Monday, April 11, 2011

Parenting lessons learned the hard way

Big Guy came for a visit this weekend. It did not go smoothly. I could spin the story and say we had the opportunity to hone our conflict resolution skills, but that leaves you with a lot to read between the lines. It was pretty rough.

In general, my kids tend to get along well. This is partly a byproduct of homeschooling: if you're going to spend all day together, cooperation shoots way up the list of family priorities. My kids' relationships with each other are also a byproduct of my expectations: I expect them to help each other, to be role models for each other, to admit when they're partly to blame, and to figure out ways to resolve problems. Mostly they do that; sometimes they don't. 

This weekend Snuggler and Big Guy could not get along. There were hurt feelings, knee-jerk reactions, followed by over-reactions. After one lengthy "first you tell me what happened, then (to the other child) you'll get a turn" session I was reminded of one of the first revelations I had about parenting:

A lot of life is about learning to respond instead of react.

I'm not going to admit how many kids I had when I finally got that concept. Or perhaps I won't admit how many times I'd read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk before I started retaining the basic lesson: Stop. Listen. Deal with the feelings first.You can't communicate if your energy is being used up by reacting to the situation.

One of the next parenting revelations I had -- perhaps because of my failings with the first -- was this:

Apologize quickly and from the heart.

I got to do this yesterday, after things finally calmed down a bit with Big Guy and Snuggler. Dancer reacted to something I said, and I reacted back. And then we were in the thick of it, my latent adolescence rising to meet her nascent adolescence, head-on. 

Afterwards, while I was nursing my avoidable wounds and waiting for the fire inside me to die down and become cold, I reminded myself of a parenting revelation I only learned once Eldest became a 'tween:
I can improve the number of times I handle things well if I remember when to be silent.



  1. Ooh, I like that last one. It reminds me of one of my most favorite prayers (and, as you might imagine, given the one I say most often), "Elohai nitzur l'shoni meira..."

    "God, keep my toungue from evil and my lips from lies. Help me to be silent in the face of derision, humble in the presence of all. Open my heart to your Word, and I will hasten to do Your bidding. Frustrate the designs of those who plot evil against me; make nothing of their schemes. Do this for the sake of Your Name. Do this for the sake of Your right hand. Do this for the sake of Your holiness. Do this for the sake of Your Word. Save me with your power; in times of trouble be my answer, that those who love You may rejoice. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto You, my rock and my redeemer. Amen."