MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR KIDS
Posted by Sarah Anderson
Have your kids ever hurt your feelings? I don’t mean their critique of your clothes, cooking, or stupid jokes. I mean the thing they say that just cuts to the quick.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my boys said something and it hurt so much, it felt like the wind was knocked out of me. He’s young enough where I don’t think the words were said with the intention to hurt, and he was oblivious to how hurtful his words were. But I am not naïve. I know a day will come when my boys will know the power of their words. And then they’ll use those words to cause pain on purpose.
Family is messy. At this stage, most messes come in the form of food under the kitchen table, diapers in a full diaper genie, and endless leaves, rocks, and flowers filling my counters. But at some point, I know the messiness will come in the form of verbal shrapnel. I know the messiness will be less literal and more figurative. (Or maybe with two teenage boys by that time, it’ll be both.)
And I knew from a couple of weeks ago, when the words from one of my kids hit me like they did, that I had better figure out what I was going to do when those moments come.
At the time, I shut down. I got him ready for bed and I read him books. I was present physically, but emotionally distant. But when it was time to pray, to sing, and close up the night, I realized something had to give. He may not have known I was holding back, but I did. And I decided then and there to do what felt like the exact opposite of what I wanted to do.
I decided to move close. To not let careless words create a rift. To not let hurt feelings dictate my behavior towards him. To move towards the one I felt inclined to back away from.
I decided to be a peacemaker. To be a mender of things made wrong—even when I was the one who had been wronged. To move past what had been broken in me, in order to make right what was broken between my son and me.
Not just a peace-liker. Not simply a peace-supporter. But a peace-maker
Jesus said peacemakers are called the children of God.
James, the brother of Jesus, said peacemakers reap a harvest of righteousness.
I say peacemakers have a better chance of a healthy relationship with their kids in the future.
Making peace is hard. Moving towards the one who’s hurt us is challenging. It’s counterintuitive and not all fair at times. But a parent who makes peace with their kids now sows a relationship of peace in the future. And at the end of the day, that’s my goal.
Our kids are growing up in a world we know all too well. One that thrives on conflict, revels in drama, and has no problem writing relationships and people off because of mistaken steps and words. Let’s show them an alternative exists. Maybe not in culture, but in our homes. Let’s show them peace exists, and it’s worth fighting for.
No matter what my child does or says, no matter what my child doesn’t say, or doesn’t do, I want there to be no doubt about what he’ll get from me. A mom who’ll go to great lengths—not to keep the peace, but to make the peace. To create space in our home for reconciliation. To make a habit of moving towards one another—of being the first one to take the first step—no matter what.
If my boys leave my home certain of nothing else than that, I’ve won. I’ve showed my boys no conflict mattered more than my relationship with them, and I’ve demonstrated the same tenderness and tenacity our heavenly Father shows us. He’s the God of peace after all.
As parents, let’s work on resembling our heavenly Father in this. And live in expectation of what might happen when we do.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.
My son peed on my friend’s pants. It wasn’t an “Ooops!-My-lil’-sweet-pea’s-diaper-leaked-some tee-tee!” kinda-pee. My almost-three-year-old pulled down his pants, set up his aim with precision, and fire-hosed the folded jeans.
Every parent has laughable potty-training stories. But this incident wasn’t just a learning-bladder-control mishap; it was a desperate act of attention-seeking and defiance by the two-year-old tyrant “future leader” that was currently running my life. Everyone else in the room laughed. I stifled tears as I frantically whisked the jeans away to the laundry room.
I’ve heard, “Don’t break your strong-willed child’s spirit.” But my oldest child has come close to breaking mine. I *affectionately* refer to the to the span from when he was fifteen months to three years old as the “I promise he’s not always like this (he’s always like this) years.” During those months, he avoided a concussion, but broke an arm (changing table tantrum); he gave me the *opportunity* to call in reinforcements (teachers, grandparents, pitying-moms) on numerous occasions to wrestle his body into my SUV (car seat tantrums); and he was dragged through the Chick-Fil-A dining room and parking lot (forced-to-leave-playground tantrum) (We were SO glad to learn that our audience at Chick-Fil-A included multiple acquaintances that we’d get to face again.)
Parenting a strong-willed, unpredictable boy has not short-changed me any humbling moments, and there was a phase where I chose avoidance over courage. I found myself declining invitations in case my son would have a “moment.” Some of my hesitations were well-founded knowing my son’s limits. Others were . . . not. Attend a puppet show? “Mmmm . . . better not. My son might drop trou and take aim at a marionette.” Fly to visit grandparents? “No, thanks. We’d like to avoid being added to the ‘no-fly list.’”
We experienced enough “moments” that I feared people might start to dread finding the Thorsons on a guest list. After all, we shattered a patio table at one party, screamed like a banshee during lunch at another party, and decided to blaze our own trail as the group-photo-boycotter at most parties. I became engulfed in self-blame, embarrassment, and its evil accomplice comparison. I began to obsess over wondering if people thought these behaviors were all my fault. “Everyone” else’s lil’ punkins sat during story time, kept food on their plates during meal time, and used toys as playthings, not projectiles, during play time. Meanwhile, you could find me on my hands and knees cleaning up the chicken nugget catapult while my son played hopscotch on the storytime magic carpet.
But a few years into being gripped by parenting paranoia, I began to recognize that my fears of perception were a bigger problem than my son’s behavior. As simplistic as this sounds, I realized that I had very little exposure to toddlers prior to having my own, and I think my expectations for “normal” behavior were skewed. (I might also add that the majority of our play-dates for the first two years of my son’s life were with friends of mine who only had infant girls. I think I began to expect my little Wolverine to act more like Doc McStuffins.)
Once we began to spend more time with other toddler boys, I was able to confirm my son hadn’t cornered the market on limitless energy. Other moms of boisterous boys (and threenager girls) reassured me that they, too, battled public tantrums and days-on-end of discipline. (Although, I’m still holding out to find a fellow jeans-pee-er. Anyone?)
As my son approaches five years old, I actually am seeing that his strong will can be channeled productively: His teacher told me he refuses to join into the “mean” crowd (there’s a mean crowd in pre-K?); he won’t put down the basketball until he ends on a “good” shot; and he recently decided on his own that he’d had “too much sweets” and wanted to wait two more days before having anymore.
So hang on, parents of two- and three-year-old dictators: Celebrate their strengths, cling to yours, and look (listen) for me in the Chick-Fil-A parking lot if you need a little reassurance. Then you can say, “At least we aren’t them.”
About the Author:
Melissa is a former high school English teacher turned stay-at-home mom who traded in the essay grading for diaper changing . . . both of which offer their fair share of crap. She has always loved teenagers and feared little kids until she had her own. 90% of the joy in her life comes from her husband, Steve; her sons, Crosby and Miller; and her amazing extended family and friends. The rest comes from cooking and taking online personality assessments.