On a good day you can barely control yourself, so stop trying to control other people. -Danny Silk
Last night I sat on tiny wood chairs in my son’s preschool/kindy. I listened to teachers talk about what they were doing to help language growth and reading skills for my wee boy. I was blown away once again at how incredible my son’s school is for him. Everything they do has a purpose and is done with intentionality. Don’t get me wrong my son has HEAPS of fun and plenty of socializing, which is also intentional and monitored at his school. The shining aspect of this school and philosophy (my son attends a Montessori school) is that their belief in children and their capabiiities is fleshed out in proactive toys, activities, behaviors and words. It took a lot of effort, time and thought to set that up but they are reaping the rewards daily with my child and so many others.
I want to be a proactive person, it is one of my greatest desires and also one of the things I have to work on constantly. I hate being forced to react to something because of my choices previously or my mouth talking before my mind has a chance to catch up. I did that recently and really hurt a couple people I genuinely value. This mostly happens when I react to people or situations and don’t respond out of who I want to be. It takes effort, time and thought to articulate who I want to be then work out how that is going to be a reality. I react when I have a conversation in a bubble or a circumstance isolated and forget my goals of who I want to be or what I want to be about. One of the best pieces of
parenting advice life advice I have ever received came from the Silks and their Loving on Purpose materials. Danny reminded parents once that children are children. Period. They are going to be children. Relationship and connection with your children happen when you remember that and have a plan for you when they are children. Not a rule or a plan for them, but a plan for you so that you can respond and not react to a three year old and end up in a full blown argument with a person that barely knows how to go to the bathroom by themselves. While I had a good laugh during their presentation of their parenting tools, I also walked away with a life lesson and not just a change, but the tools to be who I want to be. Plus a good kick in the butt that when you mess this up use the most powerful tool in humanity, a good ol’ fashion “I’m sorry. How can I fix it?”
Proactive living is harder at the start. You have to think through your goals and who you want to be or what you want or need to achieve. It might mean planning things or in the case of my son’s school obtaining the correct resources. It will most definitely cost you something, not always monetarily but always something, may it be your pride, your time, or simply your control. The parenting things I am learning have very little to do with my son and very much with who I am and how I choose to respond. My goal with my son is relationship and connection, if I don’t remember that and have a plan for my behavior, I quickly flip to just controlling him so my life is a bit easier. In the moment it is so much easier to scream at him and tell him to follow my rule that I want. But does that help me achieve my goal of relationship? Sadly, it doesn’t and I see how that causes a break in relationship even with my son who is three. I forget my goals daily and end up just wanting him to put away his dumb shoes or go to bed without a million tantrums. Sigh. Daily I fail but daily I have a plan to go back to and start again.
I am by no means a parenting expert or a proactive expert. I want what those people have though. I want the end result. I want to know that I created a space for learning with intentionality, I created room for relationships to grow. It doesn’t mean I will have everyone or even my son liking me, but if that’s not my goal then that’s okay. Hard. But okay. It does mean I will fail a lot, but have a place to start again. My son’s school was very clear that their goal was not to make my son (or his parents) love their school the best. Their goal was to create a space to help children reach their potential. That they can control, they can’t control if my son or I like them or not. Years ago I was mentored by a brilliant man, he constantly pushed me to make goals that I could control. He once said to me, “A desire is fine to have but if you leave the outcome of what you want in someone else’s hands (ie hoping my kid wants to be in my life or hoping that parents like my school) then you will always be sorely disappointed. Instead allow yourself room to create a space for those things being intentional and proactive at what you do and who you are, so at the end of the day you can assess how you did not if others liked you or what you created.” Or in other words I did my best at controlling me and loving you and you are free to be and choose what you need and want, even if that isn’t what I hope or desire. This has been hard for me and takes tons of work and energy, but it gives me a better plan for me and frees me from blaming the chaos of life, relationships, not planning properly or unexpected circumstances to be my reason for not being who I know I can be.
It’s bloody hard work! It’s hard in marriage, family, work, parenting, ministry and any other form of life that has to do with people. it’s hard because people are going to be people. Flawed and gorgeous human beings that will always be hurt and hurt others. It’s a fact of life. I am forever going to hurt people and be hurt by people, but what’s my plan when life doesn’t go my way? Deep breaths. What can I control? What can I be intentional about so I am responding not just reacting? As the SIlks’ say “on a good day you can barely control yourself so stop trying to control other people.” Yep that sounds about right.