Monday, May 13, 2013


In the Anglican Sunday service there is a part called the "Prayers of the People" (or the "Intercessions")where someone from the congregation comes up to offer general prayers.  There are a half-dozen "scripts" in the service book that can be used, or the Intercessor (we Anglicans like to have fancy names for everything) can essentially make up their own prayers. 

We have some people in our congregation who do a pretty bang-up job of intercessing - writing prayers that verge on poetry in some cases.  Recently, one of the Intercessors added this hymn text to the end of her prayers:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness
Til all our strivings cease
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And make our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
     ~John Greenleaf Whittier

It was just what I needed to hear that day.  So much of what goes on in our heads is needless "striving" - a constant, restless searching/seeking to make things better, faster, more efficient, or otherwise different than how they are.  We're always on the lookout for that magic formula that's going to make our lives perfect in one easy step.  Thank you, John Greenleaf Whittier, for helping me put a (temporary) stop to all that chatter in my head and realize that I do not need to work so hard at "striving".  

On parenting

Over the past four years, I've read a lot of parenting books. Recently, I went on a bit of a binge and took about six out of the library at the same time. Reading parenting books can be overwhelming - so many opinions, perspectives, suggestions...

This latest round seemed to be no different. Until, that is, I started to feel like I was reading the same book over and over. Once I started to see the patterns, I realized that the same messages have been echoed in almost all of the books I've read (maybe I'm a little slow on the uptake).

So, to spare others the trouble of reading dozens of books (and to save myself from having to read any more), here is my take on the collective wisdom:

1. Foster strong connections with your kids. Tell them you love them. Play with them. Laugh and giggle with them. Learn what makes their eyes light up. Compliment them. Ask them their opinion and listen to the answer.

2. Be an empathetic listener. Let your kids know you have really heard what they are saying. Resist the urge to always jump in with a response, lecture, or suggestion. Sometimes all they need/want is to tell someone that they had a lousy day. If a response is required, they will be much more receptive to what you have to say if they feel like they have been heard first.

3. Be a strong, consistent, guiding presence their lives. Kids feel secure knowing there is a loving adult "running the show". Be clear and consistent with your expectations and values (which is not the same as rigidly adhering to rules no matter what the cost). Be as decisive as possible - avoid "waffling". If you need time to think about something, say so. If you make a bad decision, admit your mistake and explain why you've changed your mind.

4. Focus on problem solving, not punishment. Instead of trying to come up with new and more effective punishments or consequences, focus on trying to help your child avoid repeating the same behaviour in the first place. Are they developmentally ready for what is being asked? Do they have the necessary skills, knowledge, or tools? Do they need some kind of reminder or cue to remember the desired behaviour? (Nagging doesn't count!) Involve your kids in this process as much as possible.

No problem, right?