“Waaaahaaaaa!” My five-year-old son Porter was screaming on the other side of the family room. He held on to a shoe belonging to Paije, his much older sister, as she tried to wrench it away from his grasp. I looked over just in time to see this but before I could say anything, Paije grabbed the first shoe away from Porter and reached for its twin, still attached to his foot.
“Give me the shoe, Porter!” Paije ordered as Porter let out another wail.
I quickly stepped in before someone got hurt again. “Paije, you need to stop touching Porter.” I told her.
Paije glanced up at me and began to vent her frustration, “Mom, I told him to give me my shoes and he wouldn’t. He is doing this on purpose because…”
“Stop talking, Paije. We need to all calm down so that we can discuss this situation,” I interrupted.
“Okay,” Paije said, very used to having to talk calmly about things. She stepped back from her frightened younger brother and I addressed both of them.
“I am going to give you both an instruction. You need to take three deep breaths, okay?”
The children both obeyed and took a moment to breathe. Then I asked each of them to tell me what had happened a few minutes ago. It turned out that Paije had mentioned to Quinton, their older brother, that she was going to be going out. Hearing this, Porter decided to tease his sister by putting on her shoes.
When Paije saw that her younger brother was wearing her shoes she got frustrated and anxious and quickly tried to take them back. When she grabbed for the shoes Porter got a scratch on his leg and began to cry in pain, but he still refused to give them back.
This made Paije even more upset and the situation escalated as she began to yell aggressively at her little brother before I stepped in.
Hear Both Sides
Hearing both sides of the story, I could see that my eleven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son were equally wrong, albeit in different ways. Porter was wrong to tease Paije and thus show disrespect to a family member. And respecting your family members is the most important rule in our home! Trying to upset his sister was a purely selfish choice on Porter’s part. He knows better but obviously had lost the vision of what our family is about and how our home should feel. I instructed him to sing our loving family song then corrected his behavior. Porter sang our song, apologized to Paije and myself, then agreeably accepted his discipline, an extra chore.
The song I ask my children to sing when they have been selfish or unkind to a family member is Jesus Said Love Everyone. It goes:
“Jesus said love everyone.
Treat them kindly too.
When your heart is filled with love,
Others will love you.”
No matter the age of the child, they get to sing it. Many times, they get to sing it together. And, often it causes little frowns to turn into big smiles. Songs always have a way of changing the spirit in the home and in the heart. It is really hard to have hard feelings when you are singing about loving someone. If a child isn’t able to sing the song calmly, then I instruct them to calm down before the song is sung. If the child can’t follow that instruction, then I know the child is “out of instructional control” and needs to go through our family’s calming down process.
Talking With Paije
Once Porter had gone off to do his extra chore, I talked with Paije about the better ways she could have dealt with the situation. I told her that Porter had likely chosen to tease her to have a bit of fun and probably didn’t know she was in a hurry. She hadn’t disagreed with her little brother in an appropriate way. Disagreeing with Porter was clearly necessary, I told her, but her reaction was not in keeping with the loving spirit of our family.
Practice Doing It The Right Way
She and I practiced an appropriate disagreement and discussed her negative consequence. Paije agreed and did her chore right away before leaving for her church activity. We were all working together as a family once more and a feeling of love had returned to our home.
It is alright to disagree with a family member but there are appropriate ways and inappropriate ways to have these disagreements. It is a very assertive, successful adult skill to learn how to disagree in a respectful, loving, appropriate way.
The steps to Disagreeing Appropriately are:
1. Look at the person
2. Keep a calm voice, face, and body
3. Say that you understand the other person’s point of view or concern
4. Explain your side of the story or point of view
5. Accept and Respect the decision of the other person
6. Drop the subject
As with all new skills, this one needs to be practiced in order to ever really be used effectively. However, after improving on the skill, your children will be more socially and emotionally equipped than many adults in the world to handle disagreements and arguements. Isn’t that what we are parenting for anyway…….to make great adults? I am. Perfect children are impossible to mold, but great adults are definitely possible.