Seven years ago, when my three sons were all very young, we made frequent trips to the local park. Staying home wasn’t an option: their energy and volume had the magnitude to rattle the rafters and raise the roof. Though each day was loud and long (don’t get me started), it feels like just yesterday! I can’t believe I’m saying that now, but I guess all the grandmas were right: The days are long, but the years truly are short.
Amazing to think that in just seven more years, my oldest child will be twenty years old! Today he’s in eighth grade, learning to take responsibility for his learning at home, as well as his actions and his words with others. We’re in this unique middle-place together, where he’s not so entirely dependent but not wholly independent either. We’ve only a handful of years together before he’ll taking a running leap from our nest, and soar on his own wings—as he should.
With the perspective of fleeting years stretched before us, my husband and I are trying to figure out what our children need from us today to help them be ready for their young adult lives tomorrow.
One of the most blazing areas of trouble in our home on most homeschooling days is the constant fighting amongst siblings. There’s nothing quite like a house of boys, with the noise and the testosterone bouncing off the walls and off one another too. It feels like chaos some days. And if the volume doesn’t make my ears bleed, the unkind words make my heart bleed. So we’re choosing to start here, their father and me, with their hearts.
We’ve hung a metaphorical banner in our home, over our kitchen table, proclaiming Brotherly Kindness as our theme. We have scriptures that we’re studying together and a competition to see who can outdo one another in Brotherly Love each month. However, this isn’t simply something we’re doing to bless our home today — welcoming peace within our walls. It’s much more than that! We’re focusing on brotherly kindness as a means to teach a bigger lesson to last them all their lives. It’s the right thing for them to learn today, but it’s also necessary for all of their tomorrows.
Today, I invite you to adopt this script I speak to my boys, one you can try with your own children. When they do wrong to one another—and they will do wrong toward one another—I’m quick to say the same thing each and every time:
Boys, God in His goodness saw fit to put you in this family, with these brothers. This is where you get to learn to do right, even when your brother does wrong. If you can do right when they do wrong…then you can do right when your boss does wrong, when your professor does wrong, when your roommate does wrong, when your landlord does wrong, when some guy at the table next to you does wrong, when your girlfriend does wrong. For the rest of your life, you’re going to know how to persevere doing right, even when someone does wrong to you. And you’ll have your brothers to thank for that. Because you’re going to learn it with them.
“This is practice.” I say it with a smile, at the kitchen table, “This is where you practice. The real game is out there.” And I point beyond the kitchen table, out the window, and down the street. “This is your dress rehearsal,” I say with twinkling eyes, “but out there is the show!”
It’s true: I do have partly selfish motives. I don’t want all of their arguing and fighting to ruin these sweet remaining years I have with all of them still under our roof. I want them to learn to be at peace with others, but it starts here in our home.
I long for peace.
But the lack of peace can be my undoing too. Sometimes I’m tempted to jump into their fight and try to fight the fight right out of them. Especially on the hardest homeschooling days when I’m the only one with an agenda and the desire to see it through. But I know my fight is not with them. My fight is for them, not against them.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
—Ephesians 6:12, NIV
One of the greatest lessons I’m learning as a mother of boys is that their fighting can either be my greatest trigger, or my greatest opportunity. I can either hear them beckoning me into the boxing ring, jump over the ropes and onto the mat, and start hitting them with my own harsh words: blaming and shaming them all. Or I can accept their fighting as an invitation to parent them well. So I ring the bell, call them back to their corners, walk around the outside of the ring, training them how to fight the good fight here in our home, so that they can fight well as men, when the day comes. And it will come…sooner rather than later.
I know you have a laundry list of learning to do today. So do I. But let’s make character chief among our curriculum pieces each homeschooling days: their character and our own.
How many years do you have left to train the children growing up into men and women there in your home? Having a houseful of little people can wear a mother thin, but she can’t give up and she can’t give in.
If the words you’re speaking to your children aren’t working; if you’ve gotten into the habit of hollering at your kids because they’re hollering at one another; if you’re blaming and shaming and resorting to ineffective consequences that don’t produce any good fruit, might I suggest our new book, Parenting Scripts?
Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New covers 31 common parenting struggles and suggests new words, gentler words, to speak to your children and over your heart too. Whether homeschool meltdowns or bedtime battles are your undoing, come up with a better plan, a more Biblical plan than melting down and battling it out with them. Grab a copy of Parenting Scripts, and make a better plan today.