There wasn’t much peace among brothers in our home anymore. Just fighting, arguing, punching, slapping, hollering… you name it, it was happening. One morning as I felt another strand of my hair turning bright white, I knew something had to change. I took the older brothers aside and we had a heart to heart.
“I just don’t like him Mom! He ruins everything! He destroys everything! All he does is scream and cry!”
I nodded. I knew they were right. He WAS doing all of those things and their arguments made perfect sense. But here’s what I also knew… getting angry at people doesn’t change their behaviour. So what would?
“Guys, we can’t keep living like this.” I sighed heavily, because fighting for absent peace is exhausting.
The difficulty was that little brother wasn’t going to change his behaviour until the big brothers changed their behaviour.
He wasn’t going to start punching less, or eventually not at all, until they started loving him better.
*Sigh.* A dilemma was indeed before us.
We needed a plan… And so, the ‘love your brother’ project was born.
“I’ll give you guys until lunchtime to do 3 things.” I said.
Big eyeballs stared back at me in nervous anticipation.
- You’re going to SAY something nice TO him.
- You’re going to DO something nice FOR him.
- You’re going to DO something nice WITH him.
“If you can’t get those 3 things finished by lunchtime, I’m going to hand over your prized LEGO creations to your 2 year old brother to play with, however he wants to…”
Incentive. They didn’t want ‘Smashy Mcsmasherson’ to get ahold of their spaceships, that was for certain, but I also think a small part of them was also sick of all of the current warfare, and they were open to some peaceful change too.
I watched the next morning unfold. One big brother said “I love you” to a little brother straight away. Check. Another big brother built a little brother a LEGO minifigure to play with and keep. Check. Then little brother had a book read to him, and he was told that he was good at building things.
So far so good. Effort was being put in, kindness levels were slowly registering on the meter again. Spoken words were building up instead of tearing down.
The punching, whining, yelling, arguing and rudeness? It all noticeably decreased.
The next morning a big brother came walking out of his room after a good night’s sleep. The little brother who was waiting in the kitchen looked up, saw him coming, and raced toward him to give him a bear hug while saying, “I love you!”
Big brother eyes grew saucer big. And then I watched him put his long arms around that little boy who was hugging him, and then I watched as HE HUGGED HIM BACK.
A reciprocated hug. “I think it’s working.” I mouthed to him.
It’s been a few weeks now. We’ve had plenty of steps backwards, but there has been noticeable improvement.
The other day I had just the two little brothers at the store with me. As we perused the LEGO aisle my son grabbed a Jurassic World set off of the shelf, the one his big brother had been saving up his money for.
“Can I buy this for him mama? He’s going to love me so much if I buy this for him!” His sweet little face grinned, his big brain was clearly spinning with an unfolding scene of big brother thanking him for his kindness. It was perfection.
I commended him on his thoughtfulness while reminding him that I was going to waste my money on milk, eggs, and bread, and we left the set at the store. But you had better believe I told big brother the story of how his choice to be loving and kind had absolutely transformed the relationship between him and his little brother.
Then yesterday happened too. I walked by my bed, looked at the cozy blankets on top of it and climbed inside for ‘just a minute to rest with my eyes open.’ Many minutes later the 4 boys burst into my room and jumped on top of me.
“Mom! You have to judge our spaceships! We had a building competition!”
They had made two teams and each team was made up of one little brother and one big brother. They had then WORKED TOGETHER to design and build two spaceships.
If you’re going to wake me up from a nap, that’s exactly how I want it to go down.
Peace. We had found it again.
Day by day we keep holding onto it, we keep learning how to love better, and we keep this verse in front of our faces because we realize just how important it is for our home.
“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony.”
For real. The most wonderful and the most pleasant of all.
Photos by: Katie Mills Photography