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I don't know how other people parent, but there are moments when I wonder, was I sleepwalking through that period of life with respect to this child or that one?  Recently, I've been reading some parenting books on discipline and I have to say, they're helping.  They've calmed some of the chaos that normally takes over our home by five o'clock.   Little things like pre-prepping dinner, big things like laying out the schedule for everyone to see, and things in between, like the recent institution of "The Bench."  It began as many things do in our home, out of desperation.

When my kids fight, they come to Judge Mom hoping she will lay down parental wrath on the other one. They've come to know that Mom verdicts tend toward "You're both in trouble." Getting them to apologize to each other often involves listening to all the reasons the other person should say "I'm sorry" first. Love your neighbor as yourself sounds great, but my kids usually want the neighbor (or in this case, the sibling), to be  loving first, to merit the apology.   Reminding them of "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" doesn't satisfy.
It's a normal human response, but not a holy one. What's more, it seldom leads to peace when the two aggrieved parties stand off hoping the other will blink first and admit their own wrongs. We should know from the beginning, our concupiscence makes asking to be forgiven one of the hardest things we can do. Adam and Eve in the Garden ran from God. They blamed each other. She started it. He started it. The snake started it. But trusting in God means saying, "Be merciful to me, a sinner."

Who started it doesn't matter, whether or not it will end in peace through forgiveness or by force of law (Both of you go to your rooms), is the real question.
If within the family, most of us want mercy for ourselves and justice for everyone else, how much more so in the whole of the world. The kids count on my not-so-infinite patience the same way we count on God's infinite goodness to overlook/ignore our faults rather than ask for actual forgiveness. It's not that we cannot trust or rely on God's mercy, it's that we must seek God's forgiveness and mercy and that means owning up to one's own faults rather than pointing out someone else's.
So Judge Mom sits at her bench and issues the rules of the court.
  • Rule 1: You must show up. Failure to show up equals a verdict against you with penalties for the court's time, ten pairs of socks folded. Everyone shows up.
  • Rule 2: You may only testify against yourself about what YOU did wrong.
  • Rule 3: Judge has final say on ruling. If justice cannot be reached, fairness will be the rule.
  • Rule 4: Refusal to follow Judge's rulings results in the same penalty as not showing up.  I'd really like the socks folded.
  • Rule 5: Unspoken...Mom is a softy.
I need to unite the brother and sister with a common goal, a common love so they are no longer interested in winning the fight but winning the prize. "Who wants snack?" I ask. They're both interested. "Make peace, then we'll have snack." The apologies may be prefunctory but the desires they have for the prize is real. Within moments, they're both sitting at the table extolling the virtues of hot chocolate with marshmallows, the battle over the Wii or whatever it was, forgotten.
As we forgive those, we shall be forgiven. And the Judge in this case has a much better reward than hot cocoa.
My small success this week, the continued institutionalization in family dynamics of "The Bench" and Judge Mom rules.

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Please note that as next Thursday, April 2, is Holy Thursday, "Small Success" will not be appearing next week. We'll resume on Thursday, April 9. May you and your family have a blessed Holy Week and Easter!

Copyright 2015 Sherry Antonetti