Does your home have it? We all know the basics -- love, FHE (Family Home Evening), family prayer, scripture study, service, and church activity. But there is another “secret” ingredient to rearing happy, successful, and faithful children. Does your home have it?
Yes, it is PHE – a Positive Home Environment. That is the “secret” ingredient. Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Children need sunlight. They need happiness. They need love and nurture. They need kindness and refreshment and affection. Every home, regardless of the cost of the house, can provide an environment of love which will be an environment of salvation.” (Fall General Conference, 1994). We need to create a safe, positive home where our children learn that when they do good things, our countenance will smile on them. We need to create a home where children learn to exercise their agency in positive ways, and enjoy positive consequences for so doing.
Creating a PHE can be much harder than having FHE, family prayer, and scripture study. It can be much harder than doing the specific things we know we should. One reason for this is that a big part of creating a PHE is responding to the things around us in a positive way. Unfortunately, this is highly influenced by the way we were raised and the habits we have developed.
To have a PHE, we need to catch our children being good. A family counselor I know said, “If your child isn’t doing something to irritate you, then she must be doing something right. Figure out what it is, and say something positive about it.” Some people do this naturally. Many of us do not. For example, my wife was working on a tie quilt at a friend’s house. The young daughter there wanted to cut the yarn between the knots and was bugging my wife about it. She asked the girl to please wait until she had finished the row. When she finished, a neutral response would be to say, “Ok, you can cut the yarn now.” But, the PHE response she used was, “Thank you for waiting patiently. You can cut the yarn now.” By being aware and taking a few extra seconds, she increased the PHE. By the way, the girl beamed, and continued to wait patiently for her turn.
The second part of having a PHE is even harder. It is keeping quiet about the little things our kids do that bug us. You have to stay cool, calm, and collected. Maybe it is name calling, complaining, whining, messiness, being slow to comply, or non-compliance. The list is virtually endless of the things kids can do that are inappropriate (and annoying). Most of us are inclined to “nip it in the bud.” We jump right on the problem and tell the child to stop that right now. Even if we do it in a calm way, we are still hurting the PHE. When we get upset, it is even worse. We get trapped by focusing on the problems. When we react to inappropriate behavior, we are almost always coercive. We are trying to force our children to behave as they should. The most common forms of coercion are questioning, yelling, arguing, hitting or physical force, criticism, sarcasm, threats, despair, nagging, guilt trips, and logic. Because it is out of style to use force (yelling, spanking, etc.), many parents talk the kid to death (logic). It doesn’t work, and it is still coercion. Worst of all, it destroys the PHE.
Now I am not saying that children should be able to do anything they want, but in general, our children need to be making good choices and enjoying the pleasant, positive results of those choices. Even if your children are doing what is proper, if they are doing it simply to avoid getting in trouble then you don’t have PHE. (see Behavior Principles)
Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
Are you a happy parent? You need to be. Happy parents produce PHE. Happy parents produce happy children. No matter how your kids act, you should stay above it all. Brigham Young said, “At times our children may not be in possession of a good spirit; but if the parent continues to possess the good Spirit, the children will have the bad spirit but a short time.” Do you find yourself short tempered? Do you become annoyed, irritated, or angry with your children? I hate to say it, but this places your children at risk and destroys your PHE. Staying calm, upbeat, and hopeful has a very positive influence on your children, and even on a prodigal son or daughter.
You can change the way you respond to your children. First, Glenn I. Latham wrote a great book on this subject called, “Parenting with Love.” His other books are also excellent. Second, you can learn effective parenting skills that will build good behavior and reduce inappropriate behavior. This will give you more positive things to react to, and fewer negative things to get upset about. Finally, you can get personal help from a parent coach, like Tom Dozier, to apply the skills discussed in this website. You can create a Positive Home Environment.
As Glenn Latham wrote, “It is our responsibility to create a Christelike ‘world’ in our homes, a safe place where children behave well because they enjoy the pleasant consequences of doing so, rather than to avoid the unpleasant consequences of behaving badly. It is a world in which the child thinks, ‘I know my parents will acknowledge and appreciate me’ rather than thinking 'I am only doing this because I don’t want to be beat on’ (verbally or physically).” (Glenn I. Latham, “Christlike Parenting”)
When we create PHE, along with teaching and living the Gospel, we will have a home where children will have a high probability of internalizing our family values, successfully navigating the difficult years of adolescence, and growing up into healthy, happy and faithful adults.
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