At a recent LDSHE conference where I was speaking, Marie Hall sighed and said, “I need to know how to develop a backbone.”
Never before had I heard a parent ask for help like this before. Yet, I immediately understood what she felt. She knew she needed to be consistent with her parenting in order to teach her children self-government; which is her goal. She obviously felt she was failing. Either she didn’t have the skills to effectively correct, or felt like she didn’t want to correct, the children when they choose wrong. Maybe she was a little bit afraid to parent.
Any time a person bases their actions on a principle, it is difficult for them at first. Acting deliberately instead of emotionally requires truth and stepping out of a comfort zone. Or, if you prefer, making a new comfort zone.
When Marie asked if I could tell her how to develop a backbone, I think she was saying that she knew becoming the kind of parent she needed to be would feel uncomfortable.
In order to teach self-government to her children, she would need to give them no answers when it would be easier to ignore behaviors or situations. She would need to deliberately discuss uncomfortable behaviors, and make firm boundaries to keep her family safe. Before she is able to correct any problem behaviors, she will need to pre-teach the communication skills her family is lacking. This will require learning some new calm, communication skills herself. And, we all know parents learn slower than children.
Along with this list of uncomfortable parenting situations, Marie will need to be calm and confident, and know how to calm her children when they are emotionally or physically out of control. Lastly, Marie will need to stick to it when the children are trying to manipulate her or power struggle against her. She will have to fight doubt when she doesn’t see immediate results to her commitment to principles, calmness and consistency.
Yes, it will be hard to do all these things. Changing hearts, whether yours or someone else’s, is always the hardest part of our life’s journey. After all, turning our will toward goodness is the reason for living.
Advice For Marie
- Don’t expect perfection. When you start learning to communicate calmly and deliberately govern yourself, you will fall back into old habits occasionally. Habits take time to replace. Just start over as soon as you recognize your temporary lapse.
- Calmness is your main key to developing a backbone. If you know how to keep yourself calm, then you will have confidence. You will be able to trust yourself to not take things personally. Not taking offense will lead to effective corrections with your children.
- Think of yourself as “on duty.” Parenting is a job not a pass-time or hobby.
I remember when I applied to do foster care at the Utah Youth Village. They explained to me that they didn’t need parents who just wanted to do a nice thing for children. They said they needed parents who would treat raising children as seriously as having a job; because it was a job.
This one simple statement changed my paradigm about parenting. Parenting, if treated as seriously as a job is treated, can be incredibly effective and fulfilling. It can form and change lives for good, and can be the best part of living!
Also, if we are “on duty” mentally, we start to participate in more teaching and correcting, even when we know it is hard.
- Describe everything.
If we get into the habit of saying, “Just know…” and tell what just happened, then we will correct more, react less, and become consistent without the stress associated with having to correct someone.
And, if we aren’t the kind of person who usually corrects behaviors, because we are waiting for things to ‘blow over,’ this small skill will also encourage us to describe what should have happened; which is just as important as describing what went wrong.
- Trust God. He knows what He is doing. He gave you the children you have for a reason. He knows you are the person who needs to be correcting and teaching them.
God also knows we are works in progress. He can give us the strength to learn new skills and to solve hard problems.
When we trust him we will pray often. We will talk to Him about our parenting progress, and we will not complain.
After all, He made us. He started us on our journey. And He helps us along the way. As we trust in who God knows we are, and the divine role of parent He has given us, then we will grow in many ways; even a new backbone if we need one.
Calmness and Parenting Books and Classes by Nicholeen Here!
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