This is the third article of a series. If you have not yet read the other two articles, click here.
How does Mom decide what to give Dad to ‘own’? She doesn’t. Instead, she opens a dialog with Dad.
Step #1– Ask him
Ask him what he wants. He wants certain things to happen at home, but he might not say so because he doesn’t want to overload you.
My husband is a neat and tidy sort of a person. There was a time when our family was living out of laundry baskets instead of closets and drawers, because I just wasn’t able to stay on top of the laundry like I would have liked to. Spencer put up with the laundry problem for a long while before he did something that completely changed the laundry situation in our home.
One Sunday afternoon during our family meeting, Spencer suggested the topic of having a set time for the laundry to be done and put away. I didn’t make any comments, because I didn’t want to get involved in his problem solving. After a short explanation of the problem and the effect it had on our home, he said that he would make sure that all of the laundry was done by Monday morning if everyone in the house would add laundry put away to their Monday job list. We all voted and Dad’s idea was accepted. Since this proposal was his idea, he is dedicated to it. Every weekend Spencer does laundry so that by Monday morning all the laundry in the house is clean and ready to be put away during Monday chores.
A laundry system was something that my husband wanted, so he was willing to initiate a family change. There are many other things that my husband wants, but he doesn’t always say, because he doesn’t want to offend me, so I have decided to try to open dialog with my husband about his desires and concerns. In years past I tried only paying attention to my own concerns; I went about my business, and he went about his. This selfish relationship system only led to pain and frustration in our marriage.
Figuring out what someone wants is the first step for helping them have ownership of their thoughts and actions. Problem solving in relationships requires discerning what the person really wants in order to see what is needed to inspire change in the person.
I really wanted my husband to want to lead our weekly mentor sessions, couples meeting, and our family meeting, because I knew that if I could have him own those meetings then he would see himself as the person in charge of making the family run effectively. If he initiated the meetings then I wouldn’t be fighting his ‘play-play’ attitude when it was time to put the kids to bed any more, among other things that were family structure problems, because he was in charge of our family structure.
For years Spencer was quite dedicated to family meetings and mentor sessions, but he had a hard time wanting to have couple’s meetings. I really wanted couple’s meeting, because I knew it would add so much strength to our home’s structure. His reluctance frustrated me. I decided to show him how great a couple’s meeting could be.
It was a Saturday afternoon. Spencer had been trying to keep the children focused on their chores. He was frustrated. He sat down on the couch and gave a big sigh.
From the sink I asked him, “What do you want?”
“What do you mean by that?” he questioned. “That’s a pretty broad question.”
I gave more insight by asking, “What do you want organizationally for our family?”
He responded with, “Well, right now I just want our children to do their chores. They are just not motivated. I don’t know what else to do.”
“Well, you have been motivating with fear lately. And, fear is an effective human motivator, but it is only temporary. Instead of using fear, use vision. If they catch the vision of the work, then they will follow through with the chores.” I said.
“How do you andI give them vision?”
“If, as parents we went to bed on time and woke up on time we would be more organized. Then, when it becomes time to work, we can work with them. If we work along side the children, they will see the vision of work. They will see a job well done, because we will be showing them how to do good work. The best thing is that if we work with the children, we can praise them more; and praise equals motivation. When we are leaving them alone to work, them we only tell them when they are off task. If we work with them, we can encourage them the whole time during the chore.” He completely agreed, and we decided on a plan that would solve our problem.
I then said, “Honey, if we discuss like this on a regular basis in couple’s meeting, then we can both get more of the things we want in the family. He was finally sold on couple’s meetings. He had to see our communication really work first.
I have rules for myself to help my husband maintain ownership of this meeting.
- Don’t say too much
- Give him equal time
- Let or encourage him to be in charge
- Suggest things in a non-confrontational way
By just asking my husband what he wants I am able to better steer the family toward my vision. Both husband and wife must have open dialog about what they want in life to have a connected atmosphere at home.
#2 – Give him vision
In the above experience I showed him that planned communication worked. Then I made a non-threatening observation. He saw that if we met and talked regularly, he could get more of what he wanted. Life would be better. It is also important to note that I spoke to him about what he wanted at a time when he would be open to new vision. If I would have asked right after a frustrating time of trying to get all the kids in bed, he would have thought I was trying to tell him what to do again.
I had to have patience. After praying for the right time to present itself, the only thing I could do was wait. I waited until we were comfortably and casually just talking together as husband and wife. By waiting for this intimate time to talk to him, I silently communicate to him that I really want to know what I can do as the person who loves him, to serve him and make him happy. In my case, it was helpful to also say a silent prayer for the right tone to come across. I have noticed with myself, that there are times when I give someone an impression that I didn’t mean to give because either my voice tone is off or the setting I chose to say something was not the appropriate setting and so I am misunderstood.
For instance, my husband’s work hours are unpredictable, to say the least. So, sometimes there are days in a row when I don’t even really see him. One time after such a time my husband came home from work early. He just happen to come home during a time when my foster children and babies had given me an especially trying day. When my husband who had been gone from his family for days came through the door, I said, “Well, we finally get to see you huh?”
He obviously had hopes of what his long awaited entry would be, and that was not it, because at that he got on the defensive and retorted, “Well, someone’s got to make the money.”
Of course I was too proud to say that I was sorry, so the rest of that night together we were silent; holding anger in our hearts. I found myself wondering that night, “How did this happen? How did I allow myself to start an argument when I didn’t even want one?”
My unchecked voice tone dashed his dreams of a happy reunion with his wife and family. It was not my intention to ruin anyone’s day, but I did. Because of this story and many other instances like it, I have learned that a quick silent prayer for the spirit to guide my voice tone is essential when trying to inspire any kind of change. Don’t forget the prayer.
Vision is essentially a picture in your mind or heart; probably both. In order to transfer vision your audience must be able to see. There are only three ways that I know of to get vision. The first is gained because you are searching for it through study and prayer. The second occurs when you are part of an inspiring experience; you actually see or participate in something new and achievable. The third and most common way to get vision starts as a feeling. This feeling comes from an inspiring story; either heard or read. The listener or reader allows himself to become emotionally attached to the story, and is changed or sees things differently because of it.
The second and third methods of finding vision are the only two which can be transferred from one person to another, because the first must be initiated by the receiver. By asking a question and having an effective conversation, I used the second method. My husband was able to see how our effective communication would help him and the whole home.
A story told of another home which either has effective communication or doesn’t can also work to inspire vision. I often use stories to inspire vision in my children.
#3 – Trust
This is the part that some of us who have a controlling ‘red’ personality have a hard time doing. Our spouses will never reach their parenting greatness with us nagging at them all the time. We have to let them fall down some times and get scrapes. We have to let them disappoint people, and make mistakes. Then they will choose leadership for themselves.
The best thing we can do is inspire them with the help of God and trust in the process of learning. I have found with my husband that if I step back, he will step forward. And when he steps forward he becomes more dedicated than I thought possible.
For years I have nagged my husband to eat healthy. Did he listen to my nagging? No. He did just the opposite. Recently he had a test done. The results of the test indicated that he could die if he doesn’t make some changes in his diet. When I found out the results, I said nothing. He has not chosen for himself a healthier diet, and he is religiously sticking to it. He is even going so far to impose the diet on the rest of the family so that they don’t end up with the same health problems he has. I wonder if he would be so dedicated if I chose to nag him about eating right all of the time?
I could continue on this subject for some time, but I think that I have said enough about Fathers and parenting. If there are any other questions on this subject or any other, leave me a comment.