I’ve been blessed to be the mother of children with strong personalities. I know many moms can relate! Some days the kids get along great, but other times it seems like they argue almost constantly! And it drives me cRaZy. If I only knew what fighting children did to a mother, I would have been a much better child. But deep down, I’m grateful they’re so strong. Strong-willed children can turn into leaders with steadfast convictions if we help them learn to channel their strength for good.
Why the contention?
Sibling rivalry is natural for kids. We believe children are innocent through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but “when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts”. It’s true that children can be delightful, loving, and sweet, but they can also be petty, selfish, and demanding. And it’s up to us as adults to teach them a better way.
I am so passionate about this. My greatest desire right now is to have peace in our home. In fact, for every Christmas or Birthday or Mother’s Day gift- when the kids ask me what I want, each time I say, “PEACE.” My 4-year old misunderstood me, he recently said, “Mommy, for mudders day, “I’m gonna give yew peas.” So cute. But that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind!
When we allow contention in our homes, it negates everything we try to do as mothers. We work so hard to create a warm and loving atmosphere. We try to keep our homes clean and orderly and pleasant for those we love. We try to teach our children good values and principles. But if the spirit of the Lord is not present- what’s the point of any of it? Without the spirit, our teaching does very little. The Holy Spirit is the great teacher. The Holy Spirit carries truth to their hearts. The Holy Spirit is what helps them develop their own testimony, the very thing they will need most as we send them off into the world.
What to do about it?
Thankfully we’ve been blessed with the ultimate parent how-to guide. The scriptures have the answers to all our parenting questions. The Lord created our children. He knows them better than we do and He knows how to help us reach them. But it’s up to us to turn to Him and ask for guidance, and recognize we can’t do this alone. He will lead us to the answers that He’s already given us in His word. There are thousands of parenting books out there- and many are wonderful. But the information often seems to change based on the latest study and contradicts itself. Thankfully, we have access to a timeless parenting manual… and the author is God, Himself. What a tremendous blessing!
I’d like to offer a few suggestions here based on the scriptures and experience (usually learned the hard way ;))
This does not work:
Lecturing/Nagging– It belittles our children, sends the message that they can’t think for themselves, and it rarely reaches their hearts. Basically- it’s ineffective.
And, ye afathers, bprovoke not your cchildren to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
This can also provoke children to feelings of anger and defensiveness. But when we nurture them in the ways of the Lord and gently teach them- it allows the spirit to speak the truth to their hearts.
Yelling– The scriptures teach that a soft answer turneth away wrath. (Proverbs 15:1) It’s hard to supress our own anger and frustration with our children- especially when they are disobedient and bickering. But we are the adults, right? They are looking to us to be the example. I find that I must prepare myself each day spiritually- and take the time to be at peace within before my kids wake up. That might include prayer and scripture study, uplifting music, exercise, or whatever I need to do to be the stable and calm mother my kids deserve.
Stepping in/ Being the judge– As we try to determine who was the offender and who was right during an argument, it only seems to create jealousy and blaming and more rivalry among our children. I think it’s best to allow them the opportunity to work things out. If we step in every time to solve all their problems, they’ll never learn how to get along without us.
Punishments– only causes more friction in the home and often resentment toward the parent.
These methods WORK: (Kids still have their choice, but these principles will set them up for the best chance of success:)
Example– As much as I’d love to leave this one off the list, I know how important this is. When I’m stressed out or have a short temper, my children feel the tension and they often react accordingly. It’s actually a little intimidating to realize how much influence our attitude can have on them. But we can choose to be a role model of positivity and love, despite our moods or circumstances.
Prevention: When our family is consistently praying together, studying scriptures, and holding regular FHE (family home evening) there is much more peace in our home and our kids are much more likely to get along. I know these practices foster unity among us, and increase the spirit of reverence in our home.
Another practical tip about prevention- We need to be aware of when and what our kids argue about, and try to find ways around it. For example, we used to have plates for the kids in all different colors. For some reason everyone wanted the green one. (Don’t ask me why) And they would argue over it almost every time we had dinner. I got sick of it, so I gave those away and bought all white bowls. Also each kid has an assigned seats, and their own day to say the prayer, etc. We can look for simple solutions to prevent contention in our homes before it happens.
Look for the Good!- It’s so important to catch our kids getting along with each other. Notice it- and reinforce that behavior with praise, affection, and other forms of positive reinforcement.
Teach them to apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ- This is not the same as preaching. We can help them understand the effect of their behavior on others. We can teach them about Christ and His life of love and sacrifice. We can teach them about repentance, and the importance of prayer. One idea is to pray with our children- individually. Recently, the kids were fighting over a toy, and one of them lashed out and was really upset. So I took him to another room to pray. Just him and me. I asked him to offer the prayer- he didn’t want to, but I waited on my knees until he offered it. Finally, his heart softened, he repented, and love and unity was restored in our home.
Love and Serve one another-
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. (Mosiah 4:15.)
One idea to break up an argument- a friend told me when they started quarreling, their parents made them hold hands and sing a song about love and family. She said they couldn’t help but laugh- and it immediately dispelled the negativity and helped them feel close again. Love that! Here’s another idea- Give them all cut-out hearts and have them do a chore, or write a note, or any kind act of service for someone in the family and leave the heart behind as a token of their love.
Since no success in life can compensate for failure in the home, this cause is noble and of greatest importance. There will be times we mess it all up. There will be moments we feel like failures. But thankfully we know that we only truly fail when we stop trying. So mommas, keep on trying. Keep on striving for peace and harmony in the home. It will be worth our every effort.