Monday, April 04, 2005

Help! There's a bully in my house

Every school has them. My home is no different. There are those children who seek to dominate others with their might. Other "bully's" are more subtle. They can't win on might so they use other methods to get their way. Either way it's chaos for all involved.

Around here a disagreement would take place. Then the offended would usually come running to me with a cry of , "Mommy, Mommy he blah blah blah' This used to frustrate me. I felt like a fireman constantly running to the next explosion. As more children kept getting added to the family I could see quickly where this was headed.

There must be a better way

There is an answer that helps both people involved resolve their conflict without resorting to fighting or constantly running to mom. Here's what we do.

According to Scripture there are three possible choices when your brother (or sister) offends you.
1. Repay evil with good.- Showing kindness when wronged is a way to keep from bitterness
2. Over look the offense.- Choose not to be offended and walk away.
3. Work it out bibilically.- God has given us a plan for how to work through conflict.

Number 1 and 2 are self explanatory. And the preferred option. But if that is not possible then number 3 is used.
What does it mean to "Work it Out Biblically"

According to Mathew 18 "When your brother offends you you must go to him."
That means not running to mommy or daddy first to try and get them on your side. To allow them to come to me first would be encouraging gossip and force me into dissecting the bits and pieces of the conflict. I didn't have the time or energy for the task and it was a habit I didn't want to create in the children.

Instead, one child must confront the other and say, "I have something to work out with you" . At this time they both must stop what they are doing and go to the work out room. (In our house that's the bathroom since it will encourage them to work things out quickly.)

The older then says to the younger "What have I done to offend you". It doesn't matter who called whom to work it out. It is the older child's responsibility to humble himself and ask first.

The younger sibling then tells him what he did. At that time they talk thru the offense and the older seeks repentance and forgiveness from the younger. It would be tempting to think things are resolved there but not so. It is then the responsibility of the younger to ask the older "what have I done to offend you". The older child is then free to discuss any hurts or feelings that the younger has caused. It is then responsibility of the younger to seek repentance and forgiveness from the older.

After that is accomplished they must pray together, hug, and come out of the work-out room holding hands. At this time they both get on their shoes and coats and take a walk around the block. This time is used to restore the relationship and make sure that they can live together in peace with one another. Usually they come back laughing and smiling together.

The only time they are to come to a parent or another adult is if there was hitting involved or the were unable to come to a resolution on their own. But they are only to approach me after they have tried on their own. They also must both come to me not just one. If that is the case I will walk thru the steps of reconcilliation with them and guide them toward a peaceful resolution and reconcilliation.

This required training on our part. For a while we had to go through each step with them to make sure that it was learned properly. But once the steps were learned they had no choice but to use this method.

Why this works
Often times the situation is not as it first appears. Both children usually have a part to play in the conflict and both are usually at fault. To assume that one side is more at fault than the other creates an environment where the "weaker" uses their weaknesses to get the other child in trouble. When they are forced to confront the actions of the other directly it helps them understand how their actions were hurtful and why. It also takes care of conflicts while they are still small. When the smaller squabbles are dealt with there is less likely a chance for hurt feelings to fester and become bigger problems that break down the relationship.

It also gave me a plan of action when they came to me. After they were trained I knew they knew what to do so when I heard a conflict all I had to say was go to the bathroom and work it out and that removed me from the conflict.

The children also realize that this takes more time tor work things out rather than trying to live in peace with one another. They know that working it out means about a half hour of extra time. (And sometimes a walk in the cold.) They have an incentive to show deference and stop the quarrel before it starts.

There's Power in the Bathroom
My boys had a conflict one day shortly after I began teaching them these ideas. The younger son called his older brother to work it out. When they go in the room the older son asked his brother what he had done to offend him. The younger son refused to answer. This went on for about half an hour. The older brother pleaded with him to tell him what the offense was. Finally, the younger boy relented. And they worked thru the conflict. When they have finished with their walk I asked the younger son why it took him so long to say what the offense was. He told me that for the first time he felt that he had power over his older brother and he liked the way it felt. But then he realized what good is power when you only have it in the bathroom and he decided working it out was much better.

With 6 children conflict is inevitable. But I no longer feel frustrated when it occurs. The responsibility is now on the children to do the right thing and work it out on their own. It took alot of time to train the children to use this method but it is far more productive than constantly running to referee the latest outburst.

There have also been times when they have take ME to the bathroom to work something out. This is always a humbling and profitable experience. The children are free to share with me what I have done and we work it out. The relationships are restored and family life can move forward.


(Welcome The Homeschool Minute Readers! For more encouragement you can read my recent blog posts, Seven Secrets of a Highly Effective School Year or The Logic of Parenting. You can also subscribe to my blog and receive email updates by filling out the FeedBlitz registration near the top of the sidebar.)

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