When Chaos Reigns

Posted on September 12, 2011


My almost 6-yr-old and 3-yr-old, the last of 9 children have some really bad habits. I watch them and listen to them every day and wonder what to do. The atmosphere of my home is so tense as soon as they wake up and start interacting. When they started wrestling it was cute. We’d all have a good laugh which egged them on. Then one would get hurt. So someone would say, “Stop!” But somehow the behavior became a habit and now there are small incidents that quickly escalate into name-calling and knock-down drag-out fights. Friends and relatives say that that’s what their children were like, too, and they don’t find it unusual. My heart says it’s not okay and I want this chaos to end. I want my peaceful home back.

So I’m left wondering where the real root of the problem is.

Both boys are very sensitive. They also have different ways of seeing their little world. They have the added challenge of the influence of their older siblings which has become difficult to manage when they hit a bump in the road in their life. Add to that watching tv shows that show behaviors that I don’t allow them to engage in and they are pretty confused.

They are buddies and can’t stand when one of them gets put in a time-out. “But I love him. He’s my best brother!” So I think I must be overreacting. If they’re okay with the consequences just let them be. Right? There was one day, literally 24 hours this summer, when I took the bull by the horns and “punished” them every single time they crossed the line I’d drawn in the sand. I was exhausted, but their behavior had changed. My peaceful home, the one in which we agreeably disagreed, was back. The change in the atmosphere was palpable. Everyone was grateful that something had finally been done to eradicate the chaos.

Three days later it was back! What had happened? I understand how long it takes to form a habit. I should have known better and stayed on my toes, watching for signs of the unwanted behavior to show up. But I was distracted (not really. I saw, but wouldn’t believe), and lazy. You’d think after raising children for so many years I’d have this handled.  I was assuming that they needed no direction after the initial behavior was dealt with.

I could go on and on but there are some things that I know from experience:

  • Rules and boundaries give people a sense of security. When they know what’s expected and what will not be tolerated they perform better.
  • Rules do not inhibit but lead to greater freedom(s).
  • Communication and consistency are vital
  • The rules of a home or organization have to be based on “correct” principles (you know in your gut they’re right and no one has to explain the rule in-depth more than once)
  • Sometimes the “spirit of the law” has to give precedence to the “letter of the law”
  • The best “punishment” is an understanding of the breach of trust in the relationship, and what consequences there are because of that breach
  • ALWAYS explain how to develop that trust again. We want to encourage a willingness to be united as a group where we work out our human short-comings as we move towards our organizational goals.
  • State  and restate the goal of the organization to put the unwanted behavior in context.
  • Suggest a desirable behavior to replace the unwanted one.

I’ve heard it said, in many variations, that if men were to follow God’s laws there would be no need for the governments of the world to create more. Think about that. Whether you believe in God or not, there are true and eternal (not made up or created) principles that, when followed, help us to work better as friends, neighbors, organizations and countries. His laws of happiness are not restrictive as some would want to believe. They  discourage selfishness and encourage us to think of each other as brothers, or “best buddies” as my boys say. The wonderful thing about these immutable laws and principles is that we may not have the words for them all the time, or we all may have different words for them, but we feel them in our hearts and minds. They feel right. They offer suggestions of behavior that lead to strengthened relationships.

“Thou shalt not”

  • steal
  • lie
  • bear false witness, etc.

But be:

  • forgiving
  • kind
  • compassionate
  • generous, etc.

They offer a way to peace when chaos reigns.


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