I recently noticed my kids getting grouchy and snippety with one another during (home)school time, especially while working on something together without a parent involved. Kid One would read too fast or mumbly for Kid Two to hear. Kid Two would nudge and poke Kid Three into whining. A good time was being had by none.
So I did what came naturally--I got grouchy and snippety with them. That just validated their behavior. Then my morning reading took me to Matthew 12: "A house divided against itself cannot stand" As it has many times before, the light of Jesus' words illuminated the log of wood on which my critical eye was impaled. The problem didn't begin with my children. How could I expect them to treat one another lovingly when I was gruff and impatient?
Like it or not, I am the mood thermostat in my home. The attitude I have when I teach my kids in the morning, or when I come home in the evening, pervades the home. When I don't like what I see in my family, I need to check my own heart and take responsibility. That's just part of being Dad.
So after repenting and resolving to watch my own attitude, I asked my older kids to read Matthew 12 and tell me what they thought. It's a long chapter, 50 verses that span several topics, but both kids came right back with verse 25: "a house divided against itself cannot stand." They recognized that their attitudes toward one another had gone bad and they wanted to change.
It's been a week now. The house is peaceful. More laughing around the table. More helpfulness. More encouragement. Experience tells me this won't last forever. But at least for now, when whining starts or a temper begins to flare, someone is quick to laugh and say, "You'd better be nice or we'll have to read Matthew 12 again."
Love and unity are the way to go. They are what really make learning fun.