As with all resources, you have to take what speaks to you and apply it to your lifestyle bit by bit, but the main idea I took from this book is (I’m paraphrasing instead of quoting because my sister is currently borrowing the book she gave me right now):
Your relationship is like a bank.
You have to constantly put in positive experiences and loving attitudes (deposits) into the relationship; that way when you have to discipline (make a withdrawal), you aren’t taking more from the relationship than you give.
This idea has become the backbone to my relationship with our kids. They are messy, imperfect children that get on my last nerve’s last nerve, but it isn’t as hard as you would think to find little nuggets of shared joy buried in that mess.
Ways to salvage the relationship after making a withdrawal:
Apologizing after I’ve blown my top.
Re-phrasing when I catch myself being overly negative.
Clarifying exactly why I am as angry as I am.
Remind the kids that I love them, even when I’m yelling.
Give a quick hug and express my wish that we will have a better day tomorrow.
I’m constantly thankful that my parents couldn’t text or call me on a cell phone.
Who wants to be nagged all day or easily found and called home? Not my kids, but HA! They have an electronic leash that I use to my advantage.
Sometimes it’s easier to put in positivity that I’m not whole-heartedly feeling into a text message:
“You forgot to take out the kitty litter this morning! I reminded you that trash pick up is today, and now the litter is going to be in our trash-bin for a full week!”
*next message* “I love you anyway, have a good day!”
Sometimes I wonder if this tactic makes them feel loved, or if it makes them wonder if I’m bi-polar.
Relationships among Siblings
One of the challenges of having children in different stages is convincing them all that they are equals and equally deserving in terms of respect. So, when an older child is disciplined because of the way he or she treated a younger sibling, we make sure an act of kindness is involved.
Sometimes, each child involved in the problem owes the other an act of kindness (for example: situations where the older gives good instruction; however, the younger ignores the older, so the older acts negatively out of frustration).
This form of discipline encourages both parties to accept personal responsibility for their part of the problem. I find that relationships mend faster when we help the child see where their actions caused reactions in the other person. My credibility takes less of a hit when I’m not the force of retribution; when the ‘act of kindness’ is the disciplinarian.
We off-set the negative experiences between the kids with opportunities for positive ones. Some opportunities are scheduled, such as our unorganized sports and movie night. Other opportunities come along when we can fit it into our schedule, perhaps a board game night. Another thing we encourage is team work, which discourages “put-downs”. Older kids are reminded to teach and train the younger kids by more than just example. When we can, we talk about our problem-solving efforts together so that we can see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, we simply remind them that two minutes ago, they were best friends.
Quote from “Gospel of Life”
We must choose those parenting methods which contribute to “a respect for others, a sense of justice, cordial openness, dialogue, generous service, solidarity, and all the other values which help people live life as a gift” (as found in Parenting with Grace).
I think this is a beautiful sentiment and an ideal all parents should strive for. Unfortunately, it’s not the first thing that pops into my mind when my daughter leaves her paints on the floor for Number 7 to walk through, leaving paint smudges trailing through the house. It is gruelingly hard not to explode in these moments – to discipline with mercy – but daily life with my kids is far more rewarding when we have more positives than negatives in the “relationship bank”.