Please Treat My Son with Kindness
October 2000

“Please Treat My Son with Kindness,” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 65–66

“Please Treat My Son with Kindness”

As my husband and I rear our four children, we rely on gospel teachings as well as my training as a mental health professional. I recall a time when our two sons, ages 10 and 6, had quarreled with each other for almost a year. They couldn’t even be in the same room without arguing.

We tried every philosophy the experts suggested to remedy the situation. We tried time-outs and other disciplinary techniques. We ignored the behavior in hopes of extinguishing it. Because I suspected they were competing for attention and testing me to see whose side I would take, I made sure I was fair and my judgments were consistent. I made particular effort to pay attention to each son individually, looking him in the eye when he spoke to me and showing genuine interest when he showed me something he created. While my relationship with each son improved, their contentious behavior did not lessen. They continued poking each other in the car, arguing at dinner, and disrupting sacrament meetings.

Finally I realized that all the world’s expertise was getting us nowhere. I remembered Alma’s words about prayer: “Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household” (Alma 34:21). Believing that raising up righteous children is one of the most important assignments we have in mortality, I figured Heavenly Father would want us as parents to go to Him with problems about raising His children.

Our prayers were answered in a way that shocked us. Personally, I felt impressed to do exactly the opposite of what I had been doing. Instead of rewarding the child who was seeking attention with more assurance that he was special to me, I felt I needed to tell the troublemaker how special his brother was to me.

In the days following my prayer, I sat our oldest son down. “I love your brother very much,” I told him. “It hurts me to see you tease him. It makes me feel bad when his feelings are hurt. Please treat my son with kindness. He is very precious to me.” Whenever my younger son acted up, I told him the same kinds of things about his older brother.

The problem didn’t disappear right away, but I could tell the boys were starting to see each other through my eyes. They started to appreciate the blessings of having such a wonderful brother. Over time they began to laugh and enjoy each other’s company in a way we never dreamed possible.

I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for sharing with us the truths we needed to bring harmony back into our home.

  • Jeanette G. Smith is a member of the Jacksonville Beach Ward, Jacksonville Florida East Stake.