Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoughts on Humility

Yesterday evening a phone conversation with an emotionally-volatile family member turned into a fight. Even staying home at Christmas doesn't mean that one escapes these conflicts completely. My peace-loving husband helped me step away from the argument (because, of course, I was in the right, and the other person was bound to recognize it eventually!) and end the call (rather abruptly, it must be told).

My husband later mentioned to me that when he was younger, he and his family had obtained some family counseling. He said that it didn't seem to have made any difference. But his parents, particularly his father, really do seem to have changed over the years; they are kind, loving, and supportive of their children, even while not agreeing with everything done by said children. My in-laws can also calmly discuss parenting mistakes they made in the past. My father and mother, on the other hand, would never have taken us for family counseling; to my mother, counseling was something other people (especially my dad) needed, and to my father, counseling was a waste of time and money. Time has not made it easier to be my parents' child. (Although distance certainly has.)

Is it the counseling that made the difference? I doubt it. I think this is one of those correlation-causation confusions. Rather than counseling helping many parents, I think it is likely that those who are humble enough to seek help from outsiders are the same parents who eventually listen to their children as though they are people with their own valid thoughts and experiences and allow themselves to learn from their children.

Not that I'm against counseling per se. But it might be a tad oversold. How much good can a counselor do someone who is not teachable? Someone who thinks that they know best and no other viewpoint can be admitted as more correct?

I value humility. Great accomplishments require a certain balance of confidence and humility, else one will never start a task nor change direction when falling into error.

The greatest responsiblity of my life is to raise my children well. In undertaking to teach them, I am fairly confident that I am doing the best thing for them, given our situation, talents, and temperaments. However, I must also constantly re-evaluate whether what we are doing is optimal or a mistake. That's not easy. Pessimistic second-guessing can be debilitating, but arrogant mulishness on a given path might lead to even worse consequences. What to do?

At present, I read. A lot. Education books, blogs, and news. Fortunately, I like to read. :) I regularly ask for divine help to be a good mother and teacher to my children. I run my ideas by my husband and others who know my children. I put them in a public charter school setting part-time, which allows me to get feedback from professional teachers. And this year, as required by Colorado law, I will have dd8 take a "nationally standardized achievement test". (I know some homeschoolers are vocal in their dislike for testing, but I see such testing as necessary to know whether I'm doing as good a job as I think I am relative to public schools. If my teaching methods are better for my child than full-time public education, then the results of the test should be gratifying.)

By striving to always exercise humility in my parenting, I hope to give my children the best start in life that I can. If, in turn, I manage to teach some humility to them through a good example, perhaps in twenty years we'll all be able to enjoy holiday phone calls that don't end in harsh words and an abrupt disconnection.

"True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us."

— Tryon Edwards

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