The Writing is on the Wall
During one of the mornings of the kids’ Thanksgiving school break, I did a double take when I peripherally glanced at the four-letter word stuck on the door of our aluminum kitchen refrigerator. Some Weber family member (or an unlikely intruder) boldly spelled “f@#*” using our five-year-old Benjamin’s magnetic Word Whammer refrigerator letters. Easy to deduct the culprit with Benjamin too short, Gianna too angelic, Daisy with four too many paws and two too few arms, and Joe and I too mature and appropriate (I hope), I zoned in on the primary suspect—our 6th grader Ian.
My suspicious were strengthened when, I flashed back to the only foul language incident in our home. Several months back Ian had a friend over to hang out. I was working upstairs when Gianna informed me that Ian and friend were saying a bad word. I trudged downstairs to confront them. Admitting what they did, the boys spend the rest of their “hang out time” in our dining room table writing an essay on why not to use bad language.
So with the evidence still magnetized on the fridge, I confronted Ian. Of course, he denied posting it. (I am consoled by the fact that Ian is such a poor liar.) I explained that I did not believe him and assigned him to write another essay. The essay should have taken him 30 minutes to an hour. But in protest Ian chose to defiantly doodle, stuck at the kitchen table the entire morning.
So, when it was time for Joe to take Ian and Benjamin out to lunch and to the Wichita Aviation Museum for a Weber men date out, Ian erupted when he learned he would not be going until his essay was finished. Within 20 – 30 minutes the essay and Ian’s defiant sulking were done. And off the Weber men went for male bonding.
Keeping the standards high and uncompromised combined with lots of bonding, fun and love is the recipe for responding to these pre-teen tests of authority. Not too far down the road when the stakes are higher, at a gut level we want Ian to be crystal clear about what is and is not accepted. We want him to have enough respect and appreciation for us and himself that he doesn’t want to risk losing it through disobedience. The writing on the wall we want our kids to read is that no matter the pressure, nothing is worth disobeying and damaging the relationships with those they love.
The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip: Fill them up with love and uncompromising standards.