by Kyndra Steinmann
It seems some days the squabbles come every five minutes! The peace of the backyard is shattered by shrieks and cries which rapidly invade the house.
“No, you are!”
Now, sometimes I know who’s in the wrong, but most of the time I don’t. Then, too, I want the children to learn to extend grace in their relationships whether they are the wronged party or not.
Of course, nobody is willing to work things out. They are caught up in the heat of the moment, and can only see the wrong the other person has done. I’ve learned to first give everyone a cooling off period. They each sit in a chair and I set the timer for 5-10 minutes. I refuse to listen to anyone’s story during this time and just give them a chance to calm down (and sometimes I need that cool down, too, if the squabbles have been coming often).
When the timer rings, I have just one question for each child:
“Were you being as kind as you possibly could be?”
“No, but she…”
“You aren’t responsible for her actions. Were you being kind and trying to help her have the most fun she could?”
Sometimes I get:
“Yes, Bull needed help and I was trying to help him.” (As we all know, three-year-olds don’t always react well to help.)
Then we talk about using words instead of taking over in order to help; we talk about accepting help graciously; and we go back through the interaction, doing and saying the things they should have. The basic rule is kindness–looking out for the enjoyment of the others involved rather than your own.
This is a hard concept for everyone to understand but I think it is foundational to learning to offer grace to others, accept grace from others, and ultimately accept the grace of God in Christ. It is a concept that is true for adults as well as children. When we operate out of kindness and grace, allowing others to offer kindness and grace to us, we learn how to accept God’s grace and live that grace into our lives and outward to the world.
This begins with a question.
“Are you being kind?”
Or as Paul puts it in Philippians 2:1-7:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (English Standard Version)
–Kyndra Steinmann blogs at Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones on living in a house full of young children, unending questions, and abundant grace. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and be sure to read her post here every other Tuesday!