“Please stop teasing your brother!” I yelled for what seemed like the millionth time. Then I shuddered inwardly as I wondered how I must sound to our three boys. How often had I promised myself not to raise my voice? It suddenly hit me like a clap of thunder: maybe it really was my millionth time! Each day I found something to criticize, and my words of discouragement poked holes in fragile egos and deflated budding feelings of worth.
I had high expectations for our sons. I wanted them to be kind, polite, tolerant, forgiving, and respectful as well as faithful members of the Church. That was a lot to ask. What could I do to help them develop along those lines without shouting and criticizing them?
I determined to change my behavior, and I felt there were two areas I needed to work on: my attitude toward myself and my actions toward our boys. First I needed to stop criticizing myself for every mistake, every slip I made. My own feelings of worth suffered under my negative thinking. I decided to begin looking for things I did well during the day and make a mental note of them.
Next, for each of our sons I made a list of qualities he already possessed: David is generally cheerful, Mike is willing to help others, and Chris hasn’t missed a day of scripture reading since starting seminary. Then I listed a few areas that needed improvement: talking respectfully to parents, getting to bed on time, and being considerate of each other. My goal became to watch for times each day when they showed improvement in any of these areas and to praise them for it.
This all looked good on paper. But I quickly discovered my old habits of nagging and criticizing were hard to break. I decided to write down positive statements and practice saying them. I also learned to stop myself when I felt like raising my voice in the midst of a chaotic situation and stay silent until I could find a positive way to speak. Many times each day I offered a silent prayer asking for help and strength to overcome my negative words and feelings.
After several weeks, I began to see a marked difference in our home. It seemed a brighter, happier place to be, and our boys’ faces glowed with each positive remark. They even accepted correction and advice better, and we enjoyed being together more.
I have also learned to accept my own shortcomings and not let them discourage me from trying again. As I have focused on recalling the times I handled things well, I have felt courage and confidence filling my soul. I am so grateful that my behavior has improved. Now I say, “Thanks for helping your brother with his homework; you were so patient.” How nice if I could say that for the millionth time!