With such a diverse family as ours, Satan can easily weasel his way in and tempt us to see our differences as being wrong. We can easily get on each other's nerves, verbalize our pet peeves and displeasure at our different personalities, and basically tear each other apart. We've seen it happen in many families and, sadly, often in our own.

We decided to pull out our old youth group strategy. We called a family meeting, sat the children down, and calmly explained what we thought needed to happen in our family to ensure an atmosphere of love. When we came to the part about no put-downs, again our kids were a mirror. It was every so gently pointed out to us that I am the queen of cutting comments and my husband is the king of sarcasm. Double ouch! Time for the king and queen to be dethroned!

We vowed as a family to work on speaking respectfully, not cutting down others even in jest, and accepting each other's faults and shortcomings. We also pointed out many of our family members' individual strengths. We explained our long-held theory that any strength carried to an extreme can become a weakness. Yes, Mom is good at talking - she even gets paid to do it - and is rather quick-witted. However, that can easily turn into conversation domination or come out in the form of cutting, not-so-funny comments. (I know some days my family just tunes me out during my long-running speeches and must-hear story details. I think they are hanging on my every word. What they really hear is more like the voice of the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoon special, "Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa...")

So now we reserve the right, all five of us, to call the others on the carpet for rude and cutting comments, even those done in jest, that do not create an atmosphere of love. Are we perfect at it? Hardly! But we see progress. And we as parents have to constantly remind ourselves that so much of parenting is about process and progress, not perfection.

 
Excerpted from A Life That Says Welcome (Revell) by Karen Ehman. © 2006 by Karen Ehman. Used with permission from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

Karen Ehman is a speaker for Hearts at Home and the coathor of the popular Homespun Gifts from the Heart and Homespun Memories for the Heart.