Parenting is a very difficult job that is always stretching me and demanding new levels of efficiency, concentration, relational wizardry, and self-control. Because of this, I am often needing to improve and to change. If you have read any of our posts you have probably noticed that they speak of our desires to keep growing and learning and changing. We believe strongly that we are on a journey and not finished yet. And that requires change.
But ‘making changes’ is not only focused on me – it also is a big part of my role as a parent. Think of it – each child (4 for us) has about 18 years for us to lead them through the process of learning…everything! Of course they will continue to learn after they leave our nest, but the sheer magnitude of helping my 4 kids prepare to enter the world as fully-functional adults can sometimes be pretty overwhelming. How do I get them to change into the people that God wants them to be? We want them to be leaders. We want them to change the world. But today, I’d be happy if I could get the middle two to stop annoying each other and our youngest to start going potty in the toilet! The amount of maturing and changing that takes place in those 18 years is mind-boggling.
To summarize, I daily feel the need to change myself and to teach my kids how to change.
Because of this need, I was excited to find some great tools in a book called “Switch – How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.” In this book, the Heath brothers explain all of the tips and tricks about change that they have gathered from a variety of sources. It is a book that they hope will be useful to anyone who is trying to change or trying to get other people to change, and because of that I think it has a lot to say about parenting.
I love analogies, so they had me hooked in the first chapter. They start out with an analogy about how we make changes in our lives. Each one of us is like an elephant, with a rider, going down a path. The rider is our logical, good, analytical self. The side of us that knows what we should do and tries to do it. Our self-discipline. Our will. The elephant represents our emotions, our desires, and the side of us that is often lazy, short-sighted, or afraid. As you may notice, this side of us is very powerful, and can overwhelm the rider whenever it wants. But, with training, it will generally follow the direction of the (much weaker) rider. Lastly, the elephant and its rider are going along a path. This path can make the rider’s job easier or more difficult depending on how clear it is, the slope, and what distractions are along the way. This is the environment that we are in – physical, emotional, and relational. Our friends, our workplace, our home, our habits. As we will find out in the book, all three parts of this analogy (elephant, rider, path) are very important pieces that describe how we make decisions.
In future posts I will further summarize the book, and the recommendations that the authors have for helping the rider and the elephant and clearing the path. Today I just want you to start thinking: What are changes that you would like to make in your own life? Are you too lax with your kids? Too harsh? Would you like to spend more time with them? Or would you like to carve out more alone time to build yourself up? What habits would you like to break? Or start?
For your kids, what traits would you like to help them cultivate? What habits or attitudes would you like to help them change? What would a great day look like, and what would have to change in order to get there?
The first step to making a change is to know that you want to make one. Start thinking about how you can get your will, your emotions, and your environment in line so that you can finally make the change that you know is needed.