Sibling Rivalry (Part I)
1) Relax, you're not alone... Sibling Rivalry IS NATURAL
Really? Natural? Yep! It's in our nature. Our fallen, self-centered, all-about-me nature. So, relax... YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY PARENT DEALING WITH THIS! But guess what? Now is the perfect place and time to teach our children how to handle conflict. Rest, our Heavenly Father has already given us wonderful guidelines we can follow.
2) P-R-A-Y as if EVERYTHING Depends on it!
You know what? It does! Do you not have a daily prayer plan? I mean scriptures you pray for your family each day? Don't worry if you don't...we didn't either until a year ago. It's NEVER too late to begin intentionally praying for your children each day. One note of caution: when you begin to pray scriptures for them each day, you WILL see God at work and you'll wonder why in the world you waited this long to come lay these burdens at His feet. So, pray! Pray for wisdom, direction, and insight.
*Note: if you are interested in our personalized family prayer notebook, we hope to post about it soon. If you already have one in place, feel free to share it with others in the comment section.
3) Look in the Mirror
Yes, ask God to show you if what you are seeing in your kids is in any way a reflection of your character and the way you are dealing with the Lord, with your spouse, your children, and others. Believe it or not, many times what we see the kids doing is a mirror image of what we are doing. Aren't they fast learners?!!
Now what I am about to share won't seem in any way related to sibling rivalry but, believe me, it DOES relate. Read on...
4) SET UP A ROUTINE
Call it a routine or call it a schedule. Keep it flexible but KEEP IT! If you have toddlers, this is extremely important. We have a daily routine in our home...from sun-up to sun-down. Do we ever veer off of it? Of course! Do we ever tweek it? Certainly! But, overall, we have a routine set up and this helps tremendously. The times we are traveling, or we get off our schedule for several days, are the times when we see the most conflict between the kids.
Since we have four young children and we homeschool, this issue of having a routine is HUGE. I just can't stress it enough. Otherwise, we woudn't get anything done. Having a routine gives everyone a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It keeps the kids industrous and focused. Of course there are free times during our days but these are also built into our routine. Other aspects built into our routine are rest times (for Mommy and kids), meal times (plus prep and clean-up), schooling time, play-times, etc.
This topic alone would take a long time to elaborate on so I will try to include a post focusing simply on daily/weekly/monthly routines. I will also list out several of the best books on this subject we have read.
Once again, you are wondering...how does this relate? Well, when you have wonderful, uplifting music playing in your home, it helps lessen conflicts. I am not talking about silly music. And, most kid music out there (spiritual or secular) is nothing but silly. No, I am talking about melodious music. Music that perhaps your children know the words to and can sing along; this can include children's hymn cds, praise and worship music, instrumental music, or classical music. We find that the kids' focus will often be on the music and their lips will many times be following along. So, there's not much opportunity for bickering.
This is a deliberate time, each day, to have some rest. This sort of falls into the category of routine. For the little ones, this will mean a nap. For the older ones, this will mean a QUIET rest time in a designated place. For some kids, they could be looking at books or drawing on a magnadoodle. For others, it could mean just laying in bed listening to a Bible story cd. Whatever you choose, this is an everyday thing. And Mom, this can be your time to kick your feet up and recharge for a few minutes as well. You need it!
7) Join In!
Depending on the age of your children and stage of your family, this might look a little different. One thing is for sure, there are lots of ways kids can help around the house. Having a daily chore system in your home can help keep the kids focused and feeling good about how they pitch in and help the family. They each have their chores or jurisdictions and if they don't do it, it just doesn't get done. They feel important. Others see their accomplishment. Big brother sees you praising little sister for a job well done or for her diligence, etc. Before you know it, big brother begins to copy this because he sees you do it every day so it is natural to him.
This is by far one of the most important aspects of dealing with sibling rivalry. Are you deliberately spending time each day with your children? Are you pouring into them? Are you filling their little love cups? This is essential. When they are "running on low" there tend to be more problems. If you have more than two children, spending time with each child individually can seem overwhelming, but it is a must. It doesn't mean you have to sit down to play a game with each one. For some, it can mean reading a book to them, for others it may be special to join you in one of your chores. The point here is that if you just seem to live through each day without getting to spend as much time with them as you'd like...REVAMP your schedule because it doesn't matter what other things get done or not...the children are eternal but the laundry isn't!
OK, so now you are wondering if we will ever get to the real HOW TO of sibling rivalry...we will! Just remember, the above elements are the starting point! Moving forward without first dealing with the issues we just covered will simply be "crowd control" and this is not what we're aiming for. We'd love to share some more on what the Lord is teaching us. Please come back and check out Part II which we will post in the next few days.
NOTE: In the meantime, check out the wonderful book, Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends.