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The following excerpts come from another great chapter in Edith Schaeffer's book, WHAT IS A FAMILY?
- WE AFFECT ONE ANOTHER -
"Whether people treat people as human beings or machines, people are treating people in some way. ....Human relationships start at birth and continue to death, whether or not anyone consciously thinks about it." WHAT IS A FAMILY? Edith Schaffer. p68.
It is not possible to be neutral in the way we relate to each other. Whatever we say or don't say, our facial expression, mood and body behaviour, all communicate something to those around us.
- TWO TYPICAL FAMILY SITUATIONS -
# Tonight when Dad comes home, you will have 45minutes all together as a family, before Dad needs to leave for a meeting and the little kids need to be put to bed. You are prepared and ready to make this a special time. But Dad arrives home 15minutes later than expected, so now there's only 30minutes family time left.
In your family, what would happen next?
Reaction 1. Annoyed at his lateness there is "Screaming, stamping of feet, tears, frustrations expressed over and over again, using up the precious ... minutes left,... What kind of lessons in human relationships are being given to three children in the midst of this? Are they being taught to yell for their 'rights', no matter what is destroyed during the yelling?" p72-73.
Reaction 2. A pre-determined choice to not be angry, but rather to enjoy those of the family who are there, and when the late arriver appears, welcome them into the remaining family time, no matter how small that is.
# "You have just vacuumed the living-room rug, and the hall is spic and span; now you can turn to the next thing on your list. Suddenly the door bursts open," and in runs the preschooler with extreme happiness, carrying a fistful of 'flowers', scattering grass and dirt across the floor as they come. How do you respond?
Reaction 1. With eyes on the carpet as the mess falls, you raise your voice, making it clear to the child that this is not appropriate behaviour at such a time - the room has just been cleaned!
Reaction 2. You enter the pleasure of the child's moment, putting aside your plan, and together find a vase for the flowers, responding in genuine thanks with a hug and kiss.
The mess can be removed later. If you wish you can chat later about care when bringing flowers into the house.
Edith's point is that parents are responsible and can choose how they will react to daily happenings, and each choice will deliver an effect. "To think of tiny, daily incidents as an unimportant string of dull happenings, rather than to remember that you have a major part in a formation centre of human relationships which is going to have far-reaching effects ... - is to be totally blind to one of the basic reasons for the existence of families." P80.
- COMMUNICATION WHEN WE DISAGREE -
"Criticism of each other may be very necessary at times, but there must be encouraged sensitivity to the fact that the whole point of communication is to have a growing relationship come forth. If criticism is degenerating into simply a power struggle, one needs to stop short and ask, 'What is more important, our relationship as a whole, or convincing him or her that I'm right?' ... Every discussion in which two people are differing does not need to continue to the bitter end!" p82.
Do we want disagreement and competing against each other to be the patterns our children take with them to practice with their partners, and to be handed on down the generations that may follow?
"But day-by-day living in the midst of an outpouring of examples of love is needed through months and years, if love is to be a basic part of the 'warp and woof' of a person. This is meant to take place in a family. 'Oh, well, we might as well split then; we don't love each other that perfectly, and we can't live out a farce.' Is this the excuse for breaking up the only real formation centre for human relationships?" p88-89.
"Love isn't just happiness in ideal situations with everything going according to daydreams of family life ..... Love has work to do! Hard and self-sacrificial work - going on when it would be easy to be provoked and to think evil as the clock hands move, and the person hasn't yet come home. .... Love takes imagination and the balance of putting first things first, to be taught to the young pupils in their formative years."
Your family is a classrooms, and everyday, regardless of if you know what you are teaching, your children are learning about human relationships. You are a major contributor towards what is being formed day after day in your child's attitude to people, and what they have witnessed will eventually influence the way they treat others.
Everyone is aware of how to wreck family relationships, but few people take the steps to control themselves, put their plans temporarily aside, give full attention to another, put the relationship ahead of personally 'winning', work self-sacrificially or put first things first - but the fact is - there is a live audience watching, taking it all in and onboard.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ take an honest, objective look at your contribution to your family's development in human relationships. Is it time to change what you are 'teaching'?