I can remember as a child hearing those words of frustration and accusation with a tone that said I had done something wrong or stupid. “Why did you do that?”
And like most kids, I typically responded with something like, “I don’t know.”
And then I would be told that I was being sent to my room or being grounded for whatever “it” I did.
What my parents didn’t know, which meant I did the same thing with my kids because I didn’t know, was that one of the steps to maturity is understanding why we do what we do.
Think about that. If we don’t teach our kids to understand their words and actions, if we don’t get them to look internally at what they are feeling, then chances are when a similar instance occurs they will respond the same way.
Read that last sentence again.
Last weekend as I attended a workshop at our church led my Milan and Kay Yerkovich, authors of How We Love, the thing that stood out to me was that to have deep communication and connection we need to be able to know how we feel. We need to understand those emotions and how to communicate them so that other people can empathize where we are in the moment. It is through those feelings that we better understand not only the other person but ourselves as well.
So how does that play out with our kids?
Let’s say your son hits his sister so you send him to his room. Now what?
Once he’s calm, a good place to start might be: “Give me three words to describe what you were feeling BEFORE you hit your sister.”
And if you grew up like I did and emotions were never talked, it might be difficult to help your son put words to those emotions. If so, download the list of soul words from the How We Love website or maybe ask questions using the words most of us understand.
Then let him figure out the trigger to his outburst. Suggest he should sleep on it. Let him know that you’ll talk about it tomorrow so that he can come to fully understand what happened and why.
Then be sure to circle around tomorrow and talk about those three words. How did he get to the point of hitting his sister? And then define the restoration with his sister.
What should we do about it?
This is the place of determining the consequence for the action. Let your tweens and teens talk through what that might be with you.
- How should he restore relationship with his sister?
- And is there a consequence he should endure as a reminder that this is not to happen again?
- And what action will be taken if this occurs again?
My guess is that if you haven’t done this in the past you will be amazed at how creative your kids will be in the restoration with their sibling. Teaching them to express their feelings in the moment will bring empathy and compassion from the person who was hurt–which means a deeper connection.
2 Corinthians 13:9-11