Do your kids have many activities? Through the years we’ve had soccer, dance, cello, choir, gymnastics, green club, and sustainability club.
Recently, I started thinking long and hard about how much practicing forgiveness and thankfulness is like practicing choir or basketball. It takes a lot of work, and the work never seems to end. And I don’t just mean for our young kids – teens need even more practice.
My two daughters still at home are very close. They act like the sisters I always wished I had: Jaiya often wakes up early in the morning to style Kaia’s hair, and Kaia makes chocolate chip cookies from scratch.
Now that Jaiya is almost 14, conflict rears her head more frequently at our house. I went through this once before with Nia and Kaia, so I was ready for round two. But different kids call for different strategies.
Often, I let them work out their conflict. If they get on my last good nerve, I’ll intervene. In the past, I would do what teachers do: let each side tell her story, talk about it, then apologize. Have you ever tried that and it didn’t work?
Well, here’s my latest technique: a quick flip of the script. In other words, say something unexpected to snap their minds out of their usually petty argument. Practicing thankfulness is my latest
Cue two days ago, when an argument about the dishes got personal. The bickering turned into snide comments. They took it upstairs, but I could still hear them. I called them both to me.
Me: Name something you’re thankful for. Go.
Kaia: Gus. (Our gray cat)
Jaiya: You guys.
Kaia: Fruits and vegetables. This turned into a conversation about the importance of eating well.
Kaia: I wish I could say not having anxiety – I need to be diagnosed.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Kaia found her out – her opportunity to begin the apology process – in her own way, on her own terms. She manages her anxiety quite well, most of the time, and when she doesn’t, we all feel it. She owned her behavior. The two of them went into the kitchen, finished the dishes, and snuck upstairs. A couple of minutes later, we were back to the typical sounds of light laughter over music.
A quick thankfulness activity like this brings out their mildly competitive natures. Each girl tries to think of something more sweet and authentic, or crazy but true, thing for which they’re thankful. We generally say a little prayer at the end thanking God we love each other enough to work out our differences.
There will be days I’ll have to be sterner. There will be times that their argument won’t be solved by taking a few minutes to be thankful. Whatever your strategy, it’s critical that we show teens how to forgive and apologize, and to find their own way to do this work authentically. Jaiya has no trouble getting right to an apology. Kaia needs a little wiggle room to ease into apologizing, but is much more forgiving than Jaiya is sometimes.
Forgiving and asking for forgiveness are lifelong works. Don’t give in or give up on this work – stay strong! Let’s work on it together with our kids and teens to make the journey toward the kingdom even sweeter.
How do you teach your kids and teens to be thankful?
How do you practice forgiveness?