If I planted a corn kernel in February, would I be disappointed when it didn’t turn into a large plant that same afternoon? Certainly not! Instead, I would get excited about the plant’s development as I waited for it to grow.
Why then, as parents, do we plant a kernel of wisdom and expect the full fruit to happen that very day? The answer is simple enough. We care a lot, we’ve invested a lot, and we’re often desperate for a change. We’ve all felt this desperation in one form or another.
When You Want Freedom, You Get Change
My goal is to help parents get rid of that desperation and feel the freedom that comes from having good communication skills. The learning process is different for everyone. I want to share some advice that applies to everyone, no matter where you are in your self-government journey.
No program, even the Teaching Self-Government program, will fix all your problems the first day, the first week or even the first month. The harder the behaviors you’re working with, the longer it could take. Some children understand self-government principles in two weeks, but others don’t understand it for a year. Some youth only need a few skills and a change in parenting tone. Others are so used to fighting against every change that they keep fighting out of habit, even if their parents are consistent and patient. These children come around, but it takes time.
What Do You Do When You’re Discouraged?
It’s discouraging and painful when children stray from their parents’ teachings. However, it’s never too late to improve a relationship or heal past wounds. Keep working at it. Keep loving, talking, understanding, praising and putting yourself in a calm place when life turns upside down.
Doing nothing doesn’t work. Going backward doesn’t work. We must keep going toward our vision. Sometimes the chances of getting to our vision seem remote, but if you don't keep looking forward with hope and determination, you won't make progress.
Parenting isn’t a spectator sport. We have to get off the sidelines! The best way to do that is to make self-government principles part of normal life. Talk about them often. Put up signs that remind you to focus. Practice what to say so you’re prepared when chaos hits.
I lost count of how many times I practiced the statements, “Just now you …” and, “What you should have done was…” my first year as a foster parent. My husband and I would even practice each night before bed. Other statements I memorized to keep myself calm are: “It seems to me that you might be out of instructional control” and “I can tell you want to tell me something. I would love to hear what you have to say, but you need to choose to be calm before we can talk.”
I love hearing self-government success stories. Most people find some success quickly after they start having effective meetings and learn the four basic skills. This is the sign of a good seed. The self-government seed is beginning to grow in the hearts of the family, but it hasn't taken root yet.
For a seed to take root, you need to nourish it. Avoid weeds, which are things that distract the family from its vision. Give the seed light and nutrients, which are truth, praise and skills. Make sure the ground is good. This means having a firm structure in the home that supports and protects the growing seed. A nourished seed will take root. After it takes root, tend it and train it up properly. Point it toward the light, which is goodness and wholesomeness.
Training up a seed takes patience and consistency. After you plant a seed, you wouldn’t pluck it if it wasn't growing fast enough. You would nourish it and wait. You would check the soil for stones and weeds. You would check the growing conditions, which is the climate or tone of your home. You would trust the process and wait for the natural change that happens as you subscribe to good, true principles.
We must do the same with parenting. Once we start working on our family happiness, we can’t get impatient. We need to consistently nourish the family and trust that the process will teach what it’s supposed to. Accept that the learning will take time and will sometimes be hard. Be confident in your principles and practice using the new skills.
Parenting isn't a sprint toward a quick fix. It’s a journey paved with learning, self-government and deliberate love and action.
I talk to many parents who tell me they’ve read the book three times and are almost ready to start doing it, but they just want to make sure they have it down perfectly before they teach it to their family. You’ll learn self-government as you teach it. You don't need to be perfect; just be honest with your family and allow yourself to have re-dos when things don't go right.
Some families start the Teaching Self-Government program and find almost instant success, but it can’t be expected. Each parent and child need to overcome different obstacles. Some behaviors are deeply rooted and will take time to overcome.
I recommend that every family keeps a record of what they’re working on that week. Put a tally mark next to the skill each time someone does it right. Discuss your family’s progress every week. It only takes one piece of paper and some observation to change your home and heart, which can help as you wait for the seed to grow and bear fruit.