How to Stay Sane When Your Kids Are Bickering

How to Stay Sane When Your Kids Are Constantly Bickering 

Minutes into the school day my focus breaks. One child complains about his brother touching the chair he’s been tipping. Another pouts over his "too hard" math. A third disappears into the bathroom, avoiding me, right when I want to help him. I feel the loss of control painfully. I am not in control of my one-room schoolhouse, and I am certainly not in control of my emotional response to these four "amazing" students!

My homeschool day began in precious time alone with God. In the quiet moments, He instilled hope as I read, prayed, sought wisdom, and renewed my thoughts with truth. I remembered powerful truths such as, "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). I felt blessed to leave the larger classroom, to share my faith with these four children, my "Magnum Opus," to give them my all for these short years they are with me.

If only that quiet, uninterrupted time could last longer! If only interruptions didn’t always make me forget who I am in Christ Jesus. But then no distractions would mean no people, and how could I live out my faith alone? Loving takes people—messy people—to love as Christ does me!

Now, upon the couch, condemning thoughts swirl around my mind. I hear a soft footfall and hurriedly try to act as if all is well. But my husband, best friend, and principal of our school knows me well. "What’s wrong?" he asks, and the struggle tumbles out of my lamenting lips.

A stern, fatherly talk straightens out my young student's behavior for the moment, but I find myself reflecting deeply on the cause of this discord. I am a teacher by trade and know-how to develop respect at school. Other teachers describe my children as good students. Something is not adding up, and the algebra teacher in me wants to figure out where the equation went wrong!

"Lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5–6). Exasperation leads me to the One who led me to teach. "Lord, why don’t my own children mind me? How am I failing?" I listen to other homeschool mamas, hearing similar stories of temptations to send their children to school. Maybe a stranger could better command respect? Then, new awareness dawns upon me ... maybe, it takes some healthy fear to lead students in the classroom. Fear of disapproval from the teacher or classmates is a motivator for good behavior. At home, my kids know I love and accept them, no matter what. I work hard to help them understand this important truth. If they squabble, complain, avoid their work, I am not happy with them, but I still love them, even delight in them, though they drive me crazy! My realization balances the equation, explaining the "why" for this trial, though it does not yet solve my problem.

A few days later, another chaotic spirit enters our homeschool. My children unkindly and selfishly neglect my most elementary teaching, "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke 6:31). How can they still not get it? Even after reading great literature, role-playing, reading Scripture, and praying, they still manage to bicker over who gets to sit in the front seat. Again, I take my perplexity up in prayer. God

reveals these troubles as tools. If I couldn’t see the sinful reality of my children’s hearts, how would I know what they need? I can meet their real challenges, applying Scripture and prayers. They can learn about God’s mercy and grace. When they do love well, it will not be to please the teacher. It will be authentic God-led, and Spirit-equipped.

And so we grow. Day-by-day, we wrestle to understand Scripture, apply it to our lives, and love one another ... especially when that brother doesn’t deserve it! We grow in perseverance, forgiveness, and understanding. But something still bothers me. If I know how to teach, if I know my children well, why do I often flounder through our days? Returning to the Word and prayer, I seek God’s wisdom. Should I send my kids to someone who can teach them with less effort? The answer surprises me. "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). I am compelled to do what is hard for me when it feels impossible. I remember I am "troubled on every side, yet not distressed" (2 Corinthians 4:8). When I cannot solve the problem before me, let me cry out to the One who can. Nothing surprises Him.

Another day, another struggle. Retreating to my room, tears flow. I feel shame at my emotional response. A quiet footstep approaches, this time, my grown daughter, Emme. Gently handing a tissue box and a blanket for comfort, she speaks words of encouragement. Her compassion amazes me. I wonder as my weakness brings to light the truth. She has been learning! She has seen glimmers of love. I give thanks to God.

About Anna

Anna Gibson, an elementary teacher, left her larger classroom for an incredible detour into homeschooling. Now, fifteen years later, she sees how powerfully this experience augmented her degrees in psychology and education! Anna enjoys encouraging other parents through consultations and writing. Her homeschool inspiration is Colossians 3:23. Florida residents can reach her for support at [email protected].

Copyright 2021, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms. Read The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com, or download the free reader apps at www.TOSApps.com for mobile devices. Read the STORY of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and how it came to be.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Prostock-Studio

Anna Gibson, an elementary teacher, left her larger classroom for an incredible detour into homeschooling. Now, fifteen years later, she sees how powerfully this experience augmented her degrees in psychology and education! Anna enjoys encouraging other parents through consultations and writing. Her homeschool inspiration is Colossians 3:23. Florida residents can reach her for support at [email protected].

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