When I was about four years old my mother stood with me on the edge of the curb in front of our house and taught me about stopping, looking and listening for cars before I chose to cross the street. After we stopped, looked and listened for a few seconds then my mother took me by the hand and walked with me across our street. We practiced the whole thing a few more times before she felt I had mastered the skill and would not get too busy or carried away to forget the lesson.
“Yea, for this cause I have said: Stop, and stand still until I command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee.” (D&C 5:34)
The world now days is all about Go. Stop doesn’t even seem to be an option for most of us on a regular day. Even Sundays are go, go for many people in our religion. We have meetings, and people to look after, and visit. By the end of each day we are tired and fall into bed hoping we will have enough sleep time to prepare us for another go, go day.
Is go, go bad? Should we try to stop all of our going? Is go, go a blessing or a curse to our families? I cannot answer these questions for your. Only you can assess what your family needs, and if you are just doing too much. However, I do know that there are some very negative draw backs from always being on the go.
I am a woman of purpose. I am always anxiously engaging myself and my family in good causes. All the causes are good, but some of those good things get in the way of better things. If I am always supporting every social event, and volunteering for every committee and project then I don’t get the time at home to read stories to my children, or to work side by side with them in the yard. Likewise, if I allow my children to have schedules which keep them running away from home and family all the time then they don’t get the opportunity to strengthen relationships with parents and siblings and don’t have the opportunity to work beside me either.
What would happen if we just stopped attending many classes/events and stood still? Could the Lord more easily use us if we were quiet enough to hear him, and calm enough to feel him? I think so. What about our children? Could they become more in-tune with what their personal missions are if they had time to be still and hear God? I know so.
Just to clear this up, being still doesn’t mean watching television, listening to tunes, or emailing people. It means pondering, studying, writing, and taking in the feelings and thoughts the Spirit sends your way. Journal writing is the perfect kind of daily stop.
Whenever you stop on purpose and take in the moment, you see things you normally don’t see.
One day, while camping, I found myself disconnected from the group under a tree relaxing in a chair. All of the sudden, I saw things I didn’t recognize before my quiet time. I saw dragon flies gliding over the river, and birds playing in the trees. I saw the water ripple, and the pattern the grass was growing in. Since I stopped, I saw.
“And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look;” (Helaman 5:37)
While sitting there on the bank of that river, under the willow tree, I immediately started to take in the things I knew. I knew what kind of tree I was under, and I knew the direction the water was running. I knew that I had soft grass under my feet, and that the sun was at about mid day.
After assessing what I did know, then I was ready to look for what I didn’t know. If a person is still long enough they automatically start looking for answers to things they don’t know. This is why small children are always asking questions and inventing new things.
They are stopped and still most of the time, unless we put stress on their lives by making them live go, go too much. Even though they can’t keep still sometimes, they are still stopped because they are free to think and act upon their thoughts.
All of the sudden I realized I didn’t know why the grass along the bank of the river was all different sizes. I had to ask myself questions. What would make the grass in that section of the river longer than the other sections? I had to take a closer look. Before, I also didn’t know that most of the bushes along the bank were half dead. I hadn’t taken into account that no one was there to take care of the bushes. I wondered if the bushes would grow differently if I took time to trim back all the dead branches.
After this thought I wondered if someone watched me close enough to trim back all my dead branches. I used to have sins which weighed heavy on me, but now they feel light. I couldn’t help but think that over time I allowed the Lord to trim back the weight of these dead sins, or branches, to allow me to more fully grow the way he wants me to.
We always learn more when we look deeply.
“And, O that ye would listen…and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!” (Jacob 2: 16)
Whenever you stop on purpose and take in the moment by looking deeply, you hear things you normally don’t hear.
While under this same tree I had a desire to listen closely to my surroundings because I had seen so much when I looked more closely. All of the sudden, the silence of my surroundings made me really listen, and I heard things I didn’t know where there before.
I heard the water rippling past and the insects clicking and buzzing in the distance. I heard the breeze blowing the tree I was under and was immediately grateful for a breeze to keep me cool. I knew I was comfortable, but didn’t give God credit for that breeze until I took time to listen to it.
When I heard the river flowing I thought of where it was flowing to. I reminded myself how it would get there. Rivers, like people, take the path of least resistance and end up falling to the lowest area unless they work hard to press in a different direction. I was reminded to keep working hard not to fall into the path of least resistance, thus heading in a constant down hill pattern.
Parenting is really hard work. It takes lots of time, and we just determined that the one thing we all feel short on is time. It only makes sense then, that like this river, we take the path or least resistance when we are parenting our children and helping them solve their problems unless we have already figured out that we have to embrace the hard work, and sometimes even make it harder to accomplish what we want for our families. This requires taking more time.
As we run through our days and accomplish all the good things we do, we cannot forget to stop, look and listen when we are parenting our children. Just like crossing the street, this simple action can make all the difference in our family relationships and our parenting moments.
Now that we see how stop, look and listen affects our day-to-day living and our ability to receive revelation from God about our specific missions, let’s see how applying the same principle can help us receive parenting revelations when we need them most.
Many parents pride themselves on how well they can multi-task to handle everything at once. In fact, I don’t know how parents can get away from developing this skill when trying to get everyone out the door to church, put dinner in the crock pot, and remember all the supplies for the lesson. Let’s face it, multi-tasking is a necessity sometimes.
However, there are times mid multi-task that we need to stop and not care about the schedule. Our stopping will strengthen our family relationships. How would our Sunday mornings improve if we took a minute or two to look at our children and see how they were helping and give them positive feedback? It would make a selfless shift in our family for the day and draw our children closer to us.
Let’s pretend you are mid multi-task and your child comes to you and tells you she is having a hard time getting along with another one of the children? That never happens right? It is really tempting to just keep going and while going blow your top about the schedule and about how this doesn’t help you get where you are going on time, or it doesn’t help you get the laundry done. You pick your reason for not wanting to stop.
However, if you do stop, you will find yourself ready to help one of your children develop a new skill, so that they can problem solve the next situation better on their own. You will also be showing your child love, understanding, and providing an excellent example of what kind of parent you want them to turn into. They will be learning volumes whether you stop or keep going. Which book do you want them reading from?
No matter what you are doing, train yourself to stop for a minute when your children come to you asking for help. Just like our Father in Heaven, we need to hear all their problems and pleas, even if we are doing something else at the time.
Once you allow yourself to stop running for a minute, you will automatically start to look for things you didn’t see before.
For instance, on Sunday morning you will notice how helpful the older children are to the younger children without you even asking. You will notice that your children are following all the steps to following instructions which you have taught them, and feel inspired to give them praise.
When your child comes to you to tell you about the argument she is having with her brother, you will be ready to see and feel what parts of her story are true or not. You will also be able to see if you need to talk to brother before you decide upon the situation. You will most likely see that this is an opportunity to show your children how to properly and calmly problem solve a situation and resolve it.
If you don’t stop and look, you will not feel inclined to listen, and listening is the most important step in this parenting skill set.
Beware! There are two kinds of listening. The first kind is when you listen for what you want to hear. The second kind is when you listen for what they are saying.
With the first kind of listening you have already decided what the problem is before you even stopped to look and listen. You have already chosen who is at fault and need to just get through the listening as soon as possible.
By contrast, with the second kind of listening, even if you saw the whole incident and think you know why things happened, you don’t say anything until you hear each side and feel the souls of the children to determine what they really need to learn. This kind of listening requires that most of your attention be paid to feeling the Spirit testify to you what that child is really feeling and learning.
I ask each child to tell their story about the situation, beginning with the child who came to me first with the issue. With each child I listen. I repeat back things they say to make sure I am understanding completely, and I ask questions occasionally. I really want to know and feel the situation.
What The Children Learn From This Lesson
When you listen carefully, you will have help. The Spirit will impress upon your minds the things your children need to learn most from this situation.
Only when you really listen can you see what everyone needs to learn. For most of these instances I notice that everyone in the situation or communication needs to learn something important to grow into a “joyful adult who knows what their mission in life is and can’t wait to fight for it, and has a solid relationship with God and family.” (Parenting A House United page 106)
Most often, there is one person who started the situation, which I have noticed more often than not is the person coming to tell me about the situation.
However, the other person in the situation probably needs to learn how to disagree appropriately, accept a no answer, or remember our family vision to be a family of best friends. (principles presented in Parenting A House United) Either way both parties need to learn how to handle similar situations when they happen again and need practice doing the situation correctly.
This is when we practice. I believe in role plays. They are good enough for business people, missionaries, firemen, policemen, military troops, and airplane pilots so they are good enough for my family too. When I have my children role play the right way to handle a situation they automatically see the wisdom in more effective communication. They also see they are capable of, and posses the skills necessary to problem solve this situation differently next time.
I teach my children how to govern themselves. It is impossible to learn self-government if a person isn’t constantly seeing what went wrong and practicing a better way. I have my children practice the situation like they should have done it, and then switch roles and practice being the other person too.
Understanding the other person’s role in a communication is a great skill for a successful life. Many people will not see things the same way we do in this life, but that doesn’t need to stop us from being able to communicate calmly and effectively. Calm effective communication is freedom for parents, children, and all.
Parents teach children many things; from crossing the street to communicating effectively, and if we stop, look and listen long enough we find that these life lessons are easily understood because they are essentially the same. We just have to train ourselves to use the principles at the right time.
Nicholeen answers more parenting questions for free on her blog http://teachingselfgovernment.com