Updated: Mar 9
In 5 Ways to Tackle Sibling Rivalry - Part 1, I shared that we all have a very basic need to feel loved, accepted, and valued JUST AS WE ARE. Whether you follow Jesus or not, this is true of YOU!
There are ways we try to get this need met - by being good enough, looking a certain way, excelling in school or sports or playing an instrument…but the bottom line is that when our children are looking for unconditional love from us, they soon begin competing with each other for it....enter "Sibling Rivalry."
So here's a brief recap of Five Ways to Tackle Sibling Rivalry - Part 1:
UNDERSTAND all of us have this need.
HELP THEM understand this fact.
HAVE CLEAR family expectations.
KNOW that the kids you have are no mistake.
SPEND intentional, one-on-one time with each child on a regular basis.
In this article, I am going to give you three more ways to delve deeper into what is happening in the relationships between yourself and your children - and among your children - to help you have a more harmonious home!
1. First of allIf you live in a Bible-Believing, Christ-Following home, it is going to be important for your children to understand from Scripture what God says about our relationships with others. For example, He teaches us to be kind and to forgive when someone has treated us poorly (Ephesians 4:31-32); to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4), to be kind and helpful even when the other person is being hurtful (Matthew 5:43-48), to do everything we can to be at peace with others (Romans 12:14-21) and not to grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9) .
Depending on the age of your children, they are going to need practical examples of what this looks like in their lives. In our home, we often compare what the "world" says is all right to do versus what the Bible tells us to do. For example, we'll say, "If your brother unjustly yells at you and you feel angry, what does the 'world' say is ok to do? What does the Bible say to do? Which one is easier? Which one honors God?" Or we'll have discussions about ways they can put each other first: "So, you BOTH want this last muffin (or to watch this certain show or to take your shower first or to play this game not that one - you get the idea). What can we do about it? How could you put your brother first in this situation?"
The younger your children are, the more important it is to model this thinking out loud for them: "I feel so angry when cars cut quickly in front of me. I wonder why that is...? Maybe it's because I feel scared...? I am going to take a deep breath and remind myself that God loves me and He is always with me. I can handle these hard feelings because I have the Holy Spirit inside me!" Not only will this help your CHILDREN learn these truths, but it will help YOU remember them, too!
The most effective parenting is PROACTIVE rather than REACTIVE.
As moms of more than one child, we can often anticipate the things our children will face and teach them ahead of time what the Bible says. Then when the situation arises, we can simply remind them what they've already learned!
ALSO, like anything else we teach our children, understanding and putting into practice what the Bible says about how to treat others is going to have to be taught and practiced and reinforced and retaught and encouraged....It's kind of like what God tells us in Deuteronomy 6:5-7: After reminding us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and might, He tells us to teach His truth diligently to our children at home, away from home, sitting, walking, going to sleep, and waking up!
Take stock of how YOU are modeling honor and respect to others. Think about how you and your husband communicate in front of your children, how you communicate in person or on the phone with friends or strangers, and what you say when those others are not around. Are you teaching your children to love others by the way YOU are loving others? Are you modeling forgiveness when you are wronged? Do you put others before yourselves and do all you can to be at peace with them?
We cannot expect our children to get along with each other if WE don't get along with each other! If I routinely treat cashiers, baggers, servers, and other drivers on the road with disdain or as if they are there to serve ME, I can't possibly expect my children to treat others any differently. However, if I instead model God's love and respect to others - even if they are treating me poorly - my children will learn that they don't have to worry about treating others with love and respect.
LET ME BE CLEAR: I am NOT saying that anyone should stay in an abusive relationship, and only offer love and forgiveness! If you are being emotionally or physically abused, please GET OUT and seek help from your local church or Woman's Shelter! God does not want His children to be abused and anyone who twists His word about "turning the other cheek" (Matthew 5:38-42) to mean that you somehow deserve this abuse is WRONG and needs some help... and YOU need love and support and healing!
Remember,Don’t expect your children to be conflict-free. They are different, and they will disagree and compete with one another. Competition, conflict, disagreement, and division are here until Jesus comes back to make everything right. BUT, for now, they provide many training and teaching opportunities!
If you try to MAKE children "apologize" when they've wronged their sibling when they are not truly sorry, they may be tempted to just "say sorry" and move on to the next thing rather than having an opportunity to feel the angst that they caused another person. Basically, they'll think as long as they SAY "Sorry," all is well. But, as parents, we want to teach our children MORE than that!
The Bible absolutely talks about seeking to reconcile with a brother by bringing the fruits of repentance. But you can’t force children to be repentant. You can, however, help them see how their actions have had a negative impact on their sibling. The next time one of your children is crying or hurt, FIRST comfort the one who is hurting (to show you value healing) and NEXT say to the offending party, "See his face? His face is saying it hurts when you take his toy/hit him/use those words." Then ask if they are willing to help them feel better by giving an ice-pack, touching softly, asking for forgiveness. The child who has been hurt ALSO needs to be taught to ACCEPT this show of repentance and grant forgiveness as well.
As a mom raising two boys who (even though they are only a year apart) couldn't be ANY more different than night and day, I can understand the struggles you may be experiencing in your home. Don't lose hope: You are not alone! But, I beg you, don't ignore sibling rivalry! Pray for your children, help them learn these needed conflict resolution skills. and you will someday reap the benefits of having children who are friends as well as siblings!
Please, leave a comment on this article or after watching the YouTube video on how this has worked for you!
#ConnectPointMoms helps you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you're in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them!
Some books that have helped along the way: