We are continuing to examine the habit of remaining calm when faced with challenging situations in our family life, particularly when interacting with our children. Thinking of remaining calm as a habit gives us hope that we can cultivate this habit in ourselves. So far, we have looked at:
- The First Step – Vision
- Othello and Goose (a narration of an article that reminds us to use a generous dose of grace/compassion/wisdom in our discipline)
- Vision vs. Practical Ideas
- Get Off Your Butt Parenting (unfortunately, the most effective type of parenting there is)
Today, we will be thinking pro-actively about a great way to prevent the conflicting situations that often cause us to lose our cool. I hope that this will be a great combination of vision and practical skill for you, as it is for me.
Sometimes, I like to think of my relationships, particularly with my husband and children, as bank accounts. A healthy bank account needs a lot more deposits than it does withdrawals. In fact, if we do nothing but withdraw from our accounts, soon we will find that we have no reserves at all. Continued withdrawals will put us into serious overdraft and in the most extreme case, our account will be shut down.
In the most simple form, relationship withdrawals are the things that lead to negative feelings between people. This definitely includes being yelled at in most situations. It can also include things like not being listened to and not being respected. It does not include being asked to contribute around the house! (Sorry kids!) Really, relationship withdrawals are not so much about what we say as they are about how we say things.
Relationship deposits on the other hand are those things that lead to positive feelings between people. These things may be big things, like taking a child out for a date with mom or dad, or they may be smaller, everyday things like speaking respectfully and graciously when making a request. They can include compliments or pointing out a special effort a child has made or they can be things like praying with a child for a particular struggle. I’m sure you can use your imagination and your common sense to determine what constitutes a withdrawal or a deposit.
When I notice that a child has been particularly challenging to me for awhile, my default is to crack down. I feel like imposing punishments, tightening boundaries and just generally being extra-strict. I am not saying this is never required! However, thinking past my default, I can also ask myself if this child might just need some more deposits so that he/she has a reserve to give away to me and to others.
One of the main problems of making too many withdrawals on our relationship bank account with a child is that it usually feeds back into more withdrawals. James 1:20 reminds us that, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” This is a wonderful verse for parenting. We will never be perfect, nor are we likely to keep it together all the time. However, we can make great steps toward making calmness a habit by keeping in mind this principle. God reminds us that losing it will not get us closer to our heart’s desire for our children — that they love God and others. When we are miserable and crabby, our children will be worse behaved, feeding back into more parental misery!
So, practically, when I find myself chronically struggling with a particular child, I am reminded that I can’t simply allow myself to fall into default mode. There is a child in my family whom I have been struggling with for a couple of weeks now. She is normally very obedient, but lately has been particularly argumentative both with me and her siblings. She was being a problem the other night when my husband was out and I was trying to get all the little people off to sleep, coming out of her room, stirring up trouble with her roommates and being noisy. As I admonished her and tucked her back in, she said, “You don’t care about me!”
Forget the fact that I have devoted my life to parenting her, I thought about her comment afterward and realized she could really use a special deposit. I will be taking her out, just the two of us, for some ice cream and reconnecting in the next few days. I think when a child is normally obedient and helpful it is easy to forget to make deposits.
How about you? How have you used the concept of relationship withdrawals and deposits in parenting your children (even if you have never thought about it exactly this way)?
Have a blessed weekend!