Editor's Note: Today, I am very pleased to welcome Brian and Nissa Gadbois to our CatholicMom.com family of contributors. I am looking forward to learning from their faith filled example of faith and family. Welcome Brian and Nissa! LMH

Agents of Change

If we really want to make a change in our families, we must be willing to model for them the changes we want to see. It isn’t enough to simply say that “this is the way things are going to be”. We cannot expect our children – or even our spouses – to do what we say. They are much more likely to do what we do. And when a couple “does” together, the effect on the family is wondrous.

Have you ever noticed that the behaviours we see in our children and spouses are often a mirror of our own behaviours? It is sometimes difficult to admit. How many times have we thought, in a fit of temper, or in a reactionary moment “Oh, my goodness! I sound just like my mother (or father).” If we stop and listen or watch our children, we might just find ourselves saying “Oh, my goodness! They sound just like me.”

We want to be able to say that with satisfaction and delight. We must model the qualities we wish our families to display. That is challenging. It means surrendering our pride and being willing to be the vanguards of change. It means being mindful of our own behaviours in the moment – even before the moment. We must admit our weaknesses and make an effort to overcome them.

Actions Speak Louder

If we want our family to have graceful speech, we must learn to control our own language. That can be difficult to achieve if we have grown up around rough talk, especially in stressful periods. If we want a family that works well together, we must be willing to take the time to serve our spouse and children. If we want to be more prayerful families, we must pray. If we want a family that is more patient with each other, we must learn to slow down, to make eye contact, and hear what another person’s needs are.

We must mean what we say, and show it by putting it into practice for ourselves.
Often, the single most important component to changing ourselves is slowing down. When we are hurried, we become reactionary rather than thoughtful. When we are reactionary, we turn to our basest instincts to solve the problem at hand. This often leads to feelings of guilt, and generally provokes more trouble. If we can consider before responding, we act effectively and demonstrate appropriate coping skills.

Another strategy for changing undesirable behaviours is the use of an object or phrase to stop ourselves as soon as we realize that we are reacting. There is a story about a famous actor who kept a rosary in his pocket to remind himself not to use profanity. Phrases like “red light!”, or short ejaculatory prayers can also be helpful in regaining composure. Eventually, we will be able to see a troublesome situation arising before it becomes a crisis; and be ready to handle it with aplomb.

Copyright 2011 Brian and Nissa Gadbois