By Dr. Paula Fellingham
Returning home loaded with bags of groceries, Suzanne winced as she walked in and heard all three of her children quarreling at the top of their lungs. Suzanne, instantly angry, yelled, “Why can’t you kids go one hour without fighting? You don’t deserve what I do for you! Go to your rooms – NOW!”
As she set the groceries down, Suzanne knew she hadn’t handled that well, but didn’t know what to do about it, and wasn’t in the mood to fix it anyway.
Parenting is tricky business. Even on our best days we wonder if we’re “doing it right.” After thirty years of parenting and counseling parents, I’ve discovered many valuable solutions for practically perfect parenting. Let’s look at six of them. Of course we won’t apply these solutions perfectly every time, but learning that there are solutions, and knowing what they are, is certainly a first step toward success.
SOLUTION 1: Adjust Your Attitude
Wise parents understand that attitude is indeed everything. Notice the parenting differences in these two examples: Jennifer was awakened by the cries of her two-year-old. Little Michael was teething, and had a fever. Jennifer thought, “Oh, no! Won’t this child EVER let me sleep? I hate getting up in the middle of the night!”
Across town Melissa was awakened by the sound of her two-year-old baby’s cries. Her daughter, Tina, was teething, and had a fever. Melissa thought, “Oh, no! This sweet little girl is in such pain…I wish I could help her feel better.”
Our first example, Jennifer, looks through mirrors and sees only her own needs. Melissa looks through windows and sees the needs of others.
Dale Carnegie taught, “Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions. It isn’t what we have or who we are, or what we’re doing that makes us happy or unhappy. It’s what we think about it. For example, two people may be in the same place, doing the same thing, and yet one may be miserable and the other happy. Why? Because of a different mental attitude.”
When parents believe that theirs is the best and most important work in the world, they see their children as treasures to cherish and their family challenges as opportunities to grow.
Our attitude is a choice. Even when circumstances are uncontrollable and undesirable, we can choose our responses. Situations may color our views of life, but we have the power to choose what the color will be.
SOLUTION 2: Focus on Fundamentals
Every successful team knows that mastering game fundamentals is essential for victory. Likewise, parents who learn and apply basic relationship-building skills stand on a firm foundation as they work to create a strong family.
Four fundamentals for a healthy family:
- Kindness: Kind thoughts, kind words, kind tone of voice, and kind actions should be family goals. Mother Teresa said, “Spread love and kindness wherever you go. First of all in your own home. Show kindness to your husband or wife, to your children, to a next-door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” Frequent expressions of love, appreciation and admiration are heard in the homes of families raising kind, confident children.
- Commitment: Just like the garden which flourishes when it is lovingly cultivated, our children need to be nurtured with our best effort and our time. We should be willing to give both quality and quantity time to our family. Quality time means that when we’re with one another we’re 100% there, focused on family members’ needs and happiness. Quantity time means that we’re with our families as often as we can be. This is a challenge sometimes, but if our family relationships truly are our highest priority, time needs to be given to those relationships. There is no substitute for unhurried time with our loved ones.
- Communication: There is no single thing more important in our efforts to achieve meaningful relationships than to learn and practice the art of communication. Communication can be negative or positive. When we speak unkindly to one another it destroys the loving atmosphere we want in our home, and it makes family members feel unloved. On the other hand, those who hear praise, encouragement and loving words usually have good feelings about themselves, and they can more easily be loving and thoughtful to others.
- Choices: Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can offend me without my permission.” Parents who take responsibility for their thoughts, words and actions give their children a priceless gift. They teach through their example that blaming, criticism, and negative talk are unwise choices. Far better is choosing to originate thoughts, words and actions from our places of love and goodness within. We each have such a place. The more we think, speak and act from our inner places of love, the happier and more peaceful we’ll be.
SOLUTION 3: Consent to Change
Unexpected events frequently require families to make changes in their schedules, their way of thinking, and even their lifestyles. How parents handle change makes all the difference. Strong families learn that sometimes it’s necessary to just stop fighting a problem and adapt to it. This may mean changing jobs, re-defining who does what chores, or cutting back on expenses. Even positive things like retirement, a wedding, or the birth of a child require families to be adaptable and flexible.
We often think of change as something to be avoided. That’s not possible, nor is it necessarily desirable. While change which reaches unmanageable levels is destructive, some changes keep life interesting and cause us to continue growing and learning.
SOLUTION 4: Practice Patience
This can be applied on two levels. First, when we practice parenting principles and try to implement them in our homes, we need to have patience with ourselves. Most worthwhile things in life require effort – continued effort. We’ll undoubtedly fail, and fail again before we succeed. It’s during those times that we need to exercise patience with ourselves, with our spouses, and with our children.
On the second level, “practice patience” means that the virtue of patience doesn’t come easily. Like all other virtues, it requires practice, but the rewards are great.
Imagine a home where Mother patiently listens to children’s tales and teenagers’ woes. Father patiently teaches how to throw a ball, dry a dish and work an algebra problem. Blessed are the children in such a home. On the other hand, today’s fast-paced life tempts parents to impatiently listen with half an ear before hurrying to the next activity. Horace Bushnell wrote, “The greatest and sublimest power is often simple patience.”
SOLUTION 5: Correct Your Course
Evaluate as you go. Successful airplane pilots, CEO’s, and ship captains frequently make course corrections. They first plot a course (set goals), and then head out (take action in the direction of their goals). However, from time to time, they veer a little to the right or to the left as they move along. They stray off-course now and again.
Families are the same. We move away from our goals occasionally. Sometimes we stray slightly, and sometimes we’re so far off we can’t even remember what our destination is! That’s why frequent evaluation is important.
Weekly family meetings are the key to family organization and unity. Family meetings are ideal times to co-ordinate schedules and discuss matters such as household chores and family problems. Additionally, the family meeting is a valuable opportunity each week for parents to teach a lesson. This can be a discussion on correct behavior, on good manners, or on an important value which helps shape children’s characters. Unless we teach our children, how will they learn correct principles? Family meetings are valuable parenting tools which effectively keep families “on course.”
SOLUTION 6: Enjoy the Journey
Life is precious and brief. How sad it is that many parents give their children life, their money, their youth, and their best effort for years and years…but miss the joy in the journey.
Of course there are difficult moments, days, and even years. Yes, there are trials and conflicts. But this is our only turn on earth; our one opportunity to live and to love. Let’s take a moment to evaluate and set new goals. Then each day squeeze the happiness out of life. Find the joy…create the joy. Do whatever is necessary….but for heaven’s sake, enjoy the journey!
Six Solutions For Practically Perfect Parenting Review:
- Adjust Your Attitude
- Focus on Fundamentals
- Consent to Change
- Practice Patience
- Correct Your Course
- Enjoy the Journey