Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Most Important Thing I Learned

If you have ever heard me speak this blog post is not going to be new to you.  I share this piece of wisdom often -- whether I'm speaking at a church or a conference or even when I do stand-up because it is the single most important thing that I have learned since becoming a parent.

There were a few years where I contemplated being a full time speaker.  I was doing a lot of key notes at state conferences and getting sizable honorariums.  But when I realized that there are only fifty states and seldom does a keynote return to a state conference, I decided to keep my day job.

There was one other important part of that decision... and that is that people don't always want to hear the message that I come to share.  If you are a fellow adoptive parent, or the parent of a child with special needs, you go to conferences, especially early on, to find answers on how to fix those kids.  There are some people who have come up with paradigm shifting models who can charge $10K - $15K to do a speaking engagement because folks have heard of them and believe they might have the answer to how to make a kid change.

My problem:  I don't know how to fix kids.  I don't know how to change the IQ of a child or to repair a brain that has been exposed to early trauma or alcohol or drugs in the womb.  I don't know how to undo attachment issues or how to force a child with oppositional behaviors to see things my way.  In fact, I spent he first three years of parenting older children attempting to do those things and it simply did not go well.  Actually, it was a train wreck. 

Grant it, in the past 20 years a lot of progress has been made in understanding why children behave the way they do.  And there are new parenting techniques that we now know about that can assist children in their healing process.   But even with all those things, no human being can control another.

So I realized, back when I was contemplating full time speaking and writing career, is that my main  message isn't something that anyone wants to pay a lot of money to hear.  Parents come to conferences to learn how to fix, change, and control their children (even if they would never put it that way).   My message is simple:  The only person I can change is me. I cannot fix my children, nor can I control them.  What is within my control is how I respond to my children.

Trust me.  I'm right about this.   I spent years trying to change 8-11 year olds who are now in their mid twenties.  Their issues still aren't fixed.  I pray that my response and approach to them is better, but some stuff just can't be altered by discovering the right parenting technique.

One final thought ... as parents, us being able to change ourselves cannot fix kids but it CAN change the environment in our home.  It can bring about more peace and less strife.  It can be a more calm  place, a happier place, a healthier place when we change ourselves.

Maybe you are one of those people who is still looking for that secret answer so that you can fix a child ... or any other person for that matter (of course none of us would EVER try to change our spouse ... and I'm using the sarcasm font right now).   If that's been your goal there is a lot of freedom in the following revised serenity prayer which has an anonymous author.

Lord grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change
the courage to change the person I can
and the wisdom to know it's me.

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