Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the book The Soft-Spoken Parent: The Top 10 Strategies to Turn Away Wrath.
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Some years ago when our children were small, I found that the previous user of the bathroom had finished a roll of toilet paper without replacing it. Unfortunately, I discovered this at an inopportune time. I felt like launching a full-scale investigation and then punishing the perpetrator. I was angry.
But something inside me whispered that there was a better way. How could I accuse and humiliate the people I loved most?
So I called the whole family – all five of us – together into the small bathroom. Then I announced that we had a serious problem. Someone had finished the roll of paper without replacing it. So we would be instituting a new policy. All toilet paper would be stored in a locked shed in the hallway. Paper would only be issued after completing a form in triplicate accounting for each square of paper that was requested.
The children laughed at me. I laughed at me. They got the point without any investigation, accusation, or rancor. Truly “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). So do squiggly – or humorous – answers.
Very often we want to help our children act better, but then we often set a terrible example of immature rant. Surely there is a better way. Often, humor is not a bad substitute for anger – as long as no one is hurt or humiliated.
I read a story of a teenager who had just learned to drive. She regularly begged for opportunities to drive the family. Once, during a family vacation, her father allowed her to drive on a long, straight stretch of highway. She was in heaven…until. Suddenly there was a turn in the road. Caught by surprise, she swung too wide and ran into a service station’s sign. She stopped the car and braced herself for a lecture.
Her father, always mindful of his children’s feelings, was quiet for some time. Then he turned to the rest of the family in the backseat and said, “As long as we’re stopped here, does anybody need to use the rest room?” I suspect that this teenager loved her father for his kindness.
It is important that family laughter not be corrosive or sarcastic. We must never laugh at a family member’s pain. But there will be times when laughing together will help the family draw closer together. Kindness and happiness are the lubricants of positive family life.
Stay tuned for another strategy next week.