Isn’t it so hard at times to know what is really going on in the hearts of our children? Here’s a scenario (might be a true story) that may have happened in my home recently.
After the lights were out and the door was closed for bed, I hear loud crying and yelling from a 6 year old. I listen for a response from the 8 year old and hear very little, if anything. This is the way most fights go between them–one being overly dramatic and the other administering some sort of stone cold silent treatment. The more one is silent, the louder the other yells, and vice versa.
I opened the door to help work this out. Know what it was all about? This penny.
Well, on the surface it was all about a penny. Underneath, there were layers of feelings that had to be uncovered. Now, I could have done as I sometimes do, and talked to them about the yelling and the fighting, but the fighting was not the real issue. Both girls had some hurt feelings (yes, over a penny) and when they understood how the other one felt, they actually felt remorse for their fighting!
A few weeks before, the 8 year old had given a penny to her sister in an earring box, by placing it under her pillow. The box, along with the penny had been put in a drawer and forgotten about, until this particular day. When the 6 year old found the box, she decided to reciprocate. She placed the box, with the penny inside, under her sister’s pillow. So when the 8 year old got into bed that evening, she discovered the ‘gift’, and a fight began.
Once we talked through the situation, we found out that 8 year old was offended that her sister didn’t want her gift. She felt that her sister had rejected her kindness. 6 year old’s feelings were hurt because her act of love was also rejected. (Since we took the kids’ money to the credit union, 8 year old’s bank was empty.) 6 year old had noticed the empty bank and was simply trying to help her fill her bank, starting with this penny. Both girls had hearts of love, mixed with a little selfishness too. Once they got past the yelling and the silent treatment, they realized that their anger was not necessary.
(Oh, and we did work out a solution to the problem. Since both girls wanted the other to have the penny, we decided they should both use it. The girls will share a ride together on the horse at Meijer, which costs only a penny!)
How many times do I just put a stop to the fighting? Give a little reprimand about being “kind to one another”, and let that be the end of it. I know it is so important to help them get to the heart of the issue, so they can learn how to deal with these things themselves. How do I accomplish that though?
My first reaction is usually to storm right in and try to fix the problem with my mommy powers. But the only way I can help them learn to deal with their problems differently, is to listen. Find out what is going on in the mind and heart. I can also ask questions that will slowly help them realize that their action or behavior was wrong. Sometimes, having to give an answer to a question, out loud, will help the light dawn in their own mind and suddenly the issue is resolved. It is difficult for an adult, much less a 6 or 8 year old, to see past their own hurt feelings and have compassion for the other person. With a little nudge in the right direction though, it can be done.