Be Kind to One Another

 

 


Dear Kendra,


I have been wanting to contact you for a while, and I am sure you will be very busy to reply with your new little one coming so soon. Actually, I am due about a week after you, so I do understand if you can't reply.

However, the reason I have been wanting to contact you is I wanted to ask you if you have experienced your children being less than pleasant with each other, and I don't mean verbally or physically mean but just snappy or impatient with each other, and if you have how have you worked on the problem?

I have usually very kind and happy children- they are 11 1/2, 10, 6, and 3. As you will know how horribly uncomfortable you feel in the last few weeks of pregnancy, I just haven't had the energy, patience or the ability to jump on their behaviour, which is then getting me down because it is not how I want my children to be with each other, although I do try but somedays it just seems to go right over their heads and nothing I say is sinking in, even when I ask them, "What do you think Jesus would be thinking of this behaviour?" I do think it is because I have not been consistant with them in working out a way to deal with it at the time, due to tiredness and just plain frustration.

Bless you and your family, I will be praying for you for the safe delivery of your wee babe, and will be checking in on your site for a photo when he arrives.

Kind regards and God Bless,

Angela



Dear Angela-

The short answer is, "Yes". As I got to thinking about what the long answer might be, I realized that at its root, the unkindness we see exhibited in our children is simply sin. After more than 15 years of parenting, I don't know why I am still surprised when my children's sin manifests itself in the myriad of ways that it does. I do know that I need to dish out heaps more sympathy than I do, because after almost 38 years of dealing with my own sin, I still get weary of battling my flesh every day.

So, when I can see their impatience with one another, their snippy words, their unkind put-downs, I have to deal with the root of everything. When I don't know what to do or say, my husband reminds me to always rely on Scripture. He reminds me of verses like Hebrews 4:12--

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

God's Word will not return void, and it will convict their hearts.

Isaiah 55:11--

"So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."

We begin and end with Scripture. In the middle, however, we do some practical things to correct and admonish, always attempting to remember the sin that lies underneath the behavior. And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. One of our common Circle Time questions is, "What are you working on?", to which each of us shares a struggle we are having and then we pray for each other.

A little over a year ago I answered another reader's question on the same topic. I'll take the newborn baby excuse to simply cut and paste here, because I don't think my answers on practical application have really changed. I will, however, tell you that we are still working on these things in our home. Little by little, precept upon precept we are plugging away.

From the post entitled, "How Do You Get Them All to Get Along?":

"Recently Lisa (my best friend) and I were discussing the unkind words our children exchange with one another. She told me she’s been addressing the offending parties with the following question, “Were you being as kind as possible?” That tends to get to the heart of everything, and I find that the answer is usually, “No”, from all parties involved.

From there we can move on to addressing other attitudes and wrong actions, and then set to work apologizing and working to solve the problem, like perhaps making all guilty parties work at cleaning up the mess together (or whatever the issue was).

But we are also extremely proactive, or at least we try to be. From the day each baby is born, we tell the children that they are best friends. We watch for outside relationships that might take a child’s heart away from his siblings, and we even put the kibosh on friendships that have developed that take precedence over sibling relationships. If they are being kinder to a friend than to a sibling, we take a serious hiatus from the friendship.

We also do a lot together. School, reading aloud, projects, family movie night… Our desire is that our home be a place that is so exciting, so fun, and so attractive to our children that they won’t be looking around for someplace else to be those things to them. Or worse, looking around for friends to validate and love them because they have ample validation, love, and acceptance from their parents and siblings. Their identity is in Christ, not friends or even us.

And we do observe a daily quiet hour in which no one is allowed to be near anyone else. We all take a book or two and find a couch, bed, hammock, or floor where no one else is. At the end of the time alone, we are usually refreshed and ready to enter into life together again.

I have asked adults I know who have healthy, dynamic relationships with their siblings and parents what their years growing up were like. Were they always best friends? Did they squabble a lot? What did their parents do to foster a close bond between them all? Many have answered that no, they weren’t always as close as they are now, yes they did argue, and yes, their parents regularly communicated that they were going to be best friends. Their parents also put family above their own friendships and worked hard to make their family circle very close.

Sometimes when I feel I am growing weary of refereeing squabbles, I try to envision our lives in 10 to 20 years. I like to see a barn filled with our adult kids, their spouses, their children, and close friends. Thanksgivings, Christmases, and summer bashes have the potential of being riotously fun, but those things don’t just happen on their own. Left to our selfishness, we would be a family marked by strife, irritation, and solitude. By the grace of God, we are working diligently on our personal areas of sin and on not allowing those sins to consume us or our friendships with each other.

And our greatest goal is that our family brings glory to God!"