Right Attitudes: It Has to Start With Me!
- 2011 3 Jan
Well, here we are, into a new calendar year. For many of us, we are about halfway through our school year. What kind of schooling year has it been for you so far? It is my hope that you find yourself enjoying your days with your children.
We have been looking at specific strategies for diffusing the pressure we feel in our multifaceted roles as mother, teacher, homemaker, and often principal and nurse, to name just a few. We are so much to so many that often we feel overwhelmed by it all. Some days we run along feeling great, and some days frustration, discouragement, and busyness just overtake us, coming out of nowhere. Of course we all have days that are better than others, and it is good to remember on days that don't go so well that, "This, too, shall pass." Tomorrow is another day, but hopefully these overwhelming days are not the norm for you.
The purpose of this column is to present strategies, things you can do to feel more underwhelmed throughout your day. Underwhelmed is best described as the general feeling one has that homeschooling is wonderful and enjoyable and easy. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you won't be thinking those particular thoughts, now will you?
A major thing that can steal the underwhelmed feeling from us is the attitudes of our children. Have you ever listened to your child and thought, "Well there's a lousy attitude that has to go"? We all have encountered crummy attitudes in our children at times. Sometimes, though, the reason a child has a bad attitude is that he is modeling the attitudes of those around him. Sometimes he is even modeling the attitude Mom herself woke up with that day. Yep, that happens in my house.
The realization that Mom's attitude affects everything is foundational to life itself, and I am still learning and growing in the understanding of the effect my attitude has on my environment and those around me. Even our cats can tell when I am in a bad mood. They look up into my eyes, waiting for me to say something, and when I just stare back at them, they scurry off in the opposite direction.
Have you ever thought about the fact that how we wake our children in the morning has an effect on them for pretty much the rest of the day? If I stand at the base of the staircase and yell, "Alright everybody; it is past 9:00! Why isn't anyone at the breakfast table? Let's get moving," then I will have children that come to the breakfast table feeling grumbly, downcast, and definitely on edge.
However, if I go to each of their rooms and greet each child with a simple, "Good morning; it's time to do the rise-and-shine thing. Breakfast is ready for you, so please come on downstairs," I am much more likely to be surrounded by sleepy but cheerful children at breakfast. How you greet your children the very first thing in their day impacts them tremendously. Which kind of mom were you this morning?
Attitudes are formed by the choices we make. Initially, we have to choose to be cheerful. Every morning we make a choice which will affect us and everyone else for the day. Once the day gets going, it is tough to turn our negative attitudes around. Think of a train poised on the track at the tippy-top of a mountain. That train represents you at the beginning of your day. Once the train gets started down that mountainside, it will pick up speed and become virtually unstoppable until it comes to rest in the valley many miles later. When you wake up in the morning, picture that train in your mind. Picture yourself at the top of the mountain, poised to set out on your journey for the day. Realize that changing direction once you start down the hill takes a miracle, so it is best to start the day cheerfully.
What if you wake up and don't feel cheerful? What if you have a headache or feel crummy or just don't want to get out of bed? I believe this is where we have to choose to put on a different attitude, just as you put on your clothes in the morning. You make the choice. It is really, really hard sometimes to choose cheerfulness, but it is your choice. Your children will pick up on your attitude immediately and will key off of you. What attitude would you like your children to have today? If we want cheerfulness, then we need to be examples of cheerfulness.
How true that we reap what we sow! If we sow kindness to our children, we will reap a harvest of kind children. Our children will mirror our attitudes. If we sow yelling, we will reap yelling. A peaceful environment is the reward of modeling and expecting peaceful behavior. Underwhelmed moms live in primarily peaceful homes. They expect their children to be happy and cheerful, and they can expect this because they are happy and cheerful themselves.
I imposed a rule upon myself when my older four children were younger. I told myself I was not going to yell, either to raise my voice to my children in anger or even simply to get their attention. That meant that I would get up off the couch and go find whomever I wanted or needed at the moment. For example, instead of yelling, "Taaaaaylorrrrrrr!" when I needed him, I would actually look out the window for him or jog up the stairs to see if he was in his room. It was a lot more work than just bellowing, but in my book it was worth the effort.
Then I had four more children. I became older and more tired. Yep, I started to get lazy and would call for the kids when I needed them. I lowered my standards little by little, almost imperceptibly. One day I heard my children yelling for each other and thought, "What is up with all that yelling? How annoying!" So what did I do? I yelled, "Come see me right now!" Ahem. The irony of the situation hit me, and I remembered, "Oh, yeah. I never used to yell. What happened?" Guess where their yelling came from?
Here's some homework. Try it for a day to see how conditioned you are to yelling for your children. (We are not even talking about yelling at them. I don't recommend yelling at children for any reason.) Try not yelling at all for anything for just one day. At the end of the day, evaluate how hard this exercise was for you. If it was tough, perhaps you should try again tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that until a new habit is formed. I guarantee your children will notice and will reflect a more peaceable spirit as a result.
It is quite possible for us to have cheerful spirits that are not reflected in our children. This is a training issue, and training starts with setting expectations. If having cheerful children in your home is important to you, then you will clearly let your children know that grumbling and complaining are not allowed, and if they do not stop the grumbling and complaining, there will be consequences. Outline the consequences that will await, and then enforce them. If you keep a close watch on your children's grumbling behavior, it will be eliminated, and new patterns will be formed in the hearts and minds of your children. With diligence, your life will be made simpler and your home a happier place in which to be.
Keep in mind that we must model as well as enforce the attitudes and resulting behaviors that we want to see in our children. The good news is that on days when you do find yourself struggling to be cheerful, being around your cheerful children will perk you up. Cheerfulness is contagious.
Whoever said that parenting isn't easy was right on! We have to control ourselves as well as our children, and either one is impossible without the strength and wisdom that only comes from the Lord. Realizing the need for change is the first step on the journey of transformation into the likeness of Jesus.
Here's to a more peaceful home—starting with me!
Published on February 4, 2009
Joanne Calderwood has worked with children for 20 years, initially as a classroom teacher and most recently as a mom. She's the author of I'm the Mom; I Don't Have to Know Calculus and The Home School STUDENT Planners. Joanne speaks, consults, and cherishes being a wife to Tim, her husband of 23 years, and being mom to her eight children. Visit her at www.URtheMom.com.
This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb '09 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Get more great homeschooling help by downloading our FREE report entitled "The Secret to Homeschooling Freedom" by visiting http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com/resources/report.htm