You’re in the middle of a terrible argument, and everyone turns to you to help resolve it. How do you respond? How do you react to conflict?
Fourteen year old Annie stormed into the living room where her dad was reading the newspaper. “Dad, he’s doing it again,” she said with her fists clenched tightly against her hips.
“What,” Frank said.
“He’s pestering me again,” Annie said. “I want to be left alone. He keeps knocking at my door and making weird noises and when I go to my door he runs back to his room. He came in my room and farted and left. He stole my diary and began reading it. I can’t take him anymore. Can you do something?”
Frank placed the paper beside his chair and slowly walked to Jeffey’s room, a ten-year old bundle of mischief. He knocked and entered. Jeffey was laying on his bed. He was smiling.
“I think it’s time you knock it off,” Frank said.
“I’m just having some fun with her,” Jeffey said.
“But your sister is not enjoying it,” Frank said. “It’s not fun if only one person enjoys it. Put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel if somebody would not leave you alone? It’s a matter of respecting others. Now tell your sister you’re sorry and you’ll leave her alone.”
“Can’t I just do it without saying so?” Jeffey said.
“No,” Frank said. “I think we all need to hear it.”
Jeffey hesitated. “Annie, I’m sorry and I’ll leave you alone.”
“Okay,” Frank said. “Annie go back to your room and do whatever you were doing and Jeffey, find something constructive to do in your room and leave your sister alone. When she has time you two can find something to do together. Until than gather all your dirty socks and take them to the laundry room for your mom and how about you and me going to the park for your leaf collection in a while?”
“Sure, dad,” Jeffey said.
“Give me a few minutes to finish the paper and take out the trash for mom, okay?” Frank said.
“Okay,” Jeffey said.
Frank shut Jeffey’s door and walked with Annie back to her room.
“He got off easy,” Annie said. “He needs a spanking.”
“I’m sure you feel that way,” Frank said. “But only do what is needed.”
Frank settled into his chair and was reading the paper. Five minutes passed and Annie burst into the room again.
She was near tears. “He’s impossible!” Annie said. “He’s at it again. He’s now disobeyed you. A spanking is the only thing that will work.”
“What did he do this time? Frank said with a wrinkled brow.
“He found a pair of my shoes in the bathroom and came clopping in my room. My shoes split. Those are my favorite shoes and he ruined them and then he tossed all his dirty socks at me. What is it with him an odors?”
Frank walked quickly back to Jeffey’s room and entered without knocking. Jeffey was hiking on his jacket.
“What did I tell you to do?” Frank said.
“You told me to but myself in Annie’s shoes,” Jeffey said trying to restrain a smile.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” Frank said sternly.
“I just wanted to make her laugh,” Jeffey said. “She’s too serious.”
“And what about the socks?” Frank said.
“She had it coming,” Jeffey said. “After the way she acted about those shoes. I did her a favor ruining those shoes. They look stupid.”
“There!” Annie said. “Now do something. He needs the belt. If there was ever any reason for someone to get the belt it is now.”
Frank removed his belt. Jeffey’s lip began to quiver.
“Bend over the bed,” Frank said.
“I won’t do it again,” Jeffey pleaded. “I’ll leave her alone.”
Frank doubled the belt as Jeffey bent over his bed. Jeffey clinched the blankets in his hands. Annie looked on with approval.
Frank handed the belt to Annie. “You do it.”
“That’s what you’re supposed to do,” Annie said shocked.
“No,” Frank said. “He’s the one bothering you. I think you have the right.”
“But, I can’t,” Annie said.
“Sure you can,” Dad said and forced the belt into her hands. “Just think of all the rotten things he’s done. Two will do. One to get the feel of it and the other one to let him know he did something wrong. Maybe another one so he remembers.”
Annie walked to Jeffey who was bent over the bed. She turned to her dad with tears in her eyes. “I can’t do it.”
Frank sat on the bed with Annie under one arm and Jeffey under the other. They were both in tears. “It’s tough business being a parent. And I know it’s tough being a kid. Don’t purposely provoke someone to the point they want to harm you and don’t ask for someone to be punished that you’re not willing to carry out yourself. Sometimes the best way to settle things is to let the other person alone. And another way is to laugh a little, even if at first it doesn’t seem funny, because someday it will be funny.”
“Can we go to the park now?” Jeffey said.
“No,” Frank said. “I still think you need punishment.”
“What is it?” Jeffey said.
“Your sister will take you to the park,” Frank said. “Let‘s call this a forceful coexistence.”
As Jeffey got ready to go to the park with Annie she went into kitchen where Dad was preparing to take the trash out.
“It almost looks like I’m getting punished too,” Annie said confused.
“Twenty or thirty years from now you’ll look at that leaf collection with your brother and remember the day you collected them together,” Frank said. “It will be a fun and good memory.”
Annie started to walk away. “I think I’ll remember you the most and how to handle a problem between two people.”
She left the room and came back immediately. “What if I would have spanked him?”
“When King Solomon ordered the baby to be cut in half what if the baby was cut in half?” Frank said.
“King Solomon knew the real mother loved her child so much that she would rather give the child up than have it killed,” Annie said.
“I knew you would make the right choice,” Frank said.
“You must really love us,” Annie said.
“That is for sure,” Frank said.
“You’re pretty smart,” Annie said.
“Not really,” Frank said. “Wisdom comes from the Bible and we use it if we choose.”
“But it’s better if we use it and pass it on, right?” Annie said.
“You got the point,” Frank said.
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