Friday, October 23, 2015

A Hostile Dynamic

We are, in many ways, settled at my parent's house. I finally know where to put the dishes away and which light switches turn on which lights. But my kids seem to be doing worse. My boys are less and less tolerant of one another and the fights are escalating.

"LUKE! Look! Mommy got us glow sticks!" my four year old yelled as he ran to find his brother.
I smiled thinking about how sweet it was that he wanted to share the gift right away. But before I could even finish the thought, I heard him scream.
"NO LUKE! NOOOOOOO!!"
"Give it to me! I want ORANGE!"
The wails of my four year old filled the house. "Time out," I said to Luke. "Drew, you alright?"
"He took it right out of my hands like this!" He reinacted the scene complete with facial expressions.
"Oh man. He will have to ask you to forgive him. Every body messes up sometimes."

I went back to the bedroom to finish putting away laundry then, suddenly, I heard a crash and another scream. This time, it was Luke. I found both of them in the laundry room. Drew was frozen, his eyes wide. Luke was yelling. "Mommy! Help me! He knocked this whole thing over on my head!" 

"This whole thing" turned out to be a six foot metal hanging clothes rack and my six year old was pinned beneath it. I lost it. " What were you thinking, Drew?! You could have really hurt him!! I am so tired of you two being mean to each other. Get on the couch, both of you! This is ridiculous!!" Tears began to flow all around. I righted the rack then stood in the laundry room for two solid minutes. I needed to cool down or else I would say things I didn't mean.

I sat down on the coffee table and gave them a level stare. "Luke - When someone gives you a gift, what's the only thing that's okay to say?"
"Ummm...Thanks?"
"Yes." I turned to my four year old. "Drew, is it ever okay to hurt your brother?"
"But...he...was...mean...to...me!" he choked out through sobs.
"Yes, he was. That does not give you the right to be mean to him, does it?"
"No," he said as he dropped his head, defeated.

I walked away, unsure of a proper punishment. I told them I needed time to think and pray about it. That was yesterday. I brought it up to my husband this morning. I asked him to pray for me to have more understanding so that I could get to the bottom of what's bothering them. I asked him to help me take my emotions out and focus on building their character. I asked for an easier day.

We got up from the prayer I walked into the the living room where the kids had been playing. "Mommy!" my oldest said. "I've been thinking about how mean we've been to each other and I have an idea! Let's write down all the things we have to stop doing, you know, like yelling or hurting each other, then have a chore assigned to us if we do it. It's just like the Berenstein Bears! The one about manners!"

I felt as if God had answered my prayer within moments. We spent the next twenty minutes writing out the top four things they would work on (not yelling, hitting, interrupting or ignoring parents). They came up with awful chores like cleaning the toilets and emptying the trash. We hung it up and have tried it this morning. We ran out of trash cans to empty and both toilets were cleaned twice, but they are also showing more love to each other. Luke shared some of his beloved seashell collection with his siblings and Drew ran inside to get popsicles for everyone, just to be nice. There was less yelling and more laughing. Today, I got my kids back.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed with our lives. There are times when the demands just get to be too much. I realized today that the very source of the problem can also be the source of the solution. By giving it to God, he turned this incredibly hostile dynamic into one that fostered teamwork. He helped us all begin rowing in the same direction. I am so thankful.

What is overwhelming you today? Pray specifically about what would ease the burden for you then watch to see what God does for you. It might not happen right away, but it will happen.

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