At our house, we have been dealing with pestering as a source of sibling fighting and conflict.   This has been a challenge to deal with, because on a certain level, I just don’t get it!  By nature, I am more of a people pleaser.  I have never liked to think that someone was upset with me, and a stern look was all the correction I needed at times from a parent or teacher.  I have to keep in mind that being a people pleaser is actually not any more godly.  In fact, it’s wrong to do things for the approval of others instead of for God’s glory.  But people pleasers do have a somewhat easier time getting along with others. It can definitely be tough to live with a child who sees no reason why he shouldn’t pester people!

Pestering

 Awhile back, I came across this verse:

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,

he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

Proverbs 16:7

We know from other places in scripture that at times, persecution is unavoidable (2 Timothy 3:12).  But the desire of a Christian should be to live at peace with all men unless strife is unavoidable because of another person being bothered by our allegiance to Christ or the truth that we stand for.  Conflict should not be the result of our selfish or offensive behavior!  I have counseled the boys many times to stop living out the opposite of this verse – “When a boy’s ways are not pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his brothers to be his enemies!”

There is so much wisdom in Proverbs 16:7.  I shared this verse with the boys a couple months ago, and we have discussed it many times since.  We’ve talked about what kinds of “ways” are pleasing to the Lord and about how self-centered behavior often causes trouble.  However, the boys still struggle with getting great enjoyment out of pushing other people’s buttons.

We’ve had many conversations that go like this:

Mom:  What was going on upstairs that made your brother so angry?

Son:  I don’t know, I was just playing dragons with him, and he just started screaming for no reason.

Mom:  Did he want you to play dragons?

Son:  Yes.

Mom:  Were you making the game too wild?

Son:  No, I was just playing something that he wanted me to do!

Mom:  Well, it sure didn’t sound like he was happy with what you were doing!  What was happening when he got mad?

Son:  I was making the dragons attack his fort and kill his guys.

Mom:  And did he like that?

Son:  No, but it was fine for me to do that.  It was a fun game!

Mom:  Was it fun to him?

Son:  Well, no.

Mom:  So should you have been playing that way?

Son:  Yes.  It was really fun.

Mom:  So it was fine for you to do even though your brother was bothered?

Son:  Well, I wasn’t doing anything wrong.  We were all playing that game.

And around and around and around…

After one of these circular conversations, I told this particular son that we were taking a break and that we would come back to the conversation.  I thought and prayed, asking God for help in getting to the root of this issue.  It was clear that the child had no problem with the fact the he had offended his brother.  Then I had the idea to turn the question around…

Mom:  Son, what does Proverbs 16:7 say?

Son:  Um, when a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Mom:  Yes!  When you were upstairs, what were you doing to live out that verse?

Son:  Well, nothing.

Mom:  Yes, I agree that that is probably true.  What do you need to do to make things right with your brother?

Son:  I need to apologize to him for how I was playing.

Mom:  YES!

Isn’t God’s word amazing?  I could come up with a rule against pestering.  And I could list off all the possible ways that the boys could pester:  no taking another person’s toy, no teasing, no laughing when someone is in trouble, no cheating during a game, no putting on someone else’s hat/shoes/etc. just to get a reaction, but that wouldn’t solve the problem.  There would always be a loophole for a behavior that I didn’t think to include!  But instead, God gives us such a clear command that involves the heart and not just the actions (and which applies to adults too!). Does the person I’m playing with not enjoy loud games?  Then I should put him first and not play that way.  Is everyone in the car tired of my singing?  Then I should stop singing, not exercise my right to sing when I want.

More question ideas for the child who pesters:

  • How were you showing kindness in this situation?
  • Help me understand how your actions helped things to be more peaceful. (Maybe they didn’t?)
  • When you were _________ (running off with your sibling’s toy/ “copying” everything your brother said/playing rough with your sister’s baby doll), what was more important to you than loving your sibling?  (Could be having fun, getting a laugh from others, having control over others)

For the child who doesn’t accept instruction:

If my child is not responding to me telling him that his behavior that is obviously bothering others, I give him something better to do with his time – wipe off the table or sweep the kitchen.  There are plenty of productive things to do for people who make poor choices with their time!

We have also had several occasions where the child who pesters doesn’t want to stop, and it keeps happening over and over.  When that happens, the consequence is that he cannot be with the rest of the family.  I find a room for him to be in by himself, bring his schoolwork to him, and explain that people who stir up conflict don’t get to be with the family.  They hate to be alone, so after 30 min. to an hour alone, they are ready to do what it takes to be pleasant.

Pestering is not something that can be conquered instantly, but by God’s grace we are seeing some improvement!

For more on sibling conflict:

Teaching siblings about loving each other

Dealing with sibling fighting and rudeness

Sibling squabbles and the kindness car

Brothers as Friends

8 Comments

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  1. Cristina Dec 5, 2013

    Thank you! I just dealt with this yesterday with my two boys - not really pestering in this case (though we have plenty of that), but breaking up a fight that started up over the remote control and who was going to pick the next thing to watch. We talked about whether or not their behavior was pleasing to God, especially my older son, who tends to be very self-focused. After discussing it for a while, his attitude as we tried to talk about his heart wasn't improving toward me or his brother, so I did wind up sending him to his room for a time until he was able to be kind and loving toward his family. But I didn't have a verse handy, so I'll be sharing this with my boys today! Thanks for being there to encourage me in that I'm not alone in the battle and sharing resources to follow up on this!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy Dec 5, 2013

      Great article. Love the Bible based training versus a rules oriented approach. Also (maybe you already planned to deal with this in the next article) I wanted to say please be careful not to leave out the other son who blew up and screamed when being pestered.

      Whether or not he was being pestered, it wasn't the pestering son who caused the anger. Rather, it came from a selfish heart that wanted its own way and didn't want to be bothered. No one else's actions justify my sinful reactions.

      I was the "pest" of my family while growing up. :). Great verse that I still need to be reminded of!

      Reply
      1. Sarah Dec 14, 2013

        Yes, you have an excellent point! We do often deal with the child who is reacting in anger to the pestering. Or the child who over-reacts or tattles for the purpose of getting a sibling in trouble. You're right, it's important to address the problems on both sides.

        Reply
      2. Suz Jan 4, 2014

        I just came across your site after seeing something on Pinterest and happened to see your Biblical Boyhood Button. Thank you for sharing this! I have three boys and right now am very tired, i am at wits end as to how to deal with all their behaviours, I just don't know what else to do this is helpful. I am going back to read some more of the articles. :-) Thank you and God bless!!!!!

        Reply
        1. Sarah Jan 5, 2014

          Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I'm glad you found the series helpful!

          Reply
        2. Harold Mar 12, 2014

          Just wanted to encourage you to continue sharing your Godly wisdom, and applying scripture to how you deal with children. I have been a kids pastor in the past, and still lead a mid-week children's program at church. Crowd control is not my strong suit. Your advice in helping kids see their actions from God's perspective is excellent. God is using your website to encourage and help parents and those who work with children. Lots of great activity ideas too. Your boys are fortunate to have such a caring Mom.

          Reply
          1. I Mathis Apr 13, 2014

            I found this by accident after seeing a post on Facebook by my nephew's wife. They have 5 young boys and are wonderful parents. She is a God-send for me. The information she shared was wonderful, then it led me to this page and I am so happy. I am raising my first boy, a grandson whose mother has MS and could not raise him. He is 2 years old and I am 66 years old. Any help in raising and teaching boys is wonderful and appreciated. I, now, will research earlier articles. Wonderful and very useful information. Thanks.

            Reply
            1. Mindy Jul 11, 2014

              Wow. I've really been scratching my head and praying to learn how to lead my two little girls on this issue. With a huuuge sigh of relief and a prayer of thanksgiving, I will be opening God's Word to teach my children and not for a 'family rule' or psycho-relational reason. I will also be checking up on your website, too. God bless!!

              Reply
              1. Renae Mar 8, 2016

                Thank you! The Biblical Boyhood series is what made me find your blog originally and now I enjoy all the frugal activities as well. This is timely and helpful with my two young boys. Love these posts. Thank you for sharing your insight in the God's word.

                Reply
                1. Cruz Dec 5, 2017

                  Hi friend! so beautiful that you raise your children with Christ! keep up the good work!
                  Our Redeemer is close, even at the door...may we be counted worthy!
                  Love ya in Christ!

                  Reply

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