Tuesday, December 18, 2012

About Living Small - Attitude: Part 2

Sorry, not a great picture, but I was trying to emphasize the "closeness." It's the best one I had.

Recently I wrote a part 1 post about attitude, and what you might encounter as far as people's attitude toward you once you decide to tell them how you're planing on changing your lifestyle to one of smaller living.  Before you ever get that far, you should be considering some other very real issues you're going to be having with the attitudes of certain other people: the ones in your home.

Attitude: Part 2

I want to say at the outset that we are not perfect family and any one can do this, but wrong or bad attitudes can make it very, very difficult.  If the whole family understands this and has made a quality decision to give their best effort you are WAY ahead of the game.   Notice I said "quality decision"  and "best effort."  Rephrased, that means we are always working toward get along and never making excuses to not hold up our end of things.  We determined to hold ourselves responsible for the outcome of things.  No one can do it for you or stop you from it you once you made that quality decision.  Does this mean we always get it right?  Hardly!  But we mean to.

Having said that, allow me a little bit of bragging room, because I have got a great family!

My kids have been amazing.  As a result of the way we raised these guys, they are very family oriented.  We have always spent a lot of time, in fact, most of our time, in close proximity to each other.  When we lived in a bigger house we still sat together at the table for school or just for talking, and most of our recreational activities at home were carried out within eye shot of each other.  When we'd do things outside of the home for recreation, we were usually all together for that, as well.  We are sort of "groomed" for this kind of thing already.

We like each other.  It's really wonderful that we do, but it's also very beneficial to like each other, and to become more likable yourself, when you live in tight quarters.  Most people never think of that.  Many of the people I've talked to bring up troubles and issues and circumstances and this child or that spouse, how so-and-so is on their nerves, when the truth is, they just don't like their family situation.

"What?  I love my family!"

...but do you like them? I realize the rancor that a statement like that could generate, but I see it all the time.  There's a huge difference between whether or not you like them or you love them.  Some people are easier to love from across town, over the phone.  What about these people you live with?   It's different with them.  There is more at stake.  The investment is greater.  The repercussions of your ability to deal with them is immediate and can effect the outcome of everything.  You don't simply visit them and leave when you're tired.  You can't hang up on them when you need to go study.

You don't have that latitude with your family.  If you stop and think about it you know you shouldn't allow yourself to have an attitude like that anyway.  It's a cultivated habit to appreciate and be grateful for your family. It has to go beyond a tip of the hat in a passing conversation: I love my kids, I love my husband. You have to get beyond it, but you never will by complaining and indulging in selfishness. You have to mean to appreciate mundane, everyday things in your life, on purpose, even if they happen to be your family members, and even if they happen to be on your nerves.

First thing: stop complaining.  It defeats everyone who hears it and worse, it will defeat your efforts to make this work out.  It's selfish and self serving anyway.  Stop it.

Most people who say, "We could never live like that!"  really mean that they couldn't live that close together.  If you have a mindset that says you can't be in that close of proximity to one another for an extended period of time, then you can't.  Maybe you are unwilling.  Maybe you are just unprepared.  If you are unwilling, you have to become willing or else you won't be able to make it happen.   Don't be the one in your family that makes it hard on the rest.  If you are unprepared to make a move of this sort, you can fix it.

You could begin to cultivate it into your family right now. It's never, ever too late or too early to  make  changes.  In fact, you make them everyday, anyway, to adjust to life as you know it, you're just not as keenly aware of it when there are no other big changes going on around you.  Make it a point to incorporate some small changes into your day to day life.  Change things a little at a time starting with things that won't be "make or break" issues for you.  That will keep the stress level down while you "practice" changing.

It's certainly incumbent upon the parents to prepare the children for it.  Diligence in the small things is key.  Maybe there's not time to "break them in" before you move.  Even in a situation where it's necessary to move NOW, and a sudden approach has to be the one to take,  it's my opinion (just my opinion -- I'm not you, and I'm not the be all-end all authority) that things should go on as normally as possible.  No new rules, no huge changes except when the need presents itself.

For example they can't play with every toy they have in the middle of a floor that may only be ten by ten available open feet.  The new rules are: put up all your other things first, scoot to the side, keep the toys contained to a certain area.  That was our rule anyway, but we weren't always diligent.  Now we have to be, so, no screaming and shouting and stress, just reaffirm the old rules more often and with more diligence until they are habits.

You can't force them to understand and you can't make them endure it like an adult might.  This is likely going to be somewhat traumatic for everyone, and if you think a child is going to handle it like an adult, you'd better think again.  "Well, I'll make them.  They have no choice, neither do we, and I'm the parent, they'll do as I say."  True, true, true and true, but you are asking for problems if you have such an approach.  You have to assess and adjust your own attitude.  You can't fix your kids or your spouse, but you can fix yourself if you will put forth the effort and diligence it takes.  Other things fall into place when we fix our own attitudes.  You have to mean it.  It has to be a commitment.  You can't decide in six months that poor ol' you is the only one giving effort and give up trying.  That is NOT a "quality" decision.  You Make It Work.

We're not just talking about cooperation here.  This is about putting yourself in the role of a servant. If we look out for the comfort and well being of the others first, it will work.  Getting everyone to do that at one time is the trick.  It rarely happens.  On a more positive note, however, is this: rarely are we all having "one of those days" at the same time, either, and since we have committed to being servant minded, we can help the others through it, or at very least, not add more pressure to the situation.

It works.  It always works.

This requires a common purpose and a commitment to the objective and the family's success.  It puts a great burden on everyone.  The parents must first and foremost make the decision to be committed for the right reasons and to make whatever changes are necessary to promote the success of the venture.   It's not for the immature, the selfish or the emotionally needy.   This is going to sound tough, I know, but grow yourself up first.  Be harsh on yourself and crack that whip.  Until you can control yourself you shouldn't inflict yourself on others in closer, more intimate spaces.

All these things are good counsel, sound rules and truth for any life, but when you condense things down to a smaller area it becomes obvious and expedient to practice them with diligence NOW.

It's really not as complicated as all this sounds. The only reason I've gone to this kind of effort to explain it is because in all my time counselling and whatnot I understand that many people just don't "get it."  It's really very simple: Love one another.  Remember the Golden Rule: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you,do ye also unto them."  Extend the same common courtesy inside the home with your family that you would with people outside the home.  Be nice, be helpful, be forgiving, and be friendly -- or else be the problem.

OK, I'll get off of this subject for a while.  Next time I want to talk about some of the necessary adjustments we had to make in our habits and routines.  Some of them may be fairly obvious, but some may surprise you.

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