After my children spend time with someone, they come back to me parroting back words of hate targeted to specific groups of people. I know where these words came from and I know that they are not their own words because they are verbatim the words I heard from the person they spend time with.
Words can harm. When planted and continuously fed these same words, they can take root and warp a person’s world view. I’m determined that these words will not be able to take root.
My children are having problems effectively dealing with conflict and each other when they come home. They are quick to anger and quick to call each other names. It’s heartbreaking to watch and to hear the intolerance.
These are not my same sweet children. Like with any other problem, I wanted to find a solution. In typical “me” fashion, I got a book (or two or three).
I’ve read the Harry Potter series to them for years. I bought the newest book and to my surprise, it’s written as a play. So, we all have parts and take turns reading the play at night. Just like the other Potter books, it’s full of great teachable moments about relationships.
This one seems to serve up those teachable moments in almost every scene. It’s been a wonderful example and has provided some great discussion about healthy and unhealthy relationships as well as healthy and unhealthy reactions.
I also turned to a nonfiction book, “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.”
I had them take the assessment tests to figure out their style under stress. The assessment breaks down the categories into silence or violence, which are the typical reactions to stress. Under silence, you have masking, avoiding and withdrawing. Under violence, you have controlling, labeling and attacking. The book is designed around conversations and how even violence looks in dialogue. We’ve been reading the book and discussing the lessons off and on.
When they got into an argument the other night, I stood listening for a bit. Neither were raising their voice, but the things they were saying to each other were so sad. I’d heard enough to get the gist and that they were clearly not going to resolve it themselves, so we all sat down and had a chat. We discussed what they were saying and how what they said fell into the different categories of stress, how people react when they feel disrespected, attacked and so forth. We discussed how their sibling’s words made them feel. I tried to get them to get really specific about their feelings and they did a great job.
Then we circled back to the critical questions in the book:
- What do I want for me?
- What do I want for others?
- What do I want for the relationship?
It made my heart happy that they both wanted each other to be happy and they wanted their relationship to be good. It makes it easier when they both have the same goals.
I know that they will continue to have disagreements with each other and other people. I know that they will continue to be exposed to hateful messages and toxic people. But, I’m hopeful that the lessons they learn will carry them onto the path of improving relationships, empathy and understanding.