"Why isn't my laundry done? I told you I need to wear my blue shirt tonight! You never listen to me! What have you been doing all day?"
My son's angry face confirmed what I suspected, but had been avoiding. I had become a servant in my own home; my children were the rulers.
Numerous stories like mine - about angry, demanding adolescents - had crossed my desk every week at the women's center where I served as head of counseling. The families had all been placed in counseling, but not much was happening. The respected techniques we taught at the center weren't working. They focused on straightening out the mess after the mess was made - and were just not powerful enough to do the job.
"Wouldn't it be easier to make sure we didn't get angry in the first place?" I asked. That was the answer, of course. But how to achieve it?
I asked a colleague - a noted family counselor - to help. He had us post sheets of paper on the walls of our family room. Each member of the family listed his/her dreams, desires, wants. There they were - all of my kids' demands, written in thick black ink on the family room wall. Anytime I wanted to know what they expected me to do for them, all I had to do was walk into the family room. We weren't making much progress.
I decided to try a more positive approach, one we use to help business people tap into their potential to create prosperity. The tool I decided upon had a record of increasing sales and cash flow almost immediately - but it also had a side benefit. It increased feelings of appreciation.
It was a simple technique called the "Good News Board." Business owners and managers were instructed to hang a blackboard in a common area of their office - and to list items of "good news" as they occurred during their workday. Although they didn't realize it, the Good News Board enabled them to focus on the things they were trying to create, rather than on office problems, gossip, and griping.
Would it work in a family?
I hung my Good News Board in our kitchen, and called a family meeting to discuss its use. I pitched the merits of listing our family's good news.
"Everyone will feel so much better," I coached. "We'll all begin to appreciate each other. We'll start working together as a team. Who knows? Maybe it will make our money grow - just like it does in businesses - and we can take more vacations together."
Silence greeted me, and so I jumped up and wrote a few items on our Good News Board.
My son asked, "Is the meeting over yet? I've got friends waiting outside."
The counselor in me just wouldn't give up. I knew that my Good News Board would work. I kept listing items - just a few each day. I didn't try to praise the kids for doing things right, such as finishing their homework, or going to bed on time, but I jotted down things that I appreciated - things that brought me relief or joy.
1. We got that $100 refund I requested from VISA today.
2. Anne got an "A" on the science test she was worried about.
3. Bob opened a new account for our business today.
4. Jeffrey repaired the front tire of his bike - and can go to the store for me again.
5. Kerry Lynn told me that she liked having me around.
6. Colin washed off the back deck and I was able to enjoy my morning tea outside today.
7. One of my clients at work told me I was a really good listener.
At first, no one else used the board - but on the fourth day, my daughter Anne wrote something: "I made up with Marty."
Soon, the others added items - personal items concerning school events that made no sense to me. Within a week, I sensed a change. There were more smiles in our home, less conflicts.
Within a month, I knew the Good News Board worked. My son came home from school, wrapped his arms around me and said, "I'm sorry I was so rough on you for a while there, Mom. I guess I was going through something."
Our family had learned how to focus on the things we loved most - each other. Love and appreciation were flowing again.
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