Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God. – Matthew 5:9
Children fight. Our children fight. We wish they didn’t. We try to make them not – but there seems to be some deep-set fallen instinct in children (and adults only better hidden sometimes) to bicker. I deeply love and admire the books of the late writer Richard Carlson who wrote the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series. His original book was given to me as a graduation present from high school by a dear friend and the words of wisdom were and are so helpful towards that ever elusive and desired state of “peace of soul.” I found a copy of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff with Your Family in my free little library last year and have been enjoying making my way slowly through it’s ideas. The 8th principle in the book is: “Make Peace with Bickering”. Carlson sets our two reasons why we should make peace with the bickering of our children. One, he argues, is that “When you struggle against something – anything – it makes whatever you are struggling against seem even worse than it really is.” His gives the example of rushing in to stop bickering and becoming reactive ourselves and then dealing with not only bickering children but also our own agitation. Two, he says: “When you struggle against it, you actually encourage more of the same. In a way, you’re sending the wrong message, even acting as a poor role model. After all, how can you be demanding “peace” from your children when you are experiencing conflict?” Carlson, thankfully, isn’t suggesting that we don’t intervene at all. Numerous child psychologists suggest that by never intervening and having kids always “work it out” we end up encouraging a dominant role in one child and a submissive role in another. But we also can’t always intervene or we will give the impression that we don’t think our kids can handle conflict and we will drive ourselves nuts in the process. (I really like Dr. Markham’s method for mediating significant sibling conflicts read here!)
Equal is Not Fair
I am an only child and think this likely is the reason why I constantly feel so strongly that things should be equal for my kids. They should get the same number of presents at a birthday, the same size piece of cake, the same expectations from me – even the same number of chores – trying to keep things “fair”. I do this to try not to seem to (or actually) play favorites and also to avoid fights. But there is a lot of good writing out there that seems to suggest that “equal is not fair” – see one article here. Sometimes things are not equal – especially with children of different ages. And, surprise surprise, fighting will happen anyways – even when things are equal. (Just yesterday I had to hold the two pieces of donut quarters next to each other to “prove” they were equal.) So what are we to do?
The truth is life isn’t fair… and the more we get used to that earlier on in life the better. Especially as Christians we are told to turn the other cheek and in Luke we are reminded: “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.” Now all of that is a hard lesson for a child, but a lesson worth discussing over and over even if it’s hard to live up to (even for us!)
Do Good Anyways
Slight digression – I was recently reading Raising Kind Kids (a book I highly recommend) and loved where he shared the Paradoxical Ten Commandments by American writer Kent M Keith:
The Paradoxical Commandments
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Bring it Back to the Beatitudes
We were reviewing the sermon on the Mount a few months ago in church and our church school discussion focused around the beatitudes. Each child chose a few of the beatitudes to focus on and memorize and think about. My 7-year-old chose “blessed are the peacemakers” as one of his. We talked about the fact that those that work to create the peace show themselves to be God’s helpers and lovers of God. It’s almost like they get bonus points from God! (This may be a helpful concept or may not as you don’t want to set up another competition between your children.) They certainly make God happy. Later in the day when he found himself in a moment of conflict with his sister he came to me to complain and I said quietly in his ear “be the peacemaker”. His expression softened and he went back and was the bigger person which is not always his strong suit right now. What a powerful concept. To be the peacekeeper.
Our Peace, Brings Peace
Richard Carson goes on, in his section of making peace with bickering, to suggest that when we make peace and stop reacting so much we will set an example of peace for our children: “When you make peace with bickering, when you accept it as part of the package of parenting, no added fuel is thrown on the fire. In face, there is a relationship between the degree to which you can stay detached and relaxed and a lesser amount of bickering that you will have to endure.” Sounds crazy, but I bet you can relate. In our new book, A Sacred Beginning, my friend Sarah and I lay out 5 “golden rules” of motherhood and one of my favorites and most thought of is Our peace, brings peace. How we act and react sets the tone for the whole family – from our children to our spouses and other family members. We are (and can be) the ultimate peacemakers.
Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved. – St. Seraphim of Sarov
May we humble ourselves enough to realize we are in need of help with this and through our prayers may God grant us (and our children) the peace we need to we called sons (and daughters) of God.
With love in Christ,