“First we shape our buildings, then they shape us."
It was Winston Churchill who said this, and it is true — particularly when it refers to our homes. First we create our homes, and then they create us.
If we are able to create a peaceful and calm and orderly atmosphere in our homes, our children will become more manageable, more spiritual and better people.
For many years, we had an oil painting that I (Linda) had done on a framed canvas that simply said, in decorated and colorful letters, what we had proclaimed to be our family motto. It was verse 119 of section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Organize yourselves, prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”
The scripture, in its original context, of course, is talking about the temple, about the house of God. But is there anything in it that is inconsistent with the type of house we want to establish as families?
It is interesting that the first phrase in the scriptural admonition is “a house of prayer.” Thus, one way to read the verse is that the other suggestions are ways of making the prayers of a home, of a family, most meaningful and most effectual. By being sure it is a place where learning happens, where fasting happens, where order prevails, where faith resides, the home and its occupants become more prayer-oriented, and the home becomes glorious as the abode of God.
The trouble is that kids reside in homes, and kids are prone toward things that move the mood in opposite directions — toward things like fighting and yelling and letting their energy out in countless ways that are anything but calm.
We have a friend who sings a favorite hymn with altered words: “There is beauty all around, when there’s no one home Time does softly, sweetly glide, when there’s no one home Hate and envy ne'er annoy, when there’s no one home Making life a bliss complete, when there’s no one home.”
You have probably heard some great (and slightly offbeat) ways that parents of young, feisty, energetic children have tried to instill a calmer, more peaceful spirit in their homes. Some try to keep soft, classical music going “to tame the savage beast.” Others try to “use our inside voices” or to have “silence contests” to see who can go the longest without saying anything at all.
We have tried a few desperate methods of our own. For a while, we tried to have everyone whisper until breakfast started in order to begin the day in a calmer way. And in the evening, we would sit for a “quiet moment” holding hands around the dinner table before the blessing. At other times, we tried turning our palms up, closing our eyes and breathing the universal mantra of “oommmmm” as a signal for kids to join us for an oommmmm and to calm down. And one year, noticing that Christmas seemed to bring a kind of calm with it, we decided to leave a little Christmas tree up, right in the center of our round dining table, for the whole year.
The problem, of course, with all these ideas is that they are artificial and rely on our ability to calm ourselves rather than relying on the calming spirit of the Holy Ghost. The best method is simply to pray more, and to pray harder, for the Spirit of peace, for the Spirit of God, which is the Holy Ghost.
That is the spirit that can turn our homes into sacred places — places that help create who we are and who our children are.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who are in demand throughout the world as speakers on parenting and life balance. You can visit them anytime at www.TheEyres.com or at www.ValuesParenting.com.