I’ve decided I’m going to start wearing a lot of stripes. I mean, I spend most of my days playing referee so I might as well look the part, right?
Seriously, some days, I just want to scream, “Stop screaming!!!!” Okay, some days, I do scream, “Stop screaming!!!!”
There are days my kids just will not be nice to each other. They argue about everything. I mean, today, one had a meltdown because another was trying to help him. I would have started crying if someone had tried to help me today, too, but they would have been tears of joy.
It’s frustrating and usually made all the worse by my reactions to it.
I have, however, found a few things that help.
First, stop. Just stop what you’re doing and start paying attention. It’s possible they’re not really frustrated with each other. There maybe other things going on, and taking a little time to find what’s hiding in their hearts will go along way toward settling things with their siblings. Things to watch for: Did they sleep well last night? Is it time for a nap? Do they just want your attention? Are they bored? Restless? Do they have too much energy? Did someone else hurt their feelings? Are they anxious?
A little listening and a lot of observation will usually lead you right to root of the problem.
Second, stop what they’re doing. Change their focus, change their activity, and you might just change their attitudes. I have found that some of my kids just do not need to play hide and seek together. The older ones hide too well, and the younger ones get frustrated. Tag can be the same way because younger kids often end up being “it” too much. My kids love puzzles, but one of them simply doesn’t like to have help, especially in the form of little sisters. So, I set them up with different puzzles to avoid conflict.
One of the best times to stop what they’re doing is when they’re losing their tempers. It’s a little silly, but one of my kids cannot resist a song from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. When he is angry, I just look at him and sing, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath….and count to four.” He grins every single time. Finding something that they think is funny is a great way to diffuse difficult situations.
Other times, I stop what they’re doing by dropping everything and focusing on one child. With one of my kids, this is something I often need to do before the day even begins. We call it “filling your love tank.” That child gets some one-on-one attention, whether it’s reading books, watching a show while snuggled up or playing a game together. His day goes more smoothly when I’ve started it off with a little bit of focus just on him. Today, we had a lot of errands to run, and the kids were tired and grumpy so before we even went into one store, I hugged them and told them I loved them. We filled their love tanks and talked about how when our tanks are full we can share the love with others.
Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? When we know we’re loved, it’s so much easier to love someone else. It just flows forth, you know? So when my kids aren’t being loving, I have to look at their love tanks. I don’t ignore their behavior or do away with discipline. I just try to let love make the lasting impression.
Criticism, judgement, shame….they expose. Love covers. It heals. That’s the promise for today: “Above all, love each other deeply for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Today, I made two of my children get eye to eye and look at what their words had done, to see the tears in the other’s eyes. I asked if each really wanted the other to feel the way they felt. At first, they fought it, but love couldn’t look away. The fighting was finished.
Because that’s what love does. It puts another’s feelings above our own.
Sometimes, they get it. Other times? Not so much.
Which brings me to the last thing I know to do on days my kids don’t get along.
Pray for them. Pray with them. Pray over them.
Ask the Lord to help you and to help them. Ask him to heal their relationships. Ask him to teach them to love. Ask him to show you the best way to lead and to help you do it by example.