Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cousin Rivalry

My four year old nephew has been staying with my mom this week we decided it would be fun to get all the boys together a few times.  We planned a science experiment, a reading game and Christmas crafts to keep everybody busy and entertained.  The boys had other plans.  Like fighting.  And crying.  And hitting.

My oldest and my nephew have always gotten along really well but suddenly, they are at odds.  They are competing for my mom's attention (having been in that exact position 30 years ago, I get it) and they are both used to calling the shots.  My nephew would say, "Hey!  Push my bike!" To which my son would say, "No!  I don't want to push you on your bike!"  A dark look would cross over my nephew's face and he would run inside saying, "Granny!!!!  I don't want to play with him.  He doesn't listen!"

Every toy one of them grabbed became the Holy Grail for the one that didn't have it in his hands.  My son would rip the coveted toy out of my nephew's hands and run for the hills while tears and yelling filled the house.  We would send them back to each other and help them work it out, apologize and move on but they both were carrying a chip on their shoulder.  We would get three minutes of peaceful play before another fight would break out.  It was awful.

I read a blog by a homeschooling mom, The Learning Parent, that said she bailed out on teaching curriculum for two months because one of her children needed work on his character.  As counter-intuitive as this may seem to those of us that really value academia, I realized that my son wouldn't learn what he needed to learn if he didn't control his impulses.  She believed that there are sixteen character traits that children should learn (obedience, kindness, and courage to name a few).  I went back to that list this morning and read one that will be my focus over the coming months.  Deference.

She quoted a Bible verse as the definition:
To hold others in esteem and give them first choice - Phillipians 2:3

I love that she uses the teachings of the Bible instead of saying, "Because Mommy said so."  The gravity of those words increases when you know that God has asked you to do this for your fellow man (or, in this case, cousin).  I plan to write this up and have him practice and learn the verse in hopes of the words sinking in to his heart.  I will heap praise on him for showing deference and I will love him even when he's awful to his cousin.  This parenting thing takes patience, but the first time he gives a toy to his cousin with love instead of tears, I will feel a small sense of victory.

How do you encourage strong character traits in your children?

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