One year together on the road, traveling in a small car or crowded public transport, 24/7 with your kids, staying in tiny rooms, sharing beds…
Does this sound like a dream come true?
If not, then don’t start planing your family gap year adventure just yet.
Three months into our trip, we have definitely started to work better as a family. That being said, we have had our ups and downs.
And as much as I like to paint a picture of happy times and endless fun and adventure, this is impossible. Whether at home or on an around the world adventure with your family not every moment can be picture perfect.
Several weeks ago, I noticed we were having more petty arguments. This culminated in an outpouring of blame and resentment that left all parties feeling hurt, misunderstood and unappreciated.
So how do we eliminate anger, fighting and hurt feelings while growing stronger as a family?
7 Guidelines for Eliminating “The Same Old Fights”
I have copied these 7 guidelines from a book I have been reading by Wayne Dyer: What Do You Really Want for Your Children?
I have taken time the last week to implement these principles.
- What if you eliminate anger from your life?
- From your children’s life?
1. Virtually all fights revolve around the absurd thought, “If only you were more like me, then I wouldn’t have to be upset.”
This is an erroneous assumption about the people in your world. People—including your spouse, your children, your parents, or anyone else—will never be the way you want them to be. When you find yourself upset with someone else, you are really saying to yourself, “If only you were thinking the way I am thinking right now, then I wouldn’t have to be so upset.” Or “Why can’t you do things the way I want them to be done?” Once you eliminate this notion that others ought to be the way you want them to be, and you accept them (not approve, simply accept) for what they are, then you will not be able to be seduced into fighting with them. Why would you ever fight someone for being what you would expect him or her to be? People are not going to be different simply because you would like it to be that way. If you curtail your expectations for others, and stop evaluating your own personal happiness on the basis of what others are doing, thinking, saying, or feeling, then you will find it almost impossible to fight with anyone. While you may want to put a stop to anyone stepping on you, and teach your children to do the same, you will find it unnecessary to get upset just because other people choose to be the way they are.
2. You get treated in life the way you teach people to treat you.
You must teach this basic lesson to your children and accept it yourself as a guiding principle. Your willingness to participate in family fights comes from within you. You have other choices, and you must stop blaming others for the way you get treated and instead look within. Your children must also learn that the way they get treated by everyone is a result of what they are willing to tolerate. If you feel that people dump on you, and treat you in an inconsiderate manner, rather than blaming them, you might ask yourself, “How did I teach them to treat me in this manner?” Instead of being mad at others for the way they behave toward you, remind yourself that if you do not want to be victimized, then you must stop playing victim. Resolve to stop sending signals which teach others to treat you in a way that you must resolve by fighting.
3. Behavior, rather than words, is the greatest teacher of all.
You can talk until you are blue in the face, and you generally will get nothing accomplished except to be upset and further frustrated. If you want to teach someone in your family to put her clothes away, devise behavioral rather than verbal cues. Once you have discussed the matter, and you have discovered that your words are ineffective, then practice new methods. Toss the clothes next to the washing machine, leave them lying where they were dropped, or simply stop washing clothes that are not in the hamper. Do anything but have another long discussion about learning responsibility, which either gets ignored immediately or results in another family fight. Behavior, not words! You can stop conversation after the evidence is in that the child is not listening, and then resolve to teach with actions. Once you teach someone with behavior that you will not tolerate being abused, you will see the abusive behavior subside. But if you continue to talk about it endlessly, you will not only keep having the same old fights, but you will be teaching children that they can talk or argue their way out of being responsible. You want children to learn no-limit behaviors, rather than how to avoid being a responsible person. Your behavior is the most effective teaching technique you have.
4. People are more important than things.
If you keep this principle in mind, you will end a lot of the same old fights, since so many of them revolve around objects and money. No thing in this world is more important than a person. When you fight about furniture, drapes, cars, money, clothes, dishes, garbage, and so on, you are elevating those things to positions of prominence over people. No “thing” is worth fighting about. People’s happiness is what living is all about. When you see the emphasis being shifted to things, and the result being that people are becoming unhappy, you can resolve to not let this happen. Stop yourself when this things-over-people mentality crops up. If others want to do it, fine—you will not be able to stop them by fighting about it. But you can refuse to allow any thing in this world to be the source of your own unhappiness, and when you model this attitude for your family members, you will find them getting the message as well. Imagine yourself screaming at a little child for scratching an object. Imagine the foolishness of becoming irrational over a lost toy. Think about the absurdity of beating your child over a torn piece of fabric. These are things. They can be replaced. But a child’s inner pain, his realization that his feelings are less important than a toy, his own lack of integrity at being treated lower than an object—these cannot be replaced quite so neatly as a lost toy. People count; things do not! Do not be surprised if your little ones start beating up on each other if they are recipients of such behavior themselves. As I noted earlier, physically abused children almost always treat their children (and other people as well) abusively, particularly when the abuse they received was the result of making things and objects more important than human beings. While you do not have to endorse destructive behavior, you also do not have to become immobilized when you find others treating objects in ways that you do not like. Keep in mind that the only thing that matters in life is life itself. You cannot get love from a thing. You cannot caress an object and get anything in return. And while you want to enjoy things, and to teach respect for nice things, remember that objects are valueless without people to give them meaning.
5. Perhaps the most neurotic pursuit of all is the desire to have those who love you understand you all the time.
You, once again, are unique in all the world. What that means is that no one could possibly understand you all the time, because to do so would mean that the other person would have to become you. When you find people not understanding you, instead of senselessly chasing after “being understood,” you are much better off to say to yourself, “They don’t understand me and they probably never will, and that’s okay since it really doesn’t reflect anything about me.” Once you stop expecting people to understand you all the time, then you will be purchasing a ticket to the sidelines when the same old fights begin to surface. The greatest understanding that you can have is that you do not understand each other, and that it is all right. Children live in their own worlds. They occupy their own unique bodies. They live in a space far different from yours. You cannot understand why they do the crazy things they do—and, believe it or not, they see you as “weirder” than you see them. Accepting the fact that you do not understand each other is a great place to start in building a fight-free environment. Let them be unique instead of like you. Allow them to be “weird,” rather than struggling every day with trying to understand and be understood. Why would anyone who is unique in all the world expect someone else who is equally unique to understand her all the time? And why should you have to surrender your uniqueness by demanding to be understood, simply because you are the parent or spouse? Once you accept the fact that you will never be understood all the time then you will also stop all of the hurt that goes with the insane demand for mutual understanding on every issue in life. More than half of the fights which center on the notion that “You don’t understand me” will disappear. You will be teaching children to stop trying to be understood all the time themselves, and to get on with understanding themselves, which is enough of a life’s mission all by itself.
6. Self-confident people seldom participate in the same old fights.
When you are at peace with yourself and you love your self, it is virtually impossible for you to do things to yourself that are destructive. You want to treat the people you love with love, not hate, and you must be one of those people that you love, and that goes double for your children. I have devoted all of Chapter 2 to discussing the importance of a child learning to love himself. Having fights is a sure way to reduce that self-love. Why would someone who loves himself do anything to hurt the self he loves? Fighting is destructive and hurtful. If you think of yourself as an important person, you will not allow yourself to become overweight, addicted to foreign substances, plagued with guilt or worry, or wracked with the pain of regular fighting. Self-love means treating oneself lovingly. If you show others that you love yourself, and that as a result you are going to treat yourself with respect, you will find that they will not be surprised when you simply refuse to go along with their attempts to lure you into fighting. They will soon realize that you think too much of yourself to be filling your precious life moments with agony as a result of fighting, when it is simply a waste of time and the only payoff is distress. Show your children that you respect yourself too much to be reduced to screaming, fighting, or even rage. You will be giving them an important message about yourself, as well as giving them an example to live by: an example of a peaceful person rather than someone who can be bought and sold emotionally by the whims and inconsideration of others.
7. All participation in family fights is a choice.
No one can make you fight if you refuse to go along. When you are embroiled in the same old fight, you must remember that you put yourself there, and that you have the ability to avoid this stressful activity. It is very, very difficult to fight with a rational person. By staying rational you reduce the opportunity for fighting, and consequently for being upset as well. When you find yourself in a fight and you dislike being there, remember the message that you are modeling for your children: “You don’t have control over yourself.” They will learn this neurotic message. They will simply blame someone else for starting a fight because they have parents who also believe the same nonsense. If you practice maintaining your composure, and remember that someone else’s behavior belongs to that person and cannot upset you unless you allow it to do so, then you will not become an unwilling target. When your “opponents” see that you are plainly uninterested in joining them in their neurotic pursuit of fighting, and that you refuse to choose an upsetting experience, then you will be out of the fight game with all of these sparring mates in your life. Everything is a choice, and avoiding senseless fights is an excellent thing to practice if you want more serenity for yourself.
If you genuinely want to eliminate the fight scene in your home, you must come to a decision yourself. Yes, yourself!
It does not involve waiting for the children to change.
It does not mean waiting for your spouse to come around to your point of view.
It means making a decision that fighting is going to be a thing of the past. It means making a vow that you are not going to continue to raise your children in an atmosphere of violence, be it verbal or physical violence.
It means committing yourself to giving your children the opportunity to be free from anger and rage, from the sores that ultimately infect them from overexposure to fighting and war.