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Friday, June 12, 2009

10 Tips For Dealing With Sibling Conflict - Can't We All Just Get Along?

Brother and Sister, originally uploaded by wiseacredesign.

You know how it goes.

A little shove here, a little push there. The toy they both want. Grabbing. Shouting. Tears. Anger.

If you have kiddos, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Sibling conflict.

It's as old as time. In fact, the very first sibling conflict ended in death. I can think we can fare a little better than that.

10 Tips on Dealing with Sibling Conflict

1. Be available to grasp every teachable moment you can.

It must be said that without constant intervention and instruction, teaching our children to get along in love and patience will be very difficult. We have to not only be willing, but available to step in when conflict arises. No one else can train and teach your kiddos like you can...your influence in their lives in absolutely priceless. You are raising human beings - the greatest task God ever bestowed upon a woman, next to being your husbands helper-completer. Are you available to step-in during the many moments that day brings?

2. Have a backup of verses stored in your mind that you can teach your kiddos when a moment of conflict arises.

The two main verses we use in our home with respect to conflict are:

"Treat others as you would like to be treated." Luke 6:31

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 (we sing this one often)

3. Have a plan in place

When you hear the first cries of injustice sailing through the air, you can stay calm and focused if you have a plan in place. We plan because we know that conflict is inevitable, but it's our job to teach our kiddos kindness, patience, self-control, and servant-hood. When I hear the first hint of conflict, I try to be on it right away. Assess the situation, ask what happened, speak lovingly. I think sometimes it's easy to say to an older child, "just give it to your brother/sister, they're younger than you!" This approach (which I have done before) is lacking because it is a missed opportunity to engage in fairness and selflessness. The older one needs to know that you are doing your best to treat them with them with fairness. The younger one needs to learn that they can't always have what they want.
Another great plan to impart is the "no grabbing, try asking" plan. This little gem is from Shaping Little Souls.

4. Hold your tongue (and "watch" your eyes)

The temptation when we hear the screaming is to roll our eyes and march to the situation with a "give-me-break guys, you need to just get along...WHAT'S THE PROBLEM NOW?!! reaction. Oh wait, you mean that's only me? Ahem. Well anyway, it's important that we try and remember that our little sinners are just doing what they are supposed to do...it is our job to civilize them. Try not to roll your eyes and yell. Try and speak kindly and in an understanding tone. I know it's hard. But let's try.

5. Employ wisdom

Remember those verses you tucked away for such an occasion? Now is the time to use them. When conflict ensues, enter the lion's den with Jesus! I'll give an example of a common conflict: you hear the scream, "Nooooooooo, that's my toy!" "Ahhhhhhhhhh....." You enter to see tears trickling down your daughters face as she lashes out in anger at her brother to grab back her toy. In the meantime, he is trying to run away with it, screaming and fighting for freedom. Step in, get down to your daughters level, and ask what happened. "He took my toy, I was playing with it." "Okay honey, but we never hit or push or hurt to get what we want. If you're angry, run away and come to mommy." Now is your opportunity to go to the other child and explain that "we don't take toys from each other, we take turns." I then set a timer that gives the first child 5 minutes with the toy. Then the toy goes to the other child and the first one willingly gives it up in love (because we talk about how sharing is kind and Jesus wants us to be kind to one anther). Use these moments to sprinkle truth into their little hearts. These conflicts are wonderful opportunities to share Jesus and His heart for how we are to live.

6. Be ready to discipline

This is crucial, especially when violence is involved. Hitting/biting is absolutely unacceptable and must be dealt with immediately. The minute you see one of your children hurting another, take swift action to correct that child. In our family, after we discipline the offending child, we take their hands and rub them on our face and say, "hands are for looooooooove and gentleness." Our kids love saying that and smile every time. In fact, we find ourselves often saying, "what are hands for?" And the kiddos respond "loooooooooove." If kicking is involved, I always say, after correcting the offender, "we don't use our bodies to hurt each other, our bodies are to be used for the glory of God." (We got the "hands are for love" technique from this fantastic article about fussing by Sally Clarkson.)

7. Nurture positive relationships

Plan fun activities for the family and for your children...often. Make memories, laugh, sing, tackle each other in the snow, build one another up with sincere praise, write notes of encouragement, be in awe of the different personalities that make up your family, and learn to enjoy each another in the unique ways that God has fashioned each one of us! As we nurture the family relationships as a while, the sibling relationships will form a positive lasting bond as well.

8. Be an example

Do you and your husband quarrel in front of your kiddos? Do you try and serve one anther or always ask/expect to be served? Do you do your best to speak kindly and in love or do you "snap" and nag? Do you forgive or hold grudges? The weight of our actions is far greater than our words.

9. Steer clear of movies that use the stereotypical brother and sister model

It seems like every "family" movie I see has a brother and sister that "annoy" and treat each other with incredible disrespect. I'm sorry, I don't care if it's the "norm." It doesn't have to be. While there may be truth to an extra load of conflict because of living under one roof together day in and day out, it is not excuse to treat one another with disdain. I personally believe that teaching siblings to work through their conflicts and treat each other with kindness, selflessness and respect prepares them for marriage one day. Yep. When we marry someone, we are in it, even through the hard times, the sometimes long days and the annoying habits of our spouse. We are still to be loving.

10. Pray that they would be best friends

I'm serious. Quit laughing! Okay, okay, so maybe your children won't be best friends, but...maybe they will. Or maybe they will at least learn to love, respect, and truly enjoy each other. Are you praying this?

"I often told my children that God said, "How good and how pleasant it is for brothers (and sisters!) to dwell together in unity." Also, Jesus and John said that others would know we were Jesus's disciples by our love for one another. And of course, we read I Corinthians 13 and talked about it over and over again. So, love and graciousness was the goal of our relationship training." Sally Clarkson, Fussing Part 2

Two MUST read articles by Sally Clarkson in how to handle sibling conflict and quarreling:
Fussing, fussing, fussing! And How To Tame It
Fussing Part 2

Book Recommendation:
Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends

This post is linked with Real Life's Your Life, Your Blog

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Collette@Jesuslovesmums said...

Hi what great advice! It is 6.15am in the UK just in case you all think I am an insomniac! I have an almost 5 year old and 2 and a half year old who fight too often for my liking but can play well together and clearly love each other. I really like the idea of quoting scripture to them, this is something I haven't yet tried and shall!
Thanks Collette x

Anonymous said...

WOo hoo! This was excellent! I am going to read those other articles now! Thank you for the recommendations! :)

Niki :-) said...

please pray for my son.
i found you i'm not sure thru where, but enjoy your blog.
my son is having intense surgery this month. Please pray with us.

Anne Basso said...

I wrote about this recently on my blog in relation to the way my girls have been at each other lately.

I was discussing it at work and I always get really great perspective from my co-workers many of whom are African immigrants who come from big families. One of my work friends told me that the siblings she is closest to are the ones she fought with as a child.

She pointed out to me that my girls love each other so much, they want to spend a lot of time together. I realized that they're trying to figure out how to get along and be independent at the same time. A tough job!

Understanding that they fight because they love each other (if they didn't, they'd avoid one another) has helped me put in perspective a bit and be more patient while teaching them how to communicate more effectively with each other.

Kirsten Erin said...

When I was little, everytime my little brother (17 months younger than me) and I would fight, she would have us hug and say "Love, love". It always changed the direction of our fighting to hugging and loving on the other. It would set us off giggling and then we'd be playing again moments later.
He and I often get compliments for how well we get along, now that I'm 17 and he's 15 (almost 16). And some shocked looks that we're brother and sister, not just friends. He and I still argue alot, but we never let anything come in between the fact that we love each other fiercely.
As for the movie thing, I love movies that portray strong sibling bonds, Escape to Witch Mountain was a good one for that, as are the Narnia movies.
Anyway, now that I've written a novel in your comment section- I think I'll email this to my unbiological sister. She's pregnant w/baby number 2 and will need this one soon. :D

Kristen, The Pajama Mama said...

i pray all the time that my kids would be best friends...that really is one of my reasons for homeschooling! i'll look for the book recommendation soon!

Wisdom for Today said...

You really nailed it with this one! I also read that young adults should be taught to watch how a perspective mate treats their own siblings before they marry them. If they respect them, they will respect you as a spouse. I have found this to be VERY true in many happy (and unfortunately unhappy) marriages....

I was especially glad to see "set an example" and watch out for shows with typical sibling behaviors. And the most important--PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! I will be sending this one everywhere! Thanks for the great post!!

Muthering Heights said...

Great, great, great!!!

Isabel said...

Fantastic advice. I totally agree, and find the last one very important. Though I always pray for God to strenghten our love for one another as a family, it never crossed my mind to pray for them to be best buddies!

What I also learnt for my little experience is that sometimes the children need some time to play by themselves, and some one on one time with the parents. I think this helps reduce sibling conflict.

MamaHen Em said...

These are such wonderful tips that we have tried so hard to teach our little chickies. Of course we have moments of meltdowns between them, but for the most part, we are seeing the fruits of our labors. They genuinely seem to love spending time with one another and really look out for each other.

One thing we still do is quite time in the afternoon. It might only be for an hour, but it gives them a break from one another, which I think we all need every now and then.

I'm always amazed at how many of our friends just think sibling rivalry is the norm and it is okay for their kids to beat on one another. It makes it difficult for my kids because siblings who are allowed to be awful to one another carry it over to their friends.

We constantly remind ourselves as parents and our kids that whatever measure of respect they are to accord their peers, then that is how they should be treating one another.

Great series, as always!

Robin said...

This is another great post and series, Sarah Mae. It takes a lot of prayer and work to help sibling truly get along. The book "Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends" is a wonderful resource. It really boils down to serving each other and treating your siblings with love and respect. It's a great read.

Christy said...

Thank you for the great advice. I seem to be dealing with this a lot lately. My two youngest children are 19 months apart and they adore each other but they also fight more than I would like, much much more actually.

danielle-laryn said...

I totally agree about the siblings getting along- it's the most important relationship they will have before marriage and usually the longest before that too in their"peer" group- we MUST cultivate it, and help them navigate it or HOW are they going to learn to live with a spouse??

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

Trying to get caught up Sarah Mae!

Of course we don't have the sibling conflict issue with my son, but all of this sounds like great advice! And maybe if my parents had applied some of it, my sis and I would get along better today.