little fellows & their fellowship

sharing is perhaps one of the biggest issues of a little person's life. the why, the what, the whom & how they share are much of what i spend my day sorting out at the moment. with four fellows four & under, most of the toys in this house are communal, which has lead to some inevitable conflict. it is rarely the brand new race car or the latest newfangled trinket, but rather the old broken purse strap
that they love to chase the dog with or some old bottle cap tucked conspicuously in someone's shirt pocket that causes murderous rage to erupt between them. silly things possess children to do silly things. who knew a trike could be welded as a weapon? who knew a flashlight could be like catnip to a little sinner? who knew a bubble wand could set off WWIII?
needless to say, we have tried regulating & implementing sharing policies so fair is fair which has only made us all into legalists. we have tried making the punishment fit the crime, which has lead to an un-ending conveyer belt of timeouts. we've tried toy jail & chocolate chip bribery, sticker charts & sharing magnets & total toy isolation. we have tried just about every parenting strategy out there to prevent sibling rivalry from raising it's ugly head but nothing has been as effective as getting to the heart of the matter.

"now every time your children have a conflict about a toy, they are breaking fellowship. if you step in and redistribute the toy but don't address the unkindness or selfishness or envy, you allow that to stay between them. it is sort of like trying to get rid of a dandelion by shaking the seeds all over you garden. there we go. solved that problem. until this afternoon.
it is a lot harder to work through grabby heart problems than the grabby hands, even though they usually travel together. if this part of parenting were only about toy distribution, then we should just be setting timers & keeping tally sheets. but teaching them about dealing well with each other, looking to their own hearts, and staying in fellowship is hugely important if they are ever going to get on without you." 
{rachel jankovic, loving the little years}

i know they are little fellows at the moment but i very much value their relationship with their siblings & i want them to too. people are always more important than toys. more important than anything that could possibly come between them, i tell them. and when the wild rumpus starts to rage in the other room, it doesn't matter who started it or how, they are both in the wrong. absolutely nothing i can think of necessitates a lord of the flies savage outbreak. they both have the ability to communicate. and if the other wasn't listening to their plea, that's when they should have grabbed me to come help, matthew 28 style. but wild rumpus is never ok, no matter what. i want them to learn the lessons i am still learning, that no matter what, we can always walk through a dispute in fellowship with one another. no matter what, i can still love my brothers & my sisters regardless of the sinful nature they have just manifested towards me. and then, once we agree the we love each other & that this is worth working out together, we get down to the heart of the matter. 

"remember that the house rules for the toys are foundational social laws to your child. they will take these lessons with them for life. so think through what your rules communicate to your children.
do your kids know that if they grab they want & cry mom will make their brother give it to them in a minute? do you try to pacify them by offering them things & trying to persuade them that it is better, rather than deal just deal with envy?
it is the hearts that are the problem. only sorting out what they may grab & when does not deal with the actual situation because it does not address the engine of the situation - their hearts. nobody profits from this kind of a system, but everyone learns how to work it to their advantage.
it's important to stick to principles, teach principles & then sort out the details in light of them." 
{rachel jankovic, loving the little years}

it is hard to see our precious little one's in true light sometimes. to see them chose to use their wallop instead of their words. to see them clobber instead of communicate. and it is definitely difficult to see such big, ugly emotions come out of such teeny hearts. but they are there whether we want to recognize it or not. envy is still envy, even if i choose to call it 'spirit-ly concerned for the welfare of all toys everywhere'. selfishness is still selfishness, even if i choose to call it personality. we put names to the big, ugly emotions, we call them like they are, & then we work through those emotions in repentance & replace them with the true feelings of fellowship, like it had never been broken. 

i'm not saying that every time there is an altercation between children i run through all of this, but i most definitely set it as a goal to talk about the heart of the matter later if there isn't time or if space to deal with it right there & then. stories help too. the story of the brave knight who fought dragons all day protecting the castle & then came home & walloped the princess over getting the blue plate has convicted each of my own brave knights at some point & the same with the beautiful princess with glass slippers & a regal tiara who went around calling the boys poopy heads. for some reason they always know what the right thing to do is when there is a brave knight or a princess involved. :)

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