Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 7

During the years we have our children living in our homes, we have the ability to influence their relationships with each other. There is much that we can do to help them become best friends, learn to deal with conflict, and become each other’s greatest encouragers. If you haven’t read the other articles in this series, I suggest you do that before reading this one. Here is the link.

When I e-mailed several friends with grown children asking them what they felt had positively influenced their children’s sibling closeness, I received some excellent feedback. It both challenged and encouraged my heart. I think it will yours as well. I shared some of it last month, but I have more I want you to read.

“I see our children truly loving each other, and continuing to work at a close and spiritually connected relationship with each other, even once they leave home, and it is an incredible blessing. On the surface, I really have no idea WHY, other than the grace and kindness of the Lord. We did set up expectations of kindness from the time they were very small, that I honestly just thought EVERY family did. It was not until more time went on, and I observed more families, that I realized how different our children’s relationship with each other were. I have taken it for granted. So, again, I will read through your Corners, and pray, and think more because I don’t know that what we did was very intentional, but rather just biblical love and kindness extended to those closest to us—our family, first.” Debbie

Then Debbie followed up with this note:

“Well my friend, I’ve read all of the Corners in the Sibling Series and honestly, I cannot think of anything I did in addition to the things you mentioned. I found it fascinating how similar our approaches were/are with a few exceptions. I think many of the things we ‘stumbled’ into, sometimes for different reasons, but having a similar result. I was thinking how we limited outside friendships and outside activities. It was often for reasons unrelated to specifically choosing to work on building family closeness, but the result was family closeness. I think that is one side of it, eliminating part of the common cause for children’s discontent with family. The other side is dealing with the inborn sin nature we all have. Even if we never let our children play with anyone else, they would still be selfish and unkind and need to be taught and trained in biblical kindness and love. As you pointed out, we simply cannot afford to grow weary, as much as it is a temptation some days.

“I guess one thing I pondered on, and it is just an observation from our own family. I feel like we worked very, very hard on our first four children. Parenting just felt harder (more intense) with them. It was not that they were any more naughty, but maybe it was because I was younger and less experienced as a mother and was learning what works and what doesn’t. However, God was so kind to bless our work and perseverance, I think, and the younger children have had good examples to look up to. I think part of it being easier to train the younger ones now, is that they have wonderful examples to follow that the older ones did not have. The work I suppose DID pay off in that way, as well as just in the tremendous blessings you mentioned of having children who love each other, get along, are kind, and genuinely and cheerfully helpful.

“We always called it the trickle down effect. When an older child was kind to a younger child (and conversely if he was unkind), that child would treat the next one below him the same way, and down, and down, and down the line it went (and still goes). I have been known to use that, in my teaching and training after an incident.

“‘Do you realize, when you spoke that way to __A__, that __C__ was watching? And tomorrow, or the next day __C__ will then think it is okay to speak that way to __H___, and on down the line. You are setting an example, for good or evil, for all the siblings coming up behind you. You need to be so careful to be setting a godly example (or depending on the offense, I might give it a more specific name).’ I have found that when they really realize the ‘family’ impact of an action or an attitude, it has a bit more weight. They DO love their younger siblings and don’t want anyone else being unkind to ‘the baby’ for example. When they realize their potential part in being unkind to ‘the baby,’ it truly does bring a sober mind to the situation.

“When I really think on it, I believe one of the major things we did, that you’ve already mentioned, is simply not allow unkindness when we were aware of it. Like you, physical things were not tolerated – no hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing. Verbal unkindness was treated with the same seriousness. All those things, when the children were very young, we gave the children consequences for. We wanted to send a very clear message from the earliest time. People used to mock us for not allowing ‘kids to be kids.’ Well, our fruit is now much different from theirs, and I am grateful for the fruit we have.

“Of course, all of that was alongside giving Scriptural reasons WHY, though I wasn’t as thorough in that area as I wish I could be. My husband has always been better at that than I. We didn’t want the teaching to just be surface, outward behavior, but that God’s Word could get into them and do God’s work, which is so much more effective.

“I am so very aware that of course we did ‘something,’ but I just believe the fruit we have to this point, is by the grace of God. I know, because we regularly prayed James 1:5, that God gave us wisdom when we cried out for it, when we were SO stumped as to HOW to teach or train or deal with a certain behavior, that GOD gave wisdom.

“I wish I had more specifics to offer you to share, but honestly, we very much did as you did. Maybe you really have given your readers a good list of possible things God might use to help them, but I have found that people are often just wanting more and more suggestions and not really APPLYING what has already been given. They also need to be crying out to God with James 1:5 since every family situation is different, and God alone knows how to reach the heart of each individual child. We actually felt that on occasion, God did not allow us to ask advice of others so that we HAD to search it out for our own family. Other times, He seemed to allow it and gave us help through the wisdom and experience of others.

“Parenting is just plain HARD work, day after day after day for a very long time. But it is SO very, very worth it, when you see your children sincerely and faithfully walking with the Lord in very personal relationships with HIM. Seeing my older ones, encourages me to stay the course with my younger ones, and I still have plenty to work on.” Debbie

These are the years to be sowing seeds in your children’s lives that will produce strong life-time, sibling relationships. May I once again encourage you to be determined to set your heart on helping your children learn to communicate with each other, work together, and just be nice to each other. I believe they will thank you in the years to come.

Are You Raising a Winner?

I pulled into the Shell station in a small town in Colorado to fill up while on vacation. A cheerful, official-looking young man around fourteen wearing a neatly-pressed shirt with Shell logos on it approached me as I got out of the van. “Sir, would you like me to pump your gas for you?”

Since I didn’t know if there was an extra charge, I simply responded, “No, thank you, but I’d enjoy visiting with you while I do.”

We first discussed Oregon where an attendant must pump your fuel for you. Then I learned his name, that he was a Christian, that he was homeschooled, and that his father had been a pastor. His friend’s dad owned the station, and he and two of his sisters worked there after school. He was full of life and enthusiasm. He might have been pumping gas for a season, but I’m confident in a few years he will move on to more challenging, higher paying endeavors. I felt he was on track to be a “winner.”

Raising children is much more than changing diapers when they are young and feeding them. Fathers are commanded to take an active role in training their children. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Paul, by the Holy Spirit, would not command fathers in this responsibility if children automatically acquired these attributes themselves. It takes commitment and hard work. Our first priority is to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, so that they are headed down the right road spiritually.

Dad’s daily example of life in Christ is important in shaping his children, and family Bible time is his most effective tool for shaping his children into winners. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalms 119:9). Not having family Bible time seven days a week is like skipping feeding your child meals because it takes too much time. I’ve heard some say they don’t want to be legalistic about having Bible time every day. Are parents accused of being legalistic who feed their children three meals a day? Of course not! We feed them because it is needful for healthy bodies. We feed their spirits daily because it is needful for healthy souls. No spiritually discerning person would argue that their bodies are more important than their souls, therefore we feed that which will live for all eternity at least once a day. Our family eats “spiritually” twice a day, morning individual Bible time and evening family Bible time.

The young man at the Shell station was a great conversationalist. He looked me in the eyes, spoke with ease, answered my questions, and asked me some of his own. He was confident and had enthusiasm. What about your children? Are you raising winners? (If you need help, see Making Great Conversationalists!)

Are we teaching our children to work hard and apply themselves? Teri and I had a casual conversation “on the road” one day with a public school teacher. She told us how she prepared her students for successful test taking. As she taught them, she would emphasize what would be on the test and encourage them to write it down in their notes. (This is not to imply all government school teachers do this.) Then when they took the test, they were able to use their notes. Can you imagine the difficult time they will have as adult employees trying to provide for their families when conditioned not to have to work hard? How likely do you think their employers will be to give them raises for good performance? Are we teaching our children to work hard at learning?

One way to provide our children feedback on their academic performance is to give them grades for their schoolwork. By giving them tests over what they were to have learned (no open book tests), they will develop the correlation between hard work and positive results. “For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee” (Psalms 128:2). Working hard produces good fruit and is what we want to instill in our children. This leads to developing winners.

As your children grow older, give them projects to do that are beyond their current experience. CHALLENGE THEM—vocationally, physically, and spiritually. This is what lies ahead of them in life, challenges that are beyond what they have already accomplished. Get them used to working hard for a goal and then enjoying the feeling of success and the confidence that they can achieve anything the Lord Jesus calls them to do. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). I strive for each of my children to know the truth of that verse in daily life.

When I use the term “winners,” I know you understand what that means. You have a mental picture that necessitates evaluating your child. That is how serious the challenge is before us. We are preparing our children for life, and the stakes are high. We aren’t teaching our children to win by defeating others but by defeating their own laziness. Everyone is in the race, and all can be winners. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Train your children every day for life ahead.

We just returned home from our vacation in Colorado (see this link and this one for blog reports). We love our time together. As much as possible, we put aside our normal work or ministry responsibilities and focus on each other and the Lord. We spend many hours in intense physical challenges all the while enjoying the beauty of God’s magnificent creation. Together Teri and I climbed two mountains over fourteen thousand feet with our children (now seventeen to thirty-six), and they went on to climb a third one that required a two mile transverse. I want my children to know how to work hard and delight in the view from the top spiritually, vocationally, and physically. Do you desire that for your children? May I encourage you in the job at hand? “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Steve Maxwell