I have a photo of my daughter Jenny who is in her forties. It was taken when she was around six. Recently, I was looking at it and experienced a very tender moment. In those early parenting days, I loved my children. However, this photo reminded me that at that busy time of life I did not realize how sweet and precious they were; that the opportunity I had been given to be their mother was not just a responsibility or a job, but a gift, one of the greatest.
As my family grew, I began to sense that our relationships could be better. I wanted to understand this longing. I talked to other moms and dads who managed their families differently than I did mine. I read books. I prayed and thought deeply. I was guided, inspired and taught.
Then, when I was in my early forties, I had a remarkable experience that led to significant changes in how I parented. I was driving across our small town and was miraculously alone. Off to my right, as I glanced down the street, I saw a small girl skipping along towards me. I saw her sweet little face and feet as she firmly planted each step. Then without warning, I saw that child as I had never seen another human being. It was as if she was clothed in a light that had previously been hidden from me. It was overpowering and I cannot express the feelings that filled my heart. I began weeping. I had seen the beauty of another human being. She was far more beautiful and precious than I had ever imagined any person could be. It was a gift to help me on my way.
I didn’t become a different parent overnight. Building more connected and healthy family relationships took time. But what sustained me was the vision of the beauty of a soul.
Whenever I feel sad about the years that I didn’t recognize the opportunity to love and mentor my children as a gift, as opposed to a responsibility or job, I am in the same moment gladdened that I now know the difference.
No matter where you are in your parenting strengths or weakness, you can get better at it. Your family relationships can be more joyous. Keep trying, never quit. Give it all the time you need because you have a lifetime for learning to become a great parent—a Present parent!
Tips For Better Family Relationships
• Know what you want. If your family doesn’t function or feel the way you want it to, take some time to think about what it is you do want it to look and feel like. Write it down and then begin taking steps to get what you want.
• Do the simple things. There is no silver bullet to good relationships. Watch your words. Be kind more often. Compliment more. Control your own emotions. Simple things make all the difference.
• Change your story. Take control of how you talk about yourself and your family. Use more positive words no matter how you’re feeling. Your words and the stories you tell yourself about your children influence how you respond and the outcomes you get.
• Turn away from your technology more often. Look your children in the eye. Listen to understand rather than to solve problems. It only takes minutes to let your child know that you see them, hear them and that they matter.
• Nurture yourself right where you are. You must learn to take care of you so that you have something to give to your family relationships.
There is no magic to good family relationships. If I can learn these skills, you can learn them too. They will revolutionize your family.