Image

Author Archive for Gayle

The Danger in Silence

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

Although the attribution of this quote is in question – some attribute to Dr. Martin King and others have found it was an error in cutting and pasting from a Facebook post by Jessica Dovey – the reality is that the words ring true no matter who said them.

This was aptly demonstrated as the #MeToo campaign was joined by women around the world, finally able to talk about the harassment they had experienced. This was only one consequence of silence. Others have led to genocide, racism and war across the centuries.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

We each have experienced times in life where we stayed silent – because it was easier, more accommodating or when we felt threatened by others in power.

I think women are more likely to stay silent so as not to rock the boat (accommodating) or when they feel threatened by the person in power. When your job or career is on the line you may feel it’s better to allow someone to say things you wouldn’t normally allow, so you can be promoted or to keep your job, salary and a roof over your children’s heads.

Unfortunately, it’s in these circumstances we teach our children – who are carefully watching EVERYTHING we do – when to speak and when to stay silent. The tightrope you walk being a single mom, required to bring home the bacon – so to speak – and teach your children why it’s important to speak up for yourself and those unable to speak for themselves, is a challenge.

It has been helpful to have rules for my children, but I find those rules also help me. There have been times when my children have called me on my behavior or on a decision made because it doesn’t align with the rules we created to keep peace and harmony in our home. It is these rules I can rely on to help me make difficult decisions when speaking up has as many consequences as staying silent.

This has never been more evident in my life than recently. I have a friend who is struggling with her life decisions, her children and her future. She was once a single mom, raising three children on her own. After a season she met and married a very nice man and together they have made a home and merged their families.

But in the past her youngest daughter had experienced horrific abuse at the hands of her father. It was a couple of years before my friend could prove the abuse so she could permanently remove her daughter. Years of prayer, relying on friends, talking about abusive situations and opening up to strangers.

Today her daughter continues to experience the effects of those years of abuse, and her mother does as well. Silence in her small community, silence in her husband’s family and her silence for years only perpetuated the problems and ultimately the negative emotional effects.

My friend did what she could, at the time, with the resources she had – but she paid the price of the silence of her neighbors and his family, and will continue to pay a lifelong price.

When we don’t speak for ourselves or others, we are validating their ideas and behavior. This same friend has asked for advice several times and I have been brutally honest. I won’t do her any favors by agreeing or disagreeing to make her happy – and thankfully she understands that and desperately wants someone to speak the truth in love to her.

I believe with all my heart that is what our world needs – speaking the truth in love. We have watched what silently agreeing, being silent or participating has gotten us. Our country is suffering under the burden of a growing number of people who have no compassion or mercy for people who don’t look or act like them.

I recently joined a Christian discipleship group. The first thing that struck me was the safety within the group. The leader said it was a safe group, a safe place to express yourself and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit. But I didn’t BELIEVE it. I had never been someplace where there wasn’t at least one person who was a bully, talked back, didn’t obey the rules or otherwise made of fun of everyone.

But not here. Here it’s safe.

Everyone is accepted and there is no silence. And silence is not needed since everyone is after the same thing – to experience His presence.

I have a situation at home now that requires I’m not silent. My oldest son needs a bit of direction, and doesn’t want it I’m sure. After all, at the age of 26, which one of us wanted to hear from our parents we might be making poor decisions?

While I won’t be silent, I also won’t be derisive or condemning. This is his life and he has the choice to live it in any way he chooses. But as his mother, I have the responsibility to point out the end of the journey he’s currently taking. I have the RESPONSIBILITY to NOT remain silent.

He has the choice.

I have the responsibility.

And once communicated – a time or two, but not more than three! – it’s his decision and his life. His consequences and my responsibility to allow him to live the consequences.

There are so many ways and places we may or may not remain silent – and consequences to staying silent that affect more than this generation. The time to pick your battles is when you have battles to pick – and not when they’ve all been chosen for you.

The time to speak up is when you have your voice before the world has stifled you.

The time to speak is when your children are watching so they also learn speaking up is important to retain their dignity, to help those who can’t help themselves and defend the ideas they hold dear.

The time to speak is NOW.

 

Sources:
Root, Fake MLK Quote Goes Viral, https://www.theroot.com/fake-mlk-quote-goes-viral-1790863806

Do Your Children Know Your Safety Rules?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my oldest children were born. While it seems like only yesterday, it was actually nearly 26 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. The twins were lying on the hospital bed and I teasingly asked my then husband at what age did he think he would let the girl start dating.

While it was a joke, he seriously answered that she would be 40 years old or over his dead body. And I laughingly replied that it probably would be over his dead body if he made her wait until she was 40!

But my own question got me thinking about safety and the rules that I would want my children to obey in order to stay safe. And I started reading about stranger danger, puppies in the park and men who used women to lure children into cars.

As they grew and began talking I began teaching in terms they could understand all the things they needed to know in order to stay safe without telling them all the things they didn’t need to know that would scare them.

And this again started me thinking. What about when they grew older and they were off on their own, at school, at the park or at the mall with their friends. What did I want them to know? What were the rules I wanted them to follow because they were important to me?

Not because the rules were important to me, but because my children were important and I believe their safety was of the ultimate importance.

All this concern likely stemmed from my professional background as a head injury and spinal cord injury nurse. For instance, I used to warn my boys they could break any bones but they must protect their head and back at all costs. It was just a function of everything I had seen in my professional life. This meant that they always wore helmets in whatever they did that had wheels.

My sons were some of the only boys in the neighborhood with gas powered GoPeds. They loved them and one son learned how to repair and rebuild them. But every time they got on them they wore a helmet. Even when they built ramps on the front driveway and spent hours riding up and flying off, they wore their pads and helmets.

Safety might have been of the utmost importance to me because I knew the consequences to families when children were severely injured. You never think it’s going to happen to you, but it’s got to happen to somebody. It’s devastating and life-altering and something I wanted desperately to avoid.

Of course that’s not always possible, and as with most children, we had our share of broken bones and minor head injuries. However, while some like to call them minor head injuries, at no time when the brain suffers a trauma, is it “minor.” And at most times there are some long-term consequences, even when they aren’t experienced immediately. But that’s another story.

As they grew, my list of safety rules grew. And the children seem to accommodate to each new one. We didn’t start the car until their seatbelts were fastened and if they tried to unbuckle themselves before the car reach the garage they were chastised. They didn’t walk across the street unless they were holding an adult’s hand, usually mine.

As they became teenagers I got them cell phones so I could stay in touch and knew where they were. That was another safety rule that was incredibly important to me. I needed to know where they were and how to get in touch with them, not because I wanted to control their behavior or control where they were, but because it was important in case something went wrong.

As they learned I could trust them and they could trust me, they stayed in touch and kept me up-to-date with where they were. Except one time, when my then 17 year old boy decided to go out on a music job with his friend and neither one of them charge their phones.

He and his friend were expected back at his friend’s home after the job was over. They were running audio for a band in a downtown area not known for being a safe neighborhood. At 3 in the morning I got a phone call from the boy’s mother. She had no idea where they were, she couldn’t get in touch with them, and we were both frantic.

It was after that instance, after she and I had been on the phone with the police, after she and I had been on the phone with the music venue and worried sick for at least an hour, that my son learned the importance of keeping his cell phone charged!

We all have rules for our children but I have learned the most important of those is they know what those rules are. Too often a situation occurs during which a new rule is established based on the consequences of what’s happened. Unfortunately, if the children don’t know the rule before the situation it’s hard to hold them responsible, unless it’s reasonable.

For instance, my now 26 year old was 10 years old when he thought jumping out of a 10 foot high treehouse would be fun. His friends egged him on and he did it. When he came home he told me all about it. He was proud that he had the courage to jump out of the tree house. He told me it was 10 feet off the ground because they measured it with his friend’s father’s tape measure. He also told me the first time he jumped out was a little scary, but it got better the second and third time!

We talked about how it was reasonable for him to know better than to jump out of a tree house 10 feet off the ground with the real potential he would break a bone, including his back. And so he was grounded from going up into the tree house for 3 days, the number of times that he had jumped out.

This was one of the twins, and he was fiercely loyal to his sister. It wasn’t until they were 25 that I learned that she had jumped out of the tree house three times as well. He never said. He never told me and she never got punished.

Well jumping out of a tree house wasn’t the worst thing he could have done, it also wasn’t the smartest. And overtime, through trial-and-error, my children and I learned what safety rules were the most important to create and enforce and which ones could be left by the wayside.

The most important part of everything I learned about safety rules, and rules in general, are that they cannot be enforced unless the people affected actually know and understand what those rules are. Spend the time talking to your children and establishing rules with them. When they buy into what’s important to you and why, they are more likely to remember what the rules are and generalize them to situations they find themselves in.

And after all, that’s what’s important . . . keeping them safe.

What’s Your Parenting Style?

I am a big believer in doing things intentionally. For far too long, I allowed things to happen TO me instead of making them happen. In fact, it was just last week I sat down with a trusted friend and went over a business plan that should take me through the next two years. It was important that I intentionally address the growth of my business, in the same way that it has been important I intentionally grow my children.

These little people with whom I have been entrusted, also trust me to provide them a safe environment, truth, honesty and respect. I don’t believe I consciously chose a parenting style when my children were younger and I don’t believe I will advise my oldest daughter to find one either.

Instead, what I did was to create my own parenting style. It was important not to use the same permissive style others of my generation tended to use as they raised their children. On the other hand, it was also important that I was not a strict authoritarian, without giving my children the chance to express themselves openly.

For years I heard my parents say, children are seen and not heard. Whether we had company over to the house, we were going out in public or my parents were spending an evening alone, children were seen and not heard.

On the other hand, I didn’t expect my children to be the ones who took over the conversations or interrupted adults as they were speaking. So I intentionally attempted to walk a middle road where the opinions of my children were valued and valuable, but my time and authority was respected.

Psychologists have identified four types of parenting. There is the authoritative parent who’s a strict disciplinarian with very little negotiation possible between parent and child. There’s a permissive parent who is indulgent and allows their children to do whatever they want, offering very little guidance or direction. There’s the uninvolved parent who gives their child a lot of freedom and stays out of their way, hoping that the child grows in a way the parent desires without getting involved in the decision-making themselves. And then there’s the authoritative parent, different from the authoritarian, who appears reasonable and nurturing, setting clear expectations and demonstrating self discipline themselves.

Before you can make a change in how you parent your child, it’s important to take a truthful look at the way you do it now. If you want to change, you’ll have to recognize that it will be easy to fall back into old habits. In other words, when things get tough it will be easier to become the permissive parent or the authoritarian again, rather than listen to your child or place limits on their actions. And, it’s important to understand no one person embodies the characteristics of one style. In other words, you may have bits and pieces of all four depending upon the situation and how much sleep you’ve had.

My children grew up understanding we had five important rules. These five very specific rules in the house had to be followed, and as long as their actions did not fall outside of those five rules, they could do or say whatever they wanted. Over time they learn to be independent thinkers and spent hours creatively debating with me how their actions fell within our house rules.

While those times were sometimes trying and often challenging, they were always appreciated by both of us. We spent time together learning each other’s belief systems and understanding each other’s temperament as we engaged in debate that didn’t end up with one person being right or wrong.

It’s critical . . .

to the health and wellness of your family, that you choose your own parenting style and you choose for your family. While psychologists would like us to all raise our children in a manner in which children grow up to be mentally and physically healthy, that isn’t always possible. The choices we make all have consequences, including the way in which we raise our children.

I have an acquaintance whose son is highly intelligent. He was bored in public school and so she and her husband looked long and hard for an educational option that would meet his needs and offer him the challenges he needed. She ended up sending her son to a college campus that offered a high school and college curriculum for gifted students. This worked for her and for her son.

On the other hand, it doesn’t have to work for everyone. In other words, if you have a gifted student it doesn’t mean you have to send them away but it does mean it’s important, even critical, that you challenge them in a way that helps them to grow.

While that seems fairly obvious when you’re dealing with a gifted student, the truth is, every student is gifted in one way or another and when we don’t challenge them and don’t offer them the opportunities to grow their talents and their gifts, then we are frustrating them as much as a gifted student might be frustrated in a regular classroom.

It doesn’t require hours of research and investigation, nor does it require days and weeks of your time, but it does require you are intentional about the time and energy you spend with your children. It does require that you take a truthful and honest look at your children to give them the best opportunities and offer them the greatest challenges so that they can grow into the best people that they can be.

So, as you consider the parenting style that you may or may not use today or the parenting style that you may or may not want to choose tomorrow, be sure you’re taking an honest and truthful look. It does no good to look at your children through rose-colored glasses, nor does it do your children any good to look at your parenting style through rose colored glasses. As you take these critical looks at parenting and your children, consider asking the subject of your analysis.

In other words, consider asking your children what they think and how they perceive how you are parenting them. I’ve done that several times over the years and it’s always an eye-opener to hear what my children have to say and what their perceptions are about my actions and my reactions to their behavior. It’s not always pleasant and it’s not always positive, but it always gives me the information I need in order to become the best parent I can be.

Being the best parent gives my children the best chance at becoming the best versions of themselves.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?