The grass is always greener… in a well-manicured lawn. No, really, how do you think it became so green? It’s easy to look at other couples or families and think, “wow, they have it all together… they have the perfect life.” It’s just as easy to then look at your own life and compare the two. The problem is that this often leads to discontentment.
In reality, relationships take work. To work on a marriage takes self-sacrifice and a willingness to put your spouse first. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Healthy relationships with your children take work too. It’s tempting to want to be your little one’s best friend, when what they need is for you to be their parent.
As a therapist, I have had many people present their children for therapy and tell me, in one form or another, that their children have behavior problems and they won’t respond to parental correction. As the conversation progresses, however, the parents will begin to tell me of the inconsistencies in their own parenting techniques. They may know what needs to be done, but it doesn’t get done for various reasons. For example, I’ve been told many times that Time-Out doesn’t work because the children won’t stay in Time Out. I’ve also seen the same children respond very well to Time-Out when the parents consistently and calmly follow through. Initially, the children will kick, scream, flail, and try to bite, but eventually they will realize the parent is going to follow through and they will relinquish control to the parent. It can be heart wrenching to watch the process, knowing that the child is doing what he has learned to do to get his way (after all, we all have that selfish, sinful nature that strengthens if not checked), but doing your best to remain loving, patient, and calm while setting boundaries is important. Remember, you are modeling God’s love to your child!
When trying to make major changes, it always looks like it’s getting worse before it gets better, but in dealing with something like children’s behavioral problems, it’s important to know that if you make a big effort to be consistent and give up after an hour and a half of the child screaming and struggling with you (hello, exhaustion!), you’ve only wasted that much energy and your child will then be reaffirmed that if he fights hard enough and long enough, you’re going to give in. It is our responsibility to teach our children how to cope with their emotions (disappointment, frustration, etc.) rather than simply reacting to them.
When making changes in other relationships, whether with your spouse, a friend, family member, etc., It will also take a lot of work.
- Practice controlling your tongue so you’re not throwing verbal jabs when your feelings get hurt.
- Make it a concentrated effort to approach the other person lovingly when you feel like running away/avoiding any and all contact with them.
- Set aside your own pride and hurt feelings to look for compassion that may help you better communicate with them. You don’t have to agree to have compassion!
So now we come back to the lawn. How much is it worth to you for your grass to be pretty and green? How much work are you willing to put into your relationships? It’s up to you, of course. You can’t have the results you want if it’s not important enough for you to put in the work.