be with you while still accomplishing the things you set out to do.” The objective in this approach is not for your son to be sunk in guilt but to be stirred to empathy and compassion. When we use harsh approaches with our children, they focus on their own distress and are likely to become stubborn and defensive. That’s not what we want. We want to help our children get outside their provincial view of their own needs and be able to see the needs of others. We cannot rush this process. When the child protests, “But she is the one who messed up my work!” we do not have to argue. We return to the third step, showing understanding for his point of view: “It’s pretty frustrating, isn’t it!” When the child feels genuinely understood, then he is ready to learn in his mind and in his heart. Help the child to feel genuine compassion for the one he has hurt. If we want our child to show compassion, we must model compassion. Naturally your child will resist your challenge: “She can’t start grabbing Legos when I’m building something.” We can argue that he shouldn’t be so unkind to his sister. And he will argue with us about his sister’s misdeeds. Rather than squabbling with the boy, we can show empathy: “It’s hard when you’re in the middle of a project and she interrupts you or starts using your Legos.” He does, after all, have a valid point. When we show him compassion, he is more able to show compassion for his sister. Incidentally, it may take several rounds of expressing understanding and compassion before he is ready to show compassion for his sister. Healing through compassion takes time, or, in the Lord’s language, “longsuffering and gentleness.”
5. Once the child feels understood (as evidenced by being calm and peaceful), then we can help the child think of a way to make repairs: "How could we help your sister feel loved and welcome without messing up your project?" When hearts are right creativity can rule. “Maybe I could help her build a house” or “I could provide her with some of the blocks.” It is a joyous surprise when children feel safe and loved and naturally love and serve each other.
Any parent might reasonably protest that this process takes a lot of time. You’re right! Parenting is not quick, simple, or convenient. Parenting is a large and continuing sacrifice. Yet it is also true that, when we teach children correct principles, they are more likely to govern themselves in righteousness. An hour spent teaching them in their youth can save years of conflict, struggle, and waywardness.
In the midst of sibling conflicts, it is common to try to figure out which child is the offender. This is rarely productive. Each child makes mistakes. One child intrudes, another is stingy. Rather than try to weigh offences, we invite all toward repentance. In the above process, the focus was on the son’s repenting, but a parallel process could operate with the daughter. We could show her compassion and help her understand her brother’s need to be able to concentrate. Getting our Hearts Right Perhaps the greatest challenge to effectively teaching children is that we simply cannot do it right unless our hearts are right. We cannot teach peace while our souls are at war. We cannot teach them the principles of love and goodness while bubbling with anger or annoyed by distractions. We draw on more of King Benjamin’s wisdom to learn God’s process. Let’s apply his general counsel to the task of parenting:
“For the natural [parent] is an enemy to God [and children], and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit . . .” We must yield to the gentle promptings and invitations of the Spirit if we are to be good parents. A parent who does so . . . “ . . . putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint . . .”
Becometh a saint! We become true followers and disciples of Christ. Through repentance we acknowledge our limitations and turn to Christ for better ideas and motivation. When we have the mind of Christ, we are prepared to parent effectively—to teach our children the right ways to relate to each other. How is this change in our approach accomplished? What power changes us? “ . . . through the atonement of Christ the Lord . . .” As Elder Bednar has taught us, the atonement not only cleanses us, it enables and strengthens us1. It is my conviction that we cannot parent as we should unless we allow the sweet peace and goodness that flows from Jesus to fill our hearts and souls. What does the atonement look like in the daily lives of parents? It includes simple but powerful principles: having faith in the Lord, repenting of our improper acts, feelings, and thoughts, making promises to God, and drawing on the power of the Holy Ghost to change our souls. Consider the wise counsel give by Amulek—and its application to the challenges of parenting: Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you; Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save. Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him. Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. (Alma 34:17-19, 21) The Christlike parent recognizes our dependence on God, calls out for mercy, continues in prayer, and draws on the power of heaven. In parenting as in all things, He is the way, the truth, and the life. The process of forming our children’s souls requires great wisdom and patience. This should not surprise us. God gives us the opportunity to care for His precious children in His effort to make us more and more like Him—the Perfect Parent.
You may be interested in Brother Goddard’s books such as Soft-Spoken Parenting, Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage, and Between Parent and Child. For more information about his books or his schedule at Education Week, visit www.FamilyCollege.com Notes David A. Bednar, “In the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 76–78
I know we did better than our parents did with the knowledge we gained over time. Each generation can get better if we work at it. I believe my children will do better than we did if they study it out and work at it everyday. But we will all make mistakes and many of them, and to that I quickly say, that is what my Savior did for me, covered my mistakes and poor judgment.
As with most things, there is the "other side" of gift giving - gift receiving. Receiving a gift should be an exciting and joyful occasion. How you react can tell the gift giver if they have accomplished what they set out to do. Typically, the goal of a gifty person is to find a gift that is perfect for the recipient. This is a gift the recipient will enjoy and will be happy to receive. Some people are good at finding "the perfect gift" while others struggle or even dread this task. Then, of course, you have the people who think they are gifty but just don't quite have the knack. If you know someone like this, you might want to hint that there are online shopping services to help them find gift ideas. In any case, the receiver should remember that an effort was made, no matter how big or small, an effort was still made. It is good etiquette to accept a gift graciously and saying thank you is important. How to Say Thank You The thank you should be in person when possible. If you are given a gift in person, say thank you even if the gift is opened at a different time. If the gift is opened at a later time, a thank you note sent to the giver would be appropriate. If you open the gift in front of the giver, always make sure, even if you don't like the gift or if it just isn't your style, that you don't let it show in your expression. Facial expressions can speak a thousand words. On some gift giving occasions, like baby showers or bridal showers, wedding, anniversary or graduation gifts, a thank you note should always be sent, even if you already expressed your gratitude in person. Many times these gifts are sent by mail or delivered directly to the recipient. Notifying the giver that the gift has arrived and expressing your gratitude through a phone call or email should be done promptly after a gift is received. A hand written thank you note should follow shortly after. As with receiving a gift, giving a gift should also be exciting. Everyone knows the joy of watching a child open a Christmas or birthday gift, the excitement in their eyes and voice as they pull out the toy they have always wanted. With many gift givers this means more than the actual gift, just knowing they have made you happy with their choice.
The Art of Receiving For every gift given, there is a gift received. Therefore, it seems strange that although most have mastered the art of giving, still many are not comfortable with the etiquette for receiving a gift. Recipients sometimes struggle with the humility required to receive a gift graciously. Although we are taught that “it is better to give than to receive,” our ability to receive is equallyas important as our ability to give. Giving is not a one-way street. In receiving a gift, we are immediately acknowledging the gift giver and returning the favor with a show of appreciation and kind words. Therefore, both the giver and the receiver can experience the benefits associated with giving. Receiving is a social skill and must be practiced. Gifts received when hosting a party, for a birthday or holiday are perfect opportunities to master this skill. Whether you are thrilled with the gift or not, express your appreciation by complimenting their thoughtfulness and generosity. Smile when the gift is handed to you and open it in the presence of the giver. Basically, to receive graciously requires more than just the words, “Thank You.” It requires focusing on someone who has done something special for you. Remember the old saying, “it is the thought that counts.” International Customs for Receiving Gifts Japan - It is customary to receive gifts with both hands, and before accepting a gift it is polite to refuse at least once or twice. China - A gift should be refused the gift three times before accepting it. The giver will continue to insist that you accept the gift. Ireland - Gifts are usually opened in front of the giver. When receiving a gift, it is customary to politely refuse a gift when it is first offered. Russia - Gifts for children are opened in private, while gifts for adults are opened in the presence of others. If your gift is well-received, you will hear many 'thank-yous. Arab Cultures - Gifts are received with the right hand, not with the left. Using both hands, however, is acceptable. South Korea - When a person receives a gift, it is customary for the recipient to give another gift of similar value in return at a later time. Singapore - People will usually refuse a gift before accepting it and gifts are not unwrapped in the presence of the giver. These customs are to prevent the recipient from appearing greedy. Related Links The Thank You Note Etiquette for Office / Business Gift Giving When Gifts Should be Opened When you Should Give a Gift Declining a Gift Retrieved from "http://www.giftypedia.com/Receiving_a_Gift"
I love this post!! It is really up to us to teach proper ettiquette in all things. So everyone, even if the kids rebell or joke about it, it still is important we learn just how "to be" in our social lives at home and in public!!
So I have been following this one blog and today this person was talking about the "it's okay" things. So, I thought I would put into writing what I feel is "ok" too.
It's okay------to eat candy once in awhile and really have alot It's okay------to cry in a movie or show that touches your heart. It's okay------to spill or to make a mess and not clean it up once in a while. It's okay------to let your children see your hurts. It's okay------to laugh loud, really loud when something is funny. It's okay------let the laundry go for a few days. It's okay------to eat at Bajio's twice a week. It's okay------ to pass gas, everyone does it. It's okay------to struggle. It's okay------to hate ketchup. It's okay------to not like certain behaviors. It's okay------to desire respect and love. It's okay------to have a problem and sort through it. It's okay------to just be. It's okay -----to be imperfect. Holy Cow, we all are!
It's NOT okay-----to give up! It's NOT okay-----to compare our weaknesses to others strengths! Or compare AT ALL! It's NOT okay-----to put others down especially without understanding. We will NEVER know others circumstances, only God does.
What we really need to do though is LISTEN Listen with our hearts, Listen with our minds, Listen with our eyes.
No competition. Just understanding.
So I loved this opportunity to be reminded it's okay to have imperfections, and look to the Savior to help us with them! Look UP not SIDEWAYS for our self-worth!