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Linda & Richard Eyre: Teaching our children peaceability

Published: Sunday, Sept. 2 2012 4:36 p.m. MDT

Editor's note: The Eyres' mini-series on relationships is interrupted this week as they introduce September's "value of the month." The relationships series will continue next week.

As the Deseret News continues to establish itself as a leader and catalyst for values-oriented thinking and writing, we want to do our part by helping parents focus on and teach their children one particular universal value every month.

Thus, the first column we write here each month will be about what we are calling the "value of the month."

These 12 values will be universal values that all parents everywhere accept and wish to teach to their children. They are values that unite us as families, yet they are anything but easy to teach to our children.

As one mother said, "We all know what values we want to give our kids; we just don't know how to give them."

We will draw these 12 values from our book "Teaching Your Children Values," which became a New York Times No. 1 best-seller largely because parents liked the simplicity and purpose of focusing on a single value for each month of the year.

What we hope will happen over time is that the Deseret News will create some kind of "readers forum" where parents from around the world can submit their ideas on how to teach that month's value to children of different ages. Parents could also send their questions and the problems they are having with the value, and other parents could offer suggestions or solutions.

What could be better than a wide network of parents, united by the values they want their children to learn, with an online forum allowing them to share, commiserate and progress together?

In the meantime, you can always go to www.valuesparenting.com and click on "value of the month."

The value for the month of September is "peaceability." We define this quality as calmness. It is peacefulness, serenity and the tendency to try to accommodate rather than argue.

Peaceability is 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. It is the ability to understand how others feel rather than simply reacting to them.

Peaceability is 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 or ignoring of emotions. Rather, it means controlling them and preventing them from causing hurt to other people.

Children need calmness. It gives them a kind of security. Peace and the control of temper are 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.

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 your children.

General guidelines

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:

1. Playing restful music. Much classical music creates a feeling of refinement, order and peace.

2. Controlling the tone and decibel level of your own voice. Yelling accomplishes little and instantly punctures a peaceable atmosphere.

3. Touching others in your family. We talk more softly when we touch. Put a hand on a shoulder or arm as you speak to a child.

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 this inevitably become frequent expressers.

Teach by praise. Try to develop a "contagious calm" in yourself and to build it in children through positive praise. Remember that "praise is peaceful" while "negative is nervous."

We invite you to join with us in concentrating on the value of the month. Hit the comments button on this article and share your ideas on bringing calmness into the home. Focus on peaceability during the full month of September, and for more specific ideas on how, go to www.valuesparenting.com.

Join us next week when we get back to our discussion on improving our relationships.

Richard and Linda are New York Times No.1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.joyschools.com. Several of their books are now available for free on www.EyresFreeBooks.com.

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