AN elegantly dressed man entered the funeral home. The room suddenly became quiet and someone’s whisper could be audibly heard, “This is the favourite son!” I smiled, trying to imagine what the other siblings were known for or called by their relatives and friends.
Having familiar names for children or one’s siblings is not uncommon. These are inherited by the children as their parents strive to form and educate them. Some are comically imposed to highlight a funny or unforgettable moment. Others become a stigma that recalls a particular defect, for being clumsy, forgetful or a cry-baby.
But there is another reality that familiar name tags reveal: deep family rifts such as sibling rivalries. Thus, we hear of the ‘prodigal son/daughter’, the ‘unwanted or forsaken’, the unnamed one’ and more. Negative tags may have first been drawn impulsively by a parent or another sibling after some argument. With time, as sibling differences become more defined the labels are meant to stick permanently on the person.
It is only natural that there be differences among children. What is unnatural and therefore fomenting of rivalries among children is how parents mismanage their children when they cut corners to forge virtue and foster family integration in the children.
Rivalries can be avoided early on, if parents have a more positive approach towards children’s limitations or faults. For our interests of avoiding a negative parenting outlook, let us identify four reactions that we may have towards children’s differences or defects.
They all start with the letter C. These can sow negative sentiments in either the one bearing positive traits and the also other manifesting defects.
Comparing. A natural tendency of seeing the differences in people and things. There is nothing wrong with this, but rivalry can be sown in a seed of the better other than you among siblings.
One way to avoid comparing would be through modelling. This involves pointing out the virtue or ideal in another sibling, but without conveying that the other is better or more preferred than the one who at fault.
Complaining. A negative reaction to another person’s faults or errors that is aired with a tone of exasperation. These complaints begin internally and are verbalized. Once another’s defect is ‘advertised’ then it opens the ground for other siblings to ‘label’ the person who has erred.
What arises internally has to be also addressed internally. In the first place, being aware that we too are capable of the same mistakes. Second, to pray for the person and the fortitude to properly address what has been overlooked.
If we, however, do utter a complain. It would be also to our advantage and an example of humility, to take back what we have said and apologize for lacking the serenity and composure to handle trying situations.
Criticizing. Criticism is like a complaint, but with an intention to ‘attack’ the person at fault. This is already the stage where the person is ‘labelled’ for the lack of virtue or an ideal. It is also when a negative trait can easily be tagged on his person.
We have to sincerely struggle to avoid criticizing at all costs. Not only does this label the individual, but also occasions gossiping and foments family disunity. This is best avoided when parents confer with one another about the unique issues of each of their children. Together they can assess each case more objectively.
In the absence of one parent or another, and in cases that are not very delicate, the eldest son can be consulted about how a younger sibling may be helped or guided.
Condemning. Is a dead end street for parenting. It is giving up on the possibility of change or conversion in one’s offspring. When a condemnation has been said or expressed in the presence of the others, it is almost difficult to remove the stigma they have fabricated for a son or daughter.
The only way to rework a condemnation is to pray, be patient and ask for forgiveness from God and offended party. There are no perfect parents nor children. Thus, together they may work on the ‘project family’.
Only by seeing that have each a role and contribution for the family, can they overlooked petty arguments, concerns and differences for a higher good which is their family.