Conquering Sibling Rivalry and Creating Sibling Community
Recently, I presented a teaching based on sibling rivalry, something that is always relevant, but one that seems especially relevant during the winter months when we’re often all “cooped in” together for hours at a time! This can be a time of tremendous stress and conflict, or it can be a wonderful time of family togetherness and community. Which will it be in your home?
Establish the mindset from the beginning that your children are each other’s “best friends.”
God made no mistake with the gender, the birth order, the number, and the spacing of our children. He has created them to be each others’ greatest cheerleaders, confidants, and best friends.
Do not allow your children to say “my best friend” outside of the family. Rather, they can say “my very good friend.” Friends may come and go through the years, but siblings are for a lifetime. It may be difficult for adult siblings to “create” a best friendship at age 40 when that foundation was never established from the beginning. It’s Mom and Dad’s job to lay the friendship groundwork for siblings at a young age.
Have zero tolerance for harsh words, fighting, or bickering. The consequences for harsh words are the worst in our home, more so than many other misbehaviors! Lots of things are unacceptable, but this tops the list.
Use scripture! When you use God’s Word, they won’t forget it, even if you must use the same scripture hundreds of times throughout your training. One of our favorites is:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” Philippians 4:8 (NIV).
We tell our children they must honor and obey us according to Exodus 20 and Ephesians 6 rather than saying "bad choice” or “misbehaved.” So with sibling rivalry, you can speak these scriptures over your children:
- Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . . Philippians 2:3-5 (ESV).
- But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers I Timothy 5:8 (NLT).
- “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17 (NKJV).
If there is conflict between siblings, put them in the same room until they work it out, rather than separating them. How many unresolved conflicts (regrets) do so many of us still have today? Let’s not let that happen with the next generation.
You can also make family devotions and prayer time a priority in your home. One way to make that happen is to make the rule that everyone stays at the table together until all are finished eating and then share in God’s Word together.
Outside Activities need to go in the same direction (as much as possible).
Take an assessment of your own gifting as parents and identify a few key places this will take your children. Realistically, you don’t have enough time in the week to go in ten different directions.
It will help to keep your children’s hearts bent toward each other if their activities are shared experiences.
Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 that differences in the body of Christ are good---and the same is true for our children. Not only are the differences good, they are even necessary for us to function in ministry. You can still “connect” your uniquely gifted children to a mission or project by pulling together all the different gift mixes.
- Have your children build a doghouse or chicken coop together.
- Make cookies together.
- Sing together (can do this even without a pianist) around the dinner table.
- Agricultural Families: everyone can find their “niche” on the farm.
- Business Families: there are so many different kinds of jobs that family members can specialize in, like online graphics, marketing, and shipping/handling.
- Ministry Families: it takes the whole family working together to lead a church.
The Scriptural teaching is still “the body as a whole” connected to work towards a goal.
Shared space (even bedrooms)
Living space is to be shared so they are not tempted to “go off” to their own private space to entertain themselves.
Remember: Our goal is not merely to eliminate sibling rivalry. Close spaces may even increase it, initially. Our ultimate goal is to create sibling community.
This is certainly not the “last word” on this subject, but I hope this has spurred some further thoughts and considerations for you and your family . . . may sibling community grow to a greater level than ever before in your home this year!
Copyright © 2008-2013 Alyson Shedd
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