This past Christmas I read the book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. (I use the word “read” very loosely here, more like “skimmed the first chapter”.)
One of the things that has stuck with me is the idea that the small space between a stimulus and your reaction, that tiny little moment, is a moment of pure freedom.
That little dash is your choice, to use however you want. You can choose to react in a way that makes a situation worse, or better, it’s your choice. Your freedom to do with what you want.
I’ve been wrestling with this in my own life.
My little dash, my space between a stimulus and my reaction, is SUPER small. I barely give myself time to take in a situation before I’m reacting to it.
But I’m working on it.
I’m practicing the art of taking a breath BEFORE I jump into all the yelling and screaming that my kids are getting accustomed to.
This has been a bit of a trial by fire.
It’s been such a cold winter that we’ve been living a lot of our time indoors and on top of each other.
All these bodies, in such close quarters, for so many months is starting to have an effect on our attitudes.
But, I truly believe that the two MOST important things that I can teach my children are to be kind and to have self-control.
The benefits of self-control cannot be overstated. Every study shows that those who excel at delaying gratification are happier, more successful, have better relationships, and the list goes on.
I know this, but it is SO hard to practice.
I’m working on it.
If my kids can’t learn to pause, learn to take a breath, learn to extend that little dash between a stimulus and their reaction–if they can’t learn that at home, in a safe environment, with their parents there to help guide them–then where will they learn it. I need to give them the chance to equip themselves with these lessons now, when the consequences are small, before they are confronted with bigger life issues…when mom and dad aren’t there to offer a safety net.
I can’t really teach them these skills if I’m not prepared to practice them myself.
And, nothing forces me to practice self-control like trying to pry my screaming children off of each other.
(No, not these angels, they’d NEVER fight.)
Honetly, I don’t really know how to get better at this. I’ve been praying about it, which I think is part of the problem. God’s just gifting me with more and more stimuli–meaning more and more opportunities to try and not scream while I feel my pulse bursting out of my eyeballs.
“STOP FIGHTING, STOP SCREAMING, WHY CAN’T YOU GUYS BE SWEET AND CALM LIKE YOUR MOTHER!!”
It’s a work in progress…
(I’m a work in progress.)
But, I believe that it will be worth it. The art, the true art, of self-control is a wonder to behold.
If you’ve ever been around someone who has the ability to think before they react…gosh, it’s a beautiful thing.
My prayer is that I can strive to be like those people, and even more, that I can teach that skill to my children.
And what better time to practice then in the midst of our cabin-fever.