Tag Archives: Sibling Relationships

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 8

Talking about building strong sibling relationships has spanned the course of many articles. Here is the link to the previous ones in this series if you have missed them.

As these articles began, I shared with you things that I remembered from our parenting days with younger children and the positive outcomes we have observed as our children grew to adulthood. Then I asked some of my friends with older children if they would give me their ideas and suggestions. Because they have children with good sibling relationships, what they have to say is proven to be effective. This article includes the final information that I have to give you from my friends.

Let me start with Anne.

Here are some of the ways the Lord has led my husband and I to build sibling relationships:

We always have told the children that they, and all children, are gifts from God and blessings from Him. When I asked the children this evening some of the things their dad and I have done to help their relationships, my oldest daughter said, “You always remind us that each of us is a gift to each other.” I also will encourage the children in front of each other and say, for example, “Isaac, Luke is so blessed to have you as his big brother!”

You mentioned praying for godly sibling relationships. I have spent much time in prayer privately, in church, and in our family devotions, for the siblings to have blessed relationships and be each others’ best friend.

I have also used reenacting. If there is a squabble, I will have the children reenact the entire event, but respond to each other in a godly manner, discussing the godly behavior prior to the reenactment.

After a disagreement, we will discuss what each sibling could have done that would have led to peace. Most of the time each individual could have done something that could have led to peace. I pray much for all of us to do what leads to peace.

When I notice that the children are consistently not being encouraging, I will put out jars with each sibling’s name on them. Each time someone says an encouraging word to another sibling, I put a piece of candy in the jar. We have dessert two times a week, so on dessert day, they get to eat extra sweets for being sweet! The older children still enjoy this :)!

Isaac said, “You always told us that we should look at our siblings as being more important than ourselves.”

I also would encourage the children with the golden rule/Scripture, to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. I have also suggested that they do to others as Jesus would do, or as they would do to Jesus.

I praise God for showing us many ways to build sibling relationships. We always try to do all things together. Also, if one child has an interest, we would all partake in learning about that interest through research, outings, etc.

The older children have taught the younger children singing, piano, voice, and help with home education. When this would happen, I would have the younger child give the older child a gift or treat with a thank you note.

Luke said, “If we didn’t treat our sibling in a godly way, there was a consequence.”

Morgan mentioned that having all of them work together on their business and saving up together to start the business has drawn them closer together.

We talk a lot together about issues, joys, and sorrows.

When one of the children is sick, I allow one of the others to take care of the sick individual.

Here is what Sandi told me.

I have been thinking a lot about sibling relationships since you have been writing about it in the Mom’s Corners. You have done a wonderful job with it. I wish I had something new to share with you about children getting along.

I can honestly say we don’t struggle much with the children fighting. Sure, the little ones will fight over a toy. We have done pretty much the same thing that you did with your children.

Shawn wanted to share a room with the younger boys like Christopher did, and Sabrina wanted to share with Emma. I think sharing a room is SO important. It encourages them not to be selfish. I loved sharing a room with my sister, and we are still close. Every night sounds like a party downstairs when the boys go to bed after Bible time.

The one thing we have always told the kids is that God knew just who their friends should be, and He made them their siblings. I think they get along so well because we do everything together. Mike and I have learned so much about forgiveness from watching how the children handle conflicts. It’s sad to say, but they handle it so much better than we do. Sabrina and Shawn really are best friends, and it is so interesting to watch them work through conflict. They work very closely together at the farm. At times they will have disagreements, but they work it out so quickly and forgive each other. Working together is so important. The farm has really been a blessing for that.

We also do what you guys did and limit time with other friends. I think it is key for siblings to get along. I remember growing up how sad I was when summer was over because my sisters were finally being nice to me. It got so much better with Sabrina when we took her out of ballet.

Finally, my friend Becky, who has been a widow for sixteen years, responded to my question concerning how she and her husband helped their children toward solid sibling relationships.

Stan’s wanting the kids to be on the “same team” applied to many areas in our parenting. For example, if they were playing cowboys, they were not allowed to have some of them be the good guys and some the bad guys. If they wanted imaginary bad guys maybe that was okay, but Stan felt if they teamed up AGAINST each other, that might carry over later in the day. Little ones can get mad easily sometimes at something that comes up later, and it would be easy to say “You’re the bad guy!”

In a more important spiritual sense, we’ve talked about how Satan wants to put the mom against the dad in a family, or Mom versus daughter, or older brother gets annoyed at the little brothers. We need to remember that is Satan’s PLAN.

Also an effective military strategy is to divide and conquer. If Satan can put a wedge between little brothers playing cars or Legos, he can do it when they’re older. It’s not me against my son, or one girl versus one brother, but we ALL need to realize it’s Satan versus the entire family—he’s trying to take us down and will do it any way he can. We need to band together and be strong! We taught our children to pray for each other, be accountable to each other, speak words of encouragement to each other. It is so amazing to my kids when they see families who are OBVIOUSLY NOT doing this! Some siblings they talk to seem very out of touch as to what their own family members are going through!

My heart’s desire is that this information will be an encouragement to the young mommies who are dealing with the constancy of little children’s selfishness toward their siblings. I realize that can be quite discouraging. I hope that these mommies will say in their hearts, “It is worth the investment of my time, prayer, and emotions to help these children toward strong, positive, lifelong sibling relationships.” “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Psalms 133:1-3). May I encourage you to build that unity in your children’s lives?

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.

Siblings: The Good and the Bad: Part 6

Sibling relationships should be the sweetest of relationships next to those of a husband and wife and a parent and child. But watching the way young siblings often treat each other, one sometimes wonders if it is possible for them to move into their adult years with close relationships. We have delighted in watching this very process happen in our home between our eight children, and we want to encourage you that it is possible. Here are links to the first five articles in this series in case you haven’t read them.

In the previous articles, I shared all that Steve and I can recall that we purposely did to promote strong sibling relationships. We even asked our family for their input as to what they felt made a difference in their development of strong sibling ties. We give all the praise to the Lord Jesus because we know that anything we do that ends up good is only because of His grace in our lives.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Just as we were continually crying out to the Lord for His wisdom in how to deal with problems between the children, we suggest that you do the same thing.

In this article, we want to share what others have done to build sibling relationships. I asked the Corners readers to share their suggestions. Here is what they had to say.

“Have them pray for the person they are struggling with.” Shera

“Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:28)

“My idea for siblings is that I put on my children’s weekly lesson plans that they are to serve one person of the family in some way each day—to bless them. Monday is one sister, Tuesday is another, etc. The children love finding ways to serve their parents or siblings in this way. I think it helps develop a servant’s heart for Christ and helps keep peace between each other as we serve one another. They love to surprise each other with what they have done to help and serve. Sometimes they do a certain chore, clean a closet, or wash cars. They also love to do it in secret so they aren’t discovered. This is one of the proactive ways we attempt to avoid sibling rivalry and fighting.” Carolyn

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

“I have three boys who are 9, 8, and 5, and a baby girl of 18 months. My boys are really struggling with this issue of kindness to each other right now. One of the things I have been doing because it can be applied quickly is this, ‘Try again.’ If I hear one of them saying something not nice to another, I will call out, ‘Try again.’ They have one minute to say something nice to the person they offended with their words. If they fail to say something kind in one minute, they get a swig of apple cider vinegar. It’s a substance that is good for them, but tastes terrible to ‘wash’ out the mean words from their mouths.” Shauna

“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.” (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

I also asked some of my friends for their ideas beyond what I had already shared. These are moms who have older children with the kind of sibling relationships I believe you want your children to have. Their credentials prove the substance of what they have to say.

“We wanted to teach our girls to love each other so we came up with a plan. On Monday they needed to serve one another. Tuesday was edification day so they wrote encouraging letters or notes to one another. Wednesday they were to defer to someone other than their own self. For example, in our home, the oldest always sat in the front seat when that seat was available, so on Wednesday she might defer that seat to a younger sibling. Thursday was gift-giving day, and it could cover just about anything you consider a gift. They might make something for someone, or they could give of their time. Friday they prayed with each another and did a devotion together. This encouraged our girls to think about others, not just themselves, which we believe is key in relationships.” Tammy

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Romans 12:10)

“We love working on our farm together side by side. This has definitely helped in sibling relationships. My husband and I will often break the children into ‘groups’ to encourage sibling relationships. The groups change often.

Today my eighteen-year-old daughter and her fourteen-year-old brother went to the local feed and seed store to get more plants, do errands, and be together. My daughter said to me this evening, ‘Mom, I had so much fun with my brother this afternoon!’ I am glad they want to spend time together. “Today, I was with my seventeen-year-old son and four-year-old daughter all afternoon giving lawn estimates due to my son’s lawn business. We had fun and even slipped in a cold soda break at McDonald’s. My son has a very thriving lawn business. The family rule is that he cannot work alone. A sibling or parent must work alongside of him every day he cuts. This has been very profitable for building sibling relationships. My older daughter even works for the lawn business every Wednesday!

“Also, our children share rooms with someone. This has proven to be fun—at least for the girls! We have purposely limited the amount of time our children spend with other families and friends. Truly, my children really have no outside friends—just their brothers and sisters as friends.” Teresa

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

“We never let our children pretend evil or fight against each other. We didn’t want the children to develop the mentality of ‘being against each other’ but wanted them to always love, help, and support each other.” Becky

“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” (1 Peter 3:8)

I hope that when your heart is discouraged because you have just witnessed a brother grab his sister’s toy, you will stop to pray. Ask the Lord to give you the courage and strength to deal one more time with the same kind of situation you have often dealt with in the past weeks and maybe even earlier in the day. There will come a time when you will reap a fruitful harvest of brothers and sisters dwelling together in unity. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). You will have no regrets that you persevered through weariness, discouragement, and even self-pity. “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

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?

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 4

In this series of articles about developing lifelong sibling relationships, I am trying to encourage young moms who are in the trenches dealing with the day-to-day skirmishes of sibling rivalry to stay strong. As a mom with grown children, I can well remember those days with little ones, but I also can see the solid, loving relationships my children now have as adults. Looking back, there were things the Lord directed Steve and me to do that I can share in a practical way with moms who have younger children. If you haven’t read the first three articles, here is the link to them.

As a follow-up to last month’s article, I want to tell you about our “offense-clearing” time. We learned this from some dear friends of ours who shared about it in a newsletter they used to produce. Throughout the day, we suggest that our children clear their consciences and rebuild broken relationships by asking anyone whom they have offended, wronged, or hurt to forgive them. However, the practical reality is that this doesn’t always happen during the day.

At the end of our family Bible time, Steve asks each of us, if there are any offenses that haven’t been righted already. If so, we are given the opportunity to ask forgiveness then so we have cleared the sin before we go to bed. Steve’s question allows us to consider our failures of the day and take care of them with the other person as the Lord would have us take care of them.

I believe that learning to clear their offenses helped our children to become more sensitive to being careful with their words, attitudes, and actions toward each other. There is an accountability that takes place when we know that we will confess to the other person how we have wronged him and ask forgiveness. It also helps to avoid bitterness that can grow when hurts are committed but not dealt with. “I was wrong. Please forgive me,” are powerful words in relationships when stated sincerely.

We did not allow our children to be physically aggressive toward each other. They were not to hit, pinch, pull hair, or do anything to hurt one of their siblings. We have seen families where those kinds of actions are ignored, winked at, or thought a normal part of childhood. What we have observed is that where sibling aggression is tolerated, the sibling relationships suffer. We didn’t even let the boys wrestle with each other because we learned early on with our first two boys that when they wrestled, one got hurt. If there was to be rough housing, it was with Daddy on the living room floor.

We were careful to teach the children that anger was wrong. “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). We didn’t let them yell at each other, belittle each other, call each other names, or have other expressions of anger toward one another.

With our older three children, we discovered the damage that friends did to sibling relationships. When the children played with their friends, they were unkind to their siblings, and they came to prefer their friends to their siblings. There were hurtful words and actions from one sibling to another because of the desire to spend exclusive time with the friend. Steve and I knew that the lifelong relationships were the sibling relationships, and those were the ones we chose to protect. We did that by limiting individual friends and moving to family friends where the children could all play together in the setting of two families spending time together.

We unexpectedly happened upon the power of doing family work projects for building all family relationships, including those between siblings. Through the years, Steve has always been a dad who was willing to slow down whatever project he was doing in order to allow his children to work with him. It would have been much more productive as far as completing the project for him to do it alone. However, by involving his children, he not only gave them practical skills that they take with them when they start their own families, but he also built sibling relationships.

During those hours of working on a project, there is talking and fellowshipping going on—lots of it in our family because of how much we enjoy each other and like to talk to each other. If there were hard situations between the children, those would often come up, be discussed, and worked toward resolution. For the project to be completed, the children had to work together. Family turned out to be the perfect place to learn teamwork.

When Steve involved the children in his projects, whether it was car repair, home repairs, remodeling, yard work, or a building project, he was doing it to help them learn that they could tackle almost any home project. Steve’s mom had given him that attitude, and he wanted to pass it on to his children. The side benefit we discovered as the years advanced was that not only were the children learning to be self-sufficient with home tasks, but they were also becoming better friends. When siblings are working together toward a common goal, they are on the same side pulling together toward the finish line.

The final suggestion that I can pass on to you are Steve’s weekly meetings with the children. For about twenty years now, Steve has had a one-on-one, planned, weekly meeting with each child from the time that child is four or so until he is married. During the meeting, the child is free to bring up anything that is on his heart—issues with Steve or me, with their siblings, with their walk with the Lord, or with what they are doing. Concerning sibling relationships, this has allowed Steve to give comfort, guidance, and encouragement in how to deal with the challenges that will come to sibling relationships. It allows the child to talk about a problem, stemming the possibility of bitterness growing because of issues that had been kept bottled inside and unresolved. Since the meetings are personal and consistent, the issues are addressed on an ongoing basis, helping the child work toward resolution.

Remember the undergirding for all these relationships between our children will be prayer. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). Pray when there are problems, and pray when there aren’t that the relationships can be strong and sweet. It is the Lord Jesus Who works in hearts.

We have watched our children grow from the normal squabbles of young siblings into adults who enjoy being with each other. There is always laughter and conversation between our children, who are now all adults except for sixteen-year-old Mary. They are quick to help each other, admonish each other, and ask forgiveness when they have wronged each other. We think you want those kinds of relationships for your children as well. Perhaps some of what the Lord was showing us to do for a positive outcome in sibling relationship will be helpful to you with your children.

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 3

We are in the midst of evaluating what we can do as mothers to facilitate the development of close sibling relationships. It seems like in Christian homes even the children should be kind to each other, but the reality is often quite the opposite. After the first article on this topic, I received an e-mail that I felt would be a good beginning for Part Three of our series.

“I don’t know if you are going to touch on these or could point me to appropriate resources, but one of my biggest problems is not knowing how to encourage my girls to encourage each other, not judge. For instance, if they see one of their sisters not doing what I asked, I’d love for them to be able to lovingly encourage the other to do good, choose right. But what really happens is more like ‘You shouldn’t do that!’ or ‘You’re supposed to pick up the room!’ Typically that last one is said while the talker is NOT doing what she should be. Although I’m still trying to figure it out in real time, I get the sharing and the playing together, but I guess I just don’t know what Christian siblings should be to one another. Can they give and accept correction from one another? Do they need to learn to accept it even if it isn’t given in the correct tone/attitude?” Janessa

When our children were young, the second most critical thing we did to help them toward good relationships was to teach them to deal with problems with each other. We generally had two thrusts as we worked through a conflict. First, we had the child who was unkind. An example of that would be the child who takes a toy his brother was playing with when his brother takes a break to go to the bathroom. Then we had the child who came crying and tattling on his brother for having taken the toy. With the first child, we would admonish him that he was not choosing to be loving and kind, that he had other toys he could play with, and that he could nicely ask his brother for a turn with the toy when his brother was finished with it rather than taking it when his brother was gone for a couple of minutes.

For the child who had the toy snatched from him, we discussed the importance of choosing to be longsuffering, letting others have their turn with a favored toy, and not being selfish. We also encouraged him to make these choices rather than coming to us to get a sibling in trouble. We tried to use Scripture, when we could, to give a biblical reason for the behavior we were encouraging in the children. I wish I had been better at that and done it more.

In the situation that Janessa presented, we also have a two-part problem. There is the child who isn’t behaving in the way he should behave, and there is the child who is pointing the problem out to the sibling, and most likely to Mom as well. The disobedient child will not like his sibling telling him that he isn’t doing what he should be doing, and the child who is correcting his sibling will generally have an attitude of bossiness, contention, and superiority. Probably both have issues and need to be encouraged in the appropriate responses.

For the child who is misbehaving, Mom will want to discuss the importance of being grateful for the sibling who is helping him do what he ought to do and then making the choice to do it. Concerning the child who is trying to encourage his sibling to do the right thing but going about it in the wrong way, Mom will be working with him to have a sweet, loving attitude and gentle words. She can encourage that child to be part of the solution and offer to help his sibling with the work he is supposed to be accomplishing. This process is part of our calling as Christian moms. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26).

For these types of situations, we might also give consequences, often to both children. We found “chair sitting” to be an effective consequence that I could give consistently. I would have the child (or children) sit on a dining room chair for five or ten minutes, depending on the child’s age. We purchased a kitchen timer from Wal-Mart that I could set and place on the table where the child could watch his time counting down, if he was old enough to read numbers, and then it would beep when the time was finished. At that point, the child had the opportunity to go try again. If there were more problems, we would go through the process again. “Chair sitting” temporarily ended the problem, gave the children a consequence that I could easily administer, and also allowed them time to think about their past and future actions. “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17).

I am not going to tell you that if you do this consistently for a week you will have perfect sibling interactions. However, the more I focused on stopping what I was busy doing when the situation occurred, dealing with both sides of the problem, and interacting with the children calmly, the more progress they made.

I know these issues are wearing on a mom. We are always preoccupied with something that we must interrupt to focus on the trouble. We don’t want to correct a child who has done nothing wrong, so we have the emotional burden of ferreting through behavior and attitudes on both sides. The results are not immediate but long-term.

I wasn’t as consistent as I could have been, and consistency is really key. I got discouraged. I wanted so much for the children to be kind to each other, and when they weren’t I felt like a failure and that they would never learn to treat each other with love and respect. I am certainly glad, though, that I didn’t give up—Steve will probably tell you I was tempted to do so a few times—but kept speaking the truth to the children, showing them what was wrong in their interactions, pointing out what they could have done, and giving consequences when necessary. This was all part of completing what the Lord had called me to do, as Ephesians 6:4 says, “but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” As we purpose to follow Him obediently and rely on His strength to help us through the difficulties, we can remain steadfast through the struggles and disappointments.

I want to encourage Janessa, and other struggling moms, to tackle problems on both sides by being willing to set aside what currently holds her focus and turn it to the children. View the time and effort that it takes as part of the mothering job. Ask the Lord to help you be determined to be consistent while maintaining a meek and quiet spirit. With that foundation, I think you won’t have to wait as long as we did for the results to be evident in your children’s lives.

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 2

Last month, I shared the joy of the relationships that I observe between our eight children, especially the six that are still at home. Their ages range from sixteen to thirty (thirty-six if we include the two who are married), so my children are much older than many of the children in the families who are reading this article. I also described their failures and how they now deal with them since they are all adults or almost adults. My desire was to encourage younger moms not to lose heart as they work with their children to facilitate solid sibling relationships. In addition, I wanted to provide some practical suggestions for how that might be accomplished. If you haven’t read that article, you may do so here.

Growing up, our children were very normal children, with conflicts between them—bickering, selfishness, tattling, and other negative aspects of childish behavior toward a brother or sister. We well remember the Christmas trip from Florida to Kansas we made to visit my parents with three little children in the back seat, ages one, three, and five. There was no end to the conflicts that arose between those children. The three-year-old was even unhappy with his brother for looking out his window! While it is laughable to us now, back then by the end of that trip, Steve and I thought we would never take the children anywhere again!

While that was the reality of our little children, it was never where we wanted those relationships to remain. It was always the prayer of our hearts and the direction of our parenting to help our children learn to be kind to each other, settle disputes lovingly, ask forgiveness for offenses, and develop positive, lifelong relationships.

Although daily struggles were the norm when our children were little, they are no longer the norm and haven’t been for a long time. We have the advantage of being able to look at the relationships our children have now that they are grown versus what they were when they were young. The development of those positive relationships was a day-by-day, step-by-step process that took God’s grace and wisdom, plus our investment in time to help those children, work with them, and encourage them. I would like to motivate each of you to do the same and not be discouraged by your daily reality when it doesn’t match the desires of your heart for your children.

I believe the greatest progress in those positive sibling relationships came when we started having consistent, daily family Bible time. That forty-five minutes or so every evening impacted much of our lives, including the children’s interactions with each other. Steve and I became Christians about a year after we were married, and we occasionally heard a sermon that would mention the importance of family Bible time. However, it was years down the road before it became a conviction and then a reality in our home. Once we began having daily family Bible time, there was no turning back. The changes were too good, and our hearts were so filled with our Lord Jesus Christ and His truths that we have continued the habit to this day.

During family Bible time, Steve had the opportunity, in a non-confrontational way, to discuss a verse we would read and how it applied to the way we treated others, including brothers and sisters. He could make the Scriptures real and practical for the children. For example, we might be reading through Colossians and come to these verses: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Colossians 3:12-14). Steve could ask the children what each of those words meant, have them give examples of how they would relate to getting along with their brothers and sisters, and have them think of times when that happened and when it didn’t happen. We might discuss forgiveness and the way Christ forgave us while the children figured out how that could apply to their conflicts with a sibling. We would regularly bring up the fact that bitterness grows with lack of forgiveness.

Did the children get it the first time we talked about it? Of course not. They were children, and children act like children. However, those godly attitudes were always the goal on our hearts for them, and we continued to encourage, admonish, and exhort them toward that end. With each year of teaching, growth, and maturity, the relationships between them also became better.

That time in the Word was the most powerful offensive weapon we had for building strong sibling relationship and hindering negative ones. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Pick out some verses that will help your children in their relationships with each other and then sweetly, quietly, and gently use them. Even a two-year-old can memorize simple verses. Here are a few you could start with:

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

“ . . . love one another . . .” (John 13:34)

“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.” (Proverbs 20:11)

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

For younger children, you could just take part of a verse, such as Ephesians 4:32, and have them simply learn “be ye kind.”

To raise brothers and sisters who love each other is probably a desire on each of our mothers’ hearts. Those who have young children are likely to become discouraged when they are daily bombarded with less-than-loving actions, words, and attitudes between their children. I want to encourage you to continue to work with your children, using Scripture to direct their hearts. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Next month I will address the questions posed by a college graduate who has worked as an executive director but is stumped by squabbling toddlers. Maybe there are many moms who feel like she does.

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 1

From where I do my back exercises upstairs, I can listen to my three girls exercising in the basement. Their ages are currently sixteen, twenty, and thirty. I can hear lots of laughter and happy chattering. Next comes silence when they are working hard, and it starts all over again.

On Anna’s twentieth birthday, they decided they wanted to have a sewing day. They dug through the sewing cupboards for fabric that needed to be used, picked out patterns, and brought their sewing machines, cutting mats, and ironing board to the dining room so they could be together while they worked on their projects.

These three girls spend hours with each other doing kitchen work, and I still hear them talking when they go to bed at night. My heart rejoices with these kinds of interactions between the girls because it proves that they enjoy each other, they choose to be together, and they will maintain those relationships throughout their lives even when they are married with families of their own.

Right now our boys who aren’t married and live at home are eighteen, twenty-one, and twenty-three. They are the same way as the girls are in their relationships although maybe they don’t talk quite as much, but that could be debatable. They exercise together. When there is a work project at our house, Nathan’s house, or Joseph’s house, they tackle it as a team for hours and hours. They have their offices in their bedroom so there is talk and communication that goes on throughout the day in addition to accomplishing their vocational work. Then somehow there are still words leftover for the nighttime talks that they have as well.

Not only do the girls have good relationships and the boys, but they also have great relationships with each other. From the main floor of our house, I can hear them practicing an hour or two each day in preparation for doing Christmas music at a local church and also at a community Christmas concert our family is having this month. They do kitchen cleanup together after each meal with much talking as they work. They love to sit in the living room before and after family Bible time—talking! They encourage each other. They challenge each other. They help each other. They pray for each other. They laugh with each other. They weep with each other.

Are they perfect in their relationships? No. There are times when one hurts or offends another. When that happens, though, there is a desire for restoration so they ask forgiveness of each other. There are times when they have different opinions that spark lively discussions. Those discussions can move into what can seem like an attack on one person. Sometimes, they are selfish. However, when those situations occur, they don’t want them to continue. They move toward dealing with the problem. Do you know that blesses my heart almost as much as seeing the positive side of their interactions? That is because it shows me that they don’t want to hurt, offend, or be selfish when interacting with one of their siblings. It grows out of a heart of love. They are learning how to deal with the problems that will surface in a marriage relationship and when they are parents.

I am so grateful to the Lord for the relationships He has allowed and built between our children. I know that there are things He led Steve and I to do when the children were younger that has had a positive outcome on those relationships. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Psalm 133:1-3).

Regularly, when I talk to a mom, she either bemoans the fact that her children share a bedroom or she’s excited that they are moving to a home where each child will have his own space. The Lord showed us as our family grew the benefits of our girls sharing a room and our boys sharing a room. Room-sharing helped the children develop hearts of love toward each other rather than the selfish focus that generally comes when a child has his own room.

As the boys share a bedroom and the girls share another one, they have the ability to talk with each other when they are going to sleep at night and when they are waking up.