Siblings: The Good and The Bad – Part 5

I am not sure that there is anything that tears a mom’s heart up more than when her children are being unkind to each other. Encouraging family harmony is usually one of the top priorities of moms for the children. When a mom’s efforts and prayers have been invested only to have the children continue in their selfish ways, she usually experiences discouragement. We have been discussing ways to develop and strengthen positive sibling relationships in this series. Here are links to the previous articles.

I would like to give you a few more practical suggestions for things to use as consequences for siblings who are not choosing to be kind to each other. These are things we did with our children. Since my children are beyond the consequences age, I had to ask them what they remembered we had done with them when they were younger.

One of the first things they recalled is that we took away desserts from the offending children. If some of the children weren’t going to be sweet to each other, then they wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the sweet dessert that the rest of the family, including the children not involved in the problem, were eating.

When our three older children were elementary school age, we would have them write blessing letters to their brother or sister if they had been in conflict with that sibling. The blessing letter was to document several of the positive things they could come up with concerning that sibling. Of course this consequence only works for children who are old enough to write. Sarah kept some of those letters and has given me permission to share one with you. I remember that in the midst of those conflicts, the boys could be adamant that there wasn’t anything good they could think of to write about the other child. That just showed how important it was to continue working with them through the difficulties.

Dear Sarah,
You have demonstrated hospitality by sharing your bears with me. I also like the way you demonstrate enthusiasm. For example, when you read, you demonstrate enthusiasm! You show initiative by stopping what you are playing to do chores when Mom gets out of the shower. I am excited about the Baby! And I enjoy you being my loving sister.
Love, Chris

Christopher was nine years old when he wrote that note to Sarah, and she was seven. You can see that even though this was to be a blessing letter, Christopher got a little poke in at Sarah by mentioning the chores. Although I don’t fully remember the schedule back then, I expect Sarah was supposed to be doing some morning chores while I took my shower. Stopping play and starting the chores when she knew I was out of the shower and she would have accountability was most likely not the schedule she was supposed to be following. From this note it is obvious we still had “heart” work to do on both sides.

A mom wrote to me after the last Mom’s Corner with an idea she had that was similar to the blessing letters. I am going to include her whole e-mail because she also acknowledged how she had become lax with giving her younger children consequences for their unloving behavior. That is often the case as we become busy with our older children plus caring for younger ones.

Your Mom’s Corners about sibling rivalry have been incredibly encouraging! I had used Scripture to correct problems with my older children but faded off to just quickly reprimanding the younger ones and getting back to my “work” of cleaning, cooking, school, etc.

Clearly that was not working. The Lord was merciful and showed me an idea for applying 1 Peter 3:9 to a squabble that my six- and eight-year-old daughters had. “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

After gently, lovingly, and carefully questioning the girls individually about their personal roles in the disagreement, each agreed that they had indeed rendered evil for evil and railing for railing, and that it was not what they should do. Next came the blessing. I had each one write a list of three things that she could do that would be a blessing to the other. By the time they had finished their lists, which took some time, they were both excited about ways that they could bless their sister that day! I asked them each to do each thing today and save their lists so that they can add to them later. One daughter actually got so excited she wanted to give her sister all three blessings the first day! They had ideas ranging from doing chores for each other, drawing pictures, letting the sister be the lunch helper, to a hug. 2 Peter 1:13 says “. . . to stir you up by putting you in remembrance.” Thank you for doing that for me. Dawn

“Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). We used this verse to help us determine another consequence for siblings who were squabbling with each other. Part of our nutritional program for our family involved purchasing and then grinding wheat berries into fresh whole-wheat flour that we then made into whole-wheat bread. When I served the bread, the family didn’t prefer the outside crusts but rather the soft, middle slices. I dried the crusts in order to make bread crumbs or croutons with them.

One day, Steve and I realized our “dry morsels” on the counter that were waiting to be processed had the potential of being an effective discipline for children who weren’t being nice to each other. I would call the offenders to the dining room table and serve them a dry crust. The dry crusts didn’t make the children gag. They simply didn’t prefer them.

I could share with them that we would rather eat dry crusts all the time and have kindness and sweetness between them than to get to eat the way we eat in the midst of strife. This was a consequence that removed the children from the problem, was easy to administer, and in addition, it was healthy for them!

I expect many of you have some great suggestions for improving sibling relationships or for consequences when the bickering breaks out. If you are willing to share, e-mail them to me so I can collect them for inclusion in a future Mom’s Corner.

Once again, I desire to encourage you to be faithful to pray for your children and then to have a workable plan in place to lead them toward strong sibling relationships. It has been so long since we have had to use the consequences I share in this article that I had to ask my children to tell me what they remembered we did that they felt was effective. I want you to have that outcome for your children as well. Remember, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). May I encourage you to help your children toward dwelling together in unity?

Making a Christ-Like Living in a Dog-Eat-Dog World – Part 3

In the book of Ezra we read that the children of Israel were on a mission. They were returning from captivity in Babylon with the command and blessing of King Cyrus to rebuild the temple. Even with the ruler’s support, the difficulties facing them would be tremendous. The group was made up of 42,360 people plus another 7,337 maids, servants, and singers. The majority of those returning were families.

Starting a business is not easy. If it was, everyone would have his own business, and no one would work for anyone else. According to the Small Business Administration latest figures, roughly 69% of start-up businesses survive the first two years, 51% to five years and 34% to ten years or more. While these statistics show it can be difficult to begin a business, there is good news for Christians. If we are following the Lord’s direction for our lives, failure rates mean nothing. I might add, if God desires to use a business failure for His glory – maybe our growth – He will.

In the third chapter of Ezra, they all came together, offered burnt offerings, kept the feasts, and offered freewill offerings to the Lord. In essence they were setting their spiritual house in order so they could begin the work of building the temple with God’s blessing. Israel made many mistakes, and that is what brought them into captivity as slaves. (Worth mentioning here is that today the majority of believers, those set free from the bondage of sin, have voluntarily enslaved themselves to mortgages, school loans and credit card debt. If you are in financial bondage, will you begin the process of setting yourself free?) The offering was initially made, but we read in verse four, “They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required” (Ezra 3:4). They weren’t distracted by the business of building the temple. They first dealt with their relationship to God. Getting right and staying right with God wasn’t a one time occurrence for the Israelites but rather it was a daily process. That is much like salvation. First we are saved, but then we are to daily confess sin and abide in the Lord Jesus as we obey Him.

I wonder how many dads begin a business when their spiritual houses aren’t in order. They presume upon God’s blessing in business when they don’t care enough for the Lord to honor Him with their lives. The strong encouragement I’ve previously given is to know what venture the Lord is directing you and when He says it is time, pursue it. Until then, get ready, but don’t build. Here are links to the first two articles in this series.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Our vocations are to be a result of God’s direction for our lives. Then after He gives that direction, we trust Him for continued leading. Just like salvation is not an end in itself, neither is self-employment. We must look to the Lord daily through our personal Bible time and prayer for His direction not only concerning our spiritual lives but also business decisions. His Word gives insight and confirms the leadings impressed on our hearts.

I mentioned last month that my son and I felt the Lord directing us to print brokering when I first came home from a corporate job. Print brokering made no sense because we didn’t have experience with printing, but we strongly felt the Lord’s leading. If we can trust the Lord with our eternal salvation, then we can trust Him to guide us in every area of our lives and that includes making a living. We learn how to follow Him day-by-day in the small decisions. Then when a big decision comes, we know what it means to hear Him, confirm direction through His Word, and then obediently follow.

Do we acknowledge Him in all our ways? Another way of stating the verse is that we are to know and recognize Him in everything we do. I wonder when dads pray ifthey then base their decisions on the Lord’s response? Is it possible that once having asked, they assume all is good and proceed? In speaking with many dads, I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t the way they make decisions. Even if they pray about it, once prayed, they proceed according to their will. Is that the way we parent? Is it enough for our children to ask us for direction and then once asked, to proceed without our response? Of course not.

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). According to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, the Greek word for hindered is “ekkopto,” and it means “to cut off.” One key area to answered prayer is whether a husband is giving honor unto his wife. If not, Dad can pray all day long, and God isn’t answering because those prayers of Dad’s are cut off. Therefore if Dad starts a business having a bad relationship with his wife, he is handing God a REALLY big paddle.

Also, Dad may be praying about things that God has already answered in His Word, or there are warnings in the Word that are going unheeded. Are we reading our Bibles every day and leading family Bible time? I believe Ezekiel 34 speaks to Dad’s responsibility to feed those under his spiritual authority. The admonition by the Lord is so strong that verse ten concludes with the warning about the difficulty of the shepherds feeding themselves. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more …” (Ezekiel 34:10). Their crime was that they weren’t spiritually feeding those under them; therefore, God said he would make it difficult for the shepherds to make a living. Dads are you feeding your sheep every day?

When God shows us a business venture and the timing, it is critical our spiritual houses are in order. Then we follow.