In the past I have mentioned how I was striving to teach my children respect and to teach them leadership. I also have mentioned that I was reading the book by Nicholeen Peck titled, “A House United: Changing Children’s Hearts And Behaviors By Teaching Self-Government.” I have found in reading and applying what I have learned that the true key is communication. This book and others like it teach us to remember that life is about having good relationships, and good relationships come from good communication.
I’ll admit that my home was not filled with good communication skills a few years back. We had many power struggles. I felt like I was the mom and so I should be right and the children should listen and obey everything I say. In working through Nicholeen’s book and a lot of other resources and experiences I have had in the last few years, I am learning that being “right” or in “power” is not what being a mother is about. I didn’t feel that I was a super-dominating mother or anything. I realized, however, that by the way I was treating my children I was hurting their ability to feel safe to communicate with me. I found as we began learning to communicate properly that they had been afraid in the past to express their feelings to me because they felt I wouldn’t listen. One of the first things that we began to change in our home was to create a safe environment at home for communication.
Nicholeen’s book reminded me that childhood is a time for making mistakes and learning and that home should be the safest place to make mistakes. Home is the best place for our children to learn. That is why God sends children to families so that they have a safe place to learn and to grow up so they can become prepared to handle life outside of the home.
I learned as I was reading this book that I didn’t know my children as well as I thought I did. In her book, Nicholeen outlines different personality types. I had never before heard of personalities described this way, but learning about these types has been a huge blessing to my family. In particular with my children that are the opposite personality type from me. The types described are Talkers vs. Listeners, Line Drivers vs. Road Makers, Detail Oriented vs. Big Picture, and Planner vs. Live-in-the-Moment types. The one in particular that helped me and my daughter was learning about the difference between Line Drivers and Road Makers. My second oldest daughter and I have struggled for almost her whole life to get along and over the years we have both prayed and cried and hoped that our relationship would be better. Our relationship was so difficult when she was two years old that I cried myself to sleep almost every night for months because every day was a battle.
My darling daughter is now 13 and we are growing much closer in our relationship. The thing that helped us most was when I learned that I am a Line Driver. This means that I like things to be done in order, or in a certain way. I am a checklist kind of girl. I then read about Road Makers and realized that my daughter is a Road Maker. Road Maker types do not need directions and often have a hard time seeing the need for them. If you give them a task they will just make their own way through it. This doesn’t always end well, but they learn a lot along the way. This describes my daughter’s experience learning to make cookies to a tee. Over the many years, I cannot count how many batches of cookies were ruined because she wanted to do it herself without instruction and she would interpret what she didn’t understand in the recipe in her own way. Like tablespoons vs. teaspoons. Can you imagine! I would wind up getting frustrated with her because she didn’t ask questions or read through the recipe before she started. This would happen with almost any task I assigned to her and that caused much difficulty in our relationship. My daughter is also a Words of Affirmation type of person if you are familiar with the Five Love Languages, so the combination of me telling her at every step she is doing something wrong was quite hurtful to her and led to her not trusting me. Once I read this section of the book I cried and apologized to my daughter. I told her that I learned how great Road Makers are and told her about her strengths. Road Makers aren’t afraid to try new things and they are great at solving problems. They are awesome inventors. If a Line Driver type comes up against an problem and there isn’t a clear step by step process through it, this person may shut down, where a Road Maker would just roll up there sleeves and start making their way through the problem.
After explaining all of this to my daughter she had huge grin on her face and she began talking with me. We now have a better relationship than I ever imagined possible. We still have to work at it, but we both understand the value of good communication and the happiness and peace we feel now compared to the past. We work hard to keep communicating well.
I am a highly emotional person. I think I inherited that from my parents. As a mom it is so easy for me to be stirred up by the actions of my children. When they are fighting I can feel the tension in my body start to increase and my pulse starts racing. I feel like I begin to be out of control and soon I am yelling and sending everyone to their rooms. In other studying and reading I have been doing I was reminded that the only person we really can control is ourselves. When we get angry with a person or situation we are giving control of our emotions over to another person or situation. I realized that this is a really tough one for me. I can tell you however that it is extremely freeing as well as empowering to realize that I can choose how I am going to feel in a given situation. In “A House United,” Nicholeen teaches that in all of our communications with each other we need to keep a calm face and voice. Both the children and us, their mothers. That is a hard thing to do when someone is whining at you and you start to feel irritated. But I have learned that I feel so much more powerful when I remain calm in dealing with a situation with my children, or anyone for that matter. I can then talk with them and remind them that they also have the power to stay calm and that I will be much more likely to listen to them and help them get what they want when they are communicating properly.
Learning to disagree appropriately is one of my children’s favorite lessons that I learned from the “House United” book. Disagreeing appropriately is also one of my favorite concepts because it keeps my children from whining and throwing fits. It is a skill that helps the children feel safe and it encourages good communication because we all have a safe way to disagree with each other and we are able to get our needs known. In particular my children can feel safe to ask questions or point something out that I may have missed when I am giving them a task to do or they are receiving a chore as a negative consequence to their actions.
An example of this concept happened to us one afternoon as a my children were just finishing up lunch. They asked me if they could have a cookie and I told them that they could as soon as they had cleaned up lunch and washed the table. My daughter asked me if she could disagree appropriately and I told her that she could. She then proceeded to point out that is didn’t make much sense for them to wash the table, when they were just going to dirty it up with crumbs again when they ate their cookies. I thought about it and realized that she was right. So I said okay, you can wash the table after. That interaction helped both of us realize the value of listening to each other and our differing points of view. As a mom I often get over focused on getting the job done and I forget that there may be better ways to do things. I really appreciated that my daughter pointed that out. It was a big triumph to me that she felt safe enough to do so.
I am learning that parenting isn’t about being in control or having perfect, well-mannered children. Parenting is being a leader and a guide to help your children be prepared for their future adult lives. Learning to have better communication as a family has brought more peace to our home. My children often refer to life before we learned to improve our communication as the time when things weren’t good or the time when they were afraid of me and my husband. They will often say that it used to be scary, but now we like it much better. I had no idea they felt that way, but I am so glad that they feel safe enough that they can tell me now how they felt in the past. I am learning that good communication is the key to making everything better in my family. All of the things that I wanted my children to have as I have mentioned in my past posts, like respect, discipline and self-motivation, have begun to come to fruition as we have worked together to be better communicators as a family. It is possible! It takes work and practice, but it is worth it!
Filed under: Children, Happier Family