“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
~ Mahatma Ghandi
You can’t control people.
But you can control the environment and you can control yourself.
A few nights ago, over dinner, our youngest son was telling us how his children would turn out and what he would have them do. We said, “Good luck with that!” He replied, “Don’t tell me how to control my children’s lives.” We all laughed but I thought how true it is! We can’t control our children’s lives.
A couple of years ago I was going crazy! Crazy because I wasn’t sure my son was going to graduate from high school. He had a severe case of “senioritis”. He kept telling me, “You’re so pessimistic. Of course I’ll graduate.” He’d been a great student to start with during his high school years. But Junior and Senior year were the worst. With the grades he had in his 2nd semester of Senior Year (including swimming!!), not graduating was a possibility. I was so angry. I was such a nag. I couldn’t sleep at night. Finally, I realized I couldn’t live like this anymore. I couldn’t change him. I couldn’t make him get the grades he needed. So, after doing everything I could, I let go. (And I wrote a book, HOW TO BE A ZEN MAMA, during the nights I was up.)
I finally told him (not meaning it of course!), “Well, that’s ok if you don’t graduate. You can still live at home and attend community college. We’d love to have you!” I let him go, knowing that he needed to decide his own outcome.
That’s about the time he decided to change. He pulled everything together. He did graduate. And he loves college! He’s a junior now, going to Ft. Lewis College in the mountain town of Durango, Colorado. He’s majoring in French and Spanish and he continues to enjoy the music he loves. In fact, he just bought an accordion last summer.
Did he change so much that he had all straight A’s. No. Is he happy? Yes! I think he’s never been happier. I changed my reaction to him. I see him as a musician, a hard worker, and a student of life with great common sense.
“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”
~ Harry S. Truman
Here’s what I found out while raising kids:
• You cannot change other people. Humanity has tried to do this through the ages. Girlfriends and wives have tried to change their men. Parents have tried to control their children. It doesn’t work! It never has. There is always some problem when you try to change and control another person.
• You can’t change your children, but you can change the environment you’re bringing them up in. Don’t like the video games your children are playing? Get rid of them. Don’t want your young children touching your special possessions? Pack them away until they are older. Don’t like the junk food they eat? Don’t buy it.
• We can only change ourselves. When we don’t like something, we need to change our reaction to the people we love. They are on their own path. They are individuals. And when you see them as an individual, you can accept them and get along much better. You are also an individual and the adult and you can teach them a lot by transforming yourself!
Five Ways to Transform Yourself Without Changing Your Children:
1. Start by listening – You automatically say, “I respect you” when you listen.
2. Observe – Watch your child, without judgment. Maybe you’re wrong about why he/she needs to change.
3. Let go of expectations – Let go of your expectations and find out what the person in your life wants out of their life.
4. Accept – Accept what the person in your life wants to do with their life.
5. Help – As a parent you are a guide. Help your children get where they need to be to accomplish their dreams (not yours for them).
One last thing… Sometimes people think that if you change yourself you are letting go of responsibility or that you’re giving up. Not at all! You are letting go of your emotional attachment to the outcome and control of a person. Good luck! It’s hard work!!
“Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”
~ John Maxwell
* The post in a slightly different form for first a guest post at The Bold Life
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