There was a time, many years ago, when my kids got into a rut of picking on and arguing with each other. One would say something snarly, and the other would verbally poke back. Then “He started it!” and “I’m only doing what she does!” kicked in, and we were in a bad cycle. The longer it went on the more it spun out of control.
One day I was in the fancy-food store because the regular grocery was out of something I needed. As I waited to check out, I noticed a tube-shaped container of small, fancy chocolates. Things like that were not in my budget, but I bought them anyway.
At home I gathered the kids together and showed them my purchase. “Ooooh! Why did you buy those, Mama?” my older son asked.
“They’re argument stoppers,” I told them. The kids looked startled. “Do you want to try one?” They nodded, and I gave them each a piece of chocolate. It was sweet, and tasted very good.
“Here’s the deal,” I said, “Whoever stops an argument gets one.” I paused, and then added drily, “Even if it’s Mom.”
Over the next few days, I used a different strategy to halt the flow of petulance. Whenever a spat started I simply called out, “Who’s going to stop this argument?” Miraculously, everyone went silent.
It didn’t take long, really, to get back to normal discourse. By the time we were out of chocolates, we had climbed out of our rut and were back to civil interaction. It helped to have a reminder that there is something far sweeter than a scathing rebuttal or tart comeback: treating others the way God asks.