I’m sick and tired of the bickering! I’m sick and tired of selfish fighting no matter the cost to the rest of us! I’m sick and tired of energy going into what seems to be a futile endeavor! Thanks! I feel better now that I got that off my chest!
You might think I’m describing the lack of civility that we sometimes see in our homes between our children. That would make sense as kids can spend countless hours trying to protect their turf within the house. The back and forth can be draining and downright insane. As parents, we work hard to raise our children through these crazy years and hopefully teach them to be more civil and respectful toward each other. It is not unusual for adult family members to say things like, “Yeah, we couldn’t stand each other when we were young, but now we are best friends.” As a parent, this is the great reward for all of our efforts in raising kids.
I wish I could say that my initial tirade was directed solely toward my house and raising kids, but that would only partially be true. What I’m really sick and tired of is how childish behavior has crept into our culture; politics, media, business, even religion have fallen into these unhealthy and unsustainable behaviors. Yes, the effort to persuade and influence others to a particular point of view at any and all cost has left is well beyond the activities of a couple of siblings fighting for turf. It is now full-blown in nearly all parts of our society. In fact, the attacks and bickering within our politics, businesses, sports, churches, schools, and neighborhoods make a home filled with sibling rivalry look like a picnic.
Disagreement is not unhealthy. Being challenged is good and can be healthy! Challenge leads to growth. Whether it is challenging our muscles, our creativity, our relationships, or even our faith. However, it must come with some ground rules and a greater purpose. Disagreement for the sake of protecting “your” way, is not necessarily healthy. But, challenge for the sake of protecting something greater than yourself; i.e. principles, can be very healthy.
When we adopted our three children, Linda and I were completely blown away by how much fighting and arguing was going on inside our house. While raising our older sons, we seldom experienced much feuding and when disagreements arose, we quickly resolved them. In fact, we often stated that our goal was to have a house of peace. The world was crazy enough, we needed to make sure our house was a place where we could be recharged and ready to take on another crazy day in a crazy world. Needless to say, when we adopted our three younger children the daily fighting, yelling, and bickering between them was disturbing. Honestly, it made wanting to come home less attractive than I had ever experienced. Who wants to walk into a firestorm of mean and selfish rants every day? Not me!
Linda and I had to quickly change our focus on what was important in our home. We realized that our kids had spent their entire lives fighting for themselves. They had no vision of what it was to fight for their family. Our entire focus had to turn to teaching, “family first”. This has not been easy or fast. Our culture has more recently, (the past 30 years), placed greater emphasis and promotion of immediate gratification and getting what we want with little consideration of what others might want or need. Trying to teach that getting your own way often comes at the expense of another person can be a difficult process, especially when the culture promotes selfishness.
We realized that our kids were operating with what I refer to as an empathy deficit. It is often difficult for them to see things through another person’s eyes. The result is often selfish and even inappropriate behaviors. Fighting, bickering, and self-promotion are some of the common behaviors you see with an empathy deficit.
So, rather than simply state that our house needed to be a house of peace. We started to teach what our decisions might feel like from another person’s point of view. For example, saying that stealing is bad is only a good first step. But for kids that are used to getting whatever they want, no matter how they get it, stealing happens to become a means to an end. So, how do you teach this kind of thing?
Time must be spent on teaching and experience the emotions created by right and wrong. For example, when a young child steals a toy, they may feel happy because they have a new toy. But, how does the child feel that the toy was stolen from? This is where we begin to teach empathy. This can be done through role-playing or experiencing natural consequences. In other words, “how would you feel if someone stole that from you?” Or, since you stole that item, you must return it, apologize, and pay back double the cost. Ouch!
Teaching younger children to ask questions like “How was your day?” is a powerful first step to teach younger children about empathy. Once our children begin to understand empathy, it is much easier for them to transfer that into adult relationships and interaction. Remember the Golden Rule? Treat others the way you want to be treated! Matthew 7:12 states; So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets.
Where does this all lead us? Much of what we see in our society today grows out of what we are already seeing in our homes. If our homes are filled with dissension and fighting today, our society will be filled with dissension and fighting tomorrow. If we really want to stop this insanity, we need to start in our homes. I believe it is a worthy effort to strive to make your house a “house of peace”! Maybe perfection is not attainable, but at least setting up a general expectation will allow our families to become more cohesive. Start today by teaching your kids the value of empathy...The Golden Rule!