Moderating disputes between my two older sons is getting to be more challenging. I don’t have to do it very often but today, I noticed that there was real anger in their tone as they bickered about a toy top. It was surprising actually. Elijah and Edan don’t usually get this upset with one another. So I sat them both down on the couch in the living room and we talked.
First, I let them explain what was troubling them. Both of them broke down. Elijah was upset because Edan had screamed at him a couple of times.
“Edan has been angry with me for a while, the whole time you were gone,” said Elijah. Apparently, Elijah had been very hurt by Edan’s outbursts which had happened when we were in Europe. This was uncharacteristic of Edan to shout and lose his temper this way. Meanwhile, Edan told me that he was angry because Elijah had not been sharing with him. And another instance, Elijah provoked him and this greatly frustrated him. But Elijah went on to say that Edan’s problem was he didn’t know how to listen.
Clearly, they both had their perspectives and personality differences. But instead of focusing on whose behavior was justified, I asked them a simple question. “Do you think that the way you have been treating one another has been pleasing to God?” Their combative facial expressions softened as they admitted that their actions had been wrong.
I asked Edan, “Do you see mommy and daddy yelling at each other? Do we shout at you?”
He answered, “No.”
“Do you know why? Because shouting at someone is hurtful. It wounds people. And we don’t want to do that to each other or to you.”
At the same time, I had to correct Elijah by telling him, “You are the eldest. Your example is very important.” He humbly acknowledged that he had not been a good role model as of late.
Afterwards, we reviewed what it means to love one another. And I told them, “Boys, as you grow up you are going to have to learn how to resolve your conflicts. You must remember that it is important to do this not for yourselves or for each other or even mommy and daddy, but for the Lord. Love each other because God wants you to. I know you both love Him and want to please Him. If you want God’s blessing in your lives, then you need to please him and also learn to forgive and ask for forgiveness from one another.” I went on to warn them not to harbor bitterness and anger because these sins give the Devil an opening to influence and corrupt them.
As we ended our discussion, God laid it on my heart to ask them to identify what they did wrong and how they can improve. Elijah readily recognized what he needed to change. Edan was resistant at first and this concerned me. So I asked him again to really think through the areas that he needed to confess to God. To help him, I shared that I also have things I need to work on in my relationship to Edric, like learning to be more respectful and humble when I am corrected. And then Edan said, “I need to stop screaming when I am angry and to listen when I am being corrected.” It was important for him to identify this because I wanted him to get to the point of repentance. The Bible tells us, Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed… (James 5:16 NASB)
To close our discussion, we all prayed together. I started out by confessing to the Lord my own shortcomings and asking for forgiveness. And I prayed that God would help me to become a better wife. Elijah and Edan both had beautiful prayers as I listened to them confess their own sins and humble themselves before the Lord. There was a brokenness of spirit and a desire to repent and change. When our prayer time ended, the relational atmosphere between the two of them was completely different. There was cheerfulness and genuine forgiveness. Thank you, Lord.
During our family devotion this evening, Edric had the kids memorize Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This was a good follow up to the boys’ dispute.
When Edric and I correct our kids, our aim is not to change their behavior, it is to address the issues of their heart and teach them how to be right with God. We are not after their external compliance for the sake of peace or a happy home. First and foremost, we want our kids to understand that the most important thing is that they love God and delight themselves in Him. If they do so, true peace and happiness will follow.
It is becoming more and more necessary to have conversations with our kids to unearth sins or character weaknesses that make them spiritually vulnerable or set them on the wrong path, away from God. As parents, we have to be extra sensitive and attentive to what is going on beneath the surface and behind the behavior. The real challenge of parenting is not merely raising children to become adults, it is discipling children to love and desire God, the wonderful fruit of which is spiritual maturity — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:16-21 NASB)