The reason for this is because a casual interaction with someone in a store isn’t a big deal. It’s a one or two time relationship. It’s not directly ongoing, nor is there much to be gained from investing time or effort into the person at the cash register (although this doesn’t free on from the obligation to make a Kiddush Hashem). With those in your family, it a constant relationship. That’s why it’s more difficult to keep your cool, speak pleasantly, be appreciative, and display a level of kavod haAdam.
This is something, especially in dealing with my kids, that I am constantly working on. It’s an avodah in the real sense, because effort is involved. There are times that I win (well my Yetzer haTov wins) and there are time that I slip and lose it. It’s less frequent than it was, say 4 years ago, but it happens.
Once in a while I experience something and it give me a different perspective. Last night, I placed an order for some “take out” food. I went, picked up my order, and then came home. When I got home and started taking out the purchased items, I realized that I was missing something. I quickly called the establishment and asked if the item I was “missing” was meant to be included with my order. It was. So I asked if I could come back and pick up the item. Of course they said, “Yes.”
I showed up and gave my name and said I had come for the part of the order that didn’t make it home. They apologized profusely and told me how sorry I was. I told them that it really wasn’t a big deal and that I was sure they were just busy when they put the order together.
As I drove home, I realized that it didn’t really make sense that I didn’t adapt this easy going attitude at home. Here I was, telling them “no big deal”, when I had paid for an item and didn’t receive it. Yet, I find myself frustrated and low on patience when I ask one of my kids to pick up their dirty clothes and they choose not to. It’s not like I paid them to actually clean up their clothes. There was no implied exchange of currently for services rendered. There is, however, a relationship built on trust, love, respect, and appreciation. That’s really the kicker. When working with any “volunteers” it’s imperative to appreciate what they do. I realized that my strategy of working on patience and keeping my cool only really affects how I preceive things, or the input, not the output.
So, when I came home, I went straight into my son’s room and told him that I really to appreciate all the effort he puts into studying, school work, and I understand that after a full day of school he is sometimes too tired to even care about the state of his room. I also told him that if he wants help pick up close, I’d be happy to assist him. If I can be nice and understanding to the person behind the counter, then even more so, to my own family. At least, that’s the plan.
Rav Elya Lopian zt’l, a product of Kelm (as in the yeshiva founded by Rav Zimcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm- a direct talmid of R Yisrael Salanter), once commented that the true measurement of a person’s middos is how he or she treats those in their own home. He observed that often people are much nicer to strangers than to loved one in their own family. I, so relate, because I am generally viewed as a nice person to strangers.