Thursday, December 17, 2009

REVISED: My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.

Well, Chris and the kids took exception with this post. Mostly the kids were mad that I made them sound so bad. Chris said I really did make them sound worse than they are. I wrote this right after an incident with them and maybe I was over reacting a little. Chris said our kids don't really fight and bicker more than other kids do. He's probably right. I just wish it was less. Thanks for all your good suggestions.

My heart is so heavy this morning. We have such an awful problem in our family and I honestly don't know what to do about it. There is so much constant contention among our children and it is really breaking my heart. It starts in the morning and doesn't quit until they go to bed at night. If you were to hear them talk to each other, you would think that they hate each other. Sometimes I honestly think they do. As soon as they open their mouths, the Spirit just flees from our home. It is a sad situation here.

I am at a loss for what to do. I know that contention in a home is wrong. It doesn't belong there. The scriptures tell us not to let our children fight and quarrel with each other. I've been reading articles on for advice and one phrase I read really hit me hard. "Frequent anger and contention do not persist where the gospel of Jesus Christ is practiced." But we do practice the gospel of Jesus Christ! Of course, there is always room for improvement. I am searching for answers. I am praying for a change of heart and attitude in their actions towards each other. Dear Reader, I need some very practical solutions. What works in your families? How do you keep contention down?

You know what I'd really like to do, I'd like to have the worst perpetrators wake up on Christmas morning to a lump of coal in their stockings. I'd like to say, "Santa was watching and you got zilch because of the way you behave at home."


Angie said...

(Hugs) I know this is so hard. For the most part, my kids get along but when there is contention it is absolutely horrible.
Growing up, I had two brothers who were always on each other, constantly. It wasn't until they left home that they finally settled down. In fact, when one brother went to get married, he decided to have a heart-to-heart with his "enemy" brother to get everything out and find common ground before starting on this new part of his life. They were able to clear the air on a lot of deeply held feelings for each other. They get along really well now, although there are closer relationships among the other brothers (I have 4). Sometimes I think it just takes that kind of maturity to really "get over it", although, certainly the behavior can be managed somewhat.

Practical solutions: Does speaking with them one-on-one help? How about having them work on a project together? Even when we weren't getting along, my mom banned certain words from the house and if we said them we had a punishment (shut up, stupid, idiot, etc.). Maybe you could have a family home evening that is kind of a "team building" and do some trust activities, have them write down their 3 favorite qualities about their siblings and read them - things like that. You mention the lump of coal - but seriously it's not a bad idea. Not necessarily the lump of coal, but withholding other privileges? Another thing my mom always used to do and we hated it but ended up laughing - she would either loudly start singing "Love at Home" over our fighting...or sometimes she'd make us sing our fights.

If all else fails, family counseling?

lissyfarnz said...

Jennifer, I think every family goes through stages like this. When my sisters and I faught, my dad would laugh and tell us that one day our sisters would be our very best friends. There was a lot of eye rolling when he said this, but he was right. My two sisters are my very best friends now.

Lately my boys have been fighting a lot over the same toys. I don't know if that is a problem at your house, but I just put the toy in question in time out for awhile. It works pretty well and causes a lot less grief than putting the kids in time out (although we do a fair amount of that, too).

One thing that I remember my mom doing to enoucrage better behavior was to assign everyone in the family a secret buddy. We spent some set period of time trying to do secret acts of service for our buddies. I remember that my little sister (with whom I didn't get along well with at the time) was my buddy. One day I came home from school to find that she had totally cleaned and organized my room. I was really touched and surprised at the time, and I've never forgotten her kindness.

I think the whole buddy thing was great because we had to really think selflessly and specifially about each other, and it's hard to fight with someone who is doing so many nice things for you Plus it was fun!

Good luck. I think you have a terrific family--wonderful parents and great kids. You are are a real example to me!

Stacie said...

Have you heard of the bean jar? Or tried something similar? I have a couple of friends who had success with the bean jar. Fill a big jar with beans, then give each of the children their own small jar or cup. A child receives a bean in their jar for good behavior and loses one for bad behavior. After a set amount of beans, there is a reward.

These friends both had little kids, so it might work better with your little ones, but I would think everyone could get excited about earning a reward, especially if it is something they really want, or something really special. The point is to focus on good behavior...everyone wants to get beans so they want to talk nice, be nice, serve, etc. The kids should add or remove beans themselves, so there is something tangible involved and recognized. I haven't had to do this yet, but I'm tucking it away for tough times in the future (which are inevitable, by the way).

Just another thought-- Jacob has been a little out of sorts in the last few weeks and it finally occurred to me that he has some pent-up energy and he is acting out in inappropriate ways. This makes sense since it is cold out and we aren't burning off as much energy as usual. I think boys especially need to be able to spread out, run around, and burn off energy. As far as solutions? That's trick in this weather... Maybe you can borrow the church gym? McDonald's playplace? Run around a school track (they'll really move fast in the cold!).

Good luck. You're such a good mom for worrying so much about it and trying to make it better. Remember to focus on the positive and really reinforce it. Kids love that.

Kris and Linda said...


Kris said that his sister Charlene had had a very bad time right before Christmas and his mother had warned her that she better shape up and she did not. On Christmas morning there was nothing much for her and she went most of the day realizing that her mother was serious. She was one uphappy girl and right before bed his mom gave her her presents. It was a real wake-up call for Charlene. You have been given so many positive suggestions that I am not suggesting this as a solution. My boys seems to turn into angels as the holidays approached. I certainly seemed to have my challenges with them other times of the year. Good luck, Linda

Sara said...

In our family, (growing up and with our own now), if someone offends someone else in a way that is problematic, the offender must do service for the person they hurt (whether it was verbal/physical/whatever). Just today, I told one child that he had to make lunch for the child that was offended. The behavior pattern was immediately interrupted. The offender had a specific task to keep busy with and the one that was offended had a sense that justice was being served. Sometimes BOTH are equally guilty and then I assign them tasks to serve each other, or I give them MY unpleasant jobs, because obviously, they don't have enough to do to stay out of trouble. It works well here. I don't like grounding because it punishes the parent, too, so service works REALLY well for me. I would suggest having a family council, identify specific issues and lay out the behavior expectations and the consequences of being assigned to serve the one they offended in the way that a parent chooses. When someone falls short, they can know what the consequence will be and there will be no question about whether it was deserved. Each person in the family deserves respect and if we are not behaving properly toward the people closest to us, then service helps us move from tolerance to appreciation over time. With some consistent enforcement and repetition on their part, I bet it would get better.... keep your head up! You're a great mommy and you have great kids. They sound like they really just want more limits (even though they don't know they are telling you that!) - Sara

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