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Home > Support > Family Life > Is mean behavior inherent in boys?
Question: My two boys, 8 and 11, are often fighting and bickering, Sometimes the hate I see in their eyes is absolutely frightening. Needless to say, most of our schooling hours are spent refereeing and by the end of the day I am angry with them and thoroughly discouraged. I try to get them to think of Who they are really hurting with this behavior, but they don't seem to care. My husband has mentioned sending one of them to public school but we both agree that would not really teach them to love one another. Is some of this just behavior inherent in boys? I don't know how to handle this and it seems to be escalating. I also have a 6 year old and a 3 year old who are being exposed to this on a daily basis. What do I do?

Dear Mom,

I do not think that there is anything more disturbing for me (and I suspect many mothers) than witnessing my children fighting with one another. The normal childhood prattle is not nearly as worrisome as the hateful arguments and physical violence.

As adults in this world we have all seen children argue and fuss over many issues. I believe that this behavior, though distressing, is normal among children. Children are adults in the making and as such they need to be taught many social skills. Many times arguing is the end result of frustration and unresolved anger. I can tell you that when children are acting out in this way there is always an underlying cause. Children are just as disturbed by their outbursts as we, their parents, are.

They feel guilty and very ashamed when they have resorted to violence and anger to settle disagreements. Though I believe that frustration and anger is normal among children they must be taught ways to work through these very intense feelings. It takes patience and prayer to help children understand that their behavior is not going to be tolerated. It is indeed a blessing that you are a sensitive parent who desires to see an end to this conflict in your home.

I am a firm believer in laying down the groundwork for what is expected of children. A family talk and a set of guidelines is always a good place to start.

Always separate the children when they begin to argue in a hurtful way. In so doing you are reinforcing that this behavior is unacceptable. After an initial 'cooling off' period, bring them back together and calmly begin the process of sorting out all the emotion that has erupted into violence. Keep them talking about 'feelings' and not about what each has 'done ' to the other.

Children are very sensitive to the way that they feel. This appears to be the first step in getting children to realize that their actions affect the way other people feel. I have seen in my children an intense range of emotion when we begin talking in this manner. They go from 'hot mad' to 'tears' and sorrow.

It does seem that there are days when all you do is 'conflict management.' I will tell you that the best place to learn these skills is from a loving parent who daily seeks the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I have a friend who works in the public school system as a Conflict Manager. He is called to do just what we are talking about. He has told me that at times it is difficult to do because he must leave the Holy Spirit out of the discussion in this setting.

I admire your patience and your sincere desire to bring harmony into your home. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your actions. In the evening when you are together as a family and praying the family rosary have each child offer up the decades for another sibling.

Remember that the lessons that you teach along these lines are in many ways more important than anything else we could be teaching in the homeschool. Children must learn to enter the world with the skills necessary to handle conflict and disagreements.

Jesus, we ask Your guidance as we do the very important work of preparing our children to enter the world as Godly people who are loving and merciful. Help us, dear Lord, to remember that Your forgiveness and mercy are the very richest of gifts. We love You, Jesus, and want to remain Your children as we prepare each day to enter into eternity with You.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

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