I just read a book “Loving Our Kids on Purpose – Making a heart-to-heart connection” by Danny Silk. The book makes many good points about raising children. I thought it would be useful, particularly for those with children of any age or those hoping to have children, to quote just a small selection from its pages.
“Taking good care of our children begins with learning to take care of ourselves. This is what we learn every time we get on an airplane. When flight attendants go through their spiel, they are explaining what to do if there’s a drop in cabin pressure: Put your oxygen mask on first and then help your kids and neighbours get theirs on. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t last long trying to take care of another person. You have to have a high value for taking good care of you! Somewhere along the road, somebody taught us that a worn-out, burnt-out, frustrated, bitter parent is a good one. Somehow that’s holy and noble. Actually, it’s a sign that you’re not getting enough oxygen.
“In order to take care of ourselves, we need to learn how to set up healthy boundaries with our children. We need to put a fence around our yard, complete with a gate.
“Passive parents have no fence around their gardens because the passive relational style says, ‘Your needs matter; mine don’t.’ Often, these parents struggle to get a respectful response form their children because they’ve done a good job communicating to their kids that they do not respect themselves. Their own needs are not important to them, so why would the children value what their parents need in the relationship?
“There are also parents who are more aggressive and teach their kids that it’s the children’s job to keep a safe distance from them. They have an electric fence around their garden. Get too close and you’ll get zapped.Their aggressive style says, ‘My needs matter; yours don’t.’
“But neither of these styles is what we want to teach our children because in both cases, someone is being disrespectful. We want them to learn that in a healthy, respectful relationship, the needs of both of us matter.
“Another key to setting healthy boundaries is telling those around you what you will be doing instead of trying to get others to do something for you. As parents, it is easy to get into the routine of barking out commands. ‘Pick that up! Come here. Stop being so noisy. Be nice to your brother!’ Our homes are filled with the illusionary practice of controlling each other. But since we no longer believe in that hocus pocus, what then shall we do? Begin telling others what you will do instead. Practise being powerful by controlling something you do control, namely, yourself. Say things like, ‘I will listen to you when your voice is as soft as mine. Take your time.’ Or, ‘I will manage your fight with your brother, just like a referee. Only I charge ten dollars each for each fight I referee. Ready? Go!’ When we make these statements, we have the ability to enforce what we say is important to us, and it doesn’t require other people to give us control over them. We simply control what we can control.”
It seems to me the idea of simply controlling what we can control can be applied to many more situations at work and at home than how to deal with quarrelling children. Other-centredness does not mean simply giving in to others. Other-centredness is fundamentally about mutual respect.