Surviving Sibling Rivalry

our kids“Don’t grumble against each other.” James 5:9a NIV

I have come up with the guaranteed way to avoid sibling rivalry in your family…don’t have more than one child. What? “Too late”, you say? Well, if that’s the case, don’t sweat it. This too shall pass.

I’ve counseled with many parents who felt like they were failures because their kids fought with each other. They were surprised (and relieved, I think) to discover fighting was actually quite normal. Children aren’t born knowing how to share and get along, it’s a learned process. When you put more than one of them together in a household, they will inevitably “learn on each other”. Growing up, our four kids had plenty of squabbles. They shouted angry words, and even threw a couple of punches that I know about. And yet today, they are the best of friends.

Just because I say it’s normal doesn’t mean we allowed free-for-all’s at our house. We didn’t condone the fighting. In fact, Grant came up with a pretty clever way to squelch their bickering. Any time the kids fought, we would make them stand facing each other, holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes. The “time” always fit the “crime”. The worse the fight, the longer they would have to stand. I remember one incident when Gwen and Shannon had to stare at each other for a full hour. If they stopped or looked away, the time would start over. By the end of the “exercise” they were giggling and finding ways to help each other pass the time…and they were motivated to work harder to get along.

Sibling rivalry has occurred almost since the beginning of time. Abel was killed by his brother, Cain. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of what was rightfully his…these stories may help give us perspective, but they also serve as a warning not to let sibling rivalry run amok. Jesus told us to love God and love one another. As we mediate, that must be our message to our kids…choose to love, not hate.

If you want your children to learn how to get along without fighting, remember to model what you preach. If they see you argue with your spouse or other adults or them…they will grow up thinking that’s the socially acceptable way to solve a problem. It’s not.

Prayer: God, I want my children to learn how to get along with each other so they won’t grumble and fight. Give me the wisdom to teach them how to solve their differences in a loving way. Fill our home with Your peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

SR Nametag on Mouth

“My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know.” Job 33:3 NIV 

If I worked on the production line in heaven, I would ask God to put a safety valve on people’s tongues to shut it off when their brain gets too heated. Why? Because when people get hot-headed, the overflow of their frustration and emotion often comes billowing out of their mouth in the form of mean and hurtful words.

I’ve often used an object lesson with children to illustrate this concept. Several students are chosen to take part in a race. At the sound of my whistle, each contestant tries to be the first to squeeze all the toothpaste from their tube. Lively music plays in the background while classmates cheer them on. Just when someone thinks they’ve won, I explain the race is only halfway over. Next, they must put the toothpaste back in the tube! They quickly realize it can’t be done. The point is…what flows out so easily is absolutely impossible to put back in.

Words that are spoken can never be taken back. Their effect can last a lifetime. When I was a little girl, my mom used to cut my bangs. Evidently I didn’t sit still for her and the result wasn’t pretty. As we walked along a sidewalk one day, a woman looked at me and said to her companion, “…that poor little girl”. Those words were spoken over fifty years ago, but I still remember today how they made me feel. It was embarrassing, humiliating and unnecessary.

Teach your children the importance of speaking well of others. It’s a lesson we should ALL take to heart…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. And if you THINK it, but it’s not nice, ask God for the grace to see people and circumstances through His loving and forgiving eyes. Ask for your thoughts to become like His thoughts.

Prayer: God, give me the self-control to speak only words of kindness to others. Keep me from lashing out in anger or saying things I have to apologize for later. Help my children learn how to speak kindly or remain silent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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