The boys were wrestling, again. It was very lopsided at the time because of the ten years’ difference in their ages. The older one still consistently came out on top, but we all knew the tables would be turned in a few short years. The younger was going to be bigger and stronger than his older brother. Struggling and grunting, they fought for the place of dominance. The younger one was getting stronger. Looking up from my book, I watched his face turn red with the heat of sudden anger. Older brother, with his age advantage, had gone too far, again, inflicting pain without mercy.
“Okay, boys, that’s enough.”
“Ha!” said the older, and with an added push, he rose from his perch on top of his brother.
His younger brother said nothing, but it was obvious to me he was seething. I watched over the top of my book as my younger son walked steadily down the hall into his bedroom.
“Good,” I thought, “he needs to cool down a bit.” But I was quite surprised when he immediately marched out of his bedroom carrying a heavy wooden baseball bat.
“Oh, my,” I thought, “this will have to be diffused quickly.”
As my son approached the dining room in search of his brother, I continued to work at the table and calmly, firmly, said, “Not in the house.” (Later we laughed and laughed about that command.)
I knew my son was angry. While I had never considered his character to be violent, I was also trying to prevent a potential brawl from erupting. I hoped to diffuse his anger. My quiet statement was enough. The younger boy went outside alone and took a walk. He was expending the adrenalin rush that accompanies anger on something more constructive then trying to inflict serious pain on his brother. And he was taking time to think.
The older son wisely stayed indoors until his brother cooled down.
Boys need to wrestle. They need to struggle for dominance. They need to test their physical strength. Vitality, drive, liveliness, and vigor will frequently define a boy, as they should. Occasional wrestling matches are understandable, even expected, but I found the frequent, bickering between siblings harder to tolerate.
How do you train them not to quarrel and bicker with one another?
Some teaching will be involved, whatever the remedy. Here are five tips to get you started on the journey to a more peaceful home life.
First, examine your own perspective.
Whether you have boys or girls or both, first remember that boys and girls are temporary. Sons and daughters are eternal. Your sons won’t always be noisy, messy, boys. They are men in the making, and some day they will be men. Likewise, some day your daughters will be women. Life in the present may seem like it will last forever, but I guarantee it does not!
Second, teach your young sons and daughters to be angry and sin not.
Emotions can often take control if you do not understand what they are and when and why they show up. It is not a sin to be angry. It is wrong, however, to give a guided muscle to your sibling because of a difference of opinion. (That’s mine! No, it’s not! I had it first!) Help your children learn to recognize their anger and take steps to control it, instead of it controlling them.
Third, show them what is appropriate to do with their anger.
It is possible to be angry without sinning. Help your children release the adrenalin rush that comes with intense emotion, a skill they will use for life. Talk openly with your children about the emotion of anger. Guide them to understand what to do about it in themselves. Give them suitable activities upon which to expend their anger.
Our children were encouraged to run outside around the house, literally around the house. The fresh air and physical activity did wonders to calm their emotions and settle their minds. If inclement weather prohibited the run outdoors, they were instructed to walk to their bedroom, quietly shut the door, and scream as loud and long as they needed into their pillows. As I remember, it seems the girls more often used the pillow. The boys preferred something more actively physical to do, such as chopping wood or running.
Several times I remember one or another of my children leaving an intense encounter to go take a quick run or to scream into a pillow. Sometimes the child would return looking a bit sheepish, but obviously calmer and able to work more civilly to resolve a conflict. The distraction caused by appropriate activity also helped diffuse many conflicts.
Fourth, gently guide them when mediation is required.
Consider yourself a thermostat controlling the atmosphere, instead of a thermometer reacting to the temperature around it, whether hot or cold. Call for a meeting with everyone involved. A peace council, or any name your family designs, is a time when everyone has the opportunity to present his side of an issue. You may need some ground rules about respect and keeping voices low. The parent acts as judge and makes the final decision. Everyone must abide by the final decision.
Fifth, help them understand
the meaning of “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.” Help them memorize it, too, but be certain they understand what the verse means. A peacemaker is strong because He is willing to listen and wait for his turn to tell his side of the story. A peacemaker has the power to overlook an offense and is willing to forgive. When someone is blessed, he is looked upon with favor, and he is happy. Peacemakers are happy. And they are called children of God. Why? Because children look like their parents, so peacemakers look like God. Almighty God is the God of peace; Jesus, the Son of God, is the Prince of Peace; and the Spirit is the Spirit of peace.
When two siblings on opposite sides of an argument could not make peace, I would ask them if they wanted me to be involved. Sometimes to avoid mediation, they would determine to work things out on their own. However clumsy their efforts at peacemaking, children need those opportunities.