Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The last word

Having a couple of middle schoolers around here has forced an interesting topic of discussion lately. As you may remember from your own experience, this age group tends to experiment (that’s putting it nicely) with words. Somewhere along the line they’ve crossed from concrete to abstract thinking, giving them razor-sharp wits, much to their own detriment (and to anyone’s within hearing distance). Sarcasm and cut-downs compete with other annoying forms of communication, such as outrageously loud laughter and repetition of irritating noises.

This I can handle, because it is so blatantly, obviously, terribly, bad.

But the one thing that drives me nuts most about this age is the intense need to have the last word.

It really doesn’t matter what the topic is:

Example 1:

Kid 1: “I had a terrible day today.”

Kid 2: [ever-increasing volume] “Well, I had the worst day ever!”


Example 2:

Kid 1: “You shouldn’t be telling me what to do!”

Kid 2: “Well, you shouldn’t have tattled!”
I’ve repeated myself so many times that we’ve now acronymed the phrase.


Yeah, it sounds like little more than a gargle, but it works for us. In our family, it stands for “WITHOUT THE LAST WORD.”

It means, Allow someone to enjoy their moment in the sun (also known as, Don't steal someone else's thunder).

And it means, Take responsibility for your part in the dispute without boomeranging blame to the other person.

In case you are wondering, no, we are not there yet. The other night I heard someone try to end a “discussion” like this:

“You shouldn’t always try to get the last word!”

The more I think about this, the more I realize this need to have the last word is rooted deeply in self-centeredness (sheesh, can't we get a new topic here?). It's so easy to see in my kids, but I struggle with this myself, especially in conflicts. Even in conflicts with the kids.

Yes, there are times I need to stand my ground in defending truth. But other times, truth isn't even on the radar. I just don’t want to deal with it. I want to be heard, to make my point. Selfishly, I just want to have it over with, and the quickest way to do this is certainly not by working it out. That would require me to listen carefully, and to acknowledge my part in contributing to the conflict. No, I'm in a hurry to "resolve" this, and I want to win.

Has my example taught them that this is an acceptable way to communicate? (Don't answer that.)

I want to model wisdom in every interaction, not just with my kids, but also with my husband, with my friends, and with all those who come in contact with me. As Ephesians 4:29 says, I want to impart grace to my hearers. This means that I actually need to consider my hearers, before I speak (even if my hearers are witty middle schoolers). Whew.

Ultimately, I suppose, this means I need to act unselfishly. Listen more. Relinquish my own "right" to have the last word.

Maybe with more of "me" out of the way, more truth, spoken in love, can be heard. Because Truth should always have the last word.
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

John 17:17 (NKJV)


Andrea said...

Awesome, Katherine.You are right.

Susanne said...

OOOOUUUCCCHHH! I am so bad for this. And you're right, what kind of example is that. I so need to relinquish my need to be right and to have the last word. Thank you, I think, for this post. I will now go lick my wounds. :v}

And you know I really do say thank you for this post, Katherine. So true.

Scribbit said...

Yea, and the inability to think they may be off on a particular topic of conversation. "What? Me wrong? No way!"

Christine said...

Ooooh, can't wait for that stage. Sounds like fun!

Gina Conroy said...

Selfishness has been the recurring theme at our house as well. Kids get "annoyed" with each other and why, because they're focusing on themselves.

I'm not sure where this root of selfishness comes from. As a mom it's hard to be selfish because we give so much, but I'm sure the root is there. Guess I'll have to dig deeper to recongnize it in my own life!

lrlwreath said...

Sigh, you are 100% right. Having a middler schooler in the house here, it is hard not to get caught up in their arguing, but I need to be an example.

Shannon said...

Katherine, I don't know of another blog that gives as many insightful parenting tips as yours. THANK YOU. This is brilliant.

But how, precisely, does one pronounce WOLW?

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Shannon, first one clears one's throat. Then, one waits for the glazed appearance to come to one's children's eyes. Then one says, dubya-oh-ell-dubya.

Or "wallow-uh" works too. =)