There are literally thousands of books available all over the world on parenting which play an extremely important role in helping mothers and fathers do their life’s most crucial work in positive ways. Several years ago I started experimenting with the radical idea that if I changed my own self, then my children and others would also change. As I am writing the words in the above sentence, I am thinking that it sounds like a cliche, but I have also found that the focus on parenting and education is usually on the child and not on the transformation of the parents themselves.
The first thing I had to discipline myself to do, which turned out to be the most difficult, was that when someone annoyed me by their actions, to realize that the problem was mine and not theirs. After all I was the one being annoyed, not them. I decided that I would only focus on their positive qualities, ignore the negatives, and then work extremely hard to change myself. Surprise, surprise. All of my relationships improved remarkably especially with my children.
I can say quite assuredly that when I made that decision, even though I wasn’t able to completely live it for lack of self discipline, it changed everything. Why does it work?
When your child is misbehaving, according to you, like when he suddenly lets out a scream at the dining room table or regresses two years in his eating manners, his behavior is just that and nothing more. When I get angry at the behavior, it means that I am suddenly regressing and losing my self discipline. I know that this principle is hard to swallow because parents are like gods to children, but if you can get used to the idea that your child’s behavior is a reflection of your own lack of self discipline or whatever other virtue you are seeking to change in them, then the change in them will proceed much faster.
The question to ask ourselves is this. How can I develop more self discipline? (if that is the weakness the child is showing) If your child is full of fear, the question is related to finding more courage in yourself, not them. If you want your child to dive into a swimming pool, with no fear, then you have to be willing to dive into something new with no fear.
Usually when you make the change, the negative behavior in the child goes away instantly or the solution to how to assist the child develop new capacities becomes clear to you.
This past year I was teaching physical education to 5 year olds. I have a lot of years of teaching experience so I rarely need to make any lesson plans, but the big lesson plan I make everyday is that of analyzing the children’s behavior, checking to see how that makes me feel, and then changing my negative emotions into positive virtues. Almost instantly a solution to the problem I am having in the class shows up in my mind and when I apply it, it works. I have been working as an educator for over 30 years now and I can tell you that the number one topic of every teacher in every school where I have ever taught is how to develop more self discipline in children, but I have almost never heard the teachers describe their own lack of self discipline as an issue.
Debby, my wife, and I now have 3 wonderful grandchildren. We live by a simple principle. Bite your tongue and change yourself. The worse our tongues feel, the more change we need to make in ourselves. When our tongues have huge teeth marks, it means that we have a lot to change in ourselves.