Articles

This Christmas, Mend a Quarrel: A Month Long Relationship Enhancing Plan

By Rachel Spigarelli

As homeschoolers, we are not immune to troubled relationships with our children.  If anything, when these problems occur, we feel a heightened awareness of them.  Sometimes a child is feeling surly, and then this might develop into a habit of sarcasm.  Sometimes we are tired and overwhelmed and make impatient demands, losing our temper.  Patterns of annoyance and frustration can mar our happiness and halt academic progress.  We are left to ask, “How can I shift the tone of my dynamic with this child?”

Relationship expert John Gottman researches extensively about what makes marriages succeed or fail.  His ideas can also be applied to the relationships of parent and child.  In his book, Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, Gottman teaches that continually thinking negative thoughts will contribute to a downward emotional spiral in your closest relationships.  He counsels readers to replace what he calls “distress-maintaining” thoughts with “relationship-enhancing” thoughts.  This doesn’t mean that you ignore problems, or simply put on a happy face.  Instead, Gottman believes that you can build and create affection simply by shifting your attention in the relationship.

Presented here is a modified plan from Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage that will allow you to recognize true, positive thoughts about your child.  This will take extra time and practice, but it’s worth it.  Relationships typically improve, Gottman argues, when the people involved make a “full, conscious effort to notice things they like about each other’s personalities and character, and to express that fondness right out loud.”  This list will help you be on the lookout for positive things that your child is getting right.  You will be able to find opportunities to offer compliments instead of finding fault.  You will find it easier to recall the things that you cherish most in your child.

Day Think Do
1 I genuinely like my child. List the one characteristic you find most endearing and lovable.  Write about the time your child showed this side best.
2 I can easily remember joyful times with this child. Pick one joyful time and write a short description of it.
3 My child has specific qualities that make me feel proud. Write down at least one characteristic.  Under what circumstances do you usually feel this way?
4 I feel a genuine sense of “we” when we work together. Think of one time the two of you worked as a team.
5 We have some of the same general beliefs and values. Describe one belief or value that you share.
6 My child and I are friends. What secrets have you and your child shared?  What inside jokes do you have?
7 I can easily recall the feelings I had when my child was first born. Write down the details you remember about anticipating and then experiencing the birth of this child.
8 I get lots of support from this child. Think of a time when your child was really there for you.
9 Our home is a place where I feel relaxed and not stressed. Think about an instance when your child helped you to relax after a stressful time.
10 We have common goals. List two such goals.  Think about how it will feel to achieve them together.
11 There are some things about my child that I don’t like, but I can live with them. List one of your child’s minor faults that you feel you have learned to tolerate.
12 My child is willing to help in the house. Consider the way that your child has made an effort to pitch in.
13 We have planned fun outings together. Think of a something you planned together that worked out well.
14 I am proud of being this child’s parent. Describe a specific time when you experience this feeling.
15 I can recall happy memories about this child’s young toddler and preschool days. Describe at least one event in detail.
16 My relationship with this child is a lot better than most I’ve seen. Think of a person you know that has awful problems getting along with their child.  Think about the way you’ve gotten past problems like these.
17 I am really lucky to have this child. Write one benefit of having this child in your home.
18 Parenting is sometimes a struggle, but it’s worth it. Write about a difficult incident or period of your lives that you weathered together.
19 There are a lot of things to look forward to in this child’s future. Plan a surprise for your child tonight.
20 We are genuinely interested in each other. Think of something to do or talk about that both you and your child find interesting.  Have that conversation.
21 We find each other to be good companions. Plan an outing or trip together.
22 My child is an interesting person. Think of a topic that interests both you and your child.  Bring it up the next time you can just talk.
23 We respond well to each other. Recall a joke or story your child told you that left you laughing.  Remind them of it.
24 There is lots of mutual respect in our relationship. Plan to take a class together.  You could choose an online course, or a one-day lecture.  You could also choose to learn through the same book.
25 We have come a long way together. Make a list of all you have accomplished as a team.
26 I think we can weather any storm together. Reminisce about having made it through a hard time.
27 We enjoy each other’s sense of humor. Rent a comedy film.  Watch it together.
28 I have been influenced by this child. If you can’t recall a time when this child recently influenced you, create an opportunity for them to offer their opinion about optional toppings at a meal or alternate routes for the drive.
29 My relationship with this child will keep improving over time. Express optimism about the future events you hope to have.
30 I will miss this child when they leave my home. List some of the things you enjoy most about having the child physically nearby: their smile, their laugh, their gentle hugs.

Take this relationship-enhancing plan as a challenge, and use the month of December to implement President Hunter’s timeless advice, given in the 1994 Christmas Devotional, “This Christmas, mend a quarrel. … Write a letter. Give a soft answer. … Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. … Forgo a grudge. … Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. … Speak your love and then speak it again.”  The problems you experience with your child will not disappear, but you will be able to approach them with revived feelings of admiration and respect.  Print out the plan and include it as part of your holiday celebrations this year.

Rachel Spigarelli Article from LDSHERachel began her homeschooling journey in Seattle, and has now lived in Northern Virginia for three years. With six children between the ages of 14 and 3, Rachel appreciates the variety of learning levels and developmental stages within her home. Rachel looks to provide authentic learning and meaning-rich educational experiences for her children and for herself. Rachel is a passionate and enthusiastic speaker who loves to talk about the perks of homeschooling.

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