We are continuing a series of articles written to answer this question: “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???” If you haven’t read the articles the mom refers to, here is the link. You also might want to read part 1 of this series, which is found here.
Of course, with little children discussions, reasoning, and sharing Scripture are mostly preparation for the future. They don’t have the mental, emotional, or spiritual maturity to make decisions based on that information. So we had some specific rules, such as:
- No hitting, pushing, or biting.
- No name-calling.
- No grabbing toys from one another.
- Share kindly.
- Speak sweetly.
- Be loving.
Then, if a child did one of the things they weren’t supposed to do—which was quite likely—we tried to be consistent with a consequence. Of course, the reality was that we didn’t observe each infraction nor were we 100% consistent with consequences even when we saw something that was wrong. But we certainly did try. “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17).
The consequences had to be simple because obviously there was more to life than correcting children. One consequence that we used frequently was for the child to sit for a specified time on a dining room chair. Now phones have timer apps, but back then I had a kitchen timer that I could set for five minutes. I placed it beside the child so he could watch his time counting down, and then he could get up when it beeped.
I found that to be a very easy consequence that I could use consistently. It separated the child from the problem, gave him time to reflect, kept him from doing something he would rather be doing, and generally provided a few minutes of peace. When the child got off the chair, if he went back to his play and once again wasn’t nice to a sibling, I put him back on the chair—for longer this time.
Dry Crusts and No Sweets
“Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). This verse was the inspiration of another consequence we used with our children. Here is a little background to help you understand: We purchased wheat berries, ground them into flour, and made fresh, nutritious bread for our family. Our children liked the inside pieces of bread, but not the outside crusts very much.
Rather than waste the crusts, I would dry them for breadcrumbs or croutons. One day, after reading Proverbs 17:1, Steve and I decided that we would use “dry morsels” (i.e. dry crusts) for a consequence when the children weren’t being kind to each other. I would have the child, or children, involved come to the dining room table and give each one a dry crust.
We would briefly discuss the applicable verse, explaining that we would rather eat dry crusts and have love demonstrated in our home than to be able to eat the delicious food we ate but have unkindness evident. This was a great real-life example of that verse. The dry crusts weren’t something they gagged on. They just didn’t prefer them. It removed the child from the problem for a space of time. In addition, it was actually healthy for them.
Sometimes when the children weren’t nice to each other we talked about the need for them to be sweet. For a consequence, we would take away their dessert. We didn’t have dessert all the time, so this consequence was only as effective as the frequency that we ate dessert.
A tool we found valuable in being consistent with consequences for the children is the If-Then Chart. While we didn’t develop the If/Then Chart, we now sell it because it was so helpful to me when our children were young. Part of the struggle I had as a mom in being consistent with consequences was knowing what consequence to give for a particular problem. With the If/Then Chart, those decisions were made. It was a simple matter for me to go to the If-Then Chart when a situation arose, read the verse to the child, and know what the consequence would be.
Certainly in a family we prefer unity, whether it is husband and wife, parents and children, or between the children themselves. Physically lashing out for what you want or in retaliation for what made you unhappy does not develop unity, and while it is typical of little children, it isn’t acceptable for older children or adults. We wanted our children to grow up knowing that such behavior was not only inappropriate, but it was simply unacceptable. They knew that was true not because Steve and I said it, but because it wasn’t pleasing to Jesus.
P. S. I just want to remind you that a schedule helps greatly with mitigating the problems that arise between siblings. It also allows Mom time to deal with the issues that do come up. If you aren’t already using a schedule, summer is a good time to get Managers of Their Homes, read it, try a modified summer schedule, and then be ready when school starts to have a full-fledged schedule.