I’ve heard a new common cliche from lots of young moms over the last several years. “I want to make sure I do everything right so I don’t mess my kid up.” Or, “I wonder how much counseling my kid will need because of something I’ve inflicted on them?”
While I understand that it is easy to get in the mindset that we can completely determine the outcome of our kids’ future by our actions, I wonder if our inaction might be causing more of a problem?
For several years I’ve been paying close attention to family interactions when I’m with friends who have teens. As I watch the way some siblings treat each other, I wonder if their parents understand the pain and potential damage that is being caused by the demeaning way they treat each other. My next thought is, “What are they doing to keep their children from believing the verbal lies that are being inflicted?”
First let me say that I get that there can be sibling rivalry, jealousy, and sometimes bullying even in the best of families. Kids will be kids and as I’ve often heard it said, “If you don’t believe in the devil, you haven’t had kids.” Truer words have not been spoken.
I’ll admit there have been cruel things that have taken place even in my own family. My kids have hurt each other at times doing deplorable things all in the name of “fun”. I’ve seen the despicable way my children have behaved toward each other at times. And as my kids have become older, I can still see remnants of those harsh words that were spoke to them by their siblings.
When my kids were younger, I’ll admit that I didn’t have the skill set to impact those situations in a healthy way. Responses such as “quit doing that to your sister” or “leave your brother alone” were uttered without much action. Oh, sure, I might send the perpetrator to their room or issue a consequence as a way of getting their attention, and I might even interact with the child that was hurt and tell them I was sorry. But now, I can see that those actions were not enough.
As I work with women across the country, I see the same wounding in many. Wounds delivered in childhood or the teen years by people that either want to be seen as “better than” trying to raise the bar in their social ladder or those who because of their own pain choose to hurt others. The scars are still there. And it makes me so sad.
So what are some things we can do to help our kids learn that others are precious? How can we help them see that jealousy, one-ups-man-ship, and name calling and other demeaning gestures have no place in our homes?
- Take inventory of how you and your husband speak to one another and to the kids. Is it something that builds the other up or tears them down? If you discover that your own lips utter put downs and disparaging remarks, take steps to change the habit.
- Rally the troops (hopefully both parents together on the issue) and have conversation about what the Bible says about these behaviors. Take a stance on what the new behaviors will be in your home. If everyone is speaking the same or similar language, i.e. disparaging remarks, come up with a system so that the “receiver” has an opportunity to say something that sparks an apology. I know one family used “ouch” as a reminder when something said was hurtful.
- When you become aware of the behavior, call a halt. Let’s face it, sometimes a cooling off period in their room is a good place to start. After they’ve cooled down, have a one-on-one talk about appropriate behavior and how they have hurt the other sibling. Encourage them to apologize for the offense. (Be sure to teach them how to give a full, sincere apology.)
- And most importantly, be sure to console the underdog. Help the child name his feelings. Listen as he tells his story. Show tenderness and assure the child that what was said over him is not true. Let him know that you are on his side and no one should treat him that way. Pray together asking God to let him forgive his brother for what he did. Maybe even encourage him to go to the sibling (with a parent there to coach) and let him tell how he feels and how he hopes it won’t happen again. Make sure this child feels heard and knows he didn’t deserve what he received from his brother.
I know that kids do dumb things at times and our kids need to be able to deal with a little lighthearted teasing so they can deal with the real world; however, don’t we want our home to be a safe haven for our kids? What if our homes were known for the peace within them? After all, don’t we want those hurt feelings to not sting quite as much during the holidays when our kids all get together as adults?
2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Praying your new year is full of peace, love, and laughter.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Why not start off the year assessing changes that could make a difference in your parenting? With All Due Respect isn’t just a book to read, it’s a place to start conversation with other moms, your spouse, or even just a place to ponder the decisions you make as a parent. It’s guaranteed to help you look at parenting differently as you work through the exercises.