I live in Utah. There are no train tunnels in Utah. On a recent trip to London, England to teach self-government principles there, we found ourselves alone in a maze of tunnels under the city of London.
At first our friend, Jason, told us about the tunnels and which ones to take. He even took us on a training trip through the tunnels so that we could feel more confidently about underground travel and to get a vision of where we were going and how to get back, when the time arrived.
After our first, quick tunnel training, my friend Jason Economides encouraged us by telling us we would be fine and not to worry. Then we took off on a huge train ride from London to a new land, Bournemouth. We didn't know much about where we were going, except that we needed to go there. We knew we were on the right train, but weren't sure what to do when we got there, or how to get back when it was time. Our hotel was in London.
After a nice visit to Bournemouth, we found our way back to the train station and boarded for London. Following our arrival in London, we went back into the tunnels to try to find our way home to our hotel.
At first we tried to trace our steps back the way we came earlier that day. But, it had been too long. We weren't sure which way to go.
We looked at maps and stared at signs. “What are we going to do?” we thought. “And, where's the bathroom in this place?”
For a short time we stood staring and hoping that our memory of earlier that day would lead us down the right tunnel and to the right train to get on next. Soon we realized standing and waiting for some lightning-bolt was not the answer to our problems.
So, we started moving forward; not quite sure if we were doing it right, but at least going somewhere. Then we saw him, the tunnel employee in the bright green jacket.
First things first. We asked, “Where is the bathroom?”
Then we asked, “And what way do we go to get to Knightsbridge?”
The kind worker, recognizing that we were clueless, and not only pointed toward the bathroom, but also pointed us toward the right tunnel.
After taking our first train, we had to get off and switch tunnels again. This was difficult. There were no workers around this time. But, just as we were thinking we might have to gamble and pick any train, we saw a big sign which showed our stop and which train platform to wait on to get the right train.
When we came out of that tunnel and saw our hotel we were so relieved. We were back! We had done what we set out to do, and didn't go off course too badly. We were safe and together!
The best part of the tunnel journey was when Spencer and I looked at each other and said, “Instead of taking the double-decker bus to see the sights tomorrow, do you want to take the tunnels? I think it could be easier and warmer in this winter weather.”
Raising Children Is No Different!
I hope you already see that this real story is actually an allegory for parenting and life. No matter if you live around train tunnels or not, I'm sure you know the feeling of not knowing how to get somewhere you want to go. Some people feel that way when they come to Utah actually, because most of our streets are only numbered instead of named as most places do.
I also hope it was easy to see that often times you have to learn new skills to get to your destination safely. You may need a guide along your parenting journey. Likewise, you may need someone else to ask questions to along the way. There is nothing wrong with this.
Historically, training parents has been the role of parents. When we become parents, we ask our parents how to be parents. But, sometimes our parents don't know all the answers for our times or for what we want as parents. This is when we might need someone else to help.
If we don't have the parenting skills already, we could end up just standing there feeling lost and thinking, “What do I do about this behavior? Maybe if I wait, the answer will just come to me.” Despite what people may say, raising kids effectively has nothing to do with luck.
Although that can happen, it is rather unlikely. In order to grow, we have to take action. In order to learn and make positive changes in our lives we have to start moving.
Asking questions long the way is the best way to learn. This helps a person apply a small principle first and then move on to another principle when they are ready. This model of learning is the most effective. Little bit by little bit, makes all the knowledge stick.
Understanding The Signs
So, what do the signs represent? Well, there are signs along our educational/parenting journeys too. For instance. If you feel yourself start to breath quickly and clench your teeth, that is a sign that you are about to go down the wrong tunnel. It is a warning sign. Or, if you feel your child connect to you while you calmly correct them in the spirit of understanding, then that spiritual, heart to heart feeling is a sign that you are going down the right tunnel.
Learning to read these signs and many others is a skill and takes practice. But, is essential for learning self-government.
Self-government is, “Being able to determine the cause and effect of any given situation, and possessing a knowledge of your own behaviors so that you can control them.” (Nicholeen Peck Parenting A House United )
Self-government is knowing what tunnel you want to go down to get to your destination, as well as which tunnels could lead you to ruin. And, self-government is learning how to read the signs. Your physical and emotional signs as well and the signs of your family members, so that you can help them learn self-government too. Reading physical, emotional and spiritual signs clearly creates good parenting success instead of bad parenting frustrations.
The tunnels of London were a grand learning adventure! But, not quite as grand as the learning that is happening while I raise my children and teach them and myself self-government.
If you need someone to ask your hard parenting questions to or to learn how to read the parenting signs better, then you will want to look at my new Teaching Self-Government DVD Set and Implementation Course.