Every night before we put the kids to bed, we all gather up on the couch or in the hallway by the kid's bedrooms and each person takes a turn saying two things that happened that day that they're thankful for and one thing that they're thinking about that's coming up.
We started doing this because my youngest son was a bit unsure about how to pray and despite my encouragement to "just talk to God like you were talking to a friend", he wouldn't pray before bedtime. I didn't want to push him and I didn't want him to fake it, so I shifted tactics. I asked him to tell me a couple things that happened each day that he was happy about and one thing that he was worried about.
Instantly, he started talking.
I smiled and listened to him go on and on and when he finished, I said, "Amen!" He looked a little surprised and said, "But I wasn't praying." I smiled again and told him, "Sure you were. There isn't some magic word or formula that you have to do to pray. You just talk to God like you did just now."
After that, I got the idea that we should have all the kids do this so that they can get comfortable with the idea of prayer and so that they have to actively think about the good things that happen to them every day. This helps them (and me) avoid taking the good things in life for granted.
I truly believe that even when the day sucks, there's still something good that happened that we can be thankful for. At the very least, the day could have been worse so I can be thankful that it wasn't that bad.
I love shooting. It has a calming effect on me. The time that I'm on the range affords me the option of being totally focused on the moment. Shooting safely requires your full attention. You can't be thinking about bills or appointments or chores. Just shooting. It's great.
I forget where I first heard the term "range therapy", but it's stuck with me. I'm pretty sure it was used tongue-in-cheek, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it wasn't far off the mark. Shooting has a therapeutic effect on me. That realization got me thinking, how many times do we pass on doing things we enjoy because we feel guilty about spending time and money on things we perceive to be simple entertainment? What if we thought about those things not only as being fun, but also as a form of therapy? Would we feel the same guilt about it then?
Therapy is something that people generally acknowledge as important and helpful and are willing to make time for. If shooting a rifle can have a similar effect on a person as talking with a counselor, why not?
In addition to the therapeutic effect, range time also provides an opportunity to connect with other people. Typically, I go to the range with a friend, but he had to cancel last time and my oldest had the day off from school so he joined me instead. He did pretty well.
I'm trying to teach my kids to take ownership for themselves. I want to teach them to be responsible and independent people. There are many different situations which provide me the opportunity to turn a mistake into a teachable moment.
One technique for teaching that I've had some success with is the "You can fix it, or I can fix it" approach. It's very simple and I've found it very effective. It doesn't work in every scenario, but when it's an option, it's one I tend to favor. Here's how it works:
I've had to "clean" the room a couple times, but the whole process takes me maybe 5 minutes.
The technique can be applied in many situations where the kid needs to take some corrective action that perhaps they don't want to take. Offering them the opportunity to take that action and solve the problem in a way that they prefer gives them ownership in the solution and teaches them how to solve problems. If they don't take you up on your offer, then you get to solve the problem however you see fit.
One of the better pieces of advice that I've heard about dealing with tragedies like natural or man-made disasters comes from Fred Rogers. Well, I guess it technically comes from Fred Rogers' mom.
Fred told a story about a time when he was a kid and something scary happened that made its way onto the news. Fred and his mom were watching TV to keep updated on whatever was going on and Fred tells how his mom tried to comfort him.
She told him, "Look for the helpers."
This is an outstanding piece of advice that puts the focus on the recovery and not on the tragedy. It reminds us that the situation is not outside the realm of action. Something can be done to make it better.
I want to take what I see as the next logical step both in supporting that plan and in strengthening our own intestinal fortitude. Looking for the helpers is great, but being one of the helpers is better.
Be the helper that others are looking for.