Hello! I am James Sarvis, the founder of the Leaning Institute, and I am excited about introducing you to a powerful tool that I created called “My family lines.”
For you to understand it and make it meaningful to you, I suggest you get a piece of paper and a pen and be ready to draw your Family Lines. Your Family Lines will influence what you and your children’s path in life will be like, your success in life, and your development. And everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is affected positively or negatively by Family Lines. So, to help you understand it, I’m going to explain my Family Lines. As I go along, I’m going to explain to you each of the 3 stages of Family Lines, which stage I am in, and how knowing about Family Lines has helped bring peace and understanding to me and my family.
The first stage is your home stage, with your parents and siblings. First draw a long horizontal line across the paper. Than draw a circle with a line (like a stick figure) and write D above it for dad, draw another next to it and write M for mom. Next, you are going to put you and each of your siblings on the line, starting with who is “closest” to mom or dad. Not necessarily the birth order, but who is closer as far as relationship. Every child is born on a parents line, and it never changes. In my situation the first child born was a girl. As soon as she was born my mom and dad got a new title, ONLINE parent and OFFLINE parent. My sister was on dads line, making Dad her online parent, and mom her offline parent. Then the second child was born, and she was on dads line also. Then the 3rd child was born and she was also on dads line! The first 3 children born were on dads line. You may ask, how does that work? I do not know. But, I have seen cases where all children were on one parent’s line, and none were on the others. It seems cruel that a parent with multiple children may never get to experience the feeling of being an online parent. Again, I don’t know why it happens that way. Back to my Family Lines. A fourth child was born and my mom finally gets a child on her line, another little girl. Then finally, I came along, the baby. The first boy, and I became number one on my moms line. I was my mom’s little buddy and nothing could come between her and I. My mom was my online parent, my dad was my offline parent.
At first it may be difficult to decide who’s on whose line, but as time goes by, it gets easier to see. I’m able to see my Family Lines clearly, looking back through time.
Although I felt lucky to have that closeness with my mom, this stage was difficult for me. I didn’t have the terminology at the time to understand why I couldn’t have the same closeness with my dad that I had with my mom. I would see other boys or cousins who seemed to be so close to their dads, but that wasn’t the case for me. The frustration came in because I didn’t have to work for the relationship with my mom, I was on her line. There was some kind of magnetic pull that brought us together, but no matter what I did, I could not have that with my dad. My dad was a good dad, who provided for me, but because of my dad’s path he didn’t feel comfortable creating Leaning Moments with me. My dad’s dad died when he was a baby, and he was not on his mom’s line, therefore he never experienced what it was like to be on a parent’s line and have that close relationship. Naturally there are more, what I call Leaning Moments, with the parent whose line you are on. The offline parent will have to be proactive in creating those Leaning Moments. If my dad and I would have known what to do, I’m confident we could of created a closer relationship.
Everyone’s path is as unique as their fingerprints. But everyone is still affected by Family Lines.
Let’s go back to your lines on your piece of paper. Take a minute if you have brothers and sisters and decide where each of you are on that line. If you are having trouble deciding whether you are on mom or dad’s line, ask someone who knows you well. Other people can usually see it much better than we can. Or maybe you are one of the lucky ones. I have seen that usually when people can’t decide whose line they are on, they have parents who are close, and who rarely argue. If you have siblings who you are extremely close to, you are also going to be “close” on the line, being on the same parents line. If you and your siblings are not very close, you will find that you are not close on the line either. You are most likely on different parents lines.
You may still be at this stage in life and do not have children yet, but regardless of where you are, I hope that accepting Family Lines can bring you and your family peace through understanding. The most important thing to remember is to be proactive in creating Leaning Moments, especially with whom it comes less naturally.
In my next article I will write about stage 2, which is the marriage or couple stage, when you have children of your own. Stay tuned.
Do you believe that it’s possible for families to become closer while going through divorce and child custody matters? I would say yes! And here’s why:
I have been an attorney for 30 years and have dealt with many custody matters. The most valuable tool that I had the last few years of practicing was by far Leaning Moments and My Family Lines. I created these tools and used them to allay the fears of those going through a custody matter and expecting it to be a long, drawn out, and uncivil process. And I was able to assure them that their story doesn’t have to be that way.
Knowing what I know, and the power of these tools, I believe that every family court guardian ad litem, judge, and attorney should focus on whose line the child is on, and be able to determine who the Leaners or non-Leaner’s are in a child’s life. Without this, how could the best interest of a child be properly determined? Only Leaners can produce Leaner Kids.
I have coached families that have actually grown stronger during the proceedings and post divorce. I have coached parents whose child was drawn to the other parent whose Family Line they were on, and they feared that the divorce would put an even bigger wedge between them. Instead, they developed a close relationship with that child.
I’ve followed some of the families I coached and have seen the whole family growing, rather than being devastated by divorce, which often causes irreparable damage.
Often I have asked my clients these questions to help them see a different perspective; Are you willing to fight for your children? The answer is always “yes.” Would you fight a big, scary, strong man for your children? And the answer is always, “yes.” Would you fight a bear, a tiger, or a lion for your children? And the answer is always, “yes.” So you would be willing to risk life and limb to fight for your children? “Yes.” I knew they were giving me rote answers. Then I would ask, would you be willing to love anyone and seek peace for your children? And this question always left them stopped in their tracks. Then I would narrow in on the most important question. Would you be willing to love or have peace with your children’s mom, dad, or grandparents, for the children? There are some that answered this question, “yes I am.” And the people who honestly gave that answer were the strong ones, that made a positive outcome predictable. Weak people need all the strength they can muster, and are consequently in fights often, in one way or another. Strong people rarely need their strength.
“In family court, there are way too many parents who are weak enough to fight for their children, and far too few who are strong enough to love for their children.” I can assure you that fighting parents will bring out a family courts disdain, but peace in the court brings out their admiration. It’s a wonderful feeling to leave with the courts blessing.
Tony Danza, American actor on his mother’s line, said that he used to get into street fights often, but once he took up boxing and became stronger, he no longer had the need to fight. The stronger a person is, the less they need their strength.
I believe that when people know better, they will do better, especially for their families. This is a critical juncture for your family. Who your children become depends on you. Like boxing did for Danza, my simple tools have helped parents to become stronger immediately.
Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
If you need help contact us, or have your attorney or guardian ad litem contact us https://theleaninginstitute.com/work-with-us/
In the introductory video to My Family Lines, https://youtu.be/cOWBgzsBFG4, we talked about the parent stage, and being an online parent or an offline parent. I spoke about the 3 different stages of life that are impacted by My Family Lines. We have stage 1: Home Life with mom and dad, 2: When you’re the parent, and finally stage 3: the grandparent or great-grandparent stage.
I am so thankful that by the time I got to the grandparent stage I had already discovered the power of Leaning Moments. All of my grandchildren, whether on my line or not, have positive predictability for Leaning moments. It’s almost impossible for me to describe the wonderful relationship I have with my grandchildren. This morning I got a phone call from my daughter, and I could hear my 1 year old grandson in the background saying, “pop-pop, pop-pop, pop-pop.” Even though they live a few hours away, and visits can often be infrequent, my baby grandson still feels that closeness between him and me. Positive predictability for Leaning Moments can be established even in long distance relationships. It’s about the quality of time, not the quantity.
Dr. Paul Ekman, American psychologist and professor, is known as the world’s most famous face reader. And, he states that you cannot control the small muscles in your face, they will always show the true emotions of your mind. He said that the voice is just as revealing. I believe that children are sensitive to this, too. You can’t fool a child. They can see the emotions reflected in your face, and feel the energy in your voice.
There was man who served on the board at the Institute, who for the sake of this article, we’ll call John. He held a Phd, and was a very smart and kind man. I sat across from him one day, and he told me about his family. He had custody of his two children, and I knew right away his son, 12 was on his line, his daughter, 10 was on her mother’s line. His face lit up with joy as he mentioned his son, but went down when he mentioned his daughter. Like Paul Ekman stated, you can’t control those small muscles in your face. He eventually opened up to me and said that his daughter was becoming quiet and drifting away from him. After explaining My Family Lines, he understood, and he really wanted to make things better for him and his daughter. I told him that the face that I saw when he talked about her is the same face that she sees, and she would feel that energy as well. I coached him and told him that before he went to her he needed to get himself in gear, and be ready to lean to her like he does his son. When I spoke with him later on he told me that he did as I suggested, and that he was enjoying a closeness with her that wasn’t there before. He said that now she was initiating the Leaning Moments, and this time his face lit up as he spoke about her. I knew that this would impact the direction of her life in a positive way.
As grandparents our roles are extremely important. Just as John learned, we too need to be proactive and intentional about the emotions we are emitting to our grandchildren. Their foundation is greatly influenced by us as grandparents, and our health is greatly influenced by the relationship we build with them.
Many people in history attribute their success to their grandparents. Carol Burnett, who praises her grandmother for not only being her rock, but inspiring her whole career. Oprah Winfrey, who states that, “I am where I am today because my grandmother gave me the foundation for success. Barack Obama, said about his grandparents, “they gave me love, a thirst for education, and a belief that we’re all apart of something larger than ourselves.” Eric Clapton said that his grandparents bought him his first electric guitar. Jamie Foxx dedicated his 2005 Academy Award to his grandmother for the impact she had on his life. Maya Angelou states that her grandmother is the greatest person she ever met. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and the world’s richest man said, he picked up his most crucial business skills from his grandfather, how to be resourceful, and self-reliant. He said that his grandfather also taught him that kindness often trumps intelligence.
To me it sounds like these people were all fortunate to have, what I call, Leaners as Grandparents. And how you treat your grandchildren, whether you are an online grandparent, or an offline grandparent, is a personal investment into your future, and into theirs. We see these stories as history, but what those grandparents had to do was to look into the future for their grandchildren. Each time they leaned, each time they encouraged, every lesson they taught, was an investment into their future.
Hi, my name is Elisha, and I am with The Leaning Institute. Recently we posted a video on My Family Lines, and I would like to share my journey, how it changed my perspective on how I parent my children individually, and how we maintain close and wonderful relationships in the midst of divorce.
When I first heard about the concept of Family Lines, I immediately could say with confidence that my daughter is on her dad’s line, and my son is on mine. This is something that everyone can feel, either with their children, or with their parents. We just didn’t have a name to give it. A man I spoke to yesterday said that when he and his sister talked about their dad, it was like they were talking about two totally different people. But, he and his mom were like two peas in a pod. Likewise, I could tell early on that my daughter was drawn to her dad. I remember when she was about 3 years old she said to me, “Mommy, me and daddy have been best buddies for a very long time!” I believe she was telling me then where her allegiance was. When she was a toddler it frustrated me that she would calmly sit on her dad’s lap and let him sing and read to her, but she often squirmed away from me when I wanted to snuggle. I think she could sense my desperation! Most of the time I didn’t let it bother me, I just chalked it up to her being a “daddy’s girl.”
When my baby boy came along, though, I knew there was a difference. He was attached at my hip from day one, and as he got older he would defend me to the death. I could do no wrong in his eyes.
A mother’s love is a special thing that expands with each child that is born, and I love both my children so much. But there is a different energy with the child on your line. I accepted that my daughter was not on my line long before I had the words to define it, but what I didn’t know was how to keep our lines from drifting apart as she got older, and as her dad and I drifted apart.
This key phrase changed everything, “Positive Predictability for Leaning Moments.” With my son, I didn’t have to make an extra effort to lean to him because it came naturally for him to come to me for hugs and Leaning Moments. We charged each other’s spirit throughout the day without having to try. My daughter on the other hand, didn’t come to me as naturally. What I came to realize was that I needed to be proactive for her to get the same amount of Leaning Moments from me as my son did. Now that I know this, when she comes down for breakfast, I stop what I am doing and lean to her, give her a hug and say, “good morning my beautiful princess!” Every morning starts with her spirit being charged first. The beautiful thing is that more and more she comes to me for hugs, and says, “I need mommy time.”
When their father and I seperated my number one goal was for the children to feel at peace, no matter what our issues were. Because I knew and accepted Family Lines, I realized that the worst thing I could do for mine and my children’s relationships was to disturb the peace between me and their father, especially around the child on his line. That would only cause her to be defensive of her dad and push her away from me. If I can’t say something nice, I do not say anything at all.
The best thing I can do for the children is to lean to them both consistently, and try to never do anything that puts a wedge between them and their dad.
We have seen through our research that mom and dad being close brings the whole family closer, regardless of whose line the children are on. It’s not uncommon for people with close parents to have trouble deciding whose line they are on. So, in the case of divorce, It’s so important to keep those lines from being separated as much as possible. And now, I can honestly say that my relationship with my daughter has never been sronger.
There is harmony that has come with understanding Family Lines, not only for me and my children, but also between me and my mother. I know how Abbi feels, not being on her mother’s line. Understanding that has actually made me feel closer to them both. I have peace, realizing it was never my fault. It’s not her fault either. That energy she has with me and my siblings is just different, it’s not a bad thing. I’m glad she can experience having children on her line, like my son is on mine. Now I can relax. Now I know that the best gift I can give my mom is “positive predictability for leaning moments,” without worrying about what I will get in return, yet reaping so many benefits.
Please feel free to share my story if you know someone who is experiencing tension or frustration with a parent or child. And thank you for reading my story with My Family Lines.
“If you want the world to be a better place, recognize those who are already making it better.” -James Sarvis
There was a story that went viral about a woman named Heather Gooch who was on an airplane with her 9-month-old baby boy, Aiden. Much like most babies on an airplane, her son started getting antsy. Heather was feeling stressed about this, but it wasn’t long into the flight before a flight attendant named Anissa noticed them, and offered to hold him. Aiden smiled and waved at passengers as Anissa walked him up and down the aisle. “Although this may not be a story that stands out from the rest, I wanted to thank her and let her know how appreciated she is,“ Gooch wrote. “We so often hear about the negative things going on so I wanted to share this story of someone who made my trip a little brighter.” Gooch said that Anissa deserves to be recognized for putting her baby on “cloud 9.”
Several years ago I was staying in Nashville Tennessee at the Hampton Inn near the Vanderbilt University, when I encountered a woman named Miss Anita, the breakfast hostess in the dining area. There were several tables in there with maybe 15-20 guests. As I was eating, I noticed Miss Anita going over to guests, and quietly placing little boxes of mints beside them. She was saying something that I couldn’t hear as she was putting the little boxes down. Soon, she worked her way over to me. I saw her hand place a little box on my table, and she said in a kind and spirit-charging voice, “Good morning, sir. I hope you have a blessed day.” Then she went on her way. I sat there thinking about how good her kind words and simple gesture made me feel, and how much I appreciated it. After I finished eating, I saw Miss Anita standing as if she was waiting for someone who needed her service. I approached her, and I thanked her for the little gift and the kind words. Then, I asked her how long she had been doing that for guests, and she told me she’d been doing it for years. I asked her if any one had ever recognized her, or thanked her directly for doing it, and she said no. But, she said people remembered her when they came back. She told me about a lady and a little girl who were excited to see her, and she smiled as she said it.
I told her at The Leaning Institute it was part of my mission to recognize Leaners like herself, and I gave her $50. She said that she really appreciated it so much and that things had been tough for her lately; and, that recognition was a bright moment for her. Miss Anita deserved being recognized.
Another Leaner story came from my Amish friend, Regina. When her little boy was seriously ill with pneumonia, she had to stay in the children’s hospital for several days and nights. The first night she had to sleep in a chair next to him. But when I brought her husband back to visit the next day, she had a bed in their room. She had the biggest smile as she said, “A Leaner Nurse got me a bed.” She knew that I would know what she meant by a “Leaner Nurse.” Regina was so grateful. That bed brought much needed comfort and the nurse charged her spirit during a scary and difficult time.
I think most of us know the difference between a Leaner Nurse vs a Non-Leaner Nurse when we or a loved one has had to stay in the hospital. This Leaner Nurse and others like her deserve to be recognized.
Whether it’s a doctor, a teacher, a waiter, a policeman, a nurse, or anyone who makes your day a little better by leaning to you with kindness, recognize them. The mission at The Leaning Institute is to recognize Leaners, preserve the ones we have, and foster new Leaners.
If you want the world to be a better place, recognize those who are already making it better.
These articles are co-written by James and Elisha, based on the books and work created and founded by James.