This week the 4 Moms of many, are talking about sibling relationships, or how we deal with sharing, bullying and arguing among our children.
I want to be honest about this topic because I think that many parents don’t know how beautiful sibling relationships can be.
Much like the teen years, many parents have wrong assumptions about sibling relationships. They think that fighting, name calling and ‘bullying’ are a normal part of the brother/sister relationship. We have found this assumption to be false.
Don’t misunderstand, our children aren’t perfect. They sometimes argue and/or respond to each other impatiently or unkindly, but other than a short learning stage during the toddler years (when it seems that there is constant fighting) our children’s relationships are generally characterized by love, kindness and self-sacrifice.
Sibling relationships need not be characterized by sin anymore than the marriage relationship shouldbe characterized by sin. All relationships will be affected by sin, but by God’s grace and mercy we can have relationships that are characterized by the fruit of the Spirit.
Here are some ways to cultivate beautiful relationships among your children.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Pray that God will bless your children’s relationships
Ultimately God is the only one who can change your children’s sinful, selfish nature and give them hearts that long to please Him and serve others.
Give them an example of godly relationship.
I hate to say this one because I fail multiple times each and every day and the primary sins that I see in our children’s relationships are sins that I regularly model for them. Our children’s relationships are certainly not a result of my godly example, but rather of God’s grace. That said, striving to put before them a godly example is vital.
Give them time together.
Relationships develop when people spend time together. If your children spend most of their time with a peer group, the peer relationships are what they will value, almost always to the detriment of sibling relationships. (I suspect this is because because most peer groups aren’t composed of friends who encourage children to godliness.)
Our family has observed a striking contrast between sibling relationships in friend’s children who spend many hours a day with peer groups and sibling relationships in friends children who spend most of their time with siblings and parents.
If your children spend most of their time alone, they will value being alone and choosing what they want to do, when they want to do it. It’s difficult to learn to serve or to sacrifice self, if we spend much of our childhood serving self.
In order to develop strong relationships siblings must spend time together and must be involved in each others lives.
Don’t give them too much space.
If you followed the above link to my post on solving sibling squabbles, you will see that we have given our children a specific method, based on Matthew 18, for solving conflicts. This biblical pattern works beautifully, if it’s followed.
As sinners it’s our children’s nature NOT to handle a conflict biblically and so until they consistently and reliably follow the pattern given in Matthew 18 they need supervision. And until BOTH parties are willing and able to solve the conflict at step #1, they need a parent available for step #2 and/or #3.
I often think of Ephesians 6:4, when it comes to sibling relationships.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
If adults need the Matthew 18 pattern to solve conflicts (and they do), shame on parents who tell their children that they need to work things out on their own. God knows adults aren’t able to solve all problems without outside help, we should not expect it of our children.
That said, as our children mature, they rarely need to come to us and are able to solve most conflicts with simply the first step of Matthew 18.
Make relationship a priority.
Please do not underestimate the importance of relationships! When Adam sinned the consequence was a breaking of the relationship between God and man and the purpose of Christ’s life, death and resurrection was to restore that relationship.
I believe that Satan rejoices when he sees the constant name calling, bickering and fighting within the families of those who claim the name of Christ. Our calling as parents isn’t to take the easy way out and the godly discipleship of children and building of strong, godly family relationships is not easy.
Here are a few simple ways that our family makes relationships a priority:
- Nothing is more important than teaching our children to have a relationship with God.
- We spend time together as a family. (Lots of time, everyday) My series on capturing your child’s heart
- We homeschool with a focus on relationships. (6 ways our homeschool is different than most)
- We consider relationship in the ‘little’ decisions. ( Who sits by whom in the van, room sharing, homeschool curricula, family activities, individual activities, daily schedules, etc.)
- We strive to be given to hospitality. Hospitality does not require a large budget or endless resources, but hospitality always requires a little bit of self-sacrifice and self-sacrifice is always beneficial to building relationships.
- We carefully consider the friendships that we encourage both in our children and as a family.
Do not be misled, “Bad company corrupts good character.” ~1 Cor. 15:33
- We view our primary parenting responsibility to be to teach our children God’s mighty works and His law.
How do you manage sibling relationships in your home?
Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms to read what they have to say about sibling relationships:
For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.