I remember the first time I read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements”. It was recently out and was getting a lot of buzz. Oprah was talking about it on her show (I’m showing my age…) and it kept coming up in conversation. Every time I read them; I was struck by how impossibly hard they sounded.
They are hard. But they are not impossible. Like everything I share, it’s a one day at a time suggestion. Sometimes, parenting feels like more like one hour or one minute at a time and that’s okay too. For now, let’s start by looking at just a couple of small ways you can apply these agreements to your family.
Be impeccable with your word.
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
-Don Miguel Ruiz
We can be impeccable with our word. As Gary Van Warmerdamn says, “Expressing yourself impeccably is to express yourself in the direction of truth and love. This includes expressing love, respect, and acceptance for yourself. The emotions of jealousy, envy, frustration, and sadness fall into the category of not being impeccable. Anger and fear usually fall into the category of not being impeccable also. However, there is the exception of a real-life threatening situation where natural fight or flight fear and anger are come from your emotional integrity. However, in most cases people don’t face real life-threatening situations very often.
Looking at the way we speak to our children is often uncomfortable and hard to accept. I invite you to ask your partner or others who spend time in the company of you and your children to offer their feedback. That takes a lot of courage but is often so enlightening. Be mindful not to label your child or call names. Don’t speak about them to others in a derogatory way.
How can you express yourself to your children with truth, love, and respect?
Don't Take Anything Personally.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.”
- Don Miguel Ruiz
This one is the hardest for me and one I’ve made daily actionable effort towards in the last year. My mantra of 2019 was “Make the most generous assumptions about people’s words and actions.” This is right in line with this agreement because often our first assumption is whatever someone said or did is about us. This is never truer than with our children.
Multiple times per week, parents ask me in coaching sessions, my son told me that I’m the worst mom ever?! Or he is going to find a new family?! Or my personal favorite from my own daughter at age 4, “You think you gave birth to me but you didn’t!” As I shared about last week, these are our children’s nuclear option – the only way they know to express, given their brain development and self-regulation, just how upset they are. It’s not about you. It never is.
How can you step back and not get caught up in what others are doing and saying?
Don't Make Assumptions.
“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”
-Don Miguez Ruiz
Parenting expert Heather Shumaker suggests that we “remove our adult lens” when we are looking at and thinking about children’s behavior. It’s something I share all of the time with parents because we are so prone to make assumptions. We often assign adult motives to children’s behaviors – motives they are not capable of having given their age and brain development. Why do we do this?
We make assumptions based on fear. As parents, we worry. We mostly worry about things that will never happen. When we slip into fear, generally about the future, we tend to make snap judgements based on assumptions. We don’t get curious – rather we get furious. We assume our children are out to get us or acting out AT us.
How can you pause when agitated or fearful and breathe before making an assumption?
Always Do Your Best.
“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”
- Don Miguel Ruiz
Raise your hand if you’re a perfectionist. So many of us are. It’s so hard to let ourselves off the hook when we make a mistake with our children. But it will happen. You are a human being living in the world. Perfection is not attainable. The only person expecting perfection is you. Be gentle on yourself. You can work to always do your best without the pressure of never making a mistake. You’re not able to do your best unless you’re taking care of yourself first. Whatever that means for you. Just do it.
Part of always doing your best means making a repair when need be. Modelling humanity and humility for our children is an essential part of the relationship you have with your children. Showing them how to repair a rupture in a relationship an invaluable gift and strengthens, rather than weakens, your connection.
How can you make sure you’re set up for success when it comes to parenting?
I encourage you to ponder these wise suggestions and look at how you can apply them to your family. So much of being a peaceful parent is being a mindful parent. Consider how you can bring your attention and focus to one the agreements over the next week. You will see a change in yourself and in your children.