Confession: My kids fight sometimes.
Sometimes they argue with each other.
Sometimes they lose their patience with each other.
Sometimes they yell at each other.
Sometimes they say really mean things to each other. Things that they probably don’t even mean.
I haven’t heard them cuss at each other, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.
I know this is a shock to you because you don’t see this side of our family on Instagram. It’s not something I try to capture and share with the world. I don’t usually ask them to pause in the middle of an argument, only to take a photo to post on Facebook.
The thing that’s hardest for me to figure out is how these fights occur. I mean, we, like many families, have the cheesy “Family Rules” sign hanging in our living room. You can’t miss it when you walk into our home. The rules are simple, and if they would just follow them, we’d be good.
Do your best.
Laugh at yourself.
Use kind words.
Love each other.
But for some reason, no matter how many times I point them to the “Family Rules” sign, the disagreements and fights still occur.
Let’s be honest; being a parent is super challenging, and it takes a ton of patience. I don’t know about you, but for me, some days, it’s just downright exhausting. Yet, at the same time, being a parent is also super rewarding, and being “Daddy” is my favorite thing in the world to be.
I think we’d all agree that one of our most important roles, especially when they are living under our roof, is to create a safe and loving environment for our kids. Not just when we are present, but even in the moments when we aren’t. And the only way we can be sure that happens is by doing all we can to help foster strong relationships between our children
So how can we do this? How can we be sure that our kids will grow up not just loving each other but liking each other?
Confession: It starts with us.
Set an example
Set an example by how you treat them, your spouse, friends, neighbors, and your family.
Our kids don’t miss a thing. They pay super close attention to all that we do. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And if your kids are anything like mine, you’ve probably noticed that they emulate nearly everything you do.
If they see us losing our patience, talking bad about co-workers, and mistreating our neighbors, there is an excellent chance they will do the same. However, if they watch us go through our day, leading with kindness, generosity, and appreciation, there is also an excellent chance that they will do the same. By the way, even if I’m wrong about this one (which I’m not), being a good human is never a bad idea.
It’s up to us to create a loving and nurturing environment in our home. Where kindness is encouraged. Where the small things are celebrated. Where being good humans isn’t the exception, but it’s expected. And this starts with us.
This one is an ongoing struggle for me. I have three kids, which means that I have a middle child. And for those that have a middle child, you know what I mean when I say that I have a middle child. They just march to a beat of a different drum. And typically, it’s their own drum.
Confession: I’m a middle child. So I know what I mean. And as a middle child, it’s easy to feel the comparisons.
There are too many moments where I’ll find myself falling into the comparison trap with my kids.
“Why can’t you eat your vegetables like your brother?”
“Can you just brush your hair like your sister does?”
“I really wish you could keep your room clean like your siblings do.”
I used to think that this was a motivating tactic, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When we compare our kids to one another, what they are actually hearing is, “why can’t you be more like your brother or sister,” or even, “you’re not as good as they are.”
Of course, that’s not what we are saying, but it’s what they are hearing. Avoid these comparisons. Yes, they need to eat their vegetables. Yes, they need to brush their hair. Yes, they need to clean their room. Yes, we need to set rules and limits, but no, we don’t need to compare them to each other.
As Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And the worst part of us falling into the comparison trap isn’t even the fact that it causes resentment between our children. It’s that we are robbing them of their happiness and failing to recognize and praise the beauty of their own uniqueness.
When it’s good, walk away
Some of the sweetest moments that I ever catch are when my kids don’t even know that I’m listening. These usually happen on long road trips or super late at night, well past their bedtime. And as much as I want to butt in or tell them that it’s time to go to sleep, I try to catch myself.
No matter how hard it may be, sometimes the best thing we can do is simply step away. Yes, even if it’s past their bedtime. This is me, giving you permission to walk away. When it’s good, just let it be good.
I don’t know what you believe. That’s none of my business. But for me to write about fostering relationships between my kids and not mention this one would be doing a disservice to who I am and what I believe.
I understand that there is only so much that we parents can do. And as for me, I’ve got to lean on God for the rest of it. So I pray. I pray that they won’t only love each other but that most days they will even like each other. I pray that they will be each other’s biggest fans. That they will protect each other. That they will support each other. Even through the disagreements, they will always have each others’ backs. Every day, I pray for their relationship with each other. Because I’m not even close to good enough to do this on my own.
Sometimes I fight with my kids.
Sometimes I argue with them.
Sometimes I lose my patience with them.
Sometimes I raise my voice.
Sometimes I say mean things to them. Things I don’t even mean.
I haven’t cussed at them, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably done these things too. The good news is that there is a redeeming quality to these “mess-ups.” Remember, we are being watched. All the time. And this is an opportunity for us to turn a bad into a good. We need to take these moments and ask for forgiveness. Admit that we were wrong. Apologize for our actions. And be better humans.
Remember, it starts with us.