And it makes me want to throw a tantrum worthy of a two year old. What makes them think they can talk to each other like that? As a person who avoids conflict whenever possible, these fights cause me a great deal of stress.
There are multiple schools of thought on how to handle these situations. “Just let them work it out,” some experts will say. But I have observed my children. They simply don’t possess the tools for working things out on their own. The altercation ends with both parties in tears and usually me adding my own raised voice to the mix. Letting them work it out was not working.
So the other day, I sat them down. At seven and four, they are mostly capable of rational thought. Depending on the moment.
“You two seem to get frustrated with each other really easily. I want you to tell me, and think about it before you answer. Do you hear me talking to you or your dad that way?” I don’t know why I was so sure they would say no. They didn’t though. Much to my surprise, they didn’t hesitate to knock me out with the truth. “yes.’ They replied in unison.
It took me a few days to come out of denial. Then I heard myself.
“Time to get your socks and shoes on.”
I sigh. I roll my eyes. “Do you have to question everything? Just put your socks on.”
“I can’t find my socks.”
“You were just wearing socks five minutes ago. What did you do with them.”
“I don’t know.”
“So find them!” More sighing. “What is taking you so long?”
My kids could make a ton of money in Vegas with their disappearing sock tricks. It drives me crazy. I’ve threatened to hot glue their socks to their feet. (I make idle threats sometimes). But they are kids. They are by nature irresponsible.
They don’t turn four and magically know that they need to keep track of socks, shoes and coats. Someone needs to train them. More effectively, apparently. I put unrealistic expectations on them, then get frustrated when they don’t make my standard. Not cool. I was teaching them by example to be impatient and rude.
“Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
So I sat them down again. I said, “The Bible tells us to be kind. From now on, in this house, we will be kind when we speak together. We are all going to work on this together. I want Jesus to be happy when he hears the way we talk to each other. I don’t want him covering his ears.”
So about a hundred times a day, I now here myself saying, both to them and to me, “what would be a more kind way to say that?”
My oldest has no problem catching himself and coming up with something pleasant to say. My youngest has a harder time. So I walk him through it.
“I didn’t know you were saving that Lego building for something special. I should have asked before I wrecked it.” I make him repeat after me. He hates this exercise and I am pretty sure he has changed his behavior more because he resents my interference than anything else. I will take whatever works.
We focus on how our words or actions made the other person feel. We talk about how to express our feelings without getting upset. We talk about what to do if you are having a hard time calming down (Walk away. Run if you have to. Count to 10. Again if you have to).
And I am learning right along with them. I am working hard at reigning in my spiritual gift of sarcasm. This project takes way more work than I anticipated. At first, it involved me involving myself in every single fight. No matter how unimportant, they needed to know that the principal was true no matter what. I don’t have to be quite so involved now as they are catching on.
How we phrase things makes a lot of difference. We were getting ready to leave today and I told them to put on socks and shoes.
I felt like sighing and rolling my eyes. Instead, I said. “You don’t need to ask why. You need to obey.”
“I can’t find my socks.”
“Let’s find you a pair. And when we get home, you can tuck them right into your shoes so when it’s time to leave again later, you will know right where they are.”
Nobody cried. Nobody threw fits. Weird.
I’m sure we will backslide a bit on our journey, but at least we are moving in the same direction. Siblings may not be matched up in temperament or interests, but that’s no reason to tolerate rudeness or meanness. I married a guy who’s temperament is vastly different than mine, but I managed to fall in love with him. Siblings can find common ground too. It’s a whole lot easier though if their parents lovingly guide them to it.