Rising Above the Situation: How to Gain a New Perspective on ChangeApr 05, 2014
I'm posting today from way above the clouds, in an airplane headed to Orlando. As the plan took off and I gazed out my window, I noted what a change of perspective is available at altitude. Then, I began to wonder how we can best metaphorically rise above the problems that daunt us and gain a new perspective on what it would take to change a troubling situation. Every day, I do coach people to make changes in their lives. So to get better at that task, I've been perusing a book on motivational change while making my way from Kansas City to Orlando via a route that included a brief stay in Milwaukee. ( I don't suppose I'll ever understand the airline business and why we can't just travel in a straight line.)
This morning I had the privilege of talking to a room full of home educators about the concept behind Exercising Values and why it could invoke positive change in their families in terms of health, character and family togetherness. It was so much fun to spend time with parents that are so earnest in their desire to provide the very best of everything for their children including helping them to be diligent, respectful, hospitable and kind. I didn't need to convince them of anything but just show them one way the goals they have could be achieved. It was an exhilarating meeting of the heart and mind because everyone in the room had a deep love for children and an interest in seeing them succeed.
I home educated all of my six children, so these were my peeps. We definitely shared a common vision. But interestingly, I find in coaching that it is not necessary to agree with the people you are trying to help. What you do need to agree on is respect for that person's innate ability to seek out and identify next actions on their road to change.
That book I was reading casts the coach as a reflecting pool that lets the other person see themselves more clearly. I think that also applies to parents endeavoring to inspire their children to internalize strong character and to have a moral compass. The parent presents the concept and defines it because research shows that a child is more likely to adopt a character quality such as helpfulness or boldness or any other quality if it is given a name. Certainly parents teach by example but that example is strengthened when it is given a label. Then the parent creates opportunities for the child to practice that trait and the parent's conversation helps the child to see himself as someone who possesses that trait. In a way, the parent allows the child to see herself as someone who is persevering, loyal or kind.
With today's group of parents, we used enthusiasm as the character quality of the day. Their bright smiles and active participation made my day. I didn't cause them to be enthusiastic. I drew out of them their own desire to be that way. That's how it is with parents teaching character to their children. They draw out their best instincts. That's how it is with a coach. You draw out of the person their best thoughts and intents towards positive change.
So when a child exhibits a weakness in one character trait or another, it is the role of the parent to rise above the immediate disappointment, concern or embarrassment and instead to get a new perspective on change. Follow a strategy to draw out more strength in that area by talking about it and being happy with good intentions and movement toward improvement. If you see selfishness in a child, talk about the virtues of caring about others. Draw on examples from literature and your own life. Challenge your child to want to be less selfish and then enjoy each selfless act you catch them in. It's fine to set the bar high by talking about ideal character but then we need to help our child find the stair steps to reach that bar.
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