There is a saying that my husband and I use regularly in our home that we’ve learned from having kids: sleep begets sleep. As naive parents we thought that if our baby or toddler missed a nap it would make him extra tired so he’d sleep really, really well that night. More experienced parents are shaking their heads and smirking about how foolish that sounds. In reality when a child misses sleep it makes him or her so wired that, not only are they incapable of functioning on a normal level and dealing with normal events, but they also have a harder time going to sleep at a later time. So no nap = a late night with a lot of tears, not all of those from the child. Hence, the formula we occasionally remind ourselves: sleep begets sleep.
I thought of this the other day as I took time to exercise one evening during the week. As I finished and returned to my regular schedule I felt motivated beyond my normal activities– I began making further plans to exercise, to improve myself personally, to work on my hobbies, and to practice skills that have been recently neglected. And this thought came to mind: good behavior begets good behavior. Endorphins rushing through my body after physical activity created positive thinking which encouraged more positive thinking, which increased my personal belief that I could engage in these activities and succeed at them. Likewise, when I am physically inactive, or when drowning in negative thought, my belief in future abilities is diminished. Good behavior begets good behavior, negative behavior begets negative behavior.
I imagine there are many areas of life where this principle could be applied. Is there commonly quarreling in your home, either between spouses or between parents & children? Perhaps positive or loving speech from one person will beget further positive speech from others. Does your life lack motivation or direction or even a belief in yourself? There is something to be said for self-affirmations, talking about good in order to promote good. Good begets good. Do you have a difficult neighbor who makes life hard for you or a family member? If you can start by being a good neighbor, the chances are high it will beget positive results.
My toddlers often miss naps or don’t sleep well and we all get to live with the super-fun results of that, but it doesn’t have to be compounded by reacting badly to it. When their screaming gets out of control I’ve found the most effective solution: I hold out my arms and ask if they need a hug. It doesn’t necessarily work 100% but the majority of the time they will fall into my arms and the tantrum stops instantaneously. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes I exacerbate the problem with my frustration, but when I can remember that good behavior begets good behavior I always come away pleased with the results (even if those results are just that I stayed patient during a tantrum.) Whether interacting with work colleagues, peers at school, family members, even facing public detractors, remember that sleep begets sleep…and positive behavior begets positive behavior. And when tantrums cease, either with toddlers or adults, everyone is happy.