Could you please tell me how your family deals with sibling rivalry? Two of my kids are constantly bickering, and it is driving me crazy! I am so tired of being their referee.
– Mom in the Middle
Our response to sibling squabbles can be summed up in four simple (and alliterative!) words: Pray, Practice, Paddle, and Prune:
PRAY – Doug and I pray daily for a peaceful home, for a loving family, for obedient children, and for God’s wisdom in training them. We do this even before problems arise. Then, whenever tempers do flare, we pray individually with the children involved, that God will help them to put others first and to show love to one another. We appeal to our older children especially to exercise patience and self-control. And we point them to relevant verses such as 1 John 4:20-21, Luke 6:31, Galatians 5:13, and Proverbs 6:16-19.
PRACTICE – Once we’ve identified where the children erred in the way they were relating, we ask, “How could you have handled that situation better?” Then we have them run through the scenario again with the preferred responses. Depending on the ages of the children involved, we may practice this three or four times before moving on. “Okay, Isaac, instead of snatching the toy away this time, ask ‘May I play, too?'” or “Daniel, instead hitting your brother and screaming when he grabs your toy, can you practice sharing? Say, “Would you like a turn now?'”
PADDLE – Sometimes conflict stems from immaturity and thoughtlessness, but other times it’s something else and should be dealt with accordingly. We believe that deliberate cruelty, belligerance, and name-calling should never be tolerated. We love our children too much to let them grow up to be bullies; therefore, we spank for that type of behavior (which is extremely rare, since our kids know what they’ll get if they act that way).
PRUNE – Our rule has always been, “If you can’t get along with your siblings, you can’t play with your friends.” By thus “pruning” outside relationships, it allows our children to focus their attention and energy on forging friendships with their own brothers and sisters. But there are other things that get “pruned” whenever our kids have trouble getting along. Anything that seems to be the source of quarrels gets taken away, at least temporarily, including any toys that they repeatedly fight over. Cutting out excess sugar can calm children down and help them behave more civilly. And did you know that a person’s level of happiness is decreased by 5% for every hour of television he watches a day? Reasoning that the same principle may hold for viewing DVDs, surfing the Internet, or playing video games, we cut back on our already very limited use of visual media whenever our children seem irritable and impatient with one another.
You don’t have to live with squabbling. Let your kids know that you are not going to tolerate their fighting any more, then be consistent in dealing with it swiftly.
Peace to you and yours!