Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shepherding Children Through Sibling Rivalry

As a parent, one of the biggest stresses can be sibling conflict. If your house is like my house some days it seems my children simply wake up in order to pick fights. How do you get it to stop? If you aren't in the room when an argument happens how do you decide who is in the wrong? If they are bickering over a toy or which TV show to watch, how do you make a decision on who "wins"? Is one of your children constantly coming to you to tell on another?  

Parents without a doubt need to be hands on in managing sibling relationships. After all, we are God's gift to our children in providing order, stability, and discipline. Without parents providing these things our homes will be a chaotic place for our children to grow up. When a child grows up without that order, stability, and discipline insecurity breeds and grows in the heart of a child. This certainly breaks God's heart.

But, how do we enter in to sibling conflict without feeling like all we do is referee? You know what I mean...yelling, "Don't hit your sister?!" Or, "Give your little brother the toy - he had it first!" Or simply spending your family time trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong in an argument you didn't see? Are you tired of putting out fires?

Here is my suggestion - we have to help our children learn to communicate with each other. Communication is a key to any conflict resolution. How do we do this?? By forcing them to work out differences and disagreements with each other. Simply put, instead of you doing all the talking and settling of the argument - make them TALK to each other and do it themselves - with your help, of course.

Refuse to let your children make you a referee. It is obvious we are not to let them be physically or verbally abusive to a sibling (or a friend). But, at the same time don't let them storm off in anger or cry uncontrollably in an argument. All of these reactions to conflict come from a sinful heart. All of these reactions are trying to dictate and control their situation. Whether they are hurtful or not to another doesn't make it better or worse. Instead, do not let any child get their way until they are able to talk with the person they are in conflict with to come to a mutual decision.

If we will stick to it as parents and refuse to be a referee we will cultivate a home where our children listen to and prefer others and ultimately create sibling FRIENDSHIP instead of rivalry. Could there be a better hope for our family than that? Imagine the blessing it would be not only at home, but for our children in any other relationship in their life if we can teach them how to talk things out. How blessed would their future marriages be? Remember, we want to mold our children's hearts to where they can humble themselves and consider others. Stop refereeing and FORCE THEM TO TALK!

- Will Bouton, Downtown Children's Ministry Director

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