Value of the Month Excerpt (September)
"Calmness. Peacefulness. Serenity. The tendency to try to accommodate rather than argue. The understanding that differences are seldom resolved through conflict and that meanness in others is an indication of their problem or insecurity and thus of their need for your understanding. The ability to understand how others feel rather than simply reaction to them. Control of temper."
Children need calmness. It gives them a kind of security. Peace and the control of temper is a powerful and important value that is largely a product of love and of the atmosphere created in a home! Understanding is the key. We seldom lose our temper when we are trying to understand. Children who are taught to try to understand why things happen and why people act the way they do will become calmer and more in control.
We have used the term peaceability to mean understanding, calmness, patience, control, and accommodation -- essentially the opposite of anger, losing one's temper, impatience, and irritation. Just as there are a lot of ways to be dishonest, there are a lot of ways to be unpeaceable. Peaceability does not mean the elimination of ignoring of emotions. Rather, it means to control them and to prevent their causing hurt to other people.
Calmness and peaceability are values because they help others as well as ourselves to feel better and to function better. In addition to being values, they are contagious qualities. As you develop them within yourself, they are "caught" by others around you, particularly by children.
Create a peaceful atmosphere in your home. Try to enhance the setting in which you live and teach this value. Improve the calmness of your home by: (a) playing restful music -- much classical music creates a feeling of refinement, order, and peace; (b) controlling the tone and decibel level of your own voice -- yelling accomplishes little and instantly punctures a peaceable atmosphere; (c) touching others in your family -- we talk more softly when we touch; put a hand on a shoulder or arm as you speak to someone.
Set an example of and have an advance commitment to calmness. Demonstrate the practice and the benefits of peaceability to your children and take advantage of the quality's "contagiousness." It is natural, as a parent, to say, "I have a right to get upset," or "They needed that." But no matter how much "right" we have, getting upset with children simply doesn't work very well, and children really don't "need" to see us lose our temper.
There is occasionally a place for "righteous indignation" -- when children willfully and flagrantly do something they know is wrong. But too often our anger comes from our own frustration and sets negative and even dangerous precedents. Unfortunately anger, volatility, and impatience are as contagious as calmness. Children frequently exposed to it inevitably become frequent expressers of it.
Teach by praise. Try to develop a "contagious calm" in yourself and to build it in children through positive praise.
Besides working to stay calm within ourselves, and trying to respond in a peaceful way, parents need to learn that "praise is peaceful" while "negative is nervous."
Methods for teaching this value:
Sample Method for Preschoolers: The Magazine Game
This game helps small children realize that it is all right to feel mad or sad, just as it is all right to feel happy or glad, but that it is not all right to hurt other people or their feelings because of how we feel. Flip through magazines with a child, stopping every time a person is pictured and asking, "How do you think he feels?" (Happy, jealous, worried, etc. -- this is also a chance to teach children new words and the names of new emotions.) Then say, "It is okay to feel this way?" (Yes) Then say, "Is it okay to be mean to someone else if you feel mad or sad?" (No!)
Sample Method for Elementary Age: The Color Game
This is a good way to teach younger elementary-aged children the good consequences of peace and the bad consequences of anger and retaliation. Cut out two single figures in the human shape, one from red paper and one from pastel color. Tell the children that the red represents temper and impatience, the pastel is control and peace. Give them a situation and let them tell you what each figure might do in each of the following situations:
- Your alarm clock doesn't go off, so you're going to be late for school.
- You're playing basketball and you get called for a foul you didn't think you committed.
- Your friend forgets to meet you for lunch.
- Your little brother flips you with a rubber band.
- Your mom says you can't have a sleep over because there's school tomorrow.
- The new pen you just bought won't work.
And so on. Think of your own, based on your own experiences.
Sample method for Adolescents: The "Analytical-of-Angry" Discussion
Help young teenagers conceptualize the benefits of trying to "understand" rather than trying to "win." At dinner or some other natural conversation time make the statement that we have many situations in which there is a choice between two A words -- arguing or analyzing. In other words, when someone does something to us or says something with which we disagree, we can either fight back and argue or we can try to analyze why he did or said it.
Point out the second choice is better because we learn something whenever we try to figure out why, and we keep our cool and keep our friends.
Review the activities and stories that go along with this months value. Make sure everyone in your family understands the value so they can see how they can apply it in their own lives and situations.
Talk about the Monthly Value every morning and remind your family to look for opportunities to use the value throughout the day. They may also observe how others don't understand the value. Get your children to share their experience with the value each day at the dinner table or before you go to bed. Be sure to share your experience each day as well. It will help your children know that you are thinking about the value too.
For additional methods and ideas, consider a ValuesParenting Membership.