Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Everyday Grace: Cultivating peace at home
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Oct. 4, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)
Shouts of argument echoed through the house as my two grade-schoolers finished breakfast and brushed their teeth. Still reeling, just one day after terrorists attacked in New York and Washington D.C., I didn’t have the energy, nor heart to deal with their bickering. I wanted to ignore them, but the disagreement escalated and they each called on me for backup.
I pulled them to me and spoke bluntly.
“How can we expect peace in the world, when the two of you cannot even make peace?” I said. “If a sister and brother who love each other can’t get along, how can peoples and nations with long-running, violent disputes even have a chance?”
My words silenced them and sent the wheels in their heads spinning — a rare phenomenon, and one not likely to be repeated in this decade.
And in that moment, I no longer felt powerless. I recommitted myself to cultivating peace in my little corner of the world.
Here’s what we can do to foster peace in our families and ultimately, the world:
- Practice non-violence at home by using peaceful and respectful methods to resolve conflict. If angry voices, name-calling, belittling, browbeating, criticizing, hitting or shoving are common in your family, seek help. Parenting classes, marriage or family counselors, support groups and anger management training can all aid in changing hurtful habits. Don’t get discouraged, these patterns of behavior are often deep seated, but they can be overcome.
- Stay connected: Give our children and ourselves permission to be angry with those we love. In a fight your children may not like each other, you may not like them! That doesn’t mean love is gone. Practice staying connected and voicing your love even when you’re angry or hurt. For example: Say, “I’m very angry with you. I don’t feel like talking to you or being with you right now. But I do love you, and I know we’ll work this out.”
- Time out: It’s almost impossible to make peace when emotions are running high. If one or more family members are very angry or hurt, call for a cooling-off period. We use the well-known sports “time-out” signal. This works best if a specific time is agreed upon to come back together and talk about the problem. Don’t let things slide, be sure to re-gather and try to resolve the issue when everyone is calm.
- Exercise good listening: Set aside regular family time for sharing feelings. Give all a chance to talk without interruption. Good listening doesn’t mean agreeing, it means standing in another’s shoes. Many quarrels can be headed off if families take time to seek understanding on a regular basis.
- Model peaceful resolution within marriage: The way we get along with our spouse will be the biggest single influence on how our children learn to resolve problems. Take the time, make the effort-a good marriage is the best insurance we have for our children’s well being.
- Work for Justice: People end up in rough circumstance through no fault of their own. Look for ways your family can help in your own community. Lead games at an after-school program, visit a nursing home, march in a demonstration, make sandwiches for the homeless, give away books to a child literacy program.
- Teach Tolerance: Expose children to different cultures, different religions, and different viewpoints. Even trying new foods and listening to unfamiliar music can help children learn tolerance. Again, agreement or “sameness” is not the goal, rather model respect and seek understanding. Some family rules must be hard and fast, but when it doesn’t matter, let your children be different. For instance, does a child’s work method matter, as long as the chores get done satisfactorily? If clothing or hair is not dangerous or immoral, can you let your child choose a style you may not prefer?
Air strikes to eliminate the enemy may seem a quick and easy solution to our nation’s problems, while the road of peaceful negotiation appears long and arduous. The same dynamic is true in our families. For long-lasting peace, it seems clear we must take the more time and resource-consuming route of patient, persistent non-violent resolution.
(Farrell is a Spokane free-lance journalist and children’s writer.)
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