Have you ever heard that old phrase about how dogs can “smell fear?” Well, dogs aren't the only ones who can smell fear; children can too. Children know the moment they have you. They know when mom is out of ideas and dad is ready to explode. They know.
All people are born with this kind of sense about other people, so it is natural for children to consider it as valuable as seeing or tasting. Over time, some people lose their ability to “read people” as well, but we all start with a strong ability to feel good and bad and power.
Power is the key thing for most people. Parents yell, ignore and manipulate until they feel the power or get their way. Children, whine, cry, pout, ignore, yell, and manipulate for the power too. It is like a tug-o-war. Some days the children are stronger. Some days the parents are scary enough, or unaffected enough to win.
Should Parenting Be This Way?
Should Childhood Be This Way?
What Can We Do About It?
The scriptures and great books are full of examples of principles we can follow to help the relationships in our homes, and virtues we must constantly work to exemplify. But, what about teaching skills? Once we understand a principle, we need to learn how to use it in daily life. This usually means learning a new skills.
Without a doubt, skills are vital to successful family relationships.
Parents need to know how to stay calm when the children aren't, recognize what skill to teach a child, change the feeling in the home to good, and know how to correct a problem without power struggling.
Children need to know how to stay calm when they feel misunderstood, how to calmly get the attention of their parents and be understood, and how to govern their own behaviors.
Recently, I went to visit a wonderful family in Michigan for the purpose of helping them learn effective parenting skills. The family understood what principles and virtues they needed to have and teach their children, but they were struggling to teach them the skills they needed to learn self-government. And, the parents didn't really know what skills they needed to stop power struggling with their children.
By the end of my visit and skill teaching time, this is how the family felt.
Not like a tug-o-war at all.
It really was amazing to see how much more positive and up-beat the home felt when the family focused on skills for two days. Everyone’s confidence and relationships grew because they knew how to respond to someone going against the good feeling in the home.
Mom, Annmarie, used to rely on Love and Logic parenting methods. This is what she had to say to me about the difference between what happened using Love and Logic and what happened using Teaching Self-Government.
This family has decided that emotion can only be controlled if the child replaces emotion with essential communciation skills.
No More Fear!
For a long time this family's children could smell their parent's fear of their bad behaviors and 'played' on that fear. But, as soon as the parents worked on some of their skills the children felt confidence instead of fear and frustration.
Now, this wonderful family is different. They are deliberately making steps toward improving the way they communicate when something needs fixing. Now there is a new smell in the house; the smell of love and unity. And, this new smell is contagious.
I would like to thank Annmarie and Jerry Norton for allowing me to share such intimate footage of their lives. They are truly an inspiration, and are off to a great Self-Government start.
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