The west is on fire! Islands, mountains, and farm lands are burning all over. Even in cities where there are no fires burning there is smoke which looks like winter fog. What should we do? What can we do? Many people stop and stare. Many people complain. But, only a few are working to stop the fires from burning. As I think about fires, it occurs to me that more than the west is on fire. The world is on fire!
Fire is a sign of destruction and a sign that conditions have become too hot. Heat happens in homes all over the world. The relationship heat builds and then the family is metaphorically on fire. Fires start small, but when fueled they grow quickly. In families, one person gets angry with another person. This is a small fire. In no time, the other person is offended and mad, and the other people in the family have either taken sides in the argument or they are mad about something else because the feeling in the home has consumed their hearts too. This is a recipe for family disaster.
When there is fire, there is smoke. Once a fire starts, even a small one, there is always smoke, which makes it hard to breath and see clearly. Likewise, in relationships, when there is contention it is difficult to see the truth and principles clearly. And, the contention can even suffocate the feeling of love in the home completely.
How Do You Stop A Fire From Starting?
Get rid of the heat. Recently, while visiting a family for the purpose of helping them repair and improve their family relationships the fifteen year old daughter of the family said, “Nicholeen, what about the heat? Sometimes there is just a feeling of heat. We won't remember to respect our parents if we feel heat.”
She was totally right. If the family members allow themselves to get emotionally 'hot' then in no time they will not feel respectful towards each other. Without respect family relationships fail, and the effort of parents to instruct their children is frustrated.
The heat has to disappear on both sides of the relationship in order to achieve mutual respect. That means that is does no good for parents to get mad and berate their children. They will not get the obedient children miracle they are hoping for. It also means that children who get emotional, whine, nag, manipulate, beg, and complain, will not get what they want either. And, they shouldn't. Negative behaviors should not be rewarded. If family members conform to the wishes of the person who is angry or manipulative, then a small fire will become a wild fire in no time.
How Do You Stop A Raging Fire?
What do you do when you have a family member who is in the habit of causing fires or making them out of control? Answer. Cool them off. Sounds too easy right?
Wild fires and wild people both usually make us afraid. The best we feel we can generally do is stare. However, instead of staring, we can do something. This is the way I cool people down who are trying to start relationship fires. If my child, or husband, gets angry at someone, even me, I 'play it cool.' This means don't worry, don't take it personally, and don't ignore it.
Don't worry, because people don't stay mad forever. Dealing with anger doesn't need to be something you dread. Trust that aggression in children can and does improve when a parent is calm and focuses on raising a joyful adult instead of a perfect child. Don't take it personally because it is someone else's behavior. It belongs to them, not you. Unless you start getting 'hot' too. And don't ignore it because then the person might think they have won their mythological argument for a time. This means parents do need to calmly address behavior problems when they occur. The best way for controlling anger is to learn self-government skills.
Fire Prevention Skills
So, what skills do parents need to calm an angry child, or 'cool them off?'
Calmness: Calm parents have the spirit of peace and love with them. That is the spirit which changes the heart of an angry child.
Deliberate Description: Parents are able to solve anger problems when they know what to say in the moment. Deliberate description is the best way for a parent to have anger control over themselves as well. This is how it works. When a parent sees someone get angry. Instead of reacting to the situation by getting emotional or babying the person, the parent makes a deliberate description like, “You are not disagreeing appropriately. You need to get calm so that we can talk about the problem.” The parent doesn't react. She describes what skill the child needs to use to be properly understood instead of talking back to what the child is saying in their argument.
20/20 Vision: Parents need to see clearly which skill the child needs to learn. Does the child not really know how to follow instructions properly? Does he know how to accept a no answer calmly or disagree appropriately? Recognizing which skill the child needs to learn is probably the hardest part of correcting a negative behavior. The best way to learn what skills are lacking is to remember how to control your anger. What causes anger for you? Angry children are not much different than their parents. Do you get anxious about upcoming tasks or getting in trouble? Then your children will probably have the same problem. What skills did you have to learn to have a good relationships? Disagreeing appropriately, accepting consequences, or problem solving perhaps? To see the situation with 20/20 vision, you see it as if you were in it. Then parents will know how to control anger in their children too.
Preparation For Success: Firefighters practice putting out small, pretend fires all the time. These fire drills are crucial. They make putting the real fires out easy. Correcting bad behaviors, learning new good behaviors, or calming angry children takes practice. If parents wait until the moment is upon them before they decide to try to put the emotional fire out, they could get burned. Practice the four basic skills for successful living, and the exact language you are going to use when a child is out of control when everyone is happy. Do it again and again as a role play each day. Then, when the moment of real anger arrives, the family will be prepared. Or, they will just learn how to not be angry altogether.
Diligence and Consistency: Fighting fires is more about diligence and consistency than it is about water. Water is good, but more and more and more water is better. Likewise, to solve a troublesome behavior, like anger, the parent needs to willingly and calmly correct the behavior over and over again. Don't let the frequency of the teaching bother you. Trust that, over time the fire will be permanently out if you keep applying good, calm, safe teaching which puts the responsibility for the behaviors on the child's choice. Then the child will learn cause and effect and choose happiness.
Fresh And New
Even if your family has had many wild fires over the years there is always hope for the future. Start now to keep the family free of heat. And, most importantly don't spend too much time looking at the black scars of past fires. Remember that after a fire the soil is rich (humble) and ready to start growing new life. In our homes it is the same. There could be a bad moment or a bad day here and there. When that happens accept the mistake happened and then move on. Use the bad experience to humble your family and grow new, stronger, healthier relationships. Some call it repentance. Some call is love. Either way it is required to heal from a family fire.