I don't know about you, but I was amazed the relevance of this article, written over 100 years ago, to the modern family -- at least it was very relevant to our family!
Scott is clear that bickering in the family leads to lost love and loosening of the family bond. While the quarrels of young children often centre around possessions or rights, if allowed to continue, they will simply become more sophisticated in adulthood. The 'heart issues' behind the quarrels will not go away as a child grows simply because he has gained in years.
The author points to moral training as the key. A few parents seem to know this is the case, but most don't. (I certainly didn't really think there was a whole lot I could do about it.) Scott says that a child's character contains everything necessary for the development of a host of good qualities, but depending on the training, each quality can become a virtue or it's opposite -- a vice. For example, "generosity may become either a Christian liberality, or a selfish wastefulness." (This reminds me of a family joke we have that puts a sarcastic 'positive' spin on greed. "Well, B, you were certainly very generous -- to yourself.") We make virtues grow by teaching a child to love others and vices by indulging the love of self.
According to Scott, family bickerings are caused by: 1. selfishness and 2. harsh judgment of others. He confirms my own experience the punishment in useless in changing bickering to harmony. Basically, he says indicates that virtues will only come forth with inspiration -- never by force.
A few practical points I enjoyed from the article:
- Keep your cool when children bicker. Avoiding your own anger, explain that the children's unhappy feelings are the natural result of being unkind to others.
- Inspire children with stories of goodness, of love and self-denial.
- A terrific parenting book I read said that, 'You get more of what you focus on'. In essence, this is what the author of this article is saying, too. He says that it is much better to tell a child that they love their sibling and should, therefore, share the snack with them than to say they are being greedy and should go away. I don't think we should ever point out negative qualities to our children, but inspiration is usually positive and the idea that we love someone is much more likely to inspire us to generosity than the idea that we are greedy. I often remind our that our children are friends and friends need to be good to each other. (Yes! A parenting star for me!)
- Offer children opportunities to practice sacrifice (but don't force acceptance) for a sibling. He gives the example of offering a child the opportunity to give up her 'turn' to go for a drive with mom in order to make a younger sibling happy. We are warned that the child will very often say, 'No' and we can simply respond by pointing out the happiness he has missed in giving a gift to another.
- Have a strict policy of not allowing children to criticize each other at all. Scott says that this will stop over half of all bickerings.
- Inspire your family with scriptures. There are a number of excellent ones in the article. Memorizing as a family ensures everyone is on the same page. I am going to add these ones into our regular memory rotation.
Using family bickering as an opportunity to inspire our children to banish selfishness and cultivate generosity and self-sacrifice seems like the best possible character training 'program' in existence. Real life situations that arise in safe, family relationships are the perfect context. Good thing we have so many opportunities for character development here!
What were your thought about the article? Did you find some inspiring ideas for your family?