INTEGRITY: We have to talk

Patricia stuck her head around the corner from the kitchen and said, “We have to talk.”

I was right in the middle of “helping” Danny with math homework. For some reason or another, Danny had a mental block with math. I was simply explaining to him that he had to concentrate, to apply himself, to put forth more effort. It was about 8:30 at night and he was tired. I was becoming more and more exasperated that he could not get it. That’s when Patricia stepped in and said, “We have to talk.”

For us, that meant that we had to go to our bedroom and discuss the current situation. As we entered the bedroom and closed the door, she said, “You’re not helping.”

I immediately became defensive. “He is not trying,” I said. “He is resisting, he is just being stubborn.” And so it went until we came to an understanding in the privacy of our own room. Then I went back to help Dan, who by now had fallen asleep on his notebook. I sent him to bed, and we both got up early the next morning to finish the work.

Patricia and I had agreed that we would not discuss the kids in front of them. Too often as teachers, we had witnessed conversations where parents criticized either the teacher or the spouse or the student. The children heard it all. They came to disrespect the other adults involved or to adopt a wrong opinion of themselves . . . or both.

We had agreed not to argue in front of the kids. Somehow in the course of time, we had struck upon this phrase, “We have to talk.” It always meant that we were going to our own room to discuss the matter away from the hearing of the kids.

Because Patricia and I grew up in very different family cultures, we often disagreed regarding issues from discipline to homework. Mature friends had warned us not to discuss “emotionally charged issues” in front of the kids. So the bedroom became our place of discussion.

Did our kids know that we argued? Probably. Did they know what we said? No. What they did know is that we stood together.

It is extremely important that you present a united front with your children. Early in our parenting days, we were counseled to take our arguments to a private place. We watched others who did not do that and realized that the counsel was good. Several benefits were evident to us:

1) We would set an example of unity in the home.

2) We would spare the children from awkward and unnecessary pain.

3) We represent God to our children, and we know that the Trinity does not argue.

4) Each of us needs the tempering of the other because we are not always righteous.

Even an infant can still catch the spirit in a conversation or the tone of voice. It does affect him. Begin early to develop the habit of working things out privately.

The “we have to talk” talk did me good. We came out with a new strategy for Dan and math. We moved his study time to earlier in the day when his mind was fresh and when my patience was still in existence.

Another short anecdote along this line. Amy, one of my former students, was extremely exasperated with her parents. When she talked to one she got the same answer as when she talked with the other. In utter frustration, she complained to her mother, “Talking to you is like talking to Dad, and talking to Dad is like talking to you. You might as well be one person.” Although she did not mean it as a compliment, her parents were pleased at her comment. A few weeks ago, we were privileged to attend her wedding. I have a hunch that her goal will be oneness with her husband.