Use the secret element of Christmastime to transform your parenting all year with amazing results
Christmastime is an emotionally magical time of year for most families. We feel inherently connected to the seasonal sensations of peace, love and joy that literally vibrate throughout the air! It’s amazing how we shift from self to selflessness as those vibrations drive us to sacrifice our time, money and express our love to others through gift giving.
Just what is this secret element or power that drives this beautiful way of living at Christmastime? I believe it can be summed up in one word, charity. How can charity literally transform so many people? Marvin J. Ashton clarified the essence of charity in a most excellent way when he wrote, “Charity is, perhaps, in many ways a misunderstood word. We often equate charity with visiting the sick, taking in casseroles to those in need, or sharing our excess with those who are less fortunate. But really, true charity is much, much more.”
He continues to explain, “Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again. It makes the thought of being a basher repulsive.” So how is it that we put the secret power of charity to use in our homes all year long?
One source of major contention in families stems from the judgmental attitude of the parent towards their teen. As parents we have unintentionally picked up the negative habit of bashing when we constantly issue judgments such as, “Why didn’t you…?” “You were supposed to…” “You forgot to…” “You need to…” “Why are you so...?” We simply do not realize the damage this inflicts on the parent/teen relationship. However, awareness is the first step to change and healing.
The following awareness experiment will be a real eye opener! I know it was for me. For the next week become aware of each conversation with your teen. If you are like most of us, your time is very limited with your busy teen. On a good day we thankfully get a quick “hello” after school and a few minutes at dinnertime, but time is truly limited.
Become aware of how you act when your teen first comes home. Notice if your comments are kept upbeat and encouraging or does the conversation evolve to bashing i.e. judgmental in nature? Did you spend an entire ‘sitting’ with your teen and NOT mention any ‘should-of’s or could-of’s’ in your chat?
After each conversation ask yourself, “Would I want to be close to someone who converses with me like I do my teen, i.e. predominately hurls directives or criticisms at me?” Be honest in your parenting assessment here as identifying this negative parenting habit could be the beginning of rebuilding and the key to the healing your relationship with your teen.
Granted, it’s really a lot harder than one might think because of the limited time we have with our teens. We have become hardwired to seizing the moment to take care of business. In doing so we unintentionally come across like drill sergeants commanding in a harsh ‘get ‘er done’ kind of way as Larry The Cable Guy would say. However innocently our intent might be, this one negative parenting habit often costs us an amiable relationship with our teen.
In his landmark talk previously mentioned, Marvin J Aston cautious us, “None of us need one more person bashing or pointing out where we have failed or fallen short. Most of us are already well aware of the areas in which we are weak. What each of us does need is family, friends, employers, and brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we’re trying to do the best we can, in spite of our weaknesses. What ever happened to giving each other the benefit of the doubt?” How then can we stop the judgmental attitude and exchange it for a more charitable one when life demands so much?
The answer might be “Talk Tuesday.” A student of mine introduced me to this idea where he and his spouse would put all tough conversations on hold until one specified time of the week. Then, and only then, would this couple sit down in an attitude of mutual respect, love and kindness and talk about ‘areas of improvement’ that could enhance their relationship.
Instituting a weekly parent/teen meeting such as ‘Talk Tuesday’ could be extremely liberating for both teen and parent as both will have the opportunity to discuss ‘areas of improvement’ in a controlled atmosphere. Since the parent is only ‘allowed’ to voice negative concerns once a week, the highly reactive negative parenting behavior that comes with being rejected (ignored by our teen) would dwindle as our comments would actually register because they would be presented in a caring and loving manner.
Just think of the possibilities! No longer would the teen dread coming home or dread seeing the parent because he now feels warmly welcomed, loved and connected rather than bashed and judged. ‘Talk Tuesday’ would allow the parent to organize his thoughts to ‘sandwich’ the area of improvement between two positive comments, thereby boosting the teen’s self-esteem. The teen would feel accepted and better understood as the parent intently listens to ways he can improve the relationship as well. Ultimately, all conversations would be charitable and upbeat to genuinely connect the parent and child in an authentic way 365 days of the year!
In closing, it’s appropriate I end with another quote from Marvin J. Ashton from that same landmark address where he so eloquently teaches us how charity can transform our relationships and bring the secret element of Christmas spirit into our homes all year long, “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.”
It is so exciting to think of all the many positive aspects of ‘Talk Tuesday’! I encourage all of us to implement the secret element of Christmastime immediately and allow charity to heal and transform our relationships with our teens!