Just About Done

TEACHING THE JOY OF COMMUNICATION and RELATIONSHIPS

I once knew a middle-aged man, an accountant, who had a ledger-book-size Christmas-card list. In this thick book all the pages were filled; there were hundreds and hundreds of names. “Business contacts?” I asked. He glanced over, paused for a moment as though considering whether he should tell me something important, then said, “No, they’re relationships.” He anticipated my next question and went on in his accounting terminology, “Every relationship you form, no matter how small, if it is genuine, can be an asset of eternal duration. No other entry can cancel it out. Some of us spend all our time on temporary assets: Money, positions, achievements. We ought to spend more on the eternal assets like relationships. Whenever I earn one, I make an entry on my Christmas card list.”
I watched the accountant closer from then on and found that he practiced what he preached. When he met someone–on a plane, in his business, at a PTA meeting–his attitude seemed to be, “What can I learn from you? What is interesting and unique about you?” For him, life was a fascinating kaleidoscope of relationships, of endless people, each endlessly interesting and each offering more potential joy than a new car or a new position.

How To

General ideas.
1. Develop a tradition of listening. Really listen.
2. Have a sense of humour. Laugh at your own mistakes and laugh with children at every opportunity.
3. Always encourage children to hug and make up after a disagreement.
4. Show romantic love between parents: Holding hands, kissing as you leave, opening the car door, sitting close together, avoiding harsh words, emphasising loving words.
5. Teach and explain the Golden Rule.
6. Role reversal: Let the children play parents and you play child, so they see and appreciate your problems.
Communicate.
1. Speak candidly, graphically, logically to children.
2. Help children write letters–you write what they express. Praise them for phrasing things well.
3. Give lavish praise whenever children explain or say anything particularly well.
4. At dinner, encourage a child to talk about something that he knows a lot about–perhaps something he has just learned and is proud to know.
5. Talk on the phone with children whenever possible.
6. Encourage children to take advantage of any speaking opportunities. Help them really communicate to an audience.
Relationships.
1. Make their relationship with you a truly beautiful one.
2. Talk out disagreements. Sit them down face to face to work out problems or disagreements they have with each other.
3. Don’t always step in on children’s relationships or try to steer them too much–let them work things out. (My children were having a terrific fight in the back seat of our station wagon once when I had laryngitis. I found that they worked it out better on their own than they would have with my direction.)
4. Do something special for your children to stress the importance of your friendship with them. Take them for a drive, or bring them a surprise.
5. Play the game “Which is the better way?” in which children act out a good and bad way of deciding who should have the first turn, getting the dishes done after Sunday dinner etc.

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