Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Archives: Family Bickerings

I've been digging through the archived offerings at Ambleside Online recently, and I found a wonderful article from Leader Scott called "Family Bickerings." There is much to be considered here for a Catholic mother, especially in the realm of virtue, goodness, and family harmony, and I thought I'd share my notes and ponderings...maybe you might find something helpful here too?

* "A child's character is very complex. It has in it germs of all the qualities which will influence the man." Oh my. This is so true, isn't it? I can see in my own two littles that they are who they always have been, even in utero:) Some wonderful characteristics are totally evident and we try to grow those, but some challenging tendencies really do need attention or they will become their destiny.

*  "A child of strong will may be rendered either obstinate in the wrong or firm in the right, according to the way in which his will is directed; his generosity may become either a Christian liberality, or a selfish wastefulness; his pride either true pride in good and right, or false pride in empty show and display." A parent's job, and in many ways, more specifically a homeschooling mother's job, is to see her child fully. Perhaps rather than despair over the difficult characteristics, we would be better served by guiding and channeling them in a virtuous direction.

* The only way to make the virtues grow is to train the child's conscience and the love of others. We are in the midst of preparing for my 6 year old's first Holy Communion, along with Celeste and her two oldest. I've been thinking a lot about how to impress upon a small child the necessity to turn from selfishness, turn from what we know is wrong, and grow in virtue. Mr. Scott believes the key to growth in all the virtues is first and foremost the growth of selflessness. Any thoughts on this one? He very well may be right...

* The two chief causes of these (family bickerings) are selfishness and harsh judgment of others. No punishment is of the smallest use to combat these; punishment may awake resentment and arouse greater spite against the person on whose account it is incurred, but it will never lessen the selfishness by a jot. Well, my two certainly bicker, though for the most part they are best buddies. Usually, someone wants what they want, and doesn't care if the other wants it too. Or, they feel slighted and want to tattle to mommy about it. Hum...

* Virtues, like flowers, grow in the sunshine; you can cultivate them or draw them out with love and reason, but you can neither force nor whip them into existence. Oh but how often I try to force lovingkindness on my children:)

* Of course the best way to prevent bickering is never to admit it from infancy; to train the child to find its happiness in giving others pleasure; to show him always how good and kind others are to him; in fact, to let the names of mother, father, sister, and brother stand for love and loving-kindness to him. On good days I think we succeed in this, but it's so easy to lose track of this easy gentleness when there are dozens of things going at once and mommy is harried.

* If you have seen the beginning of the quarrel, try and get the children to talk it over with you when they are cooler, and suggest to Bessie that if she had answered softly when Tom was first angry, all the tears and misery would have been avoided; and put it to Tom that if he would only remember in time that it is the man's privilege to protect the women, and be generous and gentle to Bessie, she would always look up to him and try to please him. This is so sweet. Really. And I can see that if I were more present to the children's interactions, perhaps more available, I might be able to gently step in and mediate. When I do, things almost always settle right down and peace is restored.

* When the boys and girls sit round the fire with mother, a series of stories might be told bearing, evening after evening, on instances of love and self-denial--"would not you like a chance to do such beautiful things for each other?" Lent is really the perfect time for this. We are doing "sacrifice beans," and for each selfless or generous thing they do, the children move a bean to the big jar on the mantle. Sweet rewards come at Easter, and I have noticed a big increase in kind behavior since Ash Wednesday:)

* It is a certain fact that the suggestion of good things is much more likely to lead young minds upwards than the suggestion of evil, even in the form of a warning, is likely to keep them from sinking to it. I agree! Better to uplift than to suggest bad behavior inadvertently.

* Never compel a sacrifice as a right, but merely suggest to the child that here is a way to give up self, and do a kind and lovely action. Very often it will be refused, for virtues are difficult flowers to train; then all one can do is draw the child's attention to any suffering or discomforts which may be occasioned by its selfishness, and make a mental picture of the pleasure he has missed giving. When an unselfish action has been performed, give the child the full benefit of the happiness it brings remark on the other's enjoyment, and show the light of mother's smile and approval. This is so true. I have seen this in my children...merely the suggestion of something nice they could do leads them to do it, and as they grow, the random, unprompted acts of kindness do flourish. Not as often as I'd like, but we all fall short.

* Let it be an axiom in the family that anybody may look for virtues, but nobody is to seek a fault except parents and instructors. Anyone want to think with me about ways this rule might be phrased differently? What would "the rule" be in a family of small ones?

* Mr. Scott then details a family scenario in which a mother sees character problems in each of her children. She gives a "sketch of the giants which beset young folks, and morally devour them, such as Self-love, Vanity, Obstinacy, Falsehood, &c., and excited their interest by telling them that these giants were so curiously leagued together that if one were conquered the others would probably flee." The children know what their chief vice is, and the mother gives them each a short, applicable Bible verse to memorize and repeat when the vice rears its head. They are "giant killers," killing off their vices. This is a pretty interesting idea, maybe most workable with bigger, more self-aware children.

*Where parents work together in sympathy the family will be knit in the same bonds; but if the husband finds fault with his wife, or shows disrespect to her before the children, the brothers will certainly treat their sisters in the same manner; and where the wife complains of "papa's unfortunate temper," or lets the children hide their actions and thoughts from him in fear of a scolding, she divides them with her own hand, and sows the distrust and defiance that make quarrels not only possible, but probable. Mommy and Daddy are the center, are they not? If their union is strong, respectful, dutiful, and loving, the children will mimic those virtues, which makes the training we do with them that much easier.

I really enjoyed this article and Mr. Scott's thoughts on family bickerings. Would love to hear your thoughts on keeping peace and growing virtue at home!

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