I expect any family that has more than one child has faced sibling squabbles. We want our children to grow up to be best friends, but when there is negativism between them as children we might wonder whether it’s possible. I wrote a series of articles on this subject a while ago.
Perhaps those sibling squabbles have moved from words to being physical. Here is what a mom recently wrote us: “I read your articles about siblings. You said you did not allow hitting, pushing, etc. What did you do when it happened, and how do you prevent it???”
Scripture Applies to Children Fighting
As we were raising our children, to prevent them from being physically—or even verbally—unkind to each other, we talked about the things the Lord would want from them in their interactions with each other. We discussed verses like this one: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
From that verse, we could cover sharing toys, not taking something a sibling is playing with, speaking sweetly to each other, and never hurting a brother or sister. We could also move into what reaction the child should have if a sibling did something unkind to him. I would encourage the children not to physically react but rather to be kind and to forgive.
The Golden Rule
Quite often, we would talk to the children about this verse: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). I asked them to think before they acted, considering how they would feel if a sibling did to them what they were planning to do to the sibling. Sadly, we had one child who took this verse and misapplied it by saying, “Since you did this to me, I will do it to you.” Of course, we then talked about how that was not what the verse was teaching nor what the Lord Jesus would want.
Siblings in Unity
We liked and used the verse, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) We told our children that not only does it please God when they are kind to each other, but it also is good and pleasant for the whole family. We explained that they would be much happier when they were getting along throughout the day. Squabbles and fighting are simply not much fun. We also let them know that it was what Mommy and Daddy wanted for them and for our family. We discussed the special relationships that they had with each other and how they wanted to build those relationships rather than tear them down.
Family Bible Time
Family Bible time was a perfect opportunity to teach our children that God’s ways for their behavior were loving kindness, gentleness, and giving, not fighting, hitting, pushing, pinching, or biting. Our little children could understand those concepts pretty early, even if they weren’t very good at applying them. We knew that the repetition of God’s truths to their hearts would reap a harvest. We liked discussing positive behavior in light of the Bible at family Bible time because at that moment no one was in trouble for doing something they shouldn’t do, no one was tattling on a sibling, and no one was making excuses for what they did. It was neutral turf and generated open spirits.
Children Role-Playing the Right Way
To prevent the physical aggression between the children, we also role-played a negative situation that had just occurred. I would recreate what happened and then ask the children what they could have done that would have been more loving. Sometimes they said they had no idea, but usually they were aware that their response had not been a good one. We might even practice redoing the event two or three times in the positive way.
Schedules Keep Children Productively Occupied
The final thing we did to prevent the physical aggression between brothers and sisters that is typical in little children was to utilize a daily schedule. The schedule brought order to the day. With that order came productive activities for the children. When they were doing their chores, there was less opportunity for problems between the children. When there were creative activities on the schedule, or older siblings scheduled to play with them, the bickering and fighting subsided. The more the little children were left to their own means, the more they seemed to do what they shouldn’t do.
In the end, we were all much happier when we were using our schedule, and that is what I hear from many moms when they get their schedules up and running. They usually want the schedule because they need the productivity it brings to their days. However, they are amazed at the peace in the home, including between the children, that ensues when they simply utilize a schedule.
Preventing Sibling Fighting Takes Time
Undergirding all of the things we tried in order to prevent our children from hurting each other was prayer—for them, and for us as we taught and worked with them.
Obviously, to pray for your children, to teach them loving behavior, to share applicable Scripture with them and discuss it, to have family Bible time, and to role-play appropriate responses, takes time. That is another reason why a schedule is so beneficial in preventing physical aggression between children.
I encourage young moms to be willing to invest the necessary time into working with their children, to help them away from lashing out physically at their siblings when they are unhappy and to direct them to kind responses. I know I could have done a better job at that when my children were little, but even with what I was able to give they tell us today how happy they are for the way we raised them. As they watch siblings involved in hitting, pushing, pinching, or biting, they turn to Steve and me to say, “I am so glad you didn’t let us grow up doing that!”
In the next two Mom’s Corners we will first look at consequences for the wrong behavior, and then what must happen in Mom’s heart to help children toward the positive and away from the negative.